Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lamest Bike Crash EVAR

Yup, it's busted!
It's a Suzuki DR650se dual sport. Very cool. The BF and I now have matching ones and we were very keen on taking the safety course, getting some practice miles on the bikes and then embarking on a daring life of on-road/off-road cross country adventure!

We took posession of the bikes on Thursday, October 25-- maybe that wednesday-- and our plan for the morning of Saturday, October 27 was to go down to where the BF works (where the bikes were) and get the hang of riding the bikes by puttering around the parking lot a few times.

It's been awhile since I road any sort of motorcycle and the coordination required to shift and break all in the right sequence was something I wanted a little practice with before braving any sort of open road.

Yes. I dropped the bike right away. These are dual sports-- they have higher clearance than the average on-road bike and their center of gravity is higher than I'm used to. So-- !!! -- over we went, from a dead stand still right there in the parking lot. Not too hard on my pride, I expected I'd topple it over pretty early in the game. The dang thing weighs 350 pounds, once it started to lean too far to one side, I pretty much let it go and just tried to get out of the way.

No harm, no foul.

We picked ourselves up, laughed it off and proceded about aforementioned parking lot puttering. I was doing pretty awesome-- got all the way up to 7 miles per hour a couple of times, but never out of 1st gear.

Which we had suspected would be a problem. So, Part 2 of our plan was to take the bikes down to the corner and spend some more time riding up and down the nearly-deserted-on-a-Saturday-morning side street which would give us an opportunity to work through the gears.

All I had to do was make a wide, sweeping turn to the left out of the driveway onto the side street. I'm not sure what failed to go as planned, but the bike didn't turn when I told it to turn and it didn't stop when I told it to stop.

About halfway across the street I realized I was not going to complete the turn in time. So I decided to just stop and start over.

I pulled in the clutch, and reached for the front brake lever. My best guess is that my gloved hand slipped off the brake lever, while revving the engine at the same time-- fun things that twist throttles are. So there I am, in neutral, with the engine revving and not coming to a stop, watching the curb approach and trying to assimilate all this data flowing into my brain. At about 11 in the morning. I maintain that if we'd started this project at 4 in the afternoon all would have gone much better-- my brain genuinely does not function at its most efficient before 1 p.m.

And thus I proceded to execute the lamest bike crash ever: The front tire hit the curb at less than 5 miles per hour and the bike stalled. I lost balance and, in what I imagine was a desire to avoid having the now hot bike fall on me, I made a rather sloppy dismount. Tripping on the sidewalk and landing with my knee on the sidewalk and my torso in the cool, damp grass of the landscaping of the Visalia Pathology building on Dunworth Street.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to avoid hitting my helmet hard enough against anything that would result in the cost of replacing the helmet, I tucked my left arm up underneath myself and proceded to break 3 bones in my wrist.
My left wrist. I have mentioned that I'm left-handed, haven't I?

So I have since had a fancy surgery and am now being held together with titanium plates, pins, and screws. And, as you can imagine, have amassed far more in medical bills than the cost of a new helmet.

Official word is that I am out of work till January 1, 2013.

And yes, I will be getting back on the bike when all is healed and moving normally again. And yes, we have every intention of taking the motorcylce safety course. And maybe in the future I'll tell the story so it sounds like I went down in a blaze of glory and was lucky to escape with a mere broken wrist... because the bike crash at 5 mph/falling off a stalled bike story is pretty lame and doesn't come close to earning the "motorcylces are evil" and/or "650 cc's is too much bike for you!" admonishments that I keep having to put up with.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Fish with a Motorcycle

Every spring for the last several years, the BF goes through a period of "motorcycle fever."

It's not that I don't want a motorcycle. It's just that, much in the same way it took us years to agree on what canoe to purchase, we haven't traditionally agreed on what motorcycles to get.

I am all about cruisers. Yes, I like me a Harley Davidson, despite many many boys over time making many a sarcastic comment about their mechanical reliability-- or lack thereof.

Not to mention the exorbitant cost of a Harley, and the aknowledgement that I am likely to lay my first bike down. Possibly several times, and with potential damage to both myself and the bike. which is why I had it in my head that I would love a Honda Rebel from about the time I was 15.

