JadeRider Journeys


Day 14: A route and a trail

by on Jan.11, 2010, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle

You notice that this entry is way later. Yes, I let myself fall in the trap I set up last year on my Memphis trip, I took notes, thinking I would get this done quickly after my arrival. Well, here I am, almost 12 days late, just getting to it. Thankfully, though, I still have notes and photos, so I can reassemble the last two days. Also, thankfully, my faithful reader Adelina, poked me about it today. So, hearing the harp music in the background, the image turning to black and white, and the focus of the camera turning soft at first, and then sharp again, we land back on the 14th day of the trip.

Last night, after writing my journal entry, I visited the campsite store. They were serving dinner and I took the opportunity to get it on site, instead of riding out to a restaurant, and then, looking through the souvenirs, I noticed a Route 66 pin, which I got for my collection of mementos from the trip. It would go well with the pins I had gotten at other stops, as well as the bone-carved cross I had bought in Hondo, NM, and the elk antler tip I had gotten in Colorado. The Route 66 pin, along with the museum I had seen in Elk City yesterday, made me think I should include some actual riding experience on this famous, and continuously fading landmark that spanned the US for so long. I must interject here that the dinner I got seemed like a museum preservation of an elementary school cafeteria lunch. Enough said on that, but I do have photos to prove it.

When I got back to the cabin, I pulled out my paper maps, along with the computer, and found tracts of Route 66 not to far away from Elk City, towards Clinton, OK. The GPS suggested route took me West from the camp site, so I overwrote it, added some miles to the day’s ride, and prepared to add a new, and unplanned brush stroke to my journey.

With the sun already up, I packed the bike one more time, and set off towards Clinton. What was supposed to be Route 66 ended up being one more piece of super slab covered with black tar, and with a wide median. I recalled Peter Egan’s wonderful story of his trip on 66, “Lost Highway: In search of old 66”, published originally in 1981. In it he talked about all the undocumented segments of old 66 that still remained back then, 28 years ago now, as frontage road pieces of new interstates. According to him, you could often tell this old road apart from more modern byways by the rectangular pieces of asphalt, sewn together by black tar, like a fossilized quilt of road engineering tradition. Incidentally, back when I arrived in this country, I was often baffled by how many exits there were to Frontage Rd., and often thought that this must be the longest road in the United States.

Seeing that Interstate 40 was not it, I took the next Frontage Rd. exit, and sure enough, I was riding the quilted pattern of what was indeed Old Route 66. The morning sun reflected off the iron oxide colored soils of western Oklahoma, and old, abandoned farm buildings beckoned for photos to be snapped before they would crumble into oblivion. With a deep feeling of satisfaction, seeing others speed by on the modern highway parallel to me, while I rode as a solitary journeyman towards Clinton, I continued to reflect on the many, and unique blessings that every single day of this trip had brought to me. I am two days away from home, and it still does not feel like I am on the return segment. It is one more day, and it feels just right. Like another part of a chain.

I ran across a few signs that confirmed that I was indeed on Old Historic Route 66, and eventually I came across an abandoned Phillips 66 gas station. What a perfect combination. I parked in the parking lot, and took delight, besides a pile of photos, in the broken light fixtures, faded signs, cut wires, and rusted metal plates. History, after all, has a fuller taste to it when it has not been reconditioned, complemented with plastic renderings, and dusted off ‘for your convenience’.

Just before Clinton I veered South. After passing a car dealership that celebrated the old tradition of The Route, I came to a train bridge underpass. Yet another treat. Rusty nails, nuts, and bolts, in a criss-cross pattern of old wooden beams. Also, a few cracked remains of what seems to have been, at some point in history, a kind of ceramic coating on the wooden base of the bridge. Ah, the things that have surrounded, and sustained our lives, and silently disappear without us even knowing that they were there to begin with. More photos. More time for contemplation, while local drivers pass by, looking at this strange man with a fading Mohawk, and big side burns.

As I traveled South now, I soon began to see signs that indicated I was on another historic road, the Chisholm Trail. To be honest with you, I had no idea what this one was about, except that it sort of sounded like an old Western movie that I should have watched because it was a classic, and someone would mention it at a dinner party.

