Sunday, December 26, 2010

Serious Overdose

Is it possible to overdose on chocolate? I'm considering the possibility that it is indeed entirely likely.

Here in this house it's always feast or famine when it comes to that dark, creamy brown stuff. Either I have it in the house in obscene abundance, or I have none at all for months at a time. I made a quick trip to Walgreen's a couple of weeks before Christmas to buy some non-Christmas related items but walked out of there with a trove of chocolate goodies: Mint M&M's, Ghirardelli chocolate squares in several flavors, and the ever-popular (at least in this household) Ghirardelli peppermint bark....two bars!

Then a week later, in an attempt to capture that elusive holiday spirit, I made some strawberry cream cheese sugar cookies with dark chocolate drizzle.

This emboldened me to attempt a very good recipe given to me by a friend: Toffee saltines with dark chocolate. I gotta say these are my all-time favorites, far surpassing previous favorites and holiday "staples" that have long held onto their spots on my "favorites" list, such as gingerbread cookies, Spritz cookies, and those powdered sugar 'snow balls' my mom made so well.

I gave away a little plateful of my cookie creations to a neighbor last week, thinking, "Good! Fewer cookies for me to eat!" But then she showed up on my doorstep with a little reciprocating plate of some ridiculously decadent dark chocolate bark containing M&M bits and dried apricots.

So began the "feast" portion of that "feast or famine" syndrome I seem to suffer from.


It is now the day after Christmas and the strawberry cream cheese sugar cookies are mostly gone. Thankfully. The chocolate-covered toffee saltine cookies are still in abundance in my fridge, however. The plate of my neighbor's dark chocolate bark still sits here mostly untouched, despite how decadent and delicious it is.

As to all of that store-bought high-end chocolate: The Ghirardelli mint chocolate squares and caramel chocolate squares are gone, but the raspberry chocolate squares sit unopened on a shelf of the pantry, and may continue to do so for months. The bag of mint chocolate M&M's are gone but the bag of cherry chocolate M&M's are unopened and don't even tempt me anymore. But those two Ghirardelli peppermint bark bars?? Well, let me just say that at least one of them has "football bowl game" written all over it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Well-Meaning Folks - Running Chronicles

Admittedly, much of what I have to say today has to do with where I live: In an over-55 gated golf course community, perfect location for a runner whose ambition and obsession seem to baffle the rest of the residents. In the mornings, when I head out for a run, I meet armies of walkers and bicyclists and dog-walkers, all with cheery greetings of "Good morning!" I can assemble a variety of running routes with only minimal repetition (at most, two) to achieve the long distance miles needed to train for a half-marathon, even a full marathon.

So it's to be expected that I'll hear some well-meaning but misguided comments from my neighbors, most of whom are older than I am - some much older - and for whom a 1 mile walk is "serious exercise."

"Can I give you a ride?" This comment came from a kind and friendly older resident in our enclave. She was heading toward the Carriage House (our large and beautiful community center) in her golf cart. It was raining, sometimes raining very heavily. I was in mile 8 or 9 of a long run and was totally soaked but thoroughly enjoying myself. I love running in the rain. "No thank you," I responded. "I appreciate the offer, though."

"How many miles will your next marathon be?" This was asked of me by a very nice fellow while we were standing back-stage during rehearsals for the musical South Pacific. My neighbor had shared with the group that I ran marathons and half-marathons in response to a compliment one of them had paid me for being so slim and fit at an age old enough to collect Social Security. This question always gives me pause to consider how to answer nicely. "Well, a marathon is always 26.2 miles."

"We just added the new Jane Fonda "Walk" workout DVD to the library. You should borrow it, it's very good." This was offered by a nice older woman after I exited a stall in the ladies room at the Activities Center, mid-point in one of my long runs. Seeing my sweaty attire, she asked if I had been using one of the treadmills in the fitness center and I replied that, No, I'm not using the treadmill, I'm running outside. This is what solicited her well-meaning yet persistent suggestion regarding the Jane Fonda DVD. I politely thanked her for that information as I washed my hands and splashed water on my face, and then headed back outside to finish my run with a smile of bemusement on my face.

"I bought you some chocolate to reward yourself." A fellow neighbor was backing out of his driveway as I ran by and we waved. He returned about half hour later and saw me still out there. About 30 minutes later he headed out for another errand and passed me again as he exited the enclave. When he returned from that errand, he passed me yet again. At this point his curiosity got the better of him, so he turned around and, as he approached me, powered down his window and asked, "How many miles are you running?" To my answer he replied, "You go, girl!" and, rooting around in his shopping bags, came up with a Hershey bar and insisted I take it as my reward. I thanked him but had to decline, as I had nowhere to put it while I finished my run.

