Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tears of Joy and Pain

This morning was the morning of truth.  After not riding for twelve days, that seemed like an eternity, it was time to get back in the saddle.  Apprehensive I was, I had no idea how this was going to go.  Within a mile I realized I was crying and laughing in my helmet at the same time.  The tears were born of both joy and pain, the laughter was pure release and exhilaration of being back on the bike for all the reasons that we ride.  The freedom, the adrenaline, the wind, the scent, the love of the ride.

Twelve days ago my body started to hurt and I was unsure why and had difficulty with normal movement.  I now know it is because I am Rheumatoid positive.  This is my diagnosis story.

They say hind sight is 20/20.  Well hind sight now allows me to see things I did not see before.  

Sometime back in 2006 or there about I went to Virginia International Raceway for the AMA races.  We worked all day and drove all night to arrive on the raceway grounds and set up camp.  A day spent exploring the raceway and town on the motorcycle and by nightfall I had been up for nearly 2 days.  We slept in the cold damp tent and forgot to close the peak vent making it stay cool all night.  I recall tossing and turning due to hip pain, a hip pain that is now too familiar, and it taking most of the next day for the stiffness to wear off.  I blamed it all on being overly tired, sore from riding in the car and then a motorcycle for hours and hours, the damp, the cold and well, getting older.  I never thought about it more than that.  Over the next several years I discovered that I just can't sleep on the ground or in the cold as the same hip pain would be present.  Even in a hotel room with broken air conditioning causing it to be cool or cold would produce the same result.

About 8 months ago I took a day sick out of work.  Most people know, if I take a day out of work, something is up.  I am not a call in sick kind of person.  But I did.  My whole body hurt.  So much so, that I remember telling a co-worker that the even the bed sheet on my feet hurt.  I never thought anything of it but passed it off as I must have had the flu or a virus but for some odd reason it did not effect my stomach.  Lucky me!

During the month of May I woke each morning with this aching pain in my right shoulder.  I must be sleeping funny or maybe it is time to get new pillows.  Maybe I should turn the mattress.  I dismissed it.

Thursday June 5th I got home from work (on the bike of course) and sat down for dinner and thought to myself "Gee, my biceps hurt, that's strange because I am lazy.  I don't workout!".  By Friday my body was heavy, a tired heavy and stiff.  On Saturday morning I awoke to pain, everywhere.  Over the next week I had pain in every joint and had difficulty walking but more so difficulty lifting anything, I mean anything…even my coffee cup.  Getting up off the couch was a ten minute chore and I had to scoot to the edge several times before having enough leverage to actual get upright.  Sleeping became difficult as everything hurt and started to burn.  Again I thought well this is strange.  By Monday I thought maybe I had been bitten by a tick and I decided to to Urgent care to get checked.  Seven viles of blood later they sent me home and said we will call you.

They never called.  By Thursday I stopped by the same Urgent care to ask if they had received results and the secretary blurts out "your Rheumatoid test is positive".  No explanation, no consult, no further information nothing.

While I wait to see a Rheumatologist I have read lots of information.  Everything I read makes me go, that's me!  I read things that make me remember when and think about how I never thought it was worth even mentioning, afterall most of these symptoms heard by others would envoke a 'She must be crazy' reaction.  Other things I read make me wonder what the future will bring.  That is the unknown, but for now, I know I live for today, take it as it comes and never give up.  I spent the last 12 days on a journey through periods of pain and sleeplessness to periods of only feeling tired and heavy.  With the recent relief it was time to get back in the saddle.

I realized today how important motorcycling is to me.  How it is part of who I am and what I do.  The joy was a happiness that reaches your soul and overcomes the pain.  I have always called it 'Two Wheeled Therapy" and that now rings true more than ever.

Ride strong, ride proud, ride fast and live!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Solstice - If at first you don't succeed

Summer Solstice - June 21, 2013

If at first you don't succeed.

