Monday, November 10, 2008

Do you remember what it's like to be newbie?

I recently received a call from my cousin's wife, Kris. She had just taken the MSF class (in the pouring rain) and received her motorcycle license. Every time she got on her new motorcycle she was scared and nervous that she would do something stupid. Kris pleaded "Would you please come out and ride with me?" I remember what it's like to be brand new. I said "sure thing". I set out from Chicago to Earlville, IL, a small town 75 miles west of the city.

I had always planned to ride out that way. My dad is from another small town in the area called Waterman. I have fond memories of Waterman and smiled as I passed by the library (pictured here) that my grandmother took my sister and me to many times. I then took a little ride by my grandparents old house. Memories. I wish I had brought my camera! The porch was gone and there was new siding on half of the house. Half the house? What? New gray siding was installed on the two sides of the house that face the road. The old green siding (that I remember vividly) was on the other two sides of the house, peeling and falling off. Well, I suppose times are tough, so that's all they could do for now.

When I arrived in Earlville, Kris was happy to see me. It didn't take long before she suggested we hit the road. She kissed her husband (my cousin, Jerry) goodbye. "I love you" she said dramatically, as if she may never return. We rode to her brother's home and back. She had a little trouble pulling out of his incline driveway. She killed it a few times, but finally got it going. I confessed later that I knew she needed the practice on that driveway, so I purposely stopped to give her some practice.

My trip out to ride with Kris was a double-bonus. Not only did I get to ride and see her and Jerry, but I also got to see my other cousins - who are awesome. I was thrilled to hear the fantastic news that Megan and Matt are expecting. Here is a picture of the happy couple.

Kris and I went out for one more ride. She felt brave so we rode on Highway 30 for a bit. When we pulled back in her driveway, she was smiling and that made the trip more than worth it. She now has more confidence and is proud of herself for pushing her boundaries. Next time, maybe she'll pass that truck on Highway 30. Way to go, Kris!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trip to Washington, DC

This blog represents my daily travel journal entries from a motorcycle trip that I took from Chicago to Washington DC. Total Miles: 1,722

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
377 Miles

Well, I wasn’t sure if I was going to leave for the trip today but I am happy to say I did. I woke up yesterday with a horrible stomach flu. I didn’t feel great when I woke up at 5:30 AM but started to feel better gradually as the day went on. I finally got to Sandra’s around 10:30 AM and we were off about 15 minutes or so later for a rather uneventful day. We took I-94E to I-80W through Indiana to Ohio. By the time we got to the KOA campground in Streetsboro, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland), it was dark. We lit a fire (it took a while but we finally got it). You can see Sandra here enjoying the fire we worked so hard to start. We used our headlights to set up camp (bad idea, Sandra’s battery went dead). By the time we get started, answered a few emails it was almost 11. No dinner just a few snacks, we’ll survive.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
305 Miles

I woke up at 7 AM feeling pretty good and refreshed. I slept fairly well, considering I was sleeping in a tent – on the ground – in October. As Sandra and I were packing up, it started to drizzle so we started moving faster. Sandra successfully jumped her bike (luckily I had jumper cables). I was starting to feel light headed (probably from not eating much over the last two days) so we went straight to Denny’s for breakfast. (I'm going over our route in the picture here). The waitress was nice and let us spread our wet gear all over the place. I think we left Denny’s at 10:30 or 11:00 AM. As we exited the toll way, the troll in the toll booth gave me a nasty look for my wet money and toll ticket. Luckily I couldn’t hear what she was yapping about. Biddy.

From I-80 we traveled north on Route 7 and made our way over to U.S.–6 East in Pennsylvania. It was a slow ride, so when we stopped in Warren, PA (3 hours later) we decided to ditch our plan to ride across PA on Rte. 6. Oh – Did I mention it never stopped raining and our water proof gloves, socks and boots failed us miserably? That never happened before. Was it the colder weather? Was the rain so incessant that it found a way to seep in? We couldn’t figure it out. Our plan to ditch Rte. 6 was a good one. Instead we took Rte. 666 (it wasn’t as evil as it sounds) to 948 south/east through the Allegheny National Forest – best ride of the day- to 219 South to 153 South/East back to I-80. Side note – the Harley map says that Route 6 in PA is an epic ride – more like an epic pain in the ass (at least the part we rode). We were relieved to hit I-80 at last to makeup sometime but – buzz kill – 6 miles of road construction. We ended our ride at the Comfort Inn (quite nice and a good rate) in Mill Hale, PA. No camping tonight. After riding in the rain all day, we were ready for hot showers, clean laundry and warm beds. Biker chick was ready too.