But boys will be boys and girls often grow up understanding very little about things like engines and power bands. And so it was, back when I still weighed 115 lbs and most of it was AquaNet-- that I got talked out of my beloved starter-bike because-- all the guys insisted-- a 250cc bike was not suitable for maintaining highway speeds of 70+ mph.

So I ended up never buying a motorcycle and I was in my early 30's before I learned to ride a motorcycle of any sort.

The fellow I was keeping company with at the time went out and bought himself a shiny new blue Kawasaki something-with-letters-and-numbers, 650cc "naked street bike." Which was pretty fun to ride on the back of.

He and I spent an afternoon in the parking lot of my old high school with me learning how to ride the bike.

Well... I mean, it's a bike; riding a motorcycle is a lot like riding a bicycle (except for that "you never forget" part, but I'll get to that later.) The part that you really have to learn is the shifting and braking part. Pretty much, there's a lever and/or pedal for every hand and foot and they all have to be manipulated at just the right time in just the right sequence.

Nevertheless, I spent that afternoon in the high school parking lot doing pretty good at riding that bike. It was a heavy sonuvabitch-- I mean, not really when you compared it to other bikes so much as compared to then 145 lb me. But I didn't drop it! I didn't fall off of it, and I got pretty good at making turns and shifting gears.

So that was the next time I seriously considered owning a motorcycle, in my early 30's. That boyfriend was all about his street bike. I am notsomuch a fan. The naked streetbike thing wasn't so bad, but crotch-rockets and street bikes are not my idea of what's sexy in motorcycles.

So I started doing some serious bike browsing. I still wanted a cruiser, I still liked those Honda Rebels, and "all the boys" in my life at that time still insisted that 250cc's wasn't going to truck my happy butt down the I-5 at the speed of traffic.

But here's the "problem" with buying a motorcycle-- there aren't many options between 250cc's and 650cc's. And a lot of people feel pretty strongly that 650cc's is too much power to start off with.

Well... before I made any personal motorcycle purchses back in my early 30's, the fellow  with the blue Kawasaki wrecked it good. He actually walked away relatively unscathed for a guy who told me that he "came to" about 25 feet from the bike. But he didn't rush out and get a new bike, and he and I eventually went our seperate ways... bikelessly.

Life went on for me and I was pretty busy having adventures of other sorts, so I just never got around to owning a motorcycle.

And then the (current)  BF started coming down with "motorcycle fever" every spring.

The BF wanted dual-sport bikes. In fact, he insisted that dual sports were the only option. *sigh*

In case you are unfamiliar, a dual-sport bike is intended to be some sort of hybrid, Franken-bike cross-breed between a dirtbike and a street bike: part motorcross, part Ninja.

So not what I wanted. But the BF says he knows himself well enough to know that he will only destroy a low-riding cruiser, trying to explore "back" roads... by "back" he really means "dirt."

I have never had so much as an inkling to get on a dirt bike. I'm not greatly attracted to quads, I might like a buggy... but if I'm going off road, I want my Jeep.

I think it took 2 springs for the BF to convince me that dual sports would be cool. Maybe he convinced me, maybe I experienced a slight paradigm shift, either way, I started seeing his point about broadening our adventure possibilities-- oh! I know what did it:

That. That's a sexy bike. Something about a BMW touring bike. It's like those Land Rover commercials-- I want to go where it's going,  just want to scream "take me with you!"

So once I stopped hearing "dual sport" and started translating it to "adventure touring bikes," I was way more on board with the plan.

Then this spring (2012) came and went and the BF didn't say "motorcycles" once. This year we bought a Jumping Jack trailer-- which still hasn't earned its rightful blog post, but all in good time-- so I thought maybe that had him distracted from the seasonal bout of bike fever for the year.

And then it was September. And suddenly all I heard was "motorcycle."


Really. I heard it way more than that, but if I typed it out as many times as I heard it, you'd get as sick of it as I was.

This time it was bad. Before I knew it, he had 17 windows open on the computer and he kept spewing out specifications and telling me I was supposed to look at all those windows and tell him what I "thought."

