JadeRider Journeys

Tag: Motorcycle

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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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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When Things Do Not Go As Planned

by on Feb.15, 2008, under Motorcycle, photography

EngineLast weekend was the weekend I had been waiting for for a long time. It was to be the weekend when I would get back on a motorcycle. For several weeks I had been working on getting my back in shape and I felt physically ready for it. Knowing that my bike had been sitting in the garage for a long time, having only started it occasionally since September of last year, and knowing how cold days and nights can really wreck havoc on batteries, I even ran the battery through the charger the day before. I wanted to make sure I was ready. In my mind I getting ready for a big moment and I had said to myself, “What a better way to get back on the saddle than making your first ride one to church on Sunday and praise the Lord on that day. I had just received a new helmet and took it out that morning, peeling off the protective plastic sheet from the face shield. The helmet itself I chose making sure that the paint job would allow for the inscription on it of some of my favorite Bible verses, namely John 1:4-5 and Luke 17:24.

As you probably already guessed by the tone and structure of the story it seems like the Lord had other things in mind. All the power that had been stored in the battery the day before had been drained off the battery overnight. A few days later I jokingly said to my friends, I seemd like God had decided He needed some lightning Saturday night and He had borroed the power from my motorcycle. At that time though, I did not see the humor in this. Deeply disappointed I made my way to church, and what in the back of my mind was to be a public celebration of Go’s healing power, and in the secret crevasses of my mind, a celebration of my own ‘awesomeness’, ended up in a series of ‘My bike did not start this morning’ answers when friends asked how come they had not heard the thunder of the Mean Streak.

Dejected and upset, but still with a thankful spirit, I sat in midst of our community to worship God. Half way through the service a visiting lady and her daughters got on to the stage. They had come to our church to sign and praise with us. For the next few minutes, the sound technicians struggled with the music sound track and equipment while the singers patiently waited. Nothing the sound crew did seemed to be working. Not letting the circumstance phase her, and while I was sure that these singers had been rehearsing to the sound track in preparation for this event, the mother led the group in an a-capella performance that filled the halls of our church with a wonderful, soulful, and celestial sound. It became clear to me at that moment how ever present our relationship with God is. We always have an opportunity to be with Him. We always have an opportunity to praise Him. And while it is great to always prepare our hearts and souls when we will be joining others to worship Him, we should not let life’s circumstances separate us from Him and take every chance we have to celebrate this, the ultimate of relationships. The thought of God should be with us at all times, and yes, when we stop to think about, we should not be able to help ourselves and just say: ‘Dude!’ with a wide grin on our face.

I will still get on my motorcycle, just a bit later than what I had planned, and maybe the circumstances will not be the ones I had envisioned, but still His is the road, and I will be praising Him while I rumble down the high way, pistons pumping, chrome and paint shining, and the air He placed all around us whistling by. In the end, even when things do not go our way, He is still with us.

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