Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007


(2003 BMW F650GS, ABS, 7000 miles)


Thursday, December 13, 2007

First Look: SPOT Satellite Personal Messenger

The first of my holiday presents to myself arrived (or rather, was picked up) this evening at my local REI.

This little gadget has gotten a fair amount of notice in the motorcycle touring world. I've been scouring the net for reviews ever since it came out in the beginning of November.

From the manufacturer:

"SPOT. The World’s First Satellite Messenger.
With the SPOT Satellite Messenger, you and your loved one have peace of mind knowing help is always within reach. SPOT is the only device of its kind, using the GPS satellite network to acquire its coordinates, and then sending its location – with a link to Google Maps™ – and a pre-programmed message via a commercial satellite network. And unlike Personal Locator Beacons, SPOT does more than just call for help. Tracking your progress, checking in with loved ones, and non-emergency assistance are also available, all at the push of a button. And because it uses 100% satellite technology, SPOT works around the world – even where cell phones don't."

As a solo tourer, I know that my family worries about me all the time when I'm thousands of miles from home in the middle of nowhere. While cell coverage in the sticks improves every year, I still often find myself in places with no signal.

Because it uses a satellite network, the SPOT works where cell phones don't. With the press of a button, I can automagically notify my family and closest friends not only that I'm ok, but my exact coordinates.

Another button lets them know that I need help. Yet another button (to be pressed only in emergencies) calls 911, summoning Search and Rescue to my exact location.

SPOT also has a tracking function. When I enable it, people that I've given login information to can watch my progress on a map updated every 10 minutes.

Conventional PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) are more powerful and hardened, but basically exist just for emergencies. They can cost $500 and up. Satellite phones are also expensive and make no sense for me to carry around for day to day use.

The SPOTs extra communication features and economical entry cost ($150 for the unit, $150/year for service) are an acceptable trade-off for beacon power to me. SPOT is waterproof.

The packaging was attractive, lithium batteries were included, and online account set up was super easy. I set the unit outside on my patio in clear view of the sky and pressed the "I'm OK" button. A few minutes later I had an email in my inbox with a link to my coordinates in Google Maps.

I'll do more extensive testing of the non-emergency features this month and report back with a more comprehensive review.

So far, I'm happy. Now, off to educate my parents....

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quick Ride to the Gulf

I haven't been doing much "riding for fun" lately. Really, all I've done since September pull out the bike for an occasional bike night.

I replaced my then 2-year old battery right before one such ride when the BMW wouldn't start in the morning before work. I figured that it was time.

Waking up around 9 today, I decided to take the BMW out. It was too late to get in one of my epic 500-milers, so I settled for a quick jaunt down to Galveston for lunch via Crabb River Road.

Crabb River Road is a favorite among the southwest side squids. It's got a few good turns (maybe 5 total) each separated by at least a mile of straights. Last time I rode it, I remember being pretty scornful, with a "Why bother?" attitude. This time, with less traffic, I concluded that it wasn't bad, if you didn't have anything else worthy within an hour's ride.

Reaching the coast at Surfside City, I rode east on the Blue Water Highway (FM332).

I was surprised to find that I had to pay a $2 toll to cross the bridge onto Galveston Island. Luckily I had a few dollars in my wallet (I don't usually carry cash).

Lunch was grilled shrimp, scallops, and redfish at Casey's... the sister cafe to the famous Gaido's of Galveston. While eating lunch, I periodically glanced up from my book to watch waves break on the seawall.

Monday, September 24, 2007


A few photos from the 2007 Sport-Touring.Net Central Meet (CSTN), a 3-day weekend of riding based out of Eureka Springs, AR. (Sept 22-24, 2007)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

Arrrrgh. Fantasy author Robert Jordan died over the weekend (cancer).

Some of you know that I have always enjoyed reading. The longer the book, the better. Robert Jordan, with his epic 1000+ page books has been a "must-buy" author for me for a long time.

The first book in his "Wheel of Time" series was published in 1990. I discovered it in paperback form at my local library a few years later and was instantly hooked. He faithfully punched out a new book for me to devour every year through my high school graduation in 1996. While I was in college, his intervals between books lengthened out to 2 years or more. I was buying them in hardback as soon as I saw them, generally finding them at the bookstore on the day of release. I remember one case where my first sight of one was at a kiosk in an airport (with elevated airport prices). I was ensconced in Jordan's fantasy world for that entire flight.

