Category: Trips

Pick Up Line

Last night I dropped my bike for the first time. Was turning around by cutting through a corner lot and saw a good-looking guy walking to his bike parked in the lot and decided a cool way to meet him would be to dump the bike and have him help me pick it up.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

OK. What really happened. I had a bunch of errands that I had been running around town: groceries, haircut, shoelaces. It was such a gorgeous day that once I finished my errands, I didn’t want to stop riding. So I swung by home and dropped off the goods and headed back out. Just went cruising around town. Stopped by Barnes & Nobel and wasn’t sure where to go after that. Was around supper time and the original plan for the day was to sneak out to a bar for a burger. Couldn’t really afford it, but decided to do it anyway. So I rode to a place on the opposite side of town that has some killer sweet potato fries. Once I got done with supper, it was still fabulous out with a bit of sunlight left. Decided to go for one more loop down Main Street.

Well, got out to West Fargo and needed to turn around and head home. Picked a spot with an old gas station and was cutting through the lot when all of a sudden it looked like there was an old curb in my path. It was all paved in old asphalt with a lot of aggregate in it, so it was kind of hard to judge the contours. Well I hit the brakes and stopped right before it, but the momentum of the stop got the bike unbalanced and I’m not strong enough to stop it from going down. So it tipped over towards the right at nearly a standstill. And I was standing over it guiding it down.

So there I was with my bike on the ground. I had learned how to pick up a bike at a Harley Garage Party once. Same exact bike even, so I knew if I had to, I could pick it up. But I also knew these weren’t the same controlled conditions and the footing was tricky. Luckily, I had passed a guy walking across the street as I was turning around. He was headed to his bike that was parked in the corner of the old gas station lot. I think he was putting something in his saddlebags when I went down. So of course he walked over to see how I was and offered to help. He just picks up the bike and sets it right. Damn. Made it look so easy. I would probably have been there for 30 minutes until I got it righted. Well, obviously I was more than grateful. He said he was just glad to see women riding. We looked the bike over and really couldn’t find anything. I finally spotted a tiny scratch on the pipes. Maybe my excuse to swap them out? 🙂 And me? I think the foot peg hit my left calf, but it didn’t even leave a scratch (although as I write this, I’m thinking I’m going to have a bruise there eventually). Of course riding it home I was hyper-attentive to anything with the bike. Noticed the right mirror needed adjusting. Thought maybe the footpeg was loose. And the one that may be the biggest deal of all, I think perhaps the hand brake lever might have gotten bent. Worked just fine, but I think it looks funny. We’ll see if I think the same by the weekend. I should run the bike by my friend’s shop and have him look it over, just to be sure.

Well, that’s it. Boring. But one more story/lesson from riding.

And I really do think it’s a hell of a tactic to meet folks. Might have to try it again sometime. 😉

P.S. Yup. Bruise on the inside of my left calf just below my knee. About six inches long and and inch-and-a-quarter wide. And look at all those pretty colors. 🙂

Odometer: 6785 miles.

Once in a Lifetime

The local Boy Scout council held their Centennial Celebration at the North Dakota state capitol this weekend. Nearly 3,000 Scouts were going to camp out on the capitol grounds. I heard it took special legislative approval to make that happen, and I wouldn’t be surprised by that. Never happened before and probably won’t happen again. My son was riding with his troop but I wanted to see if I could meet with some folks out in Bismarck, so I rode out a bit early.

It’s a ride I’ve probably done a dozen times now. Really nothing special about it anymore. Two hundred miles due west with rest areas every 50 miles or so. Other than a stop at the Harley dealer in Jamestown, nothing really remarkable about the ride. Except the wind perhaps. It wasn’t blowing especially hard, but the angle must have been what made it a bit interesting. My jacket (and all the junk in the pockets) kept slapping me so when I was done it felt like I’d been in a boxing match.

I also stopped at the Harley dealer in Mandan and picked up a new pair of sunglasses. They’re an exact replacement of the ones I bought last year whose foam had peeled off over the winter. That dealership is the only place I know of that sells that brand of sunglasses (not Harley, Global Vision actually). I’m sure there are other places, I just haven’t found them yet. Was glad to have shades again. The glasses I had been using were my clear, night ones and offered no sun protection.

I arrived at the capitol and had no idea how I was going to find my guys with all the folks pulling in. There were two other major events going on at the same time: a memorial/viewing of a popular former governor (Art Link) and a visit by the US Secretary of Transportation. Lots of stress for Capitol Security that day, I think. Somehow the troop pulled in just a row away from where I parked and it was no problem getting through registration with them. Well, I guess I did have to go chase down the Scoutmaster with my health form that needed to be turned in.

After registration it was a matter of pulling the bike closer to the camping area and unloading her. Had to park her in a different area a bit away from the tents, but I was okay with that.

