Halloween eve on a Monday night and boo as in boo hoo nobody's coming to my door because I live on a dead-end street in a neighborhood with exactly zero children. I used to love Halloween in San Francisco because I'd sit on the front porch with my landlord who lived in the big house on 15th Avenue at Lake and hand out candy to kids in elaborate costumes. For example, a boy in a rock and roll outfit had a guitar that turned out not to be a toy as he demonstrated a Jimmy Hendrix number – it blasted from a portable amp strapped to his back. His parents giggled at the bottom of the stairs at our astonished looks and I wondered if they used to be famous rock and rollers, which wouldn't have been surprising in that area of the city.
Okay… motorcycles. I bought a Moto Guzzi California Stone this month so now I have three bikes in my driveway. I know that most of my neighbors find it amusing but I overheard one of them – not someone I really know – expressing disapproval. Or maybe he was kidding. Well, what can I do? Get rid of one? Yeah, right. Here it is pre-windscreen and panniers. I chose soft "throw-over" panniers by Touratech, that expand. They're black with grey trim and I think they look nice.
So the Guzzi is a lot like the California EV 1100 I rode in the late 90's in Italy for a few months. I rode it from Lake Como to The Boot, Sicily, Sardenia, and back again to Lake Como, camping most of the way and sending dispatches to the web. During that trip I fell in love with Italy and I fell in love with the Guzzi air-cooled V-twin engine that sits off-center at 90 degrees. On an 1100 cc motorcycle you'd better have both feet firmly planted on the ground before you race the throttle at a stop light or it'll whop you over on its side. That's not a defect it's a feature. Or maybe what we call "personality" in the motorcycle world and you either love it or you hate it.
The only thing wrong with the bike was that it has just one key it was dangerously bent trying to open the gas cap. I took it to Trudee at Key Kraft in Noe Valley where all the motorcycle shops said to go because she's a genius, and she is. Oh yeah, and Bill at Quality Motorcycles told me that every single Guzzi he has seen has had its motor wiggled loose, so he torqued it down for me. Thank you Bill.
I didn't get the saddlebags and windscreen installed quite in time for the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travelers meeting but I did ride it to the Overland Rally in Hollister. It wasn't awfully awkward on the dirt road to the meeting, but riding it took me back to Italy to the day I rode its cousin down a dirt road on the island of Sardenia that took a sharp curve where I saw too late that the small gully running down the center became a deep, sharp V that sucked the bike right in.
I waited for 45 minutes under some scrub trees for someone, anyone to come along, and finally I heard the stamp of hiking boots from a dozen elderly Dutch hikers headed to the petroglyphs I'd been headed for. It took almost all of them to haul the bike out and then they were so quickly anxious to get on their way that I had to beg them to wait a minute to make sure I made it back up around the corner away from the bike-sucking V. I still want to see those petroglyphs.
The Overland Rally was fun though it was waaaaay heavier on 4x4s than motorcycles. Next year I hope to convince Horizons Unlimited attendees to extend the party for a week using the rally as an excuse. I did learn how to right an overturned vehicle, which rope to use – the static rope, the bungee rope, or chains – and how to wench it just right so you don't flip it into your windshield, you know, useful stuff like that. There was a lot of math too that I need to review before I actually try to do it myself. Rope weight and tons per inch or something. I never was good at math. But the crowd was adventure travel-y and interesting and there were a LOT of modified vehicles which is always a kick.
This month I've also started walking my neighbor Raymond's fat Jack Russell Terrier Tinker. I tried walking him a couple of years ago when Raymond first had a heart attack and couldn't provide him with the exercise he desperately needed, but Tinker pulled so hard that I couldn't stand it. Another neighbor, Marilyn, has since trained him really well and he heels beautifully and does not veer to follow common doggie interests such as squirrels, cats or other dogs. So he has been my companion on my almost-daily hikes.
I hike in the open space near my house where a mountain lion was recently spotted so now it is considered that dusk and dawn walks are not safe. Those who know me just had a little giggle at that word "dawn" because they know that a dawn walk is not really in the realm of possibility, but I do love dusk hikes as the heat of the October sun is cooled by bay breezes here in Northern California. Tinker, I think, would make a nice distracting little appetizer for a cougar, anyway, and I can run faster than he can – so far, at least.
I've got him jogging a little bit but mostly we just walk really fast. After an hour and a half in the hills and then down by the waterfront – where the sound of water laping around the rocks kind of freakes Tinker out – Raymond tells me he sleeps very well.
The International Motorcycle Show hits San Mateo in mid-November, and I want to motorcycle there, it's only an hour, but if tradition stands there will be driving rain all weekend. This would be too bad, because Liz Jansen of Trillium Tours is coming to tout her new book and I want to take her for a ride through Fairfax over to Bolinas by the lakes and through the Redwoods, and then down Highway 1 to Stinson and back to Mill Valley and over the Marin-Richmond Bridge.
Liz says we could ride even if it rains but I say you don't understand, you're Canadian and I live in California and I will ride in the rain if it hits me unexpectedly but few of us like to negotiate greasy wet roads and idiot tailgating lanechanging car drivers talking on their cell phones. I am going to keep my fingers crossed, hope for sun, and if it rains maybe, just maybe, I'll try. I have the gear for it.
I will join Liz at the show on Saturday for a couple of presentations on her new book Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment: 50 Inspiring Stories of Adventure and Self-Discovery. (You can pre-order it for delivery in time for holiday gift giving.) I have a story in the book, and there are some other women whose names you might recognize like Genevieve Schmitt and Sue Slate, Debbie Evans, Stefy Bau, a couple of others I wrote about in May for International Female Riders Month. Here's a review I wrote of the book:
“Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment is a collection of fifty intensely personal stories of women’s journeys through obstacles, desires, self-realization, setback, perseverance, failure, success, courage, excitement and finally joy in shedding fears to open a big new world in which to frolic and share and move through with purpose. I recognized myself in many of these stories and you will too, whether you motorcycle or not. It’s all here — bad husbands (and good husbands), supportive parents, discouraging bosses, perceptions of physical limitations, real injuries, societal restrictions, and then, a turning point, a role model, or sheer exasperation and simply getting fed up and doing it anyway. Some of the stories made me cry but then they eventually made me laugh or even shout out loud in congratulations. The writing is exquisite, with each woman pouring her truth and passion onto the page in the spirit of sharing and encouragement. Our tour guide on this journey is Liz Jansen, a real-life motorcycle tour guide, workshop and retreat leader whose own story elegantly leads us through ten aspects of power through mastering the motorcycle, the very real, yet symbolic and spiritual machine so uniquely qualified to carry each of these women to freedom. ”
If you're anywhere near San Mateo on the weekend of November 18, 19, 20, stop by the show (Twitter: @motorcycleshows) and say hi! I'll be monitoring tweets and you can tweet your location to @MissAdventuring.
Until next time, may all your misadventures have happy endings.