December 31, 2009

Let's do the twist(ies)

One final trip trough the Diablo Range a few days ago: The roads were narrow and rough, covered in debris from the last rain, with some slippery cattle grids hidden behind curves, and no guard rails preventing your fall should you fail to negotiate the bend. A fantastic road trip nonetheless, with breathtaking views.
On top of Hamilton Mtn. we visited the Lick Observatory.
If I lived here, this round trip would become my home course.

December 28, 2009

You can't always get what you want - Part II

But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. At CALMoto in Mountain View I had the opportunity to check out the BMW enduros.
I really enjoyed the ride on the F800GS, and it is a fantastic bike especially for two people, but it is just too much motorcycle; way too high for a vertically challenged person like me. The F650GS with the lowering kit would work for me, but the price certainly does not. The G650GS however, is the one that attracted me the most. I know it is a thumper, but how much motorcycle do I really need? I'm not planning to take it on a 'long way round' trip anytime soon. It felt alright indeed, plus the price is right - considering that one gets a BMW. The two-wheeler would serve off road if overcome by the desire of a little more adventure, and has ABS as a safety feature. Oh, not to forget the heated grips, something one gets to appreciate up in the North. The poor sales man already smelled a deal, when he watched me returning and surrounding the bike several times. Alas, the deed will have to be done back home. So thanks y'all for the good advice... I might just have found what I was looking for.

December 26, 2009

Riding pillion is better than not riding at all

Christmas, California, Friends, and Motorcycles. Balmy temperatures, clear blue skies, and the sun is shining. Need I say more?
My friend Guido gave me a very special Christmas present: A morning ride on his BMW F800GS in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The wife, Andrea, lends jacket, helmet and gloves to me, and of we go!
My idiotic happy smile is showing despite glasses and helmet. Guido just made my day!

December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas indeed!

I subscribed to a German Motorcycle Adventure magazine a couple of weeks ago, and today I got my first delivery via air mail. Joy to me! Purely by coincidence one of the Wanderlust riding reports are about Canada and Alaska! I can't wait to read it.

Happy Holidays to all of you out there in the blogosphere, however you chose to celebrate or not. At least you might enjoy some days off. Stay healthy, be happy, and always keep the shiny side up. Thank you for your kind feedback on my humble approach to blogging. I hope you'll stick around.

Cheers, SonjaM

December 22, 2009

The World is a Book...

...and those who do not travel read only one page. - St. Augustine of Hippo

I found this message last year in a map and travel book store in Halifax, and being an expat myself I can wholeheartedly second that.

My mom used to say, that I must have gypsy blood in my veins, since from early childhood years on I could not get enough from exploring the near and far end of my backyard, a.k.a. Germany. Lucky me, I picked up foreign languages quite easily, and so the radius of traveling would quickly grow beyond borders. My profession then delivered a lot more opportunities to combine the necessities of bread winning with my interest in diverse cultures, people and food (!!!).

The map however, shows a certain preference for some continents. Here I am, in the midst of my life, and yet I haven't seen 90% of this beautiful Earth. I am thankful for the bit that I have visited so far, and I hope and pray for health, opportunity and budget to enhance my travel experience still quite a bit.

A quintessence:
My favorite regions are Provence in France, Tuscany in Italy and Vancouver Island (despite the rain).
My favorite European cities are Paris, Florence and Hamburg.
My favorite North American cities are Vancouver, New York and San Francisco.
I grew up on Greek and Turkish fast food (a.k.a. Pita and Donair).
My favorite food is Mediterranean and Eastern Indian.
My favorite white wine comes from German wineries, while the red wine is from Chilean vineyards.
The coffee is Italian, the bread is french, and the cheese is Dutch or Swiss.
And my most memorable journey ever was a ladies-only road trip from Chicago to L.A. on historic Route 66.