He was very interested in the Suzuki DR-Z400S.

It made perfect  sense. They're reasonably priced and very capable for 400cc's. Plus, it represents that near-mythical engine size between the 250cc  and the 650cc range. Enough power to reasonably travel at highway speeds, not so much power for the beginning rider to get into trouble right out the door.

I saw one immediate problem in the specs page for the bike: a stock seat height of 36.8 inches.

I am smart enough to know that I should not try to ride a motorcycle if I can't even touch the ground.

But my ever-optimistic BF was quick to consider that this style of bike offers some squishy suspension, which, he figured, could lower it by a couple of inches just by sitting on it. So he dragged me to our local dealer to do just that.

Uh uh. No way. My feet did not reach the ground. Research into lowering options, seat shaving, etc, produced a disappointed BF who had to reluctantly admit that the 400 was not likely to be the right bike for me.

The Kawasaki KLR is just big and heavy. Yamaha does not even have a dog in the fight (The BF is too OCD and pays too close attention to the minutae to fall for the notion that putting turn signals on a dirt bike makes it street legal) and Honda's line up is even taller than the 400... the only reasonable options came down to the Suzuki DR650 or a BMW G 650 GS.

Mind you... the Beemer comes with a 31.5 inch seat height right out of box and an MSRP that's still under $10K. And sexy as hell.

But the Suzuki was not only less expensive, but the dealership is next door to the BF's place of work. He could see those bikes everyday.

Next thing I knew, I had a message from the BF one afternoon announcing that financing was secured and bikes had been ordered.

It was official, we would soon be adventure/touring motorcycle enthusiasts.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stupid Yellow T-Shirts

Two years ago, we successfully survived the first BIG FAMILY DISNEYLAND OUTING, consisting of the BF's family, the BF's brother-in-law's family, some close friends of the BF's family and possible some extra people that remain complete strangers to us to this day.

The BF (boyfriend) got really carried away during the planning phase of BFDO#1 and somehow convinced me that it would be fun to play parents for a day.

Ok, maybe not "parents," so much as "Cool uncle and aunt" by kidnapping the two older children in our lives and giving them a whole extra day in the parks before their parents arrived and expected them to do stupid stuff like behave.

Now, choosing to take responsibility for 2 12-year-old kids who are, in reality-- thanks to the miracle of the modern family-- in no way related to either of us, or eachother, is something that only sounds like a good idea when you've been drinking.

Taylor is our "nephew" only because we get tired of trying to explain why he's such a big part of our lives (Taylor's mom has been friends of the BF's family forever,) and Savannah is the BF's sister's husband's oldest daughter from a previous marriage.

Which means that they aren't actually related to either the BF or myself, and since they aren't actually related to eachother either, they can practice flirting with eachother in that bizarre and annoying way that 7th graders practice flirting-- by beating the crap out of each other as an excuse to touch each other while they adamantly insist that they hate each other.

Who's idea was it for us to be responsible for them for a full 24 hours without any backup?

Like many other groups enjoying an outing at a crowded amusement park, we decided to get matching t-shirts.

Now, seeing as how we'd already been through the "how are we going to tell his mother?" panic of losing someone else's kid, we opted for the absolutel most visible t-shirts we could find. So we opted for those intensely flourescent, high-visibility yellow construction worker t-shirts that you can get at places like Orchard Supply Hardware.

Then we figured we'd have a little fun with the shirts, and I made graphics to iron on to the backs of the shirts. Mine, the BF's and Savannah's all said, "I can't believe we have to wear these stupid yellow t-shirts." Taylor's read, "I'm the reason we have to wear these stupid yellow t-shirts."

The shirts were a hit! Our reputation preceded us, Cast members would remark as we went through their lines "HEY! You're the yellow shirt family!" As though we were the subject of much backstage conversation.

While standing in line, people would read our shirts. They'd smile, or guffaw lightly, until they read Taylor's shirt-- then they would ask, "Ok, what did you do?" and Taylor would get to tell the story of his great adventure over and over again, always starting off with, "I didn't lose them, they lost me!"

