Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Eight

a.k.a. The One In Which The Car Hits Dawg

In the morning we decamp from the Purple Sage Motel, which had seemed funny and charming when found on random Googling expeditions last winter, but hadn't quite lived up to its amusement potential. I mean, it wasn't bad, but no great shakes either. We're about an hour south of Spokane WA, and heading towards another random-Googling discovery, Franks Diner, for breakfast.

Frank's Diner in downtown Spokane is housed in a beautifully restored luxury rail car (not a Pullman, it was actually manufactured by one of Pullman's main competitors) and has some local reknown for their generous omelets. Yep, it's a pretty good meal - their coffee is good, too, and we are all in need of primo coffee at this point. I had two eggs and hashbrowns, which is about the perfect roadbreakfast, period, in my humble opinion. Happy, full, and ready to ride, we gear up and get ready to strike out into non-interstate Idaho. And that's when it happens.

A biker's OTHER worst nightmare, besides the deer thing yesterday, is getting hit by a car. Dawg is backing her bike up when the car across the aisle from her fails to look, and backs up straight into her. Thankfully this happens at slow speed, otherwise she would have been toast. I didn't see it happen, so I am not sure of all the details ... not even sure if the bike went down at all. But apparently both Dawg and the car's driver inspected their vehicles, found them mostly undamaged if a little bit scratched, and went their separate ways. Man, was I pissed when I finally found out what was going on. But, as the day goes on, I sort of start to think that we must be the luckiest bikers alive. I hit a deer yesterday, Dawg gets it from a car today, and we are both virtually UNTOUCHED by these disasters. We could not have a better possible outcome! Dawg's pissed 'cause the sticker she got from Crater Lake, pasted on the rear luggage box, got a little chewed. It was pristine for one whole day, LOL. Later, we find that the force of the car hitting the bike pushed that luggage box back on the rear rack mount, and we can't get it open until we break out some tools & readjust the thing. It's a pain in the butt, but also fortunate that the car hit the only part of the bike that wasn't rigid, otherwise something important (and non-adjustable) would have been what crumpled. Yeah, luckiest bikers alive, I'm tellin' ya.

After that bit of adventure to start our day, the rest of the day is uneventful which is perfectly FINE with us. We leave the interstate in Spokane and take Hwy 2 far north into the Idaho panhandle, and then follow it all the way to our destination in Kalispell MT. It's beautiful, beautiful country through here. I am (predictably) singing the B-52's "Own Private Idaho" to myself, and remembering someone (Ziggy?) telling me that that song was about all the rich people in the Idaho panhandle, supposedly there are more millionaires per capita there than anywhere else, or were in the 70's, or something. Coming through here, I sort of believe it, because a lot of the little towns we pass through have a whiff of priceyness to them; more retreats, artist's galleries, upscale vacation homes, that sort of thing.

I am unable to find pie in Libby MT, despite serious searching and a couple of u-turns. The gang eventually decides to give up, and agrees to proceed to Kalispell, where we are sure to find someplace nice to eat, since it is also very much an upscale-resort type of town. I did not make the hotel arrangements for tonight, which means for a change we'll be staying someplace nice instead of someplace cheap ... the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel doesn't disappoint, and we dine that night across the street at a place suitable for listing in Zagat's, as opposed to the Klink's On The Lake dinner which the hotelier had assured us was five-star dining and most assuredly ... wasn't. Hey, I could sort of get used to traveling this way. The duck confit was quite splendid.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Seven

a.k.a. The One In Which I Hit The Deer

Breakfast at the Pilot Butte is good indeed! But instead of lingering over good coffee, I am hitting the road early this morning in front of the other gals. I'm on a quest to bag two extra national parks in two additional states, which will make for a long day's riding! No one else in the group is too interested in the kind of long sightseeing day that I love, so we'll meet up at day's end in eastern Washington state, and I head out of town while they are still nibbling on the last of the morning meal.

It's a beautiful sparkling morning as I cruise up Hwy 97. The Cascade Range slides slowly by on my left-hand side, the peaks about thirty to forty miles to the west. I don't know the names of those snow-capped volcanic cones until I look them up on a map much later -- the Three Sisters, Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood -- but they dominate the landscape and keep me company along my way. A few miles short of the Columbia River and the state line, strong gusty winds spring up. I'd been warned that wind is generally awful around the river, and sure enough, they howl through these narrow canyons.

The road spills out into the river gorge at Biggs Junction, and I cross the Columbia via the newly repaved US-97 bridge, which soars high above the water. All vehicles are fully exposed to the wind and I am careful to hold my lane and not pass anyone along here. Safe on the north side of the river, the road passes through the flyspeck town on Maryhill WA, then climbs to the top of impressive cliffs. Time for the first stop of the day.

Maryhill Stonehange, above the Columbia River (Mt Hood in the background)Sam Hill's Stonehenge stands atop the cliffs at Maryhill. Built as a memorial to fallen WWI soldiers (started in 1918, completed in 1931) it is a full-sized replica of the 'Henge on Salisbury Plain, made of reinforced concrete. A roadside oddity with an absolutely magnificent view. I drag out the tripod (for one of only two times on this trip) for a photo of myself.

Whitman MissionThen I head inland, following the Columbia upriver on the north side. This is Hwy 14, a lovely two-lane that beats the hell out of Interstate 84, the main road that remains in sight across the river. I cross back into Oregon at Umatilla, pick up hwy 730, re-enter Washington state, and eventually pick up hwy 12 heading toward Walla Walla. This will take me to Whitman Mission, the site of an early missionary settlement in the Northwest that eventually led to conflict between whites and natives, ending in disaster. I walk the grounds; it's pretty and neatly groomed, yet sad and somber all in one.

