Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Duffy Lake Loop

Even though I’ve driven longer than I’ve ridden a motorcycle I feel safer, more comfortable and confident on my motorcycle than in any car I have ever operated. This magical thing happens over time where your bike becomes more than just a machine underneath you, it becomes an extension of your being and the fluidity is visceral. You are a force moving across the earth in a meditative state where your mortal fears and anxieties melt away and what’s left is focus and comfortable uncertainty. To completely unravel and come together entirely at once. The Duffy Lake loop is the perfect overnight/weekend ride to escape daily stresses and experience this essential form of therapy. 
Photo of me taken by my husband Mitch Kirilo

  It all begins with the legendary, sweeping Sea-to-Sky highway, a route of spectacular ocean and island views all the way to Squamish. Beyond Whistler, Highway 99 passes right along a couple of conveniently placed glacier lakes for a few moments of turquoise tinted awe. Mount Currie keeps Pemberton in an eternal post-card ready pose.
Cruising through Lillooet, we turned down Highway 12 and continued in peaceful bliss as we moved through the sun bleached range, passing only a handful of vehicles all the way to Boston Bar. After a 7 hour day we chased some trains and turned off to seek camp 20 kilometres of carefully dodging sharp rocks down a logging road, finally setting up our tent on a quiet, sandy beach of Nahatlach Lake. Dusk settled into night and the soft sounds of nature played soundtrack to the epic and wide view of the star garnished sky, its reflection glimmering off the lake in a way meant only to remind us that beyond all of this- this life, death and the unknown, we are exactly where we are meant to be. Comfortable uncertainty. 
Photo by Mitch Kirilo

Tent view
Mitch captured our beach set up
Nahatlach Lake
[Check me out on Instagram to follow my travels @kaleidoscope_road]


Monday, April 10, 2017


  Donovan stopping in front of us to take a look around and contemplate the evening’s potential, turns his head back towards Mitch and I and says, “The thing about this place is… everywhere is somewhere.” Followed by a brief pause, perhaps to re-consider his phrasing or a better explanation but then a smirk crosses his lips, “You’ll see what I mean.” Facing forward he leans into his motorbike and makes an immediate, hard right down an unassuming, alley-like road. Upon entry the road is dark but becomes quickly illuminated by the lights, laughter and chatter of the locals buzzing around the tiny restaurants, hole-in-the-wall sized store fronts and street food stands lining the edges of this narrow passageway. Groups of Thai families and friends young and old are sitting around tiny plastic tables in tiny plastic chairs stationed outside of their shops and next to their vending carts sharing gossip over a cold beer while playing cards and making their day’s wage. Many of the buildings double as the location of the family business and family home with the separation being a single door if any at all. Chiang Mai comes alive at night and that is when the true charm of the city is revealed once the extreme heat of the day wanes with the setting of the sun. We continue to follow him into the night on a borrowed scooter of Donovan’s that Mitch is operating with me doubling on the back. In two days we will be picking up our reserved motorcycle rentals in order to ride three hours through the mountains to a small town called Pai in the Mae Hong Son province. The evening’s scoot around town was a good ice breaker into driving/riding in Thailand, especially considering motorbiking around Thailand would be my first ride of the year since my Triumph had been taken off the road for the last three months of winter back in Canada.
  The notion of riding South-East Asia came with many warnings and concerned looks from friends and family.
  “I read an article saying how Thailand is the second most dangerous place in the world to drive.” My mother had informed me two nights before we were to leave. She then proceeded to go on about the high death rate on the roads there and asking me if I’d heard about the two young women from Vancouver who had gotten into a fatal jeep accident just a few weeks before.
  My Dad had shook his head at us. “I can’t believe you guys are going to ride motorcycles there.” Those weren’t the first warnings that had been dealt to me, but they were the ones that shook me the most. You can’t deny statistics, right? Yet, the plan had stood firmly in place.
  We were lucky to have had Vancouverites Donovan and Tracey Mahoney, who had been living in Chiang Mai for half a year already, take us under their wing and break us in at the very beginning of our month in South-East Asia. We discussed at length the extreme differences of driving in North America versus South-East Asia and analyzed Western society’s fear culture, even surrounding things like eating food from street vendors, food that the locals themselves eat on a daily basis. At the beginning even I heard the voices of warning rattling in my head when debating whether to eat food from modest street vendors or not. Needless to say I did and I didn’t get sick. Perhaps I was lucky.
  So many rules. Fear camouflaged as freedom. With two wheeled vehicles being the majority of traffic on the roads in Thailand, vehicles are constantly criss-crossing. On the road, if there is a space you can move into you take it. From a Westerner’s point of view it can look like pure chaos, vehicles weaving in and out cutting each other off at any opportunity; near misses happening every other second. But, to the Thai it’s expected and no one gets bent out of shape about it. The rules of the road are more suggestions than the law and if you want to drive in Thailand then you need to observe studiously and adapt fully. Let go of any inclination to follow the rules you know and embrace the unknown. You must be willing to release yourself into chaos because if you fight it out of fear and go against the grain, then yeah, you’ll likely get hurt. By trying too hard to be safe the way you know how you could end up being more of danger to yourself and those around you on the road. In North America it’s too easy to get complacent. When strict rules are in place we expect everyone to follow them so that when the odd person doesn’t we are completely caught off guard and we don’t stand a chance.
  During the conversation with Donovan I mention how wild it is that drivers constantly and sporadically change lanes and yet no one is really shoulder checking. Traffic in the city seems to always be moving and when vehicles are cruising that close together and shifting positions so frequently so much can go awry ahead of you in that half a second it takes for you to look over your shoulder. So, you look forward watchfully at the drivers in front of you and expect everybody and anybody to move in front of you if there is even the slightest space to do so and you allow it to happen. No angry honking, no speeding up to not let others in, no ego.
“It’s kind of neat when you think about it,” Donovan philosophizes, “because, it’s like… everyone’s got your back.”

