Girl Powers

That’s all they really want

Some fun

When the working day is done

Oh girls, they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

Back in May at the Overland Expo, I met Ruth Belcher, the organizer of Dirty Girl Adv. She was there to check out the event and the spread the words of this organization. You may be asking what is the Dirty Girl Adv is all about? It’s a group for girls who like to have fun while riding in the dirt and to organize group rides.

One night at the Expo, she was asking me about the purpose of my journey and was touched by my story. Then, she asked me if I would be in Washington during the time the Touratech Rally will held. I told her that I’m not sure since I don’t have a set plan or itinerary. She asked if I was in the area during the event would I be willing to speak at the Meet and Greet for the Dirty Girl Adv event. I told her that I would be happy to and to keep her posted on my whereabout. As the date got closer and as I meander up Hwy 1, it was looking like I would make the Touratech Rally after all and have advised Ruth so. She was so excited that I was going to make it.

The Touratech Rally is an event for dual-sport bikes in conjunction with the Overland Rally. It include camping, classes, GPS tracks, group rides and entertaining guest speakers. On Thursday night, about 20 women showed up for the Dirty Girl Adv meet and greet where we got to co-mingle and get to know one another over a glass of wine. Toward the end of the event, myself and 3 other amazing women motorcycle riders got to share our stories and allow for Q & A about life on a motorcycle. At the end, we discussed which pre-planned ride we should do as a group and we choose an easy one so we can get the opportunity to visit all the exhibitors in the afternoon.

So the next day, we all showed up and plus some more which we quickly realized it will be too large as a single group. So we split up in group of two, one for the spirited riders and the other one for the beginner rider where I will be on the sweep team since I have a small bike. Well, I didn’t get very far on the ride when the chain broke on my bike. Sigh, it seems like my bike has a curse on these event. You may remember last September at the Horizon Unlimited event, my throttle cable broke. Luckily, it happened at the beginning of the trail head and two male riders saw what happened. One of them got up to Ruth to let her know that my bike broke and the other towed me back to camp. It looked like the Master Link shattered due to a rock getting in between the chain and the sprocket. I thought I had a spare Master Link in my tool kits but I can’t find it. So, I went to one of the vendor, Wenatchee Powersports, to see if they have my chain on hand and unfortunately they do not. However, they will have an employee bring one up from their store which is about an hour away. Touratech allowed me to park my bike under their canopy while I waited for the part and to work on the bike once it got here. Both of them were my hero that day!!! On top of that, these two gentlemen decided to pay for my chain after hearing my story about my journey.

While waiting for the chain, I started to doubt myself if I can replace the chain on my own. So, I asked Gary from Dirt First if he would be willing to oversee my process to make sure that I’m doing it correctly. Once the chain arrived, I got down to work on replacing it.  

 As true to his word, he didn’t try to take over fixing it but gave me great tips and tricks on how to make the process easier for me since some of the rear bolts are hard to turn. Whoo-hoo, my bike is fixed but it is too late in the day to try to sneak in a ride and I still need to clean up.  

 The girls finally came back and the hour ride ended up taking four hours since a couple of the girls never have been on dirt before and fell a couple of times. This brings back memories of the first time I went on dirt, I fell at least thirty times, no joke. I have done that same trails several times now and never fall once. I can’t believe how far I have come since that first time. Anyway, some of the girls want to do the same trails again tomorrow and was wondering of Ruth and I would lead and sweep for them once again. Yippee, I was excited that finally I will get to see some dirt. The next day, we got to ride the same trail again but this time with only five girls and boy it fun but very hot, it got up to 108 that day. So, after our ride, one of the lady arranged for us to go river rafting and we had a blast. On one point ride, we got to pull up to a beach and jump into the river, it felt so good to cool down and to be clean again.

On the bus ride back from river rafting, I asked Melanie from Wenatchee Powersports where would be a good camping spot halfway between Plain, WA and Spokane, WA. She and her partner looked at each other and said at their house would love to host me for the night. I was honored and delighted that they would do that for me. So the next morning, I met them at their trailer and followed them back to Wenatchee which is about 50 miles from where we were camped. Once I got there, I learned that Sally, Melanie’s partner had to leave that night for a conference in Spokane and Melanie will be meeting her the next day there. So that mean, Melanie and I will be riding together and she gave me a guided tour of a side road on the way to Spokane. During lunch at Billy Burgers in Wilbur, WA (delicious burger, by the way) , I learned that she is the owner of Wenatchee Powersports.

