International Motorcycle Show

This was the first time in quite a few years that the International Motorcycle Show has made a stop in Denver.  I’ve heard everything from 8 to 15 years ago was the last time, so I don’t know the exact number.  What I do know is that the last time it was here, I wasn’t into riding and had never attended an event so I had no comparison to past events.

I tried to keep my expectations low, but I was still excited and hopeful to see some of my favorite brands there.  I have to say in that regard, I was sorely disappointed.  Many of the major motorcycle brands were missing – no BMW, Ducati, KTM or several others.  I also noticed there was no Klim booth and one of my favorite Colorado companies, Butler Maps was also missing.

I had already heard from other women riders in other cities that the selection of women’s gear was slim at best.  Even with that warning, I was highly disappointed!  RevZilla is one of my favorite gear sources and they had one tiny rack of women’s jackets and pants.  Maybe three of each – and by that I mean literally three jackets and three pair of riding pants.  No gloves, no boots, nothing else.  My other favorite store, Performance Cycle, had a small women’s gear selection but they had more options than RevZilla!  Pretty good for a local retailer and we had a nice time chatting with one of the employees.  Again though, no gloves and no boots that I saw.  I didn’t expect that there would suddenly be all kinds of women’s gear available, although that would be a dream come true!  But I was surprised at how little space was allowed and how few choices were available.

Probably the best part of the entire day for me, other than attending with my best riding buddy, was meeting up with a bunch of lady rider friends at the Women Rider’s Now booth.  WRN had a survey for attendees to complete on who had the best women’s gear so they could say thank you with awards at the show.  I was super excited to participate in this, but after seeing next to no women’s gear, I didn’t feel like I was able to vote for anyone.

One theory I heard is that the Denver motorcycle market is just too small for many of the “big guys” to come here.  That seems odd, given our climate and the number of people who enjoy various activities outside.  I haven’t yet decided if I’ll spend the money to go should the show return again next year.  On one hand, it was a fun day catching up with friends and meeting new ones.  On the other, nearly everything we saw is available locally for free.  I guess we’ll wait and see if the IMS returns to Denver next year, then decide.  Hopefully more vendors will come this way if they do!

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 5

Salida to Denver – 153 miles, 980 total trip miles

This was a sad day for me, the trip was over and it was time to return to reality.  I really like my job, but I was not excited for vacation to end yet.  Had I known how this day was going to go, I might have pulled the blankets up over my head and refused to leave my hotel room!

Bikes packed up, in Salida, CO

We were expecting to encounter traffic, especially as we neared Denver on Highway 285.  Fortunately the first half of the journey was pretty easy – some congestion around the gas stations along the route, but nothing too bad.  Of course, the views of the mountains are always beautiful, so I focused on that and soaked in the peacefulness of riding along with my own thoughts and some good music!

Around noon we stopped in Bailey, Colorado for a water and restroom break.  We were close enough to Denver that we anticipated the traffic would pick up at any time.  Shortly after getting back on the road, the traffic REALLY slowed and we thought it was due to a lane merge.  We got through that, expected it to take off again but it seemed slow.  And then it slowed even more.  And then stopped.  Uh oh.  We never learned what happened, but Highway 285 was closed in both directions for about 2 hours.  No cars coming toward us and we weren’t moving more than a couple feet at a time.

My riding buddy entertained me by making use of the stopped traffic to peel off a couple of layers.   I am fortunate he was willing to get to my cooling vest in my side case because he was faster at getting on and off his bike than I was with the extra bag.  We probably amused the drivers behind us as they watched our shenanigans in trying to stay cool in the very hot weather and traffic.

By the time the highway re-opened and traffic started really moving again, I thought the fingers on my left (clutch) hand were going to fall off.  As badly as I wanted to get home, unpacked and ready for the next day, I needed a break from the bike.  By this point we had been traveling for about five hours, were both overly hungry, tired and hot.  We took refuge in a bbq restaurant we frequent sometimes and it was good to be off the bike and refueling ourselves.  We said our goodbyes at the restaurant and rode together for the next couple miles before splitting off to our respective homes.  I only had about another 15 miles to home, but it felt like more that day.  I felt strangely alone after my riding partner peeled off.  I guess riding together for five days will do that.