  I decided to do some research into this UN agency claim of Thailand having the second deadliest roads in the world. I think the initial preconception can be that these accidents are almost entirely due to turbulent driving antics. While researching I discovered a few articles about the tragic jeep accident in Thailand that claimed the life of one Vancouver woman and put the other in critical condition. In this accident there was surprisingly no collision with another vehicle. It was a case of bad road conditions and perhaps inexperience that threw them over the edge down an embankment. The articles mentioned the UN researched statistic, but nothing more than a mention. After looking further into it and after having driven in Thailand myself, I have made some observations that to me seem pretty telling. In another article listing the various driving statistic of Thailand, it notes a 36 out of 100, 000 person death rate. 70% of drivers on the road are motorcyclists and even though there are helmet laws, they aren’t commonly enforced with only 52% of motorbike operators wearing helmets and merely 20% of their passengers doing so as well. Now I think it’s pretty obvious that one is more likely to be killed without a helmet than with, not to mention the safety standards for the quality of helmets there are seriously lacking. Something the article doesn’t mention but I’m going to point out is that when there is a passenger there is often more than only one on a single motorbike. It is common to see 3-5 people balancing on one motorbike. Perhaps fatal accidents aren’t happening as regularly as it may seem in terms of occurences and instead the answers may be in looking at the probability of a single accident(let’s say, only involving two vehicle, in this case being motorbikes seeing as they are the majority) claiming the lives of between 6-8 people at once, especially when considering that most of the time the passengers and half of the time the drivers aren’t even wearing helmets at all. Another thing to keep in mind is that Thailand will rent a motorcycle to anyone, including naive tourists who have no licensing for one or previous experience. We were in Thailand during the dry season which means that weeks and weeks can pass without any rain, allowing oil to gather and layer and seep into the asphalt just waiting to release havoc on the roads at next rain fall. Many people, especially those without experience forget these hidden facts.
  My point is, it’s easy to get swept away by fear. It’s easy to accept what we see and hear at face value without looking into things for ourselves. Remember, we live in a world of alternative facts that shift and change depending on who delivers them and the angle you see them from. So if you’re an experienced rider and planning on riding a motorbike in Asia, I say go for it. Just remember to go into it with a confident, open mind, a willingness to let go of your Western preconditioning and adapt. Live like the locals if you want the real deal. And maybe bring your own helmet.

Alright now let’s get down to the fun stuff shall we?

Pai is a small town located around 3 hours North-West of Chiang Mai, a relaxed back-packers paradise with a laid-back atmosphere, cheap guest houses, hostels and cottages surrounded by natural beauty. In order to get there from Chiang Mai you take the famous Route 1095, a road of 763 curves and hairpin turns winding through the mountains. A motorcyclists playground. If you want to ride a motorcycle to Pai or in Thailand in general, my one piece of advice to you is to keep in mind that in South-East Asia, the bigger vehicle has the right of way so when you see one coming, get-the-fuck-out-of-the-way. When you are taking these many blind turns and curves especially if you are on the inside of the turn, take the lane position that is farthest away from the centre line dividing oncoming traffic because bigger vehicles do often cross over the centre line throughout a turn. Do this and you will likely be fine.

