The Journey to HU California 2015

It’s that time again, the fifth annual Horizon Unlimited motorcycle event is being held at the Mariposa County Fairground. This year, I offered to volunteer on behalf of a charity organization called Lost for a Reason.  


When I registered for the event, I asked one of the organizer if they still needed presenters and of course she said that they still needed to fill some time slot. Thinking it was like Overland Expo event, I submitted several ideas but I didn’t realize that they would choose both topics I presented. Yikes, I had less than two weeks to get a new laptop and to look through over 2,000 pictures that I took on the trip to use in both presentations.

The first hurdle I had to jump since I got back from the road was dealing with the bank. I went on a Sunday to buy the new laptop but my bank declined it. Uh? I know that I have enough money in my account so I was baffled as to why it would be declined. Since, it is a local credit union, I won’t be able to address the issue until Monday. Sigh, it has not been a smooth transition ever since I have gotten back home. After discussing it with the bank and which I have forgotten about is that I had them put a $500 dollar cap on all charges before I went on the road. So once I have cleared up that hurdle I went back and purchased the laptop and began the process of installing all of the necessary softwares which took several days.  

Then I could finally proceed with putting together the slide show for the two presentations. The first one was called “Roadside America – Unusual attractions, tourist traps, other oddities in the USA” This presentation was all about America obsession with quirky billboards and giant statues that still litter along the highway. The second presentation was about “Life Lesson from the Road” and was more emotional and harder for me to put to together. When I started this journey, I wanted to share experiences, strength and hope but it is I who ended up learning more about herself. Plus when looking through the all of the pictures, I discovered that it was mostly that the people I met along way who gave me experiences, strength and hope.

Whew, I finished working on my slide show presentation the day before I needed to hit the road to Horizon Unlimited. Last year, I took a scenic route up there but since Purple is drinking oil a little bit too much for my taste, so I decided that this year, I would take the most direct route up there. Part of it is on Highway 58, which I finally stopped at a museum that I have been wanting to visit probably a million times since this is the same route I used to take to go to the Corporate office who I used to work for.  

The museum is in a small town call Boron which is home to the U.S. Borax Boron Mine, California’s largest open-pit mine, which is also the largest borax mine in the world. Back in the old days, the borax was hauled out of there via a Twenty-mule teams. They were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons that traveled from Death Valley across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles (275 km) away in Mojave, California. There were miniature version of the twenty-mule team and other artifacts about the mining life in Boron.  


I got an unexpected surprise when I stopped to visit the Twenty-Mule Museum, there was another museum next door. The Saxon Aerospace museum displays a collection of artifacts from the Edwards Air Force Base which is famous for its role in flight research and test pilot heroics such as Chuck Yeager.  

Since the event was over 300 miles away and I typically only go about 150 miles per day when I’m traveling, I stayed the night in a small town called Porterville and hit the road early the next day so I can make it in time for my 2 p.m. presentation. Only twenty-eight miles out, my chain broke again. Sigh, I seem cursed when I head to this event. You may remember last year on my way home, I broke the throttle cable and had to camp out in the middle of a blizzard. Before I hunkered down to work on the chain to see what broke, I decided to call AAA just in case knowing that it usually take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour for them to show up. It’s a good thing that I did, as I took the chain guard off and tried to wiggle the chain out of the bike, I noticed that it is wrapped up in the motor near the front sprocket. This is not a good sign! So it is a good thing that I already called AAA. Wow, they showed up in less than thirty minutes and I got two of them to show up at the same time. I guess they got excited when they heard over the radio that a female motorcycle rider is broken down on the side of the road. After looking at my bike and reading where AAA wanted them to take my bike, they decided it would be better to take me to a Yamaha dealer forty-five miles away instead. 

When we arrived at the dealer, they were able to work on it right away and the progress was not looking good since they had to take the side cover off and cut the chain out since it was wrapped up several times around the front sprocket. We didn’t know what the condition of the sprocket would be in and they didn’t have one on hand. However, they could get one within the same day if needed to. I was probably the worst customer they had since was pacing back and forth in front of the garage and looking at my watch calculating to see what the latest time I had to leave in order to make it in time to my presentation. Well, I got the good news about thirty minutes I had to be on the road that the sprocket is in fair and should hold up until I get back home. As soon as Purple was put back together, I jumped up on her and rode her for two and half hour straight to get the event with ten minutes to spare, whew!