Thursday, October 9, 2008
230 Miles

I woke up this morning to find a text from Nate Kern. Found out that he had crashed in South Africa and had 6 broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He flew home today. I was expecting to see him on Saturday at Morton’s BMW in Fredericksburg, VA. I guess he won’t be there but more importantly I was worried about him. Poor guy had to fly back from South Africa by himself in that state. The doctors there were amazed that he recovered enough that he could fly back so soon. Keeping him in my prayers for a quick recovery.

We left our hotel around 9:00 and made our way to US–15 South. It was a beautiful day, quite a contrast from the day before. The ride along US–15 followed the Susquehanna River for quite a while. We rode through Harrisburg – snapped a quick picture of the capitol building and rode on to Gettysburg. I had been to Gettysburg when I was in 7th grade and was excited to see it again. We were given great advice by a nice woman at the Gettysburg Tour Center on US–30/Lincoln Highway. We had a quick lunch and went to the Gettysburg Cemetery. We were too lazy to walk over to the other part of the cemetery so we hopped a stone wall and went to the site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address (a picture of Sandra jumping the wall here). We then walked across the street to one of the Gettysburg battlegrounds. We didn’t want to leave this beautiful place, but we wanted to get to the DC area before rush hour. Sandra and I parted ways in Fredericks, Maryland. She continued on 15 to see her sister in Leesburg, VA, I took 270 South to 495 South to George Washington Pkwy – nice ride (even as traffic began to thicken) to my friends' home in Arlington, VA. My friends, Bageshri and Dilip, have two children, Shalin and Saeli, who are super cute and entertaining. Between talking about the recent presidential debates and chasing the kids, we caught up and gladly retired early.

Friday, October 10, 2008
0 miles
I got up early-ish (6:30), so I could leave with Bageshri at 7:30 and get a ride to the Metro. When I emerged from the subway in DC, it was a quiet, beautiful morning. I checked in with the guard at the Supreme Court to see if it was in session. Nope. Not until Monday. I wandered somewhat aimlessly yet somewhat calculated – past the capitol building, came across some kind of hippy-like happening. It was too early to go into the Botanic Garden and by this time I was getting hungry, but couldn’t find any type of breakfast or coffee places except for a ramshackle stand, so I settled for a Dreamsicle for breakfast there.
Wandering further, I strolled through the sculpture garden of the Hirshhorn Museum and a lovely garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. I enjoyed some tea at the Castle and headed over to the American History Museum – to be shut out again – it’s closed for renovations. Of course, if I had done any pre-planning, I would have known that. I made my way to the Washington monument to have a good, close look at it. As I was departing, I came across another “happening” that looked like a Native-American drum ceremony for women. Next I attempted to visit Ford’s Theater. Strike 3, it too was closed for renovations. But I did venture into the house where Lincoln died across the street. And then success - finally a museum open - The National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum (both located in the same building). I found the staff there to be knowledgeable and helpful. There were a few notable aspects. First, I enjoyed a comparative exhibit of Georgia O’Keefe paintings and Ansel Adams photographs. At first I didn’t see how they compared at all but was interested to find that their art often took them to the same scenes and places. There were also great comparisons of close-up nature photos. I also found the Hall of Presidents to be entertaining and interesting. Finally the courtyard in the building is peaceful and full of light. I took to wandering again and found myself in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. I sat on a bench around the pool, read my book and looked up to see a rainbow in the fountain. That seemed like a great way to end my day in Washington, DC.

After getting slightly disoriented in the Metro underground, I found Bagesheri and we went to the Iwo Jima Memorial and Netherlands Carillon near Arlington Cemetery. After dinner Bageshri, Dilip, Shalin, Saeli and I went to see the new 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. It is a thoughtful remembrance of those that perished both in the Pentagon and those on the airplane. As we watched planes overhead, it made me realize how close Reagan National airport is to the Pentagon. The children, inspired by the overhead planes, asked to view the planes landing and taking off from Reagan National in the nearby park. It seemed that planes were only a few stories above us as they took off. The children squealed with delight and I enjoyed it as well – keeping my squealing to a minimum. We were all tired from a full day and headed home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008
104 Miles

The plan today was to meet Sandra at Morton’s BMW in Fredericksburg, VA at 11:00. Morton's BMW was having their annual Oktoberfest. (And she would have been on time if her sister’s cat hadn’t peed on her bed). I had a pleasant ride from Arlington to Fredericksburg. There were a few particularly bright spots on I-95 and US 1-Jefferson Davis Hwy. When I arrived at Morton’s BMW I immediately met some nice, interesting people including Gordon from (they make custom doormats). Morton’s had great food and great deals. Not that I needed them, but I bought two really nice BMW tees for $10 each plus a Nate Kern 2008 ASRA Thunderbike Championship shirt. I met the owners of the dealership – Jeff and Hannah plus their daughter Christine. I can see why they are so successful. They are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They run a dealership that has fantastic selection of bikes, parts and apparel, plus really great customer service.

