Mixed emotion….

Whoo-hoo…next week is the annual Horizon Unlimited Travelers Meeting http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/events/california-2014 which is the premier overland adventure travel event for motorcyclists.  This year it will be held at Mariposa Fairground in Yosemite, CA starting on Thursday, September 25th through Sunday, September 28th.   At the event, we hear inspiring stories of travel around the world; get tips and tricks on preparing for our own journey, navigation, first-aid and photography.  I’m so excited I can’t wait to go.

The first time my late husband and I went was last year which was held in Cambria, CA.  Yep, we rode our little TW200 bike to the event and proudly assumed our rightful place amongst the 251 or so assembled adventure bikes in attendance.  Probably 75% of the bikes present were of large displacement, high-priced variety but there wasn’t a trace of elitism at the event.

It was at this event where I first met Carla King www.carlaking.com, an amazing women motorcycle rider and travel writer who wrote a book about riding around the USA as a test rider for Ural America, “American Borders”.  She interviewed us about our little cult bikes and the homemade accessories we use as tools and gears for them.  She was the one who hinted that we should start a blog about our bikes and our frugality of traveling.  If it wasn’t her faith and constant encouragement, I would have never have had the nerve to begin this blog.  Writing for this blog has been a blessing in disguise in multiple ways, it has given me confidence in my writing and it has also been therapeutic to release all of my bottled up emotion onto paper.

We also met the Borden family; Terry, Sandy and Jack www.adventuretrio.com at this event as well. An amazing family, it’s a husband and wife team along with their teenage son who has been traveling all over for the last seven years. Now they’re getting ready to go another adventure down to South America for 18 months.  I’m looking forward to meeting up with them again and wishing them a safe journey.  Wishing that I was starting my journey as well but I still have probate to deal with so in due time, I will eventually get to begin mine soon.

There are many other inspiring travelers, too many to mention here that will be presenting or just hanging out at the event.  I’m looking forward to rub elbow the among the elite riders and hopefully learn many tips and tricks for my future travel.

This post is taking me awhile to write, in the beginning I was so excited to share about the event that I am going to next week but I kept writing and rewriting the same thing over and over again. After stepping back for a while, I just realized why, this event was the last vacation that we took together.  My late husband was reluctant at first about going but in the end he was so happy that we got to go.  At first he seemed so rejuvenated when we got back from the trip but in the end he kept getting sicker and sicker as the days went on. So once again this will be a bittersweet event for me.  It will be a reminder of the last good time we had together and the stepping stone toward the next chapters in my life without him at the same time.

Story

 

Pictures vs Memories

Last Sunday, I had to go for a ride on the bike to get away from all of the stress and unwind.  The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind frenzy with dealing the house being in escrow and trying to sell everything on the property such as 27 motorcycles, 4 cars, 5 trailers and 2 acres of junk or as my brother-in-law would call it “merchandise”.

It’s hard to be parting with all of the stuff we had.  Each little piece brings back memories of the good times and the bad that we once shared.  A part of me doesn’t want to let them go but the other part of me know that I need to move on.  As the more I pack of what I’m going to keep, the more I realize that the door is closing on this chapter of my life, the more it scares me.  I don’t want to say that I have been in denial of his death but this process of moving on without him makes it a reality that I don’t truly want to happen.  Sometime I wish that I can turn back the clock but I can’t.  I can only move forward from here on out with memories of the past to carry with me.

So whenever I go for a ride, I always bring a camera with me just in case I see something that I want to remember or to share with others.  However, in my rush to get out and ride, I forgot the camera.  As usual, I didn’t have a destination in mind and just headed out on Highway 138.  I ended up taking the same journey that I took about a month ago on the other bike.  Instead of taking the side street, I actually jumped onto Highway 14 to get to Tehachapi, CA.  This highway takes you to the west of Edwards Air Force Base which it is known as the backup runway for the Space Shuttle landing in case the weather is bad in Florida.  While heading north, two of the B-52 like planes flew overhead and it was so low that it felt like that I could reach up and touch it with my hands.  I felt so small and insignificant like an ant on the ground compared to these magnificent and enormous steel birds in the sky.  At that point, I wished that I had Go Pro camera mounted onto the helmet to capture the image.

