Friday, May 29, 2009

If you're aware it's happening, is it still a mid-life crisis?

I'm back home today after some of the most incredible riding I've done yet.

I had a business meeting scheduled in Trail for 11:00 on Thursday and with the great weather forecast I decided to ride. I debated on what to wear - mesh gear because of the forecast of 28 degrees or my regular gear because it was still cool in the morning. I compromised by wearing my regular jacket and taking both sets of pants.

When I left at 7:30 I was wearing my normal over pants and closed the vents on my jacket - and I'm glad I did. It was still cool - around 12 degrees - and didn't get any warmer once I started to climb out of Osoyoos. Riding was the best decision I could have made; Hwy 3 is Nirvana for riders and early on a week-day in late May it's just this side of Heaven; beautiful crystal clear blue sky, no traffic to speak of and the road stretching to the horizon in front of me as if God Himself (Herself?) only had me in mind when he laid down some of the best riding this country has. It's not a coincidence that this stretch of road is so popular with riders of every genre.

I made great time and soon passed through the Boundary and headed on the the Blueberry-Paulson, and it's at that point that my decision to forgo mesh gear paid off. At the top of the two summits, the Paulson and Nancy Green, there was still snow on the sides of the road and it was decidedly chilly. Now, some of this may have been due to the spirited nature of my approach to riding that morning. There's just something about clear sky's, no traffic and ZZ Top on the headset that tends to make me "push it" a little. In this case I was averaging 140 (indicated - not actual, because my speedo is about 10% optimistic) and I made VERY good time on my journey. I arrived in Trail at 10:30. 310 klm in 3 hours, including stops for gas and a coffee - I SO love this bike. Although, a nice sport-touring bike would be a nice upgrade - I'll just have to make sure I get a good radar detector!

And to those of you that don't ride and question the wisdom of this - it's not as risky or dangerous as it sounds. On a clear day with no traffic and good conditions my bike sticks to the road like glue and I'm more in the moment - and more in tune with my surroundings - than the best day ever of driving a car. I don't take unnecessary risks and I never ride without full gear - and darn it, it's just SO much fun!

When I left Trail at 1:00 I swapped over my regular pants for my mesh gear, this time over my dockers and I opened all the vents on my jacket. I carried on east on Hwy 3 which took me over the Salmo-Creston and yet another high pass, Kootenay, which again was cool, still had snow on the side of the road and if anything, was even better than the first half. Coming back down the other side though, it really started to warm up so I stopped at a rest stop and peeled off my dockers and rode with just my mesh pants and I changed my shirt for a synthetic T and headed out.

From Creston, I swung south into the US, stopped for a great milkshake in the picturesque and historic town of Boners Ferry, before finally calling it a day at 5:00 in Sandpoint Idaho.

The next morning I had a breakfast in the quintessential American small town restaurant;, huge servings, friendly service and a waitress that could only have been named Flo - served to patrons that were all either named Hon, Sweetheart, or Watchahav'n - I'm a Hon, go figure.

I continued south to Coeur d' Alene and Post Falls where I spent a couple of hours at a large full-line Suzuki dealer. I wanted to have my chain and sprockets checked and it turned out they needed to be replaced so I waited and drooled over their inventory while they did the work for me right then and there.

I pulled out of Post Falls after 11:00 and here's where I made my best decision yet. It's funny how simple things can be. We can zig or we can zag. Left or right. North or South. In my case, it all came down to a thin black line. I could have gone west to Spokane and then followed our regular route through Coulee Dam and on to home. It's safe, I'm familiar with it and I would have been home in just over four hours......and it's the direction I was first going to take.... all but for a thin black line.......... in this case, Hwy 41 due north out of Post Falls. The road less travelled. The call of the unknown. Destiny.

41 is fairly busy for the first 25 klm and still well used, just less so, for the next 25. It's close enough to Spokane and Coeur d' Alene that it's within commuting distance and the small towns and farms are like little bedroom communities for the larger centre. But, the further you go the less this becomes until eventually it's just you and the road. No traffic - at all. Great riding, fantastic weather and a spirited aggressive approach to each new twist and turn. It just doesn't get any better - actually is does (did?) - I just didn't know it was coming at the time.

