Girls 4 Ever! @ 80MPH

I was heading west on University Parkway, the stretch of US-29, a four-lane divided highway, between Athens and Atlanta, GA. It was late afternoon on a Friday and a thunderstorm was threatening overhead. People don’t mess around that time of the week. They are ready to get home to start their weekends or, like me, are already on their way to the party and are in a hurry to get there. Time is of the essence when the workweek is done. The average speed on the west-bound side was between 70-75 miles per hour. The east-bound side had been shut down due to a traffic accident and was backed up for miles. I gave quick thanks to the God of Speed for not being stuck in that mess.

Traffic was medium-heavy and I was averaging about 80 mph, making sure that I wasn’t the fastest vehicle on the road but keeping up with the faster cars of the crowd. I noticed a white sedan that had passed me, but then settled down to about my pace a little distance ahead. I eventually caught up and passed the car again. No big deal, it happens, I paid the car no mind as I continued to fling myself westward toward the horizon, bouncing around in my seat, tapping out the rhythm to some Lady Gaga tune with my right foot; I think it was “Bad Romance”. My thoughts were already occupied with playing in the twisties that were scheduled for the following day. The car eventually picked its way back through traffic and got ahead yet again.

Now it’s getting a little weird! After a while boredom and curiosity get the better of me and I am in hot pursuit of my highway stalker. It doesn’t take me long to catch up with my target. The car is still hanging out in the left lane, so I scoot over and slowly pass them on the right. I see what looks to be four college-aged kids bouncing around in their seats, hair flying, talking animatedly and obviously checking me out. Oh, shit! A carload of cheerleaders! They point and wave at me and I smile, — even though they can’t see through my darkly tinted face shield — I nod and give them a peace sign with my outstretched clutch hand. Then I grab a fistful of throttle, twist it quickly to the stop and treat them to a completely “unnecessary display of horsepower”. Gratuitous. I can’t help myself. I have no excuse. I pull triple digits for a few seconds, pass another vehicle by executing two acute lane changes to get a little high-speed lean for effect and then let the engine slow me back down to the speed of traffic.

It doesn’t take very long for them to catch up. Two songs, maybe. I’m astonished to see them again. When they pass me on the left, I see one of them is holding a sheet of notebook paper up to the passenger side window. It reads in bold-red Sharpie print:

YOU ROCK!
GIRLS RULE
4 EVER!!!!

I prop open my visor so I can make eye contact as I pace them. I smile and give them a thumbs up and a fist pump with my free hand. I yell: “Hell yeah!” even though they can’t hear me. I speed up and they stay directly behind me as my wing women until we part ways at a red light a few miles up the road. I turned right and they kept going straight. Each of us heading towards weekend adventure. I wish I could have taken a picture of this or had the video camera going. It’s the little things like these that make even a bored and hurried flight down a two-lane seemingly never-ending straight worth it. For one little instant my path merged with that of four strangers and life was just good.

Peace Out!

That’s one of the reasons I ride.

Riding a motorcycle connects you intimately, even if only for a short moment, with others and the world around you. You become part of that world, rather than being isolated and distanced from it like you are when sitting in a car. This is one of those reasons why bikers refer to cars as “cages”. I’m sure of it.


I’m Too Old For This!

We’ve all heard the expression: “I’m too old for this shit!” A few of us loudly proclaim our belief in the principle on occasion, but keep on keeping on. Some of us think it and quietly give up. Then there are some who use it as an excuse not to even start.

The subject of wether or not I’m too old to pound my body into submission and shape myself into an athlete by brute-force methodology has crossed my mind on more than a few occasions. My body is threatening mutiny, or so it seems. However, my mind has been known for its propensity of cracking the whip to quell the whining and the whimpering when the mission is deemed critical and worthy.

My husband’s view on the way I approach things? He just shakes his head and exclaims:

“Damn, baby! You never do anything half-assed, do you? You can’t help yourself!”

