Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Road Trippin' to the Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum - Clovis, CA

While I consider myself to be pretty young in my 'career' as a motorcyclist, I will say that it has certainly captivated me enough to where I can come to appreciate just about anything on two wheels and the type of racing that each different type of bike is tailored to.  In my newfound interest in developing the off-road skills, I have to admit that flat tracking is definitely somewhere on the agenda.  I mean c'mon, balls to the wall and the art of sliding the rear end just sounds like a helluva good time.  For this reason, among others, I decided to arrange a little road trip.

For those who haven't heard of it, the Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum is truly an epic effort of an homage to Flat Track Racing history.  I would say "American Flat Track History," but the truth is, they even got their hands on some British grass track bikes and other Japanese variants of speedway racing history. They have them on display alongside all of the others.  Since Fresno is only a couple hours drive (or a day's ride if you take the scenic route) I decided to take my dad and the boyfriend on a little road trip to quell my hankerin' for a little mini-adventure.  We would have taken the bikes, but dad hasn't been in the best of health lately and I was a little leery of asking him to take the bike out (which he would have because he is quite adamant when it comes to things like this). I didn't want him to miss out on something that he likely had quite a stake in when he was younger, so off we went. Piled in my little tracker, gnoshing on drive through and rocking out to various rock jams.

I really didn't know what to expect since, I'll confess, I didn't even know the place was in existence.  And that includes the various conversations I've had with the infamous flat tracking pro, Digger Helm over the years during my pit stops into our local dive bar.  Still, we made it there in ample time to catch a healthy group of people who rode in on a variety of bikes to celebrate the "open house." I guess, normally the place is only open by appointment, or during select hours.

It's an unassuming kind of place situated in the heart of a quiet residential street near Gettysburg Avenue.  You walk in the door and there's a room with memorabilia and recorded flat track races playing on a large screen TV.  Everyone is talking bikes... everyone is honoring bikes, and immediately you feel like you've walked into a bbq after a good day's riding.  But then you get to the next room, and your heart skips a beat.  Bikes line the walls; pictures, posters, old racing flyers, pieces of memorabilia, steel shoes, all of it glistening (and some of it rusty) under a humble row of fluorescent lights.  It all comes together beautifully.

I'll admit that my eyes welled up a little when I walked into the room.  Its a difficult feeling to explain.  Its one of those moments where you stand in a room invigorated by the experiences of icons, heroes, and people who have taken a passion that you identify with and went into it full bore, etching moments in the space-time continuum that will likely never be erased.  This kind of shit isn't done by the faint of heart and you can feel the spirit and taste the dirt the instant you walk into the room. You might even feel a few sympathy pains in your ankles and ribs as you imagine the trial and consequence of developing the skills that make a successful racer stand out from the rest. When you add to it that the only soundtrack that resonates through the place is the sound of the guys who were there swappin' race stories, it makes your soul smile a little bit.

It was all there... even samples of dirt from different tracks.

I easily spent a couple of hours there... walking through and then walking through again.  It was a lot to take in, like an interactive encyclopedia of racing that doesn't quite make it in its entirety onto the record books.  As much as it may have been one man's obsession, it was also a collaborative effort of many in the racing world, including Digger Helm, and Melissa Paris, who each had items provided for display. But the list didn't stop there, not by a long shot and the inventory spoke for itself and of the people who participated in making it what it was.  Bikes from practically every manufacturer, each with their own histories or representing the history of their fleet in the world of flat tracking, many of them situated as-is in "race form." 

After a while of meandering through the place.  My pops settled into a chair outside.  He was quiet, which isn't entirely out of character for him.  But his demeanor was a little different.  "How ya doin' dad?"  I asked as I plopped down next to him.  

He sighed... "Oh, I dunno... a lot of names in there I haven't heard or seen in a long time." It was noticeable that I hadn't just taken my dad on the average road trip.  I had taken him back in time to the days when he and his buddies all huddled around bikes and finagled modifications in the garage well into the hours of the night... back before ECU tuning, and traction control.  At a particular moment, as I sat with him, the words of a man that I had overheard earlier whilst admiring the collection resonated through my mind and it was somethin' to the effect of: 

And there I was, ya know, my buddy lives back east and I was goin' to visit him and he was tellin' me they were gonna be doin' races.  I said, "can I bring my race bike?" And he said "sure can," so I did.  And when I got out there to the races I asked 'em what class I should race in and the guy says to me "it don't matter... we're all runnin' in the same class out here... everybody's just here to race."

