The morning dew blanketed the Alaska Highway with dense fog as I departed that morning riding my beloved Triumph Bonneville motorcycle (Bonnie). The true beauty of the mountain snow peaks (Glaciers) embracing the snake like highway covered with potholes, fresh clean cool crisp air, sand and roller coaster permafrost damaged straightaways kept my senses alert.
Story written by "Bonnie" (the motorcycle) 2009 Triumph Bonneville SE. On June 19, 2015, 12:00 pm, I was laden with weight and electrical problems. My Mom always pushes me to the limit. One summer she made me take her to the Panama Canal and back with an oil leak and old chain. I brought her back to safety despite my conditions.
Bloated panniers filled with necessary stuff to survive on the road, 50 days. Tiny budget requires more camping. Hilleberg The Tent Maker provided a tremendous discount towards a Staika tent. The little boy from Georgia (USA) sent his Flat Stanley character with the request to share the adventure for his school assignment.
August 6, 2014 -- My heroes, Ara and Spirit. They found me on a lonely dark highway 287 North West, near Ennis Montana. Late, around 10pm under a beautiful clear full moon with millions of stars. That moon was our saviour by lighting our path through 4 miles of gravel road to the campsite. Oh, how much I love that moon as it is a wonderful resource during night motorcycle riding.
Dressed in rain and heated gear, necessary with the altitude and cold mountain rains. I landed onto a huge valley, outskirts of Salt Lake City. I felt like I had landed in a frying pan. Utah is the land of contrast.
August 4, 2014, I found myself on a mission to ride my beloved Triumph Bonneville to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (USA) from Worcester Massachusetts and back home. The ride offered various opportunities to be hosted by friends and kind people I met along the way. A friend hosted me in Grand Junction Colorado, we looked at the map, best route to the Bonneville Flats was via Interstate 70 (I-70) West, North to Salt Lake City then West to Wendover, Nevada where I might find lodging. 403 miles/648 kilometers, no problem, I could make it through the desert during daylight as long as I did not have a motorcycle malfunction. Storms were threatening the ride through Utah. Weather forecast was grim. Throughout this ride, my odometer cable broke in Omaha Nebraska. My GPS was only working on battery and determining fuel levels from station to station was a challenge, I felt as if I was riding blind.
77 miles/124 kilometers, riding on I-70, Utah's beautiful vast landscape of long stretches of desolate desert and lonely highway. This stretch of road gives a solo motorcyclist an eerie feeling of isolation. I've been on roads like this various times in past rides, always with the concern of getting stuck is present. Getting stuck in this stretch of road is not something you want. Even though there is vehicle traffic, the isolation is still a reality, people do not stop to help, why?
While still sitting on my bike, cautious, ready to ride away if the man tried to hurt me. I looked at my GPS, next fuel station was another 17 miles/27 kilometers. I carry 2 spare liters of fuel because my Triumph Bonneville has a small tank. I thought, "argh, if I offer my extra fuel, will I need it?" As usual, I put my needs aside to help others. I said to the man, "the next fuel station is 17 miles, I have extra fuel but it will not be enough for a car, here, take the fuel and I will follow you in case you run out of gas again." His apprehension of accepting my gift allowed me to relax and realize he had good intentions. He was so nice and unselfish. He offered money, I said no. He introduced himself as Ewan McGregor (here is how Wikipedia shares him, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ewan_McGregor). I did not recognize him as the famous actor, but knew his name from his motorcycle documentaries, "Long way round" and "Long way down". At the time, I had not seeing the documentaries. I looked up at the highway and thought about the great distances I had to travel on my low budget. I agreed and accepted his money, very thankful for his generosity. I thought, "$20 will get me another tank of fuel and much needed water."
As promised, I followed him. I knew that small amount of fuel would not last, 15 miles/24 kilometers later, he pulls over onto another exit ramp, out of fuel. The exit ramp was the visitor center I spotted many miles behind. He says, "keep riding, someone will help me here." I waited until he came back from the center, they would not help him. We looked at each other trying to figure out what to do, a large white pickup truck enters the ramp with gallons of fuel. We asked for help, the man driving the truck said that he needed to check on his crew as there was some construction work being done, maybe if he completed the task, he would come back to help. I asked how far would I have to ride back on the interstate to make a u-turn with more fuel. He mentioned an emergency exit near by that I could turn around to get back to the center. I said to Ewan, "I'll go get more fuel and come back. Continue asking for help. If someone is willing to help, you can leave, I will return, if you are gone, no problem." He said, "I will wait for you." When I returned, he was surrounded by people. Perhaps he introduced himself to them and suddenly, they all wanted to help, I will never know what happened. Why were they all there when I returned? By then, the storm that I read about was a reality. Someone in the crowd suggested we seek shelter because the storms in Utah are fierce.
