I haven’t been on a bike for almost exactly 4 years, since I found out I was pregnant with Joshua. Lucky for me, I’m back in the saddle. Here’s my new affair. So yummy!
My interest in motorcycles started at such a young age, I couldn’t quite remember exactly what ignited it. All I remember is my mother’s warning: If you ever ride a motorcycle, we’ll dis-own you.
In 2004, I got my motorcycle licence. Luckily my family didn’t dis-own me. But I’m pretty sure my mother aged 17 years all of a sudden just knowing I’m out on a bike. I’ve done some pretty interesting rides, including the 1,000 mile in 24 hours “Iron Butt” ride, and riding all the way from Vancouver to Halifax. All this came to halt when I became pregnant with Joshua in 2009. I sold my BMW Dakar that spring, and that was the last time I rode a motorcycle.
The last couple of years have been busy in terms of having kids. Every summer I looked longingly at bikes driving past me, and dreamed of the day of riding again. For now, I have other priorities (i.e. Joshua and Savanna), so a bike is out of the question. But I figured we can go to the bike show so I can sit on a few bikes for fun, and I would love it if the kids would become interested in riding one day too.
Joshua couldn’t say “motorcycle” yet. He says “more-cycle”. So on Sunday we went to the more-cycle show at Tradex. During the whole drive to Abbosford, he was quite pumped about seeing more-cycles.
I had fun checking out the BMW F650 I love, and also sitting on the new Honda CB500. Cliff liked the new Honda CBR500. Joshua was very interested in pressing all the buttons on a bike, and flipping up the gas cap or key hole cover. It was a fun experience for him, and I hope he will ride a bike one day.
Since I’ve been pregnant, people often ask me what my cravings are. I actually haven’t had ANY food cravings during this pregnancy.
My “cravings”, aside from food, however, have been quite intense. You know what I really crave? I’m craving riding a motorcycle, or trekking in Tibet, or rolling down the sand dune in the dessert of Egypt. I’m craving something crazy, something exotic, or something my mom is going to have a heart attack over.
We knew before we had Joshua that life is going to change in a totally different direction once the little monkey (or in our case soon, two monkeys) arrives. The type of traveling I loved will not be available for a few years. I sold my motorcycle, knowing that I won’t have time to ride for a while. I certainly do not regret the decision to put these things on hold, and focus on raising my kids. All I’m saying, is that I have to admit, my heart has not stopped craving for the next adventure.
A few years ago, I read a book called A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel written by Annie Griffiths Belt. This woman is my hero. She’s a photographer working for the National Geographic, had two kids, and took her kids on photo assignments with her all over the world. Her book wasn’t very long, but it influenced me in a serious way. She totally dispelled the myths that people don’t travel to exotic places with young kids. She found ways to make it work to take her kids on assignments. She’s the type of women who never follows tradition, and blazes her own path in life. It made me decide that if I ever had kids, I’m not going to use them as an excuse not to travel.
I know, for now at least, I can only savour the memories of past travels or experience of exotic places. I do really look forward to one day going somewhere really cool with the kids, and show them just how amazing it is to see the world outside of our little corner in North America.
Solo ride from Vancouver to Halifax:
In the Okavango Delta in Botswana:
Rock climbing in Joshua Tree:
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with Cliff:
Sand dune in Namibia:
A beach at Zanzibar:
Muncho Lake in Alaska:
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:
On a safari in Tanzania:
In 2010, when I was 4 months pregnant with Joshua, I sold my beloved BMW Dakar. When the buyer rode the bike away, I stood there crying in the parking lot. Boy, I loved that bike!
So last winter, Cliff and I decided we will use the proceeds from the bike to buy a little boat. Boating would be something everyone in the family can enjoy, and we can take our friends and family out with us.
It took a little while to find a boat within our price range. I drove down to Seattle one day and brought this baby home:
Today was our first time taking the boat out. It wasn’t without many issues to work out, mainly due to our non-existent experience with boating. But once we got into the water, it was a total blast.