Later in the day I was happy to see Nate arrive with his two dogs (pictured left) and a friend. (Thanks to Jim Doyle for the heads up the night before that Nate would actually make the event.) He is still hurting from his crash, but doing amazingly well considering he was seriously injured just over a week ago. His appearance at the event was a complete surprise to the folks at BMW – and they were ecstatic to see him.

After arriving back at Bageshri’s that evening we went to the Arlington Draft House to see the movie, Mamma Mia. It is a great place to see that movie, as it serves food and drink at your table. The movie itself was much better than I anticipated and really fun to watch.

Sunday, October 12, 2008
706 Miles

Bageshri was nice enough to get up early and make Indian tea and scones before I left at 7:30 this morning. Sandra and I met up at an exit off of I -70 in Maryland. The Harley map didn't note that the exit we chose to meet at was only a one way exit, so found each other at the next one. I was so happy to find Sandra's bike there (and her of course) that I took a picture of it. We decided to super-slab it and see if we could get the ride done in one day. Taking I-70 and I -76 (Pennsylvania turnpike) was absolutely beautiful with colors at peak in some areas. The farms scattered along the way added to its charm. As always, we met some nice people along the way. A woman rider working as a cashier at a service plaza, a couple with Joe Satriani shirts on (he’s a rider too), Forest who owns a motorcycle part distribution company, and a deaf man that stopped to thank us for letting him follow us for miles on I-80. Our trip took us from Virginia through DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and back to sweet home Chicago, IL. We got home around 8:00 that night tired and happy to have made the trip and happy to be home.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gillette, Wyoming BMW Rally Trip (and More!)

This post represents my journal during my last big motorcycle trip out west with my friends, Sandra, Ingrid and Christy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Got up at 4:40 AM to leave my place to pick up Sandra by 5:45. Alas, a storm delayed our departure by an hour. We got to Belvidere Oasis around 8:00. Christy couldn’t find her wallet until Sandra told her to check her pockets. Ingrid called and said she had ran out of gas one mile east of the Oasis. Luckily, Christy’s friend, Harry, was there to see us off. He and Christy bought a gas can and gas and jumped in Harry’s car and gassed up Ingrid’s bike up. After Harry took pictures, including one of Ingrid by the Doghouse in the Oasis, we were on I-90 about 9:30. We super-slabbed it the whole way (I-90). Crossing over the Mississippi from Wisconsin to Minnesota was beautiful. Shortly after that, the wind kicked in something fierce. I learned that my BMW R1200GS doesn’t handle the wind as well as some other bikes. I was fighting it for a long while in South Dakota and the wind really decreased our gas mileage. Mine especially. I went from 44 MPG to 30 MPG! We had to stop every 120-150 miles because of me! We got to a very nice campground in Mitchell, SD around 8:00 PM. We rode 650 miles today! My longest ride ever in the same day. Amazingly I wasn’t completely exhausted. We set up camp at a KOA Campground, ordered pizza, charged our various electric devices and poor Sandra had to reprogram our routes in the GPS when she couldn’t retrieve her original file. She had worked so hard on it! Finally we went to bed around 11:30. Side note: If you ever have the chance to stay at the KOA Campground in Mitchell the owners are very accommodating and make everyone feel welcome. We certainly appreciated it. Here is a picture of our campsite.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Everyone was up by 7:15, I was the last. We headed into the town of Mitchell to see the Corn Palace. In my mind, I pictured it be made of 100% corn - I was quite disappointed to find that it wasn't. What was more interesting were the novelty t-shirts we saw in the window. This one is so ridiculous, I had to share it. We had breakfast at Betty’s Diner in Mitchell, gassed up and headed out around 11:30 AM. We saw some nice Amish people from Fort Wayne, Indiana in Mitchell and saw them again at our next gas stop. The good-naturedly accused us of following them, but I think they were really following us.

Outside of the Badlands we stopped again and talked to some bikers (on bicycles!) who were doing a two-month bike tour from Seattle to Washington D.C. The group of 40 bikers raised $250,000 for the American Lung Association. Patty Harms, one of the biker filled us in on the details. You can donate to this cause by going to Patty’s link on the American Lung Association website.

The ride through the Badlands was winding and beautiful. At our only stop, a sign warned us to "watch for snakes". We also drove by Mt. Rushmore, stopped briefly to take a picture of it (and some goats) and continued where the trees got thicker and roads more winding. We camped at Hill City Mt. Rushmore KOA. Nice facility with two restaurants, horse rides, heated bathrooms and shower rooms, but our camp site was bumpy, rocky, and muddy. 346 miles ridden today!

