Alaska – The Finale

I have decided to sum up the rest of my days in Alaska in this one post.  Since I was now traveling by rental car, the experience was not the same.  However, this was the best part of the trip from a scenic perspective and I don’t want to lose that.

The plan for the day after the crash was for me to meet the group at the hotel in Valdez.  On my travels from Palmer via Highway 1, I saw the Matanusk Glacier which the group would visit again the next day.  I  was stunned by the peaks that were visible as I neared my turn off on Highway 4.  I thought I had taken photos with my phone of them but they seem to be missing.  So, you’ll just have to trust me that the views are fantastic!

This drive was about four hours and I mostly remember it as stopping as I needed to for stretching and water.  My cell phone battery was dying as I navigated and the charging port in the car didn’t work, so it was lucky for me to encounter one of the ladies I had ridden with at a construction stop.  I had a chance to say hello to her before the pilot car lead us through the area and then we caught up on the other side.  It was such a relief to be able to follow her since she had the group’s directions and stops for the day!

It wasn’t long before we found the rest of the group and had a chance to see some glaciers and waterfalls on our way into Valdez.  I was so relieved when we arrived at the hotel since I’d had barely any sleep in the past 2 days.  I grabbed some food at a nearby grocery store and was in bed by 8 PM! It’s too bad I was so tired and in pain because what I saw of Valdez, I absolutely loved!

The next morning was my birthday and I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a truck!  I was expecting this, having worked in the insurance industry for 10 years in my younger days.  I knew that 2 days after the accident is when you finally feel all the damage.  One of the other ladies on the tour was at a breakfast place near the harbor and I managed to drive there to meet her.  After some coffee, breakfast and ibuprofen I felt like I would function and we walked around Valdez for a few minutes.  I saw enough to know that I certainly want to return one day and finish the trip I started!

Our destination for that day was a hotel in Sutton.  It was strange for me, driving a car behind the bikes and at the first construction zone we were separated as they went up front with the pilot car.  I had the GPS directions so I was able to follow along to each stop along the way.  This day was mainly retracing my drive from the day before, but it was still nice to see the sights.

The hotel in Sutton may be my favorite of the entire trip.  It has beautiful fields of flowers surrounding it and a sense of calm and peace that I was so in need of during those last couple days.  I was sad to leave it the next day knowing that we were on our way back to Anchorage.

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Beautiful view in Sutton

 

One of the coolest experiences of the trip happened at our last stop before everyone turned their bikes in.  We stopped at a lake that we’d visited at the beginning and had some lunch and a chance to relax.  As I was sitting at the picnic table pondering what was next for me, I looked down and saw a penny!  During the entire trip I had been asking my dad to send me a penny and none had shown up.  After the crash I was feeling very disappointed and like this trip had just been a bad idea – then the bright penny showed up to remind me that he is always with me.  Always.

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My penny!

I started to feel very disconnected from the group when I joined them in Valdez and that feeling continued for the rest of my time in Alaska.  Even before the accident I had decided this would be my last tour on a motorcycle unless it’s a small group I personally know.  I enjoy the camaraderie of  riding and supporting each other, helping each other when needed and celebrating the great miles together.  I simply didn’t experience that with this group, despite being open to and hoping that would occur.

I would like to return to Alaska at some point, but it will be a trip that I design and plan.  Maybe I’ll go solo or with one or two trusted friends.  Even before the accident I felt like this trip was not at all what I had expected.  There are no regrets, because I learned a great deal about myself and know where my training needs to focus next.  I also saw parts of a beautiful state that I’d never experienced before and will carry those memories for a long time.  But now I know for certain that groups like this are not for me!

I have spent the last three weeks healing mind, body and soul.  The good news is that I see progress every day and am encouraged that I’ll be back on a bike yet this season.  Hopefully there is little to no hidden anxiety waiting for me, but I can’t really know yet.  So far, I haven’t been able to physically endure helmet shopping due to neck injuries, so riding at this point is still out of the question.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you all soon!

 

Rethinking Group Rides

This is a topic I’ve been considering writing about for a while.  I was hoping that more time and experience would help me make an informed decision one way or the other, and I think it finally has.