The weekend was fun and a but surreal for me since I spent plenty of time on the capitol grounds in my former job. To see it turned into a campground was just strange.

After a great weekend, of which I spent a bit of time hamming it up with my radio friends it was time to pack it up and head home. Had loaded the bike up with my gear before the Sunday morning service and then helping the National Guard tear down the big tents. As I walked toward my bike, saying my goodbyes to everyone, I found a crowd of 4 or 5 boys standing around the bike. Happens every time at Scout events. So I spent a bit of time talking to them and showing them around the bike.

A couple of errands before I left town. There’s a killer bakery in Bismarck that makes the best bread. Been tempted to ride out there just to load up. So I stopped by and picked up a loaf. Only one because that’s all I had room for. REALLY need to get those saddlebags! Cashier and I were commenting on my bread and water rations. LOL

Last thing to do was fill up with gas. So I stopped at the station and pumped in … a half-gallon? WTF? Checked the speedo. Nope, showing 123 miles since the last fill. But the tank was full. Paid the $1.66 and realized that I had filled up on Friday but forgot to reset the trip mileage. Doh! Gotta pay attention to that. It really does mess me up.

When I left Bismarck, there was little to no wind. Ten miles out of town it was blowing as usual. Twenty miles out of town I started getting hit by gusts that would push me across the lane. Apparently the wind speed wasn’t all that fast, but I think it went from zero to sixty in 4.0. Those gusts followed me all the way home. Bit like dancing out there.

Did stop halfway home at McDonalds. Needed to get gas there anyway and the rest of the troop was going to stop there and I possibly could run into them. Caught just a couple who were finishing up as I was waiting for my food. The rest had left already. And speaking of things that happened while I was waiting for my food…saw a guy wearing a Hoka Hey Challenge t-shirt. Eventually he came over and started up a conversation. Was telling me about the Hoka Hey, which I had heard about but hadn’t really looked into before. He must have been involved in it some way. Should have gotten his name. But he was telling me about the Challenge and some 19 year-old gal out of LA that was planning on doing it on a hardtail. I’m going to have to tune in now and follow it on the internet.

Nothing special about the rest of the way home, except that for the first time all weekend I started seeing other bikes on the road. My apologies to all for not returning the waves. I really was hanging on for dear life with those wind gusts. And by this time of the ride my arms and shoulders are pretty cramped up and I don’t trust taking them off the handlebars. I hope you caught my nods though. It was the best I could do.

Next big trip that I know of is Sturgis. But I’ll have to sneak in some joyrides between now and then. While I can survive a week with what I can fit in my T-Bag and strap to the bike, my focus now is getting saddlebags so I can enjoy the trip and maybe bring home a souvenir or two.

Odometer: 6736

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

After much worrying about what time to leave and what to bring, and a last minute panic when I realized I wouldn’t be able to use my phone, the day of the big adventure dawned early and bright. The weather looked absolutely PERFECT for a ride. Started around 55F and headed for about 85F. I decided I wanted to leave earlier rather than later. I’m always surprised by how much time it can take to pack up and get ready to leave, but I was ready to hit the road by 6:30 a.m. Interview was at 1:00 p.m. and about 250 miles away.

Headed out and it didn’t take long to figure out I hadn’t zipped my fleece jacket all the way up. Little bit of a chill to the air that I wasn’t expecting. And the clouds were hiding the sun a bit too. Nothing really terrible, but could have easily been avoided – and that’s what was annoying. The road I was on was the same road that I had been taking to my class all spring so a very familiar route. So I knew I would be able to stop in abut 40 miles to adjust the jacket.

Got to the rest area and not a soul around. Full of trucks though. I’m sure most of them were snoozing off the daybreak. Nasty time to be driving. Good for them for getting off the road. It was just a quick stop. Didn’t even get off the bike. Just pulled off the helmet for a bit, adjusted the zipper on my jacket, tied a bandanna around my neck, and stretched out my arms and hands a bit. And then fired her back up and got back out on the road.

I was surprised by how good the bike was feeling. Maybe it was the temps, maybe it was that the tires actually had the proper air pressure, maybe it was just a few weeks of riding under the belt. I’ve often hit a bit of a wall at about 65 mph where the bike starts to vibrate. Only lasts until you get up around 70 mph, but has often served as an excuse to keep it under 65 mph. Not today. Vibration seemed less than usual, and I found myself hitting the speed limit of 75 mph and occasionally getting past that just a bit. And feeling comfortable with that. Been up there before, but it had always felt like I was pushing the bike and myself. This trip it was coming naturally and just felt like a groove.

The next stop was Grand Forks where I chose a truck stop to gas up. Busy with people on their way to work. This is where my familiarity with the roads came to an end. I’ve been to Winnipeg several times before, but never on a motorcycle and the last time was about 8 years ago and I wasn’t driving. I had looked at a map and thought there was one more rest area before the border, but wasn’t certain it served traffic going northbound. I did know that there was a town just this side of the border where I planned to make one final gas stop before entering Canada.