Down US 183 I rode through New Cordell, Oklahoma.  I usually make a stop at a cemetery on my trips, and as I saw the sign that pointed, as it often happens, from the main street that crosses the town, to the cemetery. I turned East, looking for it.  About one mile down, on E 1180 Road, a small hill with a number of tombstones pointed the way.  The unusual thing was though, that the road leading to the cemetery seemed to end in someone’s property.  I saw what looked to be stables, and, yes, the tombs somewhere beyond.  Puzzled, I almost turned away, but decided to continue on, and ask whoever would come out running, pitch fork in hand, threatening the life of a lone biker invading their property.  Fortunately, I did not come across an angry farmer.  Instead, the road took a small turn, taking me to cemetery hill.

I rode the motorcycle on the perimeter, and finally cut into the burial area, using one of the smaller paths.  I parked the bike, and dismounted.  I walked around a bet, trying to show the respect I feel for the people buried on the site, and for a moment, I knelt and prayed for us all. As I wandered around, I was surprise to come across a tomb from a soldier of the I Texas Cavalry that fought in the Spanish American War.

From there I returned to US 183 and continued South.  The country road ride brought to mind some of the experiences of this journey.  Animals can be unpredictable, and as a rider, I kept wondering what was more dangerous, kamikaze dogs, that bored out of their wits would wait on the side of the road, jumping furiously at passing motorcycles, or cows on Prozac, that just stand in the middle of curvy downhill roads, not worrying if a hapless rider would smash into their ribs.  I also remembered a new smell learned on this trip; rotten vulture.  I must confess that I do find a certain appeal in getting a whiff of skunk cologne riding down a country side.  It lets me know that mother nature is here, and mankind is a bit farther away.  But the smell of putrid vulture is so revolting that it even keeps vultures away.  I do not know how mother nature does its energy and matter recycling job in this case, but I do know that this experience I can chalk up to the set of unique sensory memories acquired during the “Great Ride of ’09”.

Fields of electricity generating wind mills started dotting the horizon again, as I broke the 4,000 mile marker for this journey.  Eventually I got hungry.  It was way past noon.  I arrived in Duncan, Oklahoma, where I proceeded to ride around looking for a family owned cafe or restaurant.  As I did so, I came across the Freedom Biker church in one of the side streets.  This church is described in one of the Oklahoma papers as “ a place where leathers are church clothes, helmet hair is accepted, tattoos abound and pews have been replaced with café tables. ”  Seemed like my kind of place.  Sadly, nobody was around at the time, so I had to be happy with just looking around and taking some pictures.  I did end up finding a family owned place, which was about to close, but they were kind enough to still let me have the special of the day, a kind of chili burger with lots of cheese and raw onion bits.  Just the kind of food to add to your body fat index in preparation for another leg of riding in the cold.

After the restful meal I continued south on 81, through Comanche, Waurika, and finally making into Texas, for the second time, just South of Terral, OK, continuing to track the Chisholm Trail.  On the shoulder of the road I had to make a quick stop, and take a picture of a deer that had be struck by a car.  Dark as this might be, when I got back into riding, I foolishly thought it would be cool to have a Road-Kill photo series.  On this occasion I decided to honor that memory, even though I almost became a road kill myself, as trucks barreling down the road redefined close tolerances for me.

By late afternoon, I rolled into the Fort Worth / Dallas metropolitan area.  After two weeks of being away from major towns, the enormity of this settlement, with its ever-thickening stream of cars, and trucks, felt overwhelming.  Average speed dropped to 10 mph on some areas, and soon I felt the disconnect with nature and humans alike, that cities can bring about.  Eventually, I found my way to aunt Rose’s home in Dallas.  Aunt Rose is actually Sandra’s aunt, but what a gracious and beautiful lady she is.  One feels right at home, and like family with her.  I was greeted at the door by Andrea, her daughter, and found out that Yvonne was visiting too.  All these ladies warmly welcomed me into their home, unshowered, sweaty, and scruffy as I was, and soon we were all chatting up a storm.  Sandra drove in from Houston an hour or so later, and we spent the rest of the night talking about education, the family’s ranch in east Texas, and the significance of Obama’s election for the family, especially for those in the who lived through  the civil rights era, and who chronologically are closer to the memories of slavery.  How far has God’s grace carried all of His children.

The highlight of the night was to hear aunt Rose tell us the story of how she started painting.  This happened late in her life, but what a God given talent she has.  My memory is not good enough to retell that story, but Sandra and I are blessed to have various of her carefully done, beautiful paintings in our home.  Aunt Rose and did find a common artistic bond though.  She likes to paint, and I like to photograph, old and decaying structures.