Monday, July 14, 2008

235 miles today! “Quality not quantity,” as Ingrid said. I awoke from a somewhat restful sleep at 6:30 AM and I say somewhat because I was sleeping on slight slant and every time I changed positions I slipped slightly down the hill. Also, my sleeping bag wouldn’t zip. I found my butt hanging out in the cold a few times in the night. After a nice breakfast at the campground, we headed out around 10:00 AM. First ride was in Custer State Park through the Needles and the Wildlife Loop. OMG- So cool! Great twisties and tunnels that took you through the rocks. The Wildlife Loop had burros, turkeys, antelopes (did you know there are more antelope in the state of Wyoming than people? Okay, we were still in South Dakota but it’s still a good fact, right?) At the end of the Wildlife Loop we were stopped by a long line of cars. Buffalo were all over the place, crossing the road so that cars could not proceed. One buffalo was growling (or moaning) not far from us. We were getting a little nervous because we were not protected like the cars and we’d heard that buffalo can be mean! We were about to turn back when we saw a huge state park truck making its way down the road through the buffalo. Christy said “Quick, let’s follow the truck to get through.” All worked out fine, but Ingrid will attest to the fact that a buffalo was coming right my way and I had to swerve a bit to miss it. We rode back to the Mt. Rushmore area and had a very good lunch a German restaurant called Oma’s. Too bad the service was slow and our waitress was a bit ditzy. A young, sweet, na├»ve, ditzy girl. We were using the water pitcher to refill our CamelBak’s and asked for a refill at least three times. On the last request, our waitress said under breath “Holy crud, you must be thirsty.” For lunch, I had braunsweiger- yum. I used to eat it a lot as a kid. Why did I ever stop?

We then road northwest through Lead, South Dakota and into Spearfish Canyon. It was beautiful in the higher elevation. The roads were long and swooping. When we crossed in to Wyoming, Ingrid and I raised our fists in jubilation. We stopped in a town of 11 called Aladdin (the sign says 15, but apparently 4 residents moved to assisted living in the last year or so). It had a rather old fashioned gas pump and a quaint General Store. The only bathrooms were two outhouses out back. Here is a picture of Sandra trying one out. We were told by the shop owner that one family owns the entire town which consists of 30 acres.

After shopping and refueling, we made our way to Devil’s Tower KOA campground. We had a wonderful, grassy campsite with a full view of Devil’s Tower. Ingrid started a fire, bought beer and the party started. Okay we had beer and various snacks (crackers, cheese curds, Doritos, ice cream and lunch meat) because no restaurants were open within 30 miles. Near the main building, the campground played Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Devil’s Tower is the site of the alien landing in the movie. Devil’s Tower is also a sacred place for many Native American Indians. We were so grateful for our best riding day yet through exciting and beautiful roads and now our campsite at the foot of Devil’s Tower. This was our view!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waking up with a view of Devil’s Tower was really neat. We were still on a high from our great riding day and the view was spectacular. After breakfast we hit the road around 10:00 and headed west and north and arrived quickly got into Montana. Riding across Montana is beautiful yet slightly monotonous. The cool thing is that we went for stretches where we didn’t see another vehicle for miles. You can see how big and colorful the bugs are from my windshield here.

We stopped in Billings to pick up some things at a drugstore. Just 65 more miles and we were in Red Lodge, Montana. As we rode into the Red Lodge area, we could see the mountains in the distance. We started to get excited, because we knew we would be riding in them the next day. We stayed at yet another KOA campground in Red Lodge. We set up camp, ordered pizza and made friends with our neighbors, many planning to go to the BMW rally as well. Ingrid and I took a trip into town for beer. Ingrid started a campfire. We talked to Dee Jones, a fellow BMW rider for a while. He offered to show us some great rides in North Carolina. We may just have to take him up on his offer. We roasted marshmallows that night after having talked about doing it for days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Early this morning we were greeted by “Doc”, one of our Harley, tattooed-covered neighbors. He approached us at 8:00 AM with a Budweiser can in his hand. We had a nice, slow chat before heading to breakfast. We dressed warmly for the ride to Bear Tooth Pass and got on the road about 9:00. We could see from afar that there was still snow at the top of the mountains. As we climbed higher (highest elevation around 11,000 ft.), we knew it would be one breathtaking sight after another. Not far up the mountain I encountered a small deer and two fawns. So cute, and luckily I saw them in plenty of time to slow down. The overlook area has a nice walk that jets out over the valley. We saw Dee Jones there and he claimed he was going to take some video of us and then pass us (well I know for sure he passed us!) Frozen Lake, beautiful purple and yellow flowers, and snow covered landscapes. Beauty everywhere, and the ride was challenging and exhilarating. We stopped at the Top of the World gift shop (all of us pictured there below, along with our friend Biker Chick) and bought some stickers and pins to prove we had been there. The ride down was just as enjoyable with it’s sweeping curves and beautiful sights.