And then there's the priceless comment made at a recent get-together of fellow MTF members at this year's Founder's Feast: "Never ask a skinny runner if a place is within walking distance."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bald Eagles and Key Lime Pie

Another absolutely terrific Wizard's Wild Weekend is now just a memory...but what a really great memory it is!

My trip to Florida, using up another excess week of time-share, was carefully planned to coincide with Wizard's Wild Weekend, a get-together assembled by LD rider Kevin Healey and held at Cedar Key FL the first weekend of December. This year's was the fifth annual event and we were blessed with perfect weather.

The timeshare unit at Marriott's Sabal Palms was just about the most luxurious unit I've encountered in all my years of timeshare ownership. It was equal to the unit I had at The Ridge in Sedona for opulence and luxury.

But all good things must come to an end, and on Friday I packed up the bike and departed Lake Buena Vista, aiming the bike toward Gator Joe's on Lake Weir enroute to Cedar Key. A fellow MTF member sent me a most excellent route to get me to Gator Joe's, a route which had plenty of curvy, hilly roads and not much traffic. Perfect!!

Our group pretty much took over Gator Joe's, totally overwhelming the two wait-staff and probably sending the kitchen into a tizzy, despite Kevin's having called the restaurant a few days earlier to give them a heads' up. I had a most excellent crawfish chowder with a hunk of some of the best cornbread I've ever eaten. Very soon, though, the parking lot emptied out and many bikes headed northwest toward Cedar Key and the weekend adventures.


Compared to the luxury of the Marriott Sabal Palms, the "condo" at Cedar Cove in Cedar Key was a little run-down at the heel but clean. I got checked in, unpacked the bike, and then headed toward the dock in search of a sunset view. In a couple of hours our group would be getting together for its first meal of the weekend: Dinner at The Rusty Rim.

I met up with a small group of MTF folks and we sat and chatted for an hour or so before it was time to walk across the dock street to the restaurant. It was here that I learned that I'd been elected to break a land speed record in the 350cc class. !!! More on this in a later blog (maybe).

It was a nice-sized group taking up nearly every available table in the upstairs dining room and I had a good-sized plate of fried scallops. I also had the opportunity to tell my "mudslide" story (Mud Slide) to the group, under the category, "Incredibly stupid things we've ever done on a motorcycle."

I love coming to Cedar Key because it offers yet another opportunity to get a long run in, along roads that are quiet and mostly free of cars. This is a rarity when I'm traveling. It really breaks up the monotony of doing those long runs on the same ol' roads back home. So Saturday morning I got 6 miles in, running along 2nd Street to G Street then north and west along some nice rolling hills formed by ancient indian shell mounds. Cedar Key State Park is along the way and, if it's open, gives me a bathroom and water break at mid-run. My original plan was to do 9 miles, but I swapped the running schedule around a bit to get those 9 miles in the day before leaving for this trip. This uncomplicated things a bit for me, not needing to wear a hydration belt or bring carb gels along.

My return run route brought me right by Annie's for breakfast, where I joined a few of the latecomers and had an English muffin and coffee. I returned to the hotel - stopping briefly at the little market to buy bananas - just in time to get cleaned up and walk over to the dock area where a few dozen of our group were staging in preparation for their lunch ride to Horseshoe Beach.

Me?? I'm opting out of this lunch ride, having eaten enough in the last 24 hours to hold me over for days. There is such a thing as TOO MUCH FOOD!! Besides, I wanted to wander over to the artist coop and spend some money. I love this little shop and always buy a few small items while there. It's become a tradition for me.

Kicked back, lazin' around town a bit, I wandered into one of the nicer little restaurants on the dock, the Pickled Pelican, thinking I'd get something light for a late lunch. Oysters! I had a half dozen raw oysters last night with my dinner and am now craving them again today. Then a slice of key lime pie for dessert.


The riders started returning from their lunch run and I met up again with the same little group that feel I'm the ideal rider to break that landspeed record on a vintage Honda CB350. Yeah, right. As we sat outside on the dock chit-chatting, my friend Steve came towards me like he was on a mission. Actually, he walked past me, heading directly for the little bar Coconuts on the first floor of The Rusty Rim. He was headed for the outdoor deck in the back, about the best place on the dock to witness the sunset. We ordered beers and sat out there until the sun went down and I was shivering from cold.

Dinner this night is at the restaurant Seabreeze, on the other end of the dock, so I walked over there and joined a group already seated...a great group of riders and just plain great folks. And a good meal, too...butterflied shrimp and field peas.


I wanted to get on the road fairly early Sunday morning, but when I awoke at 5:00 AM I knew just how early I would be getting on that road. Light misty rain and some foggy patches greeted me as I pulled out of the parking lot at 6:45 AM in the dark to head towards home. With such a good early start, I might as well ride straight through towards home, not stop for the night as originally planned. So at some point along the way I would need to call the hotel and cancel my reservation.