The blue skies added a level of energy and concern wondering if I would make it through the vast state before nightfall. I-70 is a long desolate road in areas, there is no lodging and service stations are far in between. You can see great distances of road. The heat of strong summer sun gives an illusion of things moving in the distance. The road takes a 3 dimensional view, it is like watching a snake slithering through the sand. Visibility is sometimes over 10 miles/16 kilometers. In the distance, I see a man on the side of exit 204 ramp. A man dressed in a blue suit, "interesting, nice car", I thought. He was next to a small MG convertible, holding a tiny piece of white paper. I used to own a MG Midget, so I recognized the car style, perhaps that is what caught my attention. Speed limit is 70 miles per hour, everyone rides very fast, usually 80 to 90. I was riding very fast trying to put as many miles into the ride to reach my destination. I thought, "this man needs help, should I stop? What if he hurts me?" The fear of a solo female motorcyclist on the road, is always present. I wrote a blog post about this in the past - read it here: http://www.missrider.com/blog/life-on-the-road-for-a-female-solo-rider I always stop for stranded solo motorcyclists, never for motorists on 4 wheels. The little voice of adventure in me said, "stop, go for the adventure, help the man." I slow down, pull over, my stomach turns into knots of doubt if my decision to stop was wise. The man walks over with a very friendly Scottish voice, beautiful blue eyes matching his suit and said that he ran out of fuel.
Blue beautiful skies, I was stoked, thinking about finally visiting the famous Bonneville Salt Flats on my beloved Triumph Bonneville. Since I've owned this bike, that dream has been present, never a reality. How sexy, "a woman, solo riding her Triumph Bonneville to the Salt Flats from the east coast". Thoughts in my mind were, "Madeleine, just get through this desert, without incident". I noticed a tourist center sign, another 40 miles/65 kilometers, thought, "will stop for water break". Read on, I discovered that welcome centers do not provide help for stranded motorists. Surprise, surprise!!
We took photos of each other. I gave him the URL to my site. He said he would post the photos on Instagram. I said to him, "I was hosted and helped last night by a kind man I had never met. He shared his home and food to help me. I am sharing his kindness with you today by helping with fuel and my time. Continue sharing your kindness with others."
I am a teacher at Abby Kelley Charter Public School in Worcester Massachusetts. We teach our students the following character values: responsibility, truth, citizenship, fairness, respect, true friendship, kindness, perseverance, self-discipline and courage. On this day, it was my turn to share one of those values with a man in Utah's desert asking for help. It does not matter who we help. My last words to Ewan when we departed that day, "continue sharing your kindness with others". Read on as you will realize how my words of wisdom were accepted by Ewan. This experience has provided teachable moments with my students. I continue to teach them the values that makes us better people at the end of the day.
My goal to ride my beloved Triumph Bonneville to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah was never realized. My journey had started late that day and adding an extra hour helping Ewan delayed me. However, meeting and helping Ewan, was all worth it as you will understand while you read my story. In addition, after I departed from Ewan, the monstrous storm that we saw followed me though highway 6 near the beautiful Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The cold mountain rains slowed my riding progress. The comment someone made at the visitor center about storms being fierce in Utah was true. The mountain passes became cold wind tunnels with every 18 wheel truck passing me making it worse forcing my light bike to the right of the highway. Low visibility, fog, hard cold rain in those mountain passes are a tremendous challenge when exposed to the elements on a motorcycle. I managed to get through the passes, but I could not find shelter that late night. I was advised by a few locals outside of Salt Lake City that the ride in the dark on Highway 80 west would be about a hundred miles of possible danger with no lodging. Camping was not an option as the torrential rain storm continued to pour on me and my bike. My inner voice of wisdom convinced me to continue riding north through Salt Lake City and find affordable lodging outside the city. My next blog post will share that adventure.
My new goal is to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats on my return from Alaska, June 20, 2015. Stay tuned for more adventures that this ride will offer.
Ewan's kindness - shared back
The nice man, Ewan McGregor, who I met in the desert in Utah has more than shared his kindness by saying thank you for helping him in the desert. He shared the photo on his Instagram account as promised. He shared our story with a link to my site to his millions of fans. Since we met in Utah, we have maintained a friendship. I went to see his first Broadway performance, "The Real Thing". His performance in this play is phenomenal. My students tell me he sings beautiful in the movie "Moulin Rouge". "The Real Thing" performance allowed him to sing a little. I was delighted to hear him sing during a live performance. It was my first Broadway experience watching a play. I am so happy that it was Ewan who finally got me to go to see a Broadway play. After the performance, he made arrangements for my sister and I to go backstage and see him. He also brought us to meet the cast at the restaurant. What a lovely experience that was for my sister and I. We were quickly escorted to the SUV through the mobs of crowds, camera lights and arms reaching to touch Ewan. From the safety of the SUV, we watched him sign autographs and speak with the media. To me, that experience was like watching a live movie -- except, I was in it, a real dream!
His driver took us to a restaurant where the cast was hanging out. The cast welcomed us with open arms. They were wonderful, shared their small space so we could sit and treated us with love and respect. They shared stories and how they felt during the performance. They commented on each others onstage acting. What an incredible experience. I was delighted to meet them all. I also met Scott Fifer, Founder and Executive Director of GO Campaign... Giving Opportunity to children around the world, https://gocampaign.org/. Scott touched my heart as his cause is helping children as I do on a daily basis.
That evening Ewan and I spoke about my future motorcycle plans to ride the world starting 2017. I extended an invitation to ride South America with his wife Eve, during my world tour. Or, maybe she and I can ride South America, we can call it, "Girls ride down". Since then, Ewan has sent me the "Long way down" movie and books about the documentaries. He has done a world tour and has tremendous knowledge and experience on the subject. I love the documentaries, specifically Ewan's respect for female motorcyclists. It is a pleasure to see how he supported Eve's wish to join him while riding her own motorcycle in Africa. The documentary shows that Ewan is a man with a big heart. He has treated me with the upmost respect as a female motorcyclist adventure rider.
