Day 4, Leg 4, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

March 31, 2013 – It’s a beautiful day in St. Louis! Clouds have given way to sun and it climbs to about 65 degrees today! We have a little time to explore before putting the bikes away for another month and returning home to Minneapolis. We sleep in until about 7:30 a.m., eat a light breakfast from the hotel’s complimentary offerings, and then hop on the bikes to go downtown. Our destination is the St. Louis Gateway Arch on the Mississippi Riverfront. I’ve seen the arch from a distance, the two times I’ve been to / through St. Louis, but I never knew that there is a tram system that take visitors up through the arch! In fact, I never knew that the arch was big enough to house a tram system inside! It was a fascinating experience. I also enjoyed the museum inside the visitor center while waiting for our turn in the tram.

We left downtown St. Louis about 1:00 p.m., riding the bikes in brilliant sunshine and basking in the temps we wish we could have enjoyed yesterday. But today we rode to Public Storage to put them away for another month. We walked about 1/2 mile back to the Comfort Inn where we caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. Lunch at the airport, and a short and uneventful flight home ended this leg of the adventure.

This was probably my favorite leg, from a road and scenery perspective. It was a little surreal today, realizing that the grand adventure my sweetheart (SH) and I dreamed up together is almost over. Some people go their whole lives without doing anything this adventurous! And here we are, already looking forward to the summer adventures and dreaming about what to create for next winter. Although we are both in the middle of career opportunities and changes, we are committed to maintaining our time together exploring and adventuring as a high priority. And time with our families and friends is also a high priority. I think we can balance it all in a way that feels right and good. Or at least have a great time trying!

Hope you had a great Easter Sunday – as traditional or untraditional as felt right for you!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 3, Leg 4, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

March 30, 2013 – Awake at 6:00 a.m., on our bikes by 7:22 p.m. in 54 degrees and cloudy weather. Failing again to find a mom and pop breakfast joint in Mountain Home (well actually, we found one but they were closed today, to prepare all the bakery orders for Easter), we stopped at McDonald’s for a latte and WiFi.

After traveling east on Hwy 62 a few miles, we stopped at Southfork Cafe in Salem AR, for the first real breakfast of the trip. I mean the kind where I can order the special of the day (2 eggs, country ham, hash browns and toast or biscuit for $6.95 (of course, I have to waive the bread for the meal to meet my gluten-free needs), and the server calls me darlin’ and you can almost hear the country song being written as she shares tidbits about her life. Such as “Between you and me, I went to culinary school and won the top prize in a baking competition at the school, and then I won fourth place in a state competition. . . My daughter asked me to bake a cake for a memorial service for a friend who was a trucker . . .” And now she appears to be the owner/operator of  a nice breakfast/lunch/dinner joint in Salem, Arkansas. I bought two framed pieces that are on display by local artists for a total of $30. That’s the kind of mom and pop places we love to find! This one was worth the lack of them the past two mornings!

Then on to Mammoth Springs, shortly after which we entered Missouri and near where we turned onto Hwy 9, then to MO state hwy 19 for much of the day — and take note bikers — it is a dream of a highway! Forest, lakes, mountains, curves, hills  —  miles and miles and more miles of ribbony two-lane highway along beautiful scenery. It’s even better than Scenic 7 yesterday! Towns along the way included Alton, Winona (gas), Eminence (home of Eminence Ozarker 4-H Club), Round Spring, and Salem, MO, where we stopped again at McD’s for another latte and WiFi break, but mostly to thaw out my numb finger. Renaud’s syndrome is a bummer when it comes to biking in chilly weather. And OK, I have officially been at McDonald’s more in the last 30 days than I have in the past 5 years!

We continued North on 19. It started raining lightly at Cherryville, and by Steelville the rain began in earnest, so we stopped to put on our rain suits. It’s consistently 50 degrees most of the day, so the extra layers feel good. It’s chilly and the wet pavement slows us down, but we can’t complain since we’ve dodged rain 98% of the time on our travels for nearly four years! We pass Cuba, then stop at Owensville about 2:00 for lunch and to warm up. Then on to Hwy 50 East for 30 miles, Gerald, Bueafort and Union. Gerald appeared to be a very cute little down with lots of fun businesses.

We travel interstate highways as little as possible on our travels, but there are times when it is unavoidable. Today was one of those days – for time, convenience and given the cold, wet conditions, we got on I-44 for 35 miles to I-270 to the West end of St Louis, North to I-70 East, past airport to Comfort Inn. Freeway driving terrified me when I first started riding. As my skills improved and my experience developed, I was no longer terrified of freeway driving (or I wouldn’t have been able to manage the L.A. or Dallas freeways!) but they are still not fun, and given the wet conditions, my muscles were tight by the time we pulled into the Comfort Inn. My sweetheart is often thoughtful of my advanced beginner status, and left me at the front door with the bags after I slid off my bike into a puddle of weariness, while he parked both bikes.