Success does not come to those who don't try.  A failed attempt is not a failure unless you did not learn from your experience and resolve to try again.  We set out to earn a Saddlesore from the Iron Butt Association, ride 1000 miles in 24 hours and document the ride along the way.  Three of us set out at the break of dawn with a goal of becoming one of the World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders, a V-Strom, a Tiger and a California.  The longest day of the year with perfect weather, we could not have asked for a better day but we quickly learned that any mishaps along the way can derail your plans in an instant.  A carefully planned route included the proper timing to get through major metropolitan areas during non-peak traffic hours.  Three miles into our quest one of our riders was confronted with our first challenge of the day, a flat tire.  A quick assessment of the situation showed that there was not an apparent reason for the flat and dashed our hopes for an emergency plug.  The tire was inflated with the Mini Foot Pump we so wisely included in emergency supplies and tools and we made our way to Twisted Throttle's repair shop.  After waking the service technician from his early morning slumber and convincing him to come in to lend a hand, we began to plan the route again with hopes that our goal for the day had not been dashed in an instant.  Turns out the failure was due to dry rot on the valve stem however despite a speedy repair, too much time had been lost and our hopes of getting through New York before dawn had evaporated.  Time was no longer on our side.

Northward bound we would go with new hopes of lobster and speed, NHRA was running in Epping New Hampshire.  We rode together like we had done this before even though we had not.  Three amigos rolling through the mountains and valley's, over the elevated river bridges and gorges as I marveled in the wonder of nature.  We watched the sun rise in the mountains as the miles passed us by.  What a glorious day.  It dawned on me soon into our journey as we traveled these traffic free roads that we were making great time and would have had no problem reaching that original goal of miles if only we had not lost so much time so soon.  The days goal became to just ride through each of the New England states and enjoy the ride, the company, the views and experience of the day.  We rode the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire, a first for one of our travelers and a photo opportunity at the summit overlook.  A late lunch that never tasted so good after many hours in the saddle and then it was off to Epping to see some top fuel racing and meet some of the drivers.  A personal tour through the pits and some introductions to some great folks involved in the sport and it was time to hit the road once again.  As I headed south toward home I realized just how much I did not want this day or the ride to end as I watched the sunset over the skyline of Boston.

I logged 764 miles this day, enjoying every moment and dreaming of the next ride before this one was even over.

Not everyone is successful in every goal, today I was one of those who was not successful however I did not fail.  The lessons I learned were vast, the day and the ride was splendid. 

  • Time moves forward and no matter how much desire or determination you can't always beat the time ticking away.
  • Attitude is everything.  I'd have easily had an unpleasant day had I dwelled on the failure and not looked toward the opportunities still before us.
  • Wearing blinders in your own head can be detrimental to your ability to see the big picture.
  • Strength does not come from what you can do.  Strength is the ability to overcome that which you thought you could not do.
  • A deer spooked by the lead riders easily become unpredictable.  I am thankful I practice my hazard avoidance skills often and my encounter was only a brushing.
  • Having a well planned out day including emergency supplies will not ward off the unforeseen.
  • Nature is the original artist and I am lucky to live in New England.
  • When you change your tires, change your valve stems.  Or better yet replace them with brass or aluminum stems.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  As much as I thought I drank it was still not enough.
Mile 3, flat tire

