Friday, October 26, 2007

In Memory of Jasper 1992-2007

This week was bittersweet. In all the excitement of getting a new motorcycle, we had to put down our dear 15 year old cat, Jasper. It’s been a tough week.

Jasper was a friend to everyone he met, even other animals. He was happy go lucky, loved to hunt and must have scaled down literally hundreds of the rat/mouse/squirrel population in his lifetime. They were all rodents to him.

I once sat Jasper on my Suzuki seat, and he seemed to enjoy it. I wish I had taken a picture…..

We got Jasper from a lady in Berryessa, CA by answering an ad in the paper. The lady frequently rescued cats from the dumpster behind her local Safeway. She fed and box trained them, then one by one gave them to good homes. We were blessed to have found Jasper, as he had the best personality of any cat I’ve ever had. He was about 6 months old at the time. My husband was the first human he came to after we got him home. It was an immediate bond which only got stronger between them.

We moved Jasper to the Seattle area in 1993 when our work transferred us here. Once in the winter of 1996 he disappeared for 21 days during our worst winter snowstorm yet. We will never know, but we think he was trapped somewhere. After two weeks we were so distraught, we went to a shelter and adopted our cat ‘Sam’ who was living in a cage. Less than a week later, Jasper appeared. He was skinny, had a scabby nose, and was very hungry and thirsty. He never left for more than a day or two again.

Jasper will be missed greatly, as he was always on Dave if he was sitting down. If Dave was working at the computer, Jasper was always resting across the area between his lap and the keyboard. Anywhere we went in the house, Jasper would follow. He gave us an enormous amount of love, and we returned it.

So life won’t be the same without our best friend Jasper. He’ll be greatly missed by all whose lives he touched.

First few days with the new Vulcan 900 Classic

Tuesday I brought the new motorcycle home. We bought it at a dealership that was about 40 miles south of our home. Since it was such a large bike I was a little hesitant to ride it home in traffic for the first time. My husband decided to ride it home, taking any roads except the freeway. For the first 500 miles we have to take it easy and a long stretch of freeway riding was frowned upon by the dealer. It took Dave 2 hours to get it home, and by then I was sitting on my front porch along with the cats – waiting……..

He loved the ride but said his hand hurt from the stiff clutch in lots of stop-and-go traffic. So as soon as he arrived I hopped on the Vulcan for the first time. I was more comfortable riding around my neighborhood at first, where I knew the roads. I took off and rode around for about 30 minutes, stopping, shifting, turning etc. It handled great and I love the floorboards which allow a very comfortable riding position. The shifting was easy and smooth.

Yesterday I decided to ride the new bike to work and show it off. It was dark when I left home and pretty cold out (40 degrees). I rode down to the end of my street and at the stop sign promptly tipped it over. It landed propped up by the left floorboard so there was no damage. I couldn’t get it upright no matter what I tried. Cars were passing by and no one stopped to help. Finally a neighbor came down the street, stopped and helped me lift it upright again. I realized then that I am very vulnerable on this bike, and must plan every move ahead of time. I think I had been in neutral when trying to take off from the stop, instead of first gear. I turned, gunned the engine, and nothing happened except it tipped over. Once it began there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I rode on to work, and parked in a level space, I thought. At lunchtime I decided to ride a couple of miles to my old workplace to show the Vulcan off to friends there. The sun had not yet hit the space I was in, so it was wet, piled up with slippery leaves, and there was a slight hump in the back of the space that I had to roll over to get out. I found that I couldn’t roll it out of the space! My feet were slipping and sliding and the weight of the bike wouldn’t allow me to roll over the hump. I finally finessed my way out, eventually. Then I rode to see my friends and had no trouble. Later in the day I had an uneventful ride to a doctor appointment and then home safely.

I feel like I am learning all over again. The weight of the Vulcan is twice that of my Suzuki S-40. I think it will just take a little practice. I am finding my confidence is not what it was and I am hesitant to go certain places again. Hopefully it is just a matter of time until I ‘become one’ with my beautiful 2007 Kawasaki Candy Cardinal Red Vulcan 900 Classic. I’ll have pictures next time….

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unexpected Addition to the Garage

Since the weather has been soggy lately I have been dreaming of riding next summer. In my daydreams I am on a large cruiser motorcycle going on overnight trips and riding up and down the Pacific Coast. The sound of the rumbling rhythm in my head is from a Harley.

Since Harleys are overpriced and have a certain 'status' associated with them, I started looking online to see what other motorcycles there might be, so that I might start dreaming of a closer reality. I really need a bigger bike. Yesterday, to pass the dreary day, I talked my husband into going to this huge motorcycle dealership that is pretty far away from our home, but has the largest variety of Japanese bikes in the area. My intention was to 'look' and narrow down what type of motorcycle I wanted and could afford in the near future.

