Wednesday, February 5, 2014

FLOWERS, DAMMIT! --a Valentine's Day Rant

 That most controversial of holidays--Valentine's Day-- is approaching. And as it does, conversation in my circles turns to what couples have planned, and what singles have planned to burn.

This year, several of my clients (I do nails-- I talk to women all day long) have told me that they don't want flowers.

REALLY?

Well I DO.

I always want flowers. I have always wanted flowers. I love flowers. I don't care that they "just die." In fact! I like that they die. I appreciate their transient quality. I like that I will get to enjoy them while they last and then am actually expected to throw them away. As opposed to cutesy stuffed animals that I'm supposed to keep forever. I like cut, arranged flowers. I like knowing that I will not have to find a permanent place for a living plant that I will not only have to keep forever, but keep alive forever. I like that the flowers are gone in a week or two and I will not accumulate new flowers year after year after year to find storage space for or risk offending my significant other by making him feel like he got me something I just threw out.

I also very much like their temporary nature on a very philosophical level: All things being transient, flowers are very much an example of Life's fleeting aspects that is easy to wrap your brain around and appreciate while you have it.

I will be 44 years old this year. I have had my share of beaus over those years. And none of them have taken pleasure in sending me flowers.

I originally came to the conclusion that there are the sort of men who send flowers, and the sort who do not.

But that notion went the way of a two week old bouquet of roses very soon; as I realized that a number of my boyfriends who never sent me flowers-- or could even be bothered to so much as spend an extra $1.50 for one of those sad, cellophaned, single roses at the local 7-11-- had, in fact, made a habit of sending professionally arranged and delivered flowers from the florist to his EX-girlfriends... and sometimes to their next girlfriends after me.

And so, my theory evolved to its currently standing version: there are girls who get flowers, and girls who do not.

In fact, I have turned out to not be a girl who warrants romantic trinkets of any sorts. Boys do not bring me jewelry, or shiny pebbles, or send me love letters, or write me poems, or give me cards.

I have received balloons on 2 occasions that were purely romantic in nature. And one absolute loser sent did send me a "I fucked up" floral arrangement after cheating on me... One of those FTD "pick me up bouquets" that consists of a couple of carnations and daisies in a coffee mug. Which would have been quite a sweet romantic gesture if it had actually been a romantic gesture... and if he hadn't given the girl he cheated on me with a dozen fucking red roses for Valentine's Day.

So I don't think that counts.

I know they are ridiculously expensive. But so is a fancy dinner out. Or a weekend trip away. Or tickets to a play or concert.

And sure-- there are things I'd rather have. I really like tents, for instance. And other backpacking gear. And right now I'd love to have a rack for my DR650, a Rotopax fuel canister for the Wombat, a new pair of moto boots (Alpinestar Scouts,) and a set of custom aluminum panniers.

But this is more about a lifelong observation about the traditions of men sending flowers to the ladies they love.

I probably don't get flowers-- or other trivial trinkets-- because I don't make much noise about it. I feel pretty strongly that if I have to TELL someone to send me flowers that the gesture loses its organic sentiment. I might as well order them myself.

They say that character is what you do when no one is looking-- so I tend to let my boyfriends be who they are and decide how long they get to continue to be my boyfriend based on what they do without me having to meddle or nag them into being who I want to date.

Nevertheless: I want flowers. I want giant, expensive, ornately arranged bouquets of roses. With lots of Baby's breath and Leatherleaf fern.

I want them professionally arranged and delivered.

I want them delivered to me at work. I want them to sit on my desk where everyone will see them. Where other women will have to sit and stare at them while they get their nails done. Where they will be looking at them them for an hour and a half. Where other women will be forced to recognize that MY man thinks I'm totally worth blowing a ridiculous amount of money on for something that he probably won't even get to see.

I want everyone to see those roses and sweat with envy. Squirm as they grapple with the reality that, even though they say they don't want flowers, they can't help but secretly covet the silken, ruby, beauty that adorns my desk. Looming behind me, silently taunting them.

