Tuesday, August 11, 2015

This is My Favorite Way to Travel

There is something very special about riding with your life partner.  I enjoy riding with other people as well but riding with him is extra special.  We work well as a team in our day to day life and those skills are heavily used and strengthened every time we go on the road together.   The fact that we are on rather compatible bikes now makes it even sweeter.  In fact, my big bike has done wonders for my road confidence so our riding ability is that much closer also.  OK I’m on a sidecar and he isn’t and that always brings the spiked punch to the church social but we are used to working around that.  There is also all that time we get to spend together.  Right now with my work and his work and my lymphedema and, and, and…that time together is even more precious to us.  Beyond all that though (well maybe not beyond the glory of uninterrupted time together but close) is the reassurance that comes from being with someone who absolutely has my back and absolutely having his.  It makes me willing to ride farther and harder because he will be there for me.  I don’t even have to ask, it’s just a reality of my life.  If I push myself past my endurance he will be there at the end of the day to help carry my stuff into the hotel room and help me off with my gear when I don’t have spoons left to even untie my boots.   If a sudden storm causes us to change routes I will be there to get things packed up and loaded while he consults the radar and the maps.  He doesn’t have to worry about it.  If he’s with me, I’ll go anywhere.  If I ever go around the world, I want to do it with him.

Having said that, there is something equally special about riding solo.   The freedom is absolute and I do mean absolute.  You make plans for six months.  You route, you research roads and hotels and gas stops.  You highlight maps.  You get three days in and find out that there is a folk music festival in town.  No one else you know has much tolerance for lap dulcimer music but you love it.  Guess what?  You can change your mind and stay in town for three days for the festival if you want.  The only person you have to consult is your own self and no one is there to judge you no matter how many banjo CDs you buy.  Are you riding down the road and see a turn off that leads to a much more exciting road?  You can take that road at the last minute, no one cares.  Beyond the freedom there is also the thrill of accomplishing something on your own.  The confidence I’ve gained from solo travel is pretty amazing.  It also helps me understand my traveling style so I can express my needs when traveling with others.  Sometimes it’s nice to ride with no competition or comparison.  Even when I’m riding with Mr. Man who I know supports me and everything I do, when I’m tired sometimes I feel inadequate.  I feel like less, not good enough to ride with him.  It’s not true but that’s hard to see when you’re exhausted.  When I’m alone, I don’t get that as much.  It’s easier to concentrate on what I did accomplish rather than what I didn’t.  One of the neatest things about solo travel is the excitement I get when I think about coming back with Mr. Man or with our riding group.  I get this “I saw something awesome and I can’t wait to show it to you!” mentality that is exciting.

And having said both of those things, there is something really special about riding with a close group of friends that you trust absolutely.  You see each other’s beauty and each other’s ugliness and you still like them.  It helps you realize that you also are lovable when you are at your most unlovable.  Riding in groups creates energy unlike anything else and that shared energy can be intoxicating.  The shared memories and laughter you have around a dinner table after a great day of riding is just about the perfect way to finish a day.  I love seeing someone in my group succeed at something they’ve been working on like tackling a difficult road or increasing their mileage or understanding how their bike is geared.  There is also an awful lot of security in riding with a larger group of people.  The very first big group trip I ever took was with Mr Man and Zippo and Spyderman.  My transmission blew up on day four outside of Roswell, New Mexico.  We turned and were limping the bike back towards Ft Worth where my mechanic was at the time when it really gave up the ghost in Anton, TX just outside of Lubbock.  As I sat at an abandoned gas station waiting for AAA to come, I remember thinking that should the need arise; we had the collective credit to just buy me a new bike if we had to.  Of course, we would never do that but it was nice to know that I wasn’t alone trying to deal with a dead transmission and no working toilets.  Everyone brings a different strength to the group.  Everyone contributes.  Spyderman is one of my favorite folks to beta a plan with.  That man will find holes and problems you didn’t know existed.  The Billy Goat Gruff is my first choice to help manage a scene should an accident occur.  As a former Mr. Man has at work prevented that from happening.  OK, I thought, I’ll just take a solo trip instead.  I started working on that project when one night we had an idea.  What if, we said, the weekend before Labor Day we went out into the Hill Country together with me on my bike and Mr. Man in his truck with my off-road tires?  What if we spent some time on dirt roads?  We love riding like that together and we don’t get the chance to do it often.  He has to go back to work so he would head home to Austin and I would head out to get some solo riding done.  I decided to head to Alpine, TX for a few days.  I won’t do any dirt riding since I won’t have Mr. Man with me but I’ll do some road riding and spend some time exploring the small town of Alpine on my own.  Then I’ll head back to the Hill Country where Mr Man and my riding group will meet me for two days of group riding around Labor Day.  We should have everyone:  Sidecar Adventures (me), Mr. Man, Zippo, Spyderman, Union Jack, The Billy Goat Gruff, and our two new riders who at this moment are called Valkyrie, and the Curvy Bavarian (names subject to change).  That’s going to be a lot of bikes on twisty Hill Country Roads.  Hijinks will ensue!