I continued north on 41 which becomes 20 at Newport and then headed North West to the junction at Tiger where I hung a left to head west to Colville. And it's here that things took a turn - a turn for the better if that's possible. I laid on the throttle and hunkered down for the best riding I've ever had: 150 on the straight aways, 120 on the sweepers and a cheek clenching, sphincter puckering, peg dragging, whatever the road will bear, on the twists, turns and hairpins of the National Forrest Scenic Parkway - God Bless America! Or their road builders anyway :-)

This eventually spit me out at Kettle Falls Wash, where I had a weird sense of convergence between reality and the virtual world. At the junction of highways 30 and 395 you can either continue west to Republic or go north to Christina Lake. There's a big sign and a road-side restaurant and I SWORE, I'd been there before. It was such a powerful sense of Deja Vu I actually had to pull over. I'd never been there before and yet I HAD. I couldn't explain it but I knew - I'd been at this very spot sometime before. And then it hit me - I had, but in a virtual world, not the real one.

If you use Google Maps to plot out a course you'll see that they've somehow taken pictures of just about the entire United States. I don't know how they did it but at every junction, cross road and address you can click on an icon and see a 360 degree view of that spot. Try it - it's amazing. Or weird and WAY too much like Big Brother, depending on your perspective. In my case, I'd viewed this route on a map and had seen this spot before - but in Google's world, not mine. So now we have the Internet interjecting a sense of deja vu into our reality. Is it just me or has it gone a little too far? Hmmmm. Food for thought if nothing else.

So, back to the trip - I continued on, again at speeds that would make any Mountie weep, but on a deserted highway that appeared to be laid down for nothing else but my use and enjoyment and it hit me. I was liking this WAY too much. Work shmerk, I was born to ride! With Northern Idaho out of the way there's now Montana, and the four Corners, and and and.........

And so my question, is it still a mid-life crisis if you're aware it's happening? Hard to say, but in the interim I'm having more fun than an adult should be allowed. And I'm loving it!

I arrived home yesterday evening at 6:00 after a 1,100 klms. Tired, sweaty and glad to be back. Rosi is more accommodating and patient than I deserve and still supporting me after all these years.

Yes, life is good


Sunday, May 10, 2009

A few more pictures for the last post

If it was easy, everyone would do it!

I'm back safe and sound after yet another great ride. Although this one was much better in some respects, but much harder in others, than my last ride.

First, the bike. I sold my Goldwing last Thursday. I always wanted to try one, and it was a great old bike, but it just wasn't for me. Not yet anyway. The guy the bought it was from Salmo and said the same thing. He tried a Goldwing when he was in his 50's and it just wasn't his cup of tea. Now that he's in his 60's he's going to try again. Hmmm... maybe there's a Goldwing in my future........

Anyway, I made the last trip on my trusty VStrom. It's a GREAT bike but it doesn't have anywhere near the wind protection of a Goldwing, even an older one, so in some stretches I froze.

I left home last Wednesday and rode to Vancouver to attend a conference on Thursday. I rode over the Hope-Princeton because there was fresh snow on the Coquehalla. Usually, the no. 3 is much better, and it was, but no such luck on avoiding snow. I had snow coming down for at least 40 minutes through Manning Park. It didn't stick to the roads but it was absolutely freezing!

Memo to self: Install heated grips and buy MUCH better boots if you're going to keep up this kind of riding!

Kevan came over to Vancouver on Thursday evening. He met up with a group of adventure riders he'd "met" on the HUBB and after my conference and dinner I joined them for beer at the Keg on Granville Island. There were four guys but my absolute hero was a gentleman from the UK. He's somewhere well past 60 and he's riding his adventure motorcycle across Canada and up to Alaska before heading down to South America. And this after previous trips across Europe and Africa. See, there's hope for the rest of us after all. Except after meeting guys like this I feel soooo inadequate!
Riding - Day 1 - 413 klm

On Friday morning Kevan and I, with heads that were more than a little fuzzy, hit the road at the crack of 8:45. And here I have to give KUDOS and a big thanks to my Sweety. I forgot my passport at home but she was able to courier it overnight to me at the hotel so we were still able to head south as planned.