I was a little worried about how Joshua is going to react to being on the boat. But he actually kept his life jacket on the whole time. Although he refused to wear a hat, he did ok with the layer of sunscreen I smothered on him. He sat and smiled at the wind blowing on his face when we were driving. He was so exhausted after the ride that he fell asleep in the car before we even left the parking lot. After he woke up from his nap, he kept saying, “Boat? boat?” I think he really enjoyed it too.
Back in the 80’s, when I was 15, I did a lot of stupid things. I’m not sure what reminded me of this story, but here it goes.
I took the bus to and from school everyday. Buses in Asia are dreadful back then. The seats are covered with cheap green vinyl, making the back of your legs sweat. I was 15, and too cool to ride in the front of the bus with the geeks. So I always head straight to the last row, where the cool kids hang and interesting things happen.
On this particular bus I was on one day, someone had written his name and phone number with white-out on the cheap vinyl. Usually someone would do that if he is looking for a “date”. The next day, I happen to take the same bus and saw the name and phone number again. I am not sure what was going through my stupid mind, but I thought, hey, let’s call this number.
The next day, I made the phone call from a public phone so my parents won’t hear me have this conversation. I had no idea what I was expecting. I dialled the number and asked for the person. An older man picked up the phone asked me to wait, then a younger man’s voice came on. He asked me who I was. I explained that I got his phone number from the back row of a bus, and I asked him why he wrote his name and number on the bus seat. He said he didn’t do it, but his friends probably did. It turned out he was a couple of years older than me. He asked me if I wanted to go to a movie with him, and I said ok.
He had a scooter, which made him very cool. When you are 17 and has a scooter, girls want to go out with you. At least back at my time that was the case. Anyway, we met up a few days later. He was a teenager with a bad case of acne. We watched some lame movie, and went for a ride on his scooter. The best part was, he let me ride the scooter! We took the scooter up a twisty mountain road. I was riding in the front while he sat in the back, and his hands were all over me. The crazy thing is, all I could think of at the time was, “I love this scooter!”
We met up a few more times for lame movies and scooter rides. Then I think he eventually figured out that I just wanted to ride his scooter. The relationship obviously was not going to work.
Mom, if you ever read this, nothing ever happened. But you can blame him for feeding my two-wheel addiction.
If Joshua rides a motorcycle one day, I know I would be very worried when he is out riding. All sorts of scary thoughts would run through my mind about how dangerous it is to be on a bike. I can understand how Mom really hated it when I started riding.
But if Joshua doesn’t have any interest in motorcycles, I must admit I would be disappointed. Riding a bike, to me, represents freedom. I guess it’s in every parent to wish that their child would enjoy the same things. I hope Joshua would enjoy all the same feelings I get when I’m on a bike.
Day 4 740 km/444 miles (Cody WY to Spearfish SD)
When I left Cody at 5:30 am, the air was warm and comfortable. I had planned on spending the day on big highways to make up for some mileage, and had expected a full day of boredom. However, I later learned that I was wrong with my expectations.
There was something magical about riding long distance alone. The early mornings, the fresh air, the sun rise, the curious strangers, the sense of freedom and control all became very addictive.
The road was not very exciting between Cody and Big Horn. However, I was kept amused by the sunray coming through the clouds for over an hour.
So far, I have not been bored. I was pleasantly surprised again when I entered the west side of Big Horn National Forest on Highway 14. The road became twisty, with steep walls of rocks on both sides of the road. From the drop of temperature, I suspected the gain in elevation as I continued in the Forest.
I saw some deer bouncing across the pavement, and some open range cows. The road provided lots of corners and curves for good riding fun. There were dark red ancient granite and lofty red cliffs to all over the Forest.
The good part of the road ended before hitting Burgess Junction. Since I did not expect any good riding all day, this was a pleasant bonus. “This is great! I’m loving this!”, I thought to myself.