Wishful thinking or... places to see before I die:
Europe: Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, and Norway
Americas: Hawaii and all New England States during Fall Foliage, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru
Asia: India, Nepal, Cambodia, Hongkong and Japan

And I hope that on some occasion a motorcycle can be the travel vehicle of choice.

December 20, 2009

Suffering from PMS (parked motorcycle syndrome)

Today I schlepped my fellow traveler to the local dealership, to get a second opinion of the looks and feel of a Triumph compared to a BMW F650GS. Needless to say that he liked the Enduro especially for its technology such as ABS and heated grips. It was a lowered model that enabled me to put my feet flat on the ground, but I found the seat rather uncomfortable and the handlebar too far away, nothing that couldn't be fixed, but hence the sceptic face, I guess.
My desire dragged me then again into the Triumph corner, and I mounted the Triumph Bonneville for the umtiest time. My serious face here means business, since this 2009 model is priced at $8,721 all cost including.
Also, the shop had the new 2010 Scrambler on display. Obviously I enjoyed her quite a bit, but like the F650GS the end price would be well beyond $11,000. Sigh!
I am probably going to wait until the Calgary Motorcycle Show in January to make my mind up. I like them all, alas, can't have them all. Suggestions anyone?
PS: The pics are taken with a Blackberry, hence the quality...not!

December 18, 2009

A Motorcycle Hierarchy of Needs

Temperatures, snow and slush on the ground, and long work hours away from home make it impossible to spend any quality time on the bike. Meanwhile, my Hawk is patiently waiting in the parkade, and I check on her and un-dust her every weekend, leaving her with the promise to get her back on the road as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, I admit that I am unfaithful. There are thoughts of selling the Honda, and getting a new bike instead. And after having moved the idea in my heart, I know it will happen eventually. I was even able to narrow it down to two models: A lowered BMW F650GS or a Triumph Bonneville.

Since I haven't got the budget to act on my desires (yet), Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs came to mind. (One of the few things that have been deeply and irrevocably implanted into my memories during business school...)

July 2009 - Physiological Needs (Survival):
I need a bike, any model, age or shape will do.
August 2009 - Safety Needs (Comfort):
I require good equipment, and a scooter, too, to improve my riding skills on two wheels.
September 2009 - Social Needs (Love):
I join a riding group, and I publish my blog, too, to interact with other motorcycle enthusiasts. And yes, I love my little Honda.
November 2009 - Self-Esteem:
My riding skills are improving, and I test my boundaries (temperature-wise).
December 2009 - Self-Actualization:
I am on a quest of finding the perfect bike to reach my full potential as a rider.

Note to reader: Sorry for the bla bla, I am not myself lately, and suffer from migraines, since the Chinook wind kicked in, and warmed up temperatures by 30C within two days.

December 12, 2009

Warm Thoughts

And here I was thinking, Calgary weather sucks. This week I had to help out on a project in Edmonton, where it had daytime temperatures between -20C and -35C (-4F to -31F) . I even took a cab for a 1.7 km drive. Now you have it, I am a wimp (female: wimpess?).

There is a German saying, which translates somewhat to: If you are cold, think warm thoughts. Dreaming of a desert ride right now...

snapshot taken from here

December 07, 2009

Meet the Elephant

The Elephant Rally a.k.a. Elefantentreffen, is a major winter motorcycle rally, which takes place annually on the last weekend in January in the Bavarian Forest in Germany, organized by the Federal Association of Motorcycle Riders, and attracts up to 5,000 weather resistant hardcore bikers every year.
It is an exclusive motorcycles only event. Cars, buses and even quads are not allowed. And the purpose is of course getting there safe and alive, building a camp, eating and occasionally getting drunk (you need to stay warm somehow...). All short for three days of having lots of fun.
Founded in 1956 by a German journalist the Rally was named after the Zündapp KS601, called the Green Elephant for its looks, power, and all weather capabilities.
Since there are a lot of year-round riders out there I am wondering whether there are similar winter rallys happening in North America as well.