 We stayed at Pai Chan Cottage & Cuisine, a family owned, little oasis of 12 bungalows, a pool and cozy lounge area situated in the Pai country side, walking distance from the main town. Cottages range from 450-1200 Baht ($17-$46 CAD) a night depending on the season and the price can include breakfast if booked through, a ridiculously affordable price for the quality of the accommodations. At the restaurant-lounge you can find a menu of delicious Thai or Western food and cheap, fresh fruit smoothies along with other tasty beverages.

White Buddha 353 steps up at Wat Phra That Mae Yen 

   Visit the land split located on a local farmer's land due to earthquakes that have occured in the last 10 years. The real reason this place is a gem has nearly nothing to due with the actual land split and pretty much everything to do with the snack-stand and lounge set up where you will have an array of fresh snacks and fruits, hibiscus iced tea and fruit wine made from what has been cultivated from the land brought out to you while you relax in the hang out area. There is no set price, it is by donation and the people are very friendly.

Pai Memorial Bridge
Scooter and side-car staged on Pai Memorial Bridge

Pai Canyon at sunset. Not for the faint of heart.

 Other activities and sites in Pai would be to visit the two Waterfalls, Pombak and Mo Paeng Falls. These are best to visit during the wet season as they tend to dry up quite a bit during the dry season and aren't much to see then. There are also two hot springs located a few kilometers away from the town that we opted out on as it was too hot during late February and preferred to cool down in the pool at Pai Chan when it was 36 degrees celsius out. Visit the Pai street market at night for souvenirs and yummy street food but really what Pai is best for is relaxing. Grab your favorite cold beverage and kick back.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

This Life Will Be the Death of Me

The evening before Mitch and I were to embark on a two week journey down the coast to Northern California we received a message that our friend Tori Drew had just gotten into a bad motorcycle accident in L.A. Over the next 24 hours details would unravel triggering a cacophony of emotions that would make for a somber and introspective first few days. It didn’t help that shortly after we left, it began to rain which prompted us to re-route the first couple days of our trip and would continue to rain for half of our ride on that first low-spirited day. My head was clouded and my heart heavy especially upon finding out the news that Tori’s boyfriend, Rich, whom she was doubling with during the accident, didn’t make it. This last minute detour to Portland ended up being a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to catch up with our good friend and talented Tattoo Artist, Cody Zeek, one last time before he was to move back to Honolulu. Cody being the vivid and comedic person that he is, was a much needed distraction from the emotional weight of the day. 
 After Portland we aimed for the coast and eventually broke away from the rain. The leafy, glowing green walls of Highway 126 to Florence sparked the first real feelings of excitement since leaving Vancouver. 
  Coos Bay, Bandon, Gold Beach, Trinidad. Ride, freedom, camp, repeat. Other worldly sand-hills tall and sun swept sitting juxtaposed next to the ocean’s deep blue; red cedar giants standing firm in their wisdom; fields of long flowing grass, elk with heads bowed and grazing in the twilight. Ride, freedom, camp, repeat. 

  From Leggett we shifted from the 101 to the beginning of the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, its entrance a treacherously narrow, winding and seemingly endless road through continuous mountain side forests. After what felt like an eternity in purgatory, the air developed a crisp bite and a soft haze materialized amidst the tree tops. A giddiness sparked knowing that at any moment the trees would open up to present to us the epic sea-scape views of the Northern California coast that I had been dreaming of the months before. And then, like an arrow from a bow we came shooting out of the woods into the vast tremendousness of the coastal cliff edge. Ocean and waves so big and far it almost looked small if that were even possible, its continuum hard to fathom. The quaint little towns along the beginning of Highway 1 though thoroughly visited looked almost forgotten with old character buildings resting quietly below the fog. The landscape appeared mostly muted by haze aside from the pops of pastel colour bursts of wild flowers and crops that speckled the terrain creating a surreal stop-motion-like visual as if we were journeying through a Wes Anderson dreamscape. 
 That night for our four year wedding anniversary we stayed in what was probably my favourite of small California towns along the coast, Mendocino, where we fine dined and hunkered down for the night at the Agate Cove Inn, a cozy B & B that was a heavenly break from the more physically demanding camp-out routine of the days before. Returning to our parked bikes after our anniversary dinner, Mitch found the newest volume of Sideburn Magazine that a kind stranger had left on his bike as a gift of appreciation. Later that evening that Mendocino stranger would find Mitch on Instagram, an extraordinary realization of the connectivity of our modern day world thanks to the technological advances of social media which in moments like this make it seem more a blessing than a curse.
  Because of the initial detour at the start of our trip we were a couple of days ahead of schedule and decided to continue past our most southern goal of San Francisco, down to Big Sur. During our rides through rain, fog and sun we saw many motorcycles, most set up with the works: windshields, fairings, large gas tanks and highway pegs, big cozy sofas on wheels. Bikes very different from our own, understandably so considering it is only because we are young and clearly mad that we were able to ride as long and far as we had ridden on bratty little bikes like ours. But even that like everything in life won’t last. Riding through Bodega, Mitch spots a chopper approaching up ahead, a rare sight on this highway and in a moment he goes from a thumbs-up to flailing his arms at the realization that on the chopper are two Vancouverites, Byron and Anya, serendipitously riding past us on this road so very far away from home.

  A fire had consumed much of Big Sur the days before we arrived, closing down most of the campgrounds and businesses aside from a select few which re-opened the day we rolled in. Because the area was almost deserted we were able to get a beautiful river-side campsite that we likely wouldn’t have had a chance at seizing so last minute otherwise. There were roads we had wanted to explore in Big Sur that we couldn’t because of the fire but we were grateful to be there never-the-less as its majestic views live up to the hype.

  San Francisco in Fogust (Foggy August, it’s a thing) was a bitter-sweet experience. Getting around was such a hassle on motorbikes and the moment to moment dramatic shift in temperature made it difficult to ease in but we were graced with the hospitality of locals Isaac and Holly from Idle Hands tattoo shop and Isaac’s wife Solange who showed us a good time. One of the highlights was a San Francisco Hardcore show where Isaac’s band, Fatigue, played and ignited a nostalgic and energetic excitement that modern hardcore has not been able to do for me in a long time.
Photo by Mitch Kirilo

  We headed northbound on long, straight stretches of road into high heat. It was on those roads, reflecting on the trip thus far and thinking about Tori and Rich, that I thought a lot about life and death, what my life used to be and how far I have come in this Odyssey. Death is a very real possibility when you ride a motorcycle, its presence never very far away. I know this because of the constant and unnecessary (but understandable) reminders of the risk from my loved ones. Death has always been a poignant and borderline obsessive fear of mine. I remember the vivid moment when at age six, I discovered the very concerning and complex reality that everyone will someday die. I also remember the agonizing tenth year of my life when I developed an almost OCD like obsession with death where nearly every single day that year I would sit in long, silent moments of nearly crippling fear, working out in my head how many years I thought that I might have, my parents might have, my grandparents might have, my dog might have left, trying desperately to find comfort in the many decades still to come for us. It was never that easy to console myself, the wheels in my head spinning anxiously with the ideas of probability and the perception of time, trying to analyze and measure every moment. Even now at almost 30 years old I still have instances where those all consuming thoughts sneak in and sometimes I can’t help but let it take me for a moment, but I have gotten better at quickly snuffing them out. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I would ever ride a motorcycle I would have said “No way.” I didn’t see the point in it, especially considering the fear formerly stated. I was raised with the mind-set that motorcycles are dangerous and impractical death machines. Their practicality becomes more apparent when you ride and now I can tell you that I can not imagine a life without a motorcycle. In the three years since I first began to ride I feel like I have already lived a lifetime of excitement and joy, so much so that I often forget just how afraid of death I am. At times I have moments where I think that I may not be afraid of it at all anymore. I know that is easier for me to say more than that may be true, especially considering that in the event of my premature death it would be my loved ones that would suffer more than I… Which is why I hope that if that unfortunate scenario were to occur, they could find solace in knowing that I’ve already lived a life far richer in adventure and happiness than I ever expected. It is a solace that I hope the families of riders who’ve passed have been able to find along their path of mourning.
Photo by Mitch Kirilo
  Crater Lake delivered the funnest of riding roads and most spectacular of sunsets that we were so incredibly lucky to witness on cliff-edge, with no one else around, overlooking peaceful forest covered terrain leading up to the silhouetted layers of mountains that engulfed the sun. 
  Our last stop was back in Portland where we would spend three days in the company of the finest group of wrench wielding, rubber burning hooligans I have ever met. I initially met Courtney, founder of the women’s motorcycle social group, Torque Wenches, at last year’s Dream Roll and I knew by her warm and up-beat spirit that she was someone I wanted to re-connect with again in the future so I reached out to her in hopes of doing so on the way back home through Portland. Riding and dining and swimming and laughing all weekend with Courtney, her lovely husband Max and their hilarious and seriously talented group of friends made us feel right at home. From there we left with hearts very full. (Check out Dirty Hands Garage, Cvrst, Farrow Co. and Columbia Custom for some Portland motorcycle lovin’)

  Two bikes, 4544 kilometres of freedom through rain and shine, hot and cold, the grandest heights and lowest lows, past chamomile patches and basil blooms perfuming the air with the scent of distant lands yet to be ridden. The adventure has no end.
  A snap-shot memory: a group of motorcyclists approaching up ahead. Senior riders on laid-back baggers throw their peace sign fingers up in passing and I wave, smiling brightly back at my future.