I want the delivery guy to park downstairs from my building, I want him to carry those roses ALL THE WAY UP MAIN STREET-- 4 blocks up the street! Randomly walking into different shops and businesses along the way, approaching people on the street, holding up his clip board and saying, "I have a delivery for Maggie? at the Art of Nailz? Do you know where I could find Maggie?" Everytime someone flippantly tells that delivery guy that he can bring the flowers to them instead, I want him to say, "No ma'am, these are for Maggie-- at the Art of Nailz-- her boyfriend loves her very much. It says right her on the card, 'To Maggie, the most amazing woman on the planet.' "

Maybe the delivery guy could carry a bull horn?

And there could be a plane dragging a banner.

And fireworks...no. A fly over. By FA-18 hornets. And a parade.

Cuz I'm competitive like that.

Or he could get me a new tent.

I like tents.







Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Tigger Project


This is how the actual Tigger Project book ended up: 












Oddly enough, City Hall didn't have a "Where's Riley?" pin.








Jesse was amazing for our photos-- she had NO CLUE what we were asking but her expressions were PERFECT!
 



Tink did NOT understand our project. I almost didn't use our pix of her, but I managed to work it all into the story
-- and, I think, stay true to Tink's personality!



There was some desperate texting back home because we didn't know which princesses she'd met.

Mulan wins our Best Princess prize. She was AWESOME and really got into the idea.

Poor Rapunzel was so confused, but she did a great job of playing along. The Disney photographer working Rapunzel's tower took one look at us and said, "Oh, it's you guys again" and just stood off to the side.


This is my money shot! Aurora and Cinderella were actually headed across the park for a parade line up and couldn't stop for pix and autographs. I got this amazing shot of them as they walked by and then was stoked at being able to work the subsequent photos into my story-- seriously, I'd like to find all these cast members and give them big hugs.





Tigger was in his box for a long time. When she opened the box, he had an empty bottle of chocolate milk, a half eaten box of Goldfish crackers and some Oreo crumbs, a flashlight and a book.

In her book, the facing page has a place to paste a picture of her when she opened the box.




The idea was that after Tigger put himself in the box, he gave the box to Mickey and Minnie to give to us when they saw us at Disneyland: I wish I'd taken the box to Disneyland with us and gotten a photo of Mickey giving us the box. Oh well. It still came out pretty swell.

Naturally, the box in the photos IS the box that Tigger was in, under the tree.

The Year Kodak Killed Christmas

O'Matt waits with "Hobbes" at Pixie Hollow
It was 2011, our youngest niece had just turned 4 and she needed a stuffed Tigger to go with her Pooh Bear and Eeyore.

She'd been to Disneyland for the first time the year before, and it was O'Matt and Maggie's first year as Disneyland annual passholders-- we went to Disneyland one weekend a month every month in 2011!

So just after the first of the year, the BF's sister asked politely if we could pick up a Tigger to go with Pooh and Eeyore on one of our trips. It would be set aside as a birthday or Christmas present for niece #2 and the sister-in-law would gladly pay us back when we obtained said Tigger.

The BF is the world's best uncle. Naturally, he said no to getting paid back and claimed Tigger as our own present to the niece. And a present from O'Matt (that's what she calls him, we're not sure where the "O" came from) is never just a present wrapped up in fancy paper-- it's a project.

The BF explained his elaborate Tigger Project plan to me and I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily at the sheer enormity of his plot. But, it was pretty cool, so of course we got started.

I could be on Space Mountain
Tigger was purchased sometime in March of 2011. Tigger would remain in his original Disney bag, be taken to our home and given a warm, safe spot to live in our closet for the next several months. However, Tigger's stunt double-- purchased at the same time as Tigger and lovingly named "Hobbes,"-- would get some minor surgery and accompany us on each of our subsequent trips to Disneyland.

Hobbes got some wires inserted into his arms, tail, and head with a handle poking out the back of his head for a muppet-like effect that allowed us to pose him better.