Continuing along hwy 12, I pass through lovely country in eastern Washington, on my way to the Idaho border. It's somewhere west of Pomeroy that it happens ... a biker's worst nightmare. I am just cruising along with traffic (yes I was going the speed limit, actually) and rounding a big sweeping right-hand curve when suddenly there are DEER. Deer in the ROAD. Deer in my WAY. At sixty miles per hour it all happens so fast that I have barely any time to react. There are two of them, running in lanes on the highway (in more or less the same direction I'm going) full speed and panicked and unpredictable. I don't even have time to get on the brakes, just get off the throttle, as the one closer to me veers suddently RIGHT INTO ME and thumps off the left side of my engine guard and footpegs ... WHUMP! I don't know how but the bike stays up, thank the gods, and my mind races at a million miles an hour as I check everything I can on the bike while still in motion. No wobble, no loss of power, the clutch and the gearshift both appear undamaged, but there's no safe shoulder where I can pull off and I have to wait about three miles until there's a good place to stop. I drop the kickstand and climb off, the adrenaline finally starting to ebb a bit. I find no damage at all doing a walkaround. Not even any blood or fur or deer guts to be seen. How did I get so incredibly lucky? How did I come out of the worst scenario so entirely unscathed? My angels are looking out for me, surely, on this day.

Reaching my second park of the day, Nez Perce in Lewiston ID, is sort of anticlimactic. I chat a while with the ranger, and take in the film available at the visitor's center (a better-than-average one about the historic and modern-day Nez Perce tribe) and generally chill out for a little while after my deer encounter. I need to get myself a little food, too. I know I talk about pie and BBQ and all sorts of alimentary goodies on my trips, but the actual fact of the matter is that I really don't eat much on the road ... I forget, usually, or just don't feel like eating. (I actually lose weight on all my trips, go figure.) Coming back through the town of Lewiston, I stop for gas and a Balance bar, and then strike out for the town of Sprague WA. It's a spectactular road that climbs north of the city, topping the cliffs that rise above the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. From there it's wonderful two-lane roads across the Washington countryside, the sort of roads and small towns and scenery that I would heartily enjoy under normal circumstances, but I am still pretty edgy, on Cervine DefCon 4 from the encounter earlier today. I reach Sprague without further adventures, and find the rest of the gang has already headed down to dinner (a resort restaurant, amusingly named Klink's On The Lake) and I head a few more miles down the road to join them ... and two more damn DEER cross the road right in front of me just before I get there! Wow, today is one day I am happy to be off the road at the end of the day. Too many critters for my taste.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Six

BZZZZ!We pack up and depart from our vacation rental cottage in Crescent City this morning, heading north into Oregon. Nice weather. We stop for gas just across the state border in the town of O'Brien OR, which has a giant fly on top of the restrooms (to our amusement!) However the lucky find of the morning is when we stop for breakfast at a nondescript-looking yellow building on the edge of Gold Hill OR. Patti's Kitchen featured the world's best French toast (according to Katie) and we saw aPie for breakfast delicious monster-sized breakfast burrito carried past our table on its way to another diner. Personally I went with the I-don't-care-if-it's-not-really-breakfast option of peach pie. YUMMM.

The main attraction of the day is Crater Lake National Park, and we meander our way into the interior of Oregon towards it. For a lot of the way we're following the Rogue River, and also encounter a lot of highway construction. For miles on end, the pavement has been stripped away and we ride along on a groomed gravel roadbed. It's disconcerting at first -- none of us love gravel very much -- but it turns out to be firm footing and not much trouble at all.

Hwy 62 soon climbs up into pines, then there's snowdrifts beside the road and suddenly it's chilly enough to put on more clothes! We enter the park via the South Entrace and start at the Steel Visitor Center, watching the film and talking to the rangers, picking up NPS Passport stamps as well. Then we take the winding road up to the Rim Village, which is the awesomely spectacular overview of the lake.

WindShifters at Rim Village, Crater LakeLike the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake is one of the places that pictures just can't describe. The deep uncanny blue of the water reflects the sky above, serenity of eons. There's no hint of the volcanic violence that created the caldera; nothing steams or bubbles now. I hadn't realized that the event happened within memory of the people who originally lived here. Oral tribal legends remember it dimly.

Wizard IslandAn amazing, amazing place.

Dawg behind me on West Rim DriveSnow still lies around the edge of the crater (we succumb to a little snowball fight, of course) and our luck is good! The West Rim Road had recently been reopened after the previous winter's record snow levels. We'll be able to drive through the park and exit via the North Entrance, which was the best we could hope for! It's a lovely, snowy, chilly trip around the rim, and I snap some pictures from the road, one-handed, with my little camera.

After Crater Lake it's just an easy lope up the road to Bend OR, our destination for the night. I've researched a likely place for dinner, the Pilot Butte Drive-In (next to Pilot Butte State Park) which is reputed to have the Best Burger In Bend. Dinner doesn't disappoint, the burgers and onion rings and shakes are indeed mighty fine. We decide it's likely the sort of place that would have a good breakfast too so we'll be hitting it again on the way out of town tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Five

Exploring in the Simpson-Reed groveKatie is in charge of selecting some serious redwood sightseeing for us to do today. She settles on the nature trail at the Simpson-Reed Grove, which turns out to be a wonderful choice. The nature-trail loop takes us on a mile-long walk through lush greenery of old-growth. It's hard to imagine one could ever grow tired of looking at this beautiful forest.

Katie among giantsWe enjoy our stroll through the grove, admiring the towering trees, the emerald ferns that carpet the forest floor, and the peacefullness of it all. Redwoods must be one of the most serene places in the world.

Katie spots berries growing near the parking lot; she and I taste them in spite of Dawg's chiding. "What if they're poisonous?" she says. Turns out they were salmonberries, and quite harmless.

Make sure you check out Paul's manly chest hair the next time you visit Trees of MysteryThe grove is a lovely way to spend a morning. We head south to Klamath afterward for a little more tree sightseeing, this time of the kitschy variety. The Trees of Mystery is a good old-fashioned highway tourist trap, and we simply MUST get pictures of Paul Bunyan and Babe there. We visit the gift shop and spend a little time out front laughing at the Voice Of Paul (some guy who sits behind a microphone & interacts with the crowd; he is especially good at mocking small children) but we decline the chance to walk around in the Trees of Mystery park itself. As Dawg points out, why would you pay $13 to walk in some trees when there are perfectly good trees for FREE just up the road?