Photo by Courtney VanBriesen 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Strange Times in Yakima

Sasquatch pin from my buddy Keenan
Sunday, September 30, 2015, riding home from The Dream Roll:
  The clouds part and the sun breaks through for the first time in 24 hour as we ride between the sea of rolling hills leading into Yakima, Washington. The chronic knot in my right shoulder slowly subsides as my body eases up under the sun’s warm rays, releasing all the tension from a morning of riding in the cool rain. I can only feel so annoyed with the weekend’s random rain and wind storm when over a million acres across Washington state are being consumed by treacherous flames burning hotter and farther than any fire in the state’s history. “This rain is a blessing,” I tell myself over and over. The continuous waves of hill after hill, burnt golden by the sun and spotted with shrubs and cows seem never ending yet still beautiful even in its redundancy. I ride this road along with Mandy in blissful relaxation wondering if I will ever spot some wildlife on this trip. Eyes roaming over the grassy edges of hill tops, I see a dark moving mass in the distance (but not too far off distance) that initially through the corner of my eye, I mistake as a bear due to its size and almost black coating. Upon direct gaze, I think- Oh, it’s just a person- being that it’s walking on two of its four limbs… Wait- what is a person, who must be remarkable in size for how large they seem at that distance, doing walking through hills with exceptional stride in the middle of NOWHERE ?… And why are they completely monochromatic as if covered in some sort of coat from head to toe? In what must have looked like panic to Danelle and Kate driving in their truck behind me, I shoot my head back a few times to catch another glimpse, though with none of my questions being answered but with all of my brain in bewilderment at the site of this mysterious creature, it quickly disappears behind me. For a moment I contemplate pulling over but realize there is no way of me safely notifying Mandy of this in time so I continue on. At the next gas stop with arms flailing and me probably half screaming, I tell them of my bizarre sighting. Could it be that with most of its home on fire, the fabled Sasquatch was flushed out from its cozy hiding spot in the wilderness right into plain sight? Into MY plain sight? Who knows. All I know is… I want to believe.

Somewhere around these parts is where the sighting happened

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

That Time We Didn't Go to Asia

A sliver of the Na Pali Coast

 Sometimes in life shit goes sideways. Sometimes it is entirely your fault and sometimes it is completely out of your control. You might be reading this trying to figure out which you think is worse. Is it better to have the unpredictable ebb and flow of the universe pull your world in a direction you did not navigate yourself; to have the inconsiderate decisions of others tear through your life leaving you frustrated that things happened to you which were totally out of your hands?.. Or is it worse to know that when things went awry it was because of your own failure and misjudgment? Something that you would replay in your head over and over and see all of the obvious signs that you missed the first time, feeling like there was really no good goddamn reason to have missed it in the first place. 
  A month ago Mitch and I were suppose to go to Southeast Asia. A month ago Mitch and I did not go to Southeast Asia. Was it the joke we had made when we booked the flights, not to confuse the time of day of our departure (something we thought would be so silly and impossible to actually do) but then our brains retained the wrong detail (trust me, the irony is not lost on this one)? Was it that very late night after a very long work day a month before the trip when after staring at a travel guide into the wee hours of the evening, I realized that the following day I would have to submit my work hours I would need covered for the trip? So, with tired eyes squinting at my calendar, I jotted down dates, missing one…very crucial day?... Was it at the very end when expected garage moving and van receiving dates were pushed back to days before our trip, leaving us in a scramble whilst already up to our ears in things needing to be done, that our distracted and tired minds missed the opportunity where we could have prevented our mix-up? In the end it was all of those things and also none of those things that would cause us to confuse our departure time and miss our flight. Really it was just human error, one that I would beat myself up for but one that I would have to accept because I AM only human and even paranoid perfectionists slip up. It wouldn’t be the end of the world but you know, for a moment, it really felt like it was going to be. It’s ok… You can laugh. I can laugh at this all now too. Ha ha… See!
  After discovering the very relieving fact that we would get a refund on our flights (take note that Expedia gives refunds to idiots who miss their flight if flight insurance is purchased. Something I had never done before this time. Coincidence?) we knew that we had to go somewhere- ANYWHERE there would be sunshine and motorcycles and happiness, far, far away from this terrible devastation. The following morning we settled on Hawaii and immediately got to work on our redemption. As if it were meant to be, everything fell into place in a matter of moments. Fate would be delivering us to Kauai the very next day. We scored what was probably the last affordable yet least dingy Airbnb available because even though the posting sounded ideal, there were zero reviews and the photos gave us a very vague depiction of quality. It ended up being, surprisingly, the best Airbnb rental we have stayed at thus far. The rental operator called us to help us sort out last minute details: a pick-up from the airport and even a private car rental for the week, so affordable it allowed us to treat ourselves to a few motorcycle as well. We sealed our new found luck with a high-five.