Kancamagus Highway Overlook

Monday, August 6, 2007

Brian's Ride, August 5, 2007


Brian's Ride, August 5, 2007

The day started out cooler than the last few days or weeks have been and I was up at the break of dawn unable to sleep. Today was the day.The first annual Brian’s ride in memory of my good friend Brian Mello a fellow rider, friend, confidant, firefighter, father, brother, son and husband. Brian was senselessly killed on March 24, 2007 when an elderly driver hit him when taking a left turn through a group of 3 riders. Today however, was a beautiful summer day, with a cool morning and clear sky’s threatening to warm up the day as the sun rises to attention.
Anticipation, shaky nerves, and the memory of my good friend all heavy on my mind I headed to the garage. I looked at the fleet and it came to me, clear as day. When Brian would ride with me, he would choose a sport bike, don my race jacket that hangs in the garage that only he ever wore and we would go for a short ride and enjoy a friendly lunch.Today, I will ride a sport bike and leave the Harley at home even though I know this will be a Harley day and the sport bike attendance will be few at best. I strapped his jacket onto my rear seat; it only felt right that I should take it along for this ride.
After my morning coffee, too many smokes, and much pacing in the garage I decided it was finally time to hit the road. I slabbed it to the staging area in Raynham as I wanted to be one of the first to arrive; I was to park in the VIP section and am in the first group to lead the ride.Somewhere along that ride I got that same strange but familiar feeling, which I often get and realize that I am on this journey of life, alone.This will prove to be an emotional day for me, and I must support myself. A quick stop at the Dunkin Donuts for more fuel for me, and an encounter with a character I wish I had not had the misfortune to encounter today but that is a whole other story, a quick stop for fuel for the bike and I entered the staging area.
In the far end of the parking lot were two fire trucks from local departments, proudly flying their flags from the boom extended over the area coned and taped for orderly line up of the participants. As I expected, I was one of only a few sport bikes in attendance, but I knew if Bri was riding with me today, he would be proud. The next two hours was spent looking at the bikes and talking to many participants that traveled from as far as Toronto just for this ride, and making some new friends. A 1964 short track Ducati single carb 250cc bike catches my eye and for the first time I realize that I never remembered to grab my camera. I will have to take it all in and just remember.
Just before the ride was to commence, we gathered, some 450 biker’s many with passengers, to thank the Massachusetts Motorcycle Survivors Fund, the participants, remember Bri, and a short prayer for a safe ride. We exited the parking lot under an arch created by the fire truck booms with the fire department and American flags proudly displayed. Emotion was riding high, and I felt a bit shaky again, but once underway, the comfort of being on my two wheels took over. The ride was nice, a good pace, nice country roads, courteous riders, and showed a police and fire presents that would have made Bri proud. As we passed ‘his’ station, the firefighters where lined up in front of yet another truck with an extended boom over the street.
The day ended at a local pub with the parking lot converted into a gathering ground for the participants. Food, drink, raffles, good music and friends all here for the common good. To raise money for the Massachusetts Motorcycle Survivors Fund, who is dedicated to helping accident victims and surviving family members, whose organization, members, and volunteers alike worked diligently to organize an outstanding event. I met many great people and was shocked at the amount of people with nice things to say about Bri. Shocked even more at the attitudes of the Harley riders here today, as I did not meet one with the stereo-typical attitude. They were here for the same reason I was, to support, to remember and to honor.
As I parked the bike in the garage I looked at the odometer, 101 miles today, exactly. Although I think I traveled a lot further.
I hung Bri’s jacket back on the hook where he had been the last to place it. Good day today Bri, we will ride again next year.

Friday, March 31, 2006



1 bike...600 cc’s…3 days…1 new tail bag ..9 tanks of gas...950 miles...2 rain storms...2 states...2 ears...3 waterfalls…12 bridges…triple digits, triple the limit…Rte 100, 9 and 2…1st time on the Mohawk Trail…1 pair of new boots, 0 blisters…1 wrong turn, 6 miles of dirt road…1 full daytime moon…1 eagle, 1 otter, 1 flock of geese, 1 cow crossing…12,000 rpm’s…1 sensory overload on 108…countless passes….0 run in’s with the law…miles of mountains on the horizon…1 simply amazing trip…1 very tired Jane…1 Happy Fathers Day, this ones for you…6…19…2005.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

March 28-29, 2005
VIR North Course
New England Street Riders/Cornerspeed

This trip started with much anticipation, which began three weeks before departure for the track. I had not even considered being a part of this trip as I automatically assumed I did not have the necessary skills to partake in this event. After a bit of encouragement from several different people, I was persuaded to attend and this trip became an obsession. Like a kid at Christmas, every waking moment was consumed by thoughts of the VIR North Course. I had been there before; it was only last October that I made the trip to the hills of Alton Virginia to watch Miguel Duhamel take the championship at the AMA Superbike Suzuki Lightening Nationals. I could see that track in my head and knew the beauty of the hillside, the green landscape of the track grounds, the kindness of all the VIR staff, and the layout of the track in my head. I could not wait to go. With my 600RR dropped off to the party that was to do my safety wiring and transport my bike to VIR the final week became almost unbearable.