December 06, 2009

SNOW! Fresh daily! Anyone???

Yesterday's commute back home sucked big time. The bus driver did the best he could but finally got stuck uphill in a snow drift and the passengers had to start walking. Thank God my fellow traveller could pick my up half-way with our trusty Four-Wheel-Drive, and we got home safely. I spent the evening in front of our fireplace, hands around a mug of steaming tea, and a hot water bottle on my feet.

I wonder if some daring hardcore all seasons riders like Charlie6 are still out there under these conditions...

As a snow enthusiast... NOT, I was in an understandably bad temper today, and since I had nothing better to do I went to a local motorcycle store to have a closer look at the Triumph's. They are currently throwing out the '09er models dirt cheap and I am really tempted to get me one of those Bonnie's.

I have a dream...
Oh, and those Vespa's made me think of a light Summer breeze.
Took a Triumph brochure home; Configured my Bonnie online; Mission accomplished; Mood restored; Ready for the weekend.

December 04, 2009

Winter Storm Warning

I was hoping to get a little stress relief on the weekend, but how am I supposed to ride in this kind of weather?

December 03, 2009

Be still my heart

Norton Commando 961: The prettiest bike ever got a make-over, and it looks even more beautiful, that is if you like Norton's in Cafe Racer style. Besides Triumph, Norton is one of the best motorcycle brands in the world. We Germans might (or might not) have the better technology, but the Brits got the style!
And look what I found: An old pic of my Honda XBR500. This is the closest I ever got to a cafe racer back in the mid 90's:
And well, since I will never be able to afford a Norton ever, I played around with Triumph Online-Configurator, and this was the natural result:

November 29, 2009

The BMW that wasn't

One of the most daring motorcycle stunts in movie history is for sure Steve Mcqueen's escape on a motorcycle and stuntman Bud Ekins' famous jump over the fence in The Great Escape. I particularly like that movie, not only because of its famous cast, but also for its (M.A.S.H. like) humor, and the fact that the German military for once were not depicted as all stupid (if they only had been the horrible war might in fact have been much shorter...)
It was only today that I learned that the supposed German war bike wasn't a BMW but actually a Triumph TT Special 650. And how the heck did I come across this information? I spent too much time on the internet online browsing the Triumph Website, you-tubing for related vids, and googling for pics. I can't help it, I like those British Retro-bikes: the Scrambler, the Bonneville, the Thruxton, and the Speedmaster, too. They make my heart beat faster...

November 28, 2009

I wish I had: A self-assembling Bike

So, now that I am aware that motorcycles are capable of doing this, I wish my bike were at least a bit cooperative to take care of the basic stuff, such as self-cleaning, self-filling with gas, self-maintenance and self-assembling a few farkles for Winter-riding. Alas, no such thing...

And speaking of Winter... The white stuff is back. Darn!

November 23, 2009

Overcoming the Fear of the Cold

Since my riding gear is very basic (no heating equipment), I rather like to stay on the plus side of the temperatures (speaking of degrees Celsius here). I kept an eye on the thermometer this morning, but it wouldn't climb, and taking the wind chill factor into account it was minus 5C at best. By noon I decide to keep close to home, to be able to return quickly if the cold became to much for me to bear.
Today my jaunt (1.5h and approx. 40km in total) takes me to Glenmore Reservoir, a manmade reservoir which is fed by the Elbow River, and Calgary's primary drinking water source, plus local recreational area.
There are bike paths, hiking trails into the Weaselhead Flats, and here is where I canoe during the ice-free season, and cross-country ski in Wintertime.
The reservoir is already freezing over, and so was my face, despite the face mask. The rest of the gear was actually doing its job pretty well, especially the AlpineStar Ridge riding boots. 
After a little stroll and some camera stops, I headed back home looking forward to a long and hot shower...