Samoa Cookhouse ROCKSBy mid-afternoon we're kinda hungry, home-made fudge at the gift shop notwithstanding. Dawg 'n' Katie heard about the Samoa Cookhouse from someone on the flight to California, and it's only about sixty-five miles away. They wanna try it for a late lunch! YEAH! This is the place I sort of wanted to hit on our way up from Sacramento, but didn't get a chance that day, so this is GREAT with me. We take off south and find the place, located on a peninsula near Eureka, and settle in for lunch. The Samoa Cookhouse is the last surviving lumber-camp cookhouse on the west coast, and has been in continuous operation since the 1890's. Cookhouse-style meals means there's one thing on the menu (today it was southern fried chicken, served with three-bean salad, mashed potatoes and corn, plus strawberry cake for dessert) and they will bring you food until you don't want any more, all for one price. It was TASTY :) and quite cool to see the old building and the stuff in the attached little Logging Museum as well. In fact it was a lovely ride down to Samoa, except for one little bit along Hwy 255 where liquefied manure was being sprayed on fallow fields. Thank goodness we were well out of range of any drift spray but the stench was still unbelievable. It was immediately nicknamed the Fountain of Poo, and we had the misfortune of going past it twice, once on the way out to the peninsula, and again coming back inland. Ew.

Say cheeseOn the way back to Crescent City, we spotted a great big herd of Roosevelt elk a little south of Orick, but there was no good place to turn off the road. That herd looked like it was made up of males; their antlers are quite impressive. Apparently the boy elk and the girl elk don't hang out together at this time of year. It'd be a good guess the girl elk are not in the immediate vicinity but not that far away. So we went a few more miles up the road and turned off at one of the prime elk-viewing sites and sure enough we found the girls, who let us take pictures with our zoom lenses as they placidly nibbled on grasses in their meadow.

more Big ThingsOne final Large Thing we found for the day: the giant scissors on top of Kim's Beauty Salon in downtown Crescent City, right next to the pier. Silly :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Four

We're going on the Klamath River Jet Boat Rides, and Dawg loks so ... so ... COLORFULNettie and Piggle ride off this morning; they have to head back home to get back to work and won't be able to hang out with us longer. We're sad :( but then we go for a ride and we feel better :)

Three of us - Dawg Katie and I - head south to Klamath to take a ride on a boat. The Klamath River Jet Boat Tour company runs a fun little show. It's about two hours long, they take you forty-some miles upriver in a shallow-draft boat, for some pretty spectacular sightseeing. They throw in some spins and boat tricks for the entertainment value, so it's eight parts naturalist and one part rollercoaster. Turned out to be a great afternoon! The bad news is, we all forgot to put sunscreen on. I was wearing my cowboy hat, of course (and so thought I was covered up) but once we got on the river the stiff wind made wearing the thing impossible and it spent the duration of the boat ride in my lap. I got a WICKED burn on the part of my hair, which would bother me for days afterward.

Seals - see 'em?The boat captain-slash-tour guide was a jovial fellow, pointing out animals along the way. We mostly see mostly birds. We spotted lots of osprey and osprey nests, plus a really magnificent bald eagle close to the river, who aloofly watched our progress as we slowly motored past him. However, at the beginning of the boatride we got an upclose look at the seals we'd seen from the overlook yesterday. As the boat cruised to the sandbar at the mouth of the river, all the local seals popped up to give us a once-over. Jean later said they "looked like rocks with eyes and whiskers"; I thought their noggins looked like little wet cat heads bobbing in the waves. They were as curious of us as we were of them. The passenger's cameras clicked merrily away as they would eye us for a while, maybe let out a small bark, and then ~flip~ disappear beneath the waves once more.

Anyway, Capt. Tour Guide gave good tour but he was not the most scientifically educated guy in the world. At one point he is talking about the redwood trees, sequoia sempervirens, and some of their features, and he says that "they are like a life form of their own, almost" which sets Katie and I to the muffled snickered laughter of Oh I Cannot Believe You Just Said Something So Stupid. Hey, dude, they really ARE a life form of their own! No 'almost' about it! I think he was trying to say something else, maybe the microclimates thing (and again, no 'almost' there either, they really do create their own climate) but he got mixed up mid-thought and the mouth kept moving after the brain had stopped. Still. It immediately qualifies as the Doofus Moment Of The Week and after that, we took to stating something perfectly obvious followed by an "... almost" and then bust up laughing. Good times.

Happy and windburnt from the river ride, our mission is to pick up some smoked salmon before heading back home. This part of California is the Hoopa Indian reservation; we stop at a little tribal store to make our purchase. The proprietor has some samples for us to try, which we gladly accept, since we're completely unsure of what exactly we want to get. There's one-day-smoked versus five-day-smoked fish, there's sweet (kind of teriyaki-ish) and spicy (jalapeno) and barbeque to choose from. We select a variety of salmon, and carefully pack it away in the Nomad's ginormous saddlebags.

Back in Crescent City, we stop at the regular grocery store as well. Having decided it make it a salmon feast for the evening, we pick up fresh fish and a cedar plank for grilling, then decide to have the smoked fish with cheese as an appetizer. We proceed to have a very serious discussion about what cheese would pair best with native smoked salmon. It was kinda funny if you think about it. :)

With Katie in charge of the cooking, dinner is fabulous. (I later find out she is very much the gourmet.) After food and cleanup, we spend the evening pretty much looking at maps and figuring what we want to do the following day. By now I have fallen entirely into vacation mode & have lost track of time. Planning now becomes less of a process of "get to location x by date y" but more of a "where are we on this map? and ooh what is this over here?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Three

Katie at the Battery Point LighthouseOur first full day in Crescent City CA, and we're looking for some wee adventures today. Dawg & Katie & Net venture off to Starbuck's and the grocery store, returning laden with coffee supplies and breakfast fixins. We make breakfast a community meal, with everyone pitching in with prep or cleanup.

After breakfast we're off to see the Battery Point Lighthouse. Timing is an issue here: the lighthouse is open to the public on Wednesday through Sunday (so if we're going, it must be today, it'll be closed tomorrow and the day after) and is accessible only at low tide. We look up the tide tables, discovering low is at 9:40 am ... ack, that's coming up soon! Joker and Paks are not interested in going so it's Nettie, Piggle, Dawg, Kate and I who hustle out to our bikes and putt down to the point. Once we walk across the causeway to the island, we discover the lighthouse does not open until 10:00 am and so we must cool our heels for fifteen minutes. Heh.