When I was a new rider, group riding was intimidating to me.  I worried about keeping up.  I was anxious about riding my own ride in the midst of people much more experienced than me.  How do we handle being split up?  What happens when the rest of the group wants to go faster than you do?  What if you have just had enough and want to bail out on the whole situation?  Is that rude?  Is it smart?  Does it even matter, since my responsibility is to ride my own ride and to do so safely?

A few weeks ago, I went on a group ride with some people that I know and some I don’t.  I had never ridden with any of them before.  I soon found myself riding sweep with a group of guys and I thought hmmm, this is interesting.  Did I end up back here because they think I’m slow?  I’m pretty sure that is why and they ended up with a big surprise!  What actually happened is that a rider in the middle of the group was very, very slow.  Painfully slow.  As in going around curves in first gear and looking terribly uncomfortable slow.  Being behind that person was frustrating for me.  I imagine it was for the other two riders also behind this person, but I don’t want to assume what they were thinking.

When we stopped, two of the riders between the very slow person and me decided to head out on their own.  They said they lived nearby and it was more convenient for them.  I ended up wishing I had done the same by the time this day was over.  Afterward some people said the slow rider should be in the back.  I admit that initially I agreed.  Then, as I thought about it more, I realized the faster ones were not really slowing down for this person, so wouldn’t that mean he/she would have been left behind by them?  I’m pretty sure it would and that’s not what group riding is about.  That leaves those behind this rider frustrated and those in front of that person counting their lucky stars.  It probably leaves the slower rider feeling uncomfortable as well.  Surely they know they are slower than the front group and are holding up those behind them.

I’ve found myself in the opposite situation as well and that is equally uncomfortable.  When the group leader says don’t worry, we will ride at the pace of the slowest person and then takes off like a shot and leaves you basically on your own.  That’s no fun either. I was the slower rider in that group and found that it was difficult and very frustrating.  Yes, I could see them, way off in the distance, but I sure couldn’t catch them.  I didn’t do any group riding for a long time after that because I didn’t want a repeat of that experience.  So, it was strange to me that when I was part of the “faster” group, how impatient and frustrated I became being “stuck” behind a slow rider.  Where was my compassion, having been in their boots?

I don’t have a clear solution right now, but am leaning toward no more group rides.  A few exceptions may be riding with people I have ridden with before and know well.  Obviously going with my riding partner but I don’t consider the two of us a group.  It makes me sad to think about saying no to all group rides, but the frustration I felt on that recent day amounted to a day I don’t care to repeat.

What is your stance on group rides?  If you enjoy them, how have you found a compatible group?  What happens when you feel it isn’t working?  Do you politely bow out?  I look forward to hearing how other riders handle this!

SW Colorado – Day 2

Montrose to Olathe to Montrose (again) to Telluride to Mancos to Durango – 199 miles

This was one of my favorite days of the trip for a few reasons: 1) I finished my Tour of Honor sites, 2) it was July 4th and I LOVE fireworks, 3) I visited Telluride for the first time and 4) the beautiful, amazing scenery.

I wrote about this before, about my riding partner being such a good sport and agreeing to go along with my plan to visit the last two sites I needed for my Tour of Honor ride this year.  He also went along with my plan to finish on July 4th because it was important to me.  Yes, I may be a little spoiled in this regard.

I’m not going to write again about the ToH sites since I already did that in a separate post.  I want to focus this on on the rest of the trip and my goodness, how beautiful the sights on this day.  I had never ridden this part of Colorado so didn’t really know what to expect.  What I noticed though is that the area around Montrose reminds me of Moab, UT with the red dirt and the way the mountains look.  It was very cool to ride towards Ridgway, Colorado and experience a very different view – the mountains seem much more jagged here.  Had I pulled over for every view I wanted to photograph, I’d still be on this trip over a week later!