And then the pictures began. We spent months taking pictures of Hobbes all over Disneyland and CA Adventures. The premise was that Tigger was searching for his friend Riley.

We took Hobbes on rides, we approached countless cast members and characters. Uncle O'Matt stood in line for hours waiting to greet princesses and pixies for this project. And let me tell you, we looked kinda silly standing in all those lines without any kids of our own.

75 minute wait for the Princess Fantasy Faire = awesome uncle!
Rapunzel was new, I think we waited 90 minutes to see her.

Waiting for princesses might be a little hard for O'Matt

Ultimately, we put together a story book about Tigger's search for his friend Riley. The intent was to give her the book and make her read it before opening the box that contained the actual Tigger.


It was very important to me that we have an actual, hardcover, professionally bound photo book made. I just thought that a real book all about her would blow a 4-year-old's mind. So, naturally, we ran the project right up the last minute and I finally had my story book pages ready to upload with about a week to spare.
Then began the search for a company that could make the book and get it shipped to us in time for Christmas.
I can make it look like those cars on Autopia are going really fast!

Yikes.

Yeah, we knew it was going to cost us a fortune, but we were prepared to suck it up for the sake of an awesome present.

Ultimately, I ended up choosing Kodak. (Remember when Kodak was a thing?) Their website claimed that they could print the book AND ship it to us by Christmas. So I created my account, chose the book format, and uploaded my pages.

I did that on a Sunday night. Christmas was the following Sunday. The book was slated to arrive by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Whew! Plenty of time, right?

24 hours later I had a tracking number and a promise that the book was scheduled for delivery by the end of the day on Wednesday. But the tracking number hadn't been scanned by UPS... all day we checked back and the UPS website continued to tell us that they had no information regarding that tracking number.

We contacted Kodak via their online chat service. Online customer service assured us that we had a tracking number, and that our package was scheduled to arrive by the end of the day on Wednesday.

O'Matt had to go on Small World a LOT!
We had a bad feeling in our guts. We've ordered things before. Yeah yeah yeah... it can take up to 24 hours for the information to appear in UPS's system, blah blah blah. But we all know that website updates pretty dang quickly after the package gets scanned.

Wednesday came and went. The tracking number still never showed up in UPS' system and Kodak still insisted the package wasn't late.

Meanwhile, both the BF and I were pretty sure that the package hadn't shipped at all: Either the shipping label had been printed and then put aside in some sort of paperwork limbo, the book had been printed and packaged and had fallen into some sort of package limbo-- whatever the real-world scenario was, that package hadn't shipped. We knew it in our hearts.

AND ALL KODAK HAD TO DO WAS CALL THE PROCESSING PLANT WHERE THE BOOK HAD BEEN PRINTED AND ASK A REAL PERSON ABOUT IT.

But all they did was read our shipping label to us. The same info that my confirmation email held.

Frustration set in.

Matt spent all day Thursday trying to get to the bottom of the situation. He had Kodak online, he had Kodak on the phone, he had UPS on the phone all at the same time. Kodak insisted that the book had been shipped because-- hey! They printed a shipping label, so it must have been shipped, right? UPS was awesome. They did everything within their power to physically look for this package. They offered to contact the driver of the truck on the route that serviced the processing plant that the book had (supposedly) shipped from, they would have the driver check his truck, they offered to send the drive back to the plant to physically look for any missed packages-- BUT Kodak would not tell us the physical address that the book had supposedly shipped from.

Ok. I can understand why you won't tell us... but the customer service rep at UPS gave the BF the number to her direct line and said Kodak could call her and give the information directly to her.

Everyone asks who the little boy is:
We don't know. He was on the Mark Twain with the BF and Hobbes so he helped out.

Nope. Kodak don't play that.

So Kodak continued to insist that there was still time for the book to be delivered and UPS gave us their sincerest condolences.

By Friday we were trying to explain to Kodak that this was not ok. That they obviously had dropped a ball somewhere along the line (maybe in the mid 90's when they failed to embrace the impending move to digital photography?)  The tracking number they had on file was obviously not the right one. Something had gone wrong.

