Over Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Kansas City Barbeque Judging class.  Ok, I'll be honest, I'd been waiting for this class to come to Oregon for over a year and I'd spent months counting down until it was finally time to hit the road in my travel trailer and head to North Bend, OR to attend the 4th annual BBQ, Blues & Brews at the Mill Casino

I begged for a day off from my new job and was graciously awarded for my groveling.  I hit the road early on Friday for North Bend...a boring 4 hour drive from my house.  I spent the weekend with a few friends, hanging out, anxiously awaiting the test at the end of the Kansas City BBQ judging class, eating bbq, losing money at the casino, eating more bbq, then judging BBQ, and wait for it, judging the mac and cheese competition.  Good times!

I'd love to show you photos of the some of the bbq, but I got so wrapped up in the moment I didn't even snap one photo of a piece of brisket.  I did learn a few things about BBQ, however.  Which was the point.  And, I learned something about sportsmanship as well.  Ok, ok, I already knew that part, but lets say I didn't know that some BBQ-ers were complete arseholes.   I should have guessed, but the silly little girl in me thought, "It's BBQ!  What could go wrong!"  

Our group of three new BBQ judges decided to watch the awards ceremony.....and we're sitting there, minding our own business (well, almost) when the investigator in me catches bits and pieces of the conversation going on directly (DIRECTLY) behind us.  Their conversation goes something like this:

"Since there were 20 new BBQ judges in this competition you have to DUMB DOWN the BBQ so they'll like it."

"Leave all the spices off and slap some sweet stuff like Sweet Baby Ray's on the meat and the judges will love it."

"Its almost an insult to win here because of the new judges."  

It should be noted at this point that the group in question may have won ONE prize.  Out of 38 teams and 4 opportunities for each team to win, that's a lot of "not winning" (see my positive spin?).

Talking was a chick who apparently has some affiliation to a bbq caterer in Portland, OR since she went right back to their tent and continued her jibjab.  I won't toss them under the bus because I'm sure it was a misunderstanding (not, cough cough).  

However, despite the cranky wench who ruined my first bbq judging competition, I had a great time. And, I got to spend time with some friends I don't see often enough.  But, more importantly, I can now write about bbq far and wide and when someone questions me, I can show them my BBQ judging badge and smile pretty as I say, "I'd prefer Sweet Baby Rays."  

Saw this while I was out walking around in the 90 degree heat knocking on doors trying to find someone who witnessed an accident:

At least the Ducati was keeping cool....
Old school sign rocks.  
I'm a bbq snob.  I'll admit it.  I'll also admit that "good" BBQ is really subjective.   I like my ribs to be pork and to be a bit over done so they fall off the bone.  I like my brisket with a visible smoke ring and sliced thick, and I like my pulled pork moist without being slathered in sauce.

In LA for work, I read up on Bear Pit BBQ which is just down the block from my hotel.  It has a great back story.  It first opened in the 1940's and has been passed to new owners a few times but remains almost the same as when it opened.  It is apparently "Missouri style bbq" which means nothing to me (showing my bbq ignorance) except that some people also call Missouri style St. Louis style.

At any rate, the Bear Pit gets good reviews on Yelp (3 1/2 stars) and mostly good on Tripadvisor (3 1/2 stars).  One would think a BBQ joint with 3 1/2 stars would shine.  Perhaps I hit the place on a bad day...but in my opinion, it gets one star, and only because the waitress was really nice.

I ordered a plate with a little of everything that cost me around $25.00.  I didn't want to give an opinion on the place after trying just one item.  See, I'm being nice.   First, they provide you an "appetizer" in a small bowl filled with ice that has celery, pickles, peppers, and carrots.  Ok, I'll admit, I needed the veggies, but this was a bit weird, even for me.

When the salad arrived I took a few bites and then decided it was not very good so I wouldn't waste my stomach space.  It looked like someone just dumped a bag of pre-made salad onto my plate and tossed one slab of tomato on the side for decoration.  Not good.  And the dressing...I'm not familiar with how they make it, but I'm guessing this is a powder that they add some water to and mix to the desired consistency.  It was not very appealing but more so, tasted like crap.  (Fancy word, eah?)

I've seen the same exact salad at many other places and hated it every time.

Taster's Treat $25.95  Those little yellow things are potatoes that have been deep fat fried. 