A hot shower, rest, glass of wine and nachos later, I’m feeling recovered, but still looking forward to a massage back at home next week! It was another incredible day, with a total of 302 miles – all of it beautiful, most of it fun, and the last of it, mentally and physically challenging. I’m always learning and growing, and these trips offer so much material for that growth. I learn geography, experience different ways of living, engage with and learn from people who live very different lives than mine. I learn the thrill of accomplishment and fun when I’m able to take curves comfortably without slowing way down, and I conquer fears of heights and freeways. I’ve learned how the sun, wind and freedom make creativity flow through my brain, when I though 18 years in Corporate America had rusted my creative circuitry. So, I’ll take a little rain and a few miles of freeway and be grateful for it!

Wishing you, me and our families and friends a blessed Easter, as we marvel at the mysteries and miracles of life and death.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 2, Leg 4, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Good Friday, March 29 — we were on the road before 7:30 a.m., but by the time we gassed up, resorted to breakfast at McDonalds due to lack of finding local, non-chain restaurants in Broken Bow, it was about 9 a.m. before we headed east on Hwy 70 to Glenwood, Arkansas, North on 8, north on 27 to Russelville, north on Hwy 7 to Harrison, East on 62 to Mountain Home. Now the impressions and details.

The weather was overcast and at times foggy and misting, but the temps were mild – hovering upper 50s, until the sun broke through, mid-afternoon, resulting in upper 60s. The landscape is surprisingly beautiful. I’m not sure I ever thought about what Arkansas looked like. What we found was many rivers and creeks, farm and ranch land, lots of trees and logging, rolling hills and the beautiful Ozark National Forest. In all, I think today was one of my top 5 favorite motorcycle rides, and I’ve been on some beauties!

On the other end of the beauty spectrum, I saw lots of run down trailer homes, some with years of accumulated junk and rust in the yard, especially earlier in the day (west/southwest Arkansas).  The towns, counties scenic points and businesses had quaint and sometimes funny names – Dierks, Daisy, Kirby, “Y”, Caddo Gap, Mt. Ida, Booger Hollow, Ouachita, Washita, Story, Aly, Onyx, Rover, Danville, Ranger, Chickalah, Yell, Dog Patch, Dardanelle, Dover, Sand Gap, Jasper, Harrison, Bellefonte, Pyatt, Snow, Summit, Yellville, Flippin, Gassville and Mountain Home, where we will spend the night.

We had lunch outside Russellville at Colton’s Steak House, and just as we were preparing to leave, I got a phone call from a recruiter about a contract job at my former employer. It was an important call for a couple of reasons — it reminded me of all the SUPER people I had an opportunity to work on the most challenging project of my career the last few years I was there. It also reminded me how grateful I am that my position was eliminated there, following the successful completion of that challenging project, as it gave me the chance to explore and create completely new career and business possibilities that are challenging and exciting in completely different ways. I’ve always coached my team member to look for the opportunities that come out of change; and I’ve always truly believed and experienced that personally. My displacement was the biggest and most challenging career change, and I believe that change has – and will continue to – provide the greatest opportunities. Not that it has been easy to see that every moment or day, but looking back over the past year, and forward to the future, it is clearly a positive change.

One of those opportunities has been this Winter Adventure! Although today was a long one on the road – about 320 miles – the route was so beautiful, with such great biking roads, that it really didn’t feel very tiring. It was challenging for me, without being frightening, like some of the higher mountain highways we’ve traveled on past trips.  The elevation was probably about 2,000 ft at the highest point, but it seemed higher. Many great sweepers, some button hooks and many stretches didn’t have much traffic, so in other words – AWESOME riding! The stretches of pavement that were wet slowed me down quite a bit, but had to appreciate the upside that we never actually got rained on!

We checked in to the EconoLodge about 5:30 p.m. and after a short snooze and shower, we walked to the Mexican restaurant next door for a nice meal and great conversation. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to ensure that this is really my life. I’m so grateful for all the experiences, people and opportunities I am blessed with! Hope you are enjoying sharing them with me!

Love, Tomboy Tam

2012-2013 Motorcycle Adventure – The Big Picture

Today begins Leg 4 of our 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure. And what an adventure it has been! My sweetheart (SH) and i came up with the idea of a segmented winter road trip as a unique way to see the country, an opportunity to extend our biking throughout the year and a really special way of experiencing quintessential Americana together – great memory-making material!

