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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Quezzie, May 13, 2014.
Any update on Stephs condition?
I'm sure she will chime in at some point with all the details, but until then...
I spoke to Stephanie a few weeks ago and she was healing well (even though she was not riding, she was in Vegas for an event). She expected to be back on two wheels of some sort this month although the doctor would prefer sometime next month. Serenity was being shipped back to Boston for repair thanks to a GoFundMe campaign (I'm sure she can still use some additional funds for parts, engine rebuild (it's about time for that anyway), medical stuff not covered by insurance and incidental expenses).
I haven't spoken to her since, so I'm sure she is staying busy getting Serenity and herself back together. Nothing new on her blog or Facebook page either.
Best wishes from here. Take care Steph.
Yes, best wishes from here too - hope to meet up with you on the road next year somewhere between here and Telluride taking the long way around . . .
Thanks so much for the update jdg! I really appreciate it! What kind of accident was it? Did it involve another vehicle?
I heard that she just ran off the road and broke her collarbone.
Painful I'm sure.
Glad to hear that her scooter is headed home to her.
Thank you for the info!
It's been a while, but if you're wondering what happened to those missing dates between the last entry and this, I flew to Boston to see Fred and take care of some life back east. It seems my current style of nomadism is six of vagrancy and a half dozen homes? Anyhow, fast forward to the end of April and we're back on the west coast, on that north-bound agenda.
The light at Vive la Tarte is exceptionally flattering. The snacks, exceptionally fattening?
Pete had taken time off to ride as far as Oregon with me, but we had a couple days before launch – just enough for one last Founders Ride with Verna. After all, he was also saying farewell to San Francisco, and a jaunt up to wine country with the founding members of this scooter club was on his bucket list.
Hurrying to meet them on time, I hopped on Serenity and fired her up. I'd been taking the PX200 around Boston for a couple weeks, and jumping from that to the GTS... Serenity felt tall, heavy, and clumsy by comparison. It was like driving a couch. Before I could question my decisions further, I leaned into the first turn and muscle memory dropped into place like a missing piece of a puzzle. I knew this bike in my body, I was home. Instantly, I could see myself bumping along British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska on this thing. I felt overwhelmingly like I'd made the right choice, and I had a whole day with Pete and Verna to look forward to.
Curvy vine-lined roads with these two.
We wound our way up Lucas Valley Road, and took a break at Marin French Cheese Co for a dairy snack... Or if you're me, the lactard, fantasized about hardware required to attach an overpriced wine and cheese basket set to the rear rack.
Vespiti in the vines, posing for the album cover.
An impromptu photo shoot later, the afternoon proceeded to Verna's pick, Ridge Vineyards, and a gourmet grocery picnic in Petaluma. It was a penultimate day for the ages.
A different kind of farewell drink with Moose at Trad'r Sam.
Launch day weather promised to do its best to make me forget how much I was going to miss California.
Colder and wetter than I would have liked, but today is the day.
Pete pulled up in a cold drizzle, and Moose was tagging along as far as he could. MV forum member Stang aka Jon, had reached out and we'd intended to meet him at his hot dog stand near Larkspur, appropriately named Stang's Hot Dogs and Sausages. Unfortunately, it turned out he would be out of town the day we rolled through, but he extended his hospitality to all riders in the party! Thank you, Jon, they were the perfect road fuel for a damp and chilly day!
This was no ordinary hot dog stand, I would learn. These gourmet dog were top quality, with snap, flavor, and quality ingredients.
Fancy dogs keeping our bellies full, thanks again, Jon (Stang)!
Pete and I said one more farewell to Moose, donned our matching highlighters (dammit, we're those people... it's only because we bought our gear at the same place!), and pointed the bikes north along the coast.
Clouds caught up with Pete and I, but there's no denying the beauty of the coastline.
Gotta fuel up and warm up.
Fancy fridge doors in here.
It was one of those rain gear on or off kind of days.
You're killing me, CA.
That little piece of CA-1 just south of Mendocino might have been the last part of the Pacific Coast Highway I hadn't set tire on yet. After so many miles up and down California, a quiet sense of completion joined the mix of emotions kicking around my chest on such a moody day. There were a lot of "finally's" happening, like finally going on a camping trip with Pete (if you recall, two years ago our trip was indefinitely suspended), finally taking Serenity on a long haul after her rest in Pete's garage, finally breaking new ground.
First night at camp, time for a tiny toast!
In spite of the dampness and chilliness, we pitched tent at Russian Gulch and rode back into Mendocino for dinner. The pickings were slim in the off season, but Pete offered to buy and we hauled our soggy, helmet-haired, fully-geared asses into a cozy candlelight establishment. After a solid day of cruddy weather, the restaurant was so warm, comfortable and infinitely endearing. Filet mignon happened (we shared), as well as red wine and camaraderie. I didn't want to leave, but we found our way back to camp and I fell into a blissful sleep to the peaceful burbling of the nearby creek.