When the main course arrived, it looked good.  I mean, it was a plate full of bbq.  How can I really not like that?  The brisket and the turkey was cut very thin.  So thin it was difficult to pick up.  And the meat all kind of tasted the same.  There was a small plate of something that didn't look like anything other than a hush puppy and I had to ask the waitress what it was.  Turns out they serve fingerling potatoes that have been deep fat fried.  They were cold, tasteless and dripping in grease.

The order came with a slab of what appeared to be garlic toast, which had potential but was also laying in grease.  It was like someone smeared butter and garlic on a piece of cardboard and heated it slightly.  Yuk.   Of course I ate most of it because it was one of the best things on the table.  Grease and all.

Ribs with membrane still attached....yuk.  
The chicken was deep fat fried and had no flavor whatsoever.  My meal came with two pieces but one piece, a wing, was so crispy I couldn't pull a string of meat off the bone.  The brisket and turkey had the same nothingness of flavor.  Blah.

The ribs were so bad I ate half of one before deciding I'd rather stop and get Taco Bell later.   Maybe it's a Missouri BBQ thing, but please for the love of God pull the membrane off the ribs.  I don't care what you think that membrane does for the meat while it's cooking.  If you overcook the meat (or maybe microwave the ribs to heat them up) that membrane turns into something totally gross and undesirable (much like my ex-boyfriend).

The only saving grace on this $25 meal was the baked beans.  The beans were very good.  Tasty.  Full BBQ flavor.  And in all honesty, the sweet tea was good.  How one would mess up sweat tea, I have no idea, so really that should not count as a win.

Overall, on my BBQ ranking scale, from one to five with five being awesomeness on platter, I give the Bear Pit BBQ a ranking of ONE.   They only get a one because I liked their waitress (not the other staff, the woman who took my money was not friendly at all) and they had fast service.

In a nutshell and to be brutally honest, this was the worst BBQ I've ever had.  And I've had some pretty bad bbq.

A quote on their website says "This is undoubtedly the best BBQ this side of the San Fernando Valley".  That may be true.  But if this is the best, I may as well give up my day job and open my own business here.  I'd make a killing, even with my limited experience.  I could make better ribs in my sleep.

BBQ Ranking:  1  (Yukky Pooh Pooh)
Cost:  $$
Service:  B-
Best food:  Baked Beans
Atmosphere:  Loud 
Chance of me returning:  Only if hell freezes over.

For the second year in a row my travel buddy, Jenn, and I went to Puerta Vallarda at the end of January.  We stayed at the Dreams/Secrets all inclusive resort which is quite lovely.  Getting out of the Oregon rain was a blessing...until we experienced Mexico rain.  Oregon has a constant drizzle and sometimes "mist" which is quite tolerable.  Mexico rain is a torrential downpour which I'm guessing measures about five inches an hour.  It rained for about two and a half days.  We spent the majority of the week lounging in the lobby near the bar...all inclusive remember?  We actually drank a little too much on a few days and once I ended up in my room and ready to sleep by 6:00 p.m.   Yeah, I'm a little too old to start drinking at 10:30 a.m.

If you see this on the side of the road, STOP and EAT!

We did one excursion to Hacienda el Divisidero which was the highlight of the trip.  Since it had rained the day prior, we were told to make sure and use the bug repellant.  Nice.  It was a beautiful day and our guide, Jesee, was one of the best guides I've ever seen.  We stopped at numerous local places along the way for photo ops and to try the local fares.  

We ate fresh bread that is cooked in an oven that is made of clay in the side of a mountain at Panaderia Los Pinitos.   The bread is apparently very famous and the "bakery" sells hundreds of pieces a day.  The bread can be bought plain or it is stuffed with cheese, berries, and even meat.  It is a must try if you are ever on the outskirts of town.
Jesee and a local breadmaker

The bread is cooked using indirect heat...and it is the best bread I've ever had!

We met a local artist.  Her shop (ok, the room in the front of her house with a bookshelf where she shows her art) was closed but she graciously opened the door and not only let us see the art but also took us around the back to see the different types of clay and her oven she uses.  We tipped her for her time and she was very gracious and gave us some of her art.  We eventually had to leave so she'd stop trying to hand us stuff.   If you are ever near El Tuito, look her up.

Two of the ranch hands standing next to my "horse"
Once we arrived at Hacienda el Divisadero, we had a snack before heading out on a short horseback ride to see some petroglyphs and play in the river with the dogs.  Ok, when I say horseback ride, I mean, everyone under 100 pounds got to ride a horse.  I was on a mule.  Nothing says "go on a diet fat ass" like having to ride mule.