This museum was one of many that exist across the united states.  If you haven't put one of these places on your ride route, I highly recommend making it a point to do so.  You can find more information on where to find these places by visiting this link: http://www.vft.org/vftmuseums.html.  

To see more pictures from our trip, visit my photo site here: https://theapexdream.smugmug.com/In-the-World

Babes in the Dirt: Gone With the Wind - Conclusion

Once the other babes returned, we took a break and then set off on a quest for more uncharted territory.  As we puttered down the main drag, we reached the end of the park and another road that intersected. As an aspiring adventure rider, I am quite keen on exploring roads I've never been down before.  As we idled at the intersection I looked back and over at the other babes.  "How do you guys feel about seeing where this road leads?"  Everyone was up for it and we set off to see where this new journey would take us.  The further along we went, the dirtier the road became; gradually degrading into a narrow patchwork path of asphalt and potholes that seductively wound its way up the mountain. It wasn't the best road for a sportbike, but that wasn't even the slightest bit of a problem since none of us were on our sportbikes today.  

As we rounded a few turns a few miles in, broken down van emerged into view.  It wasn't exactly a white creeper van with free candy written on it, but it was sitting on a couple of flat tires and had a piece of paper propped up in the window with illegible writing on it.  It was the perfect scene for a murderous booby-trap, but still we slowed down enough to take a gander as we rode by. Most of the road was washed out in that corner and it appeared almost as though some debris had disabled the vehicle... 3 years ago.  

Shortly thereafter I rounded a corner that carried us up a semi steep ascent.  To my right, a mountainside, to my left, the valley had all but disappeared into the horizon. 

So, we did what anyone would do in the middle of nowhere with some potential creepers lurking in the wilderness: we struck some poses:

And then we rode some more, and then stopped for a few more photo opps:

 Then we rode some more; until the road could be rode no more... as in, "road's closed."  It took us a little bit of time to reach the end of the journey, and when we did it was just like any other mountain road: no real warning, just a closed gate.  The end of this road was near a small stream and we figured that while we were in the neighborhood, we might as well park the bikes and do some exploring.  So we did.  As we pulled off into what looked like the entrance to a campsite, it quickly became obvious that this was likely to be a permanent campout for whomever resided in a tattered looking motorhome painted like the American flag. Unaffected by the potential set up for a murderous encounter, we propped the bikes up and ventured through some fine California foliage to take a gander at the stream. It wasn't until 3 of us made our way through said foliage that Babe #2 pointed out: "You guys, I'm not going down there... there is poison oak all over the place and I'm not walking through that."   The three of us looked back to take a closer observation. Indeed, it appeared that we had successfully made our way through various PO bushes without consequence. All I will say on that subject is that ATGATT has it's merits, and being covered from head to toe in multiple layers was certainly fitting for the occasion; otherwise, we might have all been in for a pretty uncomfortable ride back.

But we made it back.  And as we rolled back into town we headed down another trail that was simply so appropriately named, that we couldn't really help but leave our tracks on it. 

Cougar Trail... ;)
I must confess that I may or may not have been the catalyst for an unfortunate dropping of a dual sport.  It may or may not have been due to my inability to carry enough speed through sand and my unfortunate position in the path of one of the other babes who was moving along at a much quicker pace. Still, at least nobody was hurt, even if I felt pretty bad for being in her way.  We regrouped and tooled around for a bit before heading back to the campground where the mini-bike races were set to begin shortly.  As we pulled up to our camp, the first few practice laps were unfolding and we made it just in time to crack some frosty beers and prop our asses into some chairs and onto the tailgate from our little campsite we had front row seats to the action.  As I watched the practice laps I kinda wished I would have made it a point to get back in time to join the races, and I made a note that I would do so next year. 