So I guess the next morning was as good a time as ever for my bike to not start.
Of course, there was no cell service in the gulch either. Pete rode out to troubleshoot with SF tech Matt over the phone, while I starting poking around under the pet carrier... and discovered my spark plug was loose. With that tightened back down, I figured the day was going to be just fine (cue foreshadowing).
I wanted to take Pete by Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA.
The sand is loaded with smooth beach glass. It's pretty cool, until you learn that it's due to years of nearby dumping.
It didn't stop me from enjoying the beach and clear skies.
Lisa of the Humboldt County Slugrockets Scooter Club had reached out to me a while back, and I was aiming for her and Rob's place near Eureka, CA. In sporadic bursts of cell service, I received a message warning of an epic landslide that had closed off 101 near Leggett the night before. Traffic was being redirected along Bell Springs Rd, a smaller unpaved road, but as we went it the word was that was closed to through traffic as well. I suggested to Pete that we try and charm our way past, much like Morgan Territory Road, but upon arrival it was clear the young officer was having none of it. To get any farther north, we would have to ride far inland, 280-ish miles out of our way, almost closer to SF than we'd gone, to pick up I-5.
I was quietly panicking, because this would add an extra day to our route and Pete only had so many days of dog-sitters lined up. He seemed happy to get as far as we could though, so I routed us inland via Branscomb Rd and CA-20.
Sun is shining on Branscomb Road.
Across from the gas station in Laytonville, CA I'd noticed a sign advertising biscuits. It turned out to be a food truck with honest to goodness southern food, Sho'Nuff Dem Biscuits.
I had anxiety, until I saw the sign for biscuits.
The guy is from Georgia and does things right.
Timing couldn't have been better, because decisions made on empty stomachs are never good decisions.
For instance, I'd noticed a small, squiggly line on the map from Laytonville to Dos Rios that would eventually continue through the mountains to meet I-5 at Willows, where there were a cluster of overnight accommodations. While we waited for our order, I peeked ahead on Google Earth at some roads we could have all to ourselves, maybe a little preview of Alaska for me...
...As tempting as it was, we were past the halfway point in the day and I wasn't confident we could take the gravel roads on two GTSes and make it to Willows by sundown. Pete made it clear he trusted me implicitly for either route, but as I mulled it over some fried chicken and biscuits, eventually the decision was to leave the forest roads for another day. We continued down CA-20 towards Williams, and picked up I-5 (yaaawn) to a motel in Willows.
It would turn out to be a wise decision, because my spark plug would fall out twice more before the day was done. A refractory period was necessary each time it happened, until the engine was cool enough that I could thread the plug back in. If we had taken the wooded route, I'm sure we'd have found ourselves on a mountaintop in darkness.
At least it had the courtesy to fall out a mile from a rest stop, so I could coast in.
Thanks for the motel, Pete.
We still put the tent up, to keep it real (ahem, dry it off).
Murdered some bugs across California.
Going to murder some breakfast at Nancy's Airport Cafe. Remember, full stomachs for decision making!
A place across the highway called Nancy's Airport Cafe reminded me of Ken/Lostboater's affinity for airport stops. It turned out to be a fantastic breakfast choice, complete with a service attitude that could have been transported from NYC. Overheard from the table next to us upon their inquiry into the corned beef, the waitress did not mince words, "It's from a can." As for the blueberry pie? "I can't say I've had the blueberry. I don't like blueberries."
For what it's worth, my breakfast was to kill for. Before we left, another diner and rider struck up conversation and affirmed our decision to take the main road to Willows – he regularly took dualies over the Laytonville Dos Rios Road, and the current road conditions were poor/nearly impassable due the recent rain. Whew! Good thing I make decisions after chicken and biscuits.
Now to deal with this spark plug.
Picked up Loctite at the hardware store. Now stay in there! At least till Seattle.
I forget sometimes how remote parts of California can be.
Crossed paths with two other riders, headed from Portland to SF for a wedding. Now that's the way to go. We warned them of the road closures.
Are we still in California even?
Pretty desolate around here.
Back over the mountains towards the coast.
Damn, I'm going to miss being near this.
"Champagne asphalt," Pete dubbed the mountain roads over intercom. California is pretty dreamy, when it's not on fire or sliding off the face of the earth.
It's rhyme for a meat break.