After being on the road for about an hour, I was riding up US 19 when I spotted a very large brown bird on the shoulder. As I got closer, it leaped into the air, spreading its wings and lofting up toward a tree nearby. It was then that I got a very good view of its white fan of tail and white head. An American Bald Eagle!! Very cool! And so close! Where's that camera when I need it??


The further north I got on US 19, the colder it got. I stopped to put on my electric jacket liner as I passed through Cross City. At the junction with I-10 I got gas and, as I pulled out of the station, friend Steve rode by on his unmistakable yellow Gold Wing. I mentally wished him well on his ride up to north of Marietta GA, as he has no GPS. (I later learned that he also lost power to his Gerbing heated gear and heated grips).

Somewhere along I-10 west of Tallahassee I stopped at a rest area so that I could put the quilted liners into my riding pants. The cold was a damp chill that seemed to be permeating all of my gear and was challenging my heated jacket liner. Temps along the panhandle never got higher than 48 degrees, sometimes dropping lower as the road dipped into hollows in the terrain.

I pressed on across the panhandle and stopped in Milton for gas and to call the hotel to cancel, as I was certain at that point that I would make it all the way home - all 875 miles - in one day and sleep in my own bed that night.

In Gulfport, MS I stopped again for gas and had a quick burger for lunch. It's not warming up at all! I had hoped that as I headed west it would get warmer, but no luck. A gas stop in Rayne LA and next thing I knew, I was riding across the state line into TX. Only 100 more miles and it's just getting dark. But....bummer!! Traffic was coming to a complete halt and I was now trapped between Jersey barriers and in among a few 18-wheelers!

We crept along, stopping, going 20 feet, stopping again, all the way to just east of exit 873 in Orange. This was very ugly for me, as the darkness, the brake lights, the headlights in my rearview mirrors were all very disorienting. At one point, the 18-wheeler to my left slowed down enough to create a gap which allowed me to slip over to the left lane. Thank you!! I think he did it just for me. Once I got in front of him, he and a truck in the right lane fell back, creating a rolling roadblock of sorts, giving me some breathing room and reducing the glare of headlights in my mirrors. Again, Thank you! as I feel they were doing it to help me out. It took me 35 minutes to go 6 miles, according to the GPS.

Once we merged into one lane we came up to where they were resurfacing one of the two lanes on the overpass. That's it. All of that stop-and-go for 6 miles just to get past this little merge and bottleneck. Once past this, traffic was wide open and I could fly to my next and final gas stop in Beaumont. Whew!! On the home stretch!

Nothing is sweeter for me than to come home from Wizard's Wild Weekend every year, turn the corner on to my little cul-de-sac to see all of the houses brightly and colorfully lit up with holiday lights! It happens every year. Leave in the dark, return to festive brilliance!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Could Get Used To This

An embarrassing glut of timeshare weeks have accumulated and now I'm concentrating on chipping away at this glut by incorporating stays into my motorcycle travels whenever I can. When I can't do that, I just pack up the car instead. So, for 2010, I've managed to use up a week visiting Sedona AZ (in May), Lake Havasu City (in early November), and now Lake Buena Vista, FL this week.

I'm in a very nice timeshare unit at the Marriott World Center Resort, in Lake Buena Vista, FL. It's a very well-appointed 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit with full kitchen, large living room, screened-in lanai, and absolutely decadent master suite. The linens on the beds are exquisitely luxurious, and the master bathroom...oh, my! Giant walk-in shower with multiple shower heads and one of those really cool rain-shower overhead shower heads. Flat-screen TV's in every room.

A friend joined me on this trip, taking advantage of the spare bedroom/bathroom and the opportunity to meet my friends and fellow MTF riders.

When we arrived here Monday late afternoon we unpacked the bikes and ate dinner at one of the many resort restaurants. Returning to the unit, there was a giant frog just hangin' out on the railing on our front porch. Awesome!

A nice 3 mile run the next morning, even though it was warm and humid, got the day started well, after being folded up on the bike for 1,000 miles. Breakfast'ed, showered, caught up on emails, and the first order of business this day was to solve an electrical problem on my friend's bike: His heated jacket liner wasn't heating up and swapping out the controller did not solve the problem, so obviously a wiring problem.

That problem now solved, we geared up and headed out to the Walmart to stock up on some groceries for the week. While eating at the resort restaurants is tempting, it's also very expensive. We had fun cruising the aisles trying to put together a few meals for breakfast and dinner and getting some lunch items just in case. Fortunately we both ride bikes with lots of luggage space and we divvied up the groceries between the two bikes and headed back to the resort to unpack the goods and then chill out for the afternoon. We'd had a couple of long riding days to get here so we deserved it.

Steaks, baked potatos, tossed salad and wine for dinner that night.

