I Suppose It Had To Happen Eventually

By 6:30 am we are up, dressed, packed, and waiting for the bike to warm up. The fog is so thick that we can barely make out the neon VACANCY on the sign at the edge of the parking lot. The Kawasaki noisily clearing its throat is the only sound for miles, but even that is muted by the fog, its atmospheric blanket dampening everything but our spirits. For the first time in three days our outlook is bright and our moods lifted – because we’re going home. For the first time in four years, we’ve had a less than stellar vacation on the bike.


Memorial Day weekend in Canada sounded like a good idea. “Let’s go someplace different,” we said. “Let’s not wait until Fall,” we said. “Memorial Day isn’t even a holiday in Canada, so traffic won’t be bad,” we said.

Oh, how wrong we were.

The trip started like they usually do: enthusiastic start, good intentions, and breakfast at a Big Boy.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after that that things went south. We hit rain. We stopped to put on our rain gear. The sun came back out. We stopped and took off our rain gear. It started to get grey and cold again. And then we rounded a bend in I-69 to be met by the view above. Three car accident on the Bluewater Bridge, a whole whack of Americans who had the same idea as us to get over the border for the weekend, and a rapidly dwindling fuel supply. This wasn’t the vacation we’d signed on for.

I’m going to spare you the details of the next three hours — mainly because I don’t particularly feel like reliving that swath of time that it took us to travel five miles across the bridge. I honestly don’t know how F did it; I was exhausted, and all I had to do was sit there. I also don’t know how yet again the trip took us so much longer than travel estimates — even without the traffic jam, it would have been an excruciatingly long day to get to Stratford, Ontario. By the time we finally rolled into town, we were cold, tired, hungry, grumpy — and had about 90 minutes to check in to our hotel, swipe away some of the road grit, change our clothes, find somewhere to inhale some food, and walk to the theatre for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

We were at that stage of hangry at which decisions seem impossible when we staggered into the Boar’s Head Pub. It was packed, and becoming increasingly clear that we wouldn’t even have enough time to finish our dinners, let alone take the leftovers back to our hotel, by the time our food arrived. In a flash of inspiration/desperation, I asked the waitress if they would be willing to box up our leftovers and keep them in the fridge for us so that we could pick them up after the play. She not only accommodated my weird request, she welcomed us back and heated up the rest of our food for us when we returned. I think we fell in love with her a little bit.

And once we were fed and feeling human once more, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the play, Timon of Athens, which was amazing. Day One was saved. Sort of.







The next day we strolled around the Shakespearean Gardens (which were lovely) before getting on the road to Goderich, where we were going to stay for our second and third nights. It was a pleasant ride to the town billed as “Canada’s Prettiest Town”… but… well, no offense, Goderich, but you really weren’t that pretty. And it’s the kind of town that rolls up the sidewalks at 6 pm. And the day rides we had planned that looked so great on the map turned out to be mostly straight roads through farmlands. And we were still pretty exhausted from our travel travails on the first day. And after seeing no ghosts at the supposedly haunted old inn we stayed at in Stratford, we got two terrible nights’ sleep at the outwardly cheery but oh-god-we-think-it-truly-was-haunted motel in Goderich. Definitely not the kind of atmospheric we were hoping for when we booked at the delightfully “50s kitsch” looking place. And we just never really ended up enjoying ourselves. At some point on Day Three we dragged ourselves out of our funk enough to come to a conclusion: we’d had enough.


So. Here we were, bagging our last day early to beat the border traffic and get the hell home. I suppose it had to happen eventually that we’d have a decidedly “meh” roadtrip. Fortunately, there’s always a next time.

The End


via Daily Prompt: Atmospheric


Ride On, Kentucky Kid.

“You doing all right? Just read the sad news from the MotoGP world.”

That’s the text that I received this afternoon, from a friend in Mexico City. I was surprised and touched that he’d reached out — after all, I was indeed sad today upon reading that Nicky Hayden had passed away.  Hayden was struck by a car in Italy last week as he was riding his bicycle, and the motorcycle racing world had been holding its collective breath for the past few days wondering if he would pull through. Today on my lunch break I discovered that the hashtags had drifted from #GoNicky to #RideOnKentuckyKid, and I couldn’t help but read the news and the memorial posts through a haze of tears.

And I wondered a bit at that. After all, I’ve really only gotten into MotoGP in the last couple of years. And it’s not like I was a die hard Nicky Hayden fan. What was this sinking feeling all about? And then the answer arrived in the form of the next text from my friend:

“It’s just as a long time sports fan, I know it can affect you when an athlete dies who you’d become familiar with.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “This is a new sensation for me.”