So stay tuned readers.  Road Reports from that trip should start happening soon.  Oh and 2016 looks to be a Big Group Ride year.  Apparently, I’ve finally forgotten how stressful Colorado is.  We are looking at touring parts of the Deep South in what we are calling The Hotter, Deeper, Stupider Tour.  Highlights might include the Barber Motorcycle Museum, The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Cherohala Skyway, and Dollywood.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Being Myself (or Let's Talk About Self Identification)

Can we talk about something?  Let’s put down the maps and the spanner and stop the packing and talk about assumptions and identity?  I know, it’s kinda heavy and I’m sorry about that but it can’t all be oil changes and carving up miles around here.

I don’t get something that seems to be intrinsic to how everyone else understands of the world.  I don’t know that I understand how our identities can be completely and absolutely defined by our activities.  Let me try to explain.

I sometimes run into Femmes who don’t ride motorcycles.  I’m ok with that because I understand it’s not for everyone.  However, some of these women base their entire reason for not riding on the fact that they are a girly girl and they just couldn’t.  Like they just can’t imagine a world where their hair wasn’t perfect or their makeup wasn’t on.  I’m not judging them as shallow people.  I’m judging them as constrained by their own identity.  The reverse can also be said.  I’ve met women who feel like because they ride, they can’t be girly girls.  I think in both cases these people are being true to themselves….I just don’t get it.  For me, who I am and what I do are not always related.  I’m first and foremost a Femme.  I love makeup, so I shop for it a lot and I practice putting it on and I think about how I’m going to wear it.  But if I didn’t love makeup like I do, I would still be a Femme.  It’s who I am; it’s not what I do.  I work on bikes, I get dirty when getting dirty is called for and I clean up when it’s time to be clean.  If I’m on a two week road trip, I don’t haul a ton of make up with me and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to make room for it if I did bring a train case of cosmetics.  I do sometimes bring a little bit a makeup; maybe an eye shadow duo, mascara, and a light balmy lipstick.  I know that often deep in a trip I will want to dress up a little bit.  But if I didn’t bring any makeup no one gets to pull my Femme Card.

I have the same frustrations with the concept of pulling someone’s Man Card because of an activity someone deems to be un-manly.  What does that even mean?  A Man is who you are, not what you do.  Identity is something that I believe rests deep inside us.  Something that is not dependent on what we are doing at any given time.  Sometimes, it’s not dependent on how we look to the outside world.  I am who I am and nothing can change that.  Certain things aren’t out of bounds to me because I identify as a Femme Woman.