I continued on the highway, riding towards the Devils Tower. I was once again entertained on the highway when I hit a bird for the first time. There was no time to avoid the bird, and I felt a little bad for it. It flew head-on into my head light, producing a loud “thud!” I saw it fall to the side of the road from my rear view mirror.
At the entrance of Devils Tower, I flashed my National Park Pass and got in quickly, and padded myself on the back for the smart move of buying the pass.
The short ride up to the base of the Tower was pleasant, but restricted by a low speed limit. I parked the bike, and sat down to read the park pamphlet and admire the Tower. Next to the Old Faithful, this was my second favorite spot on the whole trip.
The Devils Tower was formed from molten rock being squeezed out of the earth, made up of hundreds of hexagonal columns. It stands 867 feet high, and the local natives claim that it has sacred powers. All I could think of was, “Awesome!”
I stopped at a gift shop at the bottom of the Tower, bought some post cards and an over-priced ice cream cone. I sat down to enjoy my ice cream and write the post cards. A gang of six bikers started walking towards me from the other side of the parking lot. Being a pessimist, I wondered if I was in trouble. Then they proceeded to ask me where I was from, what bike I rode, why I was riding alone, etc. Each like a little boy showing off his toy, they took turns telling me what bike he rode, how they met, and the plan for their whole trip. They all went and checked out my bike and said some nice things about it. We wished each other a safe journey, and they were on their way.
As I was about to finish my post cards and ice cream cone, a couple with a child sat down beside me. They asked me why I had a Canadian flag patch on my hydration pack. I told them I sewed it on before I left home, because I am a proud Canadian. They got very excited, because they were from Ontario and were happy to see another Canadian. They proceeded to tell me about their riding experience in the area, and told me about some good roads through Black Hills.
I was amazed to learn that people are willing to tell you their life stories, just because you are riding a motorcycle. This family told me about their house in Ontario, about their jobs, and about their child’s school. As they spoke, I envied them. I envied their frank speech, their journeys together, their hard work, and mostly, that they have each other.
An hour later, I was on my way towards South Dakota. I wanted to get as close to Black Hills as possible, so I can spend the next morning playing in the area. I stopped at Spearfish for the night and found a KOA site to set up camp.
Some campers in a neighboring site came to chat as I was cleaning the bike’s chain. They invited me to their site for a visit and a beer. They were at the tail end of a Yamaha bike-meet in the area.
After I finished all the dirty work, I took a shower, and bought a bag of chips at the KOA store. It won’t be polite to visit without bringing something, and I couldn’t just bring my cans of tuna. I was feeling a bit apprehensive visiting some strangers. Sure they appear nice, but what was I suppose to talk about?
It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights I have spent at a camp site. Five middle aged men, all on their Yamaha Venturer, and one had his wife with him. They treated me like I was their daughter. They all showed me their bikes, their trailers, gave me advice about the roads I should take, and gave me beer. One of them gave me a park entrance ticket for Black Hills, and another one gave me a sticker for their club.
We chatted about bikes, jobs, where we lived, families, trips, etc for over two hours. At the end of the night, they extended invitation for me to come back the next morning for coffee and breakfast. I crawled into my sleeping bag that night, thanking God for the kindness of strangers.
Thus far, I was loving the new things I got to see, and enjoyed most of the roads.
Day 3 567 km/340 miles (Deer Lodge MT to Cody WY)
The goal today was to tour Yellowstone National Park. I’ve heard so much about the park, but have never seen it. Sometimes there’s a trade-off between sight-seeing and riding good roads. Today was one of those days.
I endured some riding on I-90 for the sake of making good time to Yellowstone. However, as soon as I saw a sign of Highway 287 as an alternative, I jumped on it.
Hwy 287 was much better than the big slabs. I saw quite a few different kinds of birds, and there was little traffic.
In Montana, I was one of the slowest vehicle on the road, and one of the few with a helmet on. Montana does have a posted speed limit, but it is rarely enforced. There is also no helmet law.
I loved riding in Montana. The sky was incredibly clear and beautiful, and the farms and ranches along the road reminded me so much of cowboy movies. In fact, I did see two cowboys jumping off their horses and tying some ropes around the legs of a calf.