Kodak said, "it can be delivered as late as 7 p.m. on Christmas eve. It's not late till then. If it's not there by 2 p.m. on Christmas eve, call me back."

Kodak customer service went home before 2 p.m. on Christmas eve.

So what happened? Kodak refunded our money. I stayed up late on Christmas eve printing each one of the pages for the story book here at home and putting them into a small scrapbook.
Yes, Hobbes is over 21 and
 he knows the rum is never gone at
 Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.

The story was a hit. Tigger is well-loved. Hobbes is retired. We are heroes. Everyone wants us to do something like this for their kids.

The book showed up on December 26. The tracking number on the package was completely wrong. Kodak hadn't shipped it "Next day air" they shipped it "next day super saver" which only gets delivered on week
days.

If we'd had the CORRECT tracking number, we-- and UPS-- would have known that it actually was in our local distribution center on Saturday morning and we could have gone down there and picked it up in person. All they would have had to do was look up the order by the shipping address-- as we'd asked them to do several times.

Shortly afterward, Kodak announced that it was filing for bankruptcy and then closed its doors.

No one was happier to hear this news than us.








Monday, December 9, 2013

FINALLY! We're GOING Somewhere!


 A Great Ride: Somewhere along the way.
The BF and I are different. From everybody else, naturally, but also from each other. He is all about a PLAN. He likes to plan things. He needs a plan. He likes to get out maps and compasses and sit down with Google Earth and make lots of notes and do math and figure out exactly what he's going to do, exactly how he will do it, when the best time to do it is, and then plot the alignment of several key astronomical entities in order to ensure that his plan is implemented in the best relation to the space/time continuum. Sometimes he spends so much time planning that he never gets around to doing.

I'm more about doing. I grew up with a procrastinator mother, and several uncles who were extremely poor examples of the "carpe diem" philosophy. I witnessed first hand what a life of "someday I'm going to" and "eventually I'll be able to" leads to, and it mostly leads to a life that passes you by.

A missed bus in 1988 drove that point home, and I have spent most of my adulthood in manual over-ride mode-- trading cows for magic beans, damn the consequences. I enjoy planning too, but too often I have found that planning is a distraction from doing and planning never leads to adventures and without an adventure, how will you ever have any good stories to bore the younger generation with?
 

The picture is from many years ago,
The couch and house have changed
but the scene remains the same.
The BF works so hard at his planning, he often plans the adventure right out of things. Not to worry though! He has ME now. I often worry that my "just do it already" attitude makes his OCD twitch, but I think it's good for him. And maybe (but just "maybe") I could benefit from a little planning. I guess we even each other out.

Ever since I got the hang of riding the motorcycle without falling over and breaking anything I need in order to continue riding, my first point of order was to obtain a rack for the Wombat. In order to strap stuff to. Because being able to strap stuff to the bike is pretty much my idea of priority 1 before setting off on an adventure.

And so I have been ready to GO somewhere and stay overnight pretty much since June.

I was all about throwing some sleeping bags in a sack and camping in Sequoia National Forest, but the BF was all, "I don't think we're ready for that...I think our first overnight should be in a hotel, that way it's less stuff to worry about going wrong...I don't know if we can ride that far..." etc, etc, and so on.


Home Sweet  Home
I spent a lot of the summer with my eyebrows raised, making squishy, puckered-up duck faces at him. Really? "Too far?" We regularly rode UP to the mountains AND BACK all in one go. Camping for the night before heading home seemed like LESS riding. All in one day, at least.

But we have yet to go moto-camping. I've come to the conclusion that the BF is uncomfortable with the minimalist camping technique that he will have to adapt to for the bikes. Whereas I have been an ultralight backpacker for 15 years now. And he does love his comfort zones. He'll come around. In his own time. (Which will be this next summer or I'm going without him!)

So a couple of weeks ago, he came home to inform me that he was planning an overnight trip to Hollister.



It wasn't supposed to snow!
Hollister? Really? That's the destination of our first overnight trip? Hollister is the mythical land of Fortune and Glory? Hollister is where awaits our destiny, land of adventure and intrigue?

