First impressions of the Garmin Montana

My threats at the GPS were not idle!

Mere moments after arriving home (probably after saying hello to my child and husband, but not necessarily) I hopped on the Amazon Machine and ordered a Garmin Montana.

I decided on the Montana for a few reasons:  I knew I wanted a handheld GPS as opposed to their automotive line.  I do have an automotive Garmin for my car (the Nuvi 255) and it works perfectly well, but it’s very bare-bones.  In the car, that’s OK — I need a GPS to get me to a playgroup or a new restaurant in town.   For the bike, though, I need the ability to customize menus and change routes on the fly and change map views and do all sorts of wonky long-distance-motorcycle-ride sort of stuff.  I also need my motorcycle GPS to be sturdy and waterproof in case of wind/rain/being dropped in parking lots/gravel trucks kicking up yuck/etc.  Finally, I liked how the Montana can be charged either via a rechargeable lithium ion battery (included) or by standard AA batteries (for what it’s worth, using the GPS for about 3 hours today, including spending a LOT of time tweaking displays and data fields and turning the back light on etc used up about 1/3 of the lithium ion battery).

Garmin has a buttload of handheld devices right now, which is awesome.  Choices rock!  I think any number of them would have worked for me but I chose the Montana specifically because of its large screen size and incredible customization ability.

Before we even get to the bike, the out-of-box experience with the Montana was really good.   The GPS came with a very intuitive quick-start manual which easily walked me through the basics of the device, setting it up for the first time, charging it, etc.  A+ on out-of-box, Garmin!

OK, onto the bike.  The only thing I wondered was whether the physical size of the Montana would be too large, especially on the teensy Ninjette.   Happily, I don’t think it is.  It looks like it takes up a huge amount of space in this photo, but some of that is perspective.  It definitely did not get in the way of seeing any of the bike’s gauges or the lefthand mirror.


My ride today was simple intentionally: just to test out the GPS and get it set up the way I want.  The nearly-limitless customizable features are fantastic but it means it needs a bit of trial and error and tweaking to get “just right”.   I loaded in a custom points-of-interest file that lists all of the historical markers in the United States (happysigh) and figured doing a bit of historical marker photography would be a good way to test out the navigation.

One of the first things I figured out was how to turn off the sounds.  When I approached the first historical marker, the GPS started freaking out at me and sounding off all kinds of crazy alarms (including a “speed alarm” when it thought I was going even 1mph too quickly to be able to stop for the marker….I couldn’t find a way to turn this off as I believe it’s embedded in the custom POI data).



My first complaint is really petty but given just how customizable this thing is, it seems silly:  in this particular view, you can have one big data field or you can have four data fields.   Dammit, I want two!  Just two data fields on top and then the nice map.  I don’t want four!  Stop taking up my screen real estate with data fields! Get off my lawn!



I wound up switching the “dashboard view” from “small data fields” (as shown above) to “Nuvi” which, not surprisingly, mimics the dashboard view from the Nuvi GPS line.  It’s not perfect for me — I wish I could get rid of the “speed” data field and put something else there, for example — but it’s the closest I’ve found so far.



The above is an example of a route that’s currently in progress.  The navigation UI is pretty intuitive.   One slightly confusing thing is that in the above view, the bright green line is the track of where I’ve already been and the purple line is the navigation for where I’m going.   The track line is very bright and kept drawing my attention, but changing the line’s color might be all that’s needed there.

Another slight nitpick: the touch screen works very well with gloves on but it’s difficult to hit the zoom buttons.  I’d guess that 75% of the time when I tried to hit + or – it thought I was trying to tap on a spot on the map instead and re-centered to that spot.  It’s not difficult to hit the “back” arrow and get back to the previous view but it was frustrating.  I have very small fingers, too, so I imagine it’s nearly impossible for bigger people to hit those zoom buttons accurately.  It’s weird, because they’re decently-sized buttons on the screen.

Another slight nitpick is that there’s considerably more glare on the screen than there was with the 60CSx.  It’s still readable but I did find myself fiddling with the angle of the GPS while riding occasionally.  The RAM mount makes it easy to do so, but if you have a fixed mount, that could get really annoying.

Time for some off-the-bike fiddling and lunch at Alice’s!