I had an awesome weekend at the event and it was great to hang out and ride with some of the most amazing women in the industry. It feels so good to fit right in among them. For so long, I have been the only girl whenever I go dirt riding, the guys used to joke that I’m not just a girl meaning that I was one of the boys. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind that but it is sure nice to be a girl once in a while.

Stories of Our Roots

The recurring theme this week seems to be about stories of where we come from and sometimes going back to our roots to start over again. Two very special places struck a cord with me, Agness, OR and Warm Springs, OR. After several weeks of riding Highway 1, I was getting tired of constant fog and winds so after Gold Beach, OR, I decided to turn inland and ride the Bear Camp Coastal Route. Right before you begin the fifty miles of twisty and winding road with 15-25 mph curves is a town with a very small population called Agness.   Agness is an unincorporated town that is located two major river in Oregon, Rogue and Illinois river. The Post Office was established in 1897 and the town was named after the Postmaster’s daughter. Agness is only one of two town that is served by rural mail boat still operating in the U.S. The area is a popular for fishing and the river tours. I stopped at the Old Agness Store in Agness, Oregon to take a break and to try some Apple Fritters. The Apple Fritters were delicious and sorry Allison, I couldn’t get the secret family recipe. As I was sitting there, an older lady (Rebecca Sims-Grant) walked in with her daughter, granddaughters and great-granddaughter. I couldn’t help but overhearing their conversation inquiring about certain resident still living there. So I asked her, if she lived in the town and she said that she used to back in the early 50’s. Then she proceeded to tell stories of living in the town during those times. It was also her daddy and uncle who built and owned the General Store. The store was the gathering place for the local news and gossips as she put it. The one room school house still exist to serve the local kids. She remembered that there were only nine kids in the days she went to school there.   I asked her what brought her back here and she wanted to show her family where she grew up and what it was like living in a small rural town. Rebecca was quite impression how the General Store looked now. This is due to new owners, Steve and Michele, who bought the place back in 2013. It took them four months of renovation in order to bring it back to life. Steve and Michele Berlant met back in 2008 when Steve was living in Agness and Michele, a resident of New York has been visiting her family here since she was five years old. She decided to move back to Agness and married Steve to begin a new life here with the general store.   I wished I had more time to listen to their stories but they were quite busy cooking and attending to the stream of customers that kept walking in. It was time for me to mosey on to the next stop on my journey which was Warm Springs, Oregon.    As I was wondering up Highway 26 toward Mt. Hood, I noticed a little museum on the side of the highway and decided to check it out. It was called The Museum at Warm Springs which was about the Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs. It consist of three tribes; the Wasco, Tenino (Warm Springs) and Paiute. It was typical of any Native American museum but what caught my eye was the last line on an informational plaque about petroglyphs. The plaque was called “Songs of Our People” and it read as this: The stories of our people tell of our creation, evolution, and destiny. They live in ancient song and are written on the land around us. We must protect these stories, passing them along to future generations by sharing them in the present.   The writing on the rocks and the ancient songs still speak to us. But will we listen?  As I read that, I think about how many people who have had to move away from their hometown due to jobs, economy, weather or whatever reason it may be but never go back and revisit their root or pass on the stories of their childhood onto the next generation. As for me, I haven’t been back to my childhood home in very long time and hopefully soon I will get the chance. For now, I do not have any roots since the road is my home but at every stop I make, I get a postcard to send to my granddaughter so she can see where I have been and cherish the stories I have to tell on my journey.

In Memory Of

Well, we had our 2nd Annual Russ Austin Memorial ride in Santa Margarita Lake, CA and once again it was a success. For those of you has been following my blog for a while, may remember that the last year event was a bittersweet experience for me. It was a joyous event in remembering all of the good times we had but also a painful reminder that he is not here anymore.

