Sunday, August 30, 2009

Part 1 of Riding Colorado at the AMA Women And Motorcycling Conference

Day 1- Novato CA in route to Keystone CO

As I awoke to the blaring sound of my alarm at 3:00AM in the morning in the attempt to make a 6:15 AM flight, I thought about how full my day was going to be. In the realization of what little sleep I managed to get, I was worried and excited all at the same time, I better be up for it, because I was going to be riding the Rockies in just a few hours!

I arrived at the Oakland airport right on schedule, schlepping all my "stuff", but proud of the fact I managed to pack all my motorcycle gear and clothes for a week into two small bags. I was to meet Jane from Connecticut at the gate and fly out to Denver together. I waited and waited for her, but no Jane. They called our flight for the second time, still no Jane. I went ahead and boarded thinking maybe we got our wires crossed and she wasn't taking this flight at all, but another one. It's funny how the mind can dream up crazy crap at 6 AM in the morning!

Still, as I sat in my seat, I watched every person who boarded, looking for the familiar face that I had not seen in two years time. Finally, there she was looking frazzled and relieved all at the same time. Seems her hotel shuttle was late. Thankfully, my mind wasn't playing tricks on me after all and soon Jane and I where off to Denver to rendezvous with Cathy from Michigan.
Jane and I found Cathy in baggage claim after a cell call, collected our gear and just as soon as we united, we found ourselves parting again. This time Cathy and I on one shuttle to Tourbikes on one side of Denver and Jane on another shuttle to Eagleriders, on the other side of town. We planned to meet at the junction where hwy 70 and hwy 6 meet.

We arrived at Tourbike rentals, Bill, the owner approached us with a perplexed look on his face, this made Cathy and I nervous. When we announced who we were, he explained he wasn't expecting us until the next day. Cathy and I found this odd, since we both separately confirmed out dates online. Fortunately, the bikes we requested, the BMW F800GS and the Honda VFR were there, so the only inconvenience was a time delay with paperwork that hadn't been filled out in advance.
Now the challenge at hand, loading the bikes with all our gear and making it fit! Some how we did it, but in the mean time, the sky was looking more and more threatening. Big black clouds were forming, then the thunder and lightening came, being from California, this was not something I was used to. And down came the rain to follow, I did not need this!! A motorcycle I was not familiar with, along with being loaded down by all my gear with a vague idea of where we were going to meet up with Jane.

As Cathy and I pulled away from the garage, I could hear Bill, the owner of the Tourbikes voice echoing in my head "it's not our fault if you kill yourself!" I would have taken this personally, if I hadn't already heard him say it minutes prior to the guy that left before us!

As the rain came down and temporarily turned to hail, I was struggling to see, even after I had made sure to rain guard my visor in preparation for such a situation. What a waste of time that was! I did manage to see Cathy's BMW tail light and for the most part, everything else. With every stop light we hit, we would look at each other, with this look of what the hell did we get ourselves into? No words were necessary, we both were on the same page!

Through fighting the elements, struggling with the unsteadiness of a motorcycle that was a little too tall, in addition to the weight of my gear and now the stop and go traffic on hwy 25, we managed to make our way to Jane. Finding her Harley Davidson Softtail parked outside a biker bar called Susies off of hwy 70. How she managed to track down a biker bar outside of Denver in a matter of minutes is still a mystery to Cathy and I! There must be some kind of universal homing device on all Harley's that we were unaware of???

Susie's was a typical funky biker bar where everyone was friendly, even though we did get some stares as Cathy and I pulled up on our BMW and Honda, not your typical motorcycle fan fair, I would suspect around these parts. Or the fact that we were girls riding bikes. Either way, we had fun, chitchatting with the locals, having a much needed bite to eat and went on our way, climbing up hwy 70 making our way to Keystone.
The gods must have been with us, or that we had a chaplain in our midst, but the rain stopped as we headed up the mountainous horizon, feeling much better about the ride to come. After about 60 miles, passing through the 2 mile Eisenhower tunnel, the weather definitely took a turn from one end of the tunnel to the other. Maybe it was the Continental Divide marked by a bright yellow sign half way through the tunnel that hastened the shift in weather? Regardless, coming down the steep grade into the Silverthorne Valley, we were feeling the difference with the drop in temperature and the strong headwinds.