Even though my fervor must get on his nerves on occasion, I do believe he is sitting back, smugly, big shit-eating grin on his overly satisfied face, arms crossed at the chest, nodding and thinking to himself:

“Yeah, that’s my baby!”

He brags to his friends and co-workers. I know he does. Where others whip out their wallets (mobile phones) in one smooth and snappy movement to accost you with an array of baby pics and family portraits, he whips out his track photography. I think he has more pictures of me dragging knee on his phone than I do. That’s pretty bad. Where the wives (girlfriends) of others are gorgeous in their perfect hair and flawless makeup, he runs around flashing people with my sweaty helmet hair and unpainted countenance in dirty leathers.

He says I’m not like most 40 year-olds. But I don’t buy it. I feel too old for my own good on most days; and where I used to look ten years younger, frequent exposure to the elements and a high-stress work environment have finally taken their toll. I now am starting to look about as old as I feel. My crow’s feet alone could probably get me some premature social security benefits, if they didn’t check their paperwork. 😉

At least we don’t get the “so nice of you to take your daughter out” comments anymore. That was always a hoot, since hubby usually responded to those remarks with laying a fat slobbery kiss on me a few minutes later, after failing to correct the erroneous assumption. What a nut job! That’s why I don’t take him out in public very often… *giggles*

But there are a few individuals who defy the “life is over after 40” rule and they give me the drive to keep on going. Because a midlife crisis, after all, is a terrible thing to waste. =D

I almost didn’t start racing when I first got the notion and excitedly and very loudly exclaimed, while my nose was buried in Keith Code’s book A Twist of the Wrist: “Hell yeah! I wanna do THAT!” I’m glad I was on weekend duty and alone in the office. After the initial excitement wore off and my brain had time to process all of the information, it responded with an unkindly “I’m too old for this shit!” and that was the end of it for about a year or so.

A guy at work, who is a few years my junior, found out that I had crashed on my second race weekend and ended my first season prematurely, decided that he should save me from myself and told me the following: “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re too old to race. You crash and your body takes forever to heal and your injuries are probably going to be more severe. That’s probably also why you’re slow. You’re afraid to go fast.”

[Note: I only sustained minor injuries to my left hand due to my glove failing. The season ended prematurely because it took a little over three months and most of my saved up money to repair my bike, and it was decided it was best to prepare to race a full season in 2012, with a dedicated race bike and a lot more cash saved up.]

Excuse me?!? Dude, you better thank your lucky stars that we’re at work, because if you had said that to me anywhere else, I would have put you in your place, you presumptuous little prick! And then raced your cruiser riding ass for pinks. In first gear, with one hand. Asshole!

He stopped riding sport bikes (“crotch rockets” is the term he actually used) because he, by his own admission, was “too old for this shit” and had crashed and it took him forever to heal.

The reason I started racing, despite my misgivings about starting so late in life and only having been riding motorcycles on the street for a little over two years? Burt Munro. The old fart showed Bonneville how old timers roll, and he didn’t even pre-register. 😉 He bet “the farm” on his dream and it paid off. Against all odds, with plenty of obstacles and no sponsors. Yeah! He’s still my hero.

Read up on him sometime or watch the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Very inspiring story, even if you are not into racing. His story transcends the sport. It’s a testament to the fact that “I’m too old for this shit!” is just another fallacy we’ve been brainwashed with by the media, societal norms and rate-of-return expectations. Youth is wasted on the young. Whoever said that, they have it pegged.

I ran into a man of the “over-the-hill type” at my inaugural WERA race. He’s freaking awesome. I think he said he started racing when he was 67 and that was a few years back. But don’t quote me on his exact age. The man is my hero. He doesn’t know it, but I secretly look up to him. He’s having fun doing what he does, has a wicked sense of humor, and he’s fast.

My “sister in speed”, whom I met during a racing school we both attended, just shrugged when she first heard how old I was and said: “You’re just a baby.” She doesn’t look it, but she’s ten years my senior. And crashing does not slow her down a bit. She’s having fun, too.