  It wasn’t until the moment I walked out of the Lihue Airport and felt the warm tropical air on my skin that I felt ease for the first time in 48 hours. The second day we picked up a couple of brap-mobiles from Kauai Motorcycle Rentals and headed for the hills. I was fitted with a fun little Suzuki DR200 and Mitch, a DR650. Kauai is the oldest Hawaiian island, nick-named the “Garden Isle” because of its lush, emerald rainforests covering most of its mountainous range. We ripped up windy passages to the breath-taking view points of Waimea Canyon, eyes feasting on the red, green and coral drapery of one of mother nature’s sculptural masterpieces. We rode trails the colour of rust through rolling red dreamscapes and sat at cliff’s edge, victory beers in hand, with an 800 foot cascading waterfall as our view. The next day the jungle was our playground. We explored beneath the dense vine draped canopy, rolling over rocks and rivers, a few times I thought for sure I was going to eat shit but some how managed to stay over not under. It was my first time trail riding and I got to experience it in paradise.

  We picked up a couple of Harley Sportsters for the last four days of our trip. I was pleased to see a matte-black 883 waiting for me in the parking lot and Mitch got his choice: a black 48 which with a bigger and faster motor was unexpectedly smaller in over-all size than my bike. I sat on the 48 for a moment to see if it would be a better fit but decided that the forward foot controls were not for me being that I’m barely 5’4 and looked ridiculous on it with arms and legs stuck straight out in front of me in order to reach and ride. It was on that Harley in Kauai that my perspective on the whole scenario leading up to Hawaii shifted. With every rotation of the wheels, the little, hidden messages became clear to me- like, the feeling of foreboding that both Mitch and I felt right before our intended Asia trip, quietly clouding moments of excitement: We had originally planned to go to Asia for a month but had shortened it to three weeks so that we could attend another event this summer that would eventually fall through for us meaning that we had shortened our trip for no reason. It would have been a whirl wind three weeks with absolutely no mercy if something were to be delayed or not go as planned along the way. As I carved around the verdant edges of coastal mountains I thought about my Triumph sitting at home waiting for me and how when I got it, brand new off the lot last October, it was with the excitement of finally having a bike that could go far and fast with little worry of having it break down. I had gotten this bike and then had suddenly made huge travel plans that didn’t include it at all which was the sole purpose of me buying it so quickly after the break-down of the Enfield. Now having only gone to Hawaii for a week I have the opportunity to potentially dream up a Bonneville bike trip for this year. It was at the healing end of the vacation that I became able to fully let go of the weight of my mistake and be open to what the universe may be trying to tell me along the two-tired road trip of life. Some things just aren’t meant to be and Southeast Asia will be there next year with more time for us to relax and enjoy it when we do finally get there. And anyway, there is honestly nothing like listening to Temples while cruising on a Harley in the sun beside a long, glistening stretch of beach and not-giving-a-fuck.

Soak me in salt water, perfume me in gasoline,
Always never not searching.
The American dream to hide the inside scream.
Ocean waves, warm weather decay,
Left my heart to ripen and rot in the tropics.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Betty the Bullet 500