We then turned on to the Chief Joseph highway. Another amazing ride, with more sweeping turns and red rocks in the distance. After stopping in Cody for directions, we all met up in Greybull for fuel and rest. We split up into group of two again and rode Highway 14 through more amazing scenery, going up in elevation again to 9,000 feet. The highlight was coming upon a sheep crossing and hearing so many of them bleeting. We weren’t afraid of them like we were of the buffalo! We met up again with the rest of the group, where apparently there have been a lot of people pumping and gas and not paying- so goes the explanation- for why we had to prepay. Our last 120 miles were back on I-90 where we took the lonely trail to Gillette. Only one vehicle passed us the while time although we did pass quite a few. We surveyed the rally grounds and found the Chicago Region BMW Owners Association tent at the BMW Motorcycle Owners Rally 2008 . Then off to find our Best Western hotel about 3 miles away. I wonder how it will feel to sleep in a real bed again as I sit here and write while I am waiting for my laundry to dry. I’ve never seen my riding gear so covered in bugs. I suppose it will look like this again when I return home. Why are there so many yellow blotches on everything? Yuck!
We have had lovely weather so far. Some 90 degree days, but on the bike it is quite manageable, especially if I soak my LD Comfort shirt in cold water before putting it on under my jacket.
“Oh laundry please dry soon, so I can go to bed.” I am tired from riding 385 glorious miles today.
While I waited for my laundry I talked with a guy named Paul Laconti. Paul is from New York and he just started riding in April. He has already logged 6,000 miles in order to get ready for this trip out to the rally. He is a musician and a teacher. He rides a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail. He has traveled the world as a musician. He plays piano and drums, has played with Luther Vandross, Cindy Lauper, and Silver Connection. Silver Connection had the hit “Fly Robin Fly” in the late 70’s. (I like that song!) He had a near miss on the highway this trip when a log came loose from a lumber truck. It just missed him! It’s a great day to be alive. I enjoyed talking with him. You can see Paul’s near miss and other riding footage at his website:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

30 miles tops today. Since I was up late doing laundry last night, I slept in until almost 8:00 AM, then showered and got organized. Sandra and I started to get on our bikes around 10:00 when a random guy in flip flops came up to us in the parking lot and asked us for a ride to the rally. I didn’t have my passenger seat on the bike, so I was not a very good option. When Sandra hesitated, he stated that he races for BMW, so Sandra asked to see some ID. Things seemed on the up and up, so she said okay! Here is a picture of them before we took off.

When we arrived in the parking lot, we ran into Dee Jones again, who knew our new friend from the Red Lodge campground. Turns out Random Guy is Nate Kern pro racer for BMW in Super Bike AMA, ASTRA, Super Sport-T series and many others. Dee has been one of Nate’s supporters for a while but the two had never met. By the way, if you would like to support Nate, you can join this group to learn more about BMW racing and an amazingly focused and talented racer: Those two made plans for lunch and Sandra and I followed Nate to the BMW demo tent. He gave us signed racing photos and set up an after-hours demo for us. We agreed to meet back there at 5:00. Here is a picture of me with Dee and Nate.

Sandra and I ran off to register for the rally, eat and shop. There are always so many great vendors. We did end up buying Sokz motorcycles riding socks. I tested the socks on the way home and I like them! They are comfortable. We chatted with many of our Chicago Region MOA buddies. Caught up with Christy and Ingrid too. I gave a seminar on women’s motorcycle riding apparel that afternoon. Many new and old friends showed up to show their support including my three riding buddies, Paul from the laundry room, Nate Kern, and Chicago Region MDA members David Adler and Roger Gunderson. You can see the highlights of my seminar here.

Our Demo ride was nice and easy. I rode the F800S and Sandra the R1200R. Neither of us will run out and buy the bikes but it’s interesting to see the differences of different bikes. We hooked back up with our Chicago Region friends and Nate and his BMW crew for dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Gillette called Las Margaritas. Thumbs up on my Carne Asada Burrito Loco.