By the end of this day, I had now added two more historical routes to my travel list, bringing the grand total to … 3; Route 66, the Chisholm Trail, and the Natchez Trace. Now that is an accomplishment that should give someone a “Sense of Achievement”.  But more valuable, I have now acquired a new saying, “Ladies, it’s been charming”.

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Day 13: The Long Straight Away, Into Texas and Out Again

by on Oct.01, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Danger, Motorcycle, Risk

The journey is nearing its completion, and yet, it does not feel like I am heading home. Every day continues to be rich in experiences, and tonight, while it sit in my cabin in Elk City, Oklahoma, having covered over 3,700 miles of the trip, I feel that I have lived another amazing day.

I left Raton, New Mexico, this morning. The ritual was pretty much the same as the previous days. Load up the bike, bundle up in layers, pray for the ride and my family, ride to the gas station for a fill-up, and go. Getting gasoline across the country has become pretty much a guessing game. It seems that every locale I ride through, has its own ideas about using ethanol in the gas mix, and what octane rating represents regular, medium, or premium. I confess that I am pretty much playing roulette every time, even though I do try to hit the 88 octane rating.

The route took me West across Northern New Mexico, and into Texas. A few miles out Raton, I came to the Capulin Volcano area. In 2007 I had traversed this same area on a 2003 Aprilia Futura. I managed to find the spot where two years ago I had taken pictures of the now departed Futura, and had to re-shoot them with the V-Strom. The road followed the railroad tracks, and a crisp wind, like the one that keeps your veggies crisp in the refrigerator, blew from the North/North-West. Yes, it seems like the word wind is now a common thread on the daily fabric of this trip, but, like ol’ Rick Peterson used to say, ‘It is what it is’. At least the weather men must have heard my thoughts from the last couple of days, since it was now blowing from my left, making me lean the motorcycle to the left too, as opposed to the right, which is what I was doing the days before. This pretty much my plan to walk into the motorcycle parts store to ask for the left right half of a front and rear tires of a V-Strom DL-1000, black and silver, even though this is of no consequence, to replace the unevenly worn rubber donuts on my bike. By the way, donuts is a really hard word to spell when English is not your first language.

Riding East, the last of the Mesas of New Mexico, and Texas began to disappear. The landscape became filled with the smells, and views of agriculture. Gigantic crop circles, generated by rotating irrigation systems, covered the land with corn, sorghum, and cotton. The power of the beef industry became self evident, as feed lot after feed lot, with thousands, if not millions of cows, filled the air with the smell of bovine waste. Strangely enough, I did not want to vomit. I took more as one of the many things that people locked up their 4-wheeled HD-TV cages saw, but never experienced. Smells are some of the many things that you never feel when your travel by car, just like temperature changes, or, wind. I must say that the most unusual smell of this trip was that of kettle corn. I do not remember where I was, but I caught me so much by surprise that I exclaimed out loud, ‘Where the heck did that come from?’.

Towards noon I arrived in Dalhart, Texas. Having decided that, unlike the previous days, I was not going to skip lunch, I deviated from the route to make it through the town. At first I thought I was going to eat at a local place whose name included the word Caboose, but the way the parking spots are laid out on the street, and the inclination of the street made it impossible to put the V-Strom on its side stand. I looked for something else, and stumbled upon the Extreme Cuisine. It is a really interesting place, housed in a brick building, and when you step in you have the feeling of having stepped into an art gallery, with clear wood tables set up spaciously. It has very welcoming feeling. After looking through the menu I choose catfish and salad. I must say it was the best meal of the whole trip. They made fresh coffee for me, and apologized since it would take them some time to cook the food. Apologies? This was great news, this meant the food would be freshly cooked, not a reheat from a red lamp. My coffee cup was always full, and the chef came out and talked to me about the trip, where I was going, and the neighborhood. I must say, this was one of the highlights of the day.

Into the afternoon, I made it a point to travel through Borger. This is the home town to Waynel S., one of the most amazing persons, and married to my friend Joe. Waynel should be Education Secretary, but she is way to smart for that.

I also rode through Pampa, which honored its name, being surrounded by extensive grass fields, which shimmered in the wind, as the grass stalks had turned to that yellow-white that announces the end of a season. Another town caught my eye because of its name, Skellytown. Need I say more? But the one that took the price during this trip was Nimrod, Texas. Can you imagine, someone asking you where you are from, and all you say is ‘Nimrod!’ ?

They day was a constant battle with the Northern wind blowing from the left, but as I arrived into Mobeetie, a hawk flew across the road from the right, and a scissor tail from the left, as it to announce that I was entering a new area. Trees began to appear on the side of the road, creating welcomed wind curtains, and the hills began to roll, event though some of these deep rolls were over a mile long.