We drove down there and happily started jumping on bikes in the showroom. This place had every make, model, and color of every 2007 Japanese motorcycle on the American market. I was immediately drawn to a Honda Sabre with a flame paint job. I love flames! It just didn’t feel good to me once I sat on it. I also tried all the larger Suzuki Boulevard series, Yamaha cruiser V-Stars, many Honda cruisers, and some Kawasaki cruisers. Finally I sat on the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic. That was it!

After leaving to go eat lunch, think about it, and discuss it with my husband……..I went back and bought the bike. We decided the sale they were having was really a good deal, the bike fit well, and it had all the features that I needed in my next motorcycle. I had followed the chain of events when a fellow blogger, Rippin-Kitten had been fortunate enough to be loaned a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom for a while. She rode it and reviewed it. It generally sounded like a fine motorcycle, looked good, and was reasonably priced. I also knew a girl in my riding group who had a new Aqua colored one. It’s a beautiful bike. The dealer had a Candy Cardinal Red one. I nabbed it.

I don’t pick the bike up until Tuesday, which is supposed to be the start of a couple of partly sunny, dry days. I got a large windshield, and engine guards added to the already cool motorcycle. It has floorboards, a real gas gauge, and a huge headlight. It also has a 5.3 gallon gas tank, fuel injection, low maintenance belt drive, and spoked wheels with disc brakes on front and back.

I am sure this motorcycle will serve me well for several years of riding pleasure. I will be looking for large leather saddlebags and eventually a small sissy bar with luggage rack behind it, for those overnight trips with lots of gear. It was an unexpected purchase, but one that I had been leading up to for a while. Now I just have to keep my husband off of it……

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Confidence Takes Time

When I first decided that I would learn to ride a motorcycle solo, I had no preconceived ideas of what I would do with that skill. It was something I had always wanted to do, but had only gotten the courage after I had been through a bout with breast cancer. After that I knew there were many things I hadn’t done yet in life, and the desire to enjoy motorcycling was one of those that became the strongest urge at that time. I have never regretted the decision or looked back.

After completing and passing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation beginners class, I got my first motorcycle and started riding as much as possible. Of course as a new rider my confidence level was pretty low. I didn’t hesitate to go out on my own, but I was careful to plan my route ahead of time. There was a particular place where a slight incline came up to a stop sign which terrorized me at first. One area close to home has 3 traffic lights as you make your way up a steep hill. I feared that I would kill the engine taking off from a complete stop on the hill. I never did. Traffic was never a fear, as I learned to drive a car in the Silicon Valley so was used to fierce congestion and high speed freeway driving. Down hill twisty roads scared me, because I wasn’t able to slow enough to my liking. I remembered from the MSF class not to brake on a curve, watch out for gravel, etc.

As for the high speed freeway driving – it still is a challenge. Since I’ve been riding for more than two years, I have stayed mostly on the back roads. It is limiting. Now I am taking longer and faster rides. My motorcycle is light and small, but fully capable of going 100mph if I wanted to – I do NOT. My only drawback is that my tank only holds 2 gallons of gas, plus .2 gallon reserve. So I have to stop every 110 – 120 miles to fill up with gas. It isn’t a problem unless I am with others who have much larger gas tanks and don’t need to stop.

Now when I take some of those same routes I took early on, they are a piece of cake. I am so much more in control of the bike, more focused, and it’s more enjoyable and thrilling. When you’re learning you have to concentrate on basic operation of the motorcycle, maneuvering through traffic, and searching for turn-offs etc. It is almost overwhelming. Now I just enjoy the ride and the bike operation comes naturally. I only have to pay attention to other drivers on the road and where I am headed.

I have a desire to keep pushing myself farther and harder so as not to set limits that will keep me from fully enjoying motorcycling. I love riding, will do it until I am physically not able to any more, and count it as one of the things providing quality to my life. Now I just need to get a bigger motorcycle………

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bikerchickz goes on vacation

I haven’t been out of town on an overnight trip all this year. My husband and I decided to fly to South Lake Tahoe, NV and do a little gambling, as well as see the beautiful scenery that surrounds Lake Tahoe. Since they have already had their first snow in the Sierras the mountains should be gorgeous. They are expecting some flurries while we are there. Some old Bay Area friends are meeting us in Tahoe so it should be a fun holiday.

We don’t plan to ride any motorcycles while we are there, but I will be taking photos of any cool bikes I see. I won’t be posting until I am back next week, so in the meantime I will amuse you with a video (pardon the country music...)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Riding in the rain

I have some new Power Trip Dakota waterproof overpants to try out so I decided that I had to ride my motorcycle this weekend no matter what the weather had in store for me. I planned to ride North about 30 miles to stop and visit my son and his new wife.

This ride would allow me to take a long stretch of I-5 which I am not avoiding anymore. It has become a personal challenge for me to ride more on the freeway and at freeway speeds. I also wanted to try out the rain gear, and it was most certainly going to rain.

I mentally planned my route, as I usually do, although I am flexible. I would ride up a 4-lane divided highway about 5 miles, then catch I-5 for the remainder of the trip. That stretch of the freeway was corrugated, chopped up, and under construction the last time I was on it. I expected a challenge.

