When my we first moved to Central Washington we had no idea what winter was really about. Sure we thought we understood that winter is cold and the weather is not much fun but it wasn't until spending our first winter here that we came to understand the reality of things. Keep in mind we were young and adventurous in those days; things like tread on our tires and car batteries that worked all the time were luxury items. Warm clothes? Of course we had warm clothes, blue jeans, cheap cotton long-johns, leather work boots with two pairs of athletic socks and sweat-shirts....
Our first winter in the Kittitas valley we rented a very small, very old single wide trailer out in the country. We had old cars and of course very little money. That year it hit 40 below for a few days and dumped snow; I was pretty sure we had come to the end times. None of our vehicles would start, the water in our little trailer froze and we had a $400 electricity bill (keep in mind that was 25 years ago). Needless to say we spent allot of time inside watching TV, not much fun.
Eventually we figured it out, but I can say with complete honesty that I am not a winter person. So about this time of year, when the days are short and you may not see the sun for LONG periods of time I start thinking of going south. The problem is, like most people, those pesky jobs and responsibilities get in the way. So what to do? The way I see it, you have two choices:
1) Pretend you love being cooped up in the house and slowly turn into Jack Nicholson in "The Shining"... If you are thinking that it might be kind of fun to run around the house with an axe yelling "HERE's JOHNNHY" you may need to take a vacation, like yesterday.
2) Find something to do that you actually enjoy. In my opinion this is a much better option, and your chances of staying out of prison are much higher. So the question is what to do that is not expensive? If you already have a dirt-bike or ATV then you are in luck. Believe it or not, you can stay within the state borders and ride year round. If you are more adventurous and don't mind driving Southern Oregon has some pretty amazing riding that doesn't involve snow.
Here are some of the places here in Washington that you can usually ride all winter:
Beverly Sand Dunes
Moses Lake Sand Dunes
Juniper Dunes (north of Pasco and has much more than just sand dunes to ride)
There are several more places to go, but are not exactly "public" so I won't mention them here. Also there are areas on the west and east sides of the state, go to www.thumpertalk.com and look for the "Where to Ride" section.
I am not a huge fan of riding in the sand, but I have found that in the winter, the sand is much more firm and you can get away with comfortably not using a paddle tire.
As far as gear, regular riding gear works very well with good synthetic thermal underwear (NO COTTON!), a baklava (one of those nylon ninja masks) and a light jacket. I have found that once I get going my regular riding gloves work fine (as long as I am exerting myself) but I have recently tried the Fox brand Polar Paw gloves and have found them to be fairly warm but not too bulky. I have tried the snow glove thing, which is great for about the first two miles and then my hands get so hot and sweaty it's not funny. Keep in mind, you should carry an extra pair of dry gloves and an emergency space blanket just in case you have to spend a little time out in the cold not riding.
A heated trailer is really nice, but if you don't have one of those and can't afford to go out and buy one then look into getting one of those pop-up canopies a wall kit and throw a tarp on the ground. The canopy along with one of those tank mounted propane heaters will provide you with a surprisingly comfortable place to change, hang out and get warm, eat lunch etc.
The bottom line is that getting out is important for you and your machine. You may not put on as many miles as you do in the summer but it's still fun and there are no axe waving maniacs involved.
If you are looking for other people to ride with check out these groups:
Kittitas County Single Track Riders
Single Track Riders-Washington (meetup.com)
Dual Sport Riding Club-Washington (meetup.com)