JadeRider Journeys

Tag: V-strom

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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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.

See the post card collection

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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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