Girls on bikes that came in all shapes and sizes, slidin' boots around the mini-oval.  Judging by the chorus of laughter resonating from inside their helmets, I would say that everyone was having a blast.  It was the most fitting end to the day and a most exemplary example of what happens when you bring motorcycles and good people together... She-nanigans.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Babes in the Dirt: Gone With the Wind Part III

At some point after we had scarfed down some Sausage McMuffins, we sauntered over to the riders meeting.  It was similar to any track day but tailored toward simply keeping things cool when riding on the trails and being aware of the rules for the area.  Fox introduced their ambassadors, Stancemoto announced that they were giving away free moto-socks to each of us attendees, Stumptown Coffee was dishing out some cold brew, and of course, the law-dogs gave us the low down on basically, how not to die or get in trouble with the law.  Afterwards, we were off to the trails.  And we all scurried back to our camps to prep for the adventures.  Babe #1 seized the opportunity to take off on her own adventure to fulfill her hiking plans for the day.  It was a bummer, but breaking your collarbone in 4 places does warrant some legitimacy in excusing one from action.  She set off, but not before snapping the official commemorative photo of our group.

I will openly admit that I am horrible at riding in the dirt.  I think we got off to a good start as we puttered down the road with the more experienced babes in the lead, using their best judgement to identify a trail that wouldn't immediately lead to the catastrophic failure of the two of us who were less talented in the dirt.  I wasn't feeling particularly tense, as some of the skills of riding a motorcycle are universal.  But some definitely aren't.  We turned off of the main road onto a trail that started off pretty decent.  The dirt gradually start to loosen up and there began a sparse drizzling of rocks.  I perched up on the pegs even though I probably really didn't need to.  It makes me feel a little more stable when I do, and I coasted along behind everyone as we made our way into the catacombs of dirt eutopia. Each little slip of the rear made me smile a little even though I was still apprehensive about jumping into a handful of throttle. I felt as though I could be the master of this flat moderate packed dirty stuff.  But then the slightest little curve came about and I immediately checked my ego and settled back into my reluctance to do anything "too crazy." 

I followed the team as the little trail weaved its way upon a pretty sharp corner that immediately began to jut up the side of a mountain.  It narrowed, and I watched as Babe #2 disappeared around the narrow corner.  Not being too far behind her, I looked at the blind corner above me and immediately cringed a little. Well shit... 2 things are gonna come out of this: I will prevail, or I will have one hell of a story to tell about how I broke my ass within the first hour of my Babes in the Dirt experience. This was already a bit too advanced for me, but I resigned myself to grown a pair of balls and following the path even though I damn near instantly rolled off the throttle. I tried to figure out a line given how little I understood about the lines of dirt riding and where my bike might take me. I mean yeah, I have skill in throttle control and clutch feathering and all of that jazz... and I like to think I am pretty in tune with my sport bike when she is trying to tell me something. But I am definitely not bilingual in the language of low traction on a taller profile bike with squishier suspension and a pretty sweet turn radius. So it really felt like a crap shoot as to where the bike might wind up, regardless of my insistence of not letting her get too crazy.  

As I crept up the hill I heard the sound of motors behind me. Great, a bunch of dudes who were probably pro-badasses held up behind the chick on the girl-bike. I instantly felt guilty as I knew I would be holding them up but I didn't feel bad enough to cave to the pressure to yank the throttle and GTFO of the way.  Instead I muttered in my helmet: "Sorry fuckaz... ya'll get to ride with miss daisy... but I promise I'll pull over at the next turnout."  Within a few seconds the rear tire of babe #2's bike appeared and I noted that she was standing next to it. The other two babes had blasted up the mountain but were aware of our minor setback and I figured they would eventually come back to save us just in time to beat out the vultures.  I glanced up the hill and concluded that this was beyond my level of skill, and I crept my bike as far out of the way as possible; which, was not much given how narrow and curved the trail was. Afterwards, I attempted to turn the bike around without dumping it in the middle of the track.  That wasn't really saying much since the width of the trail was barely wider than the length of my bike... but still... I chickened out and paused to take a picture while I waited for the expert-babe to get my bike out of the way.