Just like one of the cliché expression that I don’t like says “time heals all wound”, the wound was still there but it was easier to deal with the emptiness of his presence. We had the same amount of TW200 riders as last year but with new faces than last year. We had several rides come from out-of-state, such as Washington, Nevada and Arizona. Also, we had a couple of women riders this year which I’m always excited about! It is nice not to be the only girl in the group.
Just like last year, everyone arrived on Friday, even me. Actually, I made it up a day early but stayed overnight in Morro Bay, CA to visit with my sister-in-law. As usual, our wonderful camp host, Mel, provided us with the meals all three days. He loves providing us with a central place for chow so we would have more times among with each other than everyone retreating back to their tent or cabin during meal times.

Since, the beach ride last year was a huge hit, we did it again. We rode up through Hi Mountain Road starting from Pozo and ending up in Arroyo Grande. It’s a 34 mile fire road through the Los Padres Forest. It is classified as an easy trail but there seems to be more ruts in it than last year. At one point on the trail, there was a broken down truck which amazingly our chase vehicle narrowly squeezed by. The chase vehicle was driven by my son’s girlfriend which was loaded with many of the guy’s significance others who wanted to tag along for the ride. All of the wives gave her high praises for her skilled driving.

On day two of the event, I took one of the guy’s wife who is a beginner for a private ride to help her gain confidence in own riding skills while the guys went on a ride looking for the Pozo mine. I don’t think they ever found it but still had fun exploring the various roads in Pozo. I had a blast riding with her, it actually brought back many memories of the days I was learning to ride while Russ patiently riding behind me. It is so nerve wrecking having someone we love watching us as we learn how to ride. It sometimes become unproductive because we’re so self-conscious of trying not to make a mistake and we end up making more mistakes than normal.

Most of everyone left on Sunday night except for the usual hard-core SoCal TW200 riders, we stayed the night. As we sat around the campfire, we noticed two motorcycle riding into camp trying to find an empty site to camp. So, we offered to share our site with them. They were best friends, one live in Oregon and the other one in Colorado who meet up once a year and ride around. They were ever so grateful for our hospitality and as usual, our camp host, Mel, ran off to dished up a warm meal for our guests.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend with old and new friends sharing our passion for motorcycles. As I said last year, “remember that life is too short and cherish the times you have with your friends, family and loves one. You’ll never know when you might go home to an empty house”. As for me, the open road is now my home and my heart is not empty anymore since he is riding with me in spirit.

“Make New Friends”

Make new friends, but keep the old

One is silver and the other gold. A circle is round, it has no end

That’s how long I want to be your friend. Here is my hand, and here is the other

Let’s put them together and we have each other.

The other day, a friend of mine made a comment how fortunate that I was to have many friends who are conspiring together to help me have a successful journey! This reminded me of an old Girl scout song that I used to sing and taught to my daughter as well in Girl Scout. It’s called “Make New Friends” and according to Wikipedia that Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scout found this song from the Kent County Song Book. This book contained folk songs from the British Isles. Ever since Russ and I acquired the mighty Tdub (aka TW200), we have been gaining new friends from all walk of life through these little bikes. In the past, we would not go on group rides because we were easily distracted by the endless side roads which could mean new adventures lie ahead for us but being stuck in a group ride means that we’re stuck on a set itinerary. However, one day we decided to bite the bullet and try out the TW200 group ride through Joshua Tree. This is where we met Jeff and Ron who became a lifeline for him and for me after he passed away. In fact, after Russ passed away I acquired hundreds of brother-in-law. They all step up to the plate in helping me selling the motorcycles, covering the funeral expenses and getting my bike ready for this trip. I could not have done it without their generosity of time, parts and moral supports. When I started planning for this trip a year and a half ago, I started attending the Horizon Unlimited and the Overland events to get educated about the life on the road, I met amazing people who have been traveling all over the world on a motorcycle and some of them have written about their journey. One in particular is Carla King, Russ and I met her at our first Horizon Unlimited event back in 2013. She was fascinated with our little bikes and the all of the modification we have done with our bikes. That is where she originally suggested that we start a blog about our bikes, the mod we have done and the tools we made to be frugal in our spending. However, at the time I too afraid to write the blog know that my writing skills were not up to par with the writers that are out there. When I met her again at the Overland and once she heard about my plan for the year-long trip, she once again encourage that I blog about my trip. This is where I got braved enough to tell her about my hearing impairment and how it hinder my writing skills. That is where she suggested I create a sticky about my writing styles and then not to worry about others might think about it. So here I am on the journey of a lifetime and sharing to the world the trial and tribulation of it all. Then I can’t forget my three girlfriends, Kelly, Christine and Janet who has been through it all with me since childhood. Sometimes life don’t allow us to get together often enough. However, when we do get together, we always pick up where we left off as if we never had a gap.     There are too many other new friends that I have met along the way to mention here. However, all of them have been my guiding angels on this trip. When a particular situation arises, I can alway hear one or the other talking in my head to give me the guidance or moral support to get through the situations. I’m sure that there will many more people who I will meet along the way to give me the experiences, strength and hope on my journey.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Ever wondered how when one door closes and another one opens unexpectedly like it was meant to be? That is what happened to me this week. Between Overland Expo event in Flagstaff, AZ and the Rubber Duck race fundraiser in San Dimas, CA, I had a week to kill between the two events. Originally I was planning to go down to Baja and do some volunteer work at Rancho Surdo Mudo but somehow the plans fell through the crack. So here I am without a plan once again and still wanted to head to warmer pasture to recuperate from my cold that I got at Overland Expo. A friend of mine suggested that I get in touch with one of his friend in San Felipe to arrange for a stay. However, that friend is no longer living down there and he put me in touch with one of his friend.