Here’s a quick comparison of how the screen size matches up to an iPhone 4:



I spent lunch mucking around with the customizable bits.  I locked the screen on portrait mode (leaning into turns sometimes made it switch into landscape) and got the “trip computer” screen set up the way I wanted.

Here are the ride stats with the trip computer set up to my liking.  Each of those data fields is customizable and there are a LOT of options.



Here’s what the track map looks like:



Once home, I downloaded the track log into Garmin’s BaseCamp software.  I tried to get it imported into Google Maps but lost patience when I had to go through Google Earth first.  I ran into some glitch with Google Earth and didn’t have time to debug it this afternoon.  Hopefully I can get that figured out relatively soon so that I can easily include Google Maps with my ride reports…but in the meantime, the BaseCamp map isn’t terrible (not interactive, but it’s a start).



Incidentally, the Montana seems to play nicely with my Mac so far.  I’ve used Garmin Express to update the map software, Garmin BaseCamp to play a little with routes and to import the track map above, and Garmin POILoader to load the custom points of interest file onto the Montana.  All of the above worked seamlessly; I was impressed.

So those are my first impressions of the Montana.  There are a couple of UI things I need to get used to after having the 60CSx for years and years, and the zoom button thing is pretty annoying, but other than that, I’m a happy camper.

If you have a LOT of free time and wish to read a whole crapton of info about the Montana from other motorcyclists, check out the ADVRider thread.

Posted in Stuff! Stuff! Stuff! | 5 Comments

South Lake Tahoe: Day 4

Well, all good things must come to an end and, sadly, this trip is no exception.  I woke up bright and early this morning, right at my usual time.  I was OK with that, though, because it allowed me to eat a bigger meal at IHOP and still be on the road by 9am.

By the way, I had a really excellent stay at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe.  Even the coffee in the lobby was tasty…plus, they were considerate enough to decorate to match the Ninjette.



Not terribly surprisingly, my GPS wouldn’t start up again this morning.  Even my “swap the batteries” trick didn’t work.   I was headed the same direction as yesterday for the first 40 miles or so, though, so I pulled on my big girl helmet*  and was only marginally uncomfortable instead of in a panic.  I decided to leave the GPS off and think threatening thoughts at it and try it again in Markleeville.

* This is a lie.  My helmet is a children’s size small.

My first stop was in Meyers, to photograph the creepy Native American roadside statue for the Equinox to Equinox Rally (7 points!).   As I was pulling out, who should see me and stop but the F650GS Dakar couple!  We laughed and waved and I finally took a photo of them and they returned the favor.



In Meyers, I had a small routing decision.  I could be responsible and take Highway 50 directly home, or I could have more fun and take the longer, windy Highway 4.   I contemplated this decision for about 5 seconds.

It felt really good to make that decision, by the way.  One of the things Alison and I had discussed at dinner last night was how men and women sacrifice differently for their kids (yes, sweeping generalization. Deal.).  As moms, both of us tend to rush home or run straight inside if we’ve been out sans children, whereas the men seem to take their time and maybe stop at the store on their way home or do something outside or in the garage after arriving at home.   So it felt odd to me to intentionally decide to take the long way home and not rush back immediately.  It felt very decadent. 😉

Anyway, back south to Markleeville I went.  I didn’t take many photos along the route this time; surprisingly enough, the scenery looked the same as it did yesterday.  Periodically, I tried hitting the power button on the GPS but it stubbornly stayed off.

In Markleeville, I stopped to photograph a historical marker that I didn’t see yesterday (5 points!).  Guess who pulled up while I was stopped?  At this point, we decided fate had brought us together and we all finally exchanged names and email addresses.  Dennis and Zenny live up near Sonoma, so who knows, maybe we’ll bump into each other on the local roads someday. 😉

We headed south on Hwy 89 together until the junction with Hwy 4; at that point, I was heading west on 4 and they were going back over Monitor Pass to Hwy 395 to visit Bodie.

Incidentally, the GPS started working at this point again, too.  Ugh, that damn thing.  I’m going to teach it a lesson and totally buy a new one.  You hear that, inanimate object??

