Day 2: Saturday Nov 4

I woke up too early because the room was freezing. The thermostat isn't anywhere near accurate in this hotel, and I'd fallen asleep with only a sheet over me. It was still dark outside, so I shut off the a/c by the light of a cell phone, grabbed a blanket off the floor, and went back to sleep. An hour or so later, I was up and on my way toward getting geared up on time (for once).

The sky was grey and dismal, but so far the pavement was dry. I was optimistic that the morning mist would burn off and the sky would lighten up, so I started the day with a tinted visor. I had time to lube my chain and bungee my rain gear to the back of the Strom before the others appeared from their breakfast feast. Instead of losing sleep for food, I made a quick pot of coffee in the room and tried to sip as much of it as I could despite the bitter taste.

We were on the bikes and rolling out of the parking lot at 8am sharp, Steve and Rita up front on the FJR and Old Man Bob in the back herding us like cattle. The rest of us fell into line somewhere in the middle, and our placement seemed to work out well for the small group size. At times I tried to keep up with Steve in the corners, but I wasn't about to push my limits with a drizzle now falling. Visibility became increasingly difficult, so when we stopped at Stonehenge I quickly changed out to a clear visor. The group began to spread out, but we were still able to keep each other in sight at intersections.

We stopped in Leakey for a stretch, and were greeted with a smiling face and free coffee at the corner store. There were a few bikes out and about, but not many. While we were stopped, some other riders from TWT appeared and stopped to chat and rest for a bit. The lack of sun and steady drizzle were making it quite a chilly day. Wearing only mesh riding pants and jeans, Brian was on his way to becoming miserable so I offered up my rain pants since my overpants are water resistant and we weren't expecting a deluge. (Ok, I'm greedy, I kept the rain jacket for myself ). Deb was kind enough to stash a few of my things in her top case, but I think I started getting on her nerves when I asked to get something out at every stop...

The 'other' Steve split off from the group and headed over to Marble Falls for a car show, but he'd meet us back at the hotel later. We rode the (in)famous three sisters, 335, 336, 337, Hwy 55, etc. I have no idea what order we did them in, but we were doing them. Slowly. We stopped in Camp Wood for lunch at BJ's Cafe and Sweet Shop, and the fellas got their fill of homemade chili. The gals opted mostly for sammiches, and Old Man Bob decided to give the freshly-made soft serve ice cream a try. He looked pleased, and commented on the "hint of cinnamon". He looks like a fella that knows his sweets!

As we sat through lunch, the weather showed no signs of improvement (just don't ask Steve - he said it was getting lighter outside but we think his Geritol was kicking in and crowding his brain) . The fog was getting worse, although the rain was pausing every so often. The original plan was for 350 miles, but we were going to finish up the last of the sisters and head back to the Inn early. As I approached one of the pullouts toward the end of 337, Steve and Brian were waiting on us to regroup. Deb soon pulled up behind me, and she stayed there while the leaders took off again. Erik arrived and stayed to wait for Bob while Deb headed on (this is THE optimal way to ride in a group, btw ) but once Deb made it down to the end and Erik was nowhere in sight, we dismounted and waited. There had been two trailers taking their leisurely time getting through the tight turns, so we decided not to worry unless the trailers appeared.

They didn't, nor did Erik or Bob. Steve headed back up the mountain to check on things. As two more riders pulled in, we asked them if they'd seen a yellow VFR and a cruiser up the road. They had - the VFR was parked on the shoulder and the cruiser was being loaded into one of the slowpoke trailers. Steve and Rita were already back up there, so we just stayed put to avoid clogging up the roadway any more than was necessary. There was no word on the condition of the rider, but we assumed we'd be informed if it was serious enough to warrant EMS.

Erik made his way back down while the bike loading finished up, and we geared back up so as to be ready to roll back onto the pavement behind the trailer. The driver had been kind enough to pull off when he saw the incident, and he moved his bike and gear around inside the enclosed trailer to make room for Bob's now muddy and slightly tweaked Road Star. Bob sat up front in the cab for the drive back to the hotel. He was hurt, but not enough to call 911. We'd get him back into town and then over to the hospital to get checked out.

Bob was transported to St. Pete's Memorial Hospital by the hotel's shuttle before we had even arrived back at the hotel. Once in the room, we dumped the gear and rode 2-up over to the hospital. Well, some of us did - I asked Brian if he'd ever taken a passenger, and his answer was a less than reassuring "just once, for a few blocks". I asked if he wanted to come with me on the Strom, and he didn't hesitate to shrug his shoulders and agree. Wow, that was easy! I cranked up the preload, backed it out of the space, and he hopped on. I'm not sure how comfortable he was back there, but he was holding on pretty tight. I'm not a very smooth shifter at low speeds, but a half a dozen heads bonks later and we were pulling into the parking lot outside the ER.

Between us and our gear, we took up half the waitiing room. We moved furniture, found the vending machines (the have cappuccino!), and made a big enough scene that the other waiting family members scattered. When they wheeled Bob back for some x-rays, Erik decided to head out to the local hardware store in search of a few small bolts for Deb's GPS mount. An hour or so and six hardware stores later, he returned with a triumphant grin. He quickly settled down and joined the game of Phase 10 that we'd started (yes, we bring cards and games on trips all the time, every time) and proceeded to win the first three hands. Cheater!

They only allowed two people back there with him, but Bob was concerned that we were all sitting around the waiting room bored. No chance of that, so we told him to settle down. The morphine must have started to kick in soon after, because before too long he was asking the nurse if she wanted to come back to the hotel to take care of him for the night. He had three cracked ribs, some rashing on his forearms (even though there were no rips or tears on his riding jacket) and some bruising on his head from his glasses. The helmet is toast, but his gear did exactly what it was supposed to and that's what counts.

Once back at the Inn, we ordered pizza from next door and shared the tale with the 'other' Steve, who'd been waiting for us to return. The story Bob will tell his riding buddies starts with "I was dragging a knee around this turn so I stuck my cane out for balance..." At one point he got up and hobbled over to close the door claiming we were being too loud and were disturbing the wedding around the corner in the hotel's banquet room. Never one to be upstaged, Steve popped his head outside and shouted "You shouldn't have gotten married in the first place!"

Ok, let's call it a night!

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