Monday, April 22, 2013

What's In Your First Aid Kit?

It feels doomsday-ish to put a first aid kit together. You have to sit and think about what might be useful in urgent situations. Even further, you need to recall something unpleasant and remember what you would have wanted in that situation, and then prepare for it to happen again. This exercise is not the light summer beach read. It's the Winter of our Discontent. But, it must be done, like washing the car, or reading Steinbeck in high school. So, on an already gray and chilly Venice day, I went to the store to buy new first aid provisions and a decent bottle of wine. As I put my kit back together, I drank to my health.
cotton pads, cotton-tipped swabs
Acts of motorcycling, camping, backpacking and living in an earthquake zone have made me more vigilant about keeping my kit updated. It is our portable mini-hospital, and I keep just one, because the gels, creams and pills have assorted expiration dates, and I don't want to keep replacing duplicate kits. So, our little problem-solver goes from backpack to motorcycle to car to bathroom and back as needed.
Class of First Aid
Not shown: extra zip-top bags, Dramamine, cotton pads, cotton-tipped swabs, bug spray, sting gel, matches

I break the kit contents up by situation. Perhaps not the best method, but it is mine.

  • Multitool, multitool, multitool. This has scissors, a straight and serrated knife blade, screw head bits, an awl, pliers, etc. Next to my wallet, it's probably the most used thing in my bag.
  • Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray. We nice fleshy city-folk are hungry bugs' PowerBall number. Almost every time I go outside and end up waiting somewhere, I wish I had it. Now, it's a permanent fixture in the kit.
  • Mints. I keep them in my kit for one very important reason. I absolutely believe the most important thing one can do in an urgent situation is to stay calm. Mints are my reminder. If it's not a life-threatening situation, I pop a mint, make a plan, and get to work. No big. Just a scrape/cut/sting/burn/bear mauling. Also, if you've ever tasted blood, you know they come in quite handy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ride Report: Just one of those days...

Location: Venice, California, to Top of Topanga Overlook, Topanga, California and back
Miles: 36
Duration: Two hours, including a stop for gas and a stop at the overlook
Accommodations: None

The only way through Topanga Canyon, California, is a nice twisty ride up from the PCH. It is also a gateway ride to Mulholland Highway, one of California's most notable and fun two-wheeled rides. I rode up and down Topanga Canyon for a month on my first bike, a Honda Rebel, before I took that left turn onto Mullholland and went over. I rode up and down Topanga for another month on my next bike, the CB350, before I turned left. This is the second time up and back on the Ducati, which in retrospect, makes the CB350 feel like I took my house slippers out for a walk up the canyon. This new wisdom is half of what made yesterday a perfect ride.

The days everyone tells you are coming your way as a new rider are the days you will panic swerve to miss a left-turn driver, or the day the bike dies in traffic in the number three lane, or when it rains and the bike won't start for two days. Or the accident. Those are easier to talk about than the good days, perhaps because they allow ego-inflating "I'll ride anyway" machismo to infuse the tales. Fewer riders mention the days that contain inexplicable soul-cleansing rides, the ones where the teller has to get mushy to talk about them. Days when ideal temperature, wind and sun conditions, the bike running on its best behavior, and a series of good human decisions become the platform for the feelings you have when you drop into a curve in the road at exactly the right time, with the perfect lean, completed by that beautiful slingshot exit, heavy on your chest but in the best possible way. It becomes the perfect ride when that happens not once, but over and over again on the same trip, like Groundhog Day for lottery winners. Your mind goes to a happy place that you could mistake for a dream - oh sh*t, you are daydreaming - and you snap back to the road and continue having an amazing ride.

It was an incredible ride on the way up.

The twisties on Topanga relax towards the top of the canyon, where we stopped at the Top of Topanga overlook. As an aside, when you leave the overlook to return to Topanga Canyon road, the paint on the pavement directs you to only turn right, and head, gasp, into The Valley. Which is fine if you're proceeding down the back side of the hill to catch the left onto Mulholland. Otherwise, do what you must to return back down the canyon and back to the oceanside. I've heard stories about The Valley.
Top of Topanga Overlook. That's the San Fernando Valley. (Such a perfect ride, I wasn't thinking about framing up a shot.)
I didn't jinx it. It was an incredible ride on the way down, too. I think I'm ready to go over Mulholland Highway on the next ride.

