About Me

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Hi and welcome to my motorcycle trip blog. Here you will find motorcycle trip reports primarily based in the State of Washington. The entire state is my walk in the park. From the Pacific Ocean and Olympic mountains in the west, to the magnificent Cascade mountains, to the desert and agricultural lands in the east, Washington has it all. Born and raised in Washington I have over 40 years of motorcycle experience. Here you will find a wealth of experience regarding the weather, roads and seasonal patterns of this scenic wonderland. Enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Post Fire Ride Report

I have not been riding the FJR much this summer. I was on a dual sport ride in Mexico in March and used up my available vacation time. Couple that with 60,000 plus miles on the FJR mostly on roads in Washington State and it adds up many repetitions of riding the same roads all too often. So this summer I went hiking, did some home maintenance, built a fence and enjoyed a vacation to the Oregon Coast with Linda my lovely bride. It was wonderful.

After a two month hiatus the FJR was calling. The goal was to see some of the burned areas from the fires in North Central Washington where thousand of acres burned, hundreds of homes were lost and three firefighters lost their lives. I wanted to see something different and ride roads never rode before.

Out of the house at 7:30 I am heading to Arlington where I can get off I-5 and the real ride begins. Here is my route for day one.

Ah the North Cascades Hwy. I ought to wire a mike to and talk about my thoughts as I ride this road again for the NNNth time since 1975 or so. I feel for you if you can’t ride this grand road on a whim.

Some falls colors with a power line. I have taken this photo before - it is a great fall shot less the darn powerline. This photo is a bit overexposed. Oh well.

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The Methow River near Twisp
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My route takes me on a few roads never rode before such as the B & O North Road and the Spring Coulee road. It was along here the fire damage was coming into view. In this photo the fire was stopped by apple orchards, with the fence posts on the right scorched by fire. Crazy.

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The area east of the city of Okanagan looks like the moon. Cattlemen who depend on the land are ruined. If their herd didn’t burn, they can’t feed what cattle they have left. The dilemma is cattle feed is too expensive and their land is burnt and will not produce grass for at least two seasons. Most are lucky to have their homes. Replacing a fence will cost $5000 per mile. Telephone poles have white X’s on them, meaning they need replacing. It looks like the moon.

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What a tragedy.

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A structure saved. There was many structures saved. Even from the motorcycle at highway speed I could see homes still standing but with damage from the extreme heat, such as buckled siding.

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I am near Conconully when I took this picture. This is what the valley usually looks like.

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At Conconully Lake.

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This is where the road goes from pavement to gravel for 7 miles and area affected by fires resumes. The gravel road is named Sinlahekin Rd on Google maps, but it is a Forest Service road. The seven miles of gravel cuts a significant amount of time to get to Fish Lake Road. Instead of two down and outs I can ride a loop. I had no problem with the FJR on the gravel road.

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End of Day One.

Day Two

I was planning on a three day ride but it did not work out that way. Oh well and that was fine. After seeing burned land mile after mile, a few more miles is sad but repetitive.

Here is my route for day two.

A photo of the Similkameen River near Nighthawk Washington where it was 39 degrees when I rolled through.

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I thawed out on my way to Riverside Washington where I take the Tunk Creek Road.  Good choice - this is a nice little down and back road one I have not been on before.  Tunk Creek also was one of the five named major fires in North Central Washington in late September and the damage was along the road was dramatic.

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A few burned cars. I saw a burned garage with a burned car.

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I returned home via Blewett Pass where I shot a few fall photos.
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End of Trip.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mexico Adventure Ride

Oh Mexico how I was looking forward to this trip, Oh Mexico.

For three years now I have been following Don Stanley's trip reports to Mexico.  A resident of the greater Phoenix area Don has made many trips to Mexico and posts his ride reports on the FJR forum.  Don loves riding in Mexico.

As a resident of the greater Seattle area, a web foot, I have followed Don's trip reports with a certain amount of jealousy as he is riding in February and March while it is raining in Seattle.  Someday I was going to join him on a trip to Mexico.