Hmmmm. I had no idea.

But at least we might actually GO somewhere! 



Turns out, the BF's co-worker was planning on loading up his dirt bike with his dad and his dirt bike and meeting up with his brother and sister-in-law, their daughters and their dirt bikes and camping at the Hollister Hills OHV recreation area just outside of Hollister on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Ok. I admit. I'm getting older. And growing soft and spongy. I'm less enthusiastic at the prospect of camping in late November than I used to be. But, if it meant getting to GO somewhere, then I was prepared to suck it up!

Fortunately, the BF's plan was to use his co-worker's camping trip as an excuse to ride to Hollister, spend the night in a warm, comfy hotel room, eat dinner and drink beer in a restaurant, and ride home the following day.

This sounded good.

And so it would be: We departed for Hollister at the crack of dawn-- NO REALLY! The BUTT-FREAKIN-CRACK OF EVER-LOVING DAMN DAWN! on Saturday morning.
The butt-freakin crack of ever-lovin damn dawn: as seen from our front yard.
 
BRRRRRRRRRR.

Have I ever mentioned that I am NOT. A. MORNING. PERSON. ???

And you know what I like about driving a car? Cup holders. Yup. Call me a yuppie; a conformist, in-the-box, yuppie cager (you'd be the ONLY person who ever called me that) but CUP HOLDERS are the vehicle for the world's greatest beverage-- coffee. And you can drink coffee WHILE you drive!


camera sensor makes it look lighter outside than it was.

Even if you outfit your bike with cup holders, it's difficult to drink it while you ride. It is a woeful sacrifice one must make for the joy of the ride.

Our route, having been meticulously planned by my partner-in-crime, eschewed freeways and made sure not to put more than 100 miles between gas stations-- the Wombat averages 80+ miles to the gallon, but has a capacity of little more than that gallon.

We wound through the same alfalfa fields and dairies that were the scenery on our way out of the valley for our Parkfield trip. I was only mildly surprised to see the alfalfa still green and thriving this far into the season.

We gassed up in Coalinga: I had suspected we might be planning on obtaining some sort of breakfast-like device in Coalinga as well, seeing as how the BF IS a morning person-- and one that requires a morning meal.

Also, it was cold. I had opted for my Olympia Airglide riding gear because I knew afternoon temps were expected to hit the mid-70's. I would rather layer up and be slightly chilly than wear the warmer gear with fewer vents and risk being too warm. I had 4 layers of pants on and 5 layers of shirts on and my poor little hands were frozen through. My fingertips were so numb they hurt. (They actually hurt for several days, I'll be looking for good winter gloves.)

I was looking forward to a rest in Coalinga, a sausage McMuffin with egg and a chance to sit still and hold a cup of hot coffee for awhile. Especially since breakfast at MickyD's is a rare treat for me, seeing as how I'm rarely out of bed before they stop serving it.

And there was the McDonald's, right across the street from the Chevron station. Waiting for me. Calling my name.

At the very least, I figured we'd grab some sort of mass-produced Danish and a coffee at the gas station.

It was not to be. We gassed up and took advantage of the rest rooms and were on our way.



Waiting on me at the gas station in Coalinga.
The BF, once again, was the only one who really knew what our planned route was. I really need him to learn how to program these things into the GPS. So we wound our way through the wakening streets of Coalinga in search of whatever road it was he planned for us to travel.

We ended up on Coalinga Road. A long, winding, road through some ranch land and canyons that eventually dumped us out on Hwy 25 just south of Tres Pinos.
Why yes, we LOVE riding over this stuff--NOT!

Coalinga Rd was a nice little ride. Twisty and devoid of traffic. Not in the best repair, and on the San Benito County side, the pot holes had been filled with loose gravel. It was well-packed, but still loose gravel. I don't know if that's their overall plan, or if they'll come back later and seal it with tar. But it made for some trepidatious maneuvering for these two novice riders.