All in all, this was an amazing trip and I am so grateful I was able to take it with my favorite riding partner!

SW Colorado – Day 4

Pagosa Springs to Salida – 147 miles

I’m not sure what to say about this day, other than I’m glad it was a short one.  We woke up to occasional rain sprinkles and overcast skies.  It was actually pretty cold too and I knew it was only going to be cooler once we were riding.

The weather seemed to wait until just about the time we were ready to head out of Pagosa Springs before it really cut loose with the rain.  Gee, thanks!  As we headed up and up toward the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, I had to turn my heated hand grips on to warm up.  Brrr!

One of the coolest moments of the trip was being flagged down to stop by someone in the middle of the road.  All kinds of thoughts went through my mind, like someone had broken down or there was a person in need of assistance.  As we approached, I saw a man standing in the middle of the road with a stop sign on a very long pole.  Turns out it was a local rancher who was slowing traffic because he was moving cattle on an adjacent road!  I clearly remember a little calf standing next to its mother at peering at me with big brown eyes in bewilderment.  Now that is a sight you just don’t see in Denver!

Since it was raining and chilly for most of the day, we didn’t stop for any photos.  I felt the dread I always do when a trip is winding down and this day was no different.  I was, however, surprised to find that I was glad the ride to Salida was so short.  I guess I was still tired from the previous day because by the time we arrived, I was ready to be done for the day.  After we checked into our rooms in Salida, we went in search of some lunch and guess what?  It rained again!  I know my riding partner dreads the rain even more than I do so I was hoping it would only be a brief shower.  I did hear thunder while we were at lunch, but thankfully it was short lived and we made it back to the hotel before the storm got intense.

That evening we went out to a really cool brewery that had many different beer, cider and wines you could choose from.  They also had some great live music going on and the icing on the cake for me was a super cute dog that came with someone.  The little dog ran around saying hello to everyone as if we were all old friends and was a ball of energy and fun.  My dog fix was complete for the day!

The evening was one of those experiences that seems ordinary on the surface, but I was feeling grateful for all the positives in my life.  For the choices that brought me back to motorcycling and the one that sent my riding buddy into my life. Also for the chance to find Sassy last summer, because that bike has made riding so enjoyable for me!  All the travel I have experienced this summer reminds me to be grateful for a wonderful job and a fabulous boss who believes in work life balance.  I had left some unsettling news behind me when we headed out on this trip and it was a relief to focus on the fun we were having.  I needed a break to give myself time to process so that I could make reasonable decisions when I returned.  When it feels like life has kicked me in the teeth, I go toward gratitude to find my balance again.

 

 

SW Colorado – Day 3

Durango to Ouray to Durango to Pagosa Springs ~ 200 miles

This was another awesome day and one I’d been looking forward to for weeks.  It was finally time to ride the Million Dollar Highway!  I had been on the MDH once before, but only as a pillion during my first rally.  I remember some sheer drop offs and thinking whoa, that’s intimidating!

Our plan for this day was to ride to Ouray, find some lunch and then head back through Silverton and Durango and on to Pagosa Springs.  There are not many places to pull over, but there are a thousand photos in my memory of this day.  On our way out of Durango the Durango-Silverton train was starting one of its daily trips full of eager tourists.  I also saw a helicopter hovering overhead, carrying a water drop bucket.  I hadn’t heard of any fires in the area and didn’t see any, thankfully.  However, when I returned home a few days later I noticed a story in the local paper about the controversy surrounding the train given that it had probably sparked a large wildfire in the area last summer.  That could explain the helicopter – taking precautionary measures.

The ride over Red Mountain pass was amazing and yes, the mountain really does look red.  Most of the vehicle traffic was pretty reasonable about pulling over if they were going more slowly and not crowding us.  That said, there was a group of several motorcyclists that insisted on passing us; some of them passed too closely and on a double yellow.  What really irritated me was that just after they passed us, they turned around and went back down the pass.