The modern lens (not Freznel)We take the 45-minute lighthouse tour which turns out to be pretty nifty. Battery Point Light was first lit in 1856, and originally sported a fourth-order Freznel lens (19th-century Freznels are considered cool things to see if you are into that sort of thing.) We aren't allowed to take pictures anywhere inside the lighthouse quarters but can photograph up in the tower, so this picture is of the modern barrel lens that replaced the Freznel lens when the lighthouse was automated in 1953. The space is so tight, I cannot back up to get a good picture and can only take a photo of little bits of the light.

Mouth of the Klamath RiverAfterwards we zip back to the house, pick up Paks and Joker, and go for a ride down the coast to the Klamath Overlook, which is a spectacular spot high on the bluffs overlooking the mouth of the Klamath River. The road isn't very well marked, and I think I've gotten us lost in a residential section (yes I am in the lead again) and call for the group to turn around on the flattest, least-graveled spot of road I have seen for a while, but "flattest" and "least-graveled" is not saying a whole lot in this particular circumstance. We eventually regroup at a B&B parking area at the bottom of the hill, get directions, and find out we were on the right road, I had just given up way too soon. (This adventure does preserve my [completely undeserved] reputation of queen-of-turnarounds ... they say that if I'm leading a ride, there will be a U at some point.) Up we go again, this time finding our destination. It's totally worth it, the view is spectacular. We see bald eagles, a harrier on the hunt, a zillion osprey, and seals playing in the surf below us. We don't see any whales, alas, even though this is a good whale-watching site.

Redwoods on the Cal-Barrel RoadJoker Net and Piggle head back north to Crescent City after the overlook, while Paks Dawg Katie and I head south for a little more sightseeing. We cruise down 101 a little further to the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway, a ten-mile drive through old-growth redwoods that takes us to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. We stop at the visitor's center, get passport stamps, smell flowers, take pictures of birds and elk, and then venture a little further into the woods by trying the Cal-Barrel Road. A ranger told us it was paved, what a liar. If it ever had been, it's so degraded now that it's nothing better than packed gravel covered with pine needles, not the best surface for riding a big bagger. Paks in particular dislikes this kind of road intensely. We give up about a mile up the three-mile road, park the bikes, and walk. We've found a wonderful little grove to explore, and strolling through the hushed forest is magical. The redwoods are truely a magnificent place.

Back home for dinner, Net's in charge of picking where to eat, and overshoots the destination by the pier. So how come I'm the one who gets teased when we all have to do a U-turn? LOL

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day Two

Up the coast to far northern California today. We get up nice and early to hit the road before the heat gets bad. It's been over 100° in this part of the state, but once we get north of the bay area and/or central valley, we should find nicer conditions.

The three of us work our way over to the coast via highways 16 and 20. I'm in the lead, and still experimenting with my GPS. I've had the Garmin for a few months now and have mostly figured out how to use it, but this is the first long distance trip that I've done with the thing. I am discovering that the points-of-interest database is mostly accurate but woefully incomplete. A couple of times I've stopped for gas at what I thought was a last-chance-for-eighty-miles station, only to find another station available twenty miles down the road. Well there are worse things in the world than that.

We reach US-101 around the town of Willits and point north. At Humbolt Redwoods State Park, we turn off the highway and cruise along the Avenue of the Giants (hwy 254) which is our introduction to these beautiful enormous trees. It's been many many years since I have visited this area and I've forgotten how awe-inspiring they are. Coastal redwoods live in a very narrow zone and in fact create their own microclimates ... the temps drop dramatically as we ride through the forest, and we are actually quite chilly which would have been unthinkable just yesterday! Lunchtime finds us in Fortuna CA. The guy at the Shell station says the restaurant next door is good; I sort of want to go down the road sixteen miles to a place I've heard about (the Samoa Cookhouse) and half-heartedly try to talk the girls into it, but they are hungry now and not too interested and I'm not motivated enough to push for it. The family restaurant in Fortuna had a mighty good burger anyway.

North of Eureka, the road follows right along the coast, and the weather has turned cold and damp. We've obviously just missed measurable rain, the roadway is completely wet, but we never get more than sprinkled on so we keep rolling. We reach foggy Crescent City CA by midafternoon and locate our vacation rental, A on 8th. We're the first ones there, and stand around awhile wondering what to do. (Dawg has handled the rental, she'll have the instructions, but from what we've gathered via text messages she is about two hours behind us on the road.) Eventually I think to try the door. It turns out to be unlocked, so we go on in and make ourselves at home.

Nettie and Piggle show up forty minutes after we do, and Dawg and Katie pull in two hours later well before dark. WindShifters gathering is on!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer 2008 - Day One

It's time to hit the road for my summer trip. I've been so busy at work (they hinted at cancelling my vacation until I threw a small hissy) that I did not have time to pack my bags until the night before ... I was even up late last night doing a last-minute oil change to prep the bike. I know you're not supposed to wrench right before a trip but that's just the way it worked out, oh well.

I meet up with Joker and Paks about a hundred miles north of Los Angeles, and we have an easy day riding north to Sacramento. Ahhh gods it's hot. We take some longer breaks and go easy. In the heat of midday, we stay for thirty-forty minutes at a gas stop in Santa Nella, which is enough to cause vapor lock on the Nomad (it was sitting in direct sunlight with a full tank for way too long, not good.) It's a scary thing to think you are accelerating onto the interstate, and have the bike start to cough and buck. Thankfully it resolved itself in a minute or two.

I got a good Hotwire price on lodging in town, but laugh at my bad hotel luck. A construction crew is noisily working RIGHT outside our door, just like that television commercial. Luckily they knock off for the day and pack up the nailgun about half an hour after we arrive.

Paks and I went over to Rhonda and Dennis' house for dinner; they graciously invited us in and grilled steaks for us. Rhonda makes insanely good garlic bread as well! Steve and Amanda came over too and we spend a convivial evening engaged in one of a biker's favorite pastime, which is bullsh*tting about roads and rides. I am looking forward to the trip, and hoping we'll get out of the hot weather soon. It was brutal today.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A serious plea for funds

I posted this link a few entries ago, but want to repost it here.

