Motorcycle Adventures

Poppy

Poppy was my first my motorcycle. 

She was a sporty, bright orange machine… actually referred to as a naked sport bike, the KTM 390 Duke…. Poppy Duke, as I came to know her… perhaps the great- great- granddaughter of the General and distant niece to Daisy Duke of Dukes of Hazard fame…. one can only speculate. 

She made me feel like the great-aunt who has taken in her wild niece for the summer.  I owned her for about a year, but one never forgets a first love.  Here are some memories….

Her youthful spirit of adventure softens my cautious sedentary existence. I am awakened to senses long buried under the day to day. 

When I am with her life flashes like one watercolor painting after the next. Beauty, color and texture let me in like a child running through a museum. The curves and hills and valleys each exposing new wonders. The open straightaways invite speed and daring while passing the summer fields…. amber fields dancing like the sea, hillsides of grapevines soon to be harvested, fruit trees in tidy rows like soldiers marching in an ancient parade. 

Clutch, shift, brake, throttle… its starting to come more naturally now. The learning curve has been slower than expected. Poppy has endured many rides far beneath her capabilities, but it won’t always be this way. 

I am changing because of her. My peripheral vision is becoming sharper. My eyes scan the road for my next move while staying alert for deer who may dare to cross my path, potholes and rocks abound. 

An unusually black rock appears and I calculate to avoid it, but my senses heighten… could it be? It’s walking. It’s hairy. It’s not a rock, but a tarantula! I seem to hold my breath and scream at the same time, “DID YOU SEE THAT? EWWW EWWW IT WAS A TARANTULA !!” My voice goes right into my husband’s helmet. He is 100 feet in front of me. He is envious for having missed it. I wish I could unsee it. 

I remember that they can jump…. could I have frightened the little guy into jumping on my pants? I extend my leg, not knowing what my reaction will be if I see him. Tragedy could really come that unexpectedly. Panic is my enemy. But there is no cause for it. He is not my unwelcome passenger. 

“You know they can jump, ” my husband teases unaware that I’ve just covered that scenario. He’s a funny man. Most of the time. 

The turns are tighter now. Clutch! Shift! Light on the brake! Increase the throttle! Lean! Push! The spider was a good distraction, my body is responding to the road more naturally. 

The sky is blue. Yesterday the coast was blanketed in fog, but today holds great promise. Magically the sapphire Pacific appears. My face actually hurts from smiling into the cushion of my helmet for so long. I can just barely feel my fingers from all that’s been required of them.  I hold on too tightly still, a rookie problem that is only resolved with time.

It’s a funny thing with riding. I have always despised this road; I am prone to car sickness. I endured it for the beach…. and the Jalama burger. But now it is the road is my favorite part…. Poppy loves it too.

Motorcycle Adventures

Oh Honey

     Covid came for Christmas, making my time with NancyJean an impossibility.  Even after the worst of it had subsided, it would be weeks before the brain fog lifted enough to safely ride.  After a month, we took little rides, 10 miles up the coast for espresso, 12 miles down the coast to visit our favorite motorcycle shop.  

     Yesterday we planned to go to Malibu, but when we pulled onto PCH at 8 am, the cars were already lined up to get in the parking lot.  We have this crazy weather in Southern California, and without fail we will have a heatwave in January or February… a few days of summer to remind us why we put up with the insane taxes and traffic.  Plus, Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday.  Our LA Rams would be playing at the brand new Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, and Monday was Valentine’s day.  But let’s face it, no one wants to celebrate Valentine’s day on a Monday.  So Saturday was the only romantic beach day option for most of California. We went to our espresso bar, LUV in Sunset Beach, to contemplate.  

     “Hi, can we get…” my husband started to order.

     “I know what you want,” the barista answered.  It feels good to be known.  LUV serves double espresso shots with a bubbly water chaser.  It makes my mouth feel clean and awake while the caffeine does the same to the rest of me.  We watch hoards of cars head for the beach.  If things were this crowded in Orange County, it would be tenfold in Malibu. 