There are quite a few MTF members located in FL, and one of them called a ride-to-eat (RTE) for Wednesday at a place called Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak [sic] on Lake Pierce, near Dundee FL. So today we headed south the 37 miles to meet up with a group of MTF'ers for lunch. The weather was glorious today. Sunny, dry, cool in the 60's. Ten of us showed up for lunch and we all sat outside on the deck to enjoy a great lunch and some good visit time.

Tomorrow we may ride up to St. Augustine, get a FL national park stamp for me, which will finish up my fifth IBA National Park Tour, and my friend can get his Senior Park Pass.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Cold Dark of Morning

The nice thing about having a semi-heated garage is that the transition from indoors to outdoors is more gradual than, say, going from a warm house to a freezing cold garage at 5:30 in the morning on a cold December day.

And so, as I backed the bike out of the garage, I was actually working up some body heat which held me well until the Warm 'n Safe heated jacket liner got fully up to the task. It is 40 degrees outside in the unheated space.

This first part is easy, even in the dark, as Beltway 8 is so well lit, one doesn't even need headlights to see. Then it was over the Ship Channel Bridge and next thing I knew, I was on I-10 heading east. Next stop is my favorite Valero station east of Baytown. Steve's yellow Gold Wing was parked in front of the C-store and we greeted each other and took a few minutes to have a coffee before getting on with the task of riding 500 miles to Milton FL for the night.

I was in a nice comfortable cocoon of heated gear, neck buff, full-face helmet and quilt-lined riding pants and admiring the silvery streaky sky ahead of me as the sun pushed its light through the low layer of clouds. But then Steve pulled up along side of me and signaled his need to pull over by taking both hands off the handlebars and making motions like someone who's freezing to death. There was a rest stop right there and he pulled ahead and exited, pulling over into a parking spot with me behind him.

When he came to a stop I saw him throw his arms up in the air and I wasn't sure what the deal was. But when he walked back to me, the news was a surprise: 1) his heated jacket liner never heated up after our Valero stop; and 2) his motorcycle died as soon as he stopped and now there's no power at all. It didn't take him long to figure out the dead motorcycle problem (loose positive cable on the battery) but the lack of heated gear was going to tough for him. He pulled on a fleece layer under his jacket and knew he'd just have to suck it up. I saw temps as low as 39 degrees in some sections of I-10 going across far eastern TX and western LA.

My first planned stop was the second exit in Rayne but as we neared, Steve pulled up along side and indicated need for gas. I knew he would probably be about on reserve at that point so exited at the first Rayne ramp, rather than the planned exit 5 miles further down. It was a fast gas stop and we got back on the interstate with the agreement that the next stop would be just east of Covington, since my originally planned stop in Gulfport was beyond his bike's gas range.

I never tire of riding across the Atchafalaya Basin on the causeway. The light reflecting on the water is ever-changing, always giving the swamps a new look each time I ride by. I didn't see any geese - it's that season - but did see a small squadron of egrets take off, flapping their way slowly into the air, and a large heron balancing precariously on a highway speedlimit sign.

In Covington it was a Texaco with Domino's Pizza so we used this Covington stop as our lunch stop. It was close enough to lunchtime at that point! We're still on track for a 4:00-4:15 arrival at the hotel on the east side of Milton. I wanted to get there before dark, and it was looking good for us to accomplish this.

Traffic got heavier as we neared Mobile and both lanes were filled nearly bumper to bumper with cars. Fortunately, many of those cars headed north on I-65 in Mobile and the road opened up again, as the packs of cars loosened up and we could return to some semblance of lane discipline.

I stay at this hotel in Milton often when I make my many treks across the FL panhandle to various events if it's a winter trek, when the days are shorter. If it's summertime, with longer days, I usually make it to Marianna. When I checked in today, I learned that the desk clerk is an alumnus of my old high school here in Milton. We chatted a bit about how different things were when I went there (school was 1/2 the size it is now; it was segregated; the football team went to state my sophomore year). He was bright, articulate and very professional for such a young man: Class of 2008, MHS!

An uneventful (for me, anyway) first day of the trip. Tomorrow morning should be warmer by almost 10 degrees and we should arrive in Lake Buena Vista before dark tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Too Hot, Now Too Cold...