In addition, he shared the story on the Jimmy Fallon show. The photo Ewan took of me at the desert was shown on the show. I continue to be delighted by Ewan's method of saying thank you to my small act of kindness by helping him on that day. Thank you Ewan for sharing with the world our story.
Summer 2014, Madeleine finds herself extremely eager to ride her beloved Triumph Bonneville on another adventure. The aging bike was not happy and required a clutch replacement. Madeline was ready for the short trip the bike would allow to Cape Cod with her best friend Vicki Gray. During the ride to Cape Cod, Vicki and Madeleine kept hearing the sounds the clutch was making. With luck, the bike made it home safely.
July 1, 2000, special day, "The Boy" (as I call my Ducati Monster 750) was born. The bike was purchased from this wonderful man named Edwin Soucy that owned a small shop in Worcester MA called Moto Italia. The day prior to The Boy being born, Ed (as everyone called him) allowed me to test ride his own bike that was fully loaded with all the bells and whistles that a motorcycle Ducati lover would want. After my test ride, I said to Ed, "I will be here to pick up a bike tomorrow, here is my deposit. I want a red one". It was love at first sight. However, I had to settle for the simple version due to a lower budget.
February 2012 –-> I receive an email from Zoe thanking me for the advice provided on the Triumphrat.net site for her upcoming coast to coast solo ride. At the time I was quite active in this forum promoting my own ride to Central America, trying to learn as much as possible via the forum. It turns out that the Triumphrat.net folks had no clue about Central America and all they did was warn me not to ride in Mexico.... (that is a blog in itself). Promptly I responded to Zoe, and offered my services as an American, in my beautiful country – USA.
9500miles/15288kilometers solo ride from icebergs to southern most point in the United States of america
So much to tell on this amazing solo ride in the Eastern United States of America. I will start by showing you the states that I visited. Each photo will have a caption of what the state offered me while riding through it or staying in it. You will find more details below for each state as I offer more about the experience of riding through it....... keep reading!!
Lack of energy due to busy riding schedule and lack of free internet access has prevented me from sharing my thoughts and experiences with you on this ride. Today, I find myself closer to my final days on the road alone with my beloved Triumph Bonneville. Throughout this ride, I have been bombarded with everyone's fears for me riding alone. Today's comments really agitated me.
Another super, super fun ride with my dear friend Arlene Batishill of GoGoGear to Newfoundland Canada. For nine days, we laughed like two little girls enjoying every moment of the ride. I cannot remember when I laughed that much. We encountered wild life, ferry rides, spectacular shore line rides that will forever be embedded in my mind as the best riding roads in the world and most of all, the experience of holding an iceberg. Arlene and I are like two peas in a pod, we can ride well and have the most fun anyone could have. Just laugh!!!!
A HUGE THANK YOU to Vicky Gray (MOTORESS) for sponsoring me to participate in this amazing event. She provided a KYMCO scooter for the duration of the rally, lodging to balance the package, but most important, the fun that was experienced while riding on an all female team with pure awesome entertainment by Vicki that only she can provide. This event has taught me that there are other fun ways to enjoy the sport of riding two wheels. My long distance touring is always about testing my endurance and strength to complete the challenge at hand on my beloved motorcycle. Our Be-Bopping Beer Maids stood up to the challenge while we completed a grueling 674 kilometer/418 mile on 50cc KYMCO scooters. Vicki and Sabina translated the clues provided by the madness of the event organizers. At times, the frustration was present by both ladies as the clues and route were designed to confuse all participants of the race. However, the challenge was met and Vicki led us to complete the race in a timely manner. Every turn, every moment, every drop of rain was accepted with cheer ecstasy and pleasure by MissRIDER. Super fun time while we supported each other on this all female team. ALL GIRL POWER, WE DID IT!!!
Find me in 5 minutes in the video - my 7 seconds of madness!
June 1st, Bennington Vermont to participate in the Triumph Bash. This was the first time camping carrying all my stuff on a motorcycle. I love camping but I always bring my truck loaded with everything. I hate carrying extra gear on my motorcycle. However, if I want to do a world tour someday, I must learn how to camp by carrying my stuff on the bike.
This year I invested in good camping gear designed to carry on a motorcycle. Purchased the NEMO Moto 1P and it fits nicely in my small saddle bags. However, it is bit small and my helmet and boots do not fit. I managed to keep my helmet in my trunk/tail bag as it is secure with lock and waterproof. My motorcycle riding boots tucked in a large plastic bag outside of the tent. My previous camping experiences taught me well. The tent is super nice and all I need to be comfortable for the night.
I arrived alone at the campsite and shared the big area reserved by Seth from the Connecticut Rockers. I pull in and there were quite a few tents and Seth was working the fire pit. I was greeted by all with such a warm welcome. There were a few women with their husbands and they came over and asked if I was staying alone. I said, "Yes". Their response was, "You are one brave woman to just ride out and camp in a group alone." I thought, "Well, I follow other women riding around the world alone and camping, why can't I do it?" I did not say anything to the women, but at times, I do worry for myself. I started setting up my little tent and it took me about 2 hours. The guys kept coming over to talk with me. Such a wonderful way to set up a tent, the nicest bunch of people. The night was the typical motorcycle camping night where everyone sits around the campfire until 2 in the morning, then get up with the chirping birds tired. ;-)
I go into town to meet a Rachel who presented herself on the TriumphRat.net forum as the "the tall girl on the bird". I love the TriumphRat forum, there is always someone willing to meet up with you. On the ride to meet people, my front tire was low on air. I had ordered some new Avon tires but by the time I received them, it was too late to install them. I thought, "heck, if I rode my Bonnie from Panama with bad tires and sprockets, Bennington is just up the street, I can survive it". The weekend riding would have been more enjoyable if I had ordered the tires earlier in the season.