In December 2013 Don announced a trip to see the authentic Mexico.  The idea of dual sport riding in authentic Mexico, not tourist trap destinations caught my interest.  I am not one for tourist towns. Leavenworth Washington with its phony Bavarian village facade is something to avoid, as it the western themed town of Winthrop Washington on the east sides of the North Cascades Hwy - I prefer Twisp down the road eight miles thank you.

I have not been on a dual sport bike in 5 years and my son and I road single track in the Washington Cascades about 10 year ago.  I used to ride a DR250 - a fun trail bike.

The Naches Trail at Government Meadows - his DR125 and my DR250 cira 2005.  Wonderful place with lots of good memories.


My Son on his DR125 
An interesting part of the trail!
My son grew up and grew tired of the dirt bike so I sold both of them.

In 2005 I bought a Suzuki Vstrom DL1000 aka the manstrom and rode it to places such as the Magruder Corridor the Lolo Trail Motorway and Copper Canyon Mexico.

I sold my Vstrom in April 2012.  I sold it because:
  • My FJR is a lot better road bike and I road the Vstrom 99% on the road.  
  • The most scenic places in the US have paved roads.  Most of the roads were built 100+ years ago and roads were built to all the most scenic places.  Generally gravel roads have a fewer scenic places and take forever to get there.
  • Here in the Pacific NW the best gravel roads are under snow until mid July.  After that fire season can bring smokey and hot conditions.
  • Riding down a gravel road on a Vstrom is like riding 15% out of control 100% of the time.  The front end is plowing looking for a way too throw my ass down.  
So maybe I could rekindle my spirit for off pavement adventures by going on the ride to Mexico.

In August 2014 the wife gave me the green light for the trip to Mexico.  My FJR was not going to cut it so working with Don and Skip Mascorro of MotoDiscovery I rented a Suzuki DR650.  Nice!

In September 2014 while playing golf I hit the turf instead of the ball with a 3 iron damaging my left wrist.  I tried home remedies but finally was forced to seek medical treatment in November.  It was then I found a had a slightly frayed tendon.  The RX was a cortisone shot and a wrist brace for eight weeks.  If this did not heal my trip was in jeopardy.  By January 2015 my left wrist was well on the way to recovery - Yes!  I was thrilled to have dodged a bullet.

It is February about 3 weeks before this epic trip.  I get a email from a friend on the FJR forum saying Don Stanley had crashed his motorcycle.  I find a post on the forum; it did not take long to learn Don was out for this trip.  Major bummer for Don for his motorcycle season is over.  On a personal level I was going to miss seeing Mexico through Don's eyes - he has such a love for Mexico and his enthusiasm would be missed.

Don's accident started a whole stream of bad juju for this trip and it never quit.

I was flying on United Airlines from Seattle to McAllen Texas our depart point for this trip.  I decide to ship my gear via UPS, seven days prior to the start of the trip to make certain it would be with me for this ride.  I didn't want to trust United Airlines - no gear no trip.  The gear got hung up in Louisville Kentucky for two days due to a snow storm.   I posted pleas for help on the forum for fellow riders to bring some spare gear and they did - the outpouring of support was great.  As it turns out my gear, shipped via UPS, arrives at the hotel one hour before I did.  Bad juju avoided by sheer luck.  Damn good thing too, and although I did not know it, I was going to need some good gear on this trip.  Bad juju was narrowly avoided.

It was raining on the departure day, Tuesday March 10 and the forecast for the next two days was rain then for better weather.  This would be a common refrain on this trip - the forecast was always for better weather and unduly optimistic.

Getting our permits for the motorcycles and ourselves in Mexico.  This took two hours and our guides Juan and Alberto were fantastic helping us spoor Gringo's who didn't speak a lick of Spanish.

I didn't want to get my camera wet, it rained a lot on this trip, limiting the number of photos.

Lunch stop on day one.
Lunch stop on day one.

Left to right, Russ my roomy, Bob and Bear.  In the fore ground is the Dammit Don doll.  Since Don could not make the trip Brian brought the Dammit Don doll instead.  We put the doll in all sorts of compromised position, including being screwed by a coke bottle.