This was driven home to me just a few days ago.  Mr. Man and I were in Fry’s electronics and there was a really fantastic Hot Wheels track that I was exclaiming over.  I turned to Mr. Man and told him I had almost the exact thing set when I was a kid.  I loved Hot Wheels.  I also loved Barbie.  I had both and I played with both indiscriminately.  There was not concern in my house that there was something wrong with me playing with cars; that I somehow wasn’t a girl because of it.  I knew I was a girl and I seemed to absorb the belief that since I was a girl, if I was doing something then it was, by default, appropriate for me to be doing.  I’ve carried this belief into adulthood.  Because I’m a Femme then I am a Femme while I’m doing whatever it is that I’m doing.  And while I’m a little ranty, this also applies to my clothes.  I love pretty clothes but for goodness sake just because I wear riding pants and a T-Shirt on a road trip doesn’t mean I don’t know my Stuart Weitzman from my Louboutin.  I’m a Femme but that doesn’t mean I don’t live in the real world.  I’m going to dress for the occasion because I’m also Appropriate.  And  my $200.00 IGIGI Red Polka-Dot Dress is not Appropriate for a road trip.   But my easy to pack $70.00 Elomi babydoll nightie might make it into my saddlebags….just in case.  Because I do have my priorities….and stuff.

So I’ll give you that what we do can give others clues as to who we are and I will admit that I like being a girly-girl.  I like my makeup and my expensive hair and my beautiful femme clothes but when I step out of those stereotypical Femme activities;  when I wander around a hardware store, or an electronics store, when I browse Comic books, or when I throw on BDUs and a grungy T-shirt….I am still a girl, still a Femme, still me.  Nothing I can possibly do will ever change that.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Riding for my Life (Can't Stop, Zombies are After Me)

I love to ride, I really do but I do like other things as well.  I like going to Renaissance Faires and I don’t always like doing it on a bike.  Ren faires require so much costume and then you have to dress off the back of your bike in a parking lot.  When you leave out it’s hot and you are sweating and you really just want flip flops and AC and to GET OUT OF ALL OF THESE SKIRTS WHY AM I WEARING 10 YARDS OF RUFFLES?!?!?  We typically try to take to bikes to the opening weekend of the local Ren Faire and I typically spend a lot of effort talking us out of it.  I mean, if the weather isn’t perfect (and when is it in April in Texas) we might as well take the car.  No sense on getting dressed in the wet in a parking lot right?  And we don’t want to get caught in those unpredictable North Texas Storms that I grew up with.  Who knows when you might get a Tornado!  And I’m the only one who grew up in Tornado country so trust me….we should just take the car.  And if it’s not raining its’ going to 100 degrees and oh my Dear Zippo you know how much you hate riding in the heat.  After being out all day, I don’t want you to get ill with heat, let’s just take the car.  And of course if we are thinking of doing a wine tasting then we should defiantly take the car because….Safety.

This year for some reason was very different for me.  We had the date to go to Faire picked out and we had the conversations about packing light done and we had plans to leave early on Friday so we could take our time and ride the back roads.  Then it started to look like we were going to have storms…and I didn’t care.  I didn’t care, I wanted to ride.  I wanted to ride come high water or lightening or crankiness.  I checked the weather and checked the weather.  Mr Man and I poured over dewpoints and humidity and I finally decided that we could take the bikes.  We would probably get wet about 40 miles from the hotel but we would beat the worst weather.  Then Saturday would be beautiful and Sunday would be good as long as we left in the morning.  I checked in with Spyderman and Zippo about the rain (ok I bullied them until they agreed to ride wet) and we were all set.

I could not home from work fast enough on Friday afternoon.  I got into my riding clothes and threw myself on my bike like the Zombies were behind me looking for my brains.  I flew to Zippo and Spyderman’s house to get them and away we went.  Once we shook ourselves free of the Interstate in Belton and hit HWY 317 I felt the stress crumbling off me.  Flying out of my life with the speed of the wind.  Burning away from me and I emerged free and without care from the cocoon of my daily life.  I was just the three of us.  Mr Man is not a Ren Faire type of person and Union Jack and the Billy Goat Gruff couldn’t make it.  The three of us made for very stress free riding.  Easy to make choices.  Easy to decide when to stop, when to go.  Easy to know that  our bikes were very compatible as far as power and speed.  Stress about medical bills, about my health, about my house, about my job all gone and gone and gone.

Mr. Man calls this brain draino.  I had never before really experienced the need for it like I did on that Friday afternoon where I ran away from my life, from my responsible thinking and rode straight into possible storms without a care about it.  But that afternoon I had a need that would not be thwarted by such things as reality.  I was riding and that was final.  And ride I did.