Too hot, too cold, too wet, too much traffic, too this, too that. All excuses given by the new motorcycle rider. Anything to avoid the inevitable dread of those first few hundreds of miles on two wheels. I know these excuses well, having used them myself for about the first three or four months of motorcycle endorsement in my own life, 8 years and 220,000 miles ago. Here's a photo of me in Riders Edge Class, August 2002:

I had the endorsement on my drivers license for about a month before I screwed up the courage to even shop for a bike. Once the new bike was in my garage, I used every excuse in the book to avoid having to back it out of the garage. I had this ongoing internal dialogue: "I really want to go out and practice but I really don't want to go out and mix it up with cars but I really need to get out there and practice but I really don't want to screw up. It's too hot. It's raining..." and on it went. Sort of a love-hate relationship: I loved the idea of riding my own motorcycle; I hated the anxiety and nerves I was suffering from inexperience. Here I am, September, 2002...brand new Yamaha:

I would have butterflies in my stomach and the sensation that I was about to cr** in my pants every time I would force myself out the door. Of course, the more I forced myself out there on the bike, the easier it became but, like running, it just takes persistence and a lot of discomfort getting past those first hard miles before it becomes an effortless activity. Here I am, I'd moved up from the little Virago to a V-Star 650 about 4 months after getting my license:

The "break-through" moment for me was taking a trip with a local HOG chapter to Big Bend, 18 months after getting my first bike. We rode non-stop to Marathon TX the first day. Then, two months later, I rode solo to Pensacola Beach FL for a long weekend. After that, the fears were gone, replaced by a healthier respect for the risks involved and skills needed to successfully overcome a variety of riding and road conditions. I sold the V-Star 650 and bought a V-Star 110 Silverado a year after I got my license:

I've come a long way from riding a cruiser-style bike, minimal gear (check out those fingerless gloves!) to riding a sport-tourer bike and wearing full gear all of the time (ATGATT). I've now ridden over 220,000 miles and traveled all over the country, on many multi-week trips, traveling solo. So now I'd like to "pay it forward" by helping a new rider get her mojo.

I've offered to meet up with a brand new rider who's really struggling. I've offered to go riding with her - follow along behind her - as she gets out on her new V-Star and practices. She says she's having a hard time turning right from a stop, and haven't we all been there at one time?? She got her license endorsement in June, went out only a few times to practice with her husband in her neighborhood and to a nearby church parking lot. Very soon after that she quit riding, claiming it was too hot. Then she got the bike out earlier this month and it wouldn't start after setting up for so long.

Now she has the bike back from the shop - after having the carbs cleaned and tank flushed - and has asked for some help. Wednesday was out because she had other plans. Yesterday was out for the same reason.

Today she begged off, saying it is too cold. Tomorrow should be cold in the AM but warm up to the high 60's or low 70's. So we'll see...

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's Friday

Feeling some "weight" bearing down on my shoulders, I decided it was a good morning to go for a ride. My little red FZ6 was out in the garage, calling to me: "Come out and play, it's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, let's make hay." She's so sweet, I couldn't resist! It was a short ride, just enough to top off her battery and use up the stale gas in her tank.


I'm retired; anything that starts to look like the bad side of work is no longer fun for me. Some things I'm involved in - that should be fun - are beginning to take on that complexion. When the pressure is on and there's a paycheck involved, well...heck, those kinds of challenges I relish, and will tackle with zeal. When it's my volunteer time...and I'm not getting paid...then those pressures translate into stress.


Time to re-think my priorities and how I want to spend my retirement days and how well I want to sleep at night and how few worries I want to carry, like a ton sack of potatoes, everywhere I go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Honkin' Big Bridge!

It's finished! Opening ceremonies were held October 16, 2010 and the bridge was officially opened to traffic on October 19, 2010. So of course, being only 130 miles away, it would be a shame not to go see it, drive over it, photograph it.

U.S. 93 is a four-lane highway from Kingman AZ all the way up to near the Hoover Dam. Construction of the bridge creates a fast route to Las Vegas, eliminating the two lane stretch of road and bottle-neck as it passes over the dam itself. Guess when the dam was built in 1935 and U.S. 93 was routed over it, traffic was quite a bit thinner than it has become today.

They're still finishing up the 4-lane sections of the straight stretch leading up to the bridge from the south, but Boy! what a difference it makes!

The bridge deck is very ordinary...4 lanes, 2 in each direction, with high concrete walls on the edges, which block any chance of a view and keep traffic moving. Signs warn drivers not to stop on the bridge.

Access to the visitor center is gained by taking the first exit after crossing the bridge from the south, so I took that exit and followed the original US 93 roadway down to the dam and visiter center. Along this stretch they've built a small parking lot and a switch-back pedestrian path up to the bridge where there's a pedestrian walkway which affords an apparently excellent view of the dam and Lake Mead beyond.

I pulled into the parking lot but immediately became trapped in a line of cars waiting for parking spots to open up. It was a no-win situation since, as I sat there, halfway 'round the parking loop, spots were opening up behind me and folks arriving long after I had were zipping right into those recently vacated spots. I said to hell with that view and fought my way out of this no-win situation to continue on down the roadway to the parking garage at the dam.

Lots of photos later, I got back in the car and drove back up to a viewpoint turnout which gave a good view of the lake north and west of the dam.

Worth the trip, to see this very recently opened bridge, get some photos.