A Fork in the Road

I awoke today to hit the road to Horizon Unlimited California and as I was getting ready, I was watching the morning news and sadden to hear that the baseball legend, Yogi Berra has passed away last night at the age of 90.  Yogi is not just known for baseball but he was also known for his paradoxical or redundant quotes also known as Yogism’s.  Ironically, one of his quote is fitting for this blog post.

Keep trying. Stay humble, Trust your instincts.

Most importantly, act.  When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

(Yogi Berra)

When I set out to do this journey, I set out to be out on the road for a year.  However, like I mentioned in my previous blog post is that I did not expect that I would not be able to do it physically.  Midway through the trip, the arthritis in my hands have been flaring up pretty bad to the point where I was popping Ibuprofen like candy.  After my post, I got a lot of suggestions from friends and family for remedy from homeopathic cure such as take Turmeric daily or wearing compression gloves.  The best one that worked was to take Aleve instead of Ibuprofen. It doesn’t take the pain away completely but it lasted longer.  This solution made the ride more bearable but I knew that I could not keep going like this.  So when I reach the end of Route 6, I knew that it was time to go back home and seek professional help.

Unfortunately, getting doctor appointment quickly is not easy.  So knowing that it will take time to get to the root of the issue with my hands, I will have some idle time.  So when I visited Ron Grace of Lost for a Reason and he mentioned that he was unable to attend the Horizon Unlimited (HU) event in California, I knew that I would have plenty of time on my hand so I offered my assistance to his charity organization.  As it turned out, they still needed speakers for HU, so I offered to do a presentation and submitted two suggestions for topic; Life Lesson from the Road and Roadside America.  Well, they picked both topics so I spent the last week and half working on both slideshow.

While working on the presentation, my mind kept wandering back to the time I was on the road.  I’m starting to get withdrawal being cooped up in a house.  I miss the freedom and the carefree lifestyle that the road had shown me.  At the same time, I do not like being in constant pain either.  While taking a break from the presentations, I started googling for alternative ideas.

One idea is to take shorter trips, I still want to finish my bucket list of traveling on the remaining eight U.S. old routes.  So maybe, I can just do one route then come home for a while and then do another one later in the year.

Another idea is to invest in a touring van such as a Sportsmobile or a VW Rialta as my main mode of transportation and haul Purple on a hitch on back of the van.  This is sounding like a better idea more and more every day.  While on the road, the one thing I miss the most is exploring on the dirt road but with a fully loaded bike, it was not enjoyable to do.  With having a touring van, I could camp on BLM land and spend days exploring the nearby area on Purple.  Another thing that make the touring van more appealing is when bad weather hits, I would have a better shelter than a tent can provide.  Also, I could carry a lot more gears in the touring van than I could on a bike.  The list of Pro is growing longer than the list of Con.

Okay, I was getting a little bit distracted by this research to figure out other alternative ways to satisfy my wanderlust.  For now, I need to focus on what I can do today while I wait for my medical appointments. Meanwhile, I found a couple of side jobs to hold me over financially since the estate still haven’t closed yet. Until then, I just need to remember to take it one day at a time.

Today’s Reminder:

“When I catch myself feeling overwhelmed, or not being able to get anything done because there is so much to do that I don’t know where to start, I’ll stop for a moment and remind myself to take it one step, one task, one day at a time.”

Grand Army of the Republic Highway

U.S. Route 6 also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. It is the oldest continuous highway in United States. Prior to 1964, it ran east-northeast from Long Beach, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts with a total miles of 3,652 but now it starts from Bishop, California with only total miles of 3,205.

According to Wikipedia, US 6 does not serve a major transcontinental corridor, unlike other highways and quoted George R. Stewart of U.S. 40: Cross Section of the United States of America, realized that Route 6 runs uncertainly from nowhere to nowhere, scarcely to be followed from one end to the other, except by some devoted eccentric”

I guess, I’m one of those devoted eccentric geek who had to say that she rode the U.S. Route 6 from one end of the US to the other!

Below is a list of the top five places I visited from the East Coast to the West Coast.
1. French Azilum – I discovered this place when I stopped at the Pennsylvania’s visitor center to get my free map of the state. There isn’t much to this place, you’ll have to use a lot of imagination to see how it was supposed to be. However, it was the curator that made the place magical for me. I was the last visitor of the day and she gave me a private tour of the house that once belonged to the son of one of the founder of the colony. The story about the French Azilum is that several Philadelphians were sympathetic to the flight of the exile due to the French Revolution so they purchased 1,600 acres to develop a town for them. About 30 rough long houses were built. One long house was called the La Grand Mansion which was rumored to house Queen Antoinette during her exile. However, she was killed before she left the country.