We stopped at the one large overlook and took a bunch of photos, plus talked to some very cool people who were also passing through.  I remember the last few turns before the overlook as being exceptionally tight hairpins and wow, was that exciting! I also had the chance to test out a different riding mode on my bike.  I switched from “normal” to “sport” and felt a big difference it how it handled the curves.  I’m going to have to remember that for future twisty riding to be sure!

The rest of the ride to Ouray was just as gorgeous and I kept wishing there were places to pull out safely and take photos.  But, as with the rest of my trip, had I pulled over every time I wanted to, I’d still be trying to finish. 🙂  Coming down the pass into Ouray, I started to feel the heat of the day and really wished I’d put my cooling vest on.  By the time we found parking for the bikes and took a lunch break, I was ready for some down time.  Since I had the Wolfman bag on the back, I found getting on and off the bike a little challenging at times, especially when I am tired.  On this day, my boot caught and I found myself almost tumbling into the road and oncoming traffic!  That was excitement I could have lived without.  Time to work on a better on and off strategy!

After lunch we rode back the way we had come, but the view was a little different from this direction.  We were also closer to some of the drop offs and I noticed myself staying a bit closer to the center line at times.  We took a little drive through Silverton since I had never been there either and then headed on to Pagosa Springs.

The last part of the ride that day seemed endless.  We gassed up the bikes in Durango and took a much needed water and cooling break.  We took Highways 550 and 160, which was only a 60 mile ride, but it felt like the longest 60 miles of my life!  I kept thinking surely we missed Pagosa Springs somehow, we should be there by now.  I guess riding the Million Dollar Highway took more out of me than I expected!

After arriving at our hotel, we made a plan for dinner and I was grateful it involved walking!  We also wanted to visit the hot springs there and thankfully they were open late so we managed to fit both of those in.  I think it was well after 11 PM when we arrived back at our rooms and I’m pretty sure I was asleep within moments.  What a wonderful day!  I would go back and ride that all over again in a heartbeat!

 

 

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!

Assumptions

This is an observation that I made on my five day trip to southwest Colorado last week and I admit, it surprised and annoyed me.  My riding partner is a guy.  We are friends and I mean that literally, we are friends and riding buddies.  I don’t give it a second thought, nor do I refer to him as my male riding partner. I don’t see a reason to do so.  Honestly, the nature of our relationship is no one’s business.  Maybe that’s what bothers me, that people seem to think they deserve more information and I don’t agree.  Something to ponder.

It was interesting to me (ok, it was annoying!) that almost without exception, every hotel we checked into and restaurant we visited seemed to assume we are a couple.  As in a dating or married couple.  At almost every hotel front desk one of us would say ‘Hi, we’d like to check in and the reservations are under (his last name) and (my last name)’.  At three of the four hotels, one of us were checked in, given room keys and then the front desk person looked at us like why are you still standing here?  When the other one would say ‘um, can I also check in’, they were stunned into silence.  One person even grilled me – “oh, you aren’t staying in the same room as him?”  “Is it the same last name?”  Sigh.

This also happened at restaurants but they seemed less confused by seeing two credit cards to pay the bill.  Usually they would return to the table and ask if we wanted the check split 50/50 or some other arrangement.  I didn’t mind that so much; it didn’t feel like such an intrusion of privacy.  Maybe I am being overly sensitive on this topic, but I find it annoying.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we were two women or two guys traveling together, would the same assumptions have been made?  Maybe, but typically when I travel or visit a resturant with a female friend, the assumption is made that we are paying or rooming separately.  Just an interesting observation.

This experience has had me thinking about the assumptions I make every day.  Do I also do this to people?  Do I look at a “couple” and assume they must be married or dating?  I’m pretty sure I have in the past, so now I try to hit the pause button and say wait.  If they introduce the other person as their spouse, great.  If they don’t, then it doesn’t matter.

I have also been comparing this to my recent travel experience in Canada.  Although we were five women traveling together, splitting the check at restaurants couldn’t have been easier.  Each hotel check in was also pretty seamless.  Rather than oh, you aren’t all in one room the question was always does everyone have their own room or are some sharing?  Maybe we have some things to learn here in the U.S., what do you think?