Jordan's writing was known for incredible levels of detail and huge numbers of characters to keep track of. Somewhere in there, he had a 1000+ page book that covered only one day in the timeline of his world. Another had nothing really happen (as far as clues to tying up story lines) until the last 6 pages. It was maddening slogging through mundane moments in the lives of characters I no longer cared about to get scarce hints about how and what certain others were doing.

Somewhere in there I stopped calling Jordan a "favorite" author. I now HATE his writing style. It's become supremely boring and slow.... but I kept buying them because I MUST KNOW HOW IT ENDS!

Volume XI, "The Knife of Dreams", was published in October 2005 with the tantalizing note that there was only one more book to go. I would occasionally check Amazon to see if there was a publishing date set yet, but didn't see anything. Now this. Arrgh arrgh double arrgh.

Rest in Peace Robert Jordan, but you sure had some bad timing.

According to his website, his wife (who is also his editor) will finish the last book from his notes.

36k Service

I did a 36,000 mile service on the R1200ST on September 8 (weekend before last). Valve adjust, oil change, and a new rear tire. It was the first motorcycle maintenance I've done in my new garage... Also the first time I've ever gotten the ST onto the centerstand without someone standing on the other side "just in case".

Apparently Pilot Road rears are on backorder with the release of the new Michelin Pilot Road CTs, so I took a Metzler Z6 instead. SPORT-touring riders rave about the Z6, but I, being more of a sport-TOURING rider, have never tried them. I'm a little concerned that I won't get good mileage out of them, but they seem very "tire"-like so far. ;)

I did a run out and back to Austin last weekend to break them in. I'm leaving for CSTN (Central Sport-Touring.Net Meet) on Thursday after work. It's up in Eureka Springs, AR again. I'm going to have to figure out something else for next year, because the ST.N National Meet is scheduled for Eureka Springs in June.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Family Reunion in San Diego... Oh. And a Wedding!

My sister Jessica married her long time (7 years!) boyfriend Dave over the past weekend. Family and friends converged on San Diego, CA for the ceremony and reception and various activities.

I arrived late Thursday night. Most of the women in the family met on Friday morning to head downtown to a salon in Horton Plaza for manicures and pedicures.

Friday night’s event was a pool party at Jess and Dave’s apartment complex. After enjoying some yummy Greek food, Dad handed the *dowry* over to Dave.

The ceremony, reception, and a cruise of the San Diego harbor took up most of Saturday.

We headed to the beach on Sunday. Jess and Dave went kayaking with a bunch of friends. I spent the day on the beach. Others went to the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, or sightseeing in Mexico.

Probably the best part about the weekend was interacting with all the family that attended. I hadn’t spent so much time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in years.

Some assorted pictures:

Friday night:

Prepping for the wedding:

Waiting to board the boat:

At the reception:

Note: I didn't take that many pictures on this trip. Dave and Jess set up a Flickr account. When I looked through it earlier this evening, it was up to 1500+ pictures. Knowing that *I* would never again want to go through that many pictures, I culled the ones that had meaning to me.... and posted them.

The full set of photos from this event can be found at

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer 2007 Tour - Day 16

Day 16
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Austin, TX to Cypress, TX
163 miles

I left Austin late in the day after a morning of sightseeing and exploring. The dash up US-290 was uneventful. My mom came out of the house as I pulled into the garage and admired my bug-encrusted BMW. That night over dinner, we finally dared to joke that this was my first incident-free long tour in a long time.

Trip Costs:

Gas: $393.90
Food: $139.59
Lodging: $592.04
Misc/Petty Cash: $285.89

Total: $1411.42

Mileage: 6089
(from Mapsource, GPS was inaccurate and my odo was waaaaay off)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer 2007 Tour - Day 15

Day 15
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Van Horn, TX to Austin, TX
463 miles

The interstate exit at Van Horn, TX is all screwed up.

I could see the inviting sign for McDonald’s and my morning coffee and yogurt right on the other side of I-10. I headed south towards what looked like the underpass and instead found myself trapped into getting onto I-10 west!