This is where I met Wendy Doman, owner of Crystal Blue Healing and Teaching. She has never has hosted a wayward traveler before and didn’t know what to expect. On top of that, she was expecting her sister to come into town shortly as well and didn’t know if it would conflict with one another. After a five hours ride the long way around, I finally arrived into San Felipe and headed to her shop behind the Parrot Cracker Bar & Grill. She wasn’t there so I gave her a quick call and she said that she was in town running errands and will be back shortly. She suggested that I hang tight at the cantina for a bit. As it turned out, her sister is coming out the week after that I will be here so she will be able to host me for the week.
Wendy is a cancer survivor of twenty-one years which has directed into a more holistic path of recovery after a near fatal experience with radiation. She began studying Chinese medicines, mediations and massage therapy as way to heal her mind and body. After her study was completed, she started teaching to others what she learned to help others to find serenity and recover from their personal issues.  However, about eleven years ago Wendy felt she needed to change in scenery from the blistering cold weather of Ontario, Canada. So one day, she decided to sell all of the her materialistic things and loaded up what she could into car and head south not sure of her destination. At first, she landed in Austin, TX and after a month she felt that she needed to be on the move again. She didn’t feel at home there. So, once again, she was on the move and ended up in Sedona, AZ. Immediately, she felt at peace there but unsure what to do or where to stay but house sitting always seems to fell into her lap. It worked for a while but she still felt a calling somewhere else.  Then she heard about a project working with the indigenous indian in Baja California, Mexico, the Paipai. A gentleman took her and another guy up the mountain north of San Felipe and left them there without any resources. They had to learn to work with the natives and to live off the land for about four months. This is where she discovered that she had the inner strength and courage to move off the mountain to seek a new path which led her to San Felipe to open up her own practice offering reflexology, massage and spiritual healing workshop.

 She also have developed a natural remedy for various bug bites and a healing mist to relieve stress and tension. She has had many ups and downs with her practice. Now after nine years, practicing here, she has gained a prestigious status as a healer and have quite a few followers among the resident here. The other day when we decided to play tourist and visit the Seafood Festival in downtown, I got to witness her ability to connect with the residents and how they seek her out for advice for natural remedy for their ailments.

I’m glad that everything happened for a reason, our path crossed and I got to hear her stories of experiences, strength and hope. At the same time, I was able recover from my cold and to take to the time to grieve for the loss of my husband which I wasn’t able to do last week at the Expo since it would have been our fourth anniversary. I’m starting to believe that since I couldn’t grieve properly and held all that emotions within inside me that I weaken my immune system which is why I got sick. I need to remember to take the time to rejoice, grieve and to honor his memories as I progress on this journey.