This is my story that I wrote for the "One Time I Rode..." event mentioned in my previous entry:
                                         [Photo cred: Wendy Dyk]
  Clack, clack, clackety clack, clack, pew, pop, POP, pop, pew PEW! Sounds that concerned almost everyone I rode with and cued laughter from the rest. Royal Enfield, making pop-corn since 1901. Apparently a totally normal orchestra of music for a well broken in Enfield to make; A unique sound from a unique bike. Betty the Bullet 500 was my first real bike love. A hand me down from my husband who had decidedly out-grown her in pursuit of more speed… of course.
   It was the spring of 2015 and I had just finished a motorcycle safety course to solidify my confidence and skill level and to fast-track my way into free riding after a year of seasonal and small city rips on an old Kawasaki 250. I had been promised the Enfield by my husband, Mitch, who had been working on it all winter as his first bike re-build and to also lower it to a reasonable Amanda size. I was skeptical. I was terrified. And anyway, I already had a perfectly good running bike that I had just bought the previous year. He was relentlessly persuasive of this fit- Let’s be real, it was all so he could get himself a brand new bike. When riding season started up that year for me, we were getting ready to ride out to Horseshoe Bay with a group of friends when I discovered that the front brake lever on my little Kawi had seized up. This being earlier in my riding career, having not really ridden for almost 6 months over the winter and right before I had taken the riding course, I wasn’t comfortable making my first ride of the year on a bike with only one brake. For a moment my heart sunk until Mitch piped up, “You ride the Enfield! I can ride the Kawi,” and then suddenly it was in my throat. For some reason all I could hear was the word “gnarly” repeating over and over in my head which was a word I had heard all too many times used by people to describe that bratty little 500cc bike. After a few moments of humming and hawing I found myself saying, “Alright. Sure. I guess.” It was now or never, right? We had plans to grab a quick bite first so I took it slowly down the street and around my neighbourhood to our first pit-stop for food. The bike was vibrating a deep and low growl, a noise I had not been used to, having ridden a motorcycle that made noises more to the liking of a purring sewing machine. My legs were shaking and I’m sure in that moment ghostly white knuckles could have been discovered beneath the leather of my gloves. The bike revved on, rolling and thumping, popping loud and sudden every once in a while. For a time I was convinced that at any moment, like a wild animal with a mind of its own, it would kick me off. But, she never did. 
  Summer brought on constant euphoria, what seamed like an endless sea of asphalt and laughter, bike trips and burnouts, new and solidified friendships, camp vibes and fingernails forever happily full of dirt; cherishable memories carried on two wheels, given to us like beautiful gifts from the universe wrapped up in rays of sun. A perfect precursor to what was bound to be an epic end to summer at the  all ladies motorcycle campout event called The Dream Roll. But, as the Dream Roll approached, things started to unravel: Information of the approaching storm came in as well as final word that not only were the friends who I had planned on riding down with not going, but most of the other local ladies who I had hopes of getting to know better wouldn’t be attending anymore for various reasons including the predicted heavy rain. It all started sinking in… The farthest I had ever ridden was to Squamish and over on the Sunshine Coast, I had only been riding independently for a few months and in complete sunshine mind you, and the last remaining friend attending the Dream Roll would be continuing South to California afterward. Was I really prepared to ride over 1200km in mostly pissing rain just to camp in mostly pissing rain with almost no one I knew, to likely have to do the very wet ride back solo? That last fact alone frightened me to the core. Not to mention that on every big trip Mitch had ever taken Betty on, something always broke down and I surely did not have enough mechanical knowledge to rely on. I was overwhelmed with uncertainty leading up to take off, the night before, but after much contemplation I decided to take the plunge as I was reassured by the addition of some mystery girl named Mandy. Mandy would be joining our duo on the ride down and then back home with me. The night before I lay in bed wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew but realized that it was a question that could only be answered starting tomorrow so I closed my eyes and let everything go black.
  The plan was to ride down to Portland the day before the group ride would be taking off from there to the Dream Roll site. The ride down to Portland was a circus act of set backs including things like recovering a lost passport, an over-heated bike in slow, almost non-moving Seattle traffic, losing each other on the I-5 at night, construction on the I-5 at night, airborne screws and side panels detaching from my bike (thank god for duck tape). Good ol' Betty was giving it everything she got to keep up, vibrating at such a high frequency I could feel it echoing through my skeleton long after. Eleven hours later we finally arrived in Portland feeling defeated and doubtful if we could do this all over again for the way back but in sheets of rain. I sat in the hotel room trying to sooth the rattle of my bones and I could see that Mandy felt overwhelmed with exhaustion and doubt as well but in the end we kept our eyes on the prize, the Dream Roll. We had come this far. 
                                              [Photo credit: Uncage the Soul Productions]

