Canada to Portland, OR July 20, 2010 760 Miles

Bid ado to Surrey, BC this morning around 930AM. Stopped at the liquor store but it wasn't open...waited about ten minutes and decided Mike's Hard Lemonade could be replaced by Tequila and limes.

Rolling in around 3:30 PM means I made good time and the four stops were short enough to not derail my agenda. On the way home I stopped at a new farmers market that boasts barbeque. I stocked up on ribs, beans, cole slaw and a side of pulled pork for later consumption. America at its finest.

When I pulled into the driveway the slice of cheese and bagel I had at 9:00 AM had worn off and I was ready to chomp down on the ribs. Trout was tucked inside the house and didn't bother to say hello until I opened the door. She must not have heard the motorcycle and she barked profusely until she realized it was me...then jumped up on me and kept licking me until I fell on the chair. Dog sitter (Allison) was still at the house and I heard stories about her "dinner" at my house which apparently turned into a drunkfest. She couldn't remember details but it was humorous just the same.

There's something about coming home that makes a trip that much more fun. Turning off the freeway my feet start tingling as I glide past the fields of peas and rows of corn. As I near my driveway I'm welcomed by tall strands of hops reaching toward the sky and the trees wave in the wind as if to ensure I know I've been missed.

I've been entertaining a long trip...quitting the job and just taking a few months to travel around the States just for the pure joy of doing so. I'm not frightened by what lays ahead but by what I may miss while I'm gone...the trees changing colors in Fall, the hop harvest and the tomatoes turning red on the spindly plants in my garden...the Trout kisses and riding the 4-wheeler around the fields, her chasing me or me chasing her, Trout smiles wide enough to fill a heart that's spent a lifetime breaking.

Maybe I'll ride off into the sunset. But even if that happens what I'd be looking forward to most is the homecoming. Because home is where the Trout is and the friends are. Thank you all.
Riding through Vancouver on the back of the Beast heading toward yet another meeting with a friend of a friend I glance up and see the blue sky and the clouds like painted whisps from the Heavens. The sun is slowly fading and my belly is full of a Vera's Burger , more specifically the Canukian Bacon Burger. Yummy. Burgers with another friend of a friend just met earlier at their penthouse loft with a great view of the water. I met Neil from Onewheeldrive.net (http://www.onewheeldrive.net/) and Kevin and immediately thought "Wow, these guys are fun!" Lots of motorcycles in the basement garage and lots of motorcycle gear in the loft yet an amazing amount of personality from both. Best part of the trip thus far as the laughter flowed like fine wine.

On the way back to the hotel I found myself thinking about how people ride. I started pondering the way I ride. I wondered what the best way was. I would assume someone who has ridden more and been more places knows how to ride better than I. I mean, I've been in my backyard essentially. But then I wonder if being all over the world really should be the deciding factor in your riding ability. I mean, it's easier to say someone who has ridden farther is a much better rider than I will ever be...but maybe being a good rider doesn't just encompass where you've been. In my mind it should also include how safe you are, whether the decisions you make are sound and reasonable, and maybe how many drivers you piss off by simply being on the road.

Being all over the world gives someone an automatic gold star, sure. But maybe it's only by the grace of God that they made it that far. And, well, it does give bragging rights that I'll never have. But still, I say it's a bit of a cop out. I mean after all, just because you do something doesn't mean you're good at it.

Just sayin!
Viewed Vancouver BC from the back of the Beast today. It's a good thing that I already know how to ride because if I didn't, I wouldn't dare get on a bike again. Riding on the back, trusting your life to someone else, sucks. It's a lot like being on a roller coaster that could go anywhere at any time that brakes at the last minute. Weaving in and out of traffic, no turn signals, tires screeching, people glaring, pedestrians running, holding on for dear life thinking, "why isn't anyone as pissed as I am?" Finally a yuppie in a Toyota Landcruiser gets cut off and honks his horn not bothering to slow down and almost landing me on his hood. I want to turn around and thank him for honking and ask if I can have a ride back to the hotel.

I had no idea the Beast could maneuver in such a manner. I also had no idea you could whip around a 20mph corner at 55 with a rider on the back, slide between cars with an inch to spare on each side, and basically use your turn signal only when YOU personally think it's warranted. And, well, it's apparently not warranted when you slip between two cars who are cruising at 45 mph with not nearly a car length between them. Yep. Color me freaked. My thighs actually hurt from straddling the bike with all my might and the prayers I said and promises I made while under duress will keep me being a good girl for years to come.

On second thought, maybe not. But still, I learned a valuable lesson. Never let someone put you on the back of your bike. It's your bike, you ride it. Because really, no one rides like you do.
From Portland, OR the ride to Canada is about 5.5 hours. I'd like to say it's a scenic ride but trudging up I-5 and through Seattle traffic is a lot like going to the dentist and having a root canal. Nonstop traffic once you are outside of Seattle and all the way through town. By the time I was through it both my wrists were burning from the constant shifting and braking. My allergies and asthma were acting up due to the smog...cars bumper to bumper zipping in and out of lanes as if moving one over would accomplish some great feat.

