Monday, April 14, 2014

When in Rome, Grab a Paddle

One more month to go on my Flatistan Tour of Duty.  I’m going a little crazy. I miss my mountains and motorcycles.  Last week, on my day off, I threw myself onto the bed in a dramatic manner unsurpassed by any 13 year old.  I’m boooooored!  There’s nothing to dooooo here!!!  Pilot Guy suggested my sulking would be more effective if I locked my bedroom door and spent the afternoon drawing unicorns with a sparkly pen in a pink and purple spiral notebook.  “Add a rainbow or two,” he suggested.  It didn’t help.

I really, really need a Florida Friendly Activity.  So yesterday, in an emergency procedure,  I bought an inexpensive “recreational kayak.”

Kayak Trial Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park 001

These are my feet, but they are not in my kayak.  This photo is from my
 pre-purchase rental trial day at Delnor-Wiggins State Park. 

Creepy mangrove trail.  I'm not looking forward to my first alligator sighting. 
But I have a paddle, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Today I took her for her maiden circumnavigation around my parents’ neighborhood.

Longshore Lake Navigational Chart
Three miles and change, I think.

I noticed a funny thing while paddling around this winding watery racetrack.  When the going got tough (read: headwind),  I unconsciously defaulted to the cornering lines I know best. So far, I corner significantly better on the Ducati then in the kayak. 

Otters, herons, ospreys, ibis, anhingas, a duck with a dozen just-in-time-for-Easter ducklings... all sorts of things to see!

Longshore Lake Maiden Circumnavigation 002

There were some notable comestibles as well.  Plenty of coconuts lined the shore, which prompted me to add "hacksaw and/or hammer?" to my kayak adventure pack list. A few of them had the surprising habit of getting up, walking a few feet, and plopping into the water, at which time I reclassified them as turtles.  And there are some ducks that for all the world look like Barbary ducks, origin of magret, that succulent like-filet-mignon-but-better red meat (yes, red!) duck breast capped with a golden crust of mouthwatering, crispy, fatty skin... oh my!  I could not convince even one of those ducks on board.

But if I ever do, my kayak has little hatch in which to store my magret picnic lunch.

Longshore Lake Maiden Circumnavigation 004
As you can see, my kayak is a shade of orange only a KTM rider could love.
I've no idea what species of waterfowl this specimen is.  Is it time to invest in a waterproof bird book?

Next up, the 99 miles of Wilderness Waterway in Everglades National Park?

For all you Ducati people out there, I call her “The Des-NO*.”  Get it?  I crack myself up.

*For you non-Ducati people out there, Ducatis are known for their proprietary “desmodromic” aka “desmo” valve operating system.  Get it now?  Desmo?  Des-NO? Yeah, I’m that clever.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On the Move Again

After another month's exile in the Land of Flat, and, immediately upon my return to Tucson, a two week long inexplicable back injury during which I could not rotate an eyeball without involuntarily crying out in pain, it turns out I remember enough about riding to take Li'l Burro out to lift his head high in the air and sniff the sweet acacia wafting through the spring desert air, and to investigate some cheap eats.

How nice of the MoM folks to let Li'l Burro rest amongst the tomatoes after our little jaunt through the desert.

Market on the Move is not cool in a organic, locavore sort of way, but it is supersonically cool in a reduction of food waste sort of way.  If you've not heard just how much perfectly good food is thrown away in the US and around the world, not to mention how much land and resources are used to grow that very same food, prepare to be horrified.  Market on the Move "rescues" excess or imperfect produce from produce brokers that would normally end up in a landfill, and makes it available to the public.  Sixty pounds for ten bucks!  Give some to the less fortunate in your neighborhood, or stock your own pantry.

Tomorrow: flight lesson! You do know I'm learning to fly, right?  *sigh*  There's so much I haven't told you...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flatistan Tour of Duty* (Bears vs. Alligators: YOU decide!)