The sign for Hatfield Meats reminded us it was as good a time as any to break, and make sure we continued to make well fed--I mean, informed decisions. Their burger bar operated out of a trailer, and a scrawny cat and a couple older loggers welcomed us to the picnic table. In the dappled shade of the forest, the loggers chatted with the ease of regulars; they both grew up in the region and attended a single room schoolhouse of 11, and told stories of the time they felled a tree 25ft in diameter. They'd been enjoying burgers at this spot most of their lives before we scooted in ("It's not fast food, but it's worth the wait."). With hyper-connected tech metropolises like San Francisco, it's a trick to remember California shares territory with secluded places, where the pace of change is slow and cell service can't penetrate. As the loggers rolled out, they recommended we stop by Grizzly State Park (we did, it was glorious), and I felt richer in belly and spirit.
Mad River Burger Bar cat.
Upon reaching the coastline, my latest intel was to find Rob at the neighborhood tiki/dive bar in Eureka – of course, a scooterist's natural habitat outside the garage. As we pulled up to the edge of town I saw several other scooters parked in front of The Shanty on 3rd and C St. Rob and the present Slug Rockets had been waiting for us. One welcome round later, and we followed Rob to their home tucked in the Redwoods.
Rob's garage sign, custom made by Lisa. More on Nutty Bolts later.
Meeting the chickens.
Lisa's happy place.
Lisa and Rob's backyard in the Redwoods.
Lisa and Rob have a truly magical, handmade home. The town of Eureka was already off the beaten path, then our modest motorcade left the cement and pavement behind to climb into the hills and allow the trees to swallow us. I'm glad we decided to meet in town, Pete and I would never have found their place on our own. We had just enough time to drop off some luggage, have a short tour, and meet the chickens. Rob wanted to take us to a live music event at Fieldbrook Market, a short walk through the neighborhood. Much more than a grocery, it was "Town Hall" for the small community of Fieldbrook. As we walked we talked, about how Lisa and Rob found Arcata as an escape from the big cities like LA, about life as an artisan, about what I could do about this spark plug...
String band at Fieldbrook! Rob complained he suffers from Weird Face Syndrome in photos...
WFS seems to be contagious. Dammit, Rob!
Lisa and Rob's artist, artisan, philosopher, tinkerers and thinker friends all stopped by the table at some point through the evening. The burgers came recommended, so we double-downed on our daily intake (remember, good decisions). The crafts community reminded me of those around Asheville, NC. The music was lively. The vibe was familial. With the warm thrum of alcohol in our bloodstreams, bellies full of burger, and toes still tapping in time with the bass Pete and I followed our hosts into the cool nighttime air.
There is no deeper black than trying to find your way through the woods at night. After we said farewell to friends and left the street lights for the dirt path home, it was as if a dark velvet cloth was slowly lowered over my face. Trees blotted out the starlight overhead as we ambled, their arms eventually becoming so thick they became a single shapeless void, extinguishing all spatial awareness. I was completely disoriented, but Rob and Lisa had walked the path home from Fieldbrook at night many times. Rob pointed out a weak pinprick of light, a lamp of indeterminable distance flitting between branches, that he used to guide himself over the invisible obstacle course – uneven ground, mud, potholes, even a plank bridge. I gave up on my night vision entirely, and for several moments merely followed Rob's disembodied voice. Somewhere ahead I could hear Pete and Lisa's footsteps too, and punctuated them with my own loud Splash! every time I missed the path but found a pothole instead. Good thing these boots are waterproof, and I made it over the bridge without a much bigger splash.
Of all the fantastic experiences that evening, the walk through the nighttime woods was most unexpected, and humbling.
At the house, we poured over Lisa's artwork, and a photo book by an Italian Vespa traveler they hosted a while back. We chatted until I could barely keep my eyes open. It was one of those highly condensed experiences, the sort that happen with kindred spirits because there's just so much to share before giving in to unconsciousness.
Rob prepared a gourmet breakfast with eggs from their chickens, local apple butter for toast, and honey from their bees for Chemex-made coffee. What a spread.
Some reading material for breakfast in the sun.
Rob's been part of the west coast scooter scene for a while, and handed me this fantastic chick tracts style minicomic from a rally years ago.
I believe it was put together by the now defunct Hells Belles SC. Any further information or copies of this genius would be appreciated!
A Night On The Tiles: The origin of Professor Nutty Bolts, as seen hanging in Rob's garage.Hmm, I can paint some Vespas too...
This is the life. You guys have nailed it.
We dawdled over breakfast in the backyard, content to sit by the fire pit, bathe ourselves in warm sunlight, and listen to the chickens clucking and cooing behind us. It was heavenly, too heavenly to get going...but Pete had only one day left before he would turn around.
Thank you, Lisa, for reaching out. I'm so grateful to know two such genuine individuals as Lisa and Rob.
Hey, Bobby from the Slug Rockets! We talked him into joining us for a quick scoot.