But he was a good mule.  I would have fallen in love if my heart weren't already stolen by a chocolate lab named "Chocolate" that was very pregnant and apparently in love with our guide, Jesee.   I can't even find love from a dog.  Nice.  I guess the mule will have to do.


After I waded in the river and hung out with Chocolate, we drove back to the Hacienda and ate the most amazing lunch of the entire week.  I can't recall what was on the plate, but it was so good I'll have nightmares if I ever go into an American Mexican food place again.

Lamb, chicken, pork, sausage, beef, and beans.  Yummmmyyyyyy

One of the highlights (yep, just ONE) of the Hacienda tour is the fact that this is the only place to purchase Raicilla, which is tequila moonshine or something of the sort (So we were told).  Tastes a lot like terpentine to me, but I'm used to smothering my tequila in margarita mix.   They were remodeling the Raicilla area when we visited but we saw the "factory" and were able to drink all the free Raicilla margaritas we could tolerate at lunch.  Jenn and I, never shying away from anything that tastes like crap but has alcohol in it, each bought a bottle and brought it home.  If you'd like to taste some of this just stop on by!

If you are ever in the Puerta Vallarda area and need a fun excursion, or a place to stay the night that's awesome, look up Hacienda el Divisadero.  They have beautiful rooms and serve great food.  You won't be sorry!!!

Back to the resort we went to suffer through another few days of all inclusive drinks and nothing to do but drink.  It was torture.  But we survived (even though I was attacked by mosquitos and had large bites all over my legs and some on my arms.  Note to self, after wading in river, reapply bug repellant, dummy stupid.)

I was at home by Tuesday and by Sunday, I was on a plane headed to Los Angeles to work for two weeks.  My destination of choice?  No way.  But, work is work.   And this work gives me the chance to try some new BBQ joints.  I'm not sure how impressed I'll be...but I'm going to at least give it a shot and see if I can find one place that makes me want to come back.   My positive psychology teacher would be so proud that I'm being so positive.  

Be safe.

It's January 25, 2015.
I wrote four (4) posts all of last year.  Four.  I'm bad at math, but I'm thinking I could have written more if I'd posted 25 words a day.  Holy crap.

You know what that also means?  I didn't ride more than a few times.  And I didn't take any trips.  What happened?


What a killer that is.  Sometimes literally.  Life brought me a new job which was supposed to allow me for more free time, more flexibility, and more fun.  Guess what?  That green grass I saw while sitting in my cozy cubicle at my quasi state job...well turns out it only looks green when you are looking through cubicle walls and dirty windows.  In reality, there is no grass.  It's almost a completely barren field with tiny little dandelions poking up in patches of green that are less than three inches in diameter.  Don't you just hate it when a good plan goes to hell?

Thankfully, I'm taking a positive psychology class this term for my masters....so instead of being bummed about the situation, I'm being proactive.  I've been trying to find balance between work and play.  That's perhaps one of the hardest things I've ever done.  The worker bee in me says "Work work work."  The larger part of me (yes, I've been packing on the pounds) says, "Life is about what you do, where you go, how you spend those days and how you write those pages."

I have a lovely dog named Trout who is getting older.  It's just the two of us in this world, trudging along together trying to be true to ourselves.  I have terrible guilt about leaving her behind (ok, well it's not TERRIBLE.  I just feel like she's my responsibility and I leave her enough when I have to work that when I'm not working I should be with her.  I'm not medicating myself over it...yet).   Thank goodness I don't have kids...I cannot imagine how anyone shuts that door after saying "See ya in a few weeks!"   I commend you all (for THAT, I'd need medication).

But, we (Trout and I) have reached an agreement.  Didn't know Chocolate labs could talk?  Oh yeah, she can also scream and play mind games.  We are picking up our new toy hauler on Monday.  This means I can load up the bike and the Trout and take both to a fun destination...then I can leave Princess Trout in the RV while I ride off and explore.  It's not optimal, but it's a compromise.  And when you're in love you compromise.  OMG I need therapy and a boyfriend.

So, in 2015 expect to see stories.  Riding stories.  Laughing stories.

I wish you safe travels, great laughter, and sunshine!

Be safe.