2. Pine Creek Gorge – This place is known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It’s almost fifty (50) miles long and 1,000 feet deep. I took a covered wagon ride through the gorge. It was beautiful but it still nothing compared to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. However, it is still a must see place to visit.

3. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – This museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio and is dedicated to archiving the history of all of those involved in producing music. It was five stories and my favorite part was the Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits exhibit. He was part of the first movement of still photographers who became directors of music videos and television commercials. His photographs were stunning and whimsical. You can tell from the photographs that it looked like he and the subjects had fun doing the photo shoot.

4. Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum – I like classic cars but I do not go gaga over them. However, this museum was the exception! As soon as I walked in, my mouth dropped big time. First of all, when you walk into the building which was the International Headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company from 1930 to 1936. The architecture of the building and inside was designed in the art deco style. It felt like you step back in time. The collection includes the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg and others automobile dating from 1890’s to the 21st century.

5. Nevada Northern Railway Museum – This museum is located in Ely, Nevada and the site of the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete main yard remaining from the steam railroad era. It is definitely the least altered because when I joined the tour of the yard, the first thing the engineer said before the start of the tour is that the area is not ADA compliance nor does it meet the safety requirements for the general public. In another word, you’re taking this tour at your own risks. My favorite kind of place, I want to see it as if I was walking the area back in time of the 1900’s. I got watch two young adult learning how to operate the steam-powered Wrecking Crane ‘A’ as a way to pass down the history and tradition to the younger generation of engineers. For those who are trains fanatic then this is a must see place on your bucket list.

Three down and eight more of the old back roads of the United States to go. For more information about the eleven back roads, you can go to

The Smallest Act of Kindess!

                                           “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”                                                                               – Ronald Reagan

The definition of philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money or time for a good cause.

The only thing I disagree with the definition above is the word “generous”. For a long time, I could not donate money to any charity organization but I always volunteer my time. Whether it is for an hour or for eight, it is something more than they had before.
For me, it started sixteen years ago, the bank I worked for always donated toys for the holiday to a local organizations in the community. One day, the bank sent out a memo asking for volunteer to help out with the Rubber Duck Race fundraiser for one of the local organization called McKinley’s Children Center. 
McKinley’s was founded in the 1900’s providing cares for orphaned, homeless and abused boys. As the organization grew so did the needs of the children in the community. Now, they provide the following services for boys and girls in the community such as Foster Care and Adoptions, Mental Health services and Residential Care with a Special Education school.
I was so impressed with the organization, now I volunteer one day every year for the Rubber Duck Race fundraiser. I even planned my trip so I would be in area at the time of the event so I could continue my tradition of volunteering at this event. My annual duty is collecting the rubber ducks out of the water (over 10,000 of them). I wear the proud badge as the “Duck Collectors”.
That has been the only charity organization that I volunteered for so while on my trip, I made a pit stop to meet with Ron Grace and his family to learn more about his charity organization, Lost for a Reason. Lost for a Reason started over fifteen years ago when he and his wife were broken down on the Navajo Reservation and met with Officer Darryl Curley of the Navajo Police Department. While they waited for help with the motorcycle, Darryl told them the problem and the culture of the Navajo. This planted the seed of how they can help by providing personal items, playground and repairing shelter homes.  

While chatting at the dining table, I asked Ron if they’re going to be at the Horizon Unlimited California event and he said that unfortunately due to budget constraint that they’re unable to make it. I told him that I would be happy to volunteer my time for his organization on his behalf since I am heading back to California and will be there in time for the event. He was elated and will check with the organizer to see if he still can set up a booth at the event and let me know.

Well, I heard from him a couple of days later advising that the organizers are excited that I will be able to continue the promotion of Lost for a Reason cause. So if you’re attending the Horizon Unlimited event in Yosemite, California on Sept. 24th through the 27th, be sure to stop by the booth and say hi.


the Great Northern

The next part of my journey took me on U.S. Route 2 which has been dubbed as the Great Northern. It was named in memory of the pioneer railroad that parallels the western half of the route. It start in Everett, Washington and cross into Canada at the Michigan border. Then it cross back into the U.S. in Vermont and end in Bangor, Maine. Once again, I did not do the entire route due to a personal reason when it meets up with the Canadian border. So below are the list of my six favorite places of the western half of U.S. Route 2.
Going to the Sun Road – It is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park in Montana and going over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The two lane road is quite narrow and winding, especially west of Logan Pass. I camped nearby and decided to head up quite early. Even early in the morning was full of traffic and after talking to some of the local on the other side, they suggested that I should have done it in the early evening when everyone is heading out for dinner. So here is my recommendation and maybe do the tour buses instead of driving so you can take pictures. There were not many pull off stops to get off the bike to take the pictures.