Two years later, we are now about to venture off on our 2nd BIG FAMILY Disneyland outing. It will, once again, be a big trip with lots of people and, like many families, we considered the importance of being able to recognize members of our party at a glance-- probably at a distance... as they are running in the opposite direction. So we started thinking of ideas for new matching t-shirts.

Taylor and his family will not be making it on this trip. They have other vacation plans this fall. Shame, this time Indiana Jones will be off line, so Wilbur had a chance to make it through the trip without having a melt-down.

So the BF had a great idea, this time we'll wear ridiculously bright orange t-shirts! And the backs will say, "At least this time we don't have to wear those stupid yellow t-shirts." And then we'll take pictures of all of us wearing them and text them to Taylor all day so he knows we're thinking of him, and to rub it in that we're at Disneyland without him.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paddling Uphill

BF and I on the day we brought our baby home.

You'll often hear people talk about there being two types of motorcycle riders: those who have gone down, and those who will.

We knew going into it that owning a canoe would be a lot like riding a motorcycle: eventually we would get wet-- and not on purpose.

The blogging of our adventure is long overdue:

It was last summer; July 2011. Our local river-- the St. John's-- was running high and fast, which is not to say much, it's not a very big river and even at it's fastest, the current is maybe 4 miles an hour. I really ought to learn nautical terms like "knots" or something, but no one would know what I was talking about, so just figure 4 miles an hour.

It was also hot. HOT. We're talking like 113 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

The problem with canoing our local river during the summer season is that we park downstream and then paddle upstream, against the current. Which is a lot of work that results in much internal bickering among the crew. But it is kinda cool that we can do it and then we turn the rig around and get to leisurely float back downstream to end up where we started. Which means that we can do a trip with only one vehicle.

That day was hot, did I mention it was like the hottest day of the summer? Like 120 degrees?

BF at his end of the canoe-- out of whacking range.
We planned to do a long day on the river. We packed up the ice chest with Gatorade and water, sodas, and a couple of beers. We went to Port-of-Subs and got sandwiches for lunch and added them to the ice chest. I put my cell phone, car keys, id, and miscellaneous items in my tiny little dry bag and hooked it to the front thwart.

The BF attached his Garmin Rhino GPS to his thwart.

We parked the car, unloaded the canoe, and hauled the dang thing through the small parking lot at the end of Lover's Lane, up, over the levy, and down to our put-in spot.

Carrying the canoe is my least favorite part of owning a canoe. The thing is 17 feet long. It weighs 63 pounds-- which doesn't seem so bad, until you have to carry it anywhere. And instead of flipping it over and portaging the beast over his shoulders by the center yoke-- in the manner that canoes are generally portaged-- the BF prefers for each of us to grab a thwart and haul it between us.

I find this awkward and often feel the need to set the canoe down so that I can get my shoulder back into its socket.

The BF has not come to peace with the idea of having the canoe come into contact with the ground yet. Which means that if I set my end of the canoe down, it rests on the top of my foot.

And he wonders why I don't love the canoe as much as he does.

Nevertheless-- on this particular day, even I was enthusiastic about our outing and looking forward to making it past Cutler Park and up to the railroad bridge. That would mean about 8 miles up river before we turned around for our down river cruise.

I had every intention of stopping at the Rd 168 bridge for lunch.

Did I mention how hot it was? Like 132 degrees or something. Seriously hot.

And not only do we have to paddle against the current to make upriver progress, but since it's 140 degrees outside in the summer time here, every person in Tulare County was out on the river, tubing down stream.

Some time in the last 25 years "tubing" has become "floating" in these parts, but no matter what you call it, it's the same thing: You grab some sort of floatational device-- from fancy multi-person rafts made for this purpose, to air mattresses-- you'll see it all-- and you strap your ice chest to your makeshift raft, put it in the water and start drinking.

We have had to navigate between vast flotillas of stoned, drunken, sunburned, people headed toward us on a collision path. Many of them are quite nice, good people having a good time. Some of them make me want to hurt them as I watch them casually toss trash, deflated rafts, and such into the river as though the river had some sort of magic janitorial service that comes through at night and filters out the trash.