See how wonderful my new sprocket and chain look?  Not even a mile on them.  My trusty buddy, Runkle, had his 12 k tuneup in August 2013.  It was expensive.  Then I heard I needed a new sprocket and chain, which was another $300.  Imagine my dismay.  I spent about $800 that month just to get Runkle serviced and up to par.  Crazy time. Especially considering I'd done regular services, kept the chain oiled, and basically babied the little runt.  It made me so mad I parked the runt, hooked it up the the battery charger and covered it so I wouldn't have to even look at the thing.  I'm whacked like that.  For months I've been riding in the fields by my house on the Polaris, ignoring Runkle other than the occasional lifting of the cover to see if there are families of mice enjoying the comfort of my beautiful but ignored Runkle.  

Yesterday I pulled the cover off Runkle and found a few mouse turds and some dead flies.  It wasn't a pretty sight.  I dug out my motorcycle pants and realized that in the months I'd been ignoring Runkle I'd also been ignoring any hint of exercise.  My pants wouldn't button.  My shiny BMW jacket barely zipped, thanks to Pepsi, brownies, and too many margaritas.  The one bright spot is that my BMW socks fit perfectly.  Things were looking up.   

I tossed what gear would fit onto my plump form and jumped on the bike to ride around the block.  I didn't even bother putting my side bags on.  I just rode.  About a mile away I thought I should be a little more concerned about ensuring the bike was ride-ready and safe.  I headed back to my house and checked the tire pressure and did a fast check to make sure no wires were eaten by the mice who thrive in my shop.  Everything appeared fine so I hopped back on the Runkle runt and waved goodbye to Trout.  

We rode about  hundred miles past fields of wheat, strawberries, cows and farmland.  Along the way we became reacquainted and dare I say, we even fell in love again.  It wasn't long before I decided Runkle's been a good pal but love is fickle.  Love is fleeting and love is often filled with betrayal.  

It was on this glorious first ride of the season that I realized I love riding but I'm craving something more.  Something new, peppy, and fully of spunk.   I'm thinking I need a 2015 800GS.  But, I'm also thinking Runkle reserves one last summer.  Besides, I spent so much on service, I deserve to ride it like I stole it.  

Stay tuned for Runkle's summer adventures.  Ride on.  

So today I find myself not working...well, not getting paid.  I'm manning the Chris Kilcullen Memorial Ride booth a the North American Motor Officers Association Conference in Wilsonville, OR.  I've never experienced one of these events but I ould highly recommend attending!  There are various vendors and it's a Badge Bunny's dream come true.  I'm not a Badge Bunny, so really, I'm a little put off by all the badges and hunky men.  I mean how much stength do I have??   It's a shame each and every one of these guys is  a police officer.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with that at all...but I keep reminding myself:  Not a Badge Bunny...oh look at that one....wait...not a Badge Bunny...HOLYCRAP!  Look at THAT!  He's on a BMW.  He's...wait...wait...not a Badge Bunny.

So, this is what you are missing...over 100 motorcycle officers from the Pacific Northwest and a few from Canada.  The officers are competing in a few different areas.  One is "follow the leader" which sounds just like the title.  Follow the moto and try not to hit a cone, put your foot down, etc.  The other thing, which I've become totally facinated by, is a little game of "let's hook two bikes together and see how well two moto officers can run an obstical course.  It's totally neat.  There's also some free riding areas and courses where the officers can just run the course and improve their skills.

Here's a video of some motors guys from Vancouver showing their stuff....


There are so many bikes here it will blow your mind.  Motorcycle police bikes in all shapes and sizes..and so many different departments from Oregon, Washington, Canada and apparently Idaho.  I've seen some Bend, Portland, Multnomah & Clackamas County,  Bellevue (WA) to name a few.

There are also some vendors here on site, though the major vendors are going to be back in Lake Oswego later tonight...where I hear there may be some free drinks (didn't have to tell me twice, I will be there!)   One of my favorite things here is the Polaris Sportsman WV850.  Check out the tires on this baby.  Serious stuff.  And, since with my Polaris I've been putting air in the tire almost weekly...I've got a serious case of the "I wants." There is a Moto Guzzi vendor here sporting an awesome looking retro bike that I'd be more than happy to take for a spin.  (Don't tell my BMW).  

If you are in the area of Wilsonville, OR tomorrow, that's the day of the big serious competition.  It's open to the public so you should come on out and enjoy the show.  It's a like a bee hive...all this stuff is really awesome.  

Not a Badge Bunny,