Dammit Don doll with a Personal Locator Beacon - he's gonna need that PLB if he touches my lunch.

It rained a lot the first day.  We were soaked on arriving at the Hotel Las Palomas de Santiago Abasolo 105 Villa de Santiago.  GPS: N 25º 25.503', W 100º 09.094' in case anybody wants to go there.  The rooms had heat something that we would be missing for the next 4 nights but we did know that then.  Too damn bad.  The rain was more bad juju.

Underground parking at Hotel Las Palomas de Santiago.  Nice.

I took this after dinner.  My room was on the second floor.
It was raining on departure Wednesday March 11.  Par for the course.  Despite the rain our enthusiasm was still intact.

Alberto, our guide, and Chris with the scenery in the back ground.  The road took us between the crack in the peaks, nice road crummy weather.  Bad juju.

It was pretty here.

Like spring time in Seattle and the temps were in the low to mid 50's.  Heck this is just like home.

The dogs were pretty much on their own.  

We stopped to warm up and have a cup of coffee.

The coffee shop.  My Starbucks card was worthless.

My roomy Russ on day two.  

It rained the rest of the day on Wednesday so I did not take more photos.  About 1 mile from our destination, Hotel Magdalena in Galeana, there was a double fatality accident blocking the road.  We sat there while our guides Alberto and Juan evaluated the situation.  The local drivers being very resourceful found away around the accident creating their own dirt track paralleling the main road.  Cars, trucks and even a flipping yellow school bus went down this dirt bypass, while the bad ass Gringo Dual Sport riders headed back the the gas station a quarter mile away.

We get back to the gas station and I say to Alberto hey we can do that.  If a school bus can do that we can!  Not one to hold us back, Alberto said go for it.  So Brian and I went for it.  It was no problem, just some slippery mud in places but no big deal.

An nobody took a single photo of the ride along the mud bypass and it was so noted at dinner that night.  We agreed to correct that wrong on Thursday morning.

And we did.

Thursday morning dawned with blue skies for a change.  Hurray.  The moral of the group was starting to sink and we need a bit of blue sky to turn things around.

I decided to ride the dirt road bypass on the way out.  Everything was going well until the last 100 yards when I choose the wrong line allowing the front tire to run into the right side of tire rut.  The result was very predictable - the front tire hit the edge of the rut and sent me flying on my ass.  How damn embarrassing.  An easy piece of cake and I tip over. Even worse it took three guys to left the heavy DR650 as footing was a problem in the mud.  On the plus side it provided some comic relief for the group.  That was my only tip over the rest of the ride.

The bad ass dirt road bypass.
This was easily the best day of the ride.  The weather was nice and I had access to my camera.  Also our wet gear dried out during the day- a bonus.

I was learning the DR650 had a very touchy rear brake and the Corbin seat, while better than stock, was good for about 75 miles.  I am spoilt seat brat having only Russell saddles on my last four bikes.


Bill abusing his WR450 on the pavement.

A typical secondary road in Mexico.

A typical secondary road in Mexico is a good place for a GS bike.

My rented DR650.

Shot taken on the go.  With blue skies the crew was happy!  It was Thursday our last blue sky day.

Bill at the waterfall

Waterfall

Russ in the foreground and Bear in the background.

My new screensaver.

Brian and I went for a little walk.  This is what we found.  Waterfalls everywhere.
A wonderful day.



Juan fixed a great lunch at the waterfall and everybody had a great time.

The DR650.
So far we had not rode much in the dirt.  After a wonderful lunch in a splendid setting that was about to change.  As Brian said, Don ordered a dirt bike ride and MotoDiscovery was about to deliver.

And it was great!


Brian on his BMW

Example of the road surface.  Easy riding on the DR650 - the bigger bikes had to take it a bit slower.  I was thrilled I was on the smaller DR650.

Lot of rock and a bit of mud.

Bill on his WR450 at a small town in the mountains.

As the elevation increased so did the number of pine trees.  There is snow on the mountain top.

Brian on his BMW.  He road that sucker everywhere and did not tip over once.  Nice!

