My motorcycle adventures started about 2 months ago. One morning in April I stood over my boyfriend (JayhooRay)'s XT350 (just to see if my toes could reach the ground). They barely did. After a quick lesson on the clutch and braking, I bravely inched down the alley and around the block a couple of times in first gear. In painfully slow motion, I passed a young couple walking their dog. Anyone would push a baby stroller faster than I was crawling. It was totally awkward, and I felt totally bad ass. I nearly cracked my shin in half the first time I kick started the XT, but I was proud of the pain; it felt like it came with the territory of being so cool. I actually look forward to the challenge of starting it whenever I ride. Half the battles right there and it makes me feel like I earn the privilege of throttling it. The first time I shifted gears, I followed Jayhoo on his KLR 650 a few miles out of town to a trail head with a big, open cinder/gravel lot and I went to town practicing my mad new skills, while he launched model rockets with his friend John and their adorable kids. Stopping, accelerating, braking, making tighter and more controlled turns around bushes and rocks, I created an imaginary training course for myself. Within a couple of hours, Jay and I were at the top of a bumpy, forest service road with too much snow to get through my first real day on the XT and I went for a dual-sport adventure! With nearly 6 hours of riding experience and an affinity for being wild, I was equipped with more than enough enthusiasm and trepidation for the following weekend! The Plan: Whats better than break-up sex (or make-up sex)? A sexy motorcycle trip. Jay and I were seriously thinking about breaking up. A hot and heavy relationship with a one-time-too-many heated argument, we weren't sure it was worth it. Yet, this was the weekend we had fantasized about riding his motorcycles down to Summer Lake Hot Springs to meet up with a group of adventure riders. Fresh air, wind in our hair, a little danger, you know, what better medicine for a troubled heart? I packed my gear in an orange Giant Loop Coyote bag tied to the back of his XT350. Since I was ready before Jay, I figured it made sense for me to meet him at his house. Although I had started the motorcycle by myself once, Id never ridden it through town, or anywhere, unaccompanied. What the hell? If Im going to ride 130 miles down to Paisley, I might as well get over any anxieties about it and ride across town. It died at the first stop sign. OMG. OK, You can do this. I put the kick stand down, stood on the peg, and started kicking. It wouldnt start! A couple of cars went around me, and I was glad to be hiding behind the full face silver helmet. I dug my cell phone out of my pocket, held it away from my face, and dialed Jay. Um..it died and I cant get it started???. First stop sign, first lesson learned. If you run out of gas, switch the fuel to the reserve tank (how convenient!) And so, the adventure started and I made it the next mile across town to Jayhoos house. And pretty fucking proud of myself too! By the time we made it on the road, it was late afternoon. We had decided on a route: back-roads to Sunriver, down to La Pine, a quick stretch of Hwy 97 and then the beautiful, less traveled, Hwy 31 ("The Outback Highway") the rest of the way to Paisley. 130 miles. The forecast was for chance of showers the next day, cold at night and 60's during the day, with some wind. Temperatures have been 10-20 degrees below average for central Oregon all spring, so it didn't seem fair to let the fact that it wasn't warm yet stop us. We had a long way to go. Our first turn off included a 10 mile stretch of gravel road, into Sunriver, of which, I made it less than a mile and gave up. There was no way I was riding in gravel. Id rather go around! Instead, we headed up towards Mt. Bachelor (all to avoid Hwy 97), and it snowed on us! At this point, the trip seemed pretty epic already. Still, it wasnt dark, and Jay figured we could turn around in La Pine if I wasnt feeling more confident and warm. Down the hill, out of the snow, some curvy mountain road riding, and I started to get into the groove. Emotionally, the last couple of days had worn on me and I was grateful for the silence inside my helmet, despite the numbness of my fingers and face. The mind-body experience of being totally alert and without distraction, was sort of meditative. I could smell the wet pavement and pine trees and feel connected to where I was; taking in the vibrations of the bike, smiling at the sunset behind me, periodically looking at the man in my rear view mirror, and yet, at the same time, notice how fast it all passed by. At close to 60mph, my personal record, I was going really fast, and felt more relaxed than I had in days. By the time we stopped for gas in La Pine, I didnt care how far Summer Lake was, I wanted to get there. It's one of my favorite places in Oregon, it's warm and I was freezing, and the rest of the trip had to be easier than it was getting to La Pine. We stopped at the grocery store for beer and hand warmers, Jay showed me how to close the vents on my helmet so I wouldnt have a snow storm inside my head anymore (details!, apparently, I was learning everything about riding, by riding), and we were ready for the last, long stretch of road. The first hour on Hwy 31, I was warm, calm, confident, and in love with motorcycles! The sunset was gorgeous, the desert colors were glowing, and we were making good time. I even got up to 60mph! I couldnt help but grin to myself at how much fun I was having. That part of the