Kootenai Falls – Kootenai Falls is the largest undammed falls in the state. The hike offers an unforgettable and breathtaking view of the Kootenai River. Also at the falls is a swinging bridge that provides access to the opposite side of the Kootenai River. This area has been known as a sacred site to the Kootenai tribe. They view it as the center of the world, a place where tribal members can commune with the spiritual forces that give direction to the tribe and to individual members. 

Old Forts Trail – I only visited a couple of these forts (Fort Assinniboine and Fort Benton are located in the Russell Country Region of Montana) at the end of the trail. I wished I knew about it sooner and would have traveled the same route that were traversed over 100 years ago by wagon by the U.S. Cavalry. In addition the previous two forts, I visited several others in North Dakota as well. Some were elaborate and other you could only envision what it might have looked like back in the day.

Charles Lindberg’s childhood home – The home tour was simple but it was the story of Charles Lindberg that fascinated me the most. His bedroom was a screened-in porch which he slept in all year around. Something that Russ would have done since he loved sleeping outside in our yard all the time. Also, Charles was quite the innovator in anything mechanical such as a water heater and incubator for the chickens.

Gooseberry Falls State Park – This state park is in Minnesota on the north shore of Lake Superior. It is known for its spectacular waterfalls and river gorge. It has three falls fittingly called Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Another beautiful hike to visit the falls, a day ride off the U.S. Route 2.   

Niagara Falls – The world-famous set of three large waterfalls on the Niagara River. Both the American and Horseshoe falls can be best seen from the Canadian side of the river (which I highly recommend to see it from the Canadian side). The natural spectacle attracts millions of tourists yearly so it can be a bit hectic trying to visit but it is sure worth it.

Many have told me to bypass the North Dakota section and head south to the South Dakota since there were not much to see. I’m glad that I stuck to my guns and got to enjoy seeing some of the forts. I only wished that I planned it better to visit all of them. This brings up many possibilities for road trips in North America that could be based on themes. I also noticed that I not a tree person so I don’t care for traveling in forest but rather be riding out in the open plains such as North Dakota. I guess everyone has their own preference of where to travel and what to see.

Two down and nine more of the old back roads of the United States to go. For more information about the eleven back roads, you can go to

Gina Comes to Town

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to make a pit stop to get new tires on the bike. The down fall with the TW200 tires, you can’t just go to any motorcycle shop to get them so I have to order them which usually take three to four days to receive them. So I contacted a fellow Tdubber’s to see if I make arrangement to have the tires shipped to his house. He was more than happy to help me with my bike to ensure that I have a safe journey. I met up with Kurt and his wife at their ranch in Auburn, IN.

While there, I learned that Kurt was avid outdoorsmen and from the pictures on the wall in his warehouse that he probably has lots of stories to tell. So, after spending of couple of days working on both of our bikes and a day of traveling together, I have inspired the blogging bug into him. Here’s his story of my visit.

Gina Comes to Town

Going on right now, in the world you live in, is an adventure worth noting. Ginamarie Austin is in the process of traveling the length and breadth of the United States on a Yamaha TW200 motorcycle. Solo. In and of itself that doesn’t really make her or the trip special. Lots of people have traveled this country solo and done so on small displacement motorcycles. What makes Gina’s trip special is that she happens to live in a different world…a world I happen to share. Gina is profoundly hearing impaired.
Let me tell you a bit about Gina’s world. I’m the perfect person to do it. Gina’s world is a quieter place, but it’s also a more confusing place. It’s a place of endless frustration, and let me explain that-it’s frustrating for her, and the people trying to communicate with her. Nothing is more distressing to a hearing impaired person than the words “never mind”. For us it’s game over, something lost forever. A chance to communicate forever taken away. Gina wouldn’t hear a car horn while she is riding and she wouldn’t know someone was right outside her tent at night. Developing mechanical problems go unnoticed because she can’t hear them. Interacting with people on the road is more challenging because they have to invest themselves in communicating…and some simply don’t have the time. So, Gina’s trip is special, and so is she.