Ignoring the change in conditions, my attentions quickly diverted to the magnificent views I witnessed with each sweeping turn I took on the bright red Honda. Jagged , rocky peaked mountains that seemed to reach out and touch the sky, giving an enveloping feeling to the small city of Silverthorne, below. Breathing in all the beauty as we came upon our exit all too quickly.
Minutes later, arriving at what I would come to affectionately call the "funky" house, that was to be our home for the week, we were greeted by Ellen , her husband, John, Laura, Ted and Jon, all of which rode up from Huston Texas. It was a multi level styled 5 bedroom 5 bath house that was odd in it's design, but perfect for our "roommate" needs. Cathy, Jane and I shared a room with two sets of bunk beds, me being mandated to sleep on the bottom bunk, below Cathy. And Jane getting a bunk bed all to herself. It worked out perfect, with plenty of room for our gear and a sitting room off the bunk room to sit and relax, when given a chance.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with the girls playing "catch up" and the guys sitting outside smoking cigars.

We all called it an early night around 9PM. It had been a long, but exciting day. It was comforting to know we all made it safe and sound. I remember falling asleep thinking how this trip had finally arrived after months of planning and waiting, it was truly an amazing day!

Day 2- Keystone CO

Arising to a beautiful crisp day, I decided to take a run/hike around the existing area of the "funky" house. I found a fantastic view at the top of a hill over looking the Keystone Golf course, I remember thinking, what a wonderful way to start the day!

After breakfast, Jane, Cathy and I decided we wanted to our money's worth out of your rental bikes, so we passed on the seminar that was to kick off today and head out hwy 9, south off of hwy 70. We passed through Breckenridge, a small quaint town I had been to several year before, spending the a week skiing every day. It looked so different without snow!
Winding up into Pike National Forest at the 11,000 ft level and back down into a very small, old town by the name of Alma and then on to our final destination of Fairplay CO. When we first arrived in Fairplay, it looked hauntingly like a ghost town, there was no one around at first glance. As we dismounted off the bikes and started to walk up the sunny narrow street, we then started to notice people milling about. We discovered a little sandwich shop called Milloni's, and had lunch overlooking a picturesque creek nestled in the hills.

After lunch, we walked up to the end of the street where Fairplay had an exhibit of what the town looked like from days gone by, called The South Park City Museum. For a small fee, you could walk through, getting the feel of what it must have felt like in the mid 1800's.

Fairplay takes it's name from gold prospectors who settled in 1859. They had staked more claims than they could work, hence giving the small town the name "Fairplay", giving every man an equal chance at staking his claim.

We headed back to Keystone, hoping to catch some portion of the seminar we were most likely missing! In my 2 days here, I had heard from several locals about how frequent motorcycle accidents occurred when riders drift off the road or into on coming traffic from being distracted by the awesome scenery. As I rode back, I could completely understand why this could happen and made sure to pay close attention to what was in front of me.
I was getting more comfortable with the VFR, we came into some twisties and felt confident enough to pass Jane and take the turns more at my own pace. It was nice to break away for a brief moment!
We caught the last 45 minutes of Carla King's talk about her solo travels, she and I met a month prior after she consented to doing a review on my Style Saver Scarf. We instantly hit it off and I wanted to make a special effort attend her class and personally say "hi" to her afterwards. She greeted me with a friendly hug and we talked, catching up on her recent trip to the big island of Hawaii.

From there, Jane, Cathy and I rode down the road to catch the AMA's president Rob Dingman and his cocktail party he was hosting. I had heard that Rob Dingman had been receiving a lot of bad press about his "my way or the highway" method of doing things, since taking his presidential position two years ago. So, I was a little predisposed on his reputation and found his reticent speaking abilities less than entertaining. It was like listening to latex paint dry!
Cathy found one of her Free Spirit chapter sisters, Joy from Michigan sitting with two women from Dallas Texas. Much more entertaining than Rob! We munched on quesadillas and sipped margarita's talking shop and learning more about motorcycles and the diverse women who ride them, it was fun and I enjoyed the experience.