Luck was with us all weekend.  We missed all the rain on our way to Waxahachie, TX except for about five drops in Hillsboro but we did have a tornado warning that evening that caused us to spend some time in an inner room at the hotel.  Saturday was sunny and moderate just as promised and on Sunday we once again avoided all the rain except for 15 minutes of being spat upon by the heavens.  I can’t remember another time when the fates smiled so hard on me during a ride.  I deserved it.  After everything this year has given me, I was due some luck and some brain draino.

Next on the riding docket is a week spent in the Hill Country both with Mr Man and some friends.  I feel fortified for it now.  Let the planning begin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Just Spring

IN Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
baloonMan whistles

-e e cummings

Ah Spring!   Warm weather, then muggy weather, then rain, and then a few glorious days of sunshine when it’s not as hot as the surface of the sun.  The time for all good motorcyclists to be riding, riding, riding!...When it’s not a torrential downpour.  In my house it’s also time to plan next year’s trip.  We aren’t getting a big trip this year.  It looks like we’ll have about a week in September that we are going to use to ride like crazy people out in the Hill Country.  Next year though we are going to try for another group ride.   I’ve recovered enough from our Colorado Trip to think about doing this again.  Right now, it’s pretty nebulous.  Not so much a plan as an idea.  I know we want to try to get to the Motorcycle Museum in Leeds, Alabama and I think there has been some mention of Dollywood.  Mr Man has mentioned the Blue Ridge Parkway and that sounds pretty awesome too.  We’ve invited everyone to put in opinions and requests so that we can start forming a plan but otherwise, all we know is we want to do another group ride the summer of 2016 and we are inviting two more riders than before.  So that’s eight bikes and a possible support vehicle.  Yep, we are crazy.  I can’t wait though.  I can’t wait to see what form this trip takes and what new adventures we have.  

At least that’s what I tell myself.  Because there is always that chance isn’t it?  Always that chance that this trip will be the trip your friendship can’t come back from.  The trip that ends with tears and screaming or icy silence that never ends.  Motorcycling is risky but most people think about risk to life and limb.  They don’t think about the interpersonal risks that comes from group travel.  I do.  I think about it all the time when I plan trips.  I think about it before I start the very first email asking “Who wants to go?”  Then I send the email, risking personal conflict and tears and fury 2500 miles from home. 

Because it’s Spring, the time for foolish ideas and even more foolish actions.  And believe you me, we are fools but I have faith in us.  I have faith that we value our friendship enough to work out conflicts and will be forgiving of each other’s folly.  Not that there haven’t been tears and yelling and me hiding in the shower at 3 in the morning while I break out in hives from stress.  Not that I haven’t had my doubts that my friendships or my marriage would survive the argument over what to order on the pizza (this is a bit of a fabrication, there hasn’t been any actual conflict over pizza I just won’t share how silly some of the arguments have been with people who weren’t there.)  Despite all that we’ve always come through for each other. So  I have faith,  I take risks.  After all, motorcycling is the fine art of risk taking.  Besides, it’s Spring and the world is  puddle-wonderful.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

There's a First Time for Everything...Again

There is nothing quite like your first ride on a motorcycle.  Unless, of course, you get to have that first ride all over again.


I went for a ride last weekend.  A real ride, not just running errands.  Mr. Man and I woke up on Saturday and realized we had no plans.  So we promptly made some that involved getting on our bikes and riding together.