The California Quake needs some help. I sincerely hope you will be able to pitch in.

See, these gals have been working their BUTTS off for a couple of seasons. There was a couple of years where the Quake was not so good, and one perfectly awful season, and the gals got tired of it. They wanted to be a good team again. So they worked and studied and sweated and worked and worked and worked, because that's what football demands ... if you want to be a good team, you must WORK for it. There are no shortcuts in this game.

So far the work is paying off. The Quake battled their way to an undefeated record this season, and have earned the right to match up with the Dallas Diamonds, who are widely regarded as one of the best teams out there.

A lot of people are saying California doesn't have a chance against big bad Dallas, but I don't know. I'd like to root for David against Goliath 'cause these are my girls. I'd like to see California take their best shot against the three-time champs. I'd LOVE to see the two teams put it all on the field. That's football, baybee.

In order to do that, California MUST travel with a full squad. Quite frankly you can't leave half your starters at home and hope to have a chance against the Diamonds. And right now there are only funds to buy plane tickets for fewer than twenty players. And if the Quake play the Diamonds with eighteen or twenty players, I am pretty sure it'll be yet another lopsided score and everyone will say "yeah the Quake is good but not up to Dallas yet." And it'll be because of money and the stoopidly high price of travel right now, and not because the gals haven't worked for it, 'cause they have. Oh, trust me, they have. They've earned this shot. You can help give it to them.

The Quake have a Paypal link on their website, and you can go there and click it and make a donation to the team's playoff fund. Please please please make a contribution of any amount. Twenty dollars, ten or even five will help 'em out. If you can donate more, bless you. If you can donate ten thousand, all the team's travel troubles will be over and you can probably get your name and face tattooed on Squeaks on the body part of your choice (I will personally talk her into it if she objects.) But a contribution of any amount is greatly appreciated. You'll have the thanks of everyone who enjoys and supports women's football! Let's give the team the chance to get to the game they've worked all year to reach!!


Click here for California Quake website and thanks!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yay! Ten days!

Only ten days until the start of my Next Fabulous Road Trip!

I am so swamped at work that I can't even start getting excited about it yet.

Check out this link to see our rough plans!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Undefeated Quake

The Quake finished the season with a victory in Albuquerque, giving them a record of 8-0! Congrats grrls! None of you biotches called me with the result though so I am mad LOL

I was tempted to travel to New Mexico for the game, but instead stayed local & competed this morning in the USSD summer tournament. I did not do particularly well but didn't do badly. My sparring round in particular was a close match, going to 2-2 before I got caught with a sneaky roundhouse kick. My mobility is still the thing I need to work on most; I often joke that I fight like a tree but there's way too much truth in that joke to be funny.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


It's an odd feeling to get hit so hard that your knees wobble, at least I think so. It's not like I am gonna stop doing karate, but maybe instead try to learn to keep my guard up properly. (Ya think?) My bad habit of dropping my hands when I'm getting tired bit me today, as not once but twice I was put to my knees with a roundhouse upside my head. First one was a good bellringer; Alex (young kid) caught me in a drill good with a left and I went down and popped right back up, staggering back to get some space (gains time) and shaking my head to clear out the tweetybirds. Then, ten minutes later in judged point sparring I did it AGAIN, dropped my guard to defend a kick and blammo! Matt (big guy) catches me square with a right and I'm dropped to my knees again. My brain thinks "ok get up" and like some faroff voice the knees reply "umm no I don't really think so." The disconnectedness of it all is what I find quite strange!! Took about twenty-thirty seconds to go away. Made me think of when you see a boxer get wobbled in a bout ... he'll tie his opponent up to gain the shake-it-off time he needs. You sure can't move well when your knees are discussing things with your brain at a far-off distance ;)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The hat

I am not a famous person, except in the itty bitty world of women's pro football where I am huge. LOL just kidding. Actually it's my hat that's become famous, apparently. I've been wearing it long enough that it is getting recognized.

I got this hat for my trip to Athens GA two summers ago. In general, bikers will have a hat, usually a ball cap, handy in the saddlebags. You need to have something you can jam on your head to cover up the really horrid helmet hair we tend to get. Me, I'm tired of ballcaps (I have a zillion of them) so I got this crushable felt hat to wear instead. It's survived the saddlebags pretty well and when it got accidentally left outside (on the handlebars) in a tremendous Tennessee downpour it actually returned to its original shape, which was a handy trick to learn.

So the next time you see a big chick in a black cowboy hat at a women's football game, come up and say hi :)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Quake at Breakers

Went down to San Juan Capistrano on Saturday night where the Quake were playing at the Southern California Breakers in the seventh game of the season. It was a pretty good game, with a close-fought first half and the Quake pulling away to a 27-0 victory. Intensity is building to playoffs now. The Quake have officially wrapped up the Pacific Southwest division championship, but seedings are still up in the air. In the Western conference, it looks like the division champs will be Dallas, Seattle and California (all three remain undefeated) and it's likely Corvallis will get the wildcard slot, but it's not a done deal yet and the order isn't set. Quake will probably have to travel for their first playoff game ... go to their website and make a donation if you can, it'll cost a bit of money to get the team to the field. Please help!

Scoreless in the first quarter, the Quake got on the board in the second on a long run by Zaky down the left side. Zaky scored again in the third quarter, this time on a short plunge from two and a half yards out. Later in the period, quarterback Kuntz hit Blied on a pretty pass play for a long score, but a errant snap on the PAT kick sent the holder (Blied again) scrambling around in the backfield looking for space, and not finding any. In the fourth quarter, wideout Williams galloped half the length of the field on a reverse with Kuntz throwing the key lead block, much to the visitor's crowd's delight. I've posted some photos on KodakGallery but most of them after nightfall are worthless; my camera did not handle the lighting conditions well at all. (Full-res images will be available on the IWFL image shop soon.)