I was particularly excited to see the bobcat run across the street some 50 yards ahead of me and jump up and disappear into the brush. Bobcat ranks pretty high on the wildlife sighting chart for me.

I eventually pulled over for a break.

This is where the whole thing went to hell, and we got in a big fight because the BF is like living with Mr. Spock-- but we didn't get into the fight until the following Tuesday, so the ride actually continued on quite enjoyably.

While we were off the bikes, the BF ventured off the side of the road and down to check out the dry river bed that we'd been following along for most of the road.

He returned to tell me that the river bed bottom was all rocks (I could see that from the road) and he was particularly intrigued that it had the appearance of a "natural concrete." Upon which, he insisted that I "go take a look and report back."
Taking a break.
So I, in my 4 layers of pants/5 layers of shirts/boots/gloves/helmet ensemble, proceed to navigate down the embankment on the side of the road, toward the river bed.

Suddenly my toe is caught on something: It is truly amazing how much information the human brain can process in the amount of time it takes to fall on your face--

"My boot is caught on something."

"It's not giving. My toe is really caught. I wonder what it is."

"I bet it's a tree root. One of those stupid brushy things. I'm surprised it's holding so firmly."

"I need to get my foot uncaught or I'm going to fall over."

"Nope. My boot is really stuck."

"Crap. I'm going to fall."

"Well don't try to break your fall with your hands, that's how you broke your wrist last time."

"No. Just put your hands out to the side. You have a helmet on, it's not like you're going to hurt your head."

"Stupid river bed. I don't even care about the damn river bed."

THUNK!


That's the river bed snaking through the empty space in the middle.
 
I was mostly struck by how bad it did hurt my head. I felt I was in a cartoon-- like maybe when the coyote hits his head against a rock or a gong and his whole body vibrates for while. And then stars.

I did a quick diagnostic check... pretty sure I didn't break anything. Hands, wrists, arms were good. Nothing broken, nothing sprained, no injuries to report. But my head sure hurt. Helmets may save brains, but they are not designed to absorb impact without transferring some of the shock to your noggin.

So there I am, laying face down, spread eagle in the dirt (really soft dirt, btw) thinking that that hurt my head more than I'd expected and working through the emotional shock and subsequent humiliation of my face plant, when the BF arrives at the scene and begins demanding to know if I'm "OK."

And my first impulse is say, "Fuck no, I'm not OK."

But there I am-- have not moved an inch-- working through the consequences of my response in my brain: I'm thinking that if I say "no, I'm not OK" he will immediately become concerned that I have injured myself. He will be worried about me. He will be worried about how he is going to get me to medical care, he will be worried about how we will recover the Wombat if I'm not able to ride, he will be worried about our friends who are expecting us but don't have cell signal, he will be bummed that our ride is over....

So I can't say "No, I'm not OK."

But I don't feel it would be honest to say, "Yes. I'm OK." I don't feel OK yet. I feel kinda stupid and grumpy and my head hurts. Also, all those layers of clothes make me feel like the little brother from A Christmas Story in his snow suit.
All in all, still a great road.

Eventually I told him that I wasn't broken. I felt this was an adequate response to convey that I had suffered no major injuries that would require a change in our plans while leaving a little space for me to sit there and feel sorry for myself for a little bit.

All in all, at the time, it all worked out as well as can be expected for the two of us: he insisted on repeating his original question until he was satisfied that I was just lying in the dirt for no good reason, then insisted on my getting back on my feet even though I wanted to lay there and pout for a little longer.

Several days later, I tried to explain my thought process to him and how I was trying to be all considerate of his reaction and so forth, only to be informed that he just did not understand how I could not be OK when I was OK.

The man has no concept of human emotion sometimes. It's like dating a robot.

Nevertheless, at that exact time and place, I got up, dusted myself (mostly) off and we got back on our bikes and rode off to our destiny... well. To Tres Pinos for another tank of gas, mostly.
Not one of our bikes.
Then we back tracked to Cienega Road and wound our way up to the OHV area where we sat and chatted with friends while I watched dirt bikers of every age racing around the trails.