Highway 4 runs over Ebbetts Pass and is Northern California’s highest road.  This paragraph from Wikipedia explains why it’s such a great motorcycling road:

“Today, Ebbetts Pass is one of the least traveled passes in the Sierra Nevada. An extensive section of highway over the pass is less than two lanes with no dividing line. It has very steep sections with hairpin corners.  The eastern slope is particularly difficult, as many of the hairpin corners are blind, and steepen suddenly at the apex, making it necessary to shift to first gear in most vehicles. It is rarely used by commercial traffic and is not recommended for vehicles towing long trailers.”



I stopped for a while at an apex with a particularly amazing view.  I tried to capture it with the camera — the sheer vastness of the canyon, the trees, the vista — but nothing I did came close.  I finally just set the camera down and just sat for a while, looking.



Anything I write about Highway 4 is filler; trite.  It is 50-odd miles of one lane twisties, trees, rocks, sky.  It’s a riding road; a thinking road.   Eventually I even stopped taking pictures and just entered a zen-like trance.  That also might have been because I was getting hungry and there was no food until Arnold.  But I like to think it was because of the road.



By the time I pulled into Arnold, I was pretty hungry.   I stopped at the first restaurant I saw: Giant Burger.  OK!  A giant burger sounds good!   In fact, I ordered their “baby burger” so that I would also have room for fries and a chocolate milkshake.  Nom nom nom.

The couple at the table next to me was from Berkeley and had a very cute 2-year-old son. We chatted about computers and kids.  Good times.



As I geared up to leave the restaurant, I noticed it had gotten warmer.   I had actually been wearing a thin long sleeved shirt until Arnold, but when I left I removed it and started opening the vents on the Teiz suit.  I knew I’d be hitting the hot central valley soon, but I didn’t realize the weather extended as far east as Arnold.  Sigh…elevation, I missed you already.

I stopped for a few Equinox to Equinox historical marker photos in Murphys but then decided to call it quits on stopping.  It was just too darn hot to stop, take a photo, send the email, put the placard away, get going again, lather, rinse, repeat.  By the time I stopped for water and gas in Copperopolis, it was in the mid to high 90s with no respite for at least 50 more miles.  Ugh, central valley.

At least this far east, the scenery is nice so that you have something to look at while you immolate.



Past Copperopolis, though, you don’t even have that.  You’re just hot and it sucks.  Peg the throttle and get through quickly. Bleccccch.



A shout-out to my Midwestern homies:



I stopped in Stockton for some Equinox to Equinox photos and came across this horrifying statue of people with little screaming heads growing out of their heads.   No Google results have answered my question of what in the holy hell this is all about.  Anyone know?



I took the interstate between Stockton and Livermore because there really isn’t anything else to do.  I remembered along the way how much I hate the interstate between Stockton and Livermore.  It crosses Altamont Pass, home to a large wind farm, so it’s insanely windy (fun on a 250cc bike) and is chock full of drafting semis.

I got off the interstate in Livermore and took back roads through the East Bay to the Dumbarton Bridge…



….past a small local company that you may have heard of…..



…and home again, home again, bippity bop!



(The actual mileage for the day — and the total, too — is 33 miles more than recorded above since the GPS didn’t start working until Markleeville.  So, 256 miles today and 714 miles total.)

All together, it was a wonderful trip.   Great roads, gorgeous scenery, I met some neat people, I had a fun dinner with a good friend, I had some adversity that I got to overcome with grace and humility 😉 and I did manage to sleep in a tiny bit.  I call that a success!







Posted in Ninja 250, Trips and Travels | 3 Comments

South Lake Tahoe: Day 3

There was slow improvement this morning as I woke up 45 minutes past my usual wake up time.  If I stay on vacation for another few weeks, I may actually catch up on sleep.

I had Ride Malaise today.  No routes were really jumping out at me as “must do”s and so I put together a big loop just sort of as something to do.  My plan was to head to Truckee, then loop around to Downieville, Nevada City, back to Truckee, and ride the west side of Lake Tahoe back to the hotel. I wasn’t really feeling it, but I couldn’t think of anything better.  Fortunately, fate stepped in and planned a much better ride for me.

I was less than a block from my hotel room when I realized the GPS had turned off.  Hitting the power button did nothing.  I pulled over into a strip mall lot to investigate.  10 minutes of doing everything I could yielded no results at all: I pulled the batteries and re-inserted, I pulled the rubber weather protection off the recessed power button and tried manually hitting it with my Leatherman screwdriver, I tried hard rebooting the device.  Nothing.  I decided the only course of action was to buy a new GPS.

Let me back up for a second and explain this decision.  Some people have a poor sense of direction.  This is a laughable understatement to describe the Teflon repellant my brain has when it comes to navigation.  When I’m lost, I almost literally cannot function.  It is insanely stressful and absolutely Not A Pretty Sight.  So, a new GPS it would have to be.  OK, no problem, I’m in South Lake Tahoe — the adventure capital of the Sierras!  People come here from all over the world to hike, backpack, ski, etc in the backcountry.  There will be a place to buy a GPS.

Wrong.  There is not.  I called a half dozen sporting goods stores and stopped into two of them and they all looked at me like I was insane.  The sales guy at Big 5 tried to sell me a SPOT instead.  I told him I already had one.  “They’re just like a GPS!,” he said.  “No, they’re not, really.” I said.  “With a SPOT, they can find your body!”  Well, OK, that is demonstrably true, but the problem was that *I* wanted to find my body first.

Radio Shack did have GPS units, but they were all Garmin Nuvis (automotive units).  I bought one anyway but had to return it after just a few blocks when I realized it was impossible to read from within the map pouch (to its credit, though, it was usable both through the map pouch and with gloves on, so if I’d had a way to mount it to the handlebars, it would have been OK).

I decided, well, fine, I’ll buy a map.  Gas stations have maps!  I stopped at the first gas station.  They did not sell maps.

At this point, I decided to give up on having any fun whatsoever and I returned to the hotel room.  For no reason whatsoever, as a last-ditch effort, I took out the GPS batteries one more time and put the batteries from the SPOT in.  Wouldn’t you know it, the fucker started right up.   And the GPS batteries worked just fine in the SPOT.  I have no idea.  It was so ridiculous that I wasn’t even upset.

OK, but now I’ve wasted two hours of my day and I haven’t gone anywhere.  Clearly my big loop wasn’t going to happen.  I decided instead to just head to Markleeville for lunch — I like Markleeville and I vaguely remembered enjoying the roads around there.  I was less than 5 miles from the hotel when I realized that this was a great idea.  Instead of fretting about the big loop, I was relaxed and happy.



Markleeville is only a 30-mile ride from South Lake Tahoe, so I arrived quickly.  There were a group of motorcycles lining the main drag; there isn’t much in any direction for miles and miles, so everyone had the same idea for a lunch spot!   It looked like everyone had gone into one particular restaurant, so I chose a different one that I’d never tried before (Wolf Creek Restaurant and Bar in the old Alpine Hotel).   It was really good and I’ll definitely eat there again.  I struck up a nice conversation with the guy at the table next to me, who is a nurse in Carson City and is just starting a week-long vacation to camp by himself and recharge.

While gearing up to leave, I chatted briefly with a couple who pulled up on a F650GS Dakar.  We nerded about the Beemer thumpers for a few minutes and the wife and I talked about cross-country riding while her husband went into the general store.  They were super friendly and looked like they were having a great ride.



From Markleeville, I decided to head to Topaz Lake, NV.  My logic was simple:  I figured there would be a “Welcome to Nevada” road sign there.   I was still annoyed that the Nevada state sign in South Lake Tahoe is inaccessible and I wanted to show off that I’d finally left the state again!  So, even if I was only going a few feet into Nevada today, by God, I was going to get a picture of it.

Now, the plus side to this plan was that I got to cross Monitor Pass.  All of the Sierra passes are spectacular, but Monitor fascinates me.  You’ll see why.

First stop: East Fork Carson River.   This is the very southwestern edge of the Carson River Basin, which stretches northeast all the way into northern Nevada.



As the road climbs up and up, the alpine timber gives way to high desert.  This is one of the reasons I love Monitor Pass so much — so many distinct ecosystems just along one stretch of relatively short road.



The summit is just over this crest:



Definitely a desert vibe going on past the summit.



Coming around a corner suddenly opens up this massive view of the valley below.  I got better pictures on the way back, but to whet your appetites:



I also fell in love with the thistle that you can see waaaay to the lefthand side of the photo.  This became a very well-photographed plant.  What can I say? I love me a good thistle.



The road twists and winds down the hill, snakes through the valley, and meanders through some great rock cut-outs.  My photos didn’t turn out in this direction, but I’ll post some in a minute from the return trip.

I hopped onto Highway 395, where the lower elevation was approximating the surface temperature of the sun.   Luckily it was just a short jaunt up to the Nevada state line:



Here, I had a decision.  I could retrace my steps back over Monitor Pass, or I could continue on Highway 395 through Nevada and cut back over Kingsbury Grade to South Lake Tahoe.   I really like doing loops, so the latter appealed to me….but it was really getting hot out and western Nevada wasn’t going to help with that.  It’s also not a very attractive section of 395.

While pondering this, I hung out in front of Topaz Lake and texted with my friend Alison, who was coincidentally also in South Lake Tahoe with her family for the week.  We were making dinner plans via sporadic text and I actually had cell reception here.



The extra two minutes I spent stopped and texting Alison convinced me to head back up into the mountains and not spend any longer in the godforsaken Nevada heat (this said with all due respect because I really do adore Nevada.  But it’s hot in July.).

OK, here’s that rock wall photo I promised you earlier.  It was like this for four or five turns in a row.  Love the desert scenery.



Looking ahead to Monitor Pass again — that’s the mountain we’re about to go back up.  🙂

Along this stretch of road, I waved at an oncoming motorcycle and realized it was the  couple on the F650 Dakar from Markleeville!  They honked and made a huge wave at me in return.



Partway up now — the road snaking through the middle of the first photo is the same one the previous picture was taken on.



I took a bunch of photos at a turnout this time.  I really adore the desert and it seems so unexpected to me on Monitor Pass.  When I think of Sierra passes, I think of tall pine trees and alpine plants, not sage and desert scruff.  It’s like a little unplanned present.



Another pass through Markleeville; I stopped at the General Store this time for a nutritious snack of a raspberry yogurt and a Heath candy bar.

This shot of Highland Peak and Silver Peak reminded me of Alaska.  We’re obviously back in alpine scenery now!



Guess who I saw a block from my hotel back in South Lake Tahoe?  You guessed it — the couple on the F650 Dakar!  They clearly did the other route I’d been thinking of (heading north on 395 and then cutting over 207 into South Lake Tahoe).   We did our little wave dance again and they zipped merrily off down Pioneer Drive while I pulled into the hotel parking lot.

With all the GPS drama this morning, I forgot to zero out the day’s odometer, so this is from both yesterday and today.  Today’s mileage was about 126 miles, counting my two hour tour around South Lake Tahoe in the morning.



When I got back to the hotel, my neck and shoulders were really bugging me.  I made some phone calls and was able to make an appointment at BioSpirit for a 30-minute neck/shoulder massage with less than an hour’s notice.  Woot!



It was a good massage, though I think I could have used an hour on just my left shoulder alone!  I’ve been getting nasty tension headaches and I think that shoulder just needs some more love.  I’ll have to tend to it more once I get home…and probably do some more stretching.  I never remember the stretching.

A quick hop, skip, and a jump down the block to The Brewery — a place with fine local beers that Alison suggested because she hates me and wants to see me suffer while watching her drink yummy hefeweizen.  😉  I had way too much yummy spicy pasta with shrimp and Alison’s fish and chips looked like it comprised two entire fish.  We did not leave hungry.  It was great to see her and chat and I was really happy that our vacations totally coincidentally coincided.  Yay!



Posted in Ninja 250, Trips and Travels | 2 Comments

South Lake Tahoe: Day 2

I had hoped to sleep in a little bit but I wound up waking up only a half-hour past my usual time.  It ultimately wound up being for the best, since I was heading into Nevada and it warms up quickly there, but I was grumpy at first.  “Sleep, dammit” was definitely one of my checklist items for a child-free bike trip!

The state line border is basically Harrah’s/Harvey’s.  There’s a small sign way up on the traffic light that says “Nevada state line” but it was impossible to photograph due to an ill-placed tree. You’ll just have to believe me that I crossed into Nevada….my first time leaving California on a motorcycle in five years.  I know, I couldn’t believe that either.  Yikes.


Heading out of Stateline, I turned east onto NV Highway 207.  What a fun road!  The views of the Carson Valley floor are spectacular and it always surprises me to see Nevada plains so green.