I finally rolled out of Teas and into Oklahoma, home state of my brother DT2.0, and was welcomed by the red clays of the area. Elk City was not far away, and one of the seemingly numerous Route 66 museums marked the end of my journey for the day.

The route may seem like an infinite straight away. It may look like a mind numbing bore. The reality is that, away from the intestate, the ever changing landscape, and the foot steps of humanity create a fabric that can nothing short of amazing. That is, unless you are a nimrod.

As a side note, if you are amazed by the fact that I remembered Mobeetie, be not. All I remembered was that it started with an M, and had a double vowel. All you have to do is type ‘Texas towns that start with M’ on your favorite search engine, and you know there is a web page for that.

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Day 6, Living your life in one day

by on Sep.24, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle

The number seems unreal. I am exhausted. I spent the whole day at Arches National Monument. It started a bit cold so I had to ride with long sleeves. Between the campsite and the park, I started getting a bit colder than I expected, and stopper at the Dollar General to get another long-sleeve shirt. I figured I might as well do it, since I am only half way through, and the t-shirts remain mostly in their space-saving vacuum-sealed bag. When I walked in the store, I was struck by the fact that the name of the business is actually accurate. In general stuff is a dollar, shirts though are not. Still, it was quite a deal, and on top of it all, it had motorcycle print.

I then stopped at the gas station next door to get some hot chocolate, bananas, and more apples. As I was checking out, the guy in front of me coughed a couple of times, and I had this vision of a scene in a movie, where you know that this casual cough by a no name character will spell the doom of the entire planet. A plague is being unleashed, and I was next to the vector at the gas station in Moab. But heck, the planet infected with an unstoppable virus? That does not matter. How will the impact my riding plans? Stay tuned for more.

In the mean time, trying to see all of Arches, and take it all in, in less than 12 hours, is like living your life in a week, and hitting all the important things, like birth, baptism, your first fight in the sandbox, or, in my case, on top of a leaf-cutter ant hill, your first bike, and your first baseball hit. I mean the first time you get hit on the left eye with a baseball.

To escape the foolishness of the above, I picked my targets. Delicate Arch was the first thing I did. It is quite a strenuous one-hour hike, starting at Wolf Ranch, The first part is fairly easy, but soon enough you find yourself climbing a steep, tall sand stone ‘boulder’. Heck, I do not know what the geological term is, but it is huge. And yes, it seems like ‘heck’ is the word of the day. The ascent is marked by cairns, and remembering my old German physics teacher saying “Wehniger Kraft, mehr Weg” (less force, more distance) I started switch-backing my way up. When I looked back, a half dozen people were following my trail, and wouldn’t you know it, they were Germans.

I got my first peak of Delicate Arch, fittingly, through another arch. Just before you turn a curve on the rock face that leads to the famous Utah landmark, you can climb a sandstone rock to an arch whose name all forget, since it only serves as a window to the such natural wonder. Its sort of like when people say, “Oh yea, you are Sandra’s husband”, not “Oh yea, you are Carlos”.

I spent about an hour of the day, just taking it in. This giant upside-down U sitting precariously at the edge of a bowl. God had fun in this place, and it feels like the scene in scripture when Jesus was drawing in the sand with His finger, except the Father came to Moab, stirred up ice, water, wind, sand and seismic forces with His index, and Arches National Monument came into being.

After Delicate Arch, I started looking for the familiar and the unfamiliar. To name all the places I saw would take a while, and I should do it when the trip is completed. I will say though, that I found a new place to be put in the ‘Favorites’ catalog. Sand Dune Arch is magical. Hidden away from most people, and being so accessible, it is a gem in the park. You get to it through two narrow fins of sandstone, The climb is short and through fine powdered sand. When you finally get to it, it is unassuming. Probably no more that 15 feet tall. Yet, because of the relatively narrow aspect of the space, the sand, and the erosion patterns, this has the potential of generating light effects that remind me of Antelope Canyon in Arizona. I would come back here for a day long study in light.

Tomorrow, it is off to Wendover, the farthest westerly destination of this trip, and a bed, pillows, and a hot shower.  The departure is bitter sweet.  I loved that a vision I had so many years ago has come to fruition; riding to Arches from Houston.  The image planted in my mind became very real today.  This, as a part of a more recent dream, the ride to Wendover.  However, the park was inundated with people.  Tourist from all over the world were there, and therefore, finding soliture and quietness was not an easy thing to do. I depart with treasures, and feelings of thirst.  I hope that tomorrow will bring a new gemstone.