We had planned to stop in Telluride for lunch and neither of us gave a single thought to the fact that it was, indeed, July 4th.  I was busy enjoying the mountain views when I noticed traffic stopped ahead of us.  I assumed it was an elk jam or something since that often happens in Colorado.  Even when I saw police cars directing traffic it didn’t sink in. Then I noticed detour signs closer to town and it hit me – ahhhh, July 4th parade detour.  Oh rats!  We both needed lunch and were turning hangry in a hurry, along with beating ourselves up for not thinking about this ahead of time.  There were no spaces to fit two motorcycles, so we ended up splitting up with my riding partner getting the worse end of this deal.  After he parked, he had the unfortunate job of helping me find a space.  The first one was slanted the wrong way – when I put the kickstand down, the road sloped away to the other side and I was sure the bike was going to topple over.  He took off in search of another space while I held the bike upright and tried not to panic. He found one for me nearby with the road sloping in the right direction, but it took some fancy riding to get into it.  My buddy kept his cool while giving me directions (now turn the handlebars this way, now back up, ok now come forward, now turn the handlebars the other way, now back up again) until we had Sassy safely parked.  I was reminded in that moment that I am fortunate to have such a great riding buddy who is patient and doesn’t lose his cool when I need help!

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Cozy parking spot for Sassy!

Of course, since it was July 4th and the parade was wrapping up, the restaurants were busy and neither of us felt like walking all over town to find food.  We ducked into a place nearby for a couple burgers and tried to be patient while the line moved at a snail’s pace.  The locals seemed to have some secret password that allowed them to sit at the bar and order food which we were told was not an option.   It seems like a paying customer is a paying customer but it wasn’t true in this case.

Having learned the cooling vest lesson from the day before, we both put ours on before heading out after lunch.  We picked up Highway 145 outside of Telluride which would take us to Dolores and past the huge boulder that came crashing down onto the road a few weeks prior.  Rather than blast it apart, our state highway department has decided to rebuild the highway around it.  Thankfully the construction detour wasn’t too long because the boulder site turned out to be less exciting than we hoped.  We continued on to Mancos where we picked up my last Tour of Honor site, gassed up the bikes and tried not to melt in the heat.

It was in Mancos that I learned my mapping software on my phone was not going to guide me into Durango.  I don’t know if it was poor cell reception or what, but there were no maps for me!  I was very grateful that our hotel in Durango was only about 30 minutes away.  It had been another long and hot day and I was ready for a break!

After checking into the hotel and unloading the bikes, we rode into Durango to find some dinner and walked to watch the fireworks. It was interesting to put riding pants over shorts and then try to change footwear standing on the sidewalk!  I was very grateful for my Vario cases so I could stow my boots, pants and jacket and walk away knowing they were secure.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because I really enjoy fireworks!  Durango did a nice job and we also enjoyed a live band for most of the fireworks show.  Seeing so many beautiful sights in Colorado and then finishing off the evening with fireworks and music will make this a July 4th to remember for a very long time!

Lessons learned: when traveling on a holiday, check your plans ahead for any parades or other delays, then make a back up plan!

SW Colorado – Day 1

Denver, CO to Montrose, CO – 274 miles

The first day of our planned five day trip started off slowly, but well.  We both had a full work day the previous day plus events to attend in the evening.  We planned for a mid morning start so that we could avoid rush hour traffic and not feel rushed and stressed to start the trip.

I had thought I was ready to leave my house a bit early and then realized oops, I had a few items that needed to be taken care of first.  Wet laundry in the washer for one thing.  I don’t want to know what that would have been like after sitting for five days.  Ewwww! That was one of a few indicators that I was a little anxious about starting this journey.  This was my first overnight trip with my bike, Sassy and my first multi day trip with my riding partner.  While I trust both of them, and myself, there were a few unknowns that were giving me butterflies.

During the planning of this trip (and after British Columbia), I realized that a dry bag would be a good addition to my gear inventory.  It turned out to be a great choice and I’m glad that I invested my dollars in one.  I have decent sized Vario cases on Sassy but adding the dry bag allowed me to keep bike stuff in one case and my laptop and DSLR camera, water and personal stuff in the other.  It was so easy to take the dry bag off when we arrived at our destination and have all my clothes right there, contained.  It makes getting on and off the bike a bit more challenging, but it’s worth the effort.

Ok, back to the trip!  I head out from my house toward my riding partner’s place around 8:30 AM.  Traffic wasn’t too bad and after he finished loading his bike, we headed south to Highway 285.   It has been years since I went over Guanella Pass and as we came down the other side toward Fairplay, my jaw dropped at the beautiful sights of the mountains before me.  If there was a theme to this trip, it would have been how many times did I saw “WOW!” as I came around a corner, or across a mountain pass.  We had a quick gas stop in Fairplay and then went on to Buena Vista for lunch.