I ride down and meet up with the groups. While sitting waiting for the ride to start, someone took this photo and posted it on the forum. There were hundreds of bikes in the lot and it seemed like my bike was the dirtiest and fully loaded with bags. I did not feel comfortable removing my bags and leaving them behind at the campground unsecured. The dirty bike, well, it is what it is.... I ride so much that I cannot find the time to wash my bike after every ride. Let's be real, the bike is designed to be riding collecting dirt, ha!!
A little chaos in the beginning while the groups were being organized. I was recruited by separate groups and it was hard deciding. I decided to stay with the group Rachel gathered since we had agreed to ride together. The other groups were all men, very few females. Sure enough, excellent choice. 7 Triumph Thunderbird owners with brand new shiny clean motorcycles. I was the only oddball with the dirty Bonneville. The group accepted me so well. The ride in Vermont offered some spectacular riding via routes 9, 100, 155, 103, 4 and 12. All beautiful twisting roads with rivers alongside and bridges. We did not see any of the beautiful covered bridges, but I've seen plenty of those to quench my thirst. The heat, lack of sleep, faulty tires and bad sprocket made riding feel long and boring. To be honest, I did not enjoy the ride, only the group of people that I was with. The guys were so nice to me. At one point I shared my feelings with Rachel about the ride, her comment was, "Madeleine, you have done so much riding in your career with greater challenges on the road, now riding to you is about the destination, not about riding in circles like we did today". OMG, it was like she knew exactly what I was going through. She has only been riding a little over a year. How did she know how I felt? Amazing!!!
In my motorcycle riding career, I have been on hundreds of group rides with men. Never have any stopped to see birds in a sanctuary. Yes, this group did. I did not enter because I don't like seeing birds in cages. That is why I ride a motorcycle for the freedom and air. When I drive my truck, I feel caged, imagine the birds.
After the ride, I went and gathered my gear at the campsite and stayed in a motel, I needed some sleep. The guys convinced me to pay the $25 for the buffet and participate in the evening's ceremony. Here again, another super amazing decision, the food was spectacular, met so many nice people and made new friends. I never win anything at these events and this time I won a t-shirt. I don't like wearing t-shirts unless they have a special reason and a v-neck. One of the guys I made friends with Gerry, mentioned he has a daughter, I gave him the shirt for his daughter. He had bought me a few beers, why not, give him the shirt. Very nice man, a new found friend.
Friday April 12, 2013, first ride of the season. It has been a very long winter and I was itching to ride. I work until 3pm and it was raining with heavy sleet, windy and 44 degrees Farenheit - 5 Celcius, bbbrrrrr, cold. I was looking for any excuse to postpone the ride until the next day. I texted Vicki letting her know that my stomach is in "knots", expecting someone to knock some sense into me. Funny, her response was, "you know your limits and when to stop, inch by inch". Well, I was not expecting that response, anyone else would have said, "ride in the morning." I loved her answer and it boosted my spirits. Fantastic, that was the response that I needed, no sympathy!! I quickly loaded the bike and off I went into the rain. It was pouring rain, one mile down the road, my right mirror gets loose. I pull over to a Jiffy Lube and ask the guy for a wrench and he was useless. Did not want to get wet, said he had none. Good thing I carry tools, I just did not want to dig them out in the rain, it would have been quicker if that guy just loaned me one, idiot!!
I was heading west Massachusetts Interstate 90 into the New York Thruway, towards Buffalo NY, it was around 8pm. 5 hours into the ride and the rain would not stop with heavy fog. I continued riding and getting very, very cold, it was around 31 degrees Farenheit - 0 Celsius. I did not want to stop riding. It gets darker and darker. I stopped for gas and I was shivering, SO cold. Checked my iPhone for the time, noticed a text message from my son. I replied to him to let him know how cold I was. He says, "Mom, you need to get off that highway and stop riding, it is too dangerous". Worried son, he knocks some sense into this woman. I thought, "ok, will stop". Checked iPhone for a hotel nearby and called one, the lady was super nice and said my motorcycle will be secure in the parking lot. 10 miles down the interstate, it seemed like an eternity, "yes, I could feel the warm blankets already". It took me a few hours before I stopped shaking from being so cold.
Morning, no sun but forecast says rain will stop. It was windy, blustery and I was full of energy as usual when I am riding. I love to get up fresh, look out the window from the hotel to see my bike. Is it still there? The fear of my motorcycle getting stolen is always a concern. I am off to meet Vicki, a couple of stops for gas and arrived a few minutes late where she is waiting for me. I wrote a separate blog about meeting Vicky. Click on the black and white photo to read the blog entry.
Ginger (bear) and I were now in Pennsylvania after wasting over 2 hours going around in circles in Buffalo New York. The same thing happened to Vicki on her way home after our meeting. What is up with that? The GPS had me going around in circles and I could not get out, I paid the same toll 3 times trying to get out, it was very frustrating. Finally, the sun came out showcasing Ginger's nice red lipstick. I was feeling fantastic wearing my new helmet sponsored by MOTORESS. During the cold ride in the rain, my fingers were so cold, I tried to adjust the volume on my Scala Rider and somehow I pushed it back and it flew off my helmet. The gift from MOTORESS was a blessing. The new helmet provides a better sound system that I will not be able to break as easy, so happy!!