November 21, 2009

All Work and No Play

In August I rejoined the biker community, and my riding statistics show about 1,000km on the SWing and approx. 600km on the Hawk. Well, it's not much really, but it's a start. To justify the low milage I must say that I had a lot of 'life stuff' coming in the way. Also, I had been a tad bit intimidated by the local traffic, which is killing you - literally! Then there was the lack of (mail ordered) gear, and that of a suitable riding partner, too.
In September I was (happily) preoccupied by family members visiting, but confined to driving them around in a cage, plus I started job hunting... finally.
October, too soon for the season, was mostly covered in snow. Nevertheless I've had some good interviews, that actually resulted in a couple of job offers.
In November I started working, and my new found occupation doesn't allow me to commute to work by bike. Since I will be facing clients I will have to comply with the given company dress code. But that's a fairly small sacrifice, because I am thankful getting back into the workforce, after several months on pogey.

My trusty Hawk will need a little TLC over the Winter, such as a safety check, a change of lubes, and a new rear tire. I would like to add a super bike handle bar and also nearer levers for more riding comfort, since my wrists get sore from hanging on those clip-on bars.

To my regret it is highly unlikely that I will be riding a lot in the first quarter of 2010, since I will be deported deployed to Manitoba on my first solo client assignment. On the plus side I will be able to save up the necessary bucks to buy a new bike some time next year.

November 20, 2009

November 18, 2009

Looking for Spring

An Albertan motorcyclist waiting for the new season to start. He doesn't want to miss the first day for the world.

November 15, 2009

Scout to Scoot: The Circle Route

Vancouver Island is Scooter's Paradise. Even this time of the year one can rent one of those nimble two-wheelers, something that I will definitely consider on my next sojourn. This rental place is in Oswego Street, close to the harbor.

It was quite windy when we began scouting the Circle Route, which leads west to Port Renfrew, and than over a (newly paved) logging road to Cowichan Lake, and via Duncan back to Victoria.

For a lunch break I highly recommend the clam chowder served at Point-No-Point Resort, where you can enjoy the scenery, and watch wildlife while waiting for your food.

A room with a View
The quality of the road is challenging at times, as there are potholes, cracks and tar snakes in the pavement, single lanes, slippery wooden bridges, patches of gravel and steep curves. And beware of the logging trucks, they are reckless drivers, knowing that their truck is stronger than your vehicle.
Well worth visiting is the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, French Beach, and later on Botanical Beach at Port Renfrew.

Beach at Port Renfrew

Kite Surfing, I wish I was twenty again.


 Oops! Pick-up's are not amphibious.

 Smoky Mountains

November 13, 2009

Where do Pumpkins go to die?

My parents reading Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales at bedtime belong to my most precious childhood memories (The Snow Queen, The little Mermaid, The red Shoes, The Emperor's new Clothes etc.).
One less popular, yet likewise capturing sad story is the fate of the Christmas tree.
While walking in the woods and thinking about I was wondering, ok, Andersen explained the fate of the poor fir tree, yet what doom awaits all those carved pumpkins after Halloween? Here's my oxygen overdose induced attempt to an explanation after a hike in the Mount Douglas Park.

Silently greet the gargoyle guarding the haunted forest.
Don't blink! Don't turn around!
Follow the mystic path in front of you.
Master the moss covered steps.
Be careful, the old stairs will be slippery and unstable.
Deep hidden in the woods you will find their secret cemetery.
Some seem to prefer solitude, others gather in groups.  
Here, forgotten from the world, they wither and die... in silence.
Apologies, I am in a weird mood today.

November 12, 2009

Color Flash in Victoria, BC

My fellow traveller has taken me to Vancouver Island for a prolonged weekend. Still the bleak trees of Alberta on my mind I am pleasantly surprised by the presence of fall foliage. The pics of my Sony certainly don't do it justice.

And the roads were indeed cleared of leaves. I wonder if its removal is the city's responsibility. If it were, they did a pretty good job keeping the streets safe, especially for us two-wheelers.