We went down an old familiar route that took us to a great lunch spot.  It was a curvy back road that we had been down many, many times in the past but for me this time was special.  This time, was the first time.  This was the first time I had taken Nightingale down this road and she ate up the miles and curves and wanted more.  It was the first time I really kept up with Mr. Man in the curves and didn’t think twice about it, it wasn’t even exciting.  I just did it and realized when we stopped that he didn’t leave me behind once.  I realized once again that despite my heavier weight and the sidecar, our bikes are really well paired for touring.  If he really gets stupid with the speed and peg grinding cornering then yeah, he’ll lose me but riding about the speed limit and taking the curves at the speed limit instead the posted speed for the curves?  I can keep up with that pretty well.  This was also the first time I’ve done a lot of riding since I lost a lot of fluid out of my legs and it was like learning to ride all over again.  I felt much lighter on the pegs.  Mounting and dismounting the rig was much less difficult (sadly for Mr. Man it was much less humorous as well) and shifting my weight from side to side in a curve was super easy-peasy.  Mr. Man said I was getting more of my body over the curve than before and it certainly benefited my riding.  I had the usual amount of pain in my legs after being on the bike for about 70 miles but now I know that’s the lymphedema talking, not me just being out  of shape and I should just work out harder to make the pain go away (hint: the pain may never go away and that’s going to be OK).  If I get off the bike and get my legs up then they feel better and I can ride some more.  I did about 140 miles all in all and I felt about the same physically as I did before the diagnosis, maybe even a little better.  For the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful that things will be ok.  That riding won’t really be that different, I’ll just be aware of things in a different way.  Nothing has really changed except that I feel better and have the tools to manage my swelling.  Maybe I’ll even see that 500 mile day that I thought I would have to give up on.  Maybe not.  And that is actually ok.  For the first time, I’m not comparing myself to anyone else and coming up short.  I was riding for myself and  taking the time to do the self-care I needed so I could ride some more.  Thoughts of being able to keep up with anyone or being good enough to ride with other people didn’t enter my head at all.  Because now, with the lymphedema, I don’t have time for that nonsense.  I don’t have time for made up worries or insecurities.  I have real worries and real insecurities now that have nothing to do with anyone outside of myself.  Now, if it doesn’t serve me or my well-being, I have no time for it in my life.  And that is one of the most freeing things that has come out of my journey this year.  I suddenly don’t feel that I have to prove myself to anyone and I don’t feel  guilty about it.  And the icing on the yummy yummy cake that was my ride on Saturday?  I got to have my first ride all over again and it was every bit as life changing as I remember.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winning at Life Sometimes Looks Like Not Losing

I have been epically remiss in keeping this blog updated.  My life has hit several snags in the last year that made it difficult for me to keep the blog a priority but it has occurred to me that blogging may be the best way for me to work through things.  Let me share a story that has little to do with motorcycles on the surface but everything to do with my riding life.

Recently I did a review of the Sidi Doha boot and posted pictures of my foot in the boot.  I also shared pictures of my foot in this post. Did you look at those pictures and say  “Geez Sidecar Adventures you have a hideous amount of edema.  That can’t be normal and that can’t feel comfortable.”  I would have told you yes, I have edema because I’m fat.  My doctor has seen it and assures me it’s water from my weight.  It’s not painful, don’t worry about it.  Well, you would have right and I (and my doctor) would have been wrong.  The back story of this is a story for another post another day.  Through a series of fortunate events I became convinced finally that the edema in my legs was Not Normal and I should get that looked at.  I had tentatively come to the conclusion that I might have a condition called Lipedema.  I’ll let you Google that if you want but its a little known and difficult to treat condition that many doctors don’t believe in.  I found a clinic that I thought could treat it but I needed a referral from my Doctor to go.  So right after the first of the year I found myself in my Doctors office.  The visit did not go well.  She was dismissive sticking with her opinion that I needed to lose weight and the swelling was from being fat and putting stress on my blood vessels.  She had never heard of Lipedema and was very dismissive of my explanation.   I bullied her until I got the referral for the clinic.  Her last words to me were that even if they do all the bandaging to get my legs down, the swelling would just come back unless I lost weight.  Those will be that last words I hear from her because I’m not going back.  I got a call that day from the clinic and found myself sitting in the Specialist’s office the next week.