Good grief but that is not something that appeals to me. They're all busy crashing and falling over and jumping and buzzing around this way and that in unchoreographed mayhem.


We bid our farewells, stopped by the gear shop in the rec area where I spent some quality time petting the resident psychotic shop cat-- good thing I still had my gloves on! While the BF wondered around like he might actually be considering buying a new tire. Really? Where are you going to carry it?

We rode into town and checked into our room at the Hollister Inn. Then we spent some time preparing the bikes for their big night outside alone. The BF was concerned about the bikes getting stolen and/or otherwise molested. I'm not going to pretend that isn't a legitimate concern, and I'm not really going to say he was "paranoid" about it-- but he might have been slightly more worried than warranted. I'd say, "Hypo-paranoid." He seriously considering wrestling the bikes into the room-- I don't think that was necessary. And probably would not have been appreciated by the management!
All snuggled up for the night.

So, once the the bikes were nestled close together and locked up, and the BF had opened the curtains so he could see them easily, we spent some looking up places to eat in Hollister-- places we could walk to, since our plans for dinner included several pints of beer.

Clearance beer! Burger and onion rings.
 


We ended up at the "Running Rooster" where we enjoyed perfectly tasty (and very messy) burgers and the aforementioned several pints of beer with no ill-effects, so if you're ever reading the Yelp reviews for the Running Rooster in Hollister, fear not the nay-sayers. It's a perfectly nice place to have a meal and popular with the locals.

A good night's sleep and I woke up to the Weather Channel telling the nation about all the snow and hail and sleet that was plaguing Oklahoma: Oklahoma's Doppler map was nothing but pink and blue and purple with the weather people telling the residents to "just hunker down" through the storm, and here we were, preparing to ride motorcycles home on a bright sunny day.

We planned for a later start to our day on Sunday, since we had arrived in Hollister with 2 hours of sunlight to spare. We figured we could afford to start later and avoid the coldest temps and still make it home by dark.

We checked out of our room and headed back out of town via Cienega Rd again. We had to stop for a moment to let the wild turkeys cross the road-- I didn't have a camera handy, so no pics.

We went back to Tres Pinos for gas and breakfast. Many people had suggested a Flapjack place-- I can't for the life of me remember the actual name of the place-- so we pulled the humble DR650 and the mighty Wombat up next to the shiny GS in all it's BMW glory and requested a table on the patio.

It was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm and I didn't have to pad myself up with nearly as many layers. We had a fabulous breakfast-- and I got to wrap my hands around a hot cup of coffee finally-- while watching skydivers slowly descend toward us. Kinda cool.





hashbrowns, bacon, and pancakes


"Phil's Fritatta" with COFFEE!

Skydivers over breakfast.

Then out of town, down the 25 and onto Panoche Road.

We've done Panoche in the car a couple of times, and it has been on our "to do on the bikes" list since before we even got the bikes.
Panoche Inn

It was pretty fabulous.

We stopped in at the Panoche Inn to see how it's coming along. The owners have had it up for sale for awhile and we don't make it out that way as often as we'd like, so we didn't know if it was under new ownership yet.

Nope. We wandered in and ordered up a couple of Pepsis, watched the "Thief of Bagdhad" on the TV and chit chatted with the (same) owners about their plans to sell the place and the chances of actually doing so.

But we can't sit here and eat peanuts all day-- we want to get home before dark, and the "fun" part of Panoche Road lays yet before us.
the FUN part of Panoche Road

I admit, once the pavement ended, I felt much better this time. Even when I hit the soft, poofy dirt, I was feeling good and holding steady. I even had the TW in THIRD gear most of the time. That's a huge improvement for me!

We took some time taking pics before continuing on to the water feature.

Big, steep, hill.

me comin down the hill

 

We'd been looking forward to this. Even when the whole dang valley is dry as a bone, this spot offers a modest water crossing. No sweat on 4 wheels, but what would it be like on 2?