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Also in my need for a ride on Sunday took me  on a longer ride than I anticipated which cause me not to plan for the thunder store that was brewing with a warning of a flash flood in the area.  So on my way home on heading south on Highway 395, I could see the wall of the storm up ahead which mean that I knew that I would be riding through a down pour.  Mind you, I have ridden in the rain on the dual sport bike but not on the street bike so I was a little apprehensive about it.  Surprisingly, the bike and I handled it very well.  I just took my time riding through it at a safe pace.  However, it was the lightning that had me more jumpy than the rain itself.  A couple of time the lightning struck in the desert landscape to the left of me.  It was frightening and mesmerizing at the same time.  The image was like a “Kodak” moment and once again I wished that I had the camera with me to capture it.

It just dawned on me after re-reading what I have written here the irony of my ride on Sunday.  Seeing the beauty of the two huge military airplanes that were created by us that glide through the air gracefully and then seeing Mother Nature bringing on her fury with the lightning and the rain which make life seem treacherous to waddle through at times.  However, with rain, it brings new growth to nourish one’s life.

Maybe I wasn’t meant to bring a camera to capture the moments but to rely on the memory to see the metaphor of what’s around me as it is in life as well.

The Compass

After posting my story on the Stand Up to Cancer, many supporters and well wishers were asking for a map of my trip. I don’t have a set route yet but I do have a general plan of roads that I do want to travel on in no particular order.

Map

http://www.roadtripusa.com/routes.html

  • Pacific Coast – This is also known as Highway 1. I have done some of this road in the past but I have not been on any part of it north of San Francisco. I do particularly want to visit the Lost Coast area in Northern California.  I have seen beautiful pictures of that area
  •  Border to Border – This is also known as Highway 93. It runs from the Canadian border at Jasper National Park and into south of the border of Mexico.
  • The Road to Nowhere – This is also known as US-83. It was once the only entirely paved route from Canada to Mexico until modern history.
  • The Great River Road – This route is just a series of roads that was created in 1938. It is designed to show off the 10 states bordering the Mississippi river.
  • Appalachian Trail – There is actually a parkway that parallels the pedestrian route of the Appalachian Trail. It winds from the north woods of Maine all the way south to Georgia.
  • Atlantic Coast – This is almost a 2,000 miles of two-lane country roads that run along side of the Atlantic Ocean almost the entire way.
  • The Great Northern – This is also known as US-2. It was dubbed the Great Northern in memory of the pioneer railroad that parallels the western half of the route.  It is the longest east-west US Highway (2,571 miles) across the northern continental United States.
  • The Oregon Trail – This is also known US-20. This is another east-west US Highway.  It starts in Oregon and run the most of the way through to Massachusetts.  There is a break at the entrance of Yellowstone Park since this road was not a planned coast to coast route.  It was extended in 1940.
  • Loneliest Road – This is also known as US-50. This is another east-west highway that runs through the heart of America.  It has been dubbed the “Loneliest Road” since it passes through desolate, remote areas with few inhabitants and few communities with minimal services. 
  • Southern Pacific – This route follows the old US-80 on the southern part of the US from California to Georgia. It was once known as the Dixie Overland Highway.
  • Route 66 – The most famous route of all time is Route 66 that runs from California to Illinois. I have done half of this route and want to finish it.  My late husband and I did it on our honeymoon but we got hailed, snowed and rained on most of this trip so when we got to Albuquerque, New Mexico we decided to head south to warmer pasture.  This is where we ended up on US-60 and encountered people, places and things that we did not knew about.

These roads will be just a starting point but ultimately it will be my heart and the bike that will be the compass in this journey. The thought brings up memory of the best of times my late husband and I had been him always saying “let’s see where that road goes”. I want to continue that spontaneous sense of adventures that we once shared.

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My 15 minutes of fame

About a week ago, I got a comment on my blog from a reader who has invited me to be a guest writer on the Stand Up To Cancer blog to help promote the upcoming American Cancer Society viewing party that I will be attending on Friday September 5th in Apple Valley, CA.

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I was shocked and honored that someone thought I was a good enough writer to warrant such an invitation.  You got to remember I still struggle with my writing skills due to my hearing impairment.  I worry too much about what others might think of me trying to compete in a world of professional bloggers who have had years of literary training.  So when they asked me, it felt like someone from Hollywood asking a down and out writer for their script.