I spied a funky little spot on U.S. 93 on my way up, so decided to stop there on my way back to Havasu to have a late lunch. Sort of a biker spot, and nothing special as far as the food was concerned but it did look interesting from the outside.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Donkeys of Oatman

Ever since an acquaintance of mine reported on her trip to Oatman AZ several years ago, I've had it in the back of my mind to go there one day. Even when I was in Sedona last May I toyed with the idea of driving to Oatman, but had too many great attractions closer by to keep me occupied for an entire week. And that didn't even scratch the surface of all there was to do in that area of Arizona.

So now I'm in Lake Havasu City AZ for the week and Oatman is just an easy drive north from here. I woke up Monday morning and decided that this would be the day for donkeys. After a short run along one of the paved paths skirting the edge of this section of Lake Havasu, I had breakfast, got cleaned up, and grabbed my DSLR, hat and sunglasses, and headed to the car.

The road north out of Lake Havasu City - AZ-95 - is short and fast, slightly scenic, and connects to I-40. 8 miles west on I-40 to Topock, and I got off the interstate and headed toward old Route 66, which would get me to Oatman AZ.

The first few miles of roadway were lined on one side by trees, the other side by mounds of sand and driftwood. The signs along the side of the road warned of the potential for flash flooding and I couldn't help but think that these mounds along the west side of the roadway sure looked like bulldozed detritus from a previous severe flood or "wash out" since this road runs along the Colorado River for a few miles.

Once through the tiny little town of Golden Shores, a sign along the side of the road declared this an historic National Byway: Historic Route 66.

The road is very primitive by today's standards; it follows the "nap of the earth," rollercoastering up and down, over and around each and every hill and mound. Many of the hills are steep, with peaky crests that block the view of what lay ahead until the peak is breached. And then the road might take a sharp right or left twist and plummet down to another low "wash." Signs all along the way warned to beware of possible flash flooding at these low spots. If I took one of these dips too fast, the car's suspension would bottom out and I imagine that if a driver took the peaks too fast, they'd catch some "air" at the top. The road bed is narrow, the edge of pavement having no definitive edge, just blending into sand and gravel and, in many areas, seemingly became one with the sand and gravel where washouts had been imperfectly patched. But it was all fun! I imagined what it would be like to be on the motorcycle on this road and knew that, while it could be a real hoot, I would take it cautiously.

The hillocks became more serious and more twisted and I could tell that I was gaining some serious elevation - from 900 feet at Topock AZ to 2800 feet at Oatman - even though the road took me through some deceptively open terrain. The views off to the left became more dramatic as the road brought me further up out of the desert floor, and the mountains to the east loomed nearer, jutting up sharply as the road seemed to zig-zag around their bases.

Once near the town of Oatman AZ, I began to see droppings in the road. Donkeys? Yep! And here is the sign to warn me of them!

Signs of civilization began to show up in the hills and along the side of the road as I drew near to Oatman. Derelict shanties, abandoned mining operations, an occasional vacant shed-type building. Then, before I knew it, I was pulling into town.

Though I never once saw another car on the road getting there, I could see that there were already a number of cars parked along the main street. There was a large open gravel parking lot just at the start of the little downtown, so I pulled in there, parked, and then marveled at the brand-spankin'-new toilets the town had built right next to the parking area. How convenient!

Camera, hat, and hiking pack, and I was soon on the street and spying my first donkey of the day, a pretty gray one that was walking toward me with great purpose. She/he gave me the once over, decided I didn't have any food on me, and continued on to the next tourist.

I wandered up the street, peering into the various buildings, taking photos, until I came upon a wheel-chair bound woman who was surrounded by donkeys! As I neared, I could see why. She had purchased some hay-like pellets from one of the shops and was feeding them. And they loved her for it!

The donkeys milled about in the roadway, oblivious to the occasional car trying to pass through. I chatted with a couple in a KIA while they waited for the traffic "congestion" to clear. "I bet you never imagined a traffic jam like this one," I said to them, as they waited. They laughed and replied that it was truly a unique experience. I moved into the blocking herd and they eventually broke up their "jam" and wandered toward the sides so that the KIA could get through.

Walking to the top of the hill, near the north end of the main street area, I saw a post office and a sign that showed a really great cancellation stamp, so I wandered back down to the shops to find some postcards to mail off to friends and family. Sitting on a bench in the shade, I addressed the cards and then went inside the post office to mail them. This time I mailed one to myself, too! I kicked myself for not doing that from Hana, Maui last month!

Lots of photo opportunities with the donkeys! They were so docile; one particularly cute youngster followed me around a bit, no doubt with expectations of a treat. The youngsters have stickers on their foreheads warning us tourists not to feed them carrots. Apparently they cannot digest them when they're young.