Being in west Texas, the next town was about 30 miles away, so this was a serious situation. It was around five miles down the road before the first exit appeared, an unnamed ranch access road. I exited and passed under the interstate through a barely one-lane wide tunnel on a barely maintained paved road. With a burst of speed, I re-entered the freeway and headed back to Van Horn, finally obtaining my breakfast about 20 minutes after leaving my motel!

The southernmost east-west interstate is very familiar to me, after several recent Texas crossings. I settled into my saddle for some serious mile-eating.

Four hundred miles later, I left I-10 just east of Junction, TX. I had never ridden this segment of US-290 and it was a welcome change of scenery.

Fredericksburg, TX with it’s German restaurants, quaint shops, and peach stands was interesting to ride through although with all the traffic, I‘m not sure I‘d care to spend much time there. I always enjoy history, so Johnson City and LBJ Historic park might be worth a stop sometime when I’m not hurrying home from a large trip.

I’d been hearing from my parents and boyfriend that Texas had been enjoying some especially crappy weather while I’d been out enjoying all the spectacular scenery and blue skies that the West had to offer. The weather started to look threatening as I approached Austin, TX. When the first rain drops hit, I decided to enjoy the coolness and continued riding instead of stopping to zip up my jacket vents.

A classic Texas pounding rainstorm hit me as I rode the overpass from US-290 to the Mopac in Austin. I was dripping as I geared down to greet my boyfriend in the parking lot of our hotel.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer 2007 Tour - Day 14

Day 14
Friday, June 22, 2007
Safford, AZ to Van Horn, TX
419 miles

A pack of sport bikes passed me as I backtracked east on US191 this morning. I watched wistfully as they made the turn to head north on the Coronado Trail and I continued east on AZ-78. It was very hot, so I was glad to find that 78 attempted to mimick both US191’s cool elevation and twistiness with a very desert-y flair of it‘s own.

I made my way south on US180 to Silver City, NM where dark clouds and lightning strikes ahead encouraged me to take an early lunch. I sat down to an eggplant sandwich with sweet potato fries at the Adobe Café while thunder shook the building.

Gearing up, the dark clouds around me told me that thought that particular storm had passed over, I would still have lots of cells to worry about.

Following a line of vehicles down NM-152, I anxiously watched the sky and the GPS. I told myself that I would stop if the route seemed to take me through an area with active lightning. Somehow, it seemed to keep missing storms, gently easing away from black cloud areas.

I was less sure of my decision to continue as I passed San Lorenzo. The road narrowed, traffic disappeared, and curves began. It was raining and I was on a tight mountain road.

I kept looking for that ethereal break in the clouds….. The place which I had to reach to get out of the storm. The road would tantalize me with a view of it… and then swoop away.

Hyper-aware of the slippery conditions, I rode cautiously. Deep turns that might normally be worthy of a WAHOO! got barely any lean.

I passed several interesting rock formations and beautiful vistas. I would have stopped, but I generally try to avoid exposing my camera to rain.

I was hugely relieved upon reaching I-25. It had been a stressful morning and I was very ready for the soothing ease of interstate riding.

Reaching Las Cruces and my turn east, I saw dark clouds hovering over my next mountain range. I stopped for gas to consider the situation. The mountain range ahead was somewhat familiar. I had ridden it in April with a group from Sport-Touring.Net. I really had no pressing need to ride it again in a storm.

Decided, I got onto I-10 and resigned myself to getting as far as possible into Texas before stopping for the night.

I think Mother Nature really wanted to throw some freakish weather my way, because there was a major dust storm going on in El Paso. The sky was brown and the wind strong.

Bottles, cardboard, lumber, and all sorts of miscellaneous trash was getting tossed around the freeway. At one point as I rolled down the left lane, the center lane played host to a rollicking horde of tumbleweeds. I eyed them cautiously and hung back with the rest of the cars before passing them in a quick burst of speed. A few got me, but I got them back. Looking in my mirrors, where one large tumbleweed had been, three little ones remained.

When the speed limit changed, I ramped up to just over 80mph. The ride across west Texas was mostly uneventful. The only really bright spot was the frog-strangler that hit just as I was going through the Border Patrol checkpoint.

I checked into an inexpensive hotel in Van Horn, TX and followed the clerks recommendation to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner.