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January 20, 2007

Colleen and I awoke on Saturday morning to a crisp and cool, but sunny, day. I literally cheered for joy when I saw the sun out of Colleen's computer room window. I don't mind riding in the cold, but cold and rain -- or worse, cold and SNOW -- makes me grumpier than need be.

We got ready to go, but hadn't even made it out of the garage when we discovered that Glen's KLR wouldn't start. The battery was dead. Glen must have suspected this as a possibility, since he'd emailed Colleen the night before saying to call if he needed to bring over the brand new battery he had charging at his house. Colleen made the phone call, and Glen drove over to the rescue.

New battery thusly installed, we rode the pair of KLRs over to the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth ferry to cross Puget Sound. We were a bit freaked out that we wouldn't make the 10am ferry, but we managed to get on with seconds to spare. We were literally the last to board before they raised the gates and the ferry pushed off.

Once on the other side of the Sound, we did a little bit of circling trying to find the specific dirt roads we were looking for. Luckily for Colleen, my direction sense is terrible and I didn't even realize that we'd gone in a circle until she told me. ;) In my defense, I was distracted by a beautiful bald eagle perched atop a roadside tree...instant Alaska flashback.

Colleen decided to take us to the dirt she knew, so we headed to Tahuya State Forest. The first section was paved, and we eventually turned off onto a nice wide 4x4 road, which was more like a flat gravel fire road with pockmarked puddles. All of the puddles were ringed with ice and they crunched as the KLR rode through.

A couple of guys out camping took this photo of us...awwww!

We had our first "gravity incident" while on a trail that did a sharp lefthand uphill over some tree roots and then an immediate lefthand downhill. Colleen navigated it perfectly but I got a little stuck over the root and couldn't get a foot down. I was upright, but stuck. Colleen parked her KLR to give me a push....and her sidestand sunk into the mud! We got my KLR unstuck and righted hers with some help from a passing Big Burly Dirtbiker (tm)...I was a little shaken up from being stuck, so Colleen rode my KLR up and around the little zigzag.

Shortly thereafter, we wound up on a....well, I guess technically, it was "deeply potholed", but that doesn't even come close to describing it. They were like giant whoops. I stopped for a break halfway down the section to let a Jeep by -- I was having trouble sticking to a line, and I didn't really want to add "hit by 4x4" to my list of accomplishments for the day. Colleen kept going to the end of the section, then came back to report that the trail twisted upwards into a very steep and pretty technical section, and that we were better off turning around.

I gotta admit, I was pretty intimidated. When I get nervous, I get on the throttle more than I should....which actually wound up being a good thing a few times over deep gravel. On the whoops, though, it just bounced me around and make me pretty freaked out. I asked Colleen to U-turn my bike for me and I took it much slower on the way out. In fact, I took it so much slower that the way out seemed like an entirely different ride. I couldn't believe it was the same "super scary" stuff from just 10 minutes prior.

There was a large puddle -- almost a pond -- back at the beginning of the section. The puddle contained the Jeep that passed us in the whoops. "Whoops," indeed.

"I thought I could make it," the bearded driver, wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, was explaining to another dirt rider when we pulled up to help by photographing the event. "Smile!" Colleen told the driver, waving her camera. "I think he's smiling at you with his middle finger," I pointed out.

Fortunately, another truck was located quickly and that driver happened to have a long segment of thick ratchet tie-down on him. I was half-expecting the front of the Jeep to rip off, but it held, and the Jeep driver and his wife were soon safely back on shore.

After everyone had gone on their merry ways, I decided to compound the excitement by wiping out in the soft sand surrounding the puddle. I'd had no problems crossing the first time, but on the return trip I didn't gas it enough and by the time my right hand got the message from my brain, I was already horizontal. Colleen came back around and we quickly righted the KLR....but not before the obligatory crash photo.

Shortly thereafter, we left the dirt. I was getting overwhelmed and a bit grumpy...I was having a blast, but I kept stopping at tricky sections while my brain divided into two parts: "C'mon, then, just gas it and get through this gravel!" versus "How's about we just park and stay right here forever, then?" When the latter started winning out more often than not, I knew it was time to call it a day.

Fortunately we were able to take some gorgeous paved roads back towards Colleen's house, and even had one more stint on a muddy unpaved public road. It was pretty slick, so we went slowly.

Partway down the road, I saw a swoop, a bird in the air larger than any hawk with an unmistakable plumage. Colleen pulled over and I followed. Two eagles, one adult, one immature. The adult disappeared into the trees while the child perched nearby, preening. We got off our bikes to look for the adult. We found it in a neighboring tree...Colleen got a photo but I was too slow on the uptake. Gorgeous. I hadn't realized bald eagles nested as far south as Seattle.

Photo courtesy of Colleen:

I did manage to get this photo, though, after the adult switched trees:

The rest of the dirt ride was wonderful. I got some great pics of Colleen, though I narrowly missed getting her right in the middle of a puddle. The scenery reminded me so much of Alaska. I miss the North; it calls me as much as the southwest desert does. Always a tug of war, it is, between Kokopelli and Inuksuk. I don't think I could ever live anywhere but the Bay Area...halfway in between the two worlds I adore.

Chug chug.....sput.

Not exactly what you want to feel when you're 2.5 miles away from the Southworth ferry dock about 20 minutes before the ferry you absolutely must make pulls away.

I pulled to the side of the steeply inclined 2-lane highway and waited for Colleen to circle back around. It felt like the KLR had run out of gas, but the tripmeter only showed 110 miles. I thought back to replacing the battery that morning and thought that perhaps something had Electrically Gone Wonky.

When she arrived, Colleen thought so too, so, being the taller of us, she mounted the KLR and tried bumpstarting it heading back down the hill. Nothing. I walked down to meet her as she pushed the bike into a neraby gravel driveway.

We quickly discussed our options. We had to make the 4:30 ferry, leaving in, oh, about 10 minutes, because people were going to start congregating at Colleen's house for a party at 6pm. The ferry took 40 minutes (plus loading and unloading), and it was a few miles from the dock to her house.

While we ran through the timeline, a man in a pickup truck drove down the driveway we were blocking. Colleen ran up to him and explained our dilemma. "No problem," said the man, "just push the bike behind that bush there and leave it overnight." So we did.

It should make an impression just what time constraints we were under because neither of us has a single picture of this entire event.

I hopped on the back of Colleen's KLR and we raced to the ferry. Once again, we were the very last vehicle on and the ramp pulled up as we were still climbing off the bike.

We thoroughly entertained an elderly man in a pickup parked next to the KLR as we re-mounted the bike at the end of the ferry ride. Two women on a dirty dualsport with a hot pink Barbie tailbag...which perhaps might have been sexy if the passenger weren't hobbit-sized and utterly incapable of vaulting herself onto onto the tall pillion seat of the KLR without kicking the tailbag, the seat, the side of the bike, and the bike pilot.

Back at Colleen's, we didn't even have time to shower before the doorbell started ringing. Fortunately, type folks are used to smelling us at our finest and no one complained.

The evening consisted of an excellent pot luck dinner (pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans and almond slivers, two kinds of cake, and enough beer to keep Carolyn happy for a very long time).

Colleen plays with pot roast as Brian (brianhe) roasts the almond slivers:

Party foul! Fritz (bizarro) spills pot roast onto the table.

After dinner, we watched The Big Lebowski, a personal favorite. I love me some Coen brothers. There was more beer and more bullshitting and more bike talk. I think we figured later that there were about 20 people at the party, mostly ST.N folk. Good times.

I finally gave up on the party and went to bed around midnight...way past my bedtime! :D

Happy birthday, Chris!!

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