Easter morning my poor children were awaken at 5:30 am to find their Easter goodies because Mom was hitting the road by 6:00am. For me, it could not have come soon enough. My ride arrived at my home bright and early and just as anxious as I to get going. We took the scenic route 81 as opposed to 95 and saw more farmland than I care to describe but made the entire trip in 11 hours. After having a few beers and some roasted jalapeno pizza I tried to get some much needed rest cause we were due at the track bright and early Monday morning.

I awoke Monday morning and lay awake for a few moments realizing that the day had finally arrived, only to realize a few moments later that that noise was torrential rain and rolling thunder. We grabbed some coffee and headed for the track. Since the rain was so heavy there was no apparent haste in getting onto the track. I decided to get my bike through tech so I could sit back and relax a bit while I worried about hitting a wet track. I rolled into tech through rivers of run off water from the pit area, handed the inspectors my soggy waiver and rolled out the other side with my pink sticker ready to go!! I spent the next hour meeting and greeting and lending a hand to some fellow riders who were less than ready to pass tech.

After the riders meeting and listening to Aaron give us a little insight on the track and how we could expect the morning sessions to go, we were ready to hit the track. By some miracle, the sun came out to welcome us and the mood in the pit area suddenly changed and smiling riders were plentiful. It was finally time to pit out. As I waited in the grid to be assigned to an instructor I realized that I was not as nervous as I had expected to be. Lee, the VIR employee that worked as the pit director decided to send me out one on one with a Cornerspeed instructor. After following this instructor for 2 laps and then him following me, he called me into pit row and wanted to have a chat. My heart sank; surely he wants to tell me that I need to do everything better or that maybe I just don’t even belong here. Two deep breaths and suddenly I hear him saying things like “you have done this before right?”, “this is not your first time on this track is it?”. Now I am confused, yes, its my first time. “I have to tell you that you have probably learned the line and stuck to it faster than anyone I have ever taught. Your going to have a good day, relax and have fun”

The majority of Monday was filled with ever improving sessions, incredible attention and encouragement from the Cornerspeed instructors and tons of fun. I could feel myself getting better with each session, and continued to get direction and some encouraging feedback from the instructors that included comments like “You are going to learn a lot. We like it when we see someone like you that is really here to learn. You are listening to us and following our direction”.

I went out for the last session of the day not realizing that the weather had changed and the temperature had dropped drastically since the last time out. It was the last session of the day and I wanted to make the most of it. I hit turn 1 with a bit more speed than I had all day and as I went into turn 2 completing the horseshoe, my back tire did a few steps out and slid!! “Have confidence in your bike” I heard in my head. I also heard “if you think your going down, you might as well go down leaning in and on the throttle”. I reacted by doing just that, lean in and roll on the throttle, and the bike pulled me through that corner and through me into 3. I learned really quickly that I can do this and I can regain my composure quickly enough to keep going. What a rush. That rush was quickly extinguished as I came back into that same corner and as I was leaning hard right, I realized that I saw someone special in the grass to the left. I lost focus long enough to do a double take, realize that he was standing so he must be okay, and turn back to focus on my own self preservation. I had to look through the corner or I was going to join him. How many times have I been told you will go where you look?

Monday night was spent trying my hardest to find some Ducati parts that could be shipped in overnight. My best hope was to find dealer on the west coast. They would still have time to ship it with overnight delivery. I failed. We went out for dinner as a group and Chris was generous enough to pick up the tab for the whole group. What an amazing gesture and a much-appreciated friend.