P.S. If you are wondering why there are no pictures in most of my blog entries, the answer is technical. Most places provide WiFi access, but only the downstream is decently functional. Upstream services are very limited, and therefore, uploading photos becomes a mind-numbingly slow process.

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Quarterbacks, pitchers, professional wrestlers, Noriyuki Haga: I feel your pain!

by on Sep.19, 2009, under 2009, Uncategorized

More on the subject line later.  The reality is that there could be quite a number of subject lines for the day.  They would include things like ‘The Oddest Collection of Journey Creatures’ because of the hyena-shaped giraffe in zebra skin that hangs from one of my bags, and the collection of raodside animals that adorned the journey, including black billed ibises, innumerable flicatchers, more ponies than I have seen in my entire life, llamas, a dead porcupine, goats, donkeys, horses, cows, horses, and then, to seal the day, the largest flight of longhorn beatles ever, as we ride into post.  It could also be called ‘Smells and Aromas of the Road’, for the constant presence of skunk perfumes, and the essence of sulphur from oil wells.  This chapter could be ‘Gardens of Innovation’, for the towering windmills that generate electricity outside of snider, glistening in the sunset, while surrounded by crops as ancient as man.

More fittingly, it should be called ‘The Best Sunset’, for that glorious moment when the sun went down between a small mesa and a peak, in the brightest, deepest red my few brain cells can remember, and that make me think of a very rare Indian cabochon ruby, perfectly polished, and bathed in God’s light.

But alas, back to the title, I need to say that we left this morning at about 7:30 am, after prayer and final preparation.  Along the way we stop in Brenham for coffee and scones, and keep on going.  About two and a half hours into the trip, I start feeling that my right contact lens is starting to get cloudy, and I pull over into a paved shoulder.  I stop and slip on the pea gravel, slamming my elbow into the ground.  All of sudden my should hurts a lot.  I am afraid I have broken my collaborne.  On the first day?  After just a couple of hours.  But DT assures me there is nothing funny looking there, and I can actually use my hand.  It is only certain movements that cause me pain.  So we ride on, pushing forward for about fifty miles into Temple, TX.  We find hospital, and check into the ER.  The mowhawk seems to cause a quite stirr everywhere around me.  I am checked in quickly, and nurse Olivia, how sweet is that for those in the know, makes sure I am OK.  She checks my vitals, and after a doctor comes in, I am moved to X-rays.  In the mean time, it looks like everyone here takes dirt bking accidents as something that is part of life, even though I explain repeatedly that I am not dirt biking, and that my injury does not have the glorious undertones of motorcycling.  I slipped and fell, and I used a motorcycle to take myslef to the hospital.

After a while, I am told that indeed nothing is broken, I do have sprained raditor cuff.  So, I am given a shot of some pain-killer, and I am sent on my way.

We ride on, and my arm feels mostly OK, even though pain comes around with certain movements.  I come to develop a new sense of brotherhood and understanding with all these athletes, who experience, or avoid, this kind of injury in their daily lives.  Along the way we are treated to the aforementioned experiences.  I also think about how many things in life are changed by small things.  A shoe lace, a few days ago, gravel the size of peas, can derail a plan  as easily as a deer, a truck, or a train.

But as a result of all these events today, we were also treated to a fabulous sunshine.

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The night before

by on Sep.18, 2009, under 2009, Adventure

It is the eve of the journey.  This entry will be short.  The last two days have been hectic.  While everything was going according to plan, things got complicated when my shoe lace got stuck on a screw on the side of the engine at a stop sign amd, failing to put my left foot down I tipped the bike down on the left.  The crash bars saved the bike, with only minimum damage sustained.  Yet, I had to replace a clutch lever, fix a bar end, and a turn signal.  Parts were ordered overnight, and by 3 today, Bucefalo looked like new.  I God’s mercy, while I fell at a very hectic time in traffic, I fell over to the side walk side, away from passing cars.

Last night, Matt cut my hair, mohawk style, while we sat in his garage, talked politics, life and kids, heard the neighbors fighting, and listened the TSU band practice in the background.  This, after Matt read another chapter of Little House on the Prairie to his wonderful kids, and I told them Guatemalan stories of my youth.