So back on the road. Really wide open roads. Hardly anyone out and few headed my direction. Warming up a bit too since the clouds had moved off. And if there was a wind, it must have been very light or a tailwind. The fringe off my lever grips was flowing straight back and that’s unusual and quite a treat.

I did find the next rest area. It was a between-the-lanes one, which is why the map had only been showing one and not two. It served traffic going both directions. Decided I should actually take advantage of the facilities this time which is always interesting when I’m fully geared up. 🙂 Once again, had the place to myself, except for the DOT guys who were out maintaining the yard. Wednesday mornings are not a heavy travel day apparently.

Next stop was Pembina, which is the border town. Wasn’t really low on gas, but wanted to top it off anyway. Didn’t want to be running low arriving in Winnipeg. Also needed to turn off my phone to avoid those international roaming charges. 🙁 The gas station I stopped at was full of trucks getting their paperwork together before crossing the border. And there were lots of trucks hauling farm equipment to the local area too. And as would be predictable, the gas station was full of trashy souvenirs.

Less than a mile up the road was the border crossing. Had my hands, or was it my head, busy trying to follow the signs to the correct lane. No mention of motorcycles on any of the signs, but I wasn’t about to get in the long line of trucks waiting to cross. Actually there was only one car ahead of me and they pulled out quite soon after I pulled in to wait behind them. Once I got the green light, I pulled up to the window and shut off the bike. Too noisy to talk over. Dug through my pockets for my passport and driver’s license and handed them over. “What’s the purpose of your trip today?” “Job interview.” “Where at?” “Red River College in Winnipeg.” “What’s the nature of your work?” “Instructional design. Online learning.” “Where are you from?” “Moorhead.” “If you get the job, do know know you’ll need a work permit?” “Is that what it’s called? I know I need something, but I don’t know what the process is.” “You can get that taken care of here if you need to.” “Good to know, but it’s just an interview today.” “Anything to declare? (asks about certain specific items)” “Nothing.” “When will you be returning?” “Before sundown.” “Enjoy your trip.” “Is there anywhere I can get a map of Manitoba?” “Just up ahead there’s a travel center and there should be some there.” “Thank you.” Hands back my paperwork and I fire up the bike and start looking for this travel center. It’s actually just past the border plaza and I pull over to see what they’ve got, only to find out it’s only open Thursday-Sunday. Guard didn’t tell me that. Oh well, photo op at least.

Ok, the first thing I noticed after crossing into Canada is that this is not an interstate anymore. Lots of intersections. And the road was pretty rough. I had looked at the conversion for speed from kph:mph the night before, but hadn’t expected to see 110. Had no clue how fast that was. 65mph? Harley only shows mph on the speedo. Oh forget it. I just found a car and settled in behind hoping that if we were speeding, they’d get pulled over first. And the speed limit had dropped, appropriately, about 20 mph once across the border.

Passed through a small town called Morris that I thought looked like a good place to stop sometime. Some nice little places to eat right along the main drag. But another sign this wasn’t an Interstate. Went right through town and had several stoplights too. Actually, the kind of roads that can be a lot of fun to ride.

As all the signs with distances were now in kilometers, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to Winnipeg. I had crossed the border around 10 a.m. and thought I might have some time to kill once I got there. Winnipeg is interesting in that it has a sharp edge. One minute your in the middle of nowhere and the next your alongside strip malls and apartments. I had my route in my head (N75-W100-N80-N90-WNotre Dame) and was happy to see the signs I was looking for. Had no clue if the intersection would be a left or a right lane turn. And also had no clue whether right-hand turns on red were allowed. Made the first turn no problem (W100), and the second too (N80). But I kept going north, and north, and north, and thought I should have turned by now. Kept going for quite a bit, not knowing exactly how far it was. But I eventually had to pull over and pull out the printout from Google maps. I really didn’t know where I was, but it appeared that I needed to hit an east-west road and go west for a bit to make the jump over to N90. So the first major intersection I took a left and it wasn’t too long until I found the road I was looking for. Now that I was on 90, the next big landmark was that the road split for a bit and when it got back together I was nearly there. I had been looking for a place to stop and eat since I got to Winnipeg, but just hadn’t found anything. But at the last minute I spotted a Wendy’s just before the road merged together again and pulled over for a bite to eat. Sat down and checked the time and realized that it was just after noon. So much for having time to kill. Barely had enough time to eat lunch, find the campus, change clothes, and find my way to the interview.

I really was only about three blocks from the campus. I was expecting a small place, but instead found a rather large, if compact, campus. I knew I had to check in at a certain place and he pointed me to the motorcycle parking. That worked out well as it was one building away from where I needed to be. That allowed me to get out of my riding gear and put on the suit before being seen. First impressions you know. 🙂 Got that done and found the building, floor, room that I needed to be at. Filled out some paperwork, and waited just a few minutes before being called in.

