July 31, 2011

Adventure Riders

Saturday, 5AM the alarm clock goes off. Ready for the road at 6AM, arrival at Peace Arch border shortly before 7AM. The waiting time is already at forty minutes. By the time we reach Bellingham we are in serious need of breakfast, and that's what we get at the Skylark's Hidden Cafe.
It was fantastic!
With renewed strength we rode down the Chuckanut Drive, one of the most scenic coast routes in Washington.
There were still layers of fog over the water, and it was getting a little nippy, so we had to put on an extra layer.
On Whidbey Island we were surrounded by veils of white. Traffic to the island was crazy and dense, and we were pushing hard to keep the Vespa's going with the traffic flow. They did well, but is wasn't fun.
After the fog lifted, we were a little disappointed. The island is a tourist trap, and a race track. Meanwhile we were doing an average of 55/60 miles to avoid being run off the road. However, we couldn't figure out where everybody was racing to, and so we headed straight to the ferry back to the mainland.
Gotta love the privilege. Last come... first vehicles to board, and first to leave the boat.
Getting a break on the twenty minutes ferry ride. It warmed up, and we enjoyed the sun rays.
Our refuge for the next two days was the Woodmark Hotel at Lake Washington, close to the venue we would be visiting later the day.
Valet parking didn't work for us, but we got once again designated motorcycle parking spots.
The hotel is located directly at the waterfront, and we thoroughly enjoyed our sojourn.
At the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville we had beer, pretzel and bratwurst with sauerkraut in a bun. Just the right stuff after a long ride.
The main event of the evening was the concert at Chateau St. Michelle in Woodinville. Bella Fleck and later on Bruce Hornsby. Two genius musicians, a feast for the ears, and a great show.
The chateau is surrounded by vineyards, alas we couldn't get good pictures in the fading light.
It wasn't allowed to take pictures at the event, so after this one, (and a friendly reminder from the gentlemen in the red shirt on the left) there were only a few more crappy cellphone pictures that won't do the show justice.

It was already after dark (our first night ride with the Vespa's) when the performance ended, but the scooters took us back to the hotel safely. What a gorgeous day.

July 25, 2011

What do Kiwi's do in Winter?

Roger down under suffers from cabin fever, another bloke (Geoff) got abducted (by the wife no less), and other Kiwis leave the country in quest of better weather, and travel to (believe it or not) Canada.
I was on my Sunday morning ride with my mind set on having a coffee at the Lookout Coffee House in Horseshoe Bay where they brew fair trade Kicking Horse Coffee, when I met this lovely couple from New Zealand. 

Marco and Ursala from Wellington are touring through North America, with one month down and five more to go (they will be back just in time for summer down under...), on their own bikes, a V-Strom and a Ninja which they brought all the way over to this continent.

To hold their budget at bay they couch-surf, which I found rather interesting as I was under the impression that this was something limited to students, and single young travelers. Their next stop will be a couch in Whistler... cool! Wishing safe continued travels... sigh! I am so jealous!
I lost track of time while chatting along, and completely forgot about the scenery. So these two snapshots will have to suffice, because I needed to get back home.
Main purpose of my little outing was to see how much mileage I would get out of Rover's peanut tank, and I was pleasantly surprised. The gas warning light started flickering around 200km, and I refueled the bike 25km later. Not bad for a Harley: close to 60 mpg.
I have to admit I like the Sportster's highway compatibility.  On the F650GS I was never comfortable at highway speed but with Rover... a pleasure. Also the louder pipes (still a whisper compared to Harley Davidson standards) seem to alert cagers. I might still get overlooked but I will no longer be overheard.

And to put Charlie6's mind at ease: Dom, I am still riding in full ATGATT plus mandatory (pink!) do-rag to comply with the pirate look.

July 24, 2011

Summer! Finally!

A 234km round trip with almost six hours in the saddle is a good exercise for endurance. We rode non stop to Harrison Hot Springs, one of the most motorcycle friendliest towns around. Bikes were parked all over the place, and nobody bothered if it were legal or not. We found a gap, too to squeeze in our little Vespas.
It was around noon, so just in time for a little lunch break. The Muddy Waters serves tasty sandwiches, and great coffee. While I had a crab/avocado panini, hubby went with a more mundane ham/cheese one. We relaxed on the patio, and watched the world go by.
Green Point at Sasquatch Provincial Park. The park is characterized by a series of pocket lakes, a unique second-growth forest, and scenic mountain ridges. Besides the typical wildlife, such as bears, deer or bald eagles, allegedly Bigfoot can occasionally be seen here.
No sightings of the Sasquatch today. Instead we spotted quite a few hairy bare chested rednecks. I sometimes wish there was a law that would forbid showing off saggy beer bellies. Sorry, no pictures, the camera went on strike when trying to capture the paunches of doom.
Having seen enough of human eyesore we went on to enjoy the scenery. Harrison Lake is the largest lake in the Southern coast mountains, and famous for fishing and boating. The surrounding mountains make for a beautiful background.
The hubby on the road.
One final intake of the fantastic vista before we rode non-stop back home. Both bikes did great, and fuel economy was close to 3 liter per 100 km, which translates to 80 miles per gallon.