The DR was a great bike off pavement, so so on pavement.  Some of the guys on the bigger GS bikes were not happy campers with today's off pavement excursion.  Of course I was not a happy camper on the paved sections with the DR650.

We get to the top then descend.  It was a rocky road with lots of hairpin turns.   The guys on the bigger bike did a great job to get down this road.

From pine trees to cactus in a very short time.

Snow in the mountains, cactus in the foreground.
It was getting late in the day.  Spending the entire afternoon on a dirt road left the group stretched out quite a bit and it took time to regroup.  We were about 30 miles from our destination, Real de Catorce, when the sun went down.

We were riding like the wind and it was not raining, still some were not thrilled about riding in the dark.  My ass was tired of the seat on the DR so dark was the last thing on my mind.  I wanted off this damn bike and the sooner the better.

It is 15 miles of hand laid cobblestone from the main road to Real de Catorce.  We road it in the dark.

Russ at the entrance to the 1.5 mile long tunnel.

Russ - we are thrilled to be at our destination. 
Notice the cobblestone.  Inside the tunnel the road surface is brick pavers.

It had been a terrific day.  Juan and Alberto were working hard to find interesting routes and worked even harder keeping us on the routes.  Like herding cats.  

We had a great dinner that night and called it a night. 

We stayed at the Hotel El Real  in Real de Catorce on Thursday and Friday nights.  Although we had the option for tours or riding someplace everybody took an off bike day.

Hotel El Real and the MotoDiscovery chase truck.  Real de Catorce is built on a hillside and the streets were steep.  At nearly 9000 feet we were huffin' and puffin' climbing the hills.

Russ and I went for a walk in the morning.  It was in the low 50's, rather chilly and somewhat unexpected.  
Typical street in Real

A play on the name Starbucks.  Don't tell anybody at Starbucks - I am sure Howard Schultz the Starbucks CEO would sue them.

The coffee shop - I had a double espresso.

The coffee shop interior was very nice as was most of the interior places in Real.  Quite the contrast to the exterior.

The church had services scheduled all day Friday.

Dark clouds headed our way.  We got back to the hotel just before it started raining hard.

Real is an old mining town and has been restored.  It is now a tourist town with many places to buy things I don't need. 
Real de Catorce
After going out in the morning to see the town I read a book the rest of the day.  It was a good book and I was happy to relax but it was cold in the hotel lobby were most of the guys spent the day.  I finally went to my unheated room and crawled into bed with extra thick blankets to read my book to warm up - I was chilled to the bone.

From prior days my riding gloves were wet and had not dried at all so I laid them over a lamp with a 60 watt incandescent bulb.  It took 12 hours for the gloves to dry.  I had give up on drying my boots but did manage to get my socks dried.

Russ was not so lucky with his gear as it was not water proof, nor did he have rain gear.  His gear remained wet the remainder of his trip.  When I was concerned about not having my gear for this trip Russ stepped up and brought some extra gear.  I am not sure his spare gear was water proof but I was thrilled to use my gear.  The forecast for the rest of the trip was for rain.  Bad juju was here to stay.

By 7:00 pm I was long past ready for dinner and was stilled chilled to the bone.  The group met in the lobby and went back the same restaurant as the night before mainly because it had a nice fire place and the bar was open.

During dinner I finally warmed up and after dinner the bar at our hotel was open.  It was fabulously warm, inviting and the interior decorations were stunning.  I bought a fifth of tequilla offered drinks to all.  We had a great night sampling some fine tequila but were all careful to not over do it for Saturday was a riding day.

And what a day it would be.  More bad juju was heading our way.

We left Real de Catorce on Saturday morning.  It was foggy and fog was as good as the weather got.

1.5 mile tunnel leaving Real.

Somewhere along the 15 mile cobblestone road Alberto lost a camera mounted on his motorcycle.

Shortly after joining the main road Bill's WR450 dropped a valve and it starting raining.  More bad juju.  I felt bad for Bill because he trailered his WR450 all the way from Ontario Canada.  He was out on the fourth day of ride, not counted the off bike day.