The ride continues and I was riding as fast as possible trying to make up wasted time. Weather was getting better, still a little windy from the storm, but so much better than the past two days, it was so welcomed. I found myself in West Virginia, hungry. No time to stop for food. A good family friend (truck driver) taught me that the best food is found at truck stops. Yes, he is right, I find one, load up on some carbohydrates and vegetables and off into the heart of West Virginia. It was getting dark again but I didn't want to stop. The highway was not so friendly with frequent hotels as in NY and Pennsylvania. It felt like I was in a forest. I was concerned. I was deep into the Appalachian Mountains. Here is a Wikipedia link about the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Beautiful highway even though it is a major interstate. It has winding roads through the mountains providing beautiful color as the trees at that time of year are blossoming with flowers.
It was dark, so I decided to find a place to rest for the night. As usual, gas up, search my iPhone for hotel, nearest one is around 30 miles into the forest and very expensive. Aarrgghh, but I had to stay somewhere and pay so much money. I headed towards the hotel via a dark winding road. I noticed a cheap looking motel. Looked like the typical trucker stop and there were quite a few pickup trucks in front. My infinite wisdom told me to stop and ask if they have a room. The though of paying so much money for a hotel was killing me. I walked into the office and it was the owners home. The door had a spring and mosquito netting. Then the door slaps behind me with a loud thump. A man greeted me and I was very concerned for my safety. There was a big sign behind his desk, $35 for the night. I explained to the nice man that I was riding alone and looking for a safe haven. His wife hears me from the living room and she comes out to greet me. The sweetest lady you would ever meet. Her husband quickly disappears. She noticed that I was concerned about my safety and my bike then says, "I have a room that we don't usually allow only one person but will make an exception. It is right next to our house and has a nice bright light for protection to your bike. You can move your bike right next to the door so the light will help." My heart stopped beating so fast and I felt at ease. I agreed to take the room, heck, $35 versus $150 in who knows where in that forest!!
The room was clean, old, but a place to stay for the night, no lock in the back window; major concern but I needed rest. I felt the springs on the old bed, but got some sleep that night. Look at the photo, big light next to my bike overnight. Also, notice the house of the owners, next to my room. I made it through the night, safe. The lady had mentioned a restaurant within walking distance. It started to rain again, I was so tired of the rain following me. I loaded the bike, right up the street is the restaurant. I ride 100 yards to it and it has not opened. A man was waiting in front and says, "it should open in 1 minute". I walk in and they are still setting up the kitchen area. The same man that spoke with me outside, pours himself a cup of coffee and says, "Would you like one?" I asked, "do you work here?" He says, "No, I am a customer". I sit at the counter and it was very uncomfortable. So, I moved to the table near the door. A few minutes later, the waitress starts serving and more men fill the place around me. I am sitting at this table and a man walks in, looks at my table where I was sitting and gives me the dirtiest look. He stood there staring at me very hard. His face was going to explode. I look at him and said, "From the looks on your face, I took your special table, huh?" He says, "Yes, you did". I said, "Well, join me, there is plenty of space here, I will move my helmet". The waitress yells from behind the counter, "Honey, if you say that, soon you will be surrounded by all of them". Sure enough, the men moved to my table, yikes!! I am a Marine Mother and wear my "Proud to be a Marine Mom" button on my jacket. The men notice and start talking to me about their service in the military as most of them fought in the second world war. Very interesting conversation.
Little did I know that I was going to be immersed in West Virginia culture. They explained that they are hillbillies with big hearts. They start talking about the issues with their water and all sorts of interesting topics. I quickly eat my breakfast, (which was horrible by the way) and back on the interstate heading south towards Charlotte North Carolina. I was planning on meeting a woman whose name I will not reveal. When I was about 130 miles from Charlotte, I sent her a text message giving her my status. She replied and says, "Keep riding to your cousins house in Fort Bragg, I will not be able to meet up with you". I wish she had said that a few hundred miles before, I would have planned my route different and saved myself tons of money on gas. But then again, I would not have had the opportunity to meet fine men teaching me all about hillbilly country as they labelled it.
I was riding south on that beautiful highway, I-79 or I-78. I really enjoyed the highway with all the twisty roads through the mountains (yeah, a major interstate!! shocking); I pull over on a rest area because my music stopped playing. Must have music on these long stretches of highways..... I pulled over and there is another Triumph motorcycle guy taking a quick rest. We strike a quick conversation he was headed to Kentucky. We agreed to ride together. Uh oh, MissRIDER cannot ride slow. Poor guy could not catch up to me, so off I went. I had so many more miles to ride, no time to wait for anyone. To be honest, I don't think the guy could not catch up to me, he was riding a new Triumph Tiger, fast bike. I think he was more concerned about getting stopped and getting a ticket.
GPS re-routed towards Fort Bragg and it felt like an eternity down some back roads. It was getting dark and finally I arrived at the base that my cousin said to enter. The entrance was closed, more nonsense, I was so tired and hungry. My cousin had been waiting since 6pm, it was now 9 pm. I could not find the entrance to the base, so she and her husband had to come out to escort me because strangers are not allowed onto the base without proper id. I arrived at the gate, the soldiers searched my bike in detail. I was thinking, "I ride this motorcycle all the way to the Panama Canal, cross 16 borders and NEVER was my bike stripped like that and searched". I was very agitated but maintain my self control. The soldier says, "did you hear what happened in Boston?" I said, "No, I have been riding all day". He shared the horrible news with me about the attacks at the Marathon. Very sad.