SH has done all the itinerary planning, checking in with me for feedback on routes, shipping, storage units, etc. It is such a treat for me to just pack my bag and show up! My job is trip photographer, blogger and finding things to do and places to eat along the way. And of course, being an adventurous, enjoyable travel companion!

Here is a recap of our trip so far and a sneak peek at what’s ahead. We started this Winter adventure at the end October 2012, when we shipped our two Honda ST 1300s to Los Angeles via Federal Motorcycle, a division of Allied Van Lines. They strap the bikes on to a pallet and fork-lift them right onto the truck van! After attending Uncles Walter’s 103rd birthday party, we hit the road and biked to Tempe, AZ, over three days. One of many highlights was stopping in Lake Havasu City to have dinner with my cousin Dave, who i had not seen since we were kids. We stored the bikes in a 10×10 storage unit, walked back to our hotel and the next morning rode the hotel shuttle to the airport to return home to Minnesota.

In January 2013, we flew to LA to visit Walter for a day, then flew to Phoenix to spend the night at the same hotel. Early the next morning, we walked to storage unit to pick up bikes. We had a slight delay due to a dead battery on SH’s bike, but soon enough were on our way to breakfast with friends who were snowbirding in AZ for the first time this year. We made our way to El Paso, TX, were we enjoyed local sightseeing, including the amazing White Sands National Monument, then stored the bikes and flew home.

In February, we combined a visit with Walter in LA with a James Malinchak Mastermind meeting, before flying from LA to El Paso to pick up the bikes and head for Dallas. Highlights of that trip included exploring the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and an overnight visit with a friend in Prosper, TX. And then once again stored the bikes and flew home.

I’m on a Sun Country flight to Dallas, as I write this entry. We’ll travel from Dallas to St. Louis on this leg of the journey. The first weekend in May will mark the completion of this amazing adventure. It has already more than met my expectations – SH and I have met wonderful, colorful and gracious people. We’ve experienced small-town America, travelled historic byways, stood in awe of natural wonders, and braved the freeway systems of LA and Dallas. And to think I had never ridden – let alone driven – a motorcycle as recently as four years ago!

You might be surprised at how affordable this adventure has been. We’ve probably spent less than the average 2 week winter vacation. The single most costly expense was shipping our bikes to LA, which was about $1,100. We belong to the membership programs of several hotels and airlines. We are accumulating or using reward points on every trip. The multi-city hops on one airline or multiple one ways on several airlines usually result in total airfare for each leg of less than $350 each. We eat at the local mom and pop diners which are usually very affordable. We get to chat with the most interesting people at those friendly joints. We occasionally splurge on a fine dining experience, asking the locals for recommendations. Our usual rule is no chains, but we make exceptions now and then for the sake of convenience or time. After many motorcycle trips over the past 3 1/2 years, I think I’ve finally learned what and how to pack. More on gear and packing in a future blog! I’m now in the Super Shuttle, enroute to the storage unit, so signing off for now. Until later . . . Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 4, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Another beautiful, sunny, brisk Texas morning found us out for a walk in Tonja’s neighborhood before returning to a delicious breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice farina, and yummy toppings, including blueberries and walnuts. After lingering over the kitchen island as long as we dared, we loaded up the bikes, said our good byes and headed south to Dallas to store our bikes until the next leg of our Winter Adventure.

The Super Shuttle that my trip-planner extraordinaire and sweetheart (SH) had arranged showed up on time at 11:15 a.m. to take us to DFW for our flights home. SH made his flight arrangements before I did, as I was waiting to see how I could arrange my travel around work commitments, so we ended up on different airlines. I kissed him adieu at his ticket counter, and then took the airport shuttle to Terminal A where I settlediPhoto Library in to wait for my American Airlines flight back to MSP.

This chapter of our adventure draws to a close with nearly 800 miles over three days of travels on our bikes. If I count the flight miles from Minneapolis to L.A. and then to El Paso, we experienced well over 2,500 miles on this trip. Chilly temps, warm sunshine, traveling through parts of this beautiful country I’ve never seen before. Conversations with fascinating people, a glimpse into lives that are so much alike, yet so different from mine. I am truly grateful for a travel companion who I can spend 24 hours with for 7 straight days and still appreciate each other. I am blessed to have these opportunities, and am proud that we have found ways to explore economically in a way that allows real engagement with real people, not just passing through observing. I feel like I experience life more intensely in a few days in our travels than I have in some entire years of my life.