In Arcata, we stopped by Lisa's old bookstore for Independent Bookstore Day and browsed the farmer's market for road snacks. Bobby met up with us on his GTS, and was persuaded to take us on a short jaunt north along a less-traveled road. Indeed, following a couple sharp turns out of town, in some places it was hardly a road at all. The most exciting route dwindled down to just a bumpy, narrow, dusty path that hugged the cliffside, with only open air and a sheer drop to the turquoise Pacific to our left. Lisa had taken the truck along a more accommodating road, but us four intrepid scooters picked our way over what were probably intended to be bicyclist paths. It was absolutely spectacular.
One last farewell in Trinidad, CA.
Pete and I pressed northward, and spotted a sizable herd of grazing elk as we rounded the bend to Orick, CA. Later, we'd learn this was a unique elk to the area, the Roosevelt elk. So of course, we stopped at a roadside joint that offered elk burgers. Y'know, to celebrate.
Pushing our burger limits.
Worth the wait.
The Snack Shack had just run out of elk, but the cook's mother was on her way in the car to resupply. "She's 80, it could be a while," she warned us, but the sun was out and I took the opportunity to call around for a quote for a new top end for Serenity. Since Mendocino, every hesitation whether from a gust of wind or bump in the road, I reflexively started looking for a shoulder to coast to a stop. The news wasn't great though, the price of a replacement was high, and labor was costly. I've come a long way as a mechanic and from videos it looked like I could do the work myself, but having never endeavored something as ambitious as this I wasn't confident in my turnaround. A Timesert was another option, but again I would be attempting to take the engine out myself, without a garage, at the whim of a machinist's schedule. It certainly highlighted what I disliked about traveling with a finite schedule: If you're short on time, you need more money. If you have plenty of time, you can get by on far less money. I've always favored the latter approach, but this trip north had a fixed deadline and I chose to have an abbreviated trip rather than no trip at all. The blue Loctite was holding, but for how long? Would I even enjoy another 5k worrying about every hesitation?
A writhing ball of anxiety had developed in the pit of my stomach when the elk reinforcements finally arrived. The burger was delicious, juicy, a little wild tasting, perfectly grilled. With the help of wavy fries my anxiety melted away from the inside, replaced with tastiness. If the blue Loctite fails, I'll switch to red, and then high-temp JB Weld if it falls out again. Sacrifice the head, it's going to need a new one either way, I decided to myself. As long as it limped onto the ferry from Haines, I could put off the major work for later. Yup, procrastination was the answer! I felt better about my decision making already, or maybe I was just happy because I was full of elk.
Just taking my blue speeder bike through the Forest Moon of Endor. Pew pew!
The landslides near Leggett meant we didn't get to ride through the Drive-Thru Tree or take the Avenue of Giants, but we did take a moment to enjoy Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.
No matter how often I ride through Redwoods, it's always stunning.
Pete's bike is a multi-state GTS now.
Topography doesn't care much for the arbitrary borderlines drawn by humans, and much of that gorgeous craggy coastline remained constant upon crossing into Oregon. There were, however, two qualities that made themselves immediately apparent across the state line: gas pumps no longer had that extended foreskin you have to pull back to fill up, and cannabis shops were aplenty. In fact, there was one visible from Californian soil. It was modestly named State Line Cannabis, which was disappointing; not even an attempt at a clever canna-punning name. It used to be fireworks you cross state lines to buy, but I suppose times change.
Also across the line I spotted a truck weighing station, and nearly made a GTS sandwich doubling back so I could weigh my scooter.
Heya, wide load.
500lbs fully loaded, hello my little wide load! Granted, the scale only went up in 50lbs increments (later, I found another with 20lbs increments, and it still hovered around 480lbs).
Gold Beach's lone scooterist and consummate craftsman, Gary.
I'd contacted Gary, Gold Beach's lone scooterist who I'd met very briefly my first time through 2.5 years ago, blogging from esteemed Gold Beach Books. We missed the opening hours of the coffee house but he'd set us up nicely at his son's workplace, and we chatted easily about his work projects and the upcoming rally in Oregon. We even met a real miner, a man who moved to California because he dreamed of panning for gold (it turned he'd purchased mineral rights to a plot by the river that was only rich in zirconium).
As the shadows grew long, I realized with a pang I was going to be lonely when Pete turned south. Perhaps Pete was feeling similarly, because instead of us parting ways (for me to free-camp farther north) he suggested crashing at the Pacific Reef Hotel next door. Both of us too exhausted to go out for dinner, we feasted on leftovers in our enormous suite of a room, "lightening the load" for Pete's ride back. I killed off the remaining half of my burger from Fieldbrook with some box wine, and shared a kolache from the Eureka farmer's market with Pete for dessert. I didn't so much sleep as pass out.
Missed you by a week or so. My daughter and I were at Gold Beach.
Thanks for all the kind wishes. To clear things up, *SPOILER ALERT* I got on the bad side of a front end wobble and wiped out in the Arctic. I tucked, but was thrown directly on my shoulder, fracturing my clavicle.