There are many other people to whom I look up to, who defy the norm. People who do in spite of it all. Did you know there is a dude who races motorcycles and only has one arm?!? I didn’t know it was possible. I saw him at Barber, while I was walking to the race control building he was making his way onto pit road to go on track. I did a double take, shaking my head because I thought I was hallucinating, and then did a triumphant fist pump in his direction. He didn’t see me, because he had already passed the spot where I was standing to let traffic through. Yeah, get a load of THAT. That’s what I call passion! That’s what I call drive and determination. Freakin’ awesome. I still don’t know who he is, but there are a number of amputees still riding and racing motorcycles. Still think you’re too old, too disabled, too whatever?

Today I am researching a few topics of interest on running and come across an article that talks about fears first time road racers have. One of which is also a very real fear for first time motorcycle road racers: the fear of coming in last. It takes one race to get over that silliness. 🙂 But I digress. One of the items listed was the fear of being too old to run, let alone enter an official road race. The article ended with:

“You’re never too old to start running, and it’s definitely never too late to start road racing.”

And that is the truth.

Obstacles are placed in our way to test our resolve, our determination, our passion, and our will to succeed. I can’t do nothing about my chronological age; but I can work on being in the best shape of my life and not let my age stop me from achieving my goals. My age also can’t keep me from dreaming!

And as the clock keeps ticking away, forcing me to grow even older than “too old for this shit”, I still try and retain my inner peace and happiness while I’m waiting for my turn again.

Three basic ingredients are needed for sustained happiness:

  1. Something to do.
  2. Something to look forward to.
  3. Somebody to love.

I have lost my main “to do” four months ago, but I am keeping busy with my marathon training and writing, to keep the depression and anxiety at bay.

I am looking forward to racing my motorcycle again, which will happen once I have secured re-employment and have regained a positive cash flow and met my other financial responsibilities. 2013 could be my year and I have to be ready, mentally and physically.

I have the third item covered in spades. No, make that hearts, even though it is not the trump suit, it works better in a literary sense.


Mario Andretti Saves the Day

The past several weeks I have asked of myself repeatedly where I could possibly find motivation when the reason for said motivation has gone; unceremoniously packed its bag, and left in the middle of the night to disappear without so much as saying goodbye.

"Dear Miss Busa,
it's been fun. But I have to go. Our relationship is just not working for me anymore.
Regretfully,
Your Motivation
P.S. Please don't try and find me."

Motivation, you are just like all the others! You swine! I will never be motivated again. Ever! I haven’t been able to figure it out. My motivation didn’t even leave a forwarding address. Or did it?

Today, during some research for an essay I am writing, I stumble across a quote by Mario Andretti. Words I’ve been needing to hear for a long time. Words that make me feel a little less lonely. Words that give affirmation to the knowledge that dreams are not easy to achieve, because if they were, everybody would be a rock star, wealthy and living the life.

Unlike the rock stars, I really don’t want much out of my life. I have most everything already. I just want to be damn fricken fast and have a two-car garage. I’d take the former with a healthy dose of the relativity theory and the latter I would also live in, if I had to.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”

I’m going to run today. After almost two weeks of skipping out on most of my scheduled marathon training, because I just really didn’t see the point anymore, I am putting myself and my white flag-waving attitude on notice. The worries of a crashed economy, the rising cost of living, and an uncertain future were suffocating my will to live well.

My life as I have known it for the past fifteen years is quickly falling apart around me; and the stress of continued unemployment and pending financial hardship were enough to throw my happy-go-lucky disposition into the crapper. My brain chemistry went into crash-override and switched itself into depression mode and left me with smudged and streaky eye liner.

This is only an interruption of your dream. If this had been the actual end of your dream, this interruption would have been followed by the rolling of the closing credits and a fade to a wakeful state.

…because all I want to do is ride.

Fast.

Hard.

And scare myself on occasion. Because if you aren’t scaring yourself you aren’t going fast enough. I think Mario said that, too.