How do you experience life with intensity? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences for doing so.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 3, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Saturday, March 2, 2013

These upper 20-degree mornings aren’t conducive to early starts on the bike, but they are great for leisurely breakfasts and chats with the local folks. This morning was my favorite such breakfast at L&L Family Restaurant in Breckenridge, TX.

As I walked inside, several older people were leaving, and a cute little old lady said to me, “Are yeew rahdin’ on the back a that man’s bahk this cold morning’?”  I replied, “No ma’am, I’m riding my own bike!” That gave her just a moment of pause, and then she exclaimed, “ Well good for yeew!” I love these people!

Then we chatted with a retired gentleman at the table next to us throughout breakfast. He wanted to know all about us, and he shared a bit about Breckenridge (mostly oil and ranching for industry) and himself and his own travels. He mentioned that he once met a couple who was visiting the Breckenridge area from out East. They were taking a lot of pictures of a tree, and exclaiming over its beauty. He said, “It just looked like a skinny ol’ tree to me, but I guess we take things for granted when we see them every day.”

I often think about how blessed and grateful I am to have the opportunity to experience the people and places we come across during our travels. This man’s comments made me think about how our presence impacts those we interact with along the way, too.  And perhaps our appreciation of the grand – and sometimes homely – beauty of  people and environments help the local people see their surroundings and each other through the more appreciative eyes of passing strangers.

It’s a relatively short drive into Dallas today, where we found our storage unit, and checked in. Dallas / Ft. Worth is a maze of construction and spaghetti freeways. I do not like driving my bike on freeways, especially when they are under construction and hundreds of feet up in the air! Thanks to our AWESOME Sema headsets, and my MARVELOUS sweetheart who does all the navigational planning, we got through the city driving without mishap.

After a quick salad at McDonald’s (I don’t remember how many years it’s been since I’ve eaten at McDonalds!) and taking advantage of their Wifi, we headed North to Prosper, TX, to visit and spend the night with our friend Tonja and her family. We enjoyed a wonderful evening of cooking, eating, wine, meeting the kids and fellowship! And I thoroughly enjoyed working the stress kinks of freeway driving out of my back with a soak in Tonja’s tub and a solid night’s sleep.

After nearly a week of masterminding and biking, I’m ready for the flight home tomorrow!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 1, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

Another early rise found us walking next door to Denny’s for breakfast and a couple of calls for TRK Communications work. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to travel while taking care of work obligations. My sweetheart (SH) is also managing work contacts and deliverables from afar this week.

We walked the mile or so downhill to the CubeSmart storage facility where our bikes have been stored since late January. Good news! SH’s bike fired right up, unlike the rocky start of last month’s journey, which began with a dead battery. He disconnected the battery this time, which may have been the solution.

We drove the bikes back to the hotel and washed a heavy coating of dust off of them – in spite of having covered them in the storage unit! It’s been cold and windy here in TX. Then we loaded up our gear, stopped at the gas station next door to top off the gas tanks and air in the tires, and off we went, at about 9:30 a.m. in 43 degrees!

Hwy 62/180 East took us out of town – with lots of stoplights and “adult” stores along the never-ending outskirts of El Paso. I’m wishing I had dressed a little warmer, but am thrilled with the heated handgrips on my bike!

After a very flat and arid start, the landscape became more mountainous. Guadelupe Pass was beautiful, with some fun curves without being scary.

Upon the recommendation of my brother and sister-in-law, who started their careers in El Paso after they graduated from college, our first destination was the caverns near Carlsbad, NM.  After stopping for coffee and a warm up, we headed up the hill to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where we explored the Big Room Route for about an hour and a half. I’ve been in caverns before, but nothing this big! I highly recommend a visit here, if you are in the neighborhood.

Our journey continued on Hwy 180 (75 mph posted speed limit on this secondary highway!) to Hobbs, NM, where we would spend the night at Country Inn and Suites. Hotel rooms are hard to come by in this oil country! Temperatures slowly climbed into the 50s, with lots of sun and not much wind today.

We arrived in Hobbs well before dusk, and eventually headed to nearby Babe’s Sports Bar. What a treat awaited us there! Around one of the high top bar tables were three men and a women who took turns jamming country tunes – two guitars, a lead vocalist with harmony provided by one of the others. One of the guys left, and another arrived, and the new guy kicked the quality of the performance up a big notch. One of the guys in the group from that table told us that this guy has written a couple of songs that were hits for Trace Adkins (I think that’s what he said – hard to hear over the noise). This evening ranks in my top 5 for motorcycle adventure, small town Americana experiences!

Back at the hotel, I worked for several hours on TRK Communications deliverables before hitting the pillow about midnight.

Happy birthday, Dad. Hope heaven is great place to celebrate!

Love, Tomboy Tam