Tuesday morning arrived much too soon. It was time to open my eyes before I could believe it. We headed toward the track with the sun shining brightly but I had mixed feelings of this day. Excitement that I had another whole day to ride this incredible track mixed with a bit of guilt that I knew a certain yellow Ducati was not in working order. The day flew by. The weather was incredible and the track was awesome. I exceeded my own expectations for myself and cannot be happier with this whole experience. I continued to receive instruction and some positive feedback from the instructors. “Is this really your first time at this track? How long have you been riding? I am really impressed. Some of these guys may be faster than you but I can tell you that you are technically out riding them. Your smooth, loose and confident. We don’t usually see someone loose on the bars like you when they are so new to this. Keep it up the speed will come.” “I want to tell you that you are the most improved rider I have instructed in a long time. I am impressed that I can push you do try something new and you do it. Some of these other guys, we try to instructed but they do not do what we tell them. You are open to learning and your soaking in everything and it shows.”

Toward the end of the day, I really felt myself finally ‘get’ it. I was riding the track smooth and controlled for two days, but not until I finally figured out how to really get myself off the bike did it all make sense and the bike just flow through those corners and really start to pick up some speed. I actually found myself following some of the others and staying with them through the tight areas only to loose them in the straights as they were on liter bikes. I know I was not the fastest, I know I am not the best; I know I will never win, but for me I succeeded. I will never forget the thrill of pulling into pit row at the end of a good run and the excitement and exhilaration and feeling of ‘I did it’. I learned many things during these two days, some of those things on the track and some off the track. I learned that while I am making steady progress and pushing to get better, I am controlled enough to get myself out of some scary moments. These two days were not without a few incidents that could very easily have sent me farming as Aaron so humorously referred to it. Corner 2 became an area that I tend to slide through more frequently than I would have liked, a certain rider on a red Ducati liked to make aggressive passes on the inside that certainly rattled some others and someone made a bad pass and found himself mudding so close to me that I was covered in his muddy spin off. Each time I was able to maintain my focus and get out of those situations and gain my composure enough to get back onto the line and effectively continue. Oddly enough, I found myself looking for one person in particular that second day before I even entered the pits. I needed to share and I knew that person ‘got it’ and would allow me to thrive in my own glory!!

We decided to stay over on Tuesday evening instead of heading north directly from the track. It had been a long few days and it was certainly nice to enjoy a leisurely private dinner for two and get a good nights rest before heading home and back to reality. Without question this will be an event I will not pass up next year. There are many things and many people involved in this trip that I would not forget. Watching a ZX6 low side into the mud right in front of me, seeing Ed at the edge of the woods in turn 2, pink tape and tampon strings, a certain young lady yelling how she had to ‘take a fucking shit’ (don’t ask), getting covered in mud, having someone bring me coffee unexpectedly, Lee blowing kisses as I pit out or giving thumbs up as I hit the kink, Highsiders t-shirt, the bike thieves that were actually delivering our pizza, friends camaraderie and kindness…the list seems endless.

What a way to welcome spring!

Track review:
The long straight is 150mph+ for a 600 and larger bike and around 120+mph for me. The straight isn't really straight; it has a kink in the middle of it that requires a good shove on the bars to change direction at those speeds.At the end of the straight is turn 1 and 2 that forms a horseshoe, which requires two downshifts and a lot of lean angle to the right. Turn 4 and 5 is tight and reminds me a bit of a fast version of Loudon's turn 11-12 combo. Exiting turn 5 I'm on the gas hard, catching an up shift to build speed for the back straight which is actually s turns. The brakes are on hard as you emerge from under the bridge approaching turn 7. Turn 7 is kind of like the exit of Loudon's turn 3, because it's a steep uphill right turn. The top of turn is blind, revealing the upper series of turns, which are fast with a lot of elevation change. This was my favorite section of the track.Then its into turn 10, which is a left turn at the crest of a hill leading to turn 11, which is in a hollow. You can carry a lot of speed through there using the bank of the hill to your advantage.Turns 14 and 14a is what I think of as a mini corkscrew that goes steeply downhill leading to the Hog pen series of turns that lead onto the front straight.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Pure Ecstasy

Pure Ecstasy

Pure ecstasy…the only way I can explain it.

I was fine with winter, really I was. Didn’t even mind the snow, I love seeing the kids revel in what Mother Nature can deliver. But someone came along and we started talking bikes and it got to me. I have not even uncovered the bikes for almost 4 months.