The weather got worse.  The cloud deck was nearly at the valley, the mountains were socked in and it was raining hard.  I was tired of the sad seat on the DR650. I found opportunity with Bill's WR to get off the damn bike and ride the truck.  This weather was shit and I was only interested in getting to the next hotel to find some heat.

Stopping point midday on Saturday.  Just look at the cloud deck and the group decided to go in.
Bill accepted my offer to ride the DR.  The group decided to head up into the mountains, yes the blasted mountains in this soup.

I told Bill first gear in the DR was tall and the rear brakes were sensitive and prone to locking the rear tire.  Bill soon found the front brake was as sensitive when he used them and tipped over.

I enjoyed my truck ride with Juan learning something about Mexico and listening to his stories.  Much better than riding the DR in this slop.  About an hour into the truck ride and we run into Bill heading down the hill.  The group had turned around due to cold, wet and visibility issues.  We returned to the road the way we come the truck bring up the rear.

Stopping point midday on Saturday.
Bad juju was with Russ my roomy all day.  It had rained like hell and a the end of the ride he was pulled over on  the side of the road when a car hit his motorcycle and knocked him and the bike to the ground.  Fortunately the car was going at a low speed so Russ was not hurt and damage to the bike was just a bent hand guard.

Our hotel for Saturday night, Spa Hacienda La Florida Outside of Jaumabe Tamaulipas, had no heat and a leaky thatch roof.  We stayed here because there was virtually no other choices in the area.  The group's spirits were low.  The forecast was for more rain.  I am tired of bad juju but it was not done with us yet.

Our cabin for the night.
Cabin interior.  No hangers, not closet but we were lucky having 3 bed so it became the closet.


The bathroom.  It did have hot water at the shower, not the sink.  Wonderful. 

The lack of heat in the room with zero opportunity for his gear to dry off was the last straw for Russ, he decided to head back to the border on Sunday.  If I had a way to get my luggage back I might have joined him.  If not for a non refundable non transferable airline ticket back to Seattle I would have joined him.  I decided to see the trip through.  The weather forecast was not favorable.

Bill and Alberto.  Bill was in good spirits despite dropping a valve in his DR.  I took some comfort in having a rental bike.  As you can see it was cold out.  In the lower 50's.  Bill was well prepared.

The high plain - a normally arid place was soaking wet and darn cold.  We ate dinner here - outdoors.

The only redeeming thing about Spa Hacienda La Florida was the hot rock total body massage and the people were very nice - the food wasn't bad either but it was served out side.  Unfortunately I did not sleep worth damn this night.  Trucks using jake brakes were a constant companion all night.

View of a deary and raining day.

On Sunday we headed to the El Cielo Reserva de la Biosfera and the little town of Gómez Farías.  Alberto said there was heat at the next hotel.  I was thrilled.

After Russ left for the border the rest of the group split up for the day.  Some wanted to take the short, more direct, as the crow flies dirt route while Darrel, Bob and I decided to take the longer paved route with Juan as our guide.  Bill his WR450 mia was riding with Juan.  My motivation was to get to the next hotel.  The weather that day was better but it looked socked in in the mountains so I choose to ride the paved route to the hotel.

And it proved to be a good choice.  Juan led us to a nice little town where we stopped for lunch.  While enjoying lunch a young girl invited us to a arts and crafts building where people had recently taken a class to learn to carve bamboo into objects.  Bill and I bought some of their work.  Juan also told stories and we got to learn more about Mexico, not just what we hear on the nightly news.

Bill and I shared the bike that day and the weather wasn't too bad, cloudy but not a lot of rain.  The DR was a fine off pavement machine but it's on pavement manners were lacking.  I was happy to be off bike and give Bill a chance to ride.

The dirt donks that day had a tougher go of it.  The attempt over the mountains was aborted due to rain, poor road conditions low visibility.

We arrive at Cumbres Inn near Gomez Farias.  During the ride we had come off the high plains dropping a lot of elevation.  The outside temp about 65 degrees and slightly humid it was, dare I say, pleasant outside.

Our hotel for Sunday and Monday night - a virtual palace.  It even had heat although we didn't need it as we were at lower a elevation.