The corner... in hindsight
We reconvened at the bottom and the expert babes made note to find trails that were more suited for the limited skillset of us two slower riders, and occasionally the expert-babes would venture up the hills and trails that split from the main track.  I was determined to develop some improvement and during one stop, I declared to one of the expert babes that I really felt that I should work on developing some confidence in cornering in the dirt; hitting the very basics.  We were in the perfect place for it in the middle of a plateau where a bunch of trails had converged on an entry way just outside of a campground and I began doing some circles with my foot out, in order to get a better feel for the dirt style of riding; body position, braking, clutch feathering, etc.  The babes were extremely supportive and even hung around a bit to give me some pointers and laugh with me as I took my riding experience back to level -1. It was one of the many things that made the weekend such an amazing experience.  Being around other women who loved riding as much as I did, and were down to earth, funny, friendly and patient enough to take the time to ensure that everyone was having fun.  In some ways, I felt like I was learning how to ride a motorcycle all over again, but I was having an outright blast riding my XT in my little one-person "barrel race," around circles and along little paths that led to steeper inclines. This weekend was exactly what I needed.

Once I got used to the rear slide and the way the bike settled into its lines, I began to focus more on actually choosing good lines. Mind you, I had only graduated to using 3rd gear at this point, but god damn if it didn't feel every bit of 90 mph. It's a good thing I don't care what people think (even if they were six years old and flying by me like I was some geriatric old lady on a walker), otherwise I might have been a little embarrassed. Instead I just laughed... and laughed, and almost dropped my bike, and laughed some more, and owned every bit of my remedial skill level in dirt riding.

It was a brief exercise, but it did wonders to build up my confidence. Before too long the four of us had re-grouped and set off to explore more uncharted territory.  I was, by no means an expert, but I certainly felt like the bike was less likely to take on a mind of it's own and dart off like a spooked horse into some jagged ravine (okay so I didn't really feel quite that dramatic it, but still... it was an improvement).  So, we rode on for a bit and then two of us broke off to take a break in camp.

The Vendors

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Babes in the Dirt: Gone With the Wind - Part II

Within an hour or so of our arrival, the sun had completely set, leaving us in the dark to fend for ourselves.  I didn't know many of the folks there but I feel like we hit it off pretty quickly.  As a chick who has always mostly had guy friends, I can definitely appreciate some down to earth chicks who share in the passion for riding.  As unfortunate as it is, we are still a minority and I hope that as time goes on, events like this take hold and draw more women to motorcycling.  Still, we made the most of the darkness; feasting on jerk chicken burritos whilst swigging beers (and wine) and sharing crash stories. I mean, I guess I could have thought to bust out with my camping lantern, but I had spent a solid 30 minutes trying to finagle the cheap piece of plastic craftsmanship into even illuminating.  Even then it only worked because I had lost my patience with it and handed it off to Babe #1 - my travelling companion to tinker with.  Off in the distance a fire blazed and a small group of babes huddled around it with drinks and bottles of booze while the majority of others had gathered under the Fox Racing canopy. The song of their chatter carried across camp and echoes of laughter resonated against in the winds that battered my eardrums. As the chill of night set in, we made our way toward the inferno in hopes that we might regain some feeling in our digits and limbs. We inevitably made friends, huddled around the fire, and joined in the festivities.

The night felt like an eternity as I huddled in my sleeping bag with my 4 shirts on.  The cold was nothing by comparison to the wind and it lasted throughout the night, violently slamming the walls of the tent inward and upward in as many directions as it could.  While I watched my lantern swing violently from the hook above my head I wondered if perhaps a set of earplugs wouldn't have been wise, or perhaps I should have drank enough beer to completely pass out. Regardless, the allure of motorcycle camping was rapidly losing spark in the combustion chamber of my mind.  At one point, in the darkest hours of the night I could have sworn I heard a section of the tent finally give way so I gave in and wrestled myself out of my cocoon of warmth to check the security of my fittings.  I won't lie, it took a lot of internal negotiation.  Up to this point, I wasn't even willing to answer the faint tickle of my bladder informing me that in the near future I'd have to venture out into the darkness. As I unzipped the door to the tent, the door flapped violently smacking into my face. "This is some bullshit," I muttered as I shoved it out of the way and looked out into camp.  The brilliant light of an almost-full moon had illuminated the camp that had otherwise fallen into the chaotic slumber of the Hungry Valley. Bikes were lined up outside of tents that were inhaling to the seams and exhaling with every gust of wind.  Chairs had been thrown into parked bikes and yet it was stunning to see such a beautiful sight under such crisp moonlight against the backdrop of hills lined with ribbons of dirt trails that sprawled out as far as my eyes could see.  For a brief moment I had become captivated by the view, but it wasn't long before the flapping door whipped around and landed a solid smack across my face. I wanted to dry and put up a fight long enough to take a picture but then I remembered that I left the camera in the cab of the truck.  I wiggled back into the tent and rearranged my cocoon before attempting to make a last ditch effort for some shut eye.  It came, but not for long, and when the sun rose I was surprisingly spry for not getting much sleep.