At 7 PM we rode back down the road, to the conference hall for the opening ceremony to listen to some of the most awe inspiring women motorcyclists to date. Ashley Fiolek, a teenage motocross rider who was recently signed professionally representing Honda. As she stood to the right of the podium "signing" as her mother translated from the podium. It was clear this talented, determined young women was not going to let being deaf stop her in any way from accomplishing her dreams of being one of the first female professional motocross racers.
Leslie Prevish, Harley Davidson's women's outreach manager was full of energy and it emulated across the auditorium infeciously. She was an entertaining speaker, who's main focus is to create a vibrant community of female riders. She talking about some of the pioneer women riders of the early 20th century, such as Vivian Bales and Adeline and her sister Augusta Van Buren.
Leslie Porterfield, a very attractive young woman with long golden hair, that holds 3 land speed records and a member of the Bonneville 200 mile club. She also owns High Five Cycles in Dallas Texas, where she resides.
Feeling a little "small" after listening to all the incredible stories, we went back to the "funky" house and promptly crashed in my lower bunk bed!


To be continued.......

Monday, August 17, 2009

NMP finds the Dark Side, or Code Blue Race Report

Although it is my intention to "personally" write my blogs in a leitmotif flavor from a women's perspective on motorcycle musings, I felt compelled to share a story. After receiving this letter from a fellow NMP track side associate, on Dr. Paul Love, also a track side medic, a person I had the pleasure of meeting and working T3 with at Laguna Seca MotoGP this last July 4Th weekend.
I was fortunate enough to be out working the track on Paul's 2ND AFM race experience, on August 9Th at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA and saw first hand what an impressive, enthusiastic racer he is. A cynosure of everyones attention, at least track side!
Below are the chronicles of Paul, writing first hand of his on-track AFM racing experience.
The exhibited photos are of what I was able to capture of Paul and other racers, while track side!


By Dr. Paul Love, MD.

Well, in case any of you failed to notice the giant riding the 600 at ThunderHill and Infineon, I am racing in the AFM now. Above all, I want to state that I love the NMP, the mission, the work and above all the GREAT people that I've met. You guys, along with the white shirts are the unsung heroes of racing, and my participation with you has not ended by any stretch. Why am I racing? After all, I'm not a kid anymore. All I can say, I love going fast and I finally found the place where the only limits are my skill and equipment.

My first weekend was the July round at Thunderhill. I had a track day there two weeks earlier, and thought I was running well enough to have a shot at making the 600 Production grid, officially 2:14 at T-hill. I ran around for two weeks getting the bike prepped and setup, including my yellow number plates, 515R. Brian Paoletti met me at the track to help me on race Saturday. Brian races in AFM but tore his biceps lifting a bike at MotoGP.

You know the NMP code: first the rider, then the bike, then the party. Brian was picking up Jason Disalvo's bike. His unfortunate loss was my gain, Brian showed up with shade and TIRE WARMERS, as well as lots of experience in surviving race day. Ann and Brian both accompanied me to tech. I'm not saying strings were pulled but there was remarkably little hazing of the new guy. I can't describe how nervous I was taking the track for that first practice lap. My anxiety showed in the riding and my times were inconsistent and barely in the range.

I was with the USGPRU kids in Group 1, you know, the fearless 12 year-olds. At one point, I was passed by one on the outside of Turn 3, as he came around I remember looking under my arm and seeing the top of his helmet a few inches from my outside knee. At times it was like brushing off mosquito's on an evening walk through a swamp. There were some traction issues in some turns, my suspension had been freshened up and needed tuning but a few visits with Dave Moss got things right , and third session was yielding some 2:09's.

My anxiety builds all day, but finally it's time for Clubman Middleweight. I do a few mental laps to quell the fear, and make my way to the grid. A mellow cold lap, then I take my place at the chalk mark #31. Engine roar builds around me as the starter waves the cards. Green means gogogo and the pack launches. My start is umm, bad, but I join the pack hurtling toward that little patch of pavement where everyone wants to flip it into Turn 1. Call it common sense or survival instinct, but I checked up, and came through turn 1 last. I chase the first lap, and might even be gaining but down the front straight my bike emits a horrific shrill noise. Imagine a million fingernails grating on ten thousand chalkboards, and it just keeps getting worse.