I tried not to allow the bad things happening in Boston ruin my visit with my cousin. The family was super happy to see me. The next day, we went into the base to take a few photos. I had such a wonderful time with the soldiers on base. Then, during that evening, I receive a call from my son explaining that my nephew was in a horrible motorcycle accident and was dying. I composed my feelings and the next day, rode with a heavy heart home. I rode as fast as I could trying to reach my nephew. Finally, I arrive at the trauma center and he is in a comma. They did not know if he was going to live but only time could tell. A few weeks later, he starts breathing on his own and is doing better now. Long rehab ahead of him, but he is alive.
It has been so long that I have posted a blog entry that I forgot how to post a blog on my site, geez!! Shame on me ;-)
The power of the social media is truly amazing. More than 5 years ago, I discovered a gem in the male dominated motorcycle industry -- MOTORESS.COM. The site offers a unique place for FEMALE riders with a variety of events and articles sharing their stories. I learned about many other women around the world riding their motorcycles in amazing ways, racing, touring or just having fun. Stories of successful women around the world are showcased on the site with glamour and elegance as we participate in accomplishing major milestones and goals with our motorcycles. I was also intrigued by the International Female Ride Day during the first week in May offering female riders around the world a synchronized day to get out and share our passion for the motorcycle. Years pass and I continue to visit the site on occasion because it offers something to all.
As a result, this year I decided to show my students the website. I created a few simple assignments for my students. They loved the assignments and some students were inspired to start riding a motorcycle. Shortly after the assignment, two boys decided to get their own scooters. For a few months, I shared my teacher parking space with my students and their scooters next to mine, too much fun for MissRIDER. ;-)
The story meeting Vicki Gray (http://www.motoress.com/vicki_gray_bio.htm) in person unfolded like this. It was snowing in Worcester, Massachusetts on April 12, 2013. It was windy, blustery and not good motorcycle riding weather. During the third week in April, I have spring vacation from my teaching job. For the past 12 years, I have been hitting the road that week for a long motorcycle ride as a way to celebrate the riding season with good weather in New England. This was the first year that it was snowing, but I was not going to back off my plans.
I set out to meet Vicki in Buffalo, New York as we had agreed. She drove from Toronto, Canada to personally deliver a wonderful helmet to sponsor me. I asked myself, "How did I get such an honor to have been selected among hundreds of female motorcycle riders to be sponsored with a very expensive gift by MOTORESS?" This Schuberth helmet is something I always dreamed of. The technology in this helmet is superb and it is designed for female motorcycle riders. There is a wonderful review of the helmet written by Vicki on her site: http://www.motoress.com/readarticle.asp?articleid=705&c=gearstyle.
Biker Pup Mickey.
I arrived to Buffalo, NY and Vicki was waiting for me in her Jeep. I jumped into the truck and "lo and behold", her dog Mickey greets me. He was not too happy that I sat on his special seat, so Vicki pulled out his beloved tiny tennis ball to distract him. He looked at me like, "How dare you come and invade my space and take my warm seat?" - LOL!! He is super adorable. It did not take very long before he warmed up to me and requested that I rub his neck. What a wonderful way to meet Vicki that day. I love dogs but have decided not to get any more until I slow down with my motorcycle riding adventures.
Notice Biker Pup Mickey inside the bag.
We sat in Vicki's Jeep and chatted for a bit. I was still really cold from riding so far in that winter weather. After lunch, we decided to go and warm up with a cup of coffee in the mall. We entered the Macy's entrance with Mickey in the bag. In the United States, dogs are not allowed in malls. I said to Vicki, "Let's just go in and nobody will notice him in the bag. Besides, all they can tell us to do is to leave the mall". We walked in and all of a sudden, me and my infinite wisdom decided to ask a security guard which way to the food court. While I was talking to him, Vicki stood next to him and Mickey stuck his cute little head out of the bag and looked at him. He said, "Oh, there is a dog in there... They are not allowed in the mall, especially in the food court." I started speaking Spanish to him and he was very nice. Then he said, "just leave and I will pretend I never saw the dog". He was "so cute" too and very nice to us. We spent a little time at the mall finding our way out with Mickey in the bag. Vicki dropped me off at my hotel because I was too cold to continue riding south to Fort Bragg North Carolina. The meeting with Vicki was fun because we decided to eat and go shopping. Ha!! What else can two girls ask for? It was the first time we had met in person after many years of friendship via cyberspace.
Shortly after our meeting, Vicki invited me to participate on a scooter race called The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. She invited me to be on her all female team that she calls the "Be-Boppin' Beer Maids". She has sponsored me by providing a KYMCO scooter (during the race), late registration into the event and hotel accommodations. That is a classic example of how MOTORESS helps female motorcyclists. This will now give us the opportunity to take a photo together as we forgot to do during our first meeting. There are no words I can use to describe how truly honored I am to have such a wonderful friend like Vicki AND the opportunity to meet her in person.
Stay tuned for a future post about the race results.
Riding in El Salvador provides the most spectacular scenery of all of Central America despite the horrible border crossing. The border crossing is not one I recommend because it was very expensive. Contact me if you would like more details about the border crossing. All I can say for now, bring enough American cash, time, and hope you can find one of the human vultures to help you out....... I call them human vultures jokingly because after a while they start annoying you and all you want to do is to get rid of them. They are people that hang around the border crossing and force their services onto you. They want to help but really, all they want is your money. Sometimes they do provide a service, in our case, we had to hire one of them and pay him a hefty amount of American cash.