Getting into Yellowstone National Park did not take very long. I bought a National Park Pass for US$50 at the ticket booth, and was on my way in about 10 minutes.
Leaving the ticket booth, I took a deep breath of the fresh air, brought the bike to a cruising speed, came around a corner, and had to grab a handful of brakes! The driver in front of me had slammed on his brakes right after a corner, because he was sticking his head out the window to take pictures of some eagles.
I was mad, but I reminded myself not to get worked up. I waited until he finished his pictures.
For the next 10 km, I was in riding hell. The two-lane highway was crawling with cars and RV’s driven by inattentive drivers. The driver in front of me was driving and trying to read the park map at the same time, and constantly slammed on his brakes to look in the direction of other cars stopped on the roadside for pictures of animals.
Ok, enough whining about the traffic. Once I reminded myself that I was spoiled to have seen wildlife often in BC, I felt more calm towards the camera crazy visitors.
It was a warm day. Clouds spotted the sky. It was beautiful. I was on the trip of my dreams! Don’t let some bad drivers ruin it!
I rode towards the Old Faithful, hoping to catch a glimpse of the amazing geyser. The geyser was given its name due to its predictability. It erupts approximately every 76 minutes.
I parked, and sat down to wait for the eruption. According to the prediction, it was supposed to erupt in the next 40 minutes. The park staff explained how the geyser worked, and how Old Faithful is different from the other geysers. It was very educational. I chatted with the kids sitting beside me, as they were very curious about my leather suit and hydration pack.
40 minutes came and went. No eruption. However, I wasn’t going to leave until I see some steam! I waited another 10 minutes, and the geyser started spitting out some water. Then it came—over 100 feet of water and steam sprayed out of the earth. The crowd cheered, and I was on my feet with awe.
Once the eruption subsided, I was on my way back to my bike. As I walked towards the parking lot, I saw a couple kissing. All of a sudden it reminded me again that I was alone, and I wished my husband was with me to share the experience of seeing the geyser. I swear I was never this “soft” before I met him.
When I got back to my bike, I found it surrounded by big touring bikes. My sport-touring bike looked a little out of place. In my heart, I secretly wished I had one of those giant touring bikes. Big windshield, CB radio, cup holder, comfortable seat, radio and cassette player, storage space…what’s not to love?
The East entrance to the Park was 7 miles of gravel due to construction, with lots of stops for gravel trucks. Prior to this, I have not ridden much on gravel. Gravel just makes me tense and nervous. But 7 miles later, I was getting used to it. However, the slow speed, dust, and potholes combined with rising temperature were not pleasant.
I stopped at Cody WY for the night, and decided that I must leave really early the next day to avoid the mid-afternoon heat.
Day 2 680 km/408 miles (Spokane WA to Deer Lodge MT)
I spent the first bit of the morning riding concrete slabs, so I can get to Moscow to start riding Highway 12 to Lolo Pass.
I was tired from the lack of quality sleep, and my eyes were sore and puffy from crying. However, the thought of riding Highway 12 got me really excited. The weather forecast for the day was a mix of sun and clouds—perfect!
I followed this site’s route suggestion from Moscow to Lolo Pass. The road from Moscow->Troy->Kendrick->Orofino is tight twisties! I’m so glad I followed someone’s route suggestion.
When I saw the sign for “Winding Road Next 77 Miles”, I couldn’t help but stop and take some pictures.
Highway 12 is the kind of road to my liking. No stops, twisty (but not too tight), nice pavement, and scenic.
I thought about last summer’s trip to California; thought about all the good roads I’ve been on; thought about how BCRider would love this road. I grinned the whole 77 miles.
In my mind, the plan for coming back to this road again was already forming even before I reached the other end.
I stopped at the visitor center for the washroom, only to have 5 people walk by and wanted to talk about my trip. People see a BC plate and they want to know where I’m going and why I ride alone. I eventually had to tell the last person I was starting to do the pee-dance and really needed to be excused.