It wasn’t raining when I left, and I wrote it off to another false weather report that the Seattle area is so famous for. I got a few sprinkles on me but the roads all the way to Marysville were dry. As I merged onto I-5 I was amazed to find that they had newly paved the road going North and it was as smooth as ‘buttuh’. At one point the new pavement ended, but it was a fairly easy transition. Traffic was light.

I visited with my son and daughter-in-law a while and then noticed it had started raining pretty hard. I decided to head home, knowing it would be a wet ride.

I went home a different route. I took Highway 9, which I have written about previously. It was a nice straight stretch of 50 mph most of the way. It was raining heavily all the way, and I was feeling kind of smug that I was warm and dry. By the time I was about 5 miles from home, the rain started streaming inside my face shield. It was getting harder to see clearly, and my crotch, legs, and openings of my jacket sleeves were feeling wet. I began to think my rain gear had failed me, and I would need a helmet ‘rain cap’ next time I rode in the rain.

I arrived safely home amid the continuous hard driving rain. I guess the Doppler radar was right after all, this time. As I got off my motorcycle, I started dripping all over the garage floor. Water poured out of my sleeve openings, and my light leather gloves were fully saturated with water. As I peeled each layer of gear off, I noticed that I was actually perfectly dry underneath. The dampness I had felt from my pants was just the cold, but I was dry after all. The helmet vents were still open on top – ooops – and the force of the rain had driven it inside the face shield. I closed all the vents when I got home, so next time I should be dry and I should see clearly. If I had been wearing my new Power Trip Dakota all-weather gloves I would have been dry in the sleeve area because they are a slight gauntlet style, and they are supposedly waterproof. I didn’t wear them because it was 60 degrees out and I thought they would be too warm.

All in all it was a fun trip, and I killed two challenges with one ride. I rode intentionally in the rain, and I took a pretty good stretch of interstate freeway with no problems keeping up with traffic. It was a great day and now I feel calm because I’ve had my riding fix for this weekend. Maybe I’ll ride in the rain to work this week too!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rode to work today….Yay!

After many consecutive days of rain the weather guy said we would have one sunny day today. I thought to myself, “I am riding my motorcycle to work Friday even if it is raining because I NEED to ride”.

So I woke up this morning and it was 42 degrees out and as dark and cloudy as it gets. The weather people are always wrong lately, but I trusted them on this. I got ready for work and decided since it wasn’t supposed to rain I would just wear jeans and my regular gear. Since it was pretty cold I decided to wear my new winter riding gloves. If it was sunny in the afternoon, like they said, I had my lighter gloves for the ride home.

As I started out and went down my street I felt pretty good in the cold air. The vents were all still open in my full-face helmet, so at the first stop sign I came to I reached up and closed the one near my chin. Chinny was chilly. Then I was great all the way to work. I saw no other motorcycle riders out this morning, which is a little unusual even on the cool mornings.

All day I watched for the sun to come out as they had promised. At lunchtime I walked out to the street where my business is located and took a couple pictures of the beautiful fall colors that are starting to appear. It was kind of cold and windy outside and there were giant black clouds looming overhead.
Around 2pm the sun finally broke through, the clouds blew away, and everything looked rosy for the ride home. I enjoyed my ride and the sun, and got home safely after stopping to fill up the bike with gas. I still didn’t see any motorcycle riders even though it was sunny. Was I the only one Jonesin’ for a ride? The next week or so is supposed to be rainy and stormy again but I have some new rain pants for riding, so will probably try them out this weekend no matter what the weather does.

I just have to ride……

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As a female motorcyclist, I do care about causes that promote women’s health. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was in October, 2003 that I went for a routine mammogram and discovered that I had breast cancer. By getting regular yearly mammograms and self exams, my cancer was detected in the very early stages.

I went through a surgery, and 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments. It sapped my strength but I was still required to do my full-time job during all of this. The outcome was that I was glad to be alive, and decided waste no time doing all of the things that I had ever wanted to do.

One of these was to ride and own a motorcycle. I wasted no time once my health was back, and signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation beginner’s course. My husband did the same, as he was encouraged to ride too.

We took the course, passed, and immediately started looking for motorcycles so that we could continue to practice our new favorite pastime. We both got bikes and have been joyfully riding ever since.

The mammograms haven’t all been good since the original one, but have shown minor changes that required further surgical biopsies. So far, so good. It hasn’t kept me from riding and I have this drive to go farther and faster while I can. Motorcycling has become my favorite thing to do and think about.

I encourage all females over 35 to get regular mammograms and do frequent self-exams. The Breast Cancer Site gives free mammograms to women who can’t afford them. Go there and see how you can help by clicking daily on the site. Early detection is the key to saving women’s lives.

The Breast Cancer Site

Don’t wait until you have a life threatening disease to do those things you secretly want to. Just do it now!