The afternoon brought more mountain passes and many more wows.  We crossed Monarch Pass on our way toward Gunnison and again, I was stunned into silence at the beauty.  Despite a bit of traffic, it felt very peaceful to be riding along with my thoughts and enjoying the cooler temperatures at the higher elevations.  We stopped in Gunnison for what we intended to be the last gas and restroom stop before arriving in Montrose.  However, the temperature rose, the day got long and we ended up stopping one more time around the Cerro Summit to have some water and a snack before pushing on.  I’m not sure which of us was more relieved to arrived at the hotel parking lot in Montrose!  I felt as though I had been fully roasted and wanted nothing more than to be off the bike and out of my gear.

It was a relief to have arrived and took the last of my energy to unpack the bike.  At that point I wanted nothing more than a cool shower, some “regular” clothes and dinner.  Yes, in that order.  Thankfully we located a restaurant within walking distance because I don’t think I could have made myself get back on the bike for more miles!

My lesson for Day 1: soak your cooling vest even if you don’t anticipate needing it!

Holiday Adventure in Colorado

Just before I left for British Columbia, my riding partner asked if I was interested in planning a multi-day trip to southwest Colorado.  Of course I am, I said!  Then he clued me in that he was thinking of this for the July 4th holiday timeframe.  Since it was already early June I thought there is no way this is going to work – where will we stay on such short notice?  A million thoughts went through my mind, most of them about why this wasn’t going to work.  And then a new one – but, what if it could. . .???

We started discussing possible routes, hotel budgets and timelines.  We both asked for time off work.  I found someone to take care of my cat.  Whoa, this might work!  We spent a few hours and many text messages collaborating on hotel options along our desired route.  I give him most of the credit for that legwork and securing the majority of the reservations.  The only one outstanding was for July 4th and we wanted to be in Durango, CO.  We tagged teamed the search and I’m pretty sure I secured the last two hotel rooms available in Durango or the surrounding area!  Success!

I headed off on my British Columbia trip with the basic structure of this trip secured.  My riding partner had not done an overnight trip with this bike before, so I recommended packing tips to try while I was away.  As I was returning home from BC it dawned on me that I had never traveled with my “Sassy”either.  Well, time to take my own advice then!  There was much to do and discuss and only 3 short weeks before our departure.  I wondered how it would go; would either of us wish we had not done the trip?

Another take away from this trip for me, is that there is more than one way to do a multi-day motorcycle trip.  That may seem terribly obvious, but so far my multi-day trips have followed a bit of a pattern.  KSU early in the morning, short pre-planned gas and restroom stops, a quick lunch and arrive at the hotel at check in time.  This trip was not planned out that way, nor did it happen that way.  That doesn’t mean it was wrong, it was just different and for that I am grateful.  I was reminded that my way is not the only way and I can, indeed, adapt.  <gasp!>

I’m writing this post from the hotel lobby in Salida, CO.  This is our final evening before we head home.  I am pleased to say that from my perspective, the trip has been amazing!  I think my riding partner would agree, but I’ll be sure to ask him very soon.  I have experienced some parts of Colorado for the very first time.  Others I vaguely remember from a car trip many years ago.  A couple were a blur in my memory as I passed through them as part of my first rally as a pillion.

I have lost count of how many times I said “WOW!” as we came around a corner to see another stunning view of the mountains.  It has been great for me to do a multi day trip in a different way.  I’ve learned to pack a dry bag, about summer travel and to let go of some of the scheduling and let the day unfold.  What an amazing experience this has been; I am so, so grateful!

 

 

 

British Columbia – Day 9 (finale!)

Harrison Hot Springs, BC to Vancouver, BC – 141.4 km/87 miles

Our last day of riding together was upon us.  The plan for the day was to return to Vancouver, drop the three rental motorcycles and then take a taxi back to our hotel to meet the two who had ridder their own bikes.

Our days of leisurely riding quiet little two lane roads were over.  This day was a lot of traffic on roads that are comparable to the interstates in the U.S.  It’s not my favorite, but I can do it and on this day, there was just no way around it.  As we came closer to Vancouver, the traffic increased and so did the temperature.

