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!

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!

British Columbia – Day 3

Squamish, BC to Lytton, BC – 258 km/160 miles

This was a pretty amazing day!  I agreed to ride sweep for the group and it was my first experience doing so for this many riders.  It was both more difficult and more rewarding than I expected!

As we were leaving Squamish, one of the riders’ bikes stalled at a stoplight.  She seemed a little frazzled (as I would be also) as she tried to get it started and people were going around her on bikes and in cars.  I yelled out something like “you’re ok, just breathe!” and hoped it was received in the encouraging tone it was intended.

Shortly after we got underway and back with the group, a rider on a sport bike went whizzing by me and inserted himself in front of the rider who had stalled.  That did nothing to help her nerves and I was grateful when he moved on and out of our group.  During the day we encountered a lot of other riders, sometimes riding alone or in small groups.  I was impressed that all maintained a respectful distance behind me and waited until I waved them on to go around us before doing so.  Most also waved their thanks to me as they passed, which I appreciated.

One of the more challenging parts of being sweep, at least for me, was communicating non-verbally with the lead rider.  I was doing my best to make a space for the entire group when a passing lane would end and to warn them of a car or group of bikes passing, but sometimes it was difficult.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do this, as I am interested in always learning and growing my skills.  This definitely added to my toolbox.

For me, this day was pretty uneventful until we reached our destination in Lytton, BC.  The resort we were staying at had a lot of gravel in their roadways which put everyone on edge.  It didn’t help that me and another rider got separated from the group at the resort and had no idea where we were going.

All ended well with the group coming back together and helping each other to park and move bikes to ensure they were secure.  No one dropped their bikes and we soon were unpacked, in our canvas cabins and ready for some relaxation.

While I honestly liked  the canvas “cabins” and the surroundings were absolutely beautiful, there is a train that runs very near and all hours of the day and night.  This was a day that I could have used some good rest, but that was not to be!

 

 

Spring Jitters

Today was another beautiful spring day and I was fortunate to be able o enjoy a good part of it on the motorcycle.  I met up with my riding partner and we headed toward the mountains for some lunch and twisties!  I appreciate the slow pace of spring riding, when I have a chance to sleep in, have a leisurely morning and then take the bike out after the temperatures have warmed up a bit.  By the time summer arrives I will have put several hundred miles on and be feeling more comfortable and ready for longer riding days.

Today we had chosen Bailey, Colorado as our destination, planning to have lunch there and then head back home.  I noticed that the wind picked up considerably as we made our way into the mountains.  The temperature was around 50 degrees but the wind made it feel much, much colder.  During the last few miles, I had turned the heated grips on and was grateful for the warmth on my hands.

As we pulled into the restaurant for lunch, I noticed the parking lot was not the most wonderful surface on which to park a bike.  Trying to put my previous learnings into play, I paid attention to how Sassy was parked and leaning on her kickstand.  I wasn’t comfortable with the angle and recruited my riding buddy to help me push her forward to a more stable and even surface.  We went inside to a nice lunch but I noticed the wind seemed to be picking up even more.

I had the feeling of dread that when I went outside I was going to find my beloved Sassy on her side in the parking lot.  Thankfully that as not the case, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety and the feeling that I and the bike were going over before we left.  I took a couple minutes to calm my thoughts and slow my breathing.  My riding partner, noticing I was not quite myself came over to make sure I was ok.  Once I got on the bike and proved to myself that I was able to stand it up straight and still have both feet down, I was ok.  I have to think this was just a case of the spring jitters since I have not had a lot of riding time yet this spring.

Rather than focus on how the bike had to be moved forward in the uneven parking lot, I decided to celebrate using my past experience to recognize the situation and adjust.  I am so far ahead of where I was at this time last year that I can hardly believe it.  I know that my skills will continue to improve the more I ride and I’m excited about that forward progress.  I am looking forward to even more wonderful riding days ahead and to continuing to grow my skills each time!

New Year, New Goals!

As many people do, I spend some time at the end of the year thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year.  What goals will I set to improve my riding skills?  Are there places I’ve wanted to see on two wheels that I can fit into my travel schedule for next year?

The trip to Canada with a couple ladies from my PNW tour is mostly planned out already!  Our rental bikes are reserved, most of the hotels are booked and the route is mostly determined.  That trip is just about ready, except for impatiently waiting for summer!

My riding partner and I will no doubt put on quite a few miles together in 2019.  We tend to see where the mood takes us and don’t plan a lot in advance.  I am likely signing up for the Tour of Honor again and going after that finisher goal, since I fell short in 2018.  The sites won’t be released until April 1st so I can’t plan any routes, but I did learned valuable lessons and will make better use of my time this year.

Earlier this month I joined the BMW MOA group and learned there is a weekend get away planned for August in Copper Mountain.  Since that is practically in my backyard, I feel like that is a must do!  It would be a great opportunity to have a weekend in the mountains and meet some other MOA members.

My riding dreams still include a trip to Alaska!  That probably isn’t feasible for 2019 due to the cost and time away from work, but it is something I want to start researching more.  There are so many options, from a fully guided tour, to riding a route the tour company sets to a full on do it yourself, plan your route and ride it option.  I want to consider all of these and decide which one suits me.

I’m excited to see where I will travel on 2 wheels next year and what I will learn along the way!

Riding In December

I’m still learning; hopefully I will continue learning for the rest of my riding days.  I don’t want to become complacent and think I know all there is to know.  The most recent lesson is about base layers for winter.  While I have ridden year round in the last two years, I typically stayed in the city.  Not this time!

Yesterday my riding partner and I rode from my house in the Denver metro area  to Estes Park, Colorado which is a beautiful town on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The elevation is about 7500 feet, so a bit cooler than the Denver suburbs.  The weather forecast said mid 50s but that definitely dropped as we went higher.  Also, there was a pretty heavy cloud cover which dropped the temperature.  Lastly, I keep forgetting that in the winter (or near winter) 50 degrees feels cooler than the spring/summer 50 degrees!

Fortunately I have a nice and toasty lower base layer and decided to wear it yesterday.  I have not had the chance to use it since finding it on clearance a couple years ago, but I was very grateful for it by last night.  My upper base layer is not as toasty, so I decided that adding a fleece layer would be enough.  Wrong!  The first issue I noticed is the fleece is bulky, so it made my outer jacket uncomfortably snug.  Good thing I didn’t have to move around much.  The next issue was that the fleece layer’s sleeves got stuck mid way up the arm of my jacket.  That made for an uncomfortable situation and ended with my riding partner helping me grab those sleeves and pull them down further in my jacket.  At least we had some good laughs over it.  The final lesson was something I had not realized before.  Fleece lets air in.  Cold air!  AAAHHH!

With the shorter days, we keep finding ourselves riding home in the dark.  Not a big deal as we’re pretty comfortable doing that, but the temperature kept dropping.  At one point  the temperature reading on my GS was a  balmy 28 degrees!  Thankfully that wasn’t typical and most of our route home was in the 35-40 degree range, but still.  We were pretty cold by the time we reached my house.  I went in search of a new top base layer and hope that I found one that is similar to the bottom base layer I have.  It should be here in a few days, so I will test it out and report back.

My quest to ride all year will be so much nicer when I sort out what gear I need to stay warm and comfortable as the temperature drops.  If you have any ideas that you’ve found work well, leave me a comment; I’d love to hear them!