A thousand years of motorcycling experience at that track, and I don't think anyone had ever heard that exact noise before. Expecting a grenade to detonate between my legs any second, I raise my arm and exit the track to the infield at T3. AFM'er Dean crosses the hot track from the corner box at T5 to get me moved to a safe place. I exit the track after last rider, my race hopes crushed. Back in the pit, we discover the source of the noise. A year earlier, when I bolted the rear brake rotor on, I didn't torque the bolts. Two bolts backed out and were grinding the brake caliper at 115 mph. Repair was pretty simple, but I didn't finish Clubman, my weekend is over.

I ask Ann if she needs an NMP tomorrow. Instead she tells me to talk to Barb. Cathy Reilly gets involved too, they clear me to race 600 Production the next day based on my best practice time of 2:08. AFM is needing the money this year, or maybe Shawn Reilly is just running a warmer, fuzzier, club. I'm thrilled, going home without a finish would have would have been unabidingly depressing.

Sunday is mo' bettah, hopes arise with the new sun. I always enjoy the ride out to the track through the vast sunflower fields, now losing their color in the July swelter. Two practice sessions go without incident and I grid up for 600P. From the tail of the grid, I watch as racers tug on straps and leather adjusting their armor for battle. The cacophony builds when the #1 card shows. A flash of green and a swarm of multi-colored missiles accelerate away. I launch pretty well, but am shy about the rubbing elbows thing and pull through turn 1 in last place again.

For tail-end Charlie, the race is pretty boring really, I latch onto #865, and basically struggle to stay in contact, the gap Bungee-cords from turn to turn. Still I'm moving up as I pass the scene of crashes and see riders frantically trying to get back on the track after running off. I sense the laps ticking off, but somehow I'm so focused on 865 I missed the white flag. There's a yellow in T9 and a bike down just off the race line, no white flag there either. I drive hard out of T15, but get nipped at the line by #931 who finally catches up after running off the first lap. I'm last, but a fighting last I think. Funny thing is, I don't actually see the checkered flag, so I run all the way to T10 at race pace before I figure it out. I'm so slow most people thought I was on the cool down.
Sorry I didn't wave, Ann and Jordan, I was still going all-out. My times surprise a little, mostly 2:08's but I rip a solitary 2:06 so I think there's room for improvement. The Apres-race party involved tequila shots as I recall.

Anyway, I survived my first AFM race, even though I finished last. Thank you all for being there, special thanks to Brian P. Next installment, Infineon Round 6, or My trip(s) through the daisies, why does David look sooo worried during Clubman middleweight?, and I think Barbara finds me attractive. :-)

Love , Paul

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reflections of Alaska, Reuniting At The AMA Conference

This coming Tuesday I will be jet setting off to Keystone CO to the 5Th AMA Women & Motorcycling International Conference. It holds great meaning for me on two levels: One, it will be my first experience in attending an all women's conference exclusively in motorcycling. And two, I will be reuniting with 4 of the 13 women, who shared in a life altering, more than 1200 mile Alaskan trek, solely on motorcycles.

Cathy is was born and raised in Michigan. A chaplain at a privately owned small hospital , who, in her spare time, rides with an all women's motorcycle group called the Free Spirit Chapter out of Southeast Michigan, on her Honda Nighthawk 750.
She and I were friendly on our Alaskan pilgrimage up in the Great White North, but became close friends after my former husband had been hospitalized. I came to understand the importance of Cathy's work, when the my local chaplain had been so comforting to me in my time of need. I expressed my feelings of compassion for her work and told her how much I appreciated what she did. We communicated via email for over a year and a half and bonded our friendship even further when she came out for a week long stay with me in CA. We had a blast together!