I'm feeling better now, thank you for the well wishes. I'm even back on a bike!
Glad to see you're ok!
Glad to have you back and to hear that you're OK now.
Time had come to part ways again. Pete had pushed his dog-sitters to the limit, and he would have to slab it all the way back to San Francisco in a single day (480 miles, blasting my day record out of the water on his first overland haul. Aw). I had a more moderate 300-ish mile day ahead of me to one of my favorite cities, Portland, OR.
In the morning mist, our farewells were brief and without fanfare; we were eager to tackle our independent miles. For my part, maybe I hustled a bit to get my gear on because in your helmet, no one can tell if you're crying.
Cue the waterworks? Impressive septic display along the Oregon coastal highway.
True, I finally got to fulfill my long ride with Pete, and I knew he would make it home in one piece. I was finally pointing my bike at new adventures, and the coastline was ever majestic. I relish the freedom of solo travel, so I wasn't just choked up from parting ways. The road closures, spark plug issue, and most of all Pete's energy kept me blissfully distracted from a longing that had been clinging to me like San Francisco fog.
A part of me just... wished I could be making some of these fantastic memories with Fred. I wanted to say stupid shit on the intercom with him, like, "Ohh, that's beautiful," "Ow, watch that bump," "Those clouds look foreboding," and, "Next stop for a pee break," – inane, daily exchanges, layered between the spectacular. What becomes of a relationship when your most formative memories are made apart? We could Skype at every wifi opportunity, but what if the bulk of your best memories, and eventually your lifestyle, become things you never get to share? Without Pete or Moose, for the first time since San Francisco I was finally left alone with my thoughts, and they gnawed at me from inside my helmet. There was only static on the intercom, under a steely Oregon sky.
I made a mental note to add new music to my riding playlist.
Having opted for an inland route last time, this would be my first time along the Oregon coast. I figured I'd check out the beach camp where I'd originally planned to stay, a free site near Coos Bay.
Whiskey Run? Sounds like my kind of road.
The paid portion of camp was pleasant, but full.
Pothole minefield. I saw one swallow a Jeep.
Clear my mind with a beach walk.
A flannel-clad woman and her dog posted up outside her Subaru, playing guitar.
Looks slippery at the end of the sidewalk.
This was the part of the beach that would be free for camping.
If you drove past the Bastendorf Beach Park campground to the end of the Coos Head Road, there's a quiet, open area you can camp free for a night. With a nearby fishing town for sundries, for a moment I considered pitching tent...and then realized I'd just be moping about in addition to having to empty my tent of sand in the morning.
Besides, the illustrious Sara Ryan, my roommate from agency retreats past, was expecting me in Portland! And there would be food!
Finally, the clouds burned off.
After days of remote coastal resort towns, sleepy fishing towns, quiet logging towns, and spotty cell service, Portland felt like a different world. I hadn't seen a City-city since San Francisco.
Mussels and frites and fanciness with Sara.
Getting a proper welcome back to the city, Sara and I walked to Grain and Gristle, one of her go-to neighborhood spots. Ah, craft beer, cocktails, charcuterie plates, and curled mustaches – the urbanity. Along our walk home, she also pointed out a corner that delivered all the PDX vices in one convenient block: a coffee shop, liquor, beer and wine store, and weed shop in one square. The urbanity, indeed.
I slept like a rock on their leather couch. There were a few Vespa things to take care of in Portland, but mostly I was here to see friends and eat food!
Fried chicken bowls with Cydney at Basilisk. So hot, so tasty.
Cydney's hand, and Rachel's Ginger Beer hot toddy. Blood orange and extra ginger. Fiery belly!
Atlanta transplants, Shannon and Justin. Cubo for Cuban.
An unexpected experience came out of meeting Shannon and Justin for dinner: Justin worked at a coffee shop that was partnered with Float On, a float tank therapy center. He had unlimited free floats as part of the deal, and he and Shannon both spoke highly of the experience. I'd heard of the benefits of isolation tanks and was curious, but like bungee jumping, I just hadn't sought it out. Justin hooked me up with an appointment on the spot, because he's awesome like that.
Quick stop by Vespa Portland for spare spark plugs and misc, and to oggle a Ural. Paul and Maggy are super nice, and didn't bat an eye when I asked for just a dollop of grease in a ziplock.
Time for a float in room 4. It's humid and warm in here.
My float appointment was up, and a soft-spoken host led me to my room. Float On had a medical-spa-meets-hippie kind of feel to it (they have float books and crayons for your to draw your... hallucinations?), and I was ready to give it a try. The standard float time was 90 minutes, with benefits of perceived weightlessness ranging from being able to slip immediately into a meditative state, to a release in creative energy, to muscle relaxation. The host gave me a short orientation and left me to my private room. I applied the orange putty to my ears to lock out salty water, undressed, stepped into the tank of calf-high water, closed the door, and turned off the light.