Tonight, we met with friends for a potluck dinner, and prayed for a safe journey, and fruitful testimony, after home made pizza, Mexican Lasagna, salads, Greek dip, ice cream, ginger bread, beer, wine, and chicory coffee.  Wow

I am essentially packed, and in eight hours should be on my way.  On September 19th, 2009, I put the first miles down of a life long dream, and my wonderful daughter turns 21, having grown to be one of God’s most wonderful children.

I am blessed with a caring, supporting, and understanding wife. God’s light shines in our lives indeed.

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Back on track

by on Sep.11, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle

I am so thankful to be able to write today, that the worries about the H1N1 infection did not materialize.  I was feeling crabby yesterday.  I finally made it to the doctor’s office in the afternoon.  After she listened to my lungs, checked temperature, and took a sample of my snot to run some tests, she confirmed that swine flu virus was not in me.  Praise His name.

The deadline for shopping for equipment has now passed, with the last bits of equipment and gear now being on their way.  The tire plugging system arrived yesterday in the afternoon.  It contained a very valuable nugget of wisdom.  “Pour liquid over the tire to identify the puncture site by the bubbles.  Be careful not use a carbonated liquid.”  Wow!  When looking for bubbles, do not use a bubbly liquid to identify them.  Amazing.  Gotta love it.

Day2 Post to ALBQRQThe map for the second day has been set for a while, but it may be subject to last minute changes.  The current map has me going West, through Roswell, NM, and into the Valley of Fires, before turning North to Corona, and North West to Laguna de los Perros and Estancia, and finally into the Albuquerque area, for about 425-460 miles of riding, in about 9 hours.  Roswell is a special place in this route, not because of the whole Alien thing, which I still is cool, but because I stopped here with my daughter when we rode out to drop her off at college a couple of years ago.

Laguna del Perro just sounds like a really cool place, and looking at the landscape photographs on the Internet, it looks like the kind of horizon I really enjoy and brings peace to me.

Today, I want to close by sharing a note I got from a fellow believer in response to my request for prayer during this trip.  Terry, Buddy is lucky to have a person like you in his life.

“Carlos – Know beyond all else that prayers will be lifted up for you each and every day of your trip.  We will also pray for peace for your family to know that God will be protecting you and for your safety while you are apart.

What an adventure!  We know you will go out and and be a glorious witness to our Lord!  Knowing that any trip of this length may bring trials and requires perseverance, remember James 1:2-4, 12:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.   Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Consider each day pure joy!  Remember joy every day!
We will keep you and your family in our prayers.”

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Laying down the tracks

by on Sep.08, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle, Uncategorized

A few days ago I read that a large percentage of the joy of the journey is the planning, and the anticipation that comes with it. Gazing over paper maps, old books, online maps, satellite, and aerial photographs can create an intoxicating level of anticipation. Careful navigation of all these resources is in itself a journey into discovery, and, in a good way for me, a virtual trekking adventure. I confess that I have spent countless hours sitting in front of my large dual-screen computer, laying down possible tracks, calculating distances, and travel time, imagining. Route selection is guided by just a few parameters. The most important one is the avoidance of interstates. The others are the combination of traveling through spots that have had a special meaning in my life, with spots I have never been through, but have captured my mind in books, movies, or other tales.

The reason to avoid interstates is quite simple. They are designed to take travelers from point A to point B as quickly as possible. In this process, engineers create as many straight lines as possible, nullify the landscape, and avoid towns. Why would a journeyman want to travel this way? Add to this, the dangers of trucks and cars, traveling at a high rate of speed, with drivers that are often exhausted, and that have a weight advantage of thousands of pounds over even the largest motorcycle, and it becomes self evident why a biker will stick to back-roads.

For the upcoming trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats, a number of maps are now ready to guide the initial stages of the trip.  Half the trip has been planned and layer down.  It will start on September 19, 2009, from my house.  DT2.0, my favorite Cherokee riding buddy, will hang with me on that day.  This leg is one of the most feared by any South-East Texas traveller; the vast expanse of territory to be covered as you head due West, and known as Texas.  Feared?  Well, yes, to many it is a daunting thought.  Traveling for miles on end before you reach New Mexico.  For me, on the other hand, crossing state borders is just like crossing another road sign along the way.  Granted, it is a rather unique one, and some kind of milestone, but what really matters is the topography, the architecture, and the people.  Of all the latter, you get plenty along the way, no matter which direction you follow.