Once on the valley floor, I headed to the old settlement town of Genoa.  Genoa is one of those awesome ancient Nevada towns where you can’t throw a brick without hitting a historical marker or museum or landmark.  I could have spent all day in Genoa.  It was originally settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1860s and was the site of Nevada’s first newspaper, hotel, court, and bar (er…”thirst parlor”).



This Pink House was built in 1855 but I found no explanation as to why someone decided it needed to be pink.  Hey, OK!



After Genoa, Foothill Road changes name to Jacks Valley Road and continues north to Carson City (and so did I).  This was a typical-western-Nevada section of road: straight with valley scrub and brush.  At the southern end, buildings were scarce; farm outcroppings here and there.  The closer I got to Carson City, though, the more cookie-cutter subdivisions popped up.  It was strange to see the brand new, pre-fab houses out there in the desert.

I also got my first good view of what I presume is the Bison Fire.  As of tonight, it has burned over 40 square miles (25,000 acres) and is considered the largest single fire in western Nevada history.  It started from a lightning strike on the Fourth of July, centered on Mt Siegel, about 25 miles southeast of Genoa.



I stopped briefly in Carson City to photograph the state capital for the Equinox to Equinox Rally (5 points).  I think the western states’ capitals should be worth more — definitely an east coast bias to this game! 😉  From my house, the five closest state capitals are 108 miles (CA), 240 miles (NV), 612 miles (OR), 661 miles (ID), and 734 miles (AZ) away.  It amuses me that those would be worth the same number of points as five historical markers that I could find within a couple of miles.  But I digress!



A family at the capital was very stealthily trying to get me into their pictures.  I clearly amused them by driving up onto the sidewalk.  At one point, they were so obvious about it that I called out asking if they wanted me to move…the dad laughed and said, no, he wanted me to stay.  So I guess I’m photobombing some nice family’s vacation pictures.

From Carson City, I hopped on Highway 50 east.  Lots of historical markers there (neener neener, state capitals!).  Old mining equipment litters the landscape.  It literally looks like people just left everything one day and let it all fall to ruin.



Riding through Devil’s Gate, the boundary between Storey and Lyon counties:



Silver City, which can’t really tell if it wants to lay down and die as a ghost town or not:



The Gold Hill Hotel is Nevada’s oldest operating hotel; by all accounts, it’s quite a nice place to stay and the restaurant is supposed to be good.  There’s even a haunted room if you’re into that.

Shortly thereafter, I pulled into Virginia City for lunch.  I absolutely adore Virginia City.  It’s historical and terribly kitschy; what more could I ask for?  I ate lunch at the Sawdust Restaurant; my sandwich was pretty good and the waitress was  friendly.  A family at the next table had a daughter around Kira’s age and I kept staring because I really liked her dress.  I think the mom thought I was creeping; there needs to be a “I’m a mom, too; just scoping out your kid’s gear” gang sign to flash in these situations.



After eating, I walked up and down the main drag, taking tons of photos and enjoying the day.



(You can’t take me anywhere)



There were tons of motorcycles in Virginia City, not surprisingly, most of them were Harleys.  I parked the Ninjette outside the Bonanza Casino and got to chatting with the guy working the door there; he had the blue Harley two bikes down from mine.  He was a nice guy and had some good stories about riding in the Nevada desert with various biker “clubs”.  He was wearing a red E Clampus Vitus shirt and we nerded out about Clampers stuff for a few minutes.



Speaking of Clampers, the local E Clampus Vitus chapter is named after Julia Bulette, a popular prostitute and madam in Virginia City who was murdered in 1867.  See?  History is fun.



Just outside of Virginia City, I stopped at the Comstock Lode historical marker, commemorating the first major silver discovery in the US.   The Keystone Head Frame here was in use in Gold Hill (back between Carson City and Virginia City), primarily in the 1930s.



Highway 341 heading north out of Virginia City is also known as Geiger Grade Road, a well-traveled toll road back in its day that connected the Comstock Lode with the Reno area.  Unfortunately the Bison Fire made things a bit hazy today and the usually fantastic scenery was only really good.



I had a bit of excitement coming down Geiger Grade Road; as anyone who’s ever ridden with me can confirm, I am not the world’s fastest rider.  Thus, I really keep an eye on my mirrors in twisty roads so that I can pull over for quicker traffic.  As I was coming down Geiger Grade,  there was a mail truck behind me.  The driver was obviously local so I kept checking to see if he was gaining on me; he wasn’t, really.  But the point was that I was looking.