As we came into Vancouver, I felt my own anxiety level rising a bit.  The traffic was pretty intense, there were cars merging everywhere and my focus was on returning that rental motorcycle safely!  It seemed the closer we came to the rental shop, the more cars were on the road with us.  I’m sure that’s not true, but it was my perception at the time.  I also noticed drivers were more aggressive with each other and with us.  They wanted to arrive at their destination as badly as we did.

The good news is that we all arrived safely at the rental shop and the motorcycles were all checked in and emptied very quickly.  I knew I would forget to write down the final mileage, so I took a photo of my trip odometer before handing the keys back! 2,015.2 km for the overall trip is what my bike registered.  That is about 1252 miles for those keeping track!

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Final odometer reading for the trip – 2,015.2 km

 

Back at the hotel there was a long conversation about how the day went and how the overall trip went.  I’m going to boil it down to this: there were some strong opinions and disagreements, especially about the approach that day.  It didn’t feel resolved when we started to head out the next morning and I doubt it ever will be.  While all of that made me uncomfortable, I have learned to take responsibility for myself and I feel like I did that.  I left Vancouver feeling grateful for the experience and with some lessons learned.

People have asked how I liked the 750GS compared to my 700GS and I can honestly say that I am not planning on trading mine in any time soon.  I thought the 750 shifted a bit more smoothly than mine does, but mine also has features I like that the 750 doesn’t.  Riding wise, I think they are both equally comfortable, although it’s not a fair comparison since the 750 has a stock seat (uncomfortable!) and my 700 came with a Sargent seat included.

I am very grateful for this experience.  I learned some things along the way and have already applied those lessons to my recent trip around southwest Colorado which I will write about soon.  British Columbia is one of my favorite places to ride now and I hope to be fortunate enough to return in the near future!

 

 

British Columbia – Day 6

Day 6 – Nakusp, BC to Kalso, BC (with a side trip to Revelstoke!) – 258 km/160 mi

This may have been my favorite day of the entire trip!  We rode from Nakusp and caught the Galena Bay ferry across Upper Arrow Lake to Shelter Bay.  Then we rode to Revelstoke and had a leisurely breakfast.  There had been talk of riding to the ski mountain and checking out the roller coaster, but upon considering the logisitcs of getting in and out of gear, the group decided it wasn’t really worth all that.

After breakfast we rode back to Shelter Bay and retraced our steps so to speak, to where we had started that morning.  By now I was pretty comfortable putting the bike on a ferry and had really enjoyed the trips back and forth.  This ferry takes about 20 minutes to cross and it was enough time to take the helmet off, grab some photos and enjoy the peacefulness of being on the water.

As we had been riding between Nakusp and Galena Bay, we noticed a nice roadside pull out with a beautiful view of the mountains and the lake.  We decided to line the bikes up there for a photograph of them all together.  There was a beautiful memorial there as well and I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful, peaceful place to remember a loved one.

Once we returned to Nakusp, our lead rider peeled off to check for a lost item and I took over leading the group for a bit.  We enjoyed some nice twisty roads and beautiful views on the destination to our next stop, New Denver.  There we had planned to stop at a nice little ice cream shop and take a break.  As we spoke with the owner, we discovered that she is also a motorcyclist and she gave us some great tips on the roads to Kaslo!

I enjoyed the ride and twisties from New Denver to Kaslo!  Looking at the map now, I’m pretty sure we took 31A – that may sound strange, to not know what roads were were on, but by this point, our leader had re-joined the group and I turned my focus to enjoying my ride!  I especially enjoyed a couple of very tight turns that had a fun uphill component to them.  During this trip, I couldn’t help but compare my riding skills to the PNW trip from the previous year.  To say there is no comparison is an understatement and I am so grateful to the two ladies on the PNW trip that taught me!

We checked into the Kaslo Hotel which is a lovely “hotel” with condos for rent.  There may be regular rooms, I’m not certain, but we had arranged to share a 3 bedroom, two bathroom condo with a sleeper sofa.  It had a lovely outdoor space and we ended up having dinner right there, overlooking the lake.  This was one of the more upscale places we stayed in and it was perfect for our group.  It was at this point in the trip that I realized just how quickly the whole experience was coming to a close.  I don’t like to focus on that part, but the days seemed to go by much, much more quickly after our rest day.

I was a little sad to leave Kaslo the next morning, but I knew another great adventure was just around the corner!