July 23, 2011

Yo Ho! A Pirate's Life For Me!

Now, there you have it. For the last month I shopped around, I browsed the net, I reviewed and I test-rode. I came, I saw, I conquered, and I became a land-pirate.

Here is my 'sloop': The Rover, a 2008 Harley Davidson XL883 Sportster, fuel injected, with windshield, extra seat and sissy bar (not yet installed), and only 5,600 klicks on the clock.
 
Let's revisit my list of requirements:
  1. Feet flat on the ground - check
  2. Decent wind protection through windshield - check
  3. Just enough cc's to keep me grounded- check
  4. No more spokes - check
  5. Belt drive - check
  6. Heated grips - nope
  7. ABS - nope
  8. Nimble, easy handling- check
Heated grips will be installed later, once I feel the need. As for the lack of ABS, the brakes have been great so far. It seems that I have indeed been able to re-learn the art of braking sans anti-lock.

Insuring the bike in BC (BC means 'Bring Cash' for a reason...), makes riding a luxury, and I wonder how or how long people can afford this hobby. By the time the provincial scavenging they call HST kicked in, staff had to apply CPR to get me back to life. My poor credit card didn't make it though...
My first trip led me straight to the Harley Davidson dealership in Langley. The welcome (to the family), and the service was awesome. They took the Sportster in without appointment to install the engine guards I had just purchased, checked the bike quickly, tightened some screws, adjusted my handle bar to a more comfortable position for me, and topped up on air and oil. And while waiting I procured a small magnetic (finally!) tank-bag for my bare necessities.
Then I sailed away into the sunset.
On a deserted farm road a stopped for a little bike porn.
Stay tuned for the new adventures of SonjaM and Rover.

July 22, 2011

After Eight

I had to take the car to work today, and promptly got cage fever. Hence, my better half suggested to catch some fresh air (on two wheels of course).
The evening light was beautiful, and we enjoyed the mild temperatures.
We watched the not-so-wild-life, and wonder what kind of junk people leave in their backyards.
And while we are putt-putting along we got waved at by a biker on his Harley Davidson. Maybe a closet Vespa-fan? Or an omen?

July 17, 2011

Silent Running

Morning's at seven, all's right with the world. (Robert Browning).
I woke up early, left hubby at home (he was sound asleep anyway) for a quiet Sunday morning ride. As it was early I was kind of glad that the humming sound of the Vespa wouldn't disturb the morning hour. I could hear the birds sing while dawdling away.
The weather was awful yesterday, it poured through the whole day, but it cleared the air, and cleaned the dusty roads.
Whenever I stroll along the inlet I feel blessed to have nature in front of my doorsteps.
Don't you love empty roads? I certainly appreciate not having any stupid cagers around, one more reason to seize the early hours of the day.
Reflections at Sasamat Lake, a trout fishing hot spot in the area.
The fog is giving way to the sun.
Too bad, the weather won't stay that way... For later the weatherman has anounced another downpour of the wet stuff. But in between showers there is always more opportunity to hit the road, like we did yesterday evening.
Pitt River area, our most favourite local ride.
With the dark clouds it reminded us a bit of Middle Earth.
Aren't we a lucky bunch?

In for a surprise

After running a few errands I was left with a some rather unexpected spare time at hand, and suddenly found myself driving by the Harley Davidson dealership. An inner voice (weirdly enough it seemed to come with a British accent, very much sounding like a certain bloke I recently had the pleasure to meet in person) told me to have a look at the Sportsters on display. The sales guy saw me coming with riding gear at the ready and offered me a test ride, which I gladly accepted.
I rode the 2011 Sportster Iron 883 (be back in 10 minutes, is what I said). To be honest, I wasn't expecting anything, but heck, was I in for a surprise. A five hundred pounds pile of iron, somewhat heavy, but it was yellow, so what could go wrong.
The bike was as spartan as the Bonnie, a tachometer, some idiot lights, hey, self cancelling indicators, but that was it. A push on the starter button and a deep rumble came to life, the beast awoke and shook its booty, actually the the full body was in motion, but it was a pleasant feeling of power.
First I struggled a bit with the awkward riding position, but while in motion the seating wasn't too different anymore from riding my Vespa, comfy and with arms and legs in relaxed position.
Once on the road this baby was so easy to handle, and took the turns gracefully. I rode lazy on the clutch, there was no painful shifting up and down in slow traffic like it used to be with the Beemer.
The sound of the motor mesmerized me, I must have fallen in some kind of trance, and suddenly realized that I had just missed the road back to the dealership...

I returned the bike almost an hour later, thinking: What the hell just happened?

Baby what a big surprise
Right before my very eyes

Yesterday it seemed to me
My life was nothing more than wasted time
But here today you've softly changed my mind.

(Apologies, I am a product of the 70's, lyrics taken from Chicago)

Cycle Ergo Result:
Not much of a difference if you ask me...