The Lolo Pass Visitor Center has the nicest bathroom I’ve seen on the whole trip. It looks like a log home with stainless steel fixtures.
The rest of the day was spent on highways, and I ended up at Deer Lodge KOA camp site. This site was one of the cheapest but best KOA site I have stayed at (US$18), with free wireless internet access, kitchen, and free local calls.
After setting up the tent and taking a hot shower, I broke out my trusty little stove and made dinner. Mmmm…look at my yummy food: pasta, cream of mushroom soup, canned chicken meat, and frozen peas.
I was in much better spirit today for some reason. After dinner, I made my daily check-in call to my husband, planned next day’s route, and went to sleep.
I turned 30 years old this year. I was also about to write the final exam for the accounting designation I’ve been working on for almost 4 years. To make this a year to remember, I wanted to do something “big”.
A long bike ride is just the ticket for something “big”. I figured a ride across the country will be something to remember. Besides, I have always wanted to see the East Coast.
My husband does not like long rides; my riding buddy decided she couldn’t make the trip. I was going to be on my own for the ride. My husband will be in Boston for business as I reach the East Coast, so he planned on flying to Halifax to meet me when I get there.
I saved and planned, bought the proper gear, and added gadgets to the bike. In the mean time, I studied my butt off for the big accounting final exam, while working at my full time job. Six months later, I finished my final exam, got my vacation time approved, and I was ready to go!
Day 1 (Jul 4) 600 km/360 miles (Vancouver BC to Spokane WA)
When the alarm went off at 5:30 am, I jumped right out of bed.
I have thought of this moment for so many days and so many nights. It’s finally here! I finally get to go on a cross-country ride!
Weeks before the trip, I developed a packing list and started packing. The day before the trip, I loaded my bike with all my gear, tools, and spare parts.
The bike has brand new Pilot Road tires on, and had just had a tune-up about a month ago. I was confident in its mechanical condition.
I took Highway 20 and Skagit Hwy to Winthrop, which are some of my favorite roads through the Cascades.
As usual, the weather was lovely until I hit the Cascade Mountain, then it rained, and then turned into sunshine.
So far, the roads are familiar, and I haven’t had to look at my map yet. By the time I reached Winthrop, it was warm and sunny. I found a picnic table in the shades, and sat down to eat my PowerBar lunch.
Between Omak and Electric City, Highway 155 starts with about 20 km of desert type terrain and climate. The temperature was about 40 Celsius. After the initial boredom and heat, however, the road turns into enjoyable mountain roads with moderate curves/sweepers and very comfortable temperature.
Sadly, the moderate climate did not last long. By the time I got to Electric City, my thermometer was showing 43 Celsius. I was refilling my hydration pack for the 3rd time for the day.
When I got to Wilbur, I seriously contemplated shedding my leather suit. I felt like I was wrapped in plastic and being steamed in a rice cooker. Yet every time I thought of the words “skin graft”, I quickly dismissed the thought of taking off my gear.
There was not much to see between Wilbur and Spokane other than the rolling hills. However, it was towards the end of the day, and I was glad to ride some easy roads to make some mileage.
I ended in Spokane for the night and camped at the local KOA site.
Once I got the tent set up, I sat down waiting for my water to boil on the little camping stove. I looked around me, and noticed all the other campers had their family or friends with them. It’s a sharp contrast that I was alone.
I felt this intense loneliness hit me, and I was not ready for it. “What is wrong with me! I’m supposed to be tough!” I thought to myself. I called my husband, and told him I may want to come home. He reminded me how much I wanted to take this trip, and told me that he will support me all the way.
Settling down in the tent for the night, I let the loneliness take over and cried myself to sleep. One tough chic riding alone across the country, eh! Yeah, right!
Just after midnight, thunder and lightning awoke me. The strong winds pushed the tent wall onto my face. I was worried about the rain fly being blown away. After worrying for half an hour, I was too tired and fell asleep.