Ride notes from Topanga:

The PCH from its start (Santa Monica) north to Topanga Canyon road, about five miles, is a busy section of the highway. Watch out for tourist u-turns to claim a parking spot, sports cars with something to prove, and a whole lot of cyclists and foot traffic. Once in the canyon, watch out for two congested areas, with a couple of blind spots, within about two miles of each other, starting about five miles up the canyon. You'll see them coming because it starts to get populated, and the posted speed limit slows from 45mph to 35. Many of the turns' posted speeds are 25.

Ducati and the house slippers

Until I figure out how to manage helmet hair, I'm putting a ridiculous filter over every picture of me on the road.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ride Report: Spring gear shakeout to Dana Point, California

Southern California has emerged from the inhospitable wintry days of sub-60 degree temperatures and into Spring, where sunny and 72 climes prevail. In our household, that means it is time to dust off the camping gear and see what fits onto the bikes. I call it a shakeout ride, and this season, it was to Dana Point, California, for a night at Doheny State Beach.

Location: Venice, California to Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, California, and back
Miles: 150
Duration: Two days, one night
Accommodations: Camping

Dana Point, California, is 75 miles south of Venice, making it a good choice for a quick gear check trip, especially since this was also the first time I overnighted on my new-to-me motorcycle, a Ducati Monster 696.

The shakeout trip was born out of a five-minute conversation followed by a decision to pack up and go. That's the best way to stress test a system, to surprise it, right?  My hasty setup was a bungee cargo net and a backpack.
I will never do this again, for a couple of reasons. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adventure Report: Museo Ducati, Bologna, Italy, March, 2013

I love me some Italian motorcycles. So much, that on my recent visit to Italy, I dragged a non-motorcycling friend with me from Rome all the way up to Bologna, to take the Ducati museum and factory tour. 

The Museum

The most important thing to know about taking the Ducati factory tour is that there is no free Ducati at the end of it. Instead, you'll receive a 5 Euro coupon towards purchases of 25 Euro or more in the company store, the location of which they do not tell you. (Note: the factory store is NOT the gift shop in the museum.) It's a whole 'nother building, about a quarter of a mile away from the museum and factory compound. We missed it because we had no idea it existed, but based solely on the size of the building as we passed it in the taxi on the way back to the train station, I would recommend you stop and spend some money there.

Overall, the company doesn't seem very interested in giving anyone a tour of anything. But that's cool, they're making
 Ducatis. I get it. To get the reservation, I sent an email to Ducati's "Visit Us" section three times, with there separate tour time and day requests, and each time, I received a form email back saying "Your reservation is not booked until someone emails you to confirm." Three weeks to Italy...two weeks to week to Italy. Nothing. When I got to Rome, I had my expat friend who speaks Italian call the factory. The woman on the other end of the line said she never received any of my emails sent from the Ducati site. She even checked the spam folder, but as luck would have it, there's a tour in English at 3:30pm tomorrow.

We bought our high-speed train tickets, and the next day, headed to Bologna. A few hours, pastries and espressos later, we stood outside Ducati's security gate with 10 other Ducati enthusiasts waiting for a glimpse behind the curtain. We all looked like shivering junkies with cameras, withering outside in the gray-blue, blustery day. 

The tour of the museum itself is guided, fast, and you must stay with your guide, who doesn't care that you want to read the placards or information on the walls explaining the history of Ducati and the bikes. My solution was to take as many pictures of the bikes (and the placards) to take a slower tour via iPhoto later.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dutch Baby For One: A February Recipe Swap

As we do almost every month, a group of us reinvented a vintage recipe. This month's inspiration is Stuffed French Pancakes, taken from an old book called The Second Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places.

When necessary, I sulk in chocolate. And Dutch Baby pancakes don't like sulkers. My experiment with this month's recipe swap was a flop. Another way of looking at; it was an opportunity to learn how something does not work. As it turns out, this sulky little chocolate pancake is a metaphor for my resolution this year: Don't pack too much into the pan.

It's too much. 
This year, if it doesn't fit into a few buckets, it's out. I'm saying "no" to more projects, which means saying "yes" to more things I have made it a priority to work on this year. More travel. More motorcycling. More blogging. More friends. Less overcommitting, fewer overwhelming statements, ideas and goals.

The book list this year is pared down to something reasonable so at the end of the year a dozen leftover books aren't mocking me in an untouched pile. The goals have been broken up into bits that can be achieved. This act takes a village, no kidding. Just gaining clarity takes precision, expertise, and some not-so-comforting self-reflection, at times. Sabrina at The Tomato Tart is helping me clarify my mission and rebrand this blog, and Alissa Finerman is helping me break my professional goals into achievable chunks. With their help this year, perhaps the failed Dutch Baby pancake recipe will be the only thing I over-stuffed.

Just right.