El Salvador is the most beautiful country I visited with vibrant color, animals running wild and the people are very interesting. It is a poor country and you truly get to experience the meaning of a third world country here. The food near the ocean side is spectacular. We were riding the Pan American highway route and it goes through massive pineapple fields. The sweet smell of the pineapple is truly amazing, you just want to stop and find a place to buy one. The guys were not so interested in such an adventure, so we kept riding until their beer bellies were parched.
The ocean side was spectacular and so were the mountains, full of rain forest where the air was clean with beautiful plants. Maybe that is why the locals paint pictures on the poles of the flowers. Roads were not that great, but still, my motorcycle could handle it all.
After feasting in that ocean side place, it became very dark. All of a sudden a tremendous rain storm got us at night. It was so dangerous that we had to pull over and try to wait it out. The guys were very concerned about this rain. They pulled over and some bundled up with some rain gear. We asked to see if there was a hotel nearby and we got very lucky. We rode in the torrential rain to find a place that had plenty of rooms with a short guard. He allowed me to take a picture of him the next day.
Lalo is my hero. He rode his motorcycle hundreds of miles to find me when he found out I was riding alone in the southern part of Mexico trying to get home without a GPS or map. When we finally met, I gave him the biggest hug thanking him for coming to get me. I am sure I would have been able to ride through Mexico alone, but he was able to get his friends to escort us through some of the most dangerous parts of Mexico and avoid riding through Mexico City. The ride through Mexico City down was difficult, I did not want to ride through it again.
So, this is a sad blog entry because it shows Lalo's tragic accident in Monterrey Mexico. Prior to the accident, we were having so much fun riding our motorcycles very fast with speeds over 100 miles per hour. I don't know how we got away with it and did not get stopped. Along the way, we encountered a group of Harley riders riding. Lalo and I were going so fast that the group tried to catch up with us and they could not. While I passed that group twice because we had to stop for a quick drink along the highway, I would wave at the boys and they would try to pass me. Of course, I was not going to let that happen even if my bike was in desperate need of chain and sprockets. I just rode faster and faster until their bikes could not catch up to me. Lalo was so funny and said afterwards, "Madeline, you gave those boys something they will not forget for a very long time." He told me that the men in Mexico are not accustomed to having a woman pass them riding her own motorcycle at those speeds. Oh well, that is what I do......
We arrive into this beautiful city surrounded by mountains on both sides. It was so beautiful that our eyes would look in the direction of the mountains versus the road. We arrived into what seemed like an overpass and Lalo was riding so fast he rear ended an SUV because it slowed down. It happened about 150 yards in front of me and I swerved into the yellow line so I would not hit them too. When I saw Lalo bounce off that vehicle my heart dropped. All I could think of was, "my Lalo is dead." It was the worst feeling anyone could experience while riding a motorcycle to see your friend crash into a vehicle like that.
I ran over to help Lalo get off the street and he got up right away. I was extremely happy that he was not injured like Jerry at the beginning of our ride. He got up and all he wanted to do was to lift that bike and run away because he had not purchased the motorcycle insurance. You need it in Mexico. Well, hey, I did not buy it either, I just got very lucky. The next day when I had to return to the border alone, I spend my $30 or so on this insurance just in case.....
As usual, I prefer to allow the pictures tell the story....
It was so hot in this valley. No air circulated because of the mountains. We were there around 7 hours and I was exhausted with no food. At least I had a little bit of water left. At one point, the police allowed me to cool off a little in the air conditioned car. They were very nice to me, just like all the other police officers I encountered along the trip. One thing I have to say about the law enforcement in Central America, they love a woman who rides her own motorcycle.
Since Lalo had no insurance, he made a deal with the SUV owner to pay him $1,000 American dollars. He did not have the full amount and I had to give him $500 cash otherwise he was going to be arrested. The SUV owner looked at me afterward he got paid and said to me, "You are a very good friend to help him!" I had to help Lalo, how would I live with myself if I allowed him to go to jail? He helped me when I needed help, the least that I could do was come up with some cash. Lalo was extremely grateful for my generosity.
The next day, I hired a taxi driver to lead me to the entrance of the major interstate leading to the Nuevo Laredo border crossing. I rode alone praying that my bike would last with the terrible condition the chain and sprockets were in. The bike was in such horrible shape that it kept loosing power, but I kept riding. I was determined to cross into the American border.
While with Lalo, after our tour of Mezcal, we headed north in Mexico. We were riding the Pan American Highway and all of a sudden, Lalo decides to take a detour to a place that he had been wanting to visit for a while. Lalo is a young Mexican cowboy who grew up in a place called "Cuerva de Baca". So he knows the nice places to visit. We head towards the place but little did we know how difficult it was going to be to get there. Needless to say, we never arrived, I will allow the pictures to help me tell the story.
I was so happy to come down that mountain because we looked back and it was covered with lighting with a huge rain storm. It followed us after too, but at least we were not in mud on a very steep mountain. It was also around 5 pm so it would have been horrible to have to sleep up there in the rain.
In order to meet Lalo I had to ride hundreds of miles/kilometers through mountain passes, highways, towns etc.... it was a two day ride. I loved the one I am sharing with you on the video. This picture is somewhere along the road that I just stopped to get some rest. After all, sometimes those turns can be exhausting as it was around 110F/43 C. Let's not forget, I wear full gear when I do runs like that.