Crystal Blue Healing and Teaching off of Ruta 5 behind Parrot Crackers Bar & Grill, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico

Apache Trail

After the Overland Expo, I headed south to one of the oldest highway in Arizona.  It is officially known as State Route 88 but commonly called the Apache Trail.  It was a Stagecoach trail that runs through the Superstition Mountain.  It was also a major trading route for the Apache indians.

The Trail winds steeply through 40 miles (64 km) of rugged desert mountains, past deep reservoir lakes like Canyon Lake and Apache Lake. The narrow, winding road is unpaved from just east of the town of Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Dam; there are steep cliff drops and little in the way of safety barriers.

At the beginning of the trail on the North side is the Roosevelt Dam, it was first started in September 1906 and completed in 1911.  The building of the dam should have only taken 2 years to build but suffered severe flooding several times over the years which caused the delay of the construction. Even it suffered many blows, it was still considered at the time the largest dam of its day.  Then in 1989, the renovation began on the crumbling dam to expand it from 77 feet (23 m) to 357 feet (107 m) which expanded the capacity of the dam by 20%.  The project also included the development of the Roosevelt Bridge for the realignment of State Route 188.

At the end of the trail is Superstition Mountain where the infamous lost mine called “Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine”.  It is named after a German immigrant Jacob Waltz (c. 1810–1891), who purportedly discovered it in the 19th century and kept its location a secret.   To this day according to one estimate, 8,000 people annually made some effort to locate the lost mine.  However, no one has located it since 1892.

It was a beautiful ride through the canyon and I wished that I had turned on the GoPro correctly to show you the wonderful imagery I witnessed.  I’ll need a lesson 101 from my son on how to use the GoPro when I meet up with him next month for my husband memorial ride.


Lesson Learned on the Road

“There are no mistakes in life,

only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only

opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road of self-mastery.

From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher”

(Robin Sharma)

Well, I made it through week one without any catastrophic event.  However, I already had some ups and downs on this journey.  This process had allowed me to step back and acknowledge those lessons and to learned from them.

  • As odd as this may sound but I was so excited about finally be able to strip down to nothing when crawling into my sleeping bag on the first night of camping.  After wearing multi-layered riding clothes and being in other people’s company, my body was starting to feel a little bit claustrophobic. However, it was a bit nippy that night but as I was taught, it’s a good thing to be naked in the sleeping bag so your body heat will keep you warm.  All was well until I starting panicking about whether or not I could do this solo.  I felt so lost without Russ.  Then I started to get critical with myself. Reminding myself that I have gone camping so many time solo and this time is not any different from before.   By this time, I tried to compensate my panic attack (my first ever) by trying to be prepared for any worst case scenarios such as a bear, natural disaster or other misdeed. While this was going on in my head, I decided to put on some clothes in case I needed to get out of the tent to walk around.  All of the sudden, I started to relax quite a bit and fell right back to sleep.  I was kind of surprised by this.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate wearing clothes but at first I couldn’t understand how this action brought comfort to me.   The only conclusion I could make from this is that I felt exposed and needed to feel some protection around me.
  • On the second night of camping, I was able to sleep through the night wearing some basic clothes.  However, when I woke up I discovered that it has rained overnight.  I asked a fellow camper when did it rain.  He said it was around 4:30 am and was surprised that I didn’t hear it since it was a quite a downpour.  You may be asking why don’t I wear them during the night, well they’re a bit uncomfortable to wear all the time.  Kind of the same situation as wearing clothes all the time, the ears feel suffocated.  Plus, they’re hard and press into my ears when I lay on my side at night.  By the way, there are advantages and disadvantages of being deaf.  The advantage is that I can turn off my ears anytime I want to.  Russ used to tease about the day we got married is the day that he stopped snoring.  However, the disadvantage is that I miss out some soothing noises such as the sound of rain pattering on top of the tent.
  • Most of the first week has been with wonderful companies of friends and other motorcycle riders.  However, I need to learn to make some alone time for myself to process my thoughts and feelings.  This week had a significance meaning for me since it would have been our fourth wedding anniversary.  At first I thought it would be good to be constantly busy but I feel that I haven’t properly grieved for my loss.

All in all, it has been off to a good start and looking forward to all of the wonderful experiences whether they’re up or down but that parts of life.   Onward to the next lesson in life.