As the road leveled off, I noticed a pedestrian walking along the shoulder on my side of the road.   I had been riding in the middle of my lane; I started to move to the lefthand side of the lane to give him more space and was utterly shocked out of my mind to find a motorcycle there RIGHT NEXT TO ME IN MY LANE ON THE DOUBLE YELLOW.  I was so incredibly pissed.  I had no idea this guy was there.  I had no idea he was even behind me (or, more accurately, behind the mail truck).  Seriously, I look in my mirrors.  At the most very conservative estimate, he was behind me for maybe 5 seconds before he decided to pass me IN MY LANE ON THE DOUBLE YELLOW.  More likely, based on my watching him in traffic up ahead, he didn’t even lag behind me at all but just went around the mail truck, came up on me, and passed me.

We ended up at a red light together and I told him, “hey, I came pretty close to hitting you there” and explained about the pedestrian.  He scoffed cheerfully and reassured me that we weren’t that close.  I firmly reiterated that I had had no idea that he was there and that I would have appreciated the chance to see him in my mirrors and pull to the side of the lane.  We were both good-natured about the exchange and I hope that he actually heard what I was saying.  He had a passenger (his wife, presumably) with very little gear on, as well, and I can’t imagine he would have been too happy had I clipped his bike and sent all of us sprawling down the highway.  And no, he wasn’t on a Harley.

OK, that was a really long anecdote.  I was pissed about it for miles, though, and finally had to forcibly turn my thoughts elsewhere once I got onto Mt Rose Highway.  It was too gorgeous a road to be focused on some random asshole.



Mt Rose highway twists and winds its way back down towards Lake Tahoe, giving excellent views of North America’s largest alpine lake.



A very cheerful group at the vista point took this picture of me, proving that I actually attended my own trip.  They were very excited to see my San Jose Sharks license plate frame (one of the group was from San Jose) and one of the ladies happily told me that I was the first woman she’d ever seen riding a motorcycle.  I find that questionable, since she said she was from Southern California, but I smiled and nodded.



Blah blah Lake Tahoe gorgeous blah.  Seriously, even I’m getting bored with this ride report.  Is anyone even still reading this?



California at least had the common courtesy to put their state sign on a traffic light that wasn’t hidden by a tree.



After a shower and some down time, I treated myself to sushi at Naked Fish.  They had a great roll called the Southwest: roasted red peppers, jalapeno, and avocado, topped with ebi and spicy sauce.  I love finding sushi that I can eat.



All of the staff appeared to be displaced-by-summer ski bums, which amused me greatly.

Finally, I ended the day with a pedicure at Perfectly Polished nail spa.  Verily, my life is difficult and I really rough it on these trips.


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South Lake Tahoe: Day 1

I am on a road trip!  My already tenuous grasp on sanity was weakening with every passing day, so I convinced Peter to be a stay-at-home dad for four days.  The goal is for me to be A Real Person and remember what life is like when one talks to adults and does not have to read “The Lost (and Found) Balloon” and “Hop on Pop” upwards of 20 times per day.

So, this morning I hopped on the Ninjette and aimed east-ish.  My first stop was the Stockton Rural Cemetery (7 points for the Equinox to Equinox Rally!).  I didn’t take any photos between my house and Stockton because no one wants to waste their time looking at photos of hot East Bay interstates.

Between Stockton and Jackson; yes, it’s as hot as it looks.  In the midwest, that scenery would be a pleasant wheat field.  In the Central Valley, it’s just scorched hot yuck.



The next stop was the Pioneer Cemetery in Jackson (7 more points!).  The cemetery was conveniently located down the street from a historical marker, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself.


Also at the Pioneer Cemetery are graves from the miners killed in the 1922 Argonaut Mine Tragedy.  Because I like to spread sunshine and happy news, here is a little about that (from Wikipedia):

“On August 27, 1922, 47 miners, mostly immigrants from Italy, Spain, and Serbia, were trapped in a fire 4,650 feet (1,420 m) below ground. Other miners who had been near the surface poured water down the shaft in an attempt to put out the flames. By dawn, townspeople and other miners arrived to help, but it took two-and-a-half days for the fire to be extinguished…[i]t took three weeks to reach the level at which the miners were trapped. ”


I stopped about 9 miles down the road, in Pine Grove, for a short break.  It was pretty hot (about 90F) and I was trying to stay on top of drinking enough water.  Naturally the storefront I stopped at was closed, but a neighboring drug store was open, so I bought a bottle of water and sat under the awning in front of the Ninjette with my Teiz suit half-off.