A few more photos, some petting and admiring, and I was ready to get back on the road toward Lake Havasu City and some lunch. A pleasant way to spend a relaxing day.
See all of the photos here: Day Trip to Oatman AZ

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The FZ6 and I Do the Cotton Field Tour

You know how sometimes you have plans to do something that's really nothing special yet you still find yourself just soooo ready to get out there and do it? Well that's how I was feeling about the little ride I'd planned for today. Just a little lunch ride, down towards the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, on some roads that are not particularly spectacular but totally representative of the area between Houston and the Gulf.

I've dubbed this route the Cotton Field Tour. It's one I am in the mood to do every once in a while because it's pretty in its own unique way. It forces the wayward traveler to pay attention and really look for the subtle beauty. Oh, it's there, alright. It just doesn't jump right out at you like the obvious beauty of other regions of the USA.

Last time I rode this route, friend Mike and I spied a very newborn calf, still slick and wet from birth, wobbling next to its mom in a pasture near Boling.

Today there were no newborn calves, but there were plenty of freshly plowed cotton fields, newly harvested and ready for their winter's rest, their rich dark brown furrows running straight to the horizon. The shoulders of these tiny little county roads were white with cotton bolls, like small patches of snow on a January-thaw-kind of day in the north. Large bales of cotton sat in some of the fields, waiting to be picked up and taken to the gins.

It was a circuitous route, totally on purpose, totally to avoid anything larger than an FM road and preferably on a county road like CR 5 which starts and ends with a couple of nice crooks in the road, but runs straight as an arrow between these crooks. The route took me through tiny little towns like Danciger and Boling and Magnet. These are tantalizing little towns that sit one block off the roadway, tempting me to come back and explore a bit more another time.


As I approached Boling, what looked like large granite boulders appeared to be dotting the pastures on both sides of the roadway. But there is no granite and there are no boulders in this part of the state. The mystery was solved as I grew nearer and saw that what appeared as gray boulders were actually Brahman cattle - hundreds of them - on the V8 Ranch, a large Brahman breeding ranch in Boling.


One of the singular things I love about this route are the giant live oak trees that sit alone at nice intervals on the open pastures. These are huge... easily century trees. And because they live unmolested and free from human interference, they are all beautifully symmetrical. Which of course means they're enormously magestic, lording over their solitary and special spots out in the grazing acreage, allowed to rule over the landscape, enjoy plentiful sunshine and sufficient rain water.


Lunch at K-2 Steakhouse: Seafood Duo for me (catfish and Matagorda Bay oysters) and grilled shrimp for friend Keith. Then it was time to continue on our circuitous route toward home. But not before stopping along the way for an ice cream.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where's My Dining Room??

Okay, I confess that I am in my element when organizing and planning. Give me a project and I'll have it planned, organized, and executed to within an inch of its life. Years as a Product Manager and then an R&D Project Manager have overdeveloped my compulsive side.

The MTF Founders Feast is next weekend. This is the annual banquet held for the members of our "virtual" motorcycle riding club, The Motorcycle Tourers Forum. At the Feast we recognize our club volunteers, we present awards to our members who have achieved participation milestones in the categories of LD Riding (IBA certified rides), Flower Sniffin', and Off-Road Riding. Oh yeah, we're also fed prodigious amounts of BBQ and we have some really kick-butt door prizes to give away.

Last year, I took over the planning and organizing of the 2009 event sort of mid-stream when the prior event manager (and MTF club president) had an accident and was out of commission. I took the event on for 2010, scouting a suitable location, rounding up a caterer, and recruiting some volunteers to help with various aspects of the event planning. This year an IBA-certifiable ride - Ride Around Texas (RAT) - is being held in conjunction with Founders Feast. Paris TX sits right on the RAT route and is one of the required checkpoints for this ride. So it really made sense to find a suitable location in Paris TX to hold our group for Founders Feast.


I know from organizing countless other projects that they always use more resources, more money, more space and will take on a life of their own if given the opportunity. I've really tried to stay right on top of this one, watching registrations daily for correct information, payment, and any discrepancies. E-mailing registrants when I see those discrepancies. Prodding folks to pay, if they haven't. Reminding folks that t-shirt sales will actually close weeks before registration closes. Handling drop-outs to get refunds lined up and any t-shirts they may have ordered shipped to them. Purchasing and assembling supplies and materials that will simplify on-site check-in for the attendees.

All through this, things started to pile up. First it was the bag containing plastic tablecloths and napkins I'd purchased for the banquet hall. I set this on the floor in a corner of my dining room. Then the wristbands I'd ordered showed up, so I set those next to the bag on the floor. Soon, a box from a fellow MTF member arrived, containing one of the banners and the roll of doorprize tickets. This went in that corner, too. The USPS Priority envelopes I'd ordered arrived next, and these went you-know-where. When the event t-shirts arrived, I immediately opened the boxes and started sorting, bagging, and labeling. This pile to go to the Post Office, that pile to get packed alphabetically in boxes, ready to hand out to participants at the event. To the one banner mailed to me, I added two more and rolled them up and set them on top of the t-shirt boxes. There's a large tote bag containing all of the extra t-shirts, some supplies like masking tape and Sharpies, MTF business cards, and miscellaneous other supplies. Now that small pile in the corner of my dining room had doubled in size.