It was a non-eventful and relatively easy trip out of Vancouver and across the border to the US ( thankfully, with a passport) and down I-5 until we exited onto a smaller parallel secondary road which took us over the bridge to Whidby Island, through Oak Harbour and on to the Port
Townsend Ferry. The morning started out gray and overcast but by the time we were into the US it cleared up and we had sunny skies but it was pretty cool all day. From Port Townsend we stayed on 101 and rode across the top of the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles and on to Forks. Forks is a small logging town that reminded me of a larger version of Oroville. It's a small friendly place and its claim to fame is it's the setting for the "Twilight" series of books.We had a gut bomb Mexican dinner, tried the local tavern ( scary! - we left without finishing our beer) and played a few hands of cards before calling it an early evening.
Riding - Day 2 - 363 klm

Yesterday was one of my best riding days yet - ever! We rolled out of Forks at 6:45 and the first two hours were incredible. The road heads south along the west coast of the peninsula and it's like riding along the beach of Long Beach on the Island - for two solid hours. The views are breathtaking! The road alternatively hugs the shoreline or climbs to reveal sweeping vistas from wind torn bluffs overlooking breakers that started their journey's in Japan. And the weather was great. We started in heavy fog, that persisted in sections for all two hours, but in most places as it burned off it revealed rays of sunshine filtering through heavy first growth forest that warmed our backs, and our riding souls, as we rode on deserted roads all to ourselves heading south.

We stopped in Aberdeen for a Micky Dee's breakfast and had a great chat with a retired 60+ year old guy riding a fantastic brand new BMW GS. I was sooooo jealous. By now it was full-on beautiful sunshine - still cool but nice for riding. We followed 12 east to Shelton and then took the 101 north all along the west shore of the Hood Canal. It was slow going because of heavy week-end traffic but it was a great ride. It was just like riding the Old Island Hwy except it hugged the shore and you had views of the water the whole way. It eventually spit us out back at Port Townsend to catch the Ferry and the Washington State Ferry God's were shining down on us because we were the last two vehicles loaded onto the 12:45 Ferry back to Whidby Island.

We were back to the Mainland sooner than we originally thought so there was no point spending another night on the road. We stopped for gas and a sandwich and took a good half hour to stretch our legs, and at 2:30 we parted company in Oak Harbour and headed home. At Burlington Kevan turned north to catch the Ferry back to the island and I kept going east on 20 to head over the North Cascade Hwy to Twisp and then home. I had sunshine at my back for most of the way. There were storm clouds over my shoulder at one point, and a few spits of rain, but I lucked out and beat it. At the top it was heavy overcast and REALLY cold, but only bitterly so for a half hour and once I started dropping back down it wasn't too bad. I pushed through until Omak, where I stopped for gas and a burger and then I headed north on familiar roads. The border crossing was smooth as silk and I eventually pulled into my driveway at 9:00, which makes it just over 14 hours.

I told Kevan that my particular riding "style" is to ride. I don't do a lot of sight seeing along the way. Instead of 6 hours days with stops to see the sights etc I prefer a twelve hour day - usually riding in a "spirited" manner - and then a day off. It's not every one's cup of tea but to each their own, eh? But 14 hours? That's pushing it. Except.............. I had a grin from ear to ear when I arrived home. I was tired, sore and road weary...but - I loved it!
Riding - Day 3 - 884 klm
Total Ride - 1,660 klm.

DnT for a great dinner on Wed evening
Sweety for allowing me to indulge my new found passion and for not saying nasty things when I needed my passport couriered out
BUFF for being a great buddy and riding partner. I couldn't ask for a better best friend!
Cheers everyone