Friday, May 14, 2010

Conference Notes - Better Late Than Never!

Ok, so I know this is a bit after the fact, but I've finally resuscitated it after an extended life in draft mode.   This conference was the seed from which my 2009 cross country trip grew.  When I saw the conference info, I knew I wanted to go and I figured if I was already out there (Colorado) I should make something of it!  This is from August 2009:

Wow. What an incredible time I've had at the International Women and Motorcycling conference. I met some amazing people and learned a ton. I rode a dozen different bikes and the weather was flawless. Of course, now I'm looking at 7 days of scattered thunderstorms here and the Western US has a lot of rain on the map and that would be the way I'm headed.

So, while I'm warm and dry, here's a recap of the International Women and motorcycling Conference:
When I arrived at the conference center I checked in and found a corner to put my stuff down to make some calls. I had scoped out a couple of hotels and a hostel from home that I had to call and wanted to touch base with a couple of people before we all got caught up with conference stuff.  One of the people I called was Pam. I'd found her name on the 'conference connections' web site and had called her since she lives in the Baltimore area. We'd talked briefly the week before I left home and I was looking forward to meeting her.  Long story short, the woman sleeping on the foldout couch in the room Pam had booked is willing to share, so I met them behind the conference center at the condo and dropped my bags.  None of the women sharing the room had met in person before. They all knew each other from online bike forums or from the 'conference connections' page. It was nice to join a group who were all new to each other. The whole lot of them were fun from day one.

I got to work some of the conference as there were a couple of Deaf folk attending, which was great.  It was great fun to meet the speakers, the Deaf attendees and their groups and some other interpreters that I might not have bumped into otherwise.  And it meant that I couldn't skip any of the big events in favor of a nap. :)  The speakers were really amazing and the planned events were a ton of fun.  In addition to the workshops, there was an opening and closing ceremony, the Rocky Mountain Barn Dance and the International Street Party.  Fun stuff!

above: interpreting at the International Street Party.

below: Me and one of my co-interpreters, Beth, from Texas.

In addition to meeting fabulous people, attending interesting and useful workshops and just being in the mountain air, several motorcycle manufacturers brought their stable of bikes for test rides all weekend.  The Yamaha Stratoliner I thought would be great was not particularly comfortable.  Riding a BMW confirmed that I really don't like the lean-on-your-wrists position.  And, as much as I didn't want to like it, the Harley Street Glide was SWEEEET!   the wait for some of the test rides was long, so I gave up on my spot for the HD Trike and instead visited the Kymco booth. 

Kymco is a manufacturer of scooters and cruiser style bikes - none of which exceeded 500cc.  The largest displacement cruiser style machine they had was a 250.  that could explain why, as I walked toward their section of the parking lot, I caught the definite musical stylings of the Colorado cricket.  No line, no waiting, no sign up sheet and they'll get me back in time for my next workshop?  Ok, I'm in.  The folks were pleasant and answered my questions and then I got a personalized 20 minute run in the opposite direction of all of the other test ride courses I'd been on. 

Most of the rides turned right out of the conference parking lot and led you around a lake up through a modest, but stunningly beautiful mountain pass and brought you back in 30 minutes or so.  You got a taste of high speed major highway and a bunch of curving 2 lane mountain road and no matter where you looked there was something to see.  My Kymco guide, however, turned left out of the parking lot and changed it up a bit.  I think we might have hit 50 on the 2 lane blacktop before turning into some shoulderless back roads along a stream.  It was a beautiful ride.  Trees, water, wildlife and no traffic.  Perfect.  Kymco didn't make my short list, but it was a fine little ride and I'm glad I went.

Some of the gang from the room decided to meet up to swap bikes and ride around a bit.  I can't remember now what the bikes were that I was on in the parking lot, but I do still love my C50.  Someone scraped my pegs for me...I have yet to master the tight turn/hard lean for that, but no one else has to know that those flat spots aren't mine now, do they?  And, on the last day Margaret and I rode Loveland Pass.  We took our own bikes over and swapped out for the ride back.  I only scared the crap out of myself once, I'm happy to say.  Not that I have designs to, but I'll never be the one maxing out my speedo on the twisties.  Luckily, you don't have to to enjoy 'em.

above: Margaret and I stop for a photo op.

As the conference started winding down, I started looking forward to the next leg of the adventure.  Got some advice on roads and routes, did some more research and made some phone calls, nixed Death Valley, but kept California and Washington in the plan.  Without going South for Death Valley or even Joshua Tree, which I'd once hoped to hit, I gave myself enough leeway to deal with whatever horrific weather might find me.  I do, theoretically, have to make it home eventually...

above: A solitary, enormous cloud of the most extraordinary colors which this photo does not do justice.  The last night of the conference.  Keystone, Colorado

I had been feeling a bit wiped out after the ride out and thinking about giving up my aspirations to get California and Washington for the Master Tourer Silver (CA, WA, FL, ME), but then there were some fantastic speakers, Lois Pryce in particular, who helped me get my mojo back. I don't know how I'll pick up Maine before the weather turns cold... Once I get home I have no weekends free 'till November and I have to be done by May 2010, so it won't be any warmer if I wait 'till Spring. I was torn about pushing for CA and WA when, if I don't make it to Maine, then the 'silver' is out of reach...but I need states and it's an Iron Butt, dagnabit! It's not supposed to be easy! I don't know that it's all supposed to be racing from angry skies and sleeping under bridges, but that's certainly been a big part of it. A BIG part.

above: The gang l to r: Peg, Margaret, Joanne, Donna, Sara, Jennifer and Pam in front.

So, newly inspired, I got back on track and ready for some long hours and hard riding.  After a wonderful four days, we all packed up to go our respective ways.  After some last laughs, photos and hugs goodbye, we were on the road again.  There's supposed to be   another conference in two years...I doubt I'm the only one already planning for it. :)