At first, it was just watery blackness. I still had a memory of the blue-lit room behind my eyes, and it's not that you can't hear anything – splashes are amplified with the earplugs – so you need to stay quite still. Once that was accomplished I had the not unpleasant feeling of slightly spinning, much like going to bed after one too many libations. Breathing was a loud, regular whoosh, and my heartbeat was the only other sound.
Thoughts drifted and I let myself become disoriented, until eventually, I started to feel uncomfortable. The buoyancy of the water meant my legs stuck straight out somewhat awkwardly, and if I moved them I'd hit the bottom. My shoulders felt like they floated right up to my neck, but every time I reached to check, they were in the right place. At least my boobs were not cold (something Shannon had warned me about), but anytime I moved I lost that sense of boundary-less-ness – I could feel the surface tension of the water, pulling at the edges of my face and hands. The water is kept at 93.5 degrees F to be skin-neutral, so you can't tell where you end and the water begins, but I could, and I just wished it was hotter.
More noticeably, I could feel whatever I had for lunch (it was pie, now that I thought about it), bubbling in my gut. It sounded like balloons were rubbing against each other in my abdomen, echoing in the watery chamber with the promise of future farts.
In the vacuum of other sensations, what was left manifested itself as pain. Pain in my knees, from holding still sticking straight out. Pain in my shoulders, which felt like they grew directly from beneath my ears. Pain in my abdomen, cooking up gas. I didn't think of myself as someone in regular pain, but with nothing else to focus on the pain became my world.
My breathing and heartbeat were the only sounds, and my heart rate was climbing. I tried to breath slowly, assuring myself this was an exercise in relation, but my rapid heartbeat betrayed me. It pounded against the pitch black walls that felt as immediate as my skin, and soon my saltwater slick hands were searching for the light switch in a void of space.
The room was plunged back into that eerie blue light. I sat still, semi-submerged, knees under my chin, panting. The warm, sticky air clung to the inside of my mouth. I felt nauseated. Opening the door delivered the cool burst of air I craved, but a glance at my phone told me I had only lasted 40 minutes.
I had plenty of time left, and decided to try again. The discomfort and emptiness pressing in came sooner though. The worst part, once I gave up and sat up, was that salty water dribbled down my face and into my eyes. The sting was like an ultimate, "You're doing it wrong! You're a failure at relaxing!" slap to the face, and I had to towel off my head and face between the tears.
I tried again, if anything just to hear the underwater speakers. When your float time is up, music is played underwater to wake you from your float, and I wanted to hear it. It's unreal and ethereal, I wish more pools had underwater speakers.
When I finally showered and walked out to the front lounge, I was a little shell-shocked. I felt exhausted, disoriented, jittery, and my hands were shaking. Overwhelmingly, I wanted to curl up somewhere warm and comfortable and real, and feel the weight of blankets and the loft of pillows.
They gave me plenty of time to sit in the lounge and sip an organic ginger tea. I can't believe people fall asleep in these. I'm extremely grateful for the experience (thank you, Justin!), but I couldn’t help thinking I would rather have a massage.
Anyway, back in the physical world I had a dinner with Jenn and a bunch of cranky old Lambretta guys at Horse Brass Pub to get to. Save me some meat pie.
Crashing Lambretta night with Jenn and gravy.
Chatting Vespa-sized adventures and tater tots at Rogue Brewery with Shannon.
Somehow, it never registered that Rogue Brewery was based in Portland. A matter of blocks from where Shannon and I lunched, the Rogue Distillery and Public House, were at least two more breweries. It's a veritable avenue of fermentation. I'm not usually a beer person, but Cascade Brewing Barrel House drew me in for their dizzying selection of barrel-aged and tasty sours.
Sara had a nice flat driveway, so I did some maintenance before Seattle.
I'm still finding corroded bits under the case from when I dunked the scoot in a flash flood in Houston.
Impromptu BGL meetup at Vita Cafe. Hi, Jenn, and Steve too!
Sara had been swamped with work, so it wasn't until my last night in PDX that we found time together with her, Steve, and fellow BGL client, Jen Reese. As we walked down Alberta to Vita Cafe, she told me about how the neighborhood had changed in her 15 years of living here. It was great to see Jenn again, and talk would wander from current fandoms to local gatherings to industry...and for once, I found I didn't mind shop talk in my 'off time'. Normally my hackles are up to keep such a divide between work and the rest of who I am, but here were people who just flowed. It was refreshing and comfortable.
A real estate agency was playing independent animated shorts in their window.I believe their motto was, "An agency that gets it."
Another brilliant PDX pairing, a weed shop next to a taco stand.
Sara made it clear I was welcome to crash on the couch as long as I needed, and the pull to stay longer was strong. It was comfortable and familiar here, and my creative friends and scooter friends were always near. I could just stay in cozy Portland, eventually find a place of my own. Why was I so eager to cast myself out, to far-flung places like Alaska?
