Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Frankly, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve ridden, either – I mean real riding, not just back and forth to work. I’d planned a long hard ride for the Labor Day Weekend but at the absolute last second (I was actually on the road leaving town) I decided against it. Honey’s daughter was up in the ER and I just felt that I couldn’t leave town without knowing the outcome. She’s been hospitalized three times in the past year and I knew she wasn’t feeling well when I was preparing for the trip. Ultimately, it was found to be a stomach bug and she was released early that evening – far too late for me to begin the ride, but plenty of time to pout about the turn of events. Still, I made the right decision under the circumstances.

Here’s the thing, though: this would have been my first long, hard solo ride that involved camping on my own overnight. I know I did an Iron Butt alone last year, but that specifically does NOT involve stopping and I went out and back in a single day, albeit a VERY LONG DAY. This ride would have been different because I would have been alone for several days and nights. Until I’ve done that, I’ll never know if I actually can or not and that’s important to me. I can talk a good game but I’ve never proved my mettle when it comes to camping on my own. Frankly, I was a little apprehensive and in my heart of hearts, I wondered if I wasn’t just a little bit grateful for a reprieve. I won’t know until I plan a trip like that again and actually follow through with it.

Honey was kind enough to take me for a Courthouse Challenge ride on Labor Day, even though he had, by then, contracted the same stomach bug that sent Jess to the ER. We did a long swoop around through Glen Rose, Hillsboro, and Waxahachie so I added three more to my quest – not the 42 I’d hoped to get, but that ride will be waiting for me later. I’ll write about the ride we actually did in another post, with pictures.

The rest of September was rider’s hell for me: I was traveling out of town by plane and forced to get around in a cage. Each place I went (Nebraska, Florida, Chicago) was full of riders enjoying the wonderful fall weather – yes, even in the streets of Chicago, there were reminders that I was stuck in a Chevy Aveo. It’s been a brutally hot summer in Texas with fires all over the place; now I was hanging out in places with highs in the 70s and 80s and salivating for a long ride. Problem is, my next scheduled weekday off work wasn’t until Thanksgiving when the beautiful Texas autumn is just a memory.

What I needed was a long ride, and not just any long ride. A long ride with a tangible goal. Enter the Harley-Davidson Passport Challenge! From August 20 through November 20, there is a challenge for participants to visit each of 41 participating Texas Harley-Davidson dealerships, obtain a passport stamp (in our nifty Harley-Davidson Passport Book) and fill in an entry to win a 2012 Street Glide. If you hit all 41 participating dealerships, you receive an additional 41 entries. There are also some other things for which you obtain an entry: special events at your home dealership, visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, renewing your HOG chapter membership for next year. Obviously, while winning the trip to the museum would be nice, I’m most interested in visiting all the dealerships…and, of course, the rides to get there!

One of the benefits of having worked for the same company nearly 13 years is the accumulation of vacation time. I’ve got loads of it and now I have a reason to take it. Once my September business travel was completed and I’d caught up my work desk (sort of), I scheduled a full week (that’s five business days with two weekend days on either side for a total of NINE, count ’em NINE days) of vacation. And guess what I’m doing: I’m going to win that bike! I am now a Biker Chick with a Mission and it’s a scary thing. Ask anyone.

So, what does “a mission” entail? Well, in my case, it means a lot of riding and a boyfriend who is vacillating between being lovingly irritated and outright ill-tempered with my devotion to my new mission. I AM going to win that bike! He’s planned all our routes and we’ll have hit all but about 7 or 8 dealerships by the end of the week. I actually am still working my Weight Watchers meetings both Saturdays so it’s not a full week of riding. That crimps the outcome a bit but I have until November 20th to get the last handful of dealerships – and they are all reachable with a Saturday afternoon of riding. It doesn’t hurt that two of them are open on Sunday also.

Sounds idyllic, right? Well, because I am a woman, even though I’m doing something I absolutely love (riding with my honey), there’s still an element of dissatisfaction with the whole process. You see, while I am in a “relationship,” I am still a single woman and I can’t help feeling I need to be able to do all these things on my own when the time comes that I find myself alone again. That was a big impetus for me planning out the long holiday weekend trip: I need to be able to travel alone, camp alone, manage destinations, everything about riding I need to be able to do on my own. So, what have I learned about ride planning on this trip? Absolutely nothing, except how to tell Tim where I’d like to go or the route I’d like to take and be told it won’t work.

Don’t get me wrong; I love riding with my honey, but I know I’m not learning anything about how to do things myself and that’s something that I still must do. But not this week. Right now, we’re having a ball visiting as many dealerships as we can wring out. We’ll have done almost 30 on this trip alone by the time we get home Friday night. Now THAT’s some great riding! And Texas the first week of October can’t be beat anywhere! I’m sure of it.

Next time some specifics about the actual rides. They’ve been awesome!