     We changed our destination three times before heading south, then when we passed our tract, my husband jumped in the left turn lane.  “What are you doing?” I asked from two lanes over, “I thought we were going to Cooks Corner?”  

     “I’m just not feeling it today,” he said.  “Can you get over here?”

     “No,” I answered, and I didn’t really want to.  I was enjoying the cruise.  I told him I would turn around up ahead and meet him at home.  We don’t ride solo too often.  Our headsets keep the conversation lively as we zig zag through traffic and nature.  I passed a turn lane, then another, NancyJean just wasn’t ready to take me home yet.  I rode down to Superior.  A right turn would take me into the heart of Newport’s beachy bungalow community.  A left turn goes up the hill, on a curvy incline that’s fun to ride.  I go left. 

     I passed the KTM dealer where I bought my first motorcycle ever.  I was such a new rider I didn’t even ride it home.  It was a sassy, bright orange little thing named Poppy.  I turned left on 16th Street, through an eclectic mixture of businesses and older Costa Mesa homes.  Trader Joes was on 17th, and I did not want to contend with their Saturday shoppers.  Next was Placentia, then Victoria where ahhh,  the downhill view of my city and sea, then home.

     Sunday morning came early and we sailed through Corona del Mar with ease just after 7am.  By 9am it would be packed, but at 7 we just had to avoid the right lane, where under-caffeinated people were lined up to get their fix.  Laguna wasn’t too bad, Dana Point, again, avoiding the right lane, San Clemente was just waking up.  We stopped at our favorite donut shop, Surfin Donuts.  

     “I recognize you,” the man behind us said.  We got to chatting.  He rides too, but he did his big ride the day before and was in his truck.  That is to say I may have recognized him by his bike, but without it I needed the reminder.  His name is Todd from Dana Point.  The motorcycle community is so friendly.

     We fueled up and jumped on the autobahn… the stretch of I-5 that goes through the military base of Camp Pendleton.  There are no on/off ramps for miles and cars go FAST!  We get off on hwy 76, and head inland.  Our mission is loosely centered around getting honey from one of the roadside stands just past Pala Casino.  We pass the honey and head towards Lake Henshaw.  The cars dissipate, it’s just my hubby and me.  He likes to take the curves faster than I do and I tell him I will meet him at the overlook.

     NJ carries me gently, leaning into the road, the farmland gives way to the lake and birds of prey soar alongside us.   A few motorcycles are racing down, then something crazy, a guy on a skateboard with a video camera!  Then a few more motorcycles, and another skateboarder goes by…. and people think riding a motorcycle is dangerous!  I want to call their mothers.

    While my thoughts are blending together, I am also thinking about Joseph.  I write a daily blog to walk alongside people reading the bible.  It’s easy to get lost, especially in the Old Testament.  Anyway, we are moving into the chapter on Joseph and he’s so remarkable.  Terrible things happen to him, and he just rides it out, betrayal, false accusations, imprisonment, but he never gets lost in self-pity or despair.  I have been trapped by those emotions a time or two, and I have a few family members who get stuck there as well… one of which was NJ’s namesake, my mom, and I long for her on this ride.

    Riding gives me the ability to share life with her on a cosmic level.  She loved to make people smile.  NJ makes me smile, the road, the soaring birds, the crazy skateboarders with their friends, the air is so fresh it tastes good… the synching of the physical requirements of riding with the ebb and flow of life all around me is perfect.  And, like Joseph, all sorrows, all regrets simply do not exist.  I know my mom knows this freedom now too, and I smile, knowing her peace and joy are as full and complete as mine in this moment.

Motorcycle Adventures, Uncategorized

Sunday Drive with NancyJean

Sunday Drive with NancyJean

September 26, 2021

The plan…We will hit the road at 6:30am, Sharp!  The reality was a little more like 8:40am.  It’s still a good start.  Anytime we can skate through Corona Del Mar before 9 is a good start.  