I suppose I could simply say it's the 49th state, one more tick mark on a checklist to complete. But that would be selling it short.
Perhaps, travel changes a person, and I'm not the traveler I used to be. I'm certainly a different person from the first time I came through Portland on a Vespa. I've grown in experience, I'm more tired, and yet I still seek to feel 'out there' again. I crave further borders, to be brought outside myself, find wonder, and to share it with others. After so many solo miles I wish I could share it with immediate company, but seeing as it's just me I'll push for the next plausible thing: the frontier, something Alaska has a long reputation of delivering. Something like that.
I crawled into my last night on Sara's couch with a hint of melancholy, but felt ready for the next place. I guess I know I'm rested enough when I pull up Google maps and go Ooh instead of Ugh.
Thank you, and until next time, Sara!
It’s a curious feeling, when your long awaited plans come to fruition. I’m much more used to plans being thought of as far in the future. It should be no surprise when they become immediate, yet when the moment arrives I still find myself caught off guard.
Onward, to Seattle.
I go to the Australian movie The Castle when I here Serenity - check it out . . .
It's a straightforward ride along I-5 from Portland to Seattle, but I'd find a way to dress it up. I hustled out the door early to give myself plenty of time to meander and catch the Bremerton ferry.
Mt. St. Helens peeked through the trees.
Hello, Olympic mountains.
The skies were clear and after so much cold and dampness, the day was gloriously warm. At Union, WA the road narrowed and hugged the shore of an inland body of water. Between the trees, the homes facing the bay were all beautiful, unique, lavishly maintained, and festooned with sports cars and boats. All of them had a dazzling view of the Olympics directly across the water. It was a pleasure to ride through, even though my presence was probably bringing down the property value.
I arrived with twenty minutes to spare in Bremerton, a town so wholesome and agreeable that I was at a loss for what to do but treat myself to a celebratory soy latte. I mean hey, I'm in Washington.
$7.90 gets you and a scoot a scenic ferry ride.
It's noisy on the auto level and the wind tears at you like a pack of angry cats, but it's a beautiful approach to Seattle.
Around a green bend, the Seattle skyline appeared with Mt. Hood rising behind it. At the front of the ferry, a photographer had set up next to my bike to capture it. A few others stood around simply admiring the view. I was reveling in nostalgia to once again be approaching Seattle by scoot and ferry, when a father struck up conversation.
"Going cross country?" he nodded towards the loaded bike.
"Yes, I’ve already been!"
"Where did you start?"
"That’s a long way! You camp along the way? When did you leave?"
"I left 3 years ago as of tomorrow. This is my second time through Seattle, and I’m headed to Alaska next." About now was when his face turned from friendly awe to Oh shit I’ve started a conversation with a crazy person. I changed the subject, "Are you from Seattle?"
"Oh... No, we’re just going into town for the Mariners game," he said, almost weakly. "Well... Safe travels." Then he shuffled his son back towards the safety of their car.
Pointed towards the Space Needle.
Welcome to Seattle meal with Gwynne and Tom! Seattle has a cha chaan teng?!
Gwynne already had a place in mind for our first Seattle meal: a new cha chaan teng in the International District, A+ Hong Kong Kitchen (name sounds authentic!). They had all the classics, like curry fish balls, pork chop rice, and condensed milk on toast that Tom is munching on above. I was impressed, and happy this style of eatery made it to Seattle – maybe locals finally got tired of going to Vancouver for HK food.
Also impressive were the portions.
I did my best on the bucket of spicy noodle soup before me, but even the leftovers filled a large takeout container.
Agate (and other stones) reveal.
Landing at a Siak home is like being with family, we grew up in Atlanta together. I suspect we sort of regressed to our childhood states: eating comfort foods, playing videogames, admiring rock collections. Tom and Gwynne had taken their agate collecting to the next level, with a rock tumbler! This rubbery black tube had been going in the basement for weeks with increasingly fine sand. When it was opened it looked like stones floating in a milkshake. Once washed off, the resulting stones were shiny and smooth. I spent the next half hour fantasizing about how to attach a rock tumbler to my rear wheel, to make shiny stones as I rode. Yes, think of the dead weight I could be lugging in rocks...
More than happy to test the Nashville fried chicken at Sisters and Brothers with Gwynne. Yay, carnivorous Southerner sisterhood!
Meanwhile, Brandon at Big People Scooters made quick work of fitting a new rear tire.
My old tire had enough tread to be carried as a spare, but I loathe the job of changing tubeless tires without a machine. Hopefully the new one Brandon put on would get me to the ferry in Haines.
A night out at Olaf's in Ballard for Pinball Bride. We actually went bar hopping, like adults?!