My friend is one of the biggest sports fans I know, and a great writer. I always felt, as someone who wasn’t a sports fan myself, that I could kinda get it when I read his work. But now, here I was on the inside of it, a fan myself now, and experiencing something I hadn’t anticipated. The excitement and joy of racing, sure, but not this surprising sadness. What is it about the death of a stranger that can set us to feeling adrift like this?

Maybe because athletes are more than just strangers somehow. They are representative of something we wish we could be, a level of greatness we long for. They’re larger than life to us, so when they’re unexpectedly cut down young, it feels like the void is larger, too. To fans, they are our gladiators, the warriors who head out into the ring on our behalf week after week, year after year.

And in this case, part of this helpless, hopeless feeling is the ironic futility of it all: here is a man who has raced motorcycles at 200+ mph for years, and he loses it all riding a damn bicycle, something the vast majority of us have been doing  our entire lives. It could happen to any of us, anytime. And the passing of the last American MotoGP champion feels like the end of an era, like we lost more than just a kid from Kentucky.

Ah… there it is. We. Maybe that’s what being a sports fan is really all about. I may be feeling unexpectedly adrift at the death of a motorcycle racer — but I’m not alone. And there’s a comfort to be found in that.


via Daily Prompt: Adrift

Look Out Marquez, There’s a New Kid in Town

The MotoGP season kicks off with its only night race of the year. They race under the lights because they’re in Qatar, where daytime temperatures make it just too hot to race safely. So, it was a pretty unusual and unexpected guest that messed with the race weekend this year:

Oh, hi, you didn’t want to ride motorcycles, did you?

Yep, it actually rained hard enough on Saturday that they canceled Qualifying, which is where everyone’s starting grid positions are determined. Instead, the grid would be based on Friday’s Free Practice lap times.

And then on Sunday, just as everyone was in that grid and ready to start, guess who popped back in for an encore drizzle? Everyone trooped back in off the track. Then they trooped back out. Then they took a trial run around the track. Then lots of people stood around shaking their heads. For 45 minutes the MotoGP announcers, who rely on a hyperbolic trove of go-to phrases, tried to make the tedium into an absolute nightmare!

But once the race and the 2017 season was finally underway, it was worth the wait, for a whole slew of reasons.

  1. Everyone was waiting to see what Maverick Viñales was going to do. This was his first race for Yamaha, and he’d been blisteringly fast in all of the testing over the winter and in free practice. He was starting from the pole position. And the 22-year-old kid has already got bookies saying he’s going to manage to snatch the title from reigning champ Marc Marquez.
  2. However, in a burst of speed that surprised everyone, rookie Johann Zarco immediately shot to the front of the pack, shuffling Viñales back to 4th. In his first ever MotoGP race, the former two-time Moto2 champ held off Marquez and the Andreas (Iannone and Dovizioso) with an authoritative lead for the first six laps — until he crashed out of first place. (And yes, the announcers declared it a nightmare.)
  3. Now it was Dovizioso’s turn to blast ahead, while Marquez and Iannone fought for second place — until Iannone crashed out.
  4. Meanwhile, this was going on behind Marquez:

    Team Yamaha. Yes, Rossi snuck all the way up here from starting 10th in the grid. This is one of the reasons I love The Doctor.

  5. And then all of a sudden, there was Viñales somehow overtaking Dovizioso and swapping 1st place with him for the last few laps — until yes, he ultimately won the race, making him only the 6th rider ever to win his first race on a new team and bike.
  6. And finally, Valentino Rossi overtook Marquez for a spot on the podium in 3rd — which was an excellent start for the 38-year-old who hadn’t been having the greatest pre-season. I’m eager to see how he does next weekend in Argentina — which will be the 350th race of his career. Yes, that’s yet another world record for him.


And after the race? Viñales was all grace and good sportsmanship, handling victory  like a total professional. So yes, look out Marquez. There’s a new kid in town — and he’s got his eyes on your championship.  It looks like it’s going to be a mighty exciting MotoGP season.

Victory looks good on Viñales.


via Daily Prompt: Champion

Life on the Cusp

It seems like I spend so much of my life on the cusp of things, anticipating what’s right around the corner. I spend more time just about to start some new habit or practice, or restart something I’ve fallen away from, than I do immersed in the thick of them. The kid perpetually on the diving board getting ready to jump in.

Last October F and I went for our getaway, and I was in the process of writing about it, was just on the cusp of posting it, in early November. And then the election happened. And in the midst of all of that upheaval, writing about a motorcycle trip just seemed… too small. Who would want to read that when it felt like democracy was falling apart?