They asked me to write something personal, emotional and uplifting.  In addition to that, why and who I’m standing up to cancer for.  I pondered for a bit and re-read all of my previous posting in my blog and noticed that even though I intended the blog about me standing my own two feet through a motorcycle trip, I noticed a recurring theme in my blog seems to be about “Experience, Strength and Hope”.  So I sat down and started writing my own story of on that theme.  It was the longest page I wrote so far but realize that I was only allowed 350 words so I had to cut a lot out.

Even though it was the easiest to write once I got started but it was the hardest for me to hit the submit button to send the email out.  My self doubt started to kick in thinking that my story isn’t good or inspiring enough to share with the world.  Then I got a visual flash in my mind that my late husband tapping his finger on my nose and looking straight into my eyes to remind me that I need to give myself more credit than I do which he used to always do when I’m doubting myself.  So I finally hit the send button.

Waiting to hear back from them was nerve racking but they finally responded. They loved it but wanted me to add a couple of more paragraphs of how we got into riding motorcycles and why I’m standing up to cancer.  After those were added, it was published on the StandUpToCancer.org websites.  Now I can say that I have had my 15 minutes of fame.

To view the article click on the link below:

http://www.standup2cancer.org/blog/view/2wheels_2feet

So here I am standing up to cancer in memory of my husband, Russell E. Austin, my sister in law, Phyllis Musella and my friend Charlene Olson who all lost their battle to cancer.

You can either join me by attending a viewing party nearest you, watch the telecast on TV or taking a moment of silence on Friday, September 5th for those who are still fighting their battle against cancer.

If you feel like you need to do more then feel free to make a donation to Stand Up To Cancer by clicking on the link below:

http://main.acsevents.org/goto/ginamarie_austin

Bikers and Tattoos

So I finally got my new tattoo last week, thanks to Aly Mayne (http://instagram.com/alymayne).  Now, my friends are teasing me because they think that I’m being a typical biker who has to have a tattoo.  Thinking that I need to keep up with the stereotypical image of a biker but in reality it is far from the truth.

I actually got my first tattoo more than five years ago before I started riding a motorcycle.  It’s a tramp stamp with three hearts with my children’s name above them to represent my love for them.  So when my husband passed away, I knew right away that I wanted to get another one to honor his memory.  A lot of people warned me not to get one in case I find someone new in life and it would not be fair to the new person to be constantly reminded that I once had someone else to love in my life. I’m sorry but just because he died don’t mean that I cannot continue to grieve or to honor what we had. I cannot act like that he never existed; seems wrong to me.  Also, if or when I do meet someone else then they should be able to respect my past and if they can’t then they are not meant to be in my life.

Anyway, I still took their words to heart and decided to get a tattoo that represent our life together with a special meaning instead of the usual memorial tattoo with crosses, a date stamp or anything involved the phrase “In Memory Of.”  So I decided to get a tattoo with a sunflower which was our wedding flower, a purple daisy and a lizard which represent our nickname in the motorcycle circle.  In addition, I put a white cancer ribbon in the art work to represent his battle with lung cancer.

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So why did my friend think that biker and tattoo goes hand in hand? This stereotype date back to the first recorded biker tattoo in the 40’s which was to indicate their affiliation to a particular motorcycle gang.  Themes in biker tattoos usually include power and speed.  Such as eagles and flags, skulls with flames spouting from the eyes, blazing tires, pin-up girls, roses and daggers.

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However, the cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved from that of an anti-social activity in the 40’s to that of a trendy fashion statement today. Now they’re being worn now by rock starts, professional sports figures, fashion models, and movie stars.  It is the sixth fastest growing retail business in the United States.  Tattoo artists are now being regulated and licensed by the state Health and Safety department similar to hair dressers.  The single fastest growing demographic group seeking tattoo services is the middle-class suburban women.

A fun day trip…

Last weekend, I took a day trip to Tehachapi, California to pick up my new rear rack for the TW200.  It was a 215 miles round trip for me. I have asked one of the forum members if he could fix my rack since it was giving me a bruise on the back of my leg when I use the kick starter.   Instead of fixing it, he built me an entirely new one from scratch once he heard that I will be taking a year long trip starting May of next year. Once he realize what I had and what I will need, he developed a two tier based system for the rear rack.  One will be small but strong mounted to the bike, the second one will be larger to hold the Rotopax for fuel and gears, but can be removed when not needed for a long trip.

TWrack

I gave myself plenty of time to get there and of course I was early as usual.  So I decided to do some sightseeing. The town of Tehachapi is 35 miles east of Bakersfield and west of Mojave.  One theory is that the word “Tehachapi” derive from the Kawaiisu language which means “hard climb”.