 


I came up behind the BF where he was poised on Dr. Feelgood. The news struck some fear into my heart; he informed me that the tiles were slippery. And the tiles he had his feet on weren't even wet. This gave me an opportunity to worry about the water crossing.

I wasn't worried about riding through the water; I was worried that algae or mud would be built up on the tiles under the water, making slippery tiles slipperier. If the bike started to slide, it would be pointless- to- disastrous to put a foot down if the bottom of the crossing was gooey. My foot would just slip and I'd still go down and then I'd be wet and cold and covered in algae, and hopefully not get water anywhere it isn't supposed to be in the bike.

But let me tell you-- there's no other way around and going back was not an option.

So I let the BF go first.


 

One he was on the other side and all set up with the camera, I took several deep breaths, lined myself up for the absolute straightest approach I could muster, and went for it.

Like BUTTAH. What was I worried about? Seriously, so much fun, I considered going back and doing it again. But then again, why tempt Fate, right? We can go back and play in the spring.

Yeehaw!!


Gassed up at I-5 and discussed our route home from there. This is where we lost our sense of humor.

Not literally-- we actually had a great ride even from this point, but the way home from Little Panoche/I-5 is all long, straight roads that don't really go where we want to go. So there's a lot of zig-zagging while we fight for daylight at the point in the ride where we're both, "Well, that was fun, now we just want to get home."

Then my brand new helmet (Scorpion transformer exo-900 somethingorother) decided to sass back. The chin curtain was unsnapped on one side. Normally I'd have just unsnapped the whole thing, shoved it in a pocket and dealt with it later. But it blocks a lot of wind and bugs and I really wanted to keep it attached. Those snaps are a @*!&!! but the BF finally wrestled them into submission for me.


Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, I saw some really enormous hawks on the side of the road. I wish hawks on the side of the road was the sort of thing you could feasibly pull over and take a photo of, because these guys were HUGE. I see lots of hawks in the areas I live and travel but these things must have stood 3 feet tall. The BF says he didn't see them, so he can't back up my claims. But they were really big.
 
 

Zig.

Zag.

Zig.

Zag.

The sun was getting lower on the horizon behind us. I stopped to take pics of the vineyards: we rode through a section of the valley where it was just grapes as far the eye could see in any direction. Mostly grapes for table grapes and raisins out here. 

We were so close to home. The directions for our route had us traveling east on a familiar road, then told us to zig and zag and zig zag again. We stopped to consult the GPS about this. Turns out, the road we were on would not cross the Kings River-- thus the zigging and zagging.

The BF is not amused.

"Really? This road won't take us there?"


We're not making it home before dark.
While zigging was in process, the Wombat suddenly coughed and then that blissful silence ensued... that familiar and unwelcomed blissful silence. WTF? No way. I coasted to the side of the road.

The BF pulled up alongside me with that perplexed look on his face. I asked him how many miles it had been since we gassed up, as I'd lost all faith in my ability to do math in my head as I looked at the odometer.

76 miles since topping off the tank, and yet, here I was, turning the tank to "reserve."

The Wombat has been averaging 83 miles per gallon since we bought it. So this was unexpected. I guess holding that throttle open at 60 mph for 76 miles of long, flat, open road, really takes a toll on the fuel consumption.

Now we have to figure out where to get gas one more time.

At least we know about where we are. We made some last minute recalculations to our plan and headed east again with plans to gas up in Traver.

Remember when I said it turns out I love riding at night? Well. That was back in August. When darkness merely removed the eye-searing agony of the sun and brought on pleasant temperatures in the high 80's.

Now I'm less enthralled with it. It got cold. The temperature dropped from pleasant 60's and 70's to sub-zero arctic frigidness in an instant! OK... maybe not that extreme. But that sun went down and it was COLD and it was cold all of a sudden.

We made it home just after 5 p.m. The dogs welcomed us home with tails a wagging and then we celebrated with a lavish victory feast of Buffalo wings and beer and got a good night's sleep before starting another work week-- stiff and sore! That was a long ride!

Somewhere along the paved end of Panoche Rd.