The Quake defense is looking quite good. The kick coverage, however, needs a little work. California would consistently give up too many yards on kickoffs, letting the Breakers start in good field position on many of their possessions, but then the defense would render it moot by forcing a turnover on downs. I expect the coaches will clean that up a bit before playoffs ;)

Just one word on the Breakers' first play on D. It drew a personal foul, unsportsmanlike penalty and had Quake fans in the visitor's bleachers calling for an ejection when the MLB of the Breakers went early and took the Quake center out of the game with a blow to the head. I've seen that technique on D before, where you are coached to deliberately jump offsides on the first play and hit someone in order to "deliver a message." Now I love good smashmouth football but hate cheap shots and guess which one I think this is. If I were told to do this I would disobey my coach, that's how unclassy I think it is. Anyway, center Avant was able to come back into the game later, which tells me she wasn't concussed, a fortunate thing. And after that opening bit of unpleasantness, both defenses played hard and played clean, which made for a pretty entertaining game.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Game of the year

In a rematch of the May 3rd game, the California Quake hosted the Las Vegas Showgirlz on Saturday night. We all knew it'd be a spirited and hard-fought game ... but were surprised and pleased when it turned into one of those games that'll be regarded in future as "One Of The Best I've Seen". A stupendous effort from both squads, and six lead changes in the fourth quarter, made it the memorable matchup of 2008.

Quake came away with a 41-38 victory, eliminating the Showgirlz from divisional contention (Las Vegas is still alive for a wildcard playoff spot, so these two teams could potentially meet again in playoffs.) California has all but secured the Pacific Southwest division title for themselves ... the only team not mathematically eliminated at this point are the So Cal Breakers, who would need to win out their three remaining games and have California lose their two remaining games in order to win the title. It's considered a pretty unlikely scenario, but since the Breakers host the Quake next week, there will be plenty at stake when gametime arrives on the 31st!

The game was the highlight of a quick visit from my sister, who had traveled to Southern California on a work-related visit. She took a couple of days extra and came up to the Valley to hang with me for a while, and we had a fun time bumming around a bit. We hit her California Visit Trifecta of food she can't get in Missouri: sushi, good Mexican (specifically fish tacos) and In-n-Out Burgers. On Saturday daytime, we tried to get in to the Bowers Museum to see an exhibit of the Chinese terra cotta warriors, but unfortunately tickets had already been sold out for the day. So we ended up walking around & talking before going to the game; our conversations usually go off on strange tangents that amuse us. It was great to get to spend some time with her before she left to head home this morning!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Grand Canyon in May

WOMAN ON THE EDGE!!! At Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon

Caught a couple of beeeyoootiful days in northern Arizona for WildWestFest '08 (the party formerly known as Ravenfest.) It was way too hot going there and coming back, but totally worth it!

I endured the Weekend of Cursed Cameras, in which I brought the big SLR cam with the fancypants new lens, and the compact flash card fried & would not work. I had forgotten to bring a spare or two, and the store in Williams did not have any. I grumped until I remembered that I had my spare little camera, a Nikon Coolpix, that I had bought with the express intent of taking pictures while riding (since you can sort of work it one-handed.) I took pictures with that until I ran out of battery, since I had forgotten to pack the charger for that one as well. LOL

The Coolpix takes pretty decent photos, hmm?

Eastbound on Hwy 64. Note the white waterspots on the mirror, left over from the Las Vegas-Paso Robles weekend :D

More photos here. (This is a Flickr set instead of KodakGallery.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

5-0 Quake

The California Quake prevailed again in their second meeting with the Tucson Monsoon this year, by a final of score of 37-0. KodakGallery photos here. The team is now at 5-0 on the season, on top of the Pac SW division.

Irene Kim ("Smalls") had a big game, 11 carries for 62 yards, with one rushing and one receiving touchdown, and powerback Kristin "Bulldog" Nicholas had 10 carries for 36 yards, 2 touchdowns. Kicker Sarah Oliver was 4 for 5 on the night on PAT kicks, plus 1 for 1 on field goals, with a 38-yarder. The big play on special teams happened when the Tall One, Esther McGee, got in to block a 33-yard field goal attempt by Tucson, and Armida Luna scooped it up and ran it all the way back the length of the field for a touchdown.

Next game is a big one, when Las Vegas comes to visit on the 24th. It's the final home game of the regular season. I am SO looking forward to it. My sister is coming to visit & we're gonna hang out at the game together! Come say hi if you see us there :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

My weekend: ... and BBQ

On Sunday I was meeting up with some RSBS pals in Paso Robles for lunch. It's a bit of a ways from Las Vegas to Paso Robles, so after the football game I hopped back on the bike and came back as far as Barstow, where I got a cheap hotel for the night. It was sort of windy, but not too cold, coming across the desert at night.

Unfortunately I parked the bike in the one spot in the parking lot that gets completely watered by the lawn sprinkler overspray. That must be some hard water in Barstow 'cause the waterspots were totally white on the black tank and saddlebags. The bike sort of looked like a reverse Dalmation ;)

So, up early, and an easy cruise west on Hwy 58. It was a little windy going through Tehachapi, but not bad, I've been in much worse. Past Bakersfield I jogged a bit north and picked up Hwy 46 to the coast. Strangely I don't think I've ever been on that road before. Coming up on the junction of Hwys 46 and 41, cars heading towards Fresno are turning left in front of you, a situation that makes you sit up and get alert. Well that very intersection is the James Dean Memorial Junction where the rebel without a cause ate it fifty-plus years ago. Now I know I've never managed to take this road before, I would have remembered that.

Lunch was with Jen, Rhonda, BluDog, Mel, Roger, and I got to meet Laura (BigRed) at Big Bubba's Bad To The Bone BBQ. It was pretty good 'que by California standards; meaty ribs and decent sauce. I enjoyed stuffing myself on spareribs but I'm still looking for the kind of smokehouse that is rare in the West.

No one rode the bull.

I decided to ride back via US 101, which would have been way out of the way for everyone else, so I was on my own again. No prob. The coast route was socked in with a heavy marine layer and I got practically no sun for most of the way home! I stopped at a gas station in Pismo Beach and called in to the WFBTalk line, and gabbed about the prior night's game until my battery started beeping. Then, it was time to saddle up and ride the rest of the way home.

A little over nine hundred miles total on the weekend, and my butt's not in shape for it. I think I must have landed on my tailbone in karate or something 'cause it was really killing me the last few hundred miles.

My weekend: Football ...