Video on my way to meet Lalo at a gas station. This video is only a small fraction of how the roads were. Can you feel the bumpy road? Cracks on roads, rocks, potholes (some could swallow my entire bike), cement, animals on road, loose gravel. I learned how to be ride my bike around all those elements, plus many, many more road hazards. My bike took a beating and she is still in amazing health with her 45k miles. I've had the bike for 3 short summer seasons and bought her new. Quite a bit of riding to say the least.
Look how dirty my bike was. I was also caught in quite a bit of rain in those mountains and highways. I decided to take the video because it was a nice calm sunny hot day to share with you.
Then, while waiting at the gas station, as usual, the men would come talk to me and keep me company. Even though I was alone at least the men were nice. He told me all about his town, cannot remember where but it was in the southern part of Mexico.
This blog entry with be split up into many, not sure how many of of today, September 17, 2012. I have been writing random blogs with no order during my ride to Central America because sometimes that is the way my brain works. I have so much material to write about the ride, sometimes I cannot decide what part of a specific country to write about, so eventually, I will share them all.
Today, is to introduce Lalo. He was my rescuer until he rear ended an SUV in Monterrey Mexico. I kept calling him my angel and so happy he survived that accident. His accident blog will come last because the next series of blogs will be about my travel through Mexico with him and his friends.
Why is Lalo a hero? Well, when I was abandoned at the border of Mexico and Guatemala, he rode about 800 miles/1,300 kilometers to find me. It took him 2 days to get to my destination. When I saw him pulling into the gas station while I waited alone, I felt like I had seen a "knight in shining armor". Lalo, my rescuer!!! I gave him the biggest hug and my heart relaxed. I knew I was safe once I saw him and I could continue the journey home.
We set off into the wild mountains. On the way he stopped in this brewery he had spotted while riding those mountains to find me. Lalo is a young adventorous man and decided to stop to show me the place. He also shared 150 miles/250 kilometers of those dangerous mountain curves with me. I loved every turn and have quite a bit on video. As soon as I am able to edit the video, I will update this blog post with the link so you can enjoy our ride. Spectacular ride as it was all clifts, pot holes, very tight turns, sand on the tight turns and he and I were riding like maniacs loving every moment of it. It was such a beautiful sunny day, especially after my ears had warmed up a bit with some mezcal.
In this place they make something like tequila, but not quite. It is so much better. Your ears warm up on the first taste. I wish I could have brought a bigger bottle. My friends in Canada loved mezcal and we had a very nice evening when I visited. Mezcal added to the enjoyment that evening.
During the ride I got a chance to view quite a bit of this. No silly, I'm talking about the boys fixing their motorcycles.
I also received quite a bit of this from all the women and men in Mexico. Truly amazing people and my heart is still there. They hosted me while I was sick (food poison), they got me medical care and fed me. Lalo and I were able to stay in the safety of her home 2 nights. Lalo is my hero that rear ended his bike in Monterrey Mexico on our way back, will blog about that in another entry. He is my hero because he rode hundreds of miles through the most dangerous mountains in southern Mexico to find me as I was alone.
The Mexican women are truly amazing with huge hearts and willing to share all they have with you. Her husband rode hundreds of miles to escort Lalo and I around Mexico City because riding through that city was too painful and dangerous on our way down. He took us around a safe, expensive toll road, a longer ride but we were safer without all the city traffic. While we were riding with her husband, one of the saddle bags on his bike broke loose. I was about 100 feet from him and almost ran over the bag in front of me. My quick reaction saved me from going down that time dodging that bag. We pulled over and we managed to get all his stuff from the ride of the highway. Somehow he managed to bungee tie his bag. He is such a nice man. He rode with us as far as he could to ensure we were safe. My heart will always be with this couple in Mexico.
I know, I promised I would have Part 2 of Jerry's accident but 24 hours in a day in not enough for Missrider. So, today all I can do is show you how Jerry and I spent the day in the town where he has a beautiful home in Costa Rica. I spend the day with him while the men that did not care for Jerry left for the day and went to take pictures at the volcano. I had a truly amazing day with Jerry and we rode on the bus to town. Keep in mind, I have not been on a bus for about 35 years and the experience with Jerry was spectacular.
A little video as we boarded the bus.
It took us 3 weeks to arrive at Jerry's house to visit after the accident. I was very happy to see and hug him. Still my hug caused pain to his body as he still needed major surgery to fix the bones that were healing wrong. He had scheduled to have a plate added to the collar bone so they could be aligned permanently. He is a sweetheart, rescues local dogs and they love him for it.
Jerry during a gas stop, prior to the accident.
The first batch of photos I took were very sad. It was at the beginning of the ride right after we crossed the border into Mexico. We had been on the road for a few hours and sudendly the rain showed up. Also, Jerry and Doug were behind, for some reason they were held at the toll booth. About 30 minutes later, cars pulled us over and said that there was a motorcyclist down on the side of the highway. I have to say one thing about the rain in the Mexican desert, it is not very friendly rain..... all I can say for now. Also, the highways are covered with oil!!! tons of oil, Central America roads are all covered in oil, very dangerous. Jerry is a truly amazing man. I am very lucky I have had the honor to meet him. He lives in Illinois and I believe that we will be able to ride again once he has recovered from his horrible neck injuries. This was by far, one of my longest days of riding.
Below I have photos and you can click on them to see the caption with details of each.