We took the coast down through Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Laguna, Dana Point … we shot through Capo Beach, next to the railroad tracks that run alongside the beach on one side and the cliff that Kevin restored in the mid-1990’s from a land slide on the other.  I used to drive my Z28 Camaro as fast as it would go along that stretch when the road was blocked off for the construction… well over 100mph. NancyJean can feel it, but she is content to cruise closer to the speed limit.  We press on towards San Clemente, the seaside town that seems to hold its eclectic beachy vibe despite the progress of brand name coffee houses with drive thru service that have inundated most other places.  We pass a Taco Bell and give a curtesy wave to our family that live in the neighborhood just beyond it.

At last, our first stop, Surfin Donuts, three double espresso’s, a ham and cheese croissant for Kevin, a blueberry fritter for Noah, and my treasure, the best glazed donut in the entire world.  I have to close my eyes at the first bite.  There is nothing like it… my teeth sink through as though it is a cloud, the sweetness is gentle and cozy.  It is perfect.

We get back on the bikes and take a few turns and are back on I5 South.  I call this part the Autobahn, the highway goes through the military land of Camp Pendleton, so there are no on or off-ramps for a long stretch.  The speed limit seems to be a vague theory at best.  I hug the slow lane, and my sweet husband and son tolerate me.

At the sign for hwy 76, we merge off, cutting through Oceanside, past hwy 15, past the fruit stand where we will buy honey on the way back home.  The traffic gets progressively more absent, the road is becoming ours.

There are mountain peaks within sight.  A layer of clouds lingers about.  My son points them out.  My husband says we will be in them soon enough.  My mind remembers Jesus referring to himself as the stairway between heaven and earth (John 1:51), as the Led Zepplin song, Stairway to Heaven, competes.  

The curves are fantastic as we climb higher.  It is so misty that I need to wipe my shield off from time to time.  I try raising it and that is better, although I have to blink a lot.  It gets thicker; I can barely see my husband in front of me.  We are in the cloud.  We are a part of heaven on earth.

We emerge and pull over for a photo.  You can see a few peaks in the sea of clouds in the distance.  Our road ends at the turn off for Palomar Observatory to one side and Lake Henshaw to the other.  We stop for more stretching and photos.  It is sunny and green up here in the thick of the forrest.   

My husband leads us down towards Lake Henshaw.  At a vista point two dogs greet us with nervous barking.  Their owner calls them back, though they still had a lot to say.  We are high above the lake and it is so pretty.  It is much warmer on this side of the mountain.  

The curves are broad and the pavement is fresh and smooth.  We are the only ones on this side; there are vistas every turn or two… it is a feeling of space.  We have space and time and motion in a setting of evolving beauty and the technical challenges that make riding so engaging, downshifting and throttle, lean left, press right… there is everything and nothing going on at the same time, and the outside world doesn’t exist.  There are no wars, no politics, no bills to pay as we escape to this wonderland.  

Josie’s Hideaway is the end of the road for this trip.  There are bikes galore parked outside and a band called Whiskey Ridge playing in front of a giant American Flag.  We are a motley crew, in our riding gear, yet we blend right in.  We dined on sandwiches and sodas – I don’t drink soda too often, but on a long ride, sugar and caffeine bring a welcome dose of energy. 

The Hideaway sits on a horseshoe entrance.  Kevin says to go left as we leave because he wants to see the group of BMW motorcycles.  I go right, my head is still in the clouds, he just laughs and catches up to me. 

We are back on hwy 76, but it is an entirely different stretch with fresh sights and curves.  Before too long we are at the fruit stand with the fresh honey that inspired this journey, and on our way back home soon after that. 

 We are quiet on the ride back, apart from an occasional complaint about hazardous drivers and sore muscles.  We stay on the freeway, rather than take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway… It’s been a wonderful day.

Motorcycle Adventures

Time Out From Time Out

August 23, 2021

I have been grounded like a back-talking teenager from a stupid summer cold that has ruled my life for the past month.  NJ deserves and demands clarity.  Our only time together has been a few dustings and a hopeful check on her tire pressure.  It was sadly down… her version of running a fever.