Jane is from Connecticut and will be flying out with me to Colorado. She will be visiting here in California prior to the conference, so our reunion will be at the Oakland airport at 5:30 AM! That should inspire us to wake up!
Ellen and Laura are both from Texas. They will be riding up along with Ellen's husband, John, his friend, Jon and their neighbor, Ted. Ellen stated in an email, "We will have 3 Harley's and 2 Honda's, we need at least 2 dependable bikes on the trip!"

The Texas clan will be departing on Saturday August 15Th and staying in Amarillo, Texas as the first over nighter. Sunday, they will be taking an over night break in Walsenburg Colorado. And on Monday, staying in Gunnison Colorado and then on to Keystone.

After our rendezvous at the Denver airport, Jane will pick up her Harley Davidson Heritage Softtail at Eagleriders on one side of Denver. While Cathy and I go to the other side of town, where I will mount up on a Honda Interceptor and Cathy on a BMW F800GS, from Tour Riders.
The three of us will once again reunite on HWY 70 near Golden, CO and continue on our 1 1/2 hour journey up HWY 70 into the Rockies, where we should simultaneously meet the Texas 5 at a 5 Bdrm, 5 Ba house that Ellen found on the internet.

On August 17, Tuesday at approximately 2:00PM central time, in a large brown house entangled amongst the Aspens of Keystone Colorado, is where the 5 unsuspecting girls from the summer of '07, inquisitively deciding to embark on a historian, 1st all women's , 7 day, 1200 mile journey, will continue to build on friendships that will last a life time.

Side Note:
The Alaska ride was also instrumental in the development of the Style Saver Scarves. This was the forum I chose to test my newly invented prototype.
I fervidly had sewn 23 polyester satin scarves in preparation for a great opportunity to test out my concept of creating a bandanna styled "silky" scarf, in an effort to combat "helmet hair."
Something I struggled with as hair stylist, riding a motorcycle!

The girls were great about trying out the new "doo" saving scarves and as a result, I discovered the necessary changes that needed to be made in order to successfully introduce them into the market.

Reflecting back today, if it wasn't for the willingness of the women, on the Alaska Riders Tour, Style Saver Scarves might still be in it's infancy!

Thank you girls, for all your support!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Size Really Does Matter!

In a follow up on my blog from June 22, 2009 on helmet safety standards, I recently read an article in the September issue of Motorcyclist Magazine about the new Snell M2010 helmet standard. A lineament shift since a very publicized article, on Snell's M2005 helmet standard, that was released in 2005, also, by Motorcyclist Magazine entitled "Helmet performance-Blowing the Lid Off."

In this article, the Snell Memorial Safety Foundation was pressured in it's apocryphal practices in mandating reliable and trustworthy safety standard tests. In spite of the best intentions from Snell, they failed to acquire the field data on actual accidents. In their obstinacy, they choose to over-look doing their homework rather than being sagacious in their field of expertise.

Now, Snell and other safety standards are taking a closer look at the size and stiffness of the helmet. Until now, Snell has been firm on using 5-kilogram (11-pound) headform mass in every size helmet, from XXS to XXL. When using the same headform mass in a large helmet as in a small helmet it creates more or less density, and therefore depleting the protection, that we, as motorcycle consumers rely on.
The ECE were sedulous in the practice of testing graduated- headform masses with lighter artificial heads as well as larger heads since 1983. Sadly, Snell insisted for all those decades they had "no evidence" that smaller heads are lighter than bigger heads!! Seriously?

After all these years, the ECE have been convincing to the Snell Foundation and others alike, that size does matter! As a result, Snell has now adopted the graduated-headform -mass testing protocol, abandoning the extraneous attitude of days gone by.
Now, oddly enough, today, testing an XS Snell M2005 helmet would not pass the Snell 2010 helmet standard test of the same size. Manufactures will still be allowed to to make the older M2005 helmet indefinitely, so if you have a larger head you might be wise to stay with the older model. Smaller heads will benefit from the newer M2010 model.

In all things considered there is more of a state of alignment amongst the major mandatory (DOT and ECE) and voluntary Snell standards, and this is a very good thing indeed!

I commend you, Snell for introducing the M2010 safety standard, and changing your ways, even if it did take you 27 years to do so!