I knew about Gina and her travels because I am a member of an online forum that she participates in. That in and of itself is rather amazing since I’m really not much of a forum person. But, like I said, Gina came to town. My town. And I got to spend time with her. It was an amazing experience for me, I don’t know any other profoundly hearing impaired people. At the beginning of her trip my wife and I had offered Gina tools, food, a place to stay and rest up if she need it. I really never expected to hear from her. But I did, and I’m glad I did.

We spent a couple days visiting and working on her bike. She needed new tires and there were some other small issues. For me it was hilarious at times. I would say something while leaning over the workbench and I’d hear her shout “hey, I’m just like you …turn around and speak up”, it made me smile. I know exactly what she means.

For some reason Gina has an infatuation with things on her ride. World’s larges prairie dog, windmill museums, world’s largest truck stop and museum, stuff like that. I on the other hand define a good trip as the absence of things. I dislike all the touristy things and sacrifice even the ones that could be defined as cultural just to stay away from those type of crowds. Because of this love of things along the way she has developed what I consider an unhealthy attraction to old US highways. US 6 doesn’t run very far from my home and that was Gina’s intended route when she left here. I talked her into riding a different route, and in fact I accompanied her from northeast Indiana to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and so got to ride about 250 miles of her trip with her. I enjoyed it tremendously. I took her on state routes and rural roads through what I refer to as the cornfield corridors. I figured maybe I had broken her habit. But I was wrong. I got up the next morning and started packing up. Gina emerged from her tent as I was looking at my map and came and looked over my shoulder. Then she exclaimed “oh wow, I’m only four miles from US 6.” You win some and you lose some.

So, you might see Gina out there riding home. Coping with problems she never chose to have. If you do, look at her and speak up. Take the time to interact. She’s worth it, I guarantee you.

To read more of his stories, click on the following link:


The roles have been reversed…

As I travel on the old U.S. Route, I noticed that it paralleled the railroad tracks most of the time. As I watched the tracks go by as I roll down the road, I can’t help but to think about my daughter’s journey as a freight-hopper (also called train hopping, train surfing, train hitching or, in parts of the United States, catching out). Basically it’s riding on the outside of a train, a freight car or another rail transport which is illegal and very dangerous.
One day many years ago, she just decided to walk out and travel without a word. I was devastated when she walked out. For many years, I did not know where she was or if she was still alive. Every now and then, I would get a call from her which always gave me a sense of relief knowing that she is alright for now.

Her choices took a huge toll on me mentally and physically. It also took a toll on the family as well. Mentally, I always wondered what I did wrong and how did I failed as a mother. Due to the stress from worrying, I would get ulcers and became quite a bit under weight. Also with all of the obsessing about my daughter, I neglected my other child. Then through a support group, I learned to detach with love. I also learned that this was her journey and not mine to understand. All I could do is hope for the best and pray that our relationship would rekindle someday.
Fast forward to now, my daughter has settled down now in Oregon and has a healthy nine month old son. Last week, I got to spend the weekend in Boston, MA with my daughter and grandson at her boyfriend’s family house. They happened to be there for a wedding the same time I was in the area. We had a great time and we are slowly rebuilding that mother and daughter relationship and one night we joked how our roles have reversed. Now, I’m the one who is traveling on the back road and she is settling down as a mother. She is the one that is now worried about me. She keeps asking if I have double checked everything on the motorcycle to make sure that it is in working condition.
Yes, our roles have reversed but our choices as to how we got there is different. I worked hard all of my life and followed the rules that we think are expected of us. Go to school, get a career (which may mean you have to work more than the usual 40 hours per week), get married, have 2.5 children, get a house with the white picket fence (choose a house that is more than you can afford so you can have social standing among your friends), and build a nest egg that you can hope to retire on (and you might be lucky to get it by the time you retire). Even if you do all of this, you may not get the chance to reap the benefit of all of your hard work with the one you love. Time is too short for some of us which I learned the hard way.
With this lesson learned, I shared with everyone that I will be embarking on this journey and sold off everything I owned so I can somewhat afford to take a year off from work without too much stress financially. I also arranged to be in constant communication with my loves one whether via Skype, text messages or via the Spot tracker to give them a peace of mind.
Now that I have been traveling for the last three and an half months, I do understand the lure and the rush of the open road. However, I still will never understand the concept of freight-hopping just as some will never understand the concept of traveling on a motorcycle instead of a car.
Yes, our roles have reversed. However, I can’t wait for the day my grandson is old enough for me to take him camping and to show him the wonders of the outdoors. Maybe, by having some grandma times will give my daughter an opportunity for short trips out on the road to re-energerize and to rejuvenate as to who she is and always will be, an amazing daughter, women and mother.