My son was going to ride his Tiger 900 to work… his bike is named Coyote… Coyote the Tiger.  I decided to join him.  His work is just 2 miles away, and I feel my best in the morning hours.

At the first turn, I was overjoyed!  It is ¼ mile to the stop sign.  First gear, click, clutch, second gear, click, clutch, throttle, clutch, click, break for the stop sign.  All clear, turn, first gear, second, third, wind on my face… we are becoming one again. I lean left and right, giving her tires a hug.  

In less than 3 minutes, we turn into his parking lot for work.  I am not ready to be done.  

I turn right on Adams, so I can take Placentia home.  It has these curves running through Banning Ranch, just prior to Estancia High School that feel like a country road.  I am talking about a stretch that might be as long as a mile, but it brings me joy.  I lean with the curves.  I inhale the scent of dry grass.  It is cloudy this morning, a blanket of grey keeps the summer morning cool.  I feel the air all around me in my mesh summer jacket.  

I turn right again onto Victoria.  Victoria sits high through Costa Mesa, then drops going into Huntington Beach, giving an awesome view of the Pacific as I cross the Santa Ana River towards home.  The air cools and the aroma of the sea comes upon me.  I don’t want to be done.  I don’t want my time with NancyJean to end, I feel alive and strong when I ride.

Motorcycle Adventures

My First Love

Poppy was my first my motorcycle. 

She was a sporty, bright orange machine… actually referred to as a naked sport bike, the KTM 390 Duke…. Poppy Duke, as I came to know her… perhaps the great- great- granddaughter of the General and distant niece to Daisy Duke of Dukes of Hazard fame…. one can only speculate. 

She made me feel like the great-aunt who has taken in her wild niece for the summer.  I owned her for about a year, but one never forgets a first love.  Here are some memories….

Her youthful spirit of adventure softens my cautious sedentary existence. I am awakened to senses long buried under the day to day. 

When I am with her life flashes like one watercolor painting after the next. Beauty, color and texture let me in like a child running through a museum. The curves and hills and valleys each exposing new wonders. The open straightaways invite speed and daring while passing the summer fields…. amber fields dancing like the sea, hillsides of grapevines soon to be harvested, fruit trees in tidy rows like soldiers marching in an ancient parade. 

Clutch, shift, brake, throttle… its starting to come more naturally now. The learning curve has been slower than expected. Poppy has endured many rides far beneath her capabilities, but it won’t always be this way. 

I am changing because of her. My peripheral vision is becoming sharper. My eyes scan the road for my next move while staying alert for deer who may dare to cross my path, potholes and rocks abound. 

An unusually black rock appears and I calculate to avoid it, but my senses heighten… could it be? It’s walking. It’s hairy. It’s not a rock, but a tarantula! I seem to hold my breath and scream at the same time, “DID YOU SEE THAT? EWWW EWWW IT WAS A TARANTULA !!” My voice goes right into my husband’s helmet. He is 100 feet in front of me. He is envious for having missed it. I wish I could unsee it. 

I remember that they can jump…. could I have frightened the little guy into jumping on my pants? I extend my leg, not knowing what my reaction will be if I see him. Tragedy could really come that unexpectedly. Panic is my enemy. But there is no cause for it. He is not my unwelcome passenger. 

“You know they can jump, ” my husband teases unaware that I’ve just covered that scenario. He’s a funny man. Most of the time. 

The turns are tighter now. Clutch! Shift! Light on the brake! Increase the throttle! Lean! Push! The spider was a good distraction, my body is responding to the road more naturally. 

The sky is blue. Yesterday the coast was blanketed in fog, but today holds great promise. Magically the sapphire Pacific appears. My face actually hurts from smiling into the cushion of my helmet for so long. I can just barely feel my fingers from all that’s been required of them.  I hold on too tightly still, a rookie problem that is only resolved with time.

It’s a funny thing with riding. I have always despised this road; I am prone to car sickness. I endured it for the beach…. and the Jalama burger. But now it is the road is my favorite part…. Poppy loves it too.