  We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather the next day. After a solid breakfast at the Douglas Fir we headed over to the meeting spot for the group ride. The scenic ride to the Dream Roll site led by Dream Roll organizer Becky Goebel, was extremely therapeutic after the chaos of the day before. Once we arrived we set up camp in a huge tree lined meadow that was once an old air-landing site. Ladies of various walks of life rolled in on every type of bike you could imagine but we were all sharing one common feature at that moment: a big smile from ear to ear. The facilities and vendors at the Dream Roll were beyond what I had imagined. We discovered that night would be a full moon which explained the intensity leading up to the event. The full moon represents a time where we must face ourselves and let go of the things that hold us back in order to move forward, renewed, and we did just that. That evening we lost ourselves in the wild, rawness of our sisterhood, dancing and celebrating like champions under the moon’s mysterious glow. We had made it. On the last full day of the event a strong wind picked up almost blowing away camp but we all came together to hold down the fort and not long after that came the rain. Like warriors we continued on, forging new friendships, lending a helping hand, riding throughout the country side no matter how wet and that last night chatting and reminiscing in our tent as the last little bit of energy we had slowly dimmed, I turned to Mandy and said, “Well… If there was ever a part of me that was a little bitch before, she’s gone now,” and we laughed our way into sleep. The next day we quietly packed up in the rain, knowing that we had all shared something special. Tori headed down to sunny California to continue her adventure. Mandy and I continued to chase the rain with the help of two kind-hearted ladies named Danelle and Kate whom I had only met that weekend and they were kind enough to offer to keep our gear dry in their truck as well as follow us for support incase anything were to go wrong. Betty continued to slowly fall apart around me that whole weekend but not once did she leave me stranded. That bike really began to feel like an extension of me during that experience, as if it were as much a part of me as any one of my limbs. We rode on through the downpour but there were a few hours of blue skies and warm sun with the most stunning views to feed the soul (Oh yeah- and I’m pretty sure I saw Sasquatch). Our boys met us just outside of Seattle for dinner and knowing the casualty of trees and blacked-out powerless streets that lay ahead they relieved us from the storm that continued on. It wasn’t until the moment she had made sure I was safe and sound and Mitch crossed her back over the Canadian border that Betty the Bullet 500 rode her last mile. With an explosion she was gone, like all great love stories of our time: terrifying at first, fast and exhilarating, never wanting it to end and then as quick as it came, out with a BANG.

The Calling

  Writing is something I've always enjoyed exploring. My entire life, I had always been attracted to creative outlets whether it be drawing, writing, sculpting or photographing which is probably why I ended up choosing hair styling as career being that the trade is comprised entirely of sculpting and painting. The added bonus of making human connections with people from all walks of life and the personal growth I've gained and hope that I've inspired in others through those interactions has been an aspect of my career that I've grown to appreciate and love almost more than the hands on creativity itself. Growing up I dreamed of being a poet or novelist but I was never fully confident in my skill and as life grew busier and busier with responsibilities, it fell by the wayside as I entered into adulthood. Lately I've been rekindling my relationship with writing through my social media accounts, writing thoughtful blurbs to pair with my photo updates and playing around with the odd book review. I began daydreaming of writing again, perhaps a book or a poem or even a simple story but I was unsure where to start. More and more I fell into this contemplation and the universe must have heard my calling because my friend Melly Kage, a fellow lover of motorcycle culture and the written picture, informed me of a story telling event called "One Time I Rode...", she would be curating at The Shop Vancouver to share personal stories of the tellers' favourite motorcycle experiences and she wanted me to be one of the hand chosen story tellers. I was elated and yet extremely nervous at the same time. My nerves and hectic schedule almost made me decline but I thought that if I could sit down and write a story to completion then I would have to confirm my spot... and also, I've been playing a game with myself for the past few years, a game of if it terrifies me (and is not going to kill me) then I must do it. This game has been extremely challenging for a creature of comfort like myself but my life has grown much more colourful and rich with many successes since I started playing.
  One evening after everyone had gone to bed, I sat at the computer and began typing. Once I had started I could not stop. I had to force myself to take a break for sleep but even as I lay in bed hoping for rest, I couldn't quiet my mind. Adjectives and verbs criss-crossed, overlapping behind my eye lids, enticing me to continue on. I knew that I needed to finish this story. It needed to be told. The event was an amazing success and even though leading up to it I felt like I was going to either pass-out or puke before I could speak a word of my story, I somehow managed to pull my shit together and share it with over 30 people. Others, inspired by the chosen story tellers of the evening took the "mic" and shared their wacky, inspiring stories of two-wheeled victories and at the end of the night we all left with our heads in the clouds.
  Travelling is something that my husband and I love to do and plan to do in abundance over the next few years. About a month ago I had the sudden idea of starting a blog to share the stories of our many adventures, but I thought, would I be able to keep it up? Who would read it? Well it doesn't matter anyway because I owe it to myself to give it a try do it. So here we are. Here you will find tales of adventure, of failures and triumphs and of vulnerability and inspiration with the odd entry of poetry and random brain rattle. So begins this journey...

[I want to thank my friend Melly for the wonderful witchy way of hers that tapped into and summoned my inner magic.]

"Do or do not. There is no try."~ Yoda