Cumbres Inn - the wi-fi and phone service was a bit spotty as was the restaurant.

The DR at Cumbres Inn

Well my room at Cumbres Inn was very nice.  I was able to get my gear mostly dried out.

The original plan was to ride to the a difficult dirt road to the top of El Cielo Reserva and have lunch.  Alberto said this road was most difficult so most of the group decided to ride in a pickup truck with bench seats.  Bill road the DR up the road while I road with the group in the pickup.  My choice was based on having a stiff back and wanting my gear to dry out.

This turned out to be a mistake.  To begin with the road had only one moderately difficult muddy section near the town of Alta Cima.  The rest of it was a piece of cake for the DR.  Riding in the back of the pickup on a padded bench seat for the 2 hour ride up and 2 hour ride back was harder on my old bod just trying to hold on the the canopy supports.  My left wrist got sore from all the hanging on but within a day or so was better again.  Bill said this was his best day so I am glad he enjoyed it.  This day was a meh.........

Here are few shot to the trip to Alta Cima and our destination in the mountains.

And although I did not get a photo, teenage kids with huge grins were riding small motorcycles, without helmets, on the road the bad ass Gringo GS riders decided to avoid.

Scenic turn out

The road.

Tree at the scenic turnout.

Truck with bench seats and canopy.

The destination for the day.

The destination - there were rental cabins up here.  There was also a crew clearing the vegetation using machetes.  Things could be worse......  JSNS!

BBQ'n Dammit Don.

Hanging Dammit Don by Barb Wire.

Juan provided everybody with a terrific BBQ.

An attraction.  An ant trail.  This trail was about 100 yards long - it went from the road to the trees behind me in this photo.  The ants were bringing leaves into the ant hole.

Ant hole about the size of a quarter.  These ants were industrious little bastards.  On days like this you just want a little gun power to relive your more youthful days.

Vegetation

Cabins in the El Cielo Reserva Biosphere.

Dammit Don doll in another compromised position.


It was a two day ride back to the border.  On Tuesday night we stayed at Hotel Sta. Engracia near Ciudad Victoria.  The place had a lot of history but due to changing political and economic conditions has become quite run down - a shame indeed.  The highlight was the free margaritas served upon arrival, good food and the place had heat.

Wednesday was a non descriptive day riding the DR back on main highways back to the border.  Bill and I shared the ride on the little DR.

At lot went right on this trip.  I did not get Montezuma's revenge, I did not get robbed, I did not fall except for the one tip over, I came home in one piece as did the DR650,

Our guides Alberto, Juan and Ken were great!  The made lots of good lemonade out of an unusual batch of lemons, creating something from nothing and making the best of difficult situations.  I tip my hat to them.

My gear arrived and I was really thrilled with that - it would have had a miserable trip without it. I met some nice people, enjoyed some good times, suffered some bad times and learned a lot.

I am still trying to process what I learned.  I learned I am very fortunate to have a nice home with a lovely wife and have to the possessions I have.  Many in Mexico have much less.  I did not feel bad about returning to work and my problems seemed a little smaller when I returned home.

For me the rain made this trip a bust.  Two weeks of vacation gone alone with a significant amount of cash could have been better spent many other ways.  I could have had new FJR.  I could have spent two weeks riding my FJR in the Western US with friends.

I learned I was not in good enough shape for this ride.  I am not in the shape I was in ten years ago.  Even when my son and I road single track we would ride for the day, come back to the car, throw our dirty riding gear in a large plastic bin and drive home.  The next day was not another riding day but a day to relax, clean the gear and the bikes.  Not so on a multi-day dual sport trip.

I am done dirt / adventure riding.  I plan on sticking to paved roads in the US because I really enjoy that more.  There are many places I have never been and I want to do that with my wife when I am retired in a year or two.

The ultimate take home is, if not for this trip, I would have still harbored ideas of off pavement adventure riding.  The lesson learned is I enjoy road riding more.  I have changed and I am content with that.  Sometimes it takes a fry pan upside the head to learn what you really enjoy and perhaps things from the past are best left in the past.  This trip was my frying pan.