On Saturday I rode out to Las Vegas, to see a football game (natch! you mean there's other stuff you can do in Vegas?) The California Quake were visiting the Las Vegas Showgirlz for a 6 pm kickoff. Both these teams are in the IWFL's Pacific SW division and both undefeated coming into the game, so the matchup had big implications for the standings. Also, this is the Showgirlz' third season -- their two prior years they'd been playing in the WPFL and had been roundly spanked by the likes of the Amazons, Energy and Scorpions, and their only wins prior to 2008 had been recorded against the New Mexico Burn. However, they'd been working hard in the offseason on bringing their game up to the next level. They have good athletes and are definitely a threat nowadays. The Showgirlz had beaten the Breakers and Monsoon earlier this year, by ten and nineteen points respectively.

Now it was time for a bigger test. A lot of people picked this as the IWFL Game Of The Week, along with the Pittsburgh-DC showdown back east. I was on the sideline with a camera, the KodakGallery shots are here (317 photos.)

When the (figurative) dust cleared, California edged out the win with a big gut-check second half, with a final score of 30-27. The Quake now stand at 4-0, first place in the division. What a game! It certainly lived up to its billing.

After receiving the kickoff, the Showgirlz opened with a swinging gate formation. Personally I don't like the swinging gate, it's too gimmicky even for me who likes razzle-dazzle double reverses, but hey it's their choice and it's legal so they can run it if they want to. It didn't work too well for them when the center flung the snap over the quarterback's head, and Las Vegas ended up pinned inside their own five yard line and had to punt it away.

The Quake got out of the blocks fast when superstar running back Monique Zaky (#5) scored on a long run down the left side. Julie Blied (#33) threw a crunching block that opened up the sideline for Zaky, and set the tone of big hitting in the game. The team converted the two-pointer to take an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. In the second, California added a safety when the Las Vegas longsnapper sailed the ball past the punter, who had to fall on it in the end zone. The Quake later added a second touchdown and two-point conversion, to build the lead to 18-0. The score was by Kristin "Bulldog" Nicholas (#42) on a short blast run, her first touchdown of the year. Then, a huge momentum swing happened when the Showgirlz ran back the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. On their next possession, the Quake eventually turned the ball over on downs in Las Vegas territory. Showgirlz quarterback Kerri Mytych (#9) hit her receiver in stride on a long pass play that scored, and with under a minute remaining in the half, an eighteen-nothing game had suddenly closed to 18-14.

Coming out of halftime, Quake head coach Josh Penn started freely adjusting his team's formations and personnel, in order to stymie the Las Vegas defense which had come on strong in the second quarter. The adjustments worked: the Showgirlz couldn't seem to get a handle on the constantly changing splits on the O-line, and the Quake started moving the ball again. California put together a long drive that ended with a score by Zaky. Quake went for two and failed, and the score was 24-14. Las Vegas answered back with another long pass play, and narrowed the gap to 24-21. Three points was as close as the Showgirlz would get, and on this night of great football, everything still hung in the balance. This game would go down to the final whistle.

Incomprehensibly, the Showgirlz tried the swinging gate a few more times. I thought the whole point of that play is to catch the defense napping, or confused. The more times you run it the less it's gonna work. Same thing with a razzle-dazzle double reverse ... if the defense has a pulse, you'll be dead in the water the third or fourth time you run it LOL.

It was during the grind-it-out minutes of the fourth quarter that Zaky demonstrated that she has toughness as well as speed, and the California offensive line took control and won the game in the trenches. Play after play, the Quake would advance the ball three or four or five yards at a time, getting first downs when they needed them, and Zaky took a pounding and kept coming back for more. She scored her third touchdown on the night to put the lead back up to nine, at 30-21. On their next series, the Showgirlz completed a pass to the receiver on the left side, who had to go to the ground to get the ball. The referee missed seeing the Quake defender touch the girl down, or possibly thought she had gotten up before being touched by the defender, so when she got up and ran to the end zone the touchdown was allowed. This brought the score back to three points, 30-27, as the Showgirlz failed the two-point try. With about 1:40 on the clock, an attempted onside kick turned out to be a thiry-yard line drive down the middle. The Quake recovered it, and with only one time out remaining for Las Vegas, California was able to bang a few plays into the line and let the clock expire.

HUGE kudos to both teams for a GREAT game. That was one of the most exciting matchups I've seen in a while! However, I am admittedly biased, I cheer for the Quake and wear purple to the games, so I have to say it was one of the most nerve-wracking games I've ever been to, and I think the team owes me a new bottle of Tums LOL.

On the radio the next day, the Vegas coach said they just ran out of clock and would have beaten the Quake if they had more time. I understand that he's a coach and he's gotta say those kind of things, but I respectfully disagree. What his team really needed was to come alive before the two-minute warning at the half. The Showgirlz had the Quake a little stunned by those two quick scores, but California came back after the halftime break with their sh*t in order and went toe-to-toe with Vegas for the rest of the night. The four-point margin at the half got narrowed by one point in two additional quarters of play. I am so freakin proud of those girls. They played one hell of a game.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quake win over NM Menace

KodakGallery photos of the Menace at Quake game, 4/26/08. (430 photos)

The game was fun, a romp by the Quake, with a final score of 64-0. Defense is looking strong, never letting the New Mexico running backs get on track. Second-year cornerback Alex Kirby was the big stud on D, with four interceptions, two of them run back for touchdowns. Rookie kicker Sarah Oliver had a big night too ... just missing a 45-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter when the ball hit the crossbar. Offense got reved up on the sideline to give her another shot at it. When the Quake got the ball back in the final minutes (courtesy of Kirby's fourth interception) Zaky deliberately went out of bounds at the 26 yard line to set up the kick. A 44-yard attempt, good snap, good hold, and Oliver just drilled it. Coach Josh is pretty sure it's a record for women's football. A lot of teams are stingy with their stats so I'm not entirely 100% convinced, but y'know I think he's right on this one :)

Quake are 3-0 now. I've seen their two romp games (45-14 against Tucson and 64-0 against New Mexico) but missed the close defensive battle against the Breakers (score 5-0) 'cause I was at the Prowlers vs Amazons game instead. Big test next weekend at the Las Vegas Showgirls. Vegas is 2-0 and coming off a bye week, and a good team. Quake and Showgirls are the two teams most likely to battle it out for the division title, so it's a big game.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Prowlers at Amazons

Caught the local NWFA opening day game this weekend when the Los Angeles Amazons hosted the Phoenix Prowlers. It was quite a shocker. The Prowlers pretty much owned the Western division of the NWFA last year, and since the Amazons are a good team I thought they'd come in and give them a challenge. Instead, the 'Zons dominated from the opening whistle. Final was 47-14 and the Prowler's two scores came in the fourth quarter ("garbage time" as Chick used to call it.) Uffda.