It was so still, so improbably and artistically placed, so… statuesque… that I very nearly removed my helmet and took a self-portrait with it, my lips pursed upon the sculpture’s snout**.

It blinked.

Everglades National Park Shark Valley Bicycle Ride 046

If you happen to be riding your two wheeled machine through the everglades, your front wheel won’t turn five times before you have to swerve. One, two, three…  there they lay, sunning themselves like lazy (or stealthy?) beagles right next to, or even on, the narrow stretch of asphalt.  I had the opportunity to poke any number of alligators in the eye with my naked toe*** as I rode past, had I been so inclined.  I was not.  So inclined.  Instead, I was unreasonably longing for my boots.

I’ve said it before; fear is a funny thing.  Take, for example, this recent scene: a gated community in south Florida, accessible only by vehicle RFID tag, secret handshake with a Cuban guard, or [cue ominous melody in the cello section], a canal that slithers unnoticed under the wall…  You sit, over-nourished once again by Mom’s Best, and ponder a late night run.  What, do you suppose,  does mom caution you against?  And when you are abruptly assailed in the dark by the sharp, watery bite of a well timed irrigation system, what does your mind cry out?


Seriously, my mom will unthinkingly garden with her back turned to the long, reptile concealing grasses at the edge of the canal (“Pffft, all they do is sleep.”), but will not walk outside after dark, lest she be attacked by a bear****.  You can decide for yourself, but I stand steadfastly, proudly, even, next to my fear of alligators over that of bears, at least in this environment.

All concern for my personal safety aside, the everglades, like so many of the places I ride through, unleash in me a rush of gratitude and humility, that I might get to experience yet another wondrous and strangely beautiful land in what feels to be such an intimate fashion.

Everglades National Park Shark Valley Bicycle Ride 010-Edit

But for the first time in my two-wheeling life, I experienced a novel celebration of the straight road. An unusual reverence for the flat road.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park 033-Edit

I was, of course, riding a bicycle.    Ding ding!

* This is The Year of the Big Commute. I'm working in AZ and FL this season.
** No kidding, I thought for sure that first one was clever national park artwork.
*** Yes, flip flops.  I’ll ‘splain in a minute.
****Okay, to be fair, there was something on the news last night about another bear attack.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Burros in the Sand

Today I had just enough time for a quick jaunt to Ironwood Forest National Monument, which, incidentally, not being staffed in the first place, isn’t affected by the government shutdown.  This time, Li’l Burro, ever curious, chose a new point of access - Manville Road.  It was a test ride of sorts, I with new pants*, he with new shoes.

Yamaha XT225 meets burros
Li'l Burro contemplates his cousins.

Manville Road Burro sighting 006
Yes, they even sang their sprightly, squeaky song for us.

Manville Road Burro sighting 013
Around here, grass is a photographable event.  Grainy, artsy style no extra charge.

Funny how the very moment you find yourself wallowing about in sand deep enough to make walking difficult, much less riding, or dragging your motorcycle out of it, is the same moment you realize you should be headed back home getting ready for your gig.

When I have a successful fall, I like to spring up, hands in air**, legs together, back arched, like a 15 year old gymnast – front!, left!, right! – just to emphasize the cleverness of my little trick.  Ten!

*I’d been putting off buying a pair of riding pants better suited for Li’l Burro, because I’d been hoping Olympia Moto Sports would make their X Moto suit for women.  “Are ya gonna make it for 2013?  Huh? Huh?  How ‘bout 2014?”  The answer remains a steadfast, “No.”  But since I seem to be putting my street leathers at risk in the dirt and mud, I broke down and bought a pair of Firstgear TPG Escape Pants (what a name!) on clearance.  Not quite what I wanted, but they work, and fit perfectly.  I’m pretty sure I got the last pair of size 6 in the universe.
** I totally stole Pilot Guy's moves here.  And I'm keepin' 'em.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Play Date: Li’l Burro meets Half Pint on Redington Pass

Half Pint and KamperBob invited Li’l Burro on a play date last March.  Our RSVP: Yes, please!