The Tehachapi area is known for the nearby Tehachapi Loop and the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm.

The Tehachapi Loop is one of the engineering fest of its day; it was built by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876.  The loop gains 77 feet in elevation as the railroad track climbs at a steady 2% grade.  It was designed to slow the momentum of the east bound trains as it travel down the mountain to Bakersfield.  Basically, a train that is more than 4,000 feet long will passes over itself going around the loop.

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The Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm was the first large-scale wind farms installed in the United States and the second largest with about 5,000 wind turbines but it not the most famous one.  The most famous one the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm which has been featured in music video and movies. The Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm produces about 800 million kWh of electricity each year, which is enough to meet the electricity needs of 350,000 people.

WindFarm

On the way home, I decided to take a different way home to check out a segment of one of the US longest highway that used to route from Long Beach, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  This is one of the highways that I want to travel on when I take my trip next year.  The section I went on goes through the town of Palmdale and Lancaster which are the homes of the aerospace industries such as Lockheed and Boeing.  Sadly, there wasn’t much to look at.  At least I can say that I was on this road.

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Motorcycle and Meditation

One day awhile back, a friend of mine and I were sitting at a coffee shop catching up on life but basically she was checking up on me to make sure I was doing ok.  She said that she noticed that I was riding my bikes a lot lately and asked what it is about riding a motorcycle that I find it so peaceful.

I sat there pondering on how to translate what I was feeling when I ride.  I then first explained to my friend the importance of focusing on my surrounding around me as I ride for safety reason.  You have to watch out for the pot holes, debris or the distracted drivers.  Basically spotting potential problems and take steps to avoid them before they become an accident waiting to happens.  This take intense focus when you ride.

However, when you ride for longer period or on long stretches of road with no one around, you start noticing the sights, the sounds and the smells around.  I’m always amazed that I can smell where the water is out in the middle of the desert.

Mainly, I explained to her that the chatter of everyday life just melts away when I ride and I find inner peace within myself.

ClearMindRide

I even told her that as crazy as it sound, I feel the closest to my late husband when I ride.  I’ll just start having random conversation with him out of the blue.  The first time it happened to me was on Christmas day.

It was a couple of days after he passed away and I finally sent all of the family members home to celebrate Christmas with their own family.  I needed some time alone and decided to take a ride out to my friend’s resort in Desert Hot Springs who has offered me a room for the night to get away from it all.

It started out as a frustrating day.  I had a lot of trouble getting the TW200 started.  The battery was dead and the kick starter was not turning it over.  I checked everything that I could think of that would prevent the bike from turning over. Nothing, everything I tried didn’t work.  After a couple of hours, I just gave up and sat down and cried for the first time since his passing.  Just then my son called to check up on me and I told him what happened.  He turned the car around and drove back to my house to figure out what is going on.  He did the same thing as I did with no luck either.  We both sat down exasperated as to what could be wrong with the bike.  Since it was Christmas day, there was no way we would be able to get a new battery for the bike.  Eventually, I thanked him for trying and to head on home to his girlfriend and daughter.  He decided to try one more thing before he took off.  This time, he made sure that it was in neutral and put the kickstand up and then try using the kick starter once again.  Hallelujah, the bike started!!!  After turning off the bike again, he took a look at the safety switch on the kick starter and decided to disconnect it.  Now the bike will kick start every single time. Somehow, it was malfunctioning and prevented the bike from kick starting.

So after a half of day messing with the bike, I was finally on the road and noticed that there were hardly a soul on the road with me.  Half way there, I just started carrying a conversation with my late husband as if he was sitting a car with me.  It freaked me out when I realized that I was on a bike and I couldn’t be having this conversation to begin with.  Then calm came over me as I realized that he there with me watching over me as I ride.  Now I noticed that every time I ride, I feel the closest to him and talk to him often.

After I finished explaining to her what it meant to me when I ride and looked up at her, she smiled and said “well that is your meditation”.  I looked at her with a strange look and she then in turn gave me the definition of mediation.

Merriam-Webster define “Meditation as an act or process of spending time in quiet thoughts”

I guess she is right; I don’t need to take a yoga class to reach a meditative state.  I do it riding my motorcycle.  I have had heard from other people that you can reach the meditative state while riding a lawn mower or even knitting.