Even more amusing was the fact that out of all of us ladies who proudly and helpfully declared that we had a french press, none of us had actually remembered to bring one.  It was all really quite comical given the fact that none of us had all that fulfilling of a night of sleep. We all huddled around looking dazed.  Apparently, whilst I was enduring my own inner struggle with nature's fury, Babe #2 had been dealing with the same situation in her tent, and another of Babe #3 had over-indulged on some wine and woke up to a sleeping bag full of weeds and debris after a mid-night hike through some brush, sans-shoes, in a gesture of courtesy to toss her stomach contents as far away from camp as possible. Indeed, we must certainly have looked like the epitome of glamour as we fumbled around the campsite.

So there we were.  Sleep deprived and without access to caffeine. Riders meeting was at 9 and the gas grill wasn't getting hot enough to even grill the bacon in a timely fashion. The other babes had gone out for coffee, and they eventually returned with Sausage McMuffins and coffee. I alternated my time between pictures and warming in the truck. The trails were calling, but I was still asleep.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Babes In the Dirt 2: Gone With The Wind - Part I

If you haven't gathered by my previous posts, I tend to favor adventure.  I also suck pretty bad at riding in the dirt. So naturally, when I heard about the second coming of the annual Babes in the Dirt all-women's all-weekend extravaganza (that last part I threw in), I had to make arrangements to haul Tiny Dancer and myself 45 minutes up the mountain to Hungry Valley.  I mean, what could go wrong? However, as is typical for me, I kinda threw everything together at the last minute... in an epic wind-storm. It had been an otherwise beautiful Friday afternoon.  The sun was out, the breeze was cool and alluring, and the day seemed to mosey along at an excruciating crawl.  I sat at my cubicle, watching as every second lingered in the purgatory of time that only occurs when you've got shit planned... cool shit... debauchery kinda shit.  Somewhere around 3:30 I looked out a window and saw trees swaying and dust kicking up outside. Dafuq is this shit? I muttered inaudibly.  My phone buzzed, it was a text from my friend who was planning on joining in the fun: "Looks like some interesting weather is blowing in - it's all an adventure!"  I smiled. It usually goes this way, it's why they call me Murphy.

In the week leading up to the event, conversations had begun in a Facebook group where a few other gals had thrown around some ideas as far as what essential items would be needed, where we would be meeting up, and the other logistical nuggets that develop in any well planned adventure. Pretty much everyone had a french press, so coffee was covered.  Someone was bringing a stove, everyone was bringing beer and the food was covered.  I really had no idea what was in store, but I was jazzed about the opportunity to finally get my bike out into the dirt with a group of folks of like mind. I am really liking the XT250 and this would be our ultimate play date.

However, before I get too far ahead, lets set the scene a little.

The wind had blown up so much dirt that I could chew it, and I instantly started sneezing as we shoved the mighty XT into the back of the truck and strapped her in.  I had set aside everything I needed in a hurry, and in an even bigger hurry I threw it all into the truck without taking inventory.  I knew that some items would be forgotten but I didn't have a lot of time to double check and I hoped for the best.  Daylight was gonna be fading soon and I didn't want to be unloading and setting up camp in the dark.

By 6 we were on the road, my friend following closely behind in her car.  We made our way down the 99 corridor and I fought a cross wind practically the entire way up the mountain.