Past Seattle the road narrows again and until you hit the Peace Arches at the border it's smooth riding with small towns and trees lining the way. And the border on a Saturday around 4:00 PM is a five minute wait. The questions are quick, "what is the reason for your trip? How long will you be here? Have anything on board you're selling? What's in the bag?" All for naught since clearly I could have brought in an army worth of guns and no one would have noticed. They did make me remove my sunglasses so they could "see if my picture matched" but frankly, on my passport my face shows an extra 15 pounds and make up that I never wear.

Riding into Surrey, my destination, my first stop is a liquor store where I buy two 4 packs of Mike's Hard Lemonade with Vodka. That's the reason I love Canada. I get back to my bike and realize I really don't have room for that much booze on the bike. I take them out of the boxes and shove them into whatever crevice is available in my sidebags. I'm ready to roll when I realize I'm parked on such a slant and the bike and gear weigh so much that I don't have the strength to push the bike upright. Great, another opportunity for failure. I get off, put the stand down, and slowly start pushing the bike backwards so I can get on more level ground. The kickstand is scraping along the asphalt and everyone is staring at me wondering what the heck I'm doing. I can almost hear them saying, "look at the dumb american who bought a bike that's too heavy."

Of course, I knew the trip wouldn't be complete without at least one episode of me being a dumbass. Last time I was here I asked if they were closed for Memorial Day. Um, the USA Memorial Day. Coincidentally that was also at a liquor store. Maybe I need to stay out of liquor stores, stay out of Canada, or just wise up. But, now that I ponder it, I'm glad I didn't disappoint.

Ride on.
 
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This sweet little adorable chocolate lab is Trout. She's actually a nightmare in training. Well, I guess she's out of training and now is into the graduate program. Her favorite thing is the kiddie pool in the backyard and she runs to it every time the back door opens. Unfortunately she's really good at sprinting back inside the house before the door shuts.

Somewhere I heard dogs were easier to have than children, you know, the whole you can lock them in the backyard thing...well I am finding that's not true. And in fact, not even close..because at least the kid will eventually grow up, start mowing the lawn and doing other chores and move away. This little devil isn't going anywhere.
Wow. Someone hand me a cigarette. Just got back from a ride using the Giant Loop Great Basin Saddlebag (http://www.giantloopmoto.com/)and the experience was that fulfilling.

At first glance the bag is a bit of a concern for a rider who's been using strictly hardbags. But let me tell you, the Great Basin is a rider's dream. The mounting is done in a quick and easy manner simply by looping the 5 straps around a point on the bike and pushing the strap through the fastener. Easy Peasy. The "U" shape of the bag allows it conform nicely on the rear seat and yet hang at an angle which didn't affect my riding. Their website touts "rides like it's not even there" and well, they aren't kidding. I had to turn around to make sure the bag hadn't fallen off.

Probably the best part is the weight of the Great Basin. Coming in at 50 liter volume and having an empty weight of only 8 pounds (on my home scale) the bag is light and has enough capacity for a day ride, commuting for work and even a weekend trip. And, it's light enough that even a child can lift it, carry it, and maneuver the bag without an issue.

The width of the bag when on the bike was about 29" as compared to my hardcases which are about 40" wide. The Great Basin has compression straps on the side so the width can change, and even when not completely full there isn't flapping in the wind due to the location of the straps and the compression ability. And speaking of flapping, not an issue in the world with drag, which is a common thing with my huge hardcase panniers.

I had the bag fully strapped onto the bike and realized I'd forgotten to put my purse in for my test ride. There was no problem with opening the zipper and just pushing it in because the zipper runs far enough down the edge of the bag to enable access. The zippers are strong and durable which is a good thing considering on most my gear the zippers break first.

Per Giant Loop's website the bag is made of waterproof material but the seams need to be sealed. This isn't a problem for some riders as their bikes are stationary until the rain stops. I ride all year round but I welcome the opportunity to test the bag in the weather.

My only real concern with the bag, given my type of riding, is security. In the set up I currently have the bags are locked to the bike and have locks keeping everything inside secure. The peace of mind I get from that is a big bonus. With the Great Basin there is essentially no security. Sure, you could use a Pacsafe but that's an extra expense. Of course, even with the extra expense of a Pacsafe anti theft system the Great Basin comes in at a reasonable price of only $399. That's less than a quarter of what I paid for the hardcases. A lot less.

Overall the Giant Loop Great Basin bag is a winner. I'd use it and I'd love it. Now about a tank bag....
The other day I decided to put the "rubber to the road" as all the cool motorcyclists say and ride the bike to Salem. It was a hot day for Oregon, about 98 degrees, and I was wearing all my gear like a good little girl. My driveway is just long enough to pick up momentum before turning onto the road and I live in the country where there's not a lot of traffic. I hit the end of the gravel driveway and start to make my turn onto the road when I notice a truck coming down the road. I slam on my brakes and the Beast comes to a sudden stop. Unfortunately, not before I put my left leg down to catch it. The foot peg slams into my calf and I nearly drop the Beast. It's then I again re-evaluate my mode of transportation and consider if I were on my last bike, the F650GS, I'd not have almost 600 pounds of bike to pick up and try to manage. Damn my ego!

Today I'm sporting an awesomely sized battle wound bruise on my left calf. It's a reminder to stop being an idiot on the bike, a precursor to things that will come if I don't start paying attention and stop acting like a girl when I ride.

But, oh what good stories I can tell simply based on my stupidity.