We will go through better know towns such as Brenham, Temple, Killeen, and Abiline.  But I am willing to bet that many a jewel will be found in Cameron, Copperas Cove, Lometa, and Tuscola.  At the end of that day, we will stop in Post, just South East of Lubbock.  We will have put in about 502 miles, and our route will look more or less like this.  Why Post?  Well, for one, I could say that it is because it is a town founded as a Utopian colonizing venture of Charles William (C. W.) Post, the breakfast cereal manufacturer.  That is a a half truth, the other half truth would be that it is because I just plain curious.  The final half truth, it found on a map by chance, and a small town always looks better to me than a big city.

This entry would not be complete without mentioning that the links you see here are to the Handbook of Texas, a digitizing effort spearheaded by my long time friend, Donal Perkins.

More on the tracks, tomorrow

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Dry Run

by on Sep.03, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle, Uncategorized

Bucefalo During PracticeWhen preparing for long term projects, I always like to have one or two dry runs before the real thing.  It is one of those “I am in control” things that seem to be part of who I am.  Now, I am well aware that in reality I am not the one in control.  Yes, God has given me gifts, and He has given me the opportunity to make choices, but every day, I am at His mercy, and it is only because of His tender grace I am where I am today.

So, it was with joy that I welcomed the opportunity to try out a good number of pieces of gear when Don (DT2.0) invited me to tag along last Saturday, as he planned to take his Wee- out for some riding in the dirt.  I had just received the final complement of riding cases a few days before that, and I was anxious to see how the Vee with the Gobi side cases and the KTM (aka Gobi with an orange patch over the Hepco-Becker logo) would handle.

Friday night, I prepped the V-Strom.  I hooked up the GPS wires, made sure the chain had just enough slack, checked my tools and rain suit, adjusted the screen height, and also charged the camera batteries.  We were supposed to take lunch with us, but being a bum I forgot to actually look for real food before driving home from work.  I ended digging up an old bag of dried apricots from the trip to the Ozarks, the remains of a bag of corn-nuts from the trip to Galveston a few weeks ago, and a bottle of water.  Oh, yea, and there was another half bottle of water in the bottom of one of the cases.  So much for being meticulous, and in control, eh?

Saturday morning saw me getting up early to finish getting ready.  I put on my favorite riding pants; a set of black, white, and brown digs, with half of Thor’s helmeted head embossed on each head.  My old riding boots were added for good measure, and my jacket, with the painting of the blood of the Lamb in the shape of a cross on the back.  This was also the day when the new off-road helmet, the one selected of the up-coming trip, would be put to the test at high-way speeds.  I already knew that the gray and white helmet, with a visor and a wide face opening would be great at low speeds.  The question was, how would my neck feel with air flow driven lift on the visor?

DT2.0 showed up (sort of) on time, and we rode off on what felt more like an autumn morning.  A cool breeze, and a slightly overcast sky made for great riding.  Not being the kind that likes interstates, we rode to Montgomery, TX, via 290 to Telge Road.  From there, it was all back-roads, through Tomball, and up FM 149, one of my favorite hilly, and twisty roads in the Houston area, to Montgomery.  Riding into the town, going North on FM 149, we came across the old King’s Cafe.  I knew it had closed its doors, but having been the breakfast spot for many a ride, and a favorite hang-out for bikers, it still disappointed me to see the empty shell.

picture-8_tnWe parked in the back of King’s, and wrestled two cups of coffee out of a team of waitresses, and picture-1_tnhostesses at a local establishment.  For some reason, they could not figure out why these guys wanted coffee to go.  Like good bikers, we gawked and commented on the rides parked outside.  There was the usual assortment of HD cruisers, and Japaneses wanna be’s, with a couple of beautifully painted, fully painted, and painfully stretched choppers, added for good measure.  However, what caught our eye was a couple of Honda Valkyries, with their wonderful six-cylinder engines.  I have always wanted one of these, the definition of a gentle giant, with lots of self evident power, no-nonsense design, and clean lines.  Why Honda decided to drop it from its line still baffles me.  A Yamaha plates from the Principality of Monaco, and stickers from Spain, and Sweden, set-up with upgraded Ohlins suspension, also caught our eye.  However, I could not walk away from the site, without taking a picture of the water spout against a red tin wall.picture-10_tn