Back to our usual schedule of videogames. Ooo, new Zelda.
We kicked off the weekend by graduating to our teens: watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, coffees and cookies in hand, then perusing Comics Dungeon for Free Comic Book Day. The afternoon passed reading our new comics from the hammock, or at the picnic table in the sun. I dove into Guy Delisle's new graphic novel, Hostage*. With sunlight still clinging to the edges of the sky at 9pm, the day felt infinitely long – this latitude's summer gift, and the gift of happy, easy company. A grocery run later, Tom put on a record, and Gwynne fixed a Korean dish for dinner. We streamed Crazyhead as per Megan's suggestion, but I fell asleep before the end of the second episode. I couldn't remember feeling more at peace, at rest.
* It was a haunting and powerful read. I know him for his autobiographical, slice-of-life travelogues, but was eager to check out this departure from his other work. It was a maddening 15 years in the making... consumed in 2 afternoons. Gah, comics.
Upright bass at the farmer's market? It must be Ballard.
Free pickle shot! Yes!
Visiting Chris at The Palm Room, in search of a tiny air plant for my livingroom.
A few polished stones and some wire, and Serenity has a new frond frand!
Seattle is easy to love on days like this.
Morgan was having a birthday cookout at Golden Gardens Park, I tagged along and we took the chance to explore.
We heard there was a beaver at the pond.
Played log parkour looking for our dam culprit.
Hopping from trunk to trunk, only once did a log turn underfoot and I splashed in some shallow water. Waterproof boots passed the test.
Which ones are meat, or not meat?
Trick question, they're all plant-based burgers. Beyond Burger is convincingly tasty though. Thanks, Morgan!
Morgan's birthday cookout was a slice of another life, one that made our party look like poster kids for arrested development. Emily was at the bursting point of pregnancy, bearing the very real possibility that Morgan and their baby would soon share a birthday. Toddlers ran through the grass while their mothers laughed about how they now dress like their mothers, and how maybe their daughters will someday dress like them. The various flavors of abstinence that thrive in the developed world were well represented (glutards, vegans/vegetarians, teetotalers... as a lactard myself I'm not exempt, I've certainly reached a point in life where I value future comfort over the immediate pleasure of mozzarella). It was enough to make me wish I snuck my flask with me.
Back at the house for one last sidewalk oil change, and I'm ready for miles north. Aluminum foil is a great multitasker.
There was one last adventure in town: Back at Motorcycles and Misfits in Santa Cruz, I'd caught wind of an all-women motorcycle tour of Pakistan being put together by Liza. Two women in Seattle were interested as well. I was going to meet Dionne (4Art&Adventure) and Ruth (Global Moto Adventures) for a tour of Dionne's Ballard studio, and to exchange thoughts on the trip.
I managed to catch Jackie for a quick happy hour at Kickin Boot Whiskey Kitchen beforehand – she was neck deep in Amerivespa organization drama (alas, I would miss it this year), then it was a quick ride over to BallardWorks.
Blue scoot joins the proper ADV bike parked at BallardWorks. Thanks for the photo, Ruth!
Quick tour of Dionne's studio.
Hi Dionne. And bikes and art. Naturally.
Those arrows remind me of Dance Dance Revolution.
Clearly, I need to find a way to keep a makespace, but still vanish for months at a time to ride... Dionne seemed to manage it.
Great to meet you both, thanks for letting me steal your book, ha!
More on the Pakistan tour later, this northbound adventure still lay ahead.
She's named after that Firefly! Small, trusty, my home. Unfortunately, my Leaf On The Wind looked like she went the way of Wash... BUT thanks to some locals and you guys on Go Fund Me (thank you!), my Vespa found her way back to the lower 48. She's actually on the way to Boston, but the trailer had some trouble so it'll be a mid-November arrival. I found a donor bike, and I'm planning to rebuild her myself this winter. And that means I have until then to catch up on reports, and then it's repair time!
I'm going to join the very small club of people who bother to rebuild a GTS.
Glad to hear that you are doing well and that Serenity will soon be at your side.
Good luck with the rebuild.
Stephanie, from one old crusty biker to a young strong-willed biker, do what ever it takes to keep Serenity alive & in the family.
Even if you update down the track to another ride put her in storage somewhere.
She's part of the story. Imagine telling this story to your daughter or granddaughter sitting on your knee, & then their able to go out to the shed & climb all over Serenity reliving the story you just told. It will warm your heart beyond belief.
(Wish I still had my first bike )
Well after meeting you in Baja a couple of years ago, my riding buddies and I were talking about you the other day and how you inspired us for our next Baja trip. We are all buying scooters for the ride from Nor cal to Baja! Some where around a $1000 price cap and nothing over 250cc's. Slow and steady will be the plan... Cabo or bust!!!!
Wishing you the best, Stephanie!