After speaking with me at length, the specialist touched my feet and legs gently and then softly pinched the skin above one of my toes.  “You have Lymphedema”.  He went on to talk about getting me into therapy with the physical therapist and to very gently, professionally and appropriately talk about the importance of losing weight in order to manage this condition.  I heard maybe one word in ten.  All I heard was Lymphedema.  That was not the diagnosis I was expecting.  Not what I was prepared for.  I knew what that was.  A good friend of mine has that and I’ve watched her manage the condition.  It’s a commitment.  It’s like suddenly becoming poly and your third partner’s name is Lymphedema.  I numbly made my physical therapy appointment then sat in my car and cried for about an hour.  I have no idea why I couldn’t stop except that I had been crying since the event that made me realize something was wrong.  I cried because the Specialist mentioned my weight (very appropriately and gently).  I cried because a diagnosis of Lipedema would have meant no effective treatment but it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t lose weight.  Lymphedema was in many ways a more positive diagnosis.  It had a course of treatment that was effective but that meant that my inability to lose weight was again all my fault (it’s not but that’s where my head was).  I cried with relief because I was right and my Primary Doctor was wrong.  I cried because I knew it meant the end of the 20 year relationship I had with my Primary Doctor.  I cried because I was afraid of the unknown.  Afraid the therapy wouldn’t work.  Afraid it would and I would have to face the fact that I had let my legs degrade when I could have fixed this years ago.  I just cried.

I was in Complete Decongestive Therapy for about a month.  A month of having both legs bandaged to the knee and being in post-operative shoes because they were the only things that would fit my big bandaged feet.  A month off the bike because I lost all range of motion in my ankle and my feet wouldn’t fit in boots.  A month of missing a lot of work.  A month of learning and talking things over with Mr Man.  How would this impact our riding life?  My mileage?  My ability to off road?  Lots of questions and no answers.  I still have no answers except that we’ll find out when we get there.  I’ve been able to draw up a couple of game plans.  My life has changed in some ways and some ways not at all.  I no longer have to wear bandages every day but I’ve still got them in case of a flare up.  I wear compression garments to my knees every day now.  I have two pair, one off the rack and one custom made.  I have to wash them every night so I alternate.  I wear night garments when I sleep that look like oven mitts with stretchy covers.  They are comfortable but bulky.  Every night I use a compression pump on my legs.  During the week we do my lower legs only for 30 minutes each leg.  They must be done one at a time so that’s an hour.  On the weekends when we can we do one entire leg and my core in the morning and one entire leg and my core in the evening.  That is a little over an hour each leg.  I also perform Manual Lymphatic Drainage on myself every evening and in the morning when I remember.  I take every opportunity to sit down and get my feet up that I can.  I now have to make sure I keep my skin moisturized and healthy BUT I can’t put lotion on right before my stockings, my night garments, or the wraps for the pump.  So I have to work that in as well.  Lymphedema is my new life partner and we have a love hate relationship.  

So how will this impact my riding?  I only know a few things right now.  I know that I will continue to ride just as far and fast as I can.  I will keep going off road because to stop would be to admit defeat.  I do understand that because I have a whole bunch of new things I’m doing to manage the swelling in my legs, I’ll need to factor that time into my day on the road because managing my legs on the road will be paramount.  So I may not be able to ride as long in order to get in and care for my legs.  I’ll need to watch the heat and I’ll need to make sure I’m hydrated.  But I’m still going to ride.  In fact I took my first ride just a few weeks ago.  It was heaven.  Here’s what I found: 1.  Because the lymph is flowing better through my body, my stomach has lost all of its hardness and my jacket suddenly fits me again.  2.  My boots fit me better and help keep the swelling down.  So riding is a little easier.  I’ve lost about 4 or so inches off my lower legs so a lot of bulk is gone and that equals easier movement.  Also, I’ve lost 10 pounds of fluid in one month.  I feel so much better overall and that will help my riding.  The random shooting pains in my legs are less and the pain in my hips is gone, again, that will help my riding.

In the end, I think this is a tradeoff.  As my trainer has pointed out to me, the lymphedema is nothing new.  I’ve had it.  Now I’m learning how to manage it.  I may have to shave off some miles so I make sure I have time to care for my legs in the evening but the tradeoff of feeling better on the bike and in my gear is worth a lot more than the price of a few hours on the road.