A quick stop in Frazier Park revealed that the wind had, indeed, carried some much cooler weather our way.  When I hopped out to grab some beer from the local liquor store, I was greeted with the brisk suckerpunch of Mother Nature saying "Happy Earth Day! I hope you brought your warm gear!" Indeed, she had won this round as I rummaged for the sweatshirt that I had tossed next to my pile before leaving the house only to realize that it was still right where I left it... on the couch.  Not at all where I needed it to be. I brushed it off, and made a mental note of piling on a few more layers when I got to the campground.  At least I was smart enough to pack 6 shirts, most of them long sleeved. As luck would have it, I would end up wearing most of them.  And a fleece sweatshirt that was on loan... and my summer jacket.

As we meandered our way to the campground thick clouds had crept in overhead. As we approached the campsite we were greeted by a chipper group of chicks that were already partaking in the free beer provided by Firestone.  We got to our camp site and got the bike unloaded, introduced ourselves to the two other friends who were there with my original planning buddy - Babe #2. As we sized up our section of the camp site, my friend offered up her tent as she inflated the air mattress in the back of her car. I brought a tent, but I wasn't entirely sure it was going to hold up against the wind, and I figured sleeping in the back of the truck would have been more comfortable than the uneven ground. I chuckled enviously as she fluffed her bedding and we popped the tent up in the back of the (boyfriend's) truck. It was a bit of a shit show in the wind, but we managed. We  settled in for what would become a long night of sleeping in a windstorm.

Still, there was something insanely awesome about it... at least that was my preliminary conclusion as I looked around at the hordes of babes who had gathered at the campground with their bikes and tents and riding buddies in tow.  At the very last minute, I caught a glimpse of the remnants of a beautiful sunset from between the clouds.  It was almost as though Mother Nature was imploring me to soak in the last of the sunlight, because she was about to unleash a cold vicious ass-beating-by-wind that would test the endurance of even the more seasoned of my camping companions. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tiny Dancer Goes Ice Skating: The Maiden Voyage of the Yamaha XT250: Conclusion

The view was quite spectacular, with the exception of the haze and smog layer.  The weather was perfect at around 65 degrees and I really didn't mind hanging out for a bit.  My buddy expressed a little concern with the single-lane and having had a SUVs and trucks coming down, I could see the concern.  I offered to go up front since I was narrower and since the roads were getting progressively crappier.  I held enough pace to catch the oncoming traffic and alert them that I had one more behind me.

These roads tend to remain closed until well into late spring early summer.  We had been lucky enough to get a substantial dusting of snow, and much of it was still on the ground as we made our way further up the mountain.  snow piles of various sizes sat along the side of the road and some corners were still wet with muddy water.  As we approached one particular corner, I looked ahead to see what looked like a pretty decent accumulation of snow along the shoulders of the corner on either side.  I slowed my pace a bit, but figured I'd ride through the tire track and deal with a little muddy water. I was still going about 25 mph when I realized my assessment was wrong, and this quickly turned into one of the best saves I've ever pulled off in my motorcycling career.

I coasted into the wheel track with some delicate feathering of the clutch and throttle to keep the bike settled.  I had tried to scrub off a little more speed with a light drag of the rear brake as delicately as possible before letting it go altogether at the last possible second. As my rubber touched the wet stuff, I noticed that the slushy muddy track was actually wet ice in some parts. I can't really articulate how it all unfolded, but all I can say is I felt like a badass.  I went right into "Awww HELL naw!" Mode as I felt the front tire start to slide almost instantly. I feathered the clutch to try and get more traction and steer with the rear which might have worked if I hadn't been in a lower gear.  As such, when I feathered the clutch out the rear tire slipped out too and we went right up onto a hearty block of snow that had started melting and then froze again into an ice block. I instantly pulled the clutch back in and re-engaged my delicate balance of feathering the clutch to try and get us out of the mess, all while muttering in my helmet "Nope. Nope! Nope. Nope... Not today precious... your ass isn't touchin' the ground today sister!"