So, Sunday February 6, 2005 I find myself trying to get ready for the big game, and get some chores done around the house. I should be taking advantage of time without the kids around and get some things accomplished. But in the back of my mind are the bikes. After getting the errands done and riding home with the windows open I was drawn to the garage…almost unwillingly.

“I just wanna see if she will start. Ohhhh…..what a beautiful sound, and oh the smell. Maybe I should just pull her out into that brisk sunshine and dust her off. Well, just a quick blast up and down my little side street. I just want to feel it again”

I spent many a recent time with my own internal doubts. Did I lose the confidence I had started to gain at the end of last year? Will I be as comfortable as I had become after last years track day? I was sure I needed some ‘alone’ riding time to regain my composure.

The “I just want to feel it again” turned into about an hour ride. I found myself in fourth gear going up the hill and out of the neighbor hood and this deep yell of pure exhilaration was filling my helmet. All doubts where gone….I did not forget. It was a struggle, I have to keep reminding myself there is still lots of ice, melting snow piles, sand, salt and the newly acquired riding surface cluttered with potholes.

Since I was only going to try it in front of the house, I had not bothered to dress appropriately for the brisk 44 degree day. Wife beater, leather jacket, jeans and no gloves!! Chilly it was, only I realized that I did not even notice, not even a shiver. I stopped to top her off so that she can retire again to the safety of the garage; however, pulling into the doublewide driveway was the hardest turn of the day. As I dismounted I realized that my hands were so cold I could barely move them. The keypad to open the garage was almost impossible to navigate.

I am surely ready for spring.

Needless to say, the laundry remains unwashed and I was wiring my surround sound with much appreciated assistance from a certain someone during pre-game. But that shall be another entry. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


I have been reading some recent posts on a motorcycle forum about women and their sex appeal if they ride, and it got me to thinking. Why do I ride? I read about how a woman is more appealing if she is riding for the love of the sport and not to just be noticed and that if she has mad skills you can tell her heart is in it. 

Well, I don’t ever claim to have mad skills, but I do ride for the love it. It is not important that I have the latest technology, the fastest bike or the most horsepower. I have never taken any of my bikes to the dyno. As a matter of fact, I like the older bikes, something that is not so common maybe even a classic. None of this matters because the ride is not a competition but for the pure joy of the act. 

You see, when I finally put that helmet on my head and mount my ride, I am alone with the machine in my control. I don’t have that control in many other aspects of my life. At work I answer to the boss, at home I cater to the needs of others. I am a single parent with several kids with many needs, the sole provider for my family and home, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an accountant, a notary, a volunteer. I wear many hats all of the time and try my best to help others as much as possible. 

When that helmet goes on, all else is shut off. No one is calling my cell phone because they need something yesterday. I can’t here anyone calling “mommy, I need….”. I am not late for any appointment. I am just me and I am free and alone. I can ride where I want, how I want, at the speed I want. Where I go is not even important. Just prior to getting on the bike if I was frustrated, I have a means to release that frustration, if I was overwhelmed it suddenly takes a back seat. All this because when the helmet is on and I am alone and free of all responsibilities and I have that certain sensation of flying through nature, controlled by no one, and I am smiling for one….me. I probably won’t ever drag a knee, I probably won’t ever attempt a stoppie. But when I ride I have a certain sense of freedom from the world, a sense of control of my own actions, I can smell the scents of summer, feel the sun on my back, and feel the wind and think…clearer than any other time since the clutter of life is not there. For most of these reasons, 90% of the time I ride alone. 

I have endured many hardships in my adult life all of which make me who I am today, and all the while friends tell me how they are amazed that I have a good attitude and how I am a genuinely happy person. The ability to have something in your life that gives you such joy, something to look forward to and time to be alone is truly the best therapy. 

After all is said and done….it doesn’t hurt when you stop at the beach and my long hair falls out the helmet and the posers are pleasantly surprised to see a woman. I sit on the wall along the beach and soak up a few sun-rays on my face before I must mount again and head back to reality.