At dinner, we had the pleasure to hear some of Nates’s racing stories and get to know Matt from BMW. It looked like rain (actually like a major storm) so we quickly paid and got back to the hotel. This time Nate rode Sandra on the back of her bike. I guess she figure she could trust him on her bike now. I think he kind of knows how to ride. Early to bed tonight. Many seminars to attend and shopping to do tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008
10 miles tops today. Up and out much earlier today. The first seminar of the day for Sandra and I was at 8:45 AM called “Motorcycle Safety and Design Feature” given by Jack DelPizzo, the BMW Field Service Engineer for the Midwestern region. Nate Kern helped out with his insights throughout the presentation. The three main topics were ABS (Anti-lock Brake Systems), ASC (Automatic Stability Control), and ESA (Electrical Suspension Adjustment). I had a good understanding of ABS and ASC already because I have those features on my 2007 R1200GS. The ESA discussion talked about how pre-load and dampening adjustments can be made on certain BMWs with an easy click. For example, as you move from super-slab riding to mountains or city driving. After the talk, Jack was nice enough to tell me what he thinks is wrong with my fuel gauge (probably need a new fuel sensor). I am guessing (hoping) it will be covered by the warranty. Afterwards, Nate bought us all smoothies and Sandra and I started to shop a bit. But just a bit because we then went to Nate’s seminars on BMW racing. He gave some great tips on leaning into the corners. Brief summary, going into the turn you should lead with your forehead and shoulders. Do not twist your spine. Keep it straight. Even if you tilt your head to one side, your bike should turn. The average head probably weighs 9 pounds. That can make a difference in your turn. He also said that a passenger should just tilt their head to the side of the turn and keep everything else still to be the best passenger. Nate also shared his experiences on how he got started in racing- he was such a natural his friends told him to try it! In his first amateur race at Daytona, he won all eight races and got bumped up to pro at his next race, which was at Virginia International Raceway where he won two races.
Next, more shopping! Sandra had the guys at Ohlins adjusted her suspension setting on her shocks and they were nice enough to show her how to set them up for bags on or off the bike. They did a nice job and she could feel the difference in her ride.
I visited my friends at LD Comfort, Mario and Jane. I think I helped them sell some new product to the guys standing at their booth. I told Mario that I wanted to carry his product for him because I believe in it. But, I do want to try one more brand, just to make sure LD Comfort is the best, so I bought a pair of Bodz riding shorts, made in Italy, made by the makers of Sokz. I will them out on out longest riding day going back, Sunday. (Post note: I did try out the Bodz. They do a good job, but I although they make a better fashion statement, the LD Comfort shorts and shirt edge the Bodz for its advanced cooling technology).
I then went to the “Riding Your GS off pavement” seminar. I realized that if I’m going to learn to ride off-road, I have to take an actual riding class. I am more of hands on learner. So, I left early and went to the ladies BMW apparel seminar. We got a full description of the ladies wear and got to see and try on samples of most of the lines available in unisex (ie. men’s), and ladies cuts. I’ve identified a couple of lines for jackets that might work for me because they come in long sizes or cuts (Streetguard 2 and Santiago). I’d really like to find a good all-weather or 3 season, two-piece riding suit that I can learn from for my own product development. Jack DelPizzo was at the seminar so I chatted with him some more. He suggested that I go up to BMW Motorcycles of Milwaukee and talk to Eric about getting fitted right for apparel. He said that they have a good selection and Eric know how to fit people – men and women.

Next, off to the Chicago Region tent for a cookout, generously donated by Steve Jeffries, Cary Caldwell, and Roger Gunderson. I met Bill from Glendale Heights, who Christy met at the rally, and invited him to the cookout. She may have recruited a new member. 35 members attended the cookout, pretty good for an event so far away from home. I would have loved to stay longer. I was having so much fun, but we saw a storm coming in so us four gals fled for our bikes to get back to our hotel. The 5 ½ miles back to the hotel was wicked windy! The pending storm may have missed the hotel, but word was a nasty storm was coming through. There was a bad storm that came through around midnight the night before and it was supposed to be of similar strength. Time will tell if it hits us. I am glad again to be in a hotel tonight.

Saturday, July 19, 2008
336 miles today. After packing up, gassing up, and checking tire pressure, Sandra and I got to the rally a little after 9:00 AM and attended the “Women Who Ride” seminar. It featured many inspiring women and their riding stories, including a woman who broke her neck two years ago and was told by her doctor that she would never ride again. Well, she is riding and not letting anything stop her. You go girl!
After the seminar, I ate some ice cream and caught up on phone calls and email (CDW and BMWMOA were nice enough to provide laptops and WIFI for all rally goers to use). I said goodbye to the BMW crew- Nate, Matt, Gary and others. I am going to try to go to one of Nate’s upcoming races- possibly the one at Barber in two weeks.

I hung out at the Chicago Region tent until the four of us were ready to go. Here is a picture of Christy with the tent. She organized and ordered the tent for the club. We took off around 12:30 or 1:00 PM. First stop, Aladdin, about 80 miles away. Ingrid wanted to pick up a t-shirt for her daughter and we gladly returned to General Store. We met a few guys coming from the rally. They were riding around before heading back to Idaho. The rest of the day was uneventful when we landed in Mitchell, SD, found a hotel – Kelly’s Inn and Suites – very new and nice. Had dinner at Culver’s (hmm, butter burgers) and hit the sack.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Since Kelly’s Inn and Suites was nice enough to provide a breakfast, we ate there and took off around 7:15. I led the first leg and we found ourselves riding through cold, wet, fog for much of South Dakota. We stopped after 125 miles or so when Sandra discovered that her GPS had fallen from the bike. “I’m so sorry, Sandra!”