One-track Mind of Hell

Today the God of Speed spoke to me through a fortune cookie. Yes, this can’t be anything but racing related. My bike number is even in there, albeit in reverse. Yes. I would say I am horribly preoccupied. I wonder if this is a good or a bad thing. It was just like this last year. The brain stuck in gear weeks before the actual race; much ado about nothing. *sigh*

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Did I mention I also ran my fastest mile today? 9:56. And my fastest 1K at 5:56. Not too bad, considering I had a gut ache, was severely dehydrated, and felt the torturous beginnings of a migraine. I would think that getting to lap Mr. Slow three times in three miles would be a motivating factor, but my overall average pace dropped back by 25 seconds. I need to find a different backmarker, the man is distracting. 😉

Observation of the Strange Kind: It’s a little after 1 o’clock in the morning, I’ve had but four hours of sleep and my headache is threatening to make a reappearance; oddly enough, I feel like going for a little run.

I need to get my head checked.


Vee-Roddin’ It Down Nostalgia BLVD

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Just look at the enthusiasm of the newly initiated. Not four months into riding I was already itching to trade in my 2008 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low for something bigger, faster, stronger.

I happened across this pic by accident, and it made me sink into the warm embrace of nostalgia. Coincidentally, it wasn’t but two days ago we stopped into Augusta Harley Davidson to look at V-Rods. The Slow One has new-bike fever, but since he doesn’t want to admit it, I practically had to kick him in the ass, plop him on the bike, and knock the kickstand out from under him so he would stay put. He says he doesn’t want to park his bum on bikes he can’t get. Hogwash!!!

His face lit up when he spotted the Muscle. Now he had no problem taking a seat. He seemed so… I don’t even know the proper term. Like a kid in the toy store.

“Baby, buy me one of these!”

Sure, I’ll race it. Why the hell not? If things had gone just a little different, I would have thrown my leg over an ’08 Night Rod with mid-controls, instead of the Suzuki Hayabusa. What kind of rider would I be today, if that had happened? Probably would have never turned into a knee dragger or even considered racing.

Oh hell, who am I kidding here? I would have ended up burning rubber and getting high on the smell of race gas somewhere else instead: at the Quarter Mile.

Hubby then remembered that his wife races and therefore he has no money. The Old Lady spends his paycheck, too. Although, Ray said that they would take anything in trade, as long as it doesn’t need to be fed. Now you know. The “I got a Harley for my wife. It was a good trade.” bumper stickers are a lie. 😉

I realized, while we were there, I really miss the Hog HQ in Augusta. Always felt welcome there, and still do. They don’t even make you park your Japanese Girlfriend around back. 😉 The service department was awesome and never did me wrong. The parts department were a bunch of damn chrome enablers, they knew their stuff and how to separate a girl from her money. They even remembered us. Good people.

I hope someday Mr. Slow gets his wish and parks a V-Rod in our driveway… he’s gotta go to work at some point. I’ll race his shit, too!


Need. To Ride. More!

I really didn’t think that being a wannabe racer would have such a detrimental impact on the pastime of putting high mileage on low-aged motorcycles.

I put over 17,000 miles on my Hayabusa during the ten months I had the pleasure of flying low with her.

I have had the S1000RR for 20 months and all I did was average 1,000 miles per month? That’s shameful.

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I took the Hayabusa off-roading once. I ran out of paved road, into a rutted, narrow gravel path, and couldn’t back her up. I turned around in some dude’s front yard. Oops, sorry about that. My bad! Won’t happen again. On my way back, every male in that neighborhood was standing around in their respective yards, looking badass and watching me. Watching me with the kind of glare that seems to follow its target around corners. I died a thousand deaths before I finally made it back to the main highway.

I took the Beemer off-roading three times. Once in a camp ground and twice running out of pavement at the race track.

I dropped the ‘Busa once and crashed her once. A crash which gave opportunity to a BMW dealer of making a sale.