No wonder so many private land owners along the river don't allow people to access the river through their property-- people are pigs.

Oh-- sorry. Little tangent there, just saying.

But most "floaters" are just having a good time and they wouldn't annoy me in the slightest if they didn't insist on calling out to us as we paddle past them, "Hey! You're going the wrong way!"

Ha ha. So clever.

But we always manage to steer through the throngs.

The banks of the river-- especially near Cutler Park-- are also filled with people cooling off. Families come down to the park to bar-b-que, wade into the river, jump off of rope swings, make sandcastles, etc. This means that landing the canoe for a break or for the portage over the weir at Cutler Park is fraught with obstacles...
In the "Side Channel of Doom"

Also, who knew kids loved canoes so much?

Seriously, the Pied Piper had it all wrong, what he really needed was a canoe. Kids point and shout at us as we glide along the river as though we were magical beings-- you'd think we were Santa Clause. And when we bring it in to the river bank so we can portage, the children gather around us, fondly stroking the boat and asking all sorts of questions about it from how much it cost to if they can go for a ride.

I am notoriously "allergic" to children-- I find this creepy.

The day in question, the river was highly populated with all of the above-mentioned groups. It was a really hot day.

It does not help the mood at all when it's 178 degrees outside, that I am in the canoe, not the river. All the floaters and waders are relaxing in the water, feeling fine, while I am inside a dry canoe, paddling for all I'm worth up river against a 4 mile an hour current. I am working up a sweat just from the paddling. Sweat is dripping into my eyes, but I can't drop a stroke to wipe it off my forehead. I have my hat and my sunscreen on, but the sun bouncing off the water all around me means that I'm still getting sunburned.

I'm tired, and I'm hot. And I hate being hot.

Owning a canoe was not supposed to be so much work. It was supposed to be leisurely.

We made it up river, through the throngs, around the park, back into the river, and past the park. Now we were headed toward the Rd 168 bridge and were in deeper, calmer, less populated waters. Also, this is where the banks of the river get steeper and covered with dense vegetation-- it makes for a pleasant paddle, even upstream.

Along the line, we passed one guy who refers to the BF as "captain," he makes me laugh. Then we are within site of the bridge. The water level was high enough that there were only slight hints of white water under the bridge.

There are several large, broken pieces of concrete placed in the riverbed under the bridge. I'm not sure why, but it means that most of the time, you don't just float your raft right under the bridge, you get out of the river, walk around and put back in on the other side of the bridge. But that day, the water was so high that floaters coming down river were just riding the small rapids under the bridge. It looked like fun, and I was looking forward to being able to do it in the canoe on our way back down river later that afternoon.

But right now, we are hitting the rougher, faster current downstream of the bridge. We have to dig in and paddle hard to maintain upriver progress.

I am scouting the shore for a place to pull the canoe out of the river, rest, and eat lunch.

Groups of floaters passing by us start asking if we are going to try to paddle up river, under the bridge, over those rapids.

The BF starts babbling about trying it.

I start thinking the BF has forgotten who his paddling partner is.

We get closer to the point of no return.

The BF is making no move toward the shore.

I really want my sandwich and a beer.

The BF is still paddling with all his might toward the rapids.

I'm really hot. I've been paddling against the current for 6 miles, and 3 hours. Also, I'm hungry.

The BF keeps paddling...

A. Those rapids are closer than they apear.
B. Those are not the rapids we were headed toward.
Here's the deal: When you go hiking with another person, and they do something asinine like walk too close to a ledge or think they can swim to an island in a raging river, you can just stop. You can just stop walking. You can tell them they are stupid. You can tell them they are crazy. You can tell them they shouldn't do what they are thinking of doing. But you don't have to go with them. You have the option to just stand still and watch them plummet to their death.

If you are in a car with someone who has a sudden suicidal moment, you might not be able to get out, you might not be able to stop the car before they drive over a cliff-- but you can, at least, close your eyes and start praying.

If you are in a canoe, and your partner keeps paddling, you can't do anything but keep paddling.

And that's where I found myself: staring at the rapidly encroaching rapids, while my paddling partner continued to paddle.