Christy led the next leg through South Dakota and into Minnesota. Next Ingrid led us into Iowa. Christy’s tire pressure was low, so we stopped for an air and gas. Sandra noticed that my headlight was out, so I flipped on the high beam and kept going. Sandra led us out of Iowa through Cedar Rapids over the Mississippi in Davenport and into Illinois. At our last stop (pictured here), the DeKalb Oasis, we said our goodbyes, snapped a few last pictures and we all headed home. I arrived home around 7:30 PM very tired but happy to discover that my neighbor, Sean, had bought a new H-D Softail Custom. Nice looking bike, Yay! I have a new riding buddy. 672 Miles today.

My miles were 3,094 for the whole trip....
9 days, 7 states and too many smiles to count!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh, to be on the road again...

Although the weather has been cool in Chicago, I still manage to get out there on my motorbike most weekends. My Gerbing's heated jacket liner helps a lot, so does my UnWind thermal long underwear. I just purchased an UnWind thermal top and I should get a chance this week to try it out. My next purchase, in anticipation of fall, will be Gerbing's heated liner pants. I just hope they are long enough for my 34 inch inseam! It looks like they only come in men's sizes. Okay, so I hope there is room for my butt too! I think I can try them on at the closest Gerbing's dealer, Motoworks in Chicago.

On Saturday, May 10, 2008, after a nice breakfast in Elmhurst, IL, I headed out past Rockford, IL to the Rock River with my friends, Sandra, Ingrid, and Christy. Christy did a great job leading us on routes along the river and into Sterling, IL for a healthy lunch at the Organic Bite Deli & Cafe. You can see from our picture that we left satisfied. After racing after Christy for a bit, we felt we had earned a stop at DQ before heading home. We had a full day, leaving home at 7:30 am and returning at 7:30 pm - very tired.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

You may have heard about the fiasco that was supposed to be a super fun time, Austin's Ironhorse Roundup in Grayslake, Illinois this past weekend. If you didn't hear how the Grayslake mayor shut down the event at the 11th hour, you can find many stories from the past week in the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald. Here is a link to one of them: Grayslake police chief stands by motorcycle show cancellation. If you read the story, you'll see that many people lost a lot of money due to this late notice cancellation and many feel that discrimination against bikers had more to do with it than anything. I am one of those people. I was supposed to share a booth with my friends at Racer Cafe. My company, VaVaVroom-Motorcycle Clothing and Gear for Her, was all set to hawk its wares and have a great time. Vince Neil was supposed to perform to a crowd of over 40,000 people. So how did this all go to hell in handbasket? It is rumored that two biker gangs were supposed to "rumble". Okay, they don't call it that anymore but you get my drift. Chances are they would not have caused a problem. For at least the past two years, the Super Cycle Show has had heavy police presence due to suspected gang activity. As far as I know, there hasn't been an issue. If given the opportunity, Mark Khayat, owner of Austin's, would have provided adequate security to assure a smooth event. Stay tuned on this one folks. I think some lawsuits will be hitting the courts soon.

Now how did I turn this lemon into lemonade? Well, I hooked up via motorcycle with my good friend Stevie. I met him and his buddies for a nice day of riding. In the picture here, we have Alex, Tim, Tom and Jorge in the front row and Stevie and I in the back. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed over to Zylstra's Harley-Davidson in St. Charles, Illinois where they were having a pig roast to raise money for the Green Ribbon Rally which will be held on June 7, 2008 and will raise money for University of Illinois Medical Center. I was interviewed by Gina Woods of Open Road Radio and told the listeners about awesome Mother's Day presents that they can find at I'm going to be a guest on the show again on Mother's Day this weekend. The Open Road Radio show airs every Sunday at 11:00 am on the Nines (92.5, 92.7 and 99.9) in the Chicago area. After filling ourselves with pork, we stopped by to visit our friends at Racer Cafe in St. Charles, Illinois. Rob was manning the ship himself since Eric was working off a hangover from his time at a wedding reception the night before. We then headed up to Grayslake with the grand plan of harassing the folks of Grayslake for canceling our big event. With the Lake County Fairground (the intended location of the Roundup) completely empty, except for the hoards of police at each entrance, we ended up where we began our day - at a McDonald's. Big talkers we are! Except for a minor row between Stevie and Tim, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I went to bed with a smile on my face at the sheer joy of a great ride with friends.

Monday, April 28, 2008

'Tis the (Riding) Season

Thankfully, a motorcycle ride is a more common occurrence these days. Saturday was windy, but warm enough. Where did my travels take me? First, to Fox Valley Cycles in Aurora to have Throttlemeister cruise control installed on my BMW R1200GS. The folks at Fox Valley Cycles are super nice and Mark took care of me in no time. I also talked to Chell about their upcoming open house on May 17, 2008. My company, VaVaVroom - Motorcycle Clothing and Gear for Her, will be there to show everyone all of our available styles. Chell also gave me some feedback on a riding jacket that I am working on. I've received excellent feedback so far from my customers. I've attached a picture of the first protoype.