DTDirt_thumbnailWe got on the Stroms again, and rode North on FM 149, hitting the Sam Houston National Forest after a few miles.  The s-curves, and hills, through the pine forest were just fantastic.  We got to the FM-1375 intersection, from where we proceeded East.  DT2.0 started leading the ride now, keeping an eye for interesting fire roads.  After crossing the Northern section of Lake Conroe, we got to Little Rd. Loop.  I must confess that I was a bit hesitant, and looking forward to this at the same time.  I had never taken the big Strom off the pavement for any major distances, and doing this was a small act of faith.  Little Rd. Loop starts out as a red clay road, and while is is mostly compacted because of traffic, there are several points of loose dirt that make the rear tire skid.  It is not necessarily a good feeling, when you are trying to direct over 500 lbs of steel, rubber, plastic, and gasoline.  Part of my brain was recalling a magazine article that said you should go ‘no brain, all gas’ when riding on dirt.  The other part of the brain was going ‘slow, controlled, smooth’.  The latter won the battle over my busy neurons.  We kept at it until we came out on 1375 again.  With a brief sigh of relief, and an increased level of adrenaline, I thought ‘Not bad for the first try.  This is actually very cool’.  Now I have done dirt.  I can retire.

Well, not so fast!  We had more to do.  After searching for more roads we got to another turn, and proceeded down this longer stretch of unpaved road.  The large, muddy, puddles were too much of a temptation to resist.  With newly acquired confidence, we were soon riding the bikes into the mud, rather than avoiding it.  The dirt road continued on for a good while, taking us by lake Conroe, with the expected carcass, or two along the way.  Eventually we made to another paved road, but that just did not seem to be a fun option any more.  So we pulled a 180, and back we went for more mud.  As we gained confidence in this new way of riding, we started riding by standing on the pegs, they way real dirt guys do.  But even retracing our tracks would eventually take us back to the tarmac.  So, we had no other choice but to look for more dirt roads.  Yes, we were starting to get the hang of it, and we were having some weekend warrior kinda fun.

CRSDirt_thumbnailWe made one more incursion into dirt, after having lunch, and taking some time to pray, thank God for the blessing of our friendship.  We also talked about the impending trip to Bonneville, making plans for departure, and preparation.  The way back home was mostly a retrace of our ride out.  The Stroms showed us how effective they are indeed on the pavement, and on fire roads.  Along the way, I learned from DT2.0 that if you do not reset your odometer, you actually get more miles per gallon.  An, by the way, the long beaked, off-road helmet, actually performed amazingly as a cruising helmet.  No neck strain, and quiet as a mouse enjoying a good meal at the Parmesan cheese bank in Reggio Emilia.

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Preparing for the 2009 Adventure

by on Aug.25, 2009, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle

I have been thinking and preparing for this trip for more than a year. On the surface I think that this trip originated in 2007, when my back got hurt so badly, while attempting a motorcycle maintenance maneuver, that I needed lumbar disc surgery. During the time leading to the surgery, and while recovering, the dream of seeing the sun rise at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah, kept me pushing hard, and looking forward. The vision of seeing the purple and reddish hues of the morning sky against the crystalline white surface of the flats, feeling the chill of the wind, softly blowing against my face, was enough to take away pain and frustration. But even without the back surgery, this vision is enough to drive keep a bright spot in my sky.

Deeper inside, I think this dream started many more moons ago, when I got my first motorcycle, a gleaming, deep read Yamaha (400) Special.  Back then, it was the thought of an Easy Rider, transcontinental, adventure on an unwieldy, but wild looking, chopper that made me dream and smile.   Over time, the dream slowly morphed,  and images based on reading, movies, and travel, and motorcycles I owned at one time or another, started creating new stages, backdrops and scenarios for the ever-changing road map that guides any traveler.

As the days go by, I continue to see the journey unfold, but I project now the I will leave for the Salt Flats on September 19, 200, and I will be blessed with the company of my brother, DT2.0 during the first day of my trip.

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The Bolivar Peninsula: Tribute to Old Friends

by on Apr.12, 2009, under 2009, Motorcycle, Uncategorized

I had had this ride in mind for a good while. I have forgotten when the last time was that I had been to Galveston and to the Bolivar peninsula. All I know is that it was before hurricane Ike struck the Texas gulf coast. It was before those images of waves crashing against the Galveston seawall were broadcast on TV, rising like mythical water giants reaching for the sky. It was before the day I rode in my car to work and listened to a woman on the radio, as she called in from Bolivar peninsula, saying that she could no longer leave her home because Rollover pass was under water, but that she trusted God to keep her safe on the second floor of the home. It was after so many hours were spent in front of the television, watching the aftermath of Ike unfold before our eyes and wondering, what it was that we were not seeing. [more …]

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