ride, I kept telling myself, This is one of the coolest things Ive ever done, EVER!. It made me happy to be living in Oregon again (because, too often, I miss Alaska like crazy). Leaning into the wind with my silver helmet, I felt like a human bullet, speeding through the sunset. XXOXO! By the time it got dark, we were dropping into the Summer Lake valley along Winter Ridge (I think that's what it's called, it deserves the name anyway). The last hour of the ride was so crazy I dont even know how to describe it. Rainy, windy, and dark. That sums it up. My 55mph average dropped to nearly 40mph. Id never ridden in rain, wind, or dark. And it wasnt just windy; it was gusty, from every direction! Thank god we had the road to ourselves; I was not traveling in a single lane; I was riding down the middle of the highway, trying to stay on the pavement. Jay stopped to check in with me and pointed to the light ahead of us that was our destination. Which one, the one a few hundred yards ahead of us on the left, or the other one, really, really far away looking?. It was the really, really, far away one. If I hadnt been so determined to get there and jump in the hot pool, I would have cried right there. Still, I was having fun, I admit; I knew wed get there and it would all be worth it. Even when I hate it, I love anything that makes me stronger. I've had that kind of life. We set up camp in the dark, opened beers, and settled into the hot springs. 10-15 adventure riders, mostly drunk or drinking, mostly middle aged men, were sprawled out over the pool holding cans of cheap beer and floating on colorful foam noodles. The bathhouse is in an old timber and corrugated metal barn, with a high ceiling, bird nests, and rusty pipes. It seems like a really magical place, and the energy in the room was happy and celebratory, and a little rowdy, which I kinda liked. When we woke up it was snowing hard. You know how sometimes, rain or snow sounds worse than it is when you're still in your tent? Well, this time, it sounded like it was snowing a lot because it was. We soaked all morning until the sun started peaking through, packed up and rode into Paisley for a greasy breakfast and coffee. When things are beautiful between me and Jay, they couldnt be more exciting. If I had to define our relationship in 3 words or less, they would be: sweet, fun, and sexy. Relationships take work and compromises, usually more than either partner wants to put in, but if its the right relationship, the hard lessons learned and the rewards can be the best thing you can offer yourself or anyone else. I hope this relationship is right; it feels like it. With full bellies and a new day ahead of us, we started home. It was sunny, freezing cold, and calm. We pulled over to snap a few pictures of the snow covered hills and continued on. Within the first hour we were hit by a blizzard! A gust of wind almost blew me off the road, I'm not kidding; I dont know how I stayed on the pavement. It was snowing sideways, and although it was daylight, there was also traffic on the small 2-lane highway now. Miraculously, thank god, a small stand of trees right off the side of the road, which we stopped for a break at on the way down, was only a few hundred feet ahead of us when the storm started. I dont think I would have made it any further. The wind was pushing me so hard at times, that I slowed so far down I was in first gear, and still struggling to stay on the road. I sat down on the ground, leaned my helmet against the tree and cried into it, watching the snow blow across the road. I wish I had a picture of this moment. Jay pulled out the atlas and we considered trying an off road route back home, hoping it would be less windy in the trees and it would be safer to ride slow and without traffic. I was still petrified of riding on gravel. As soon as the wind seemed to calm down, I jumped on my bike, started it, and got back on the road. The storm had passed us to the north, and the trip into La Pine was uneventful, slow, and steady. At that point I associated wind with deadly gusts, so I was afraid to go over 50mph even when it wasnt gusty. For just long enough, I believed we were home safe when we reached the junction of Hwy 31 and 97. It wasnt far into La Pine, which at that point was as far as I cared if we made it. Id call my friend Donna to come to the rescue if weather wasnt better. The weather was NOT better! As soon as I turned onto 97, with Jay directly behind me, and a semi truck behind us, a gust of wind blew across the road so hard, I almost got knocked off the bike and the road. I creeped, like, creeped!!the mile or so into La Pine, at 35 mph. Any thoughts of taking 97 home to save time were thrown out the window. Instead, we hopped on Huntington Road and followed the curves into Sunriver, headed straight for the only restaurant/bar and ordered hot toddies. The final stretch home seemed the scariest. We had 3 options: Hwy 97: scary, 10 miles of gravel: scary, or, up and over Bachelor into the snow: cold and far. After finishing my nice warm drink, I was ready to finish the trip home and decided we might as well get on 97, ride close together, try to maintain a safe speed, and wed home in less than 30 minutes. It's amazing what a little comfort can do for the nerves. Jay kick started the XT for me and we zipped over to the highway. I accelerated with perfect speed and timing, merged onto the highway, and TA-DA! NO WIND. We cruised home in the sunset, easy-peasy. The end of our trip came with an unexpected gift from the weather Gods. Thank you Gods, Thank you Jay. I love adventure riding!!