There is a lot of reflective piping on it, so it looks like there are a lot of white lines on the jacket. That is just from the flash. The reflective piping is black. The only real white stripe is the double, vertical stripe on the front. My biggest concern with the jacket is figuring out how to secure the hood so it does not become a drag from the wind while riding. Other features of the jacket include removable armor, an inside pocket, two zip pockets in the front, and adjustable waist and cuffs. In this picture below you can see the hood and the VaVaVroom patches.

From Fox Valley Cycles, I rode to the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet to watch some friends participate in a track day. It was inspiring and I can't wait for my first one in June! We had friends at all levels (novice, intermediate, and advanced) and they all did fantastic. Rob and Eric from Racer Cafe in St. Charles really know what they are doing. They get all of the bikes ready and hauled them out there for Patrick, Ingrid and Sandra, in addition to their own!

From Joliet, I headed to Chicago to check out the Evil Kitty trunk show at Vicious Cycle on Clark St (north of Belmont). Not biker-wear, but trendy, fun, good quality stuff at a reasonable price. I met Lidia, the Evil Kitty designer, and Rhianna, the owner of Vicious Cycle. Both helped me pick out a fab dress and a cute hoodie. I almost didn't get the hoodie until I saw the purple leopard print E on the back (with horns). Too cute to pass up!

With all of this riding and shopping, I was famished, so I ducked into Shiroi Hana just south of Vicious Cycle for a quick dragon roll. Yummmmm. Happily full, I hopped on the BMW and headed home. By the time I got there, I was wiped out, but satisfied with this ride called life....

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Finally writing about the Dealer Expo!

VaVaVroom participated in the February 2008 Dealer Expo in Indianapolis. It was a great show for us. We met so many new people. We received great feedback on our products from customers and prospective customers. The biggest hit was our "Those Girls" Sportbike tee. The phrase "I'm one of 'those' girls", the shapely tee, and the vibrant colors draw the eye right to them. Since it was our first time doing the show, I was very nervous, but all went well (except for leaving the bowling alley Saturday night with our bowling shoes still on!) and we had a blast. Many thanks to Sandra Heise, Shelly Reiner and George Vuckovich for their onsite help at the show. I could not have pulled it off without them! I've included some pics of us from the show!

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Review of Kenyon Polarskins Long Underwear Shirt - Heavyweight Zip Neck, Long Sleeve (For Women)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

Closeouts . Kenyon's Polarskins heavyweight zip neck long underwear shirt is made of all-in-one (AOI) performance yarns, engineered to channel moisture faster than you can create it and equipped with four-way stretch, aggressive odor control (making garments last longer), and inherent soil release ...

Functional, but not fashionable

By VaVaVroom from Chicago, IL on 3/17/2008

2out of 5

Fit: Feels too big

Pros: Moisture Wicking, Warm, Comfortable

Cons: Material seems cheap, Poor Fit

Best Uses: Cold Weather, Snow Sports, Running

Describe Yourself: Gym Rat

I returned this product because it did not look of high quality based on the fit and the material. I am 5'10" and have a slim build. This item was loose fitting and had no shape.


My Review of Terramar Long Underwear Silk Bottoms - with EC2 Thermal Regulation (For Women)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

2nds. Experience silk's warmth, lightness, natural wicking action and luxurious comfort of silk in these long underwear bottoms from Terramar. EC2 technology provides excellent thermal regulation as well. Can be worn as active underwear or pajamas Machine wash gentle Trim Fit 2nds . China. ...

Great product. I have several pairs.

By VaVaVroom from Chicago, IL on 3/17/2008

4out of 5

Fit: Feels true to size

Pros: Comfortable, Lightweight, Warm

Cons: slightly baggy on me

Best Uses: Cold Weather

Describe Yourself: Gym Rat

I wear these under my clothes on days that are below freezing temperatures. It adds a layer of protection from the wind and cold without being bulky or too hot when I am indoors. I am tall (5'10") and the pants are just long enough to fit under my boots.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Just tried out the UnWind Thermal Pants that are on the VaVaVroom website. This time in skis in Winter Park, Colorado. It was very windy and cold today up-top and I did not feel a thing on my bottom half! Now if it would just warm up enough to get out on the bike for a bit. From February 8-10, I will be making the rounds at the International Motorcycle Show in Rosemont, Illinois. I'll be helping out at the Open Road Radio booth and the Chicago Region BMW Owners Group area as well. I am looking forward to seeing what's new in the two-wheeled world.