I have fond memories of Pine Grove, as the Women on Wheels’ Pacific Rally used to be held there.  If you’re feeling nostalgic, check out the ride reports (2002 and 2003).

Self-portrait outside the drugstore.  Also a nice view of the Pine Grove Town Hall behind me (3 points!).


OK, FINALLY we’re getting somewhere.  Once I left Pine Grove and started hitting some decent elevation, the weather got tolerable.  I still had all the vents in the Teiz suit open, but it was quite comfortable.

The 47-ish miles between Pine Grove and Kirkwood are some of my favorite in the state.  Highway 88 has gorgeous scenery, good pavement, and frequent enough passing lanes that road boulders are a temporary inconvenience instead of enough to ruin your whole day.

Example: this cement truck happily driving right past a turnout.  Hooray!  Thank you, upcoming passing lane!


OK, no one wants to see pictures of cement trucks.  Here, have some decent pictures instead.



I stopped at the Carson Pass summit to photograph the elevation sign (5 points!) and got to chatting with a woman about my age who was also at the turnout.  She asked a few questions about the Ninjette — the usual “oh, I’ve always wanted a motorcycle” type questions — but then the conversation took an unexpected turn when she mentioned that she had a Spyder!  Very cool. 🙂


Since my only real meal so far had been a light lunch back in Stockton, I stopped for a second lunch at Kirkwood’s Inn, the site of my favorite historical marker (what, doesn’t everyone have a favorite historical marker?).


From Kirkwood Resort’s website:

“The Inn sits at the intersection of Alpine, Amador and El Dorado county lines. The Alpine/Eldorado county line actually runs right through the old bar room.  Rumor has it that during Prohibition, the bar was on wheels so it could be rolled across the county lines and out of the jurisdiction of the visiting sheriff.”

A couple miles down the road is another historical marker (5 more points!) but, more importantly — maybe — some pretty gorgeous scenery.  Caples Lake is utterly clear and beautiful.  I would love to come back here some day and camp or spend some time just relaxing at the lake.  Happysigh.


About 11 miles later, I took the turnoff onto Highway 89.  The scenery continued to not suck.



In the little town of Meyers, CA, I found some historical markers (5 points!) for the Pony Express.   I know there were some Pony Express themed bonuses for the Iron Butt Rally this year — I wonder if some Iron Butters stopped at this same spot just a couple of days ago!  I can live vicariously (as much as I love long distance riding, I could never do an Iron Butt.  I have a Princess Butt.).


Oh, though, speaking of the Iron Butt, I’m so happy that Kurt Worden is riding his Ninja 250 in the Rally again this year.  I guess he forgot that you can’t take a Ninjette on the interstate or ride it long distances.  😉 😉

Soon enough, I pulled into South Lake Tahoe.  I love Ski Run Road because the road literally turns into a ski run and heads right up the mountain.


Ride stats for the day:



After checking into the hotel, I showered, got unpacked a little, and had some relaxation time.  I chatted with Peter and Kira over FaceTime (yay! It sounds like they had a good day together) and decided to head out for a light dinner.

I liked this kinetic sculpture garden (all the pieces move in the wind and make a nice dancing effect):



Dinner at Base Camp Pizza, where the awesome waitress let me order a kid’s size spaghetti.  Also, they had Sprecher root beer!!  I sat outside and listened to the guy singing and tweaked the day’s photos while I waited for my dinner.


So that was Day 1 of my childfree adventure.   Notable things I did today:

* Was sitting in my hotel room when I realized I wanted to take a shower.  Immediately stood up and took a shower.

* Went to the bathroom whenever I felt like it (within reason and legality).

* Ate french fries without sharing.

* Did not have to worry about anyone else’s lunch, dinner, or snacks ALL DAY.

* Used a mode of transport for enjoyment, not as a means to get a screaming child to nap.

There is definitely something to this.


Posted in Ninja 250, Trips and Travels | 5 Comments