I dropped the Beemer four times and crashed her twice. Actually, one drop goes on the cap of a coworker who wanted to “freshen up” before going on a ride with his homies. He let the clutch out, stalled the engine and grabbed a handful of front brake, just like I told him not to. His back hurt for a month.

The Hayabusa made it to the mountains but never saw the staging lanes of a drag strip.

The S1000RR made it to the drag strip before she ever saw a seriously curvy road.

I tried to drag knee on the Hayabusa, but ended up dragging tailpipe instead.

I dragged knee on the Beemer right before dragging tailpipe.

The first time I ever put my knee down was actually on a Suzuki GSX-R600. It wasn’t even mine, but belonged to the Kevin Schwantz School. I rode my Beemer there.

In 1,204 days (3 years, 3 months, and 18 days) I have put 42,182 miles on the clock. That’s about 35 miles per day, which equates to approximately 1,051 miles per month.

I am averaged.

I need to ride more!


Poor Girl’s Data Acquisition

OK, the real poor girl’s data acquisition is a stop watch taped to her bike (or the manual lap timer that may already be on her bike from the factory.)

However, if said poor girl is already lucky enough to own an iPhone, and a decent protective case ($20-45), she’s twenty bucks away from the next best thing. Of course, the (also optional) external GPS receiver makes data acq a heck of a lot more accurate and more expensive, add another $99.

I have fallen in love with numbers. Correction, I have always had a thing for numbers, I have fallen in love with representing my relative suckage at the race track mathematically. There are all sorts of numbers to be marveled over: linear acceleration, lateral acceleration (really cute on the graph, when you fall over), average speed, top speed, sector times, theoretical best lap, gap times, and so on and so forth.

All this numerical goodness for the price of a military-duty weather-proof iPhone case, an external GPS receiver, and a $20 app by the name of Harry’s LapTimer Pro.

I’ve played with it at JenningsGP with mixed results. When it works, it’s freaking awesome! Unfortunately, I keep getting screwed by the lack of a proper mounting solution and a weak friction latch on aforementioned GPS receiver.

The GPS receiver was clearly not designed for woman to stick into iPhone, duct tape said mobile device to the tank of a motorcycle and go knee dragging. The engine vibration alone does the physical connection in and wreaks havoc with the interpretation of the signals from outer space.

It worked well for one track day; however, I must have worn the friction latch out, since it doesn’t even stay put in the car anymore. Pulling the teeny retention tabs back out with tweezers lessened the problem somewhat.

It works well inside the breast pocket of my leathers, but I can feel the thing up against my body and it’s annoying; not to mention it takes way too long at Third Call to push the ‘Go’ button, shove it in there, and get ready to roll out.

Then I discovered ‘overlaying’. The iPhone records video while the lap timer app continues collecting GPS fixes and accelerometer data. After your session you can combine the two by a simple push of a button and you’ll find your video footage dolled up with your relative position on a little track map (and various other data, such as time, date, location) in your ‘Photo’ app for your review. Sha-weeet!

For this to work, I have to mount the iPhone vertically in a position where it can record video unobstructed. If I thought I had a problem before, I really have one now. The best place for that sort of thing, without getting in the way when in a race tuck is the spot that damned steering stabilizer now occupies. Ask me about that sometime… I give you a hint: it involves a setting of 10 and a tight right turn in the pits. ;P

The GPR Steering Stabilizer hogs prime real estate.

I have to put on my thinking cap.

Failure (to acquire data) is not an option! Not now tthat I have gotten Harry’s LapTimer Trainer for my birthday. Trainer enables me to compare specific laps with each other on my iPad’s big screen with the aid of gorgeous graphs, maps, and charts some of which I can’t even decipher yet. Just send your session data to Trainer via Bluetooth and analyze to your heart’s content.

So far, I have $139 invested in this solution. That’s a far cry from plopping down $700+ on that Starlane Athon GPS R I had been lusting over for quite some time now. For a savings of about six hundred bucks I forego the knowledge of lugging RPMs, tallish gear selection, and missed downshifts. I can see that on my vids, and trust me, it ain’t a pretty sight (yet).