And then I got out of the habit of writing, and I started  a new job, and then it was the holidays, and winter hibernation months settled in, and, and, and. Until eventually, finally, I found that a little part of my brain was getting ready to start writing again. “March,” I told myself. “It’s okay that I spent the winter regrouping and relaxing, but in March I’ll get back at it.”Aaaand here it is April 4th. I guess I had one more month of hovering at the edge to do. But now it feels like the whole world is waking up, and I’m waking up along with it. Nature is on the cusp of something new, green fuzzing the tips of branches and poking up out of the ground, birds launching themselves into song, daylight hanging on a few minutes longer each day.

And, of course, that means that riding season is right around the corner, too.

So, it’s time to dust off the blog and get back to writing about all the things I love about riding. And there’s so much to say! I still have to write about the fabulous trip we took up north last fall. We’ve made a point of visiting new Big Boys to share, and even more are closing around the state. We have another great roadtrip planned for May. I got new gear for Christmas. MotoGP season has started.  And! I’m on the cusp of a mighty big new motorcycling adventure, a view that isn’t from the back of the bike…

Stay tuned!

via Daily Prompt: Cusp

PSA: Play Nice Out There, Drivers

It’s that time of year when lots of Michiganders head north on color tours to go leaf peeping. That means there’s going to be a lot of vehicles on the road. Plenty of those will be of the 2-wheeled variety, including us, as we’ve settled on an itinerary for our fall getaway and are heading out later this week. We’d like to stay “shiny side up,” so please, be careful out there, drivers. Here are some helpful hints for those of you encased in giant steel boxes with 4-wheels and rolled up windows and loud music to help you help us 2-wheels enjoy our time out on the road, too.

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The Silence Amidst the Roar

When I talk to people about riding two up, and particularly about our long weekend getaways, a question that often comes up is, “Do you have an intercom in your helmets so that you can talk on those long rides?” To which my answer is inevitably, “No. Absolutely not.” Which often gets an odd look. “You mean, you ride all that way together without being able to talk to each other?” So let me try to explain.

First off, on a practical, logistical level, the Concours is a sport touring bike. It’s not a big, noisy cruiser, and it certainly doesn’t have that extra distinctive assault on the ears that Harleys have. (Which is explained succinctly here if you’re interested. Also, that may be the most politely I’ve ever described the sound of a Harley).  So when we’re tooling around on country roads, we can absolutely have brief conversations if both our visors are up and the road’s empty enough for F to turn a bit and talk over his shoulder to me.

When we get out on the highway, clearly those conversations aren’t possible — but that’s okay. It’s actually kind of nice to have a bit of solitude inside your helmet, to be together with someone but also alone with your own thoughts. Since I’ve got the easy job as the passenger, I enjoy that time to relax and soak in the scenery, to find that place of silence amidst the roar of the engine and the wind. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I sing. (You can really belt it out inside a helmet at 70 mph.) Sometimes F sings, and I know by the way his helmet bobs about a bit when he does.

And besides, we do talk to each other, the entire time we’re riding. It’s the pat of my hands on his waist that means that I’m ready to go once I’ve gotten on behind him. It’s the tap on his shoulder to indicate we need to turn, or leaning forward to point to an exit sign when I’m navigating. It’s a point from him when there’s something he wants me to see, and a squeeze from my knees that says, “Yes, I see, thank you for sharing.” It’s the bike itself joining the conversation, and hearing what it says via pitch and vibration, like listening to a leading partner when dancing. It’s F putting his visor down before a stretch of curves or hills, a silent “Oh, this is about to get really fun.” It’s his left hand leaving the handlebars to clasp my shin, his arm snugged about my knee that says… well. I don’t think I can even translate that one into words, and even if I could, I think it would be words that are ours alone.



via Daily Prompt: Silence

The Great Fall Getaway

It was 90-some degrees and 200% humidity here in Michigan the first week of September. It’s like Labor Day hit and Summer said, “Wait a minute! I’ve got until the 21st, not so fast with your pumpkin spice, you’ve still got some sweating to do.” It’s hard to imagine that in 4 short weeks or so it will be 50 degrees, grey skies, and freezing rain. But it will be, because F and I are planning our Fall getaway together on the Concours.

It never fails. Every Fall sweeps in to Michigan all blue skies and crisp breezes and sun highlighting the magnificent oranges and golds of the trees as they turn.  It’s time for cider mills and pumpkins and sweater weather, but mainly just because you want to wear a sweater, not because you really have to. It’s perfect. And then whatever October weekend we’ve set aside to head north to enjoy it all, Fall suddenly says, “Sooo, I’m taking the weekend off, but don’t worry, Winter’s gonna pop in and cover my shift.” So, my apologies in advance, Michigan folks, but we’re planning our annual motorcycle Iditarod. We’re not exactly sure where we’re going or which weekend we’re going yet, but don’t worry, you’ll know. The morning the furnace kicks on for the first time, you can say to yourself from within your warm cocoon of blankets, “Ah, K and F must be on their way up north.”

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