First, an aerial reconnaissance run.  Because I can.  Thanks, Pilot Guy!

Little sporty Super Viking aircraft can lean a good 60 degrees and flip flop left and right, just like little sporty motorcycles, if one is so inclined. We are.  Another comforting similarity to motorcycles: splats in the field of view.

Redington Pass Area Bellanca Recon Mission (1)


I don’t know how to drive Pilot Guy’s camera or aeroplane. Yet.

Redington Pass Area Bellanca Recon Mission


Li’l Burro’s play date isn’t starting off too well.  Operator error with the alarm clock.  Forgotten sunglasses.  The meet up-fuel up spot was hard to find. That happens when it’s been freshly renovated.  With a wrecking ball.  Oops.

It’s been a long time since Li’l Burro and I have gotten our hooves dirty.  Work has been just too… workish.  I’m a little unsure, but Redington pass is easy and Li’l Burro remembers his moves. Just what we need.

The shooting ranges in the area have been cleaned up. It’s a lot more pleasant out here than last time we visited.

Prompt Blogger KamperBob is on a hunt for crested saguaros.  Why not?  I have my own cactus finds.

Saguaro Ribs Redington Pass


Photography fun burns time.   There’s snow up in them thar hills.  Li’l Burro is afraid of the dark and  - ouch! – his rubbery hooves are shedding knobs.  Hm.  Tomorrow is another day, says Half Pint.  Control Road up the back side of Mount Lemmon can wait, agrees Li’l Burro.  Pizza, beer, a lazy walk with canine friends console.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I just thought you ought to know…

… that after after nine months, one chain catastrophe, a wrecked rear brake bracket (twice!), one leaking slave cylinder gasket, one valve adjustment/belt replacement, multiple tensioner pulley failures, and (pardon me, but WTF, as they say) one bent valve repair, there's an operational Ducati back in my life.

Welcome Home, Ducati
The Beagle is overcome with emotion.

Welcome home, my little Italian Princess.
What's that? Track Day tomorrow? Don't mind if we do!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Three Wheels (Two Wings)

It’s not often you wake up on your morning off in Tucson, AZ only to find an inch of snow and ice coating your motorcycle* and hear on the radio that even humble Gates Pass is closed, but when the unthinkable happens, well, what’s a girl to do?

Leave the snow behind and go riding in the air, that’s what!

Pilot Chris does Important Stuff while I stay out of the way and document the day.

Piper Cherokee

Piper Cherokee Cockpit
My seat!

The pre-flight check feels remarkably similar to a motorcycle pre-flight check.  There are other familiar tasks, too…

... like grabbing the keys on your way out the door...

… man powered reverse out of the parking spot...

Piper Cherokee Reverse

… and fueling up. 

Fueling the Piper Cherokee
Okay, yeah, surely the price of this part of the day bears no similarity at all to motorcycle riding.

By this point, I am hopping up and down with excitement.  And I really do hop up and down (and clap, too!) if I’m excited enough.

Piper Cherokee Pilot
Hm, now what?

We’re ready to roll!  I’m a little nervous, but as we pick up speed and the nose of this little Piper Cherokee levitates into the air, it’s nearly impossible not to joyously cry out the obvious:  “We’re flying!”
There’s a lump in my throat.  It’s so, so beautiful.

Snow on Tucson Mountains

The lump goes away, but I am still speechless.  I even decline the chance to fly the plane myself. There's simply too much magic outside my window today for that.

Snow in Tucson Santa Catalinas

And only now does the obvious question occur to me.  Could a small motorcycle fit into a small plane?  The answer, it appears, is a definite maybe

Can a Burro Fly
Li'l Burro and I contemplate entry into a Bellanca Super Viking.  Thanks to fellow blogger DG for this shot.

Imagine the long weekend possibilities, oh my!

*Really happened!