What could I do? I kept paddling! Paddling for all I was worth. I determined that if we were to have any chance whatsoever of making it up that tiny spot of white water, we had to hit it just right... and we headed into it...

At one point, I actually started thinking we did have a chance. We had the nose -- err, stern? bow, I think it's the bow-- of the canoe headed in just the right direction with the rest of the canoe lined up and poised for success. I was paddling on the right side.. and this is where it gets hard to explain without hand gestures and video:

The current was pouring down from under the bridge and sort of created a trough that ran at a diagonal. At the very end of that trough was a little rooster tail like wave, just a cute little curl of water. What we needed to do was get the nose (bow) of the canoe into that trough, upstream of that curl. What I needed to do was keep paddling on the right (ummmm, starboard?) side of the boat, which would give us leverage against the current and allow me to use my paddle to pole against rocks if necessary to keep us going in the right direction-- mainly, upstream.

Things were looking good. Surprisingly good. Like, surging bursts of adrenaline "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS MIGHT WORK!" good-- when I hear the BF behind me bark out the order "switch sides!"

???!!!! Remind me to go over the concept of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" with the BF sometime.... I called back, "are you sure?"

Which is my way of saying, "are you F***ING kidding me?!" Because right at that moment was about the absolute worst time imaginable to switch the side I was paddling on.

For one thing, paddling on the right meant I was pushing against the wave, keeping us headed upstream. For another thing, taking my paddle out of the water to switch sides would mean dropping a stroke and with that wave trying to push us back downstream AND sideways, dropping a stroke could mean disaster.

But when the BF starts barking orders, it's often a good idea to just do what he says and let the consequences fall on his shoulders....

...and then suddenly, the day didn't seem so hot anymore...

In fact, once I realized I should stop breathing, it felt downright nice. Cool. Albeit a bit wet. No. Make that a lot wet.

I surfaced fast and close to our capsized canoe in time to flip the canoe over and recover most of our belongings-- we lost a beer and our beef jerky. We honestly tried to recover them on our way downriver, but they were never to be seen again.

The canoe and I floated peacefully down river for a moment before we met up with the BF. There were some issues with getting to the side of the river at a spot where we could actually get out, pour the water out of the canoe and take stock of the damage... then there was a rather serious issue with the BF barking more orders at me when I couldn't do jack squat about them; the river banks at that point are kinda steep and the river is deep. Despite the fact that the BF had managed to climb up on the bank and get ahold of the canoe, I was still unable to touch the bottom of the river, and found myself clinging to the side of the canoe on the opposite side from the bank-- so when the BF told me to "let go of the canoe" so he could pull it out of the river and start turning it over to dump approximately 180 gallons of water out of our little boat, if I had done it, I'd have been 50 yards down stream before he'd have had a chance to notice!

So, instead, I continued to hold on; figuring I'd already "listened" to his advice enough for one day.

Once all was said and done and I had scrambled up onto the bank and we had dumped the water out of the canoe, taken stock of our possessions, realized our Port of Subs sandwiches (that I'd so been looking forward to) were a soggy mess, and were peacefully drinking the remaining beers, I gave the BF hell about his whole "let go of the canoe" crap; laying down the law that if that was any indication of the way I could expect him to take my personal wellbeing into account in the future that he could canoe by his own damn self.

In the canoe-- getting along.
(For the record, he was quite apologetic for not realizing that I genuinely could not let go of the canoe and get on the river bank.)

We put everything back in the canoe. Discussed our mutual agreement that that seemed to have been a fair test of our life vests-- and yes, we wear life vests, even in the St. John's river, despite how many of the "floaters" laugh at us for it-- agreed that we were very sad about the sandwiches and wish we had more beer.

We also agreed that we didn't think we were going to continue up river that day, so we got in our little boat and headed back down river.

We never found our beef jerky or the run away beer, but we picked up some stray trash along the way to try to make up for it.

The canoe made it through its first roll without a scratch, and being as it was 220 degrees outside when we flipped over, I have totally and completely forgiven the BF for trying to paddle uphill-- because flipping the canoe was awesome!

But still, if I hadn't switched sides when he told me to, we'd have totally made it.