The actual interview was with four really nice folks and lasted nearly two hours. Kinda long in my experience. I thought it went well, but then again I always do. Got done with that and grabbed my gear and did the bathroom identity swap again. It was about 3 p.m. when I pulled off campus.

I had done my research and knew there was a Harley dealership just up the road so I headed up there to check it out. Couldn’t have been a kilometer away. How nice of them to put it there for me. 🙂 Was looking for my souvenir t-shirt and chatted with the staff a bit regarding my handlebars. Nice place. Good folks. I’d go back there. I don’t think it’s the biggest dealership in town, but it was big enough for me.

It was 3:40 when I pulled out of the parking lot. I had wanted to stop somewhere for a nice meal at some point in the day, but not just yet. So I was thinking through the route in reverse so I could get out of town. Headed south on 90 and was looking for my shortcut road over to 80. Well it was late in the day and getting to be a bit of a traffic jam. Stop and go, standstill traffic. And about 30C out before engine and exhaust heat. As it turned out I found a different E-W road for a shortcut but made it over to S80. Now I was looking for E100. Wound up in the left lane, and let me tell you changing lanes was not easy. Got to an intersection, stuck in traffic, and realized I was in a left-turn lane for some road. OK, that’s fine. I need to go east anyway. I’ll just jump on it and look for Route 75 South and it’ll all be good. Going east. Going east. Going east. Going east. Ok, I should not be going east this long. Once again I had to pull over and consult the map. Yeah, I had passed it. Route 75 changed names in this part of town to Route 45, a.k.a Pembina Highway. Jeesh. (Could have really used that map of Manitoba I had been looking for.) Found the Pembina Highway no problem and finally headed south out of town. I hit 6000 miles on the bike at 5:00 p.m. at the intersection of the Pembina Highway.

I was still kind of hungry and knew I needed to fill up with gas soon. Wasn’t too far out of town that my gas light came on. Thought maybe I’d fill up in Morris. Got to Morris and talked myself out of it. Don’t know why. Conversion of gal/ltrs? Whatever. Knew the border wasn’t too far so decided to make a run. My gas light comes on awfully early into a tank anyway and the border couldn’t have been 25 miles away. Well, of course as you’re riding down a bumpy road, hungry, a bit ragged from the heat and riding, and staring at an idiot light all kinds of scenarios go through your head. But luckily I made it to the border and gas was just on the other side.

This time the border was a little tougher. Everyone said it would be. Handed the guy my paperwork again. Was asked nearly the same questions as before. The differences were that he asked for my license plate number, he wanted me to take my sunglasses off (doh!), and looked through my bag. Still pretty quick and painless. Got across and headed back to the gas station where I had last filled up. (Silly gas tank. It’s a 4.5 gal tank. Light’s supposed to come on with a gallon left. I’d been riding a while with it on and still only put in 2.5 gallons.) This time I went inside and got a doughnut and Mountain Dew. Not a Diet Mountain Dew either. Knew I was getting dehydrated. And it was supper time. So sat down next to the pump and ate my junk food and checked the phone for messages.

Still making good time with the bike. Could tell it was a headwind now though. Not bad as prairie winds go though. Stopped at the rest area and once again had the place to myself. Took a few photos then hopped back on the bike. Next stop was Grand Forks where I decided I needed to eat, but didn’t want to take the time for the nice meal I had planned on. It was near 8:30 already. So McDonald’s it is with a fill of gas next door.

Even though it was still pretty warm out, I put my fleece jacket back on under the leathers. Sun was getting low and I knew the temperature would drop. Good thing too. By the time I made it to the next rest area, the sun had gone down and it was getting foggy in places. Availed myself of the facilities and looked around at the traffic/weather. Had put a Class 2 high-viz vest in my bag just for giggles, but it looked like this might be a good place to use it. Right at twilight in a fog, I’ll take all the help I can get. So I put that on for the last segment back home. Got home right at 10:00 p.m. and wasn’t all that exhausted. Tired, yes, but not completely wiped out.

For all my helmet advocate friends, you’ll be happy to know I wore my helmet the whole way. It’s mandatory in Canada, and I didn’t really have a good way to stow it otherwise. It did bother me a bit on the way up, but either it got better or I learned to ignore it on the way home.

Actually, there were a lot of firsts for me again today. First time riding in Canada. First time riding in a big city. First time stuck in traffic. But somehow none of those were a big deal. I remember a year ago when it was a big deal to me just to ride on the Interstate. I’ve come a long way since then.

I wonder what the next adventure will be?

Oh yeah, and I did get the t-shirt.

Odometer: 6,221 miles (475 for trip)