I borrowed a portable PA system from our drama club and added it to the pile. I'd ordered some small die-cut bags and these arrived. They'll make nice registrant packets, holding the neck lanyards, doorprize tickets, wristbands. Then....the neck lanyards themselves arrived.

That afternoon was spent assembling the registration packets, labeling each one with the participant's name and then placing them upright in alphabetical order into a large but shallow box. When the Off-Road Rider award plaques arrived, I added that box to the now-giant piles in the dining room.

Add to this, the stuff that has already made its way into the trunk of my car: A 12V compressor, a heavy-duty extension cord, and a motorcycle tire mounted on a rim to be used in a tire-plugging demonstration.

This already-large pile must share space in my trunk with some items I currently have listed on e-bay....I know, poor planning on my part. The auctions end next Monday morning which means I need to bring them with me in case they sell and need to be shipped. But, if they don't sell, I can always donate them to the pile of door prizes at the banquet Saturday night.

Pulling off an event like this for 100+ folks is work, to be sure, but if I didn't absolutely love doing this, I wouldn't volunteer!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Light as Air, Bright as the Sun

The weather "landscape" has changed here in the flood plains of Texas. The air is light and fresh, the skies as clear and blue as they ever get, and the sun has been glorious! It's weather we don't usually see until late October, so what's up with this?!

A series of high pressure systems have been parking themselves over the whole state of Texas for the past week which have kept the streaming humid SW winds at bay over the Gulf of Mexico, and have created a wide chute for cooler air to slip in from the north. So I'm lovin' it! We're all lovin' it down here!

"Take advantage of it!" I said to myself. "Get out there and run. Get out there and ride." I've been waiting for this weather!

Saturday was a long run - 6 miles - still in "recovery" mode from the Maui Half Marathon. The run was beyond fabulous! Another run yesterday, this time shorter but much faster. Another run tomorrow morning. Another run Friday morning. Then a good long run on Sunday.

And riding! Sunday morning I got on the BMW and rode 40 miles up to the north side of Houson, met up with a friend, and we both rode into the Piney Woods area for a 100 miles or so on some fine little ribbons of twisty, hilly road before finding a fabulous lakefront restaurant and enjoying lunch on their deck overlooking the water. We lazed and lingered over lunch, making imaginary plans to visit exotic places where we could dive and snorkel, go sailing, beachcomb. We each have 2 grandchildren of almost exactly the same ages so there was a lot of comparison and cooing to be done over their growth and development.

Today the FZ6 and I rode south with a fellow former co-worker who's also now retired. We had lots of catching up to do: Children's careers, grandchildren, ride reports from recent trips, the general state of retirement. We took the indirect route south to Bacliff and had a fabulous seafood lunch at Noah's Ark on Galveston Bay. Just perfect, perfect!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kailua Beach Day

My trip to Hawaii is nearly over and we haven't been to the beach yet! So last night I suggested ot Christina that we take the kids to the beach in the morning, spend all morning, get them good and tired, have lunch, then let them nap. And that's exactly what we did!

We loaded the two kids, towels, tent, chair, and headed to the beach.

Christina and Trevor headed down to the waterfront and I put Marissa into this cool little pup-tent under a tree to see if she'd nap.

Of course she didn't so she and I went down to the water to play, as well. I dipped her toes into the Pacific Ocean.

A little bit of playing around and Marissa started looking sleepy so Christina sat with her, see if she'd take a little nap, which she did.

Trevor and I played in the gentle waves, wrote letters in the sand, dug a hole to see if we could find Texas.

This is such a gorgeous beach park in Kailua, and it's only steps away from my son's house.

A young Japanese couple were playing in the waves nearby. They spent an inordinate amount of time setting their camera up on self-timer and trying to catch themselves in a mid-air leap. It took them several attempts to catch both of them in the air at the same time. Meanwhile, in the comfort of my beach chair, I was able to get a good shot, plus all of the miss-timed shots made for amusing entertainment for me and them!

Some "chillin'" time with Marissa and Trevor:

At one point, while Christina and Trevor were out in the water, a large sea turtle swam up behind them. I got Christina's attention and pointed the turtle out to her. She and Trevor were able to walk along side the turtle for quite a distance as it swam parallel to the beach.

Trip to Hawaii and visit with son and his family is almost over. Tomorrow evening I fly back to Texas. But it's been a really great visit: Plenty of time with Christina, Trevor, and Marissa, not enough time with son Jeremy, though.