The Prowlers were understandable grumpy when I went to greet them after the game (me: "Abomb, are you going to say hi to me?" Abomb: "No, I'm sulking") but Angie was the most stoic about things, taking the well-that-sucked-let's-go-get-a-beer perspective of a loss that stings like hell. I expect those gals to come back strong, they're not a rookie team that folds up after you beat 'em once.

To my very great pleasure I got a chance to speak with Coach Turley after the game - he's not coaching this year but was on the Phoenix sidelines, as sort of a coach emeritus I guess. Always nice to see that guy. :)

But wow, the Amazons looked good. Really good. Scary good. Hangin with healthy Dallas good. Now that most of the top-level teams have left the NWFA I see no reason why Los Angeles isn't going to run away with this league. Look out East.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quake opens 2008 season with a win

The California Quake are playing at Downey HS this season ... just a few blocks from the World's Oldest McDonald's. They hosted the Tucson Monsoon Saturday night, and avenged last year's opening day loss by handily beating the Arizona visitors by a score of 45-14.

Click here for KodakGallery photos. Not a lot of photos 'cause I was taking them in between stints of running a video camera.

I wrote in one of the online boards where I post,

... Both teams gave up big plays early on and they both scored on their first two possessions, with Tucson holding a 14-13 edge.

The difference after that? Quake defense adjusted, Monsoon didn't. California made some wholesale personnel swaps and stoned Tucson's running game for most of the rest of the night. The Monsoon spent a lot of the fourth quarter in the red zone but couldn't punch it in, and they haven't a reliable kicker yet. They need one. They don't even punt! =:O

On the other hand, the Monsoon couldn't seem to do anything to stop the Quake's outside run, and speedy #5 Monique Zaky, who made a lot of would-be tacklers whiff. To me it looked like a combination of yeah she's that good and Tucson will be working on fundamentals a bit more ... run through and wrap up ladies! :)

Later, I got an email from my friend Nancy who's a Quake linebacker. She told me that the brilliant "adjustment" was actually just some of the first-stringers getting on the field. For those unfamiliar with football, it is common for coaches to hold a starting player out of the lineup for a series or two for missing practice or some other minor disciplinary violation. Don't read more into this; I don't know what happened, who was involved, or anything other than it really wasn't a big deal. Now all that early scoring makes perfect sense.

The team looks good this year. I have big hopes for them, and even though it's way too early to say anything like this, I think they have a shot at the division title :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Returning the borrowed gi

When folks asked me what I was doing this weekend, I told them that I had an errand to run that was 350 miles away. I think they thought I was joking.

I get up reasonably early, suit up in riding gear, and take off north. (It is SO cool that these Joe Rocket pants finally fit me! Now I have gear for cool weather as well as my armored mesh gear for hot days!) A straight shot up Interstate 5 takes me to Hwy 152, which cuts west to the coast around Gilroy. My destination? The USSD studio in Palo Alto, just a few blocks from Stanford.

I arrive at the studio a bit past 12:30, unbungie my package from the back of the bike, and walk on in. A red belt (student instructor) greets me, and when I try to return the package to her, she doesn't know what it's about and calls over the studio director, Mr Flickenger. Long story short, turns out it was HIS gi that I had borrowed, not Mr Diaz'. Now I am REALLY embarrassed. I thank him profusely (hoping that I am not stammering too much) and bow a lot ... I think it probably looks funny, they aren't used to someone standing in the studio foyer in motorcycle gear bowing, LOL. Oh well, whaddayagonnado?

Then, I hop on the bike and head back home. I make the smartest detour in my life bypassing the construction jam on 152 eastbound ... go through Hollister and hop back on the main pass just after they are building a new bridge if you are taking this road any time this year. Otherwise, bumper-to-bumper traffic will cost you an hour or more.

I get back home about an hour past sunset, mission accomplished. Sure, I could have mailed the gi to Palo Alto. But then I wouldn't have an excuse to ride 700 miles for the hell of it :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Green/brown test

I leave the house nice and early -- WAAAY too early -- to make sure I get to USSD headquarters on time. It's test day, I'm up for my green/brown stripe rank belt, and it'd be a disaster to be late!! What if there's traffic? I always give myself plenty of cushion for the 70-mile drive.

So I arrive just a bit past 8 am. It's when I am pulling my gear bag out of my trunk that I realise


that I have left part of my uniform at home. I am wearing the pants, but have left the gi jacket, clean and neatly hanging on its hanger, right there in the hallway where I won't forget to grab it before leaving. (Well so much for THAT theory.) There is no way to describe quite how the sinking sensation exactly feels. Sort of like a horror movie ... don't go up the stairs ... or that dream where no one notices you're naked.

There's nothing to do but go in, tell the instructors I have a problem, and ask them what to do. Mister Diaz comes to my rescue. He asks if I have my belt ("Yes, sir, I do") and then jokingly asks me if I'd like a red jacket. (Only 4th dan and above may wear red in my school.) Then he disappears into the back room and comes back with a gi top, and lets me borrow it. It's a heavy MAP gi, size six, and fits me perfectly. I thank him profusely, and proceed to sweat on it a lot for the next few hours. I got it chalked up pretty good too, when we were doing some knife defense drills.

I've been told to return the jacket to the Palo Alto studio. The instant I get home I fling it in the washing machine, then dry it, then safely bundle it up where the cat hair that covers everything else in my house won't get at it. I'm going to hand-deliver it rather then send it US Mail.

Apart from that adventure, the test went well & I passed :) With less than thirty students total, it went pretty quickly, and my group was out of there a little after one.