The bike was already all over the place and I was damn certain that I saw my own ass at one point as she slid and bucked from side to side.  I dropped one foot to balance out the weight and try to settle the shimmy, and then another foot.  I was still going too fast to actually plant a foot, and as the sole of my boots grazed the surface of the ice, it was hopeless to even try and catch any traction so I kept my weight centered and hoped for the best.

The view of the corner, from the opposite direction.
Looking back on it, I didn't even so much as gasp.  Somehow it all felt completely natural and expected, and my brain went into action mode as I fought to keep her upright at all costs and with as much finesse as possible. I rode it out all the way through the corner, fully expecting to feel the entire bike collapse beneath me. Then my front wheel cleared the gauntlet and gave us the stability of traction. I coasted us onto the asphalt where the bike settled herself and I gave her some throttle while belting out a victorious howl and triumphant laughter.

A couple of miles up the road, we were officially denied access to the rest of our journey as the closed gate indicated that there was probably still a substantial amount of snow further up the mountain.  We parked the bikes and I was still laughing.

"Did you see that shit?!" I yelled through my helmet at my friend.

"Oh my god, how could I not?! Holy shit, I thought for sure you were goin' down. I am so proud of you... you stuck with it, I thought for sure you were gonna just give up and let it go."

If the circumstances had been different, I might have.  Granted, it wouldn't have done much damage if I had, but it wasn't necessary to dump it, there wasn't a point where I didn't at least have some sort of a say as to what inputs might rectify the situation and I figured if nothing else, we'd buy some time and hold on for the ride whilst having a clear evacuation plan in mind.

We stood around for a few minutes remarking on the experience from his perspective, including what a pain in the ass it was to get his hefty bike through there.  Then we did it all again on our way back down the mountain.

Needless to say, it went much smoother the second time around. :)

Hours later, as we sat on the couch drinkin' a post-ride beer we both started chuckling. My friend stared off into the distance and said: "Man, of all the times to not have a Go-Pro... I really want to watch that again a few times... I am actually really bummed that I'm the only other person in the world who was there to witness that."

I laughed.

Tiny Dancer Goes Ice Skating: The Maiden Voyage of the Yamaha XT250: Part II

The Bridgestone TrailWing tires that come stock on the XT are a decent tire for combination riding; which makes sense since they are rated as a 50/50 tire.  Still, they were every bit as decent on pavement as the Avon Destanzias (80/20) I used to run on my DRZ400S... and I've scraped toe on that bike. The TWs also did remarkably well during my earlier jaunt in the foothills, so I have confidence that I will get a lot out of them.

The XT ferociously gripped even the most precarious of corners, I let out a few giddy yelps of happiness as I remembered what it felt like to be on a light, nimble dual sporty bike.  I have said it before and I will say it again, every rider should own one at least once.  These bikes are like the go-karts of motorcycles and they are an outright blast to ride. I am sure the WR250 might be a better option for those seeking a little more punch at the throttle, but I didn't really have much to complain about on a bike that is quite capable over covering all of the riding I needed it to do, brand new, with a 5 thousand dollar price tag out the door. Spending at least 1500 extra for only a few extra HP on a 250cc dual sport just didn't jive with my spending rationale.

My buddy and I both made decent time, cutting through the smooth stuff, even given all of the dirt that iced the surfaces of almost every apex.  We wound our way up the road until the two lane pavement started to diminish into eaten up one lane asphalt.  Around a few corners there were minor rock slides, more than a few trees had surrendered at the force of the mighty mountain winds and laid themselves to rest in the roadway.  My companion pulled away in the straights only to fall behind in the corners as my little XT gobbled up the obstacles that his heavier cruiser had a harder time overcoming.  Still, we moved along at a pretty brisk pace.  The close-ratio gearing of the XT is perfect for quick upshifts and downshifts without compromising any power at all.  The fifth gear is better suited for getting a little more out of the top end when still chasing the speed fix... or when traversing treacherous highways on commutes. Then again, all of that is to be expected on these bikes.

We rode a few miles up and then pulled over for a break.  My riding buddy was in need of a rest.  Understandable given the fact that I had been watching him slide all over the place in corners.  I suppose wrestling around that heavy beast does turn into a bit of a workout after a while (Tee-Hee!).