Day 3: Sunday Nov 5

Sunday began a little later, but somehow the extra hour of sleep was not enough. I was tired and groggy, and still woke up freezing cold. If this was summer, it would probably be too warm, right? I started the day with a sticky bun I'd saved from BJs Cafe in Camp Wood, and washed it down with some apple juice from the vending machine.

There was a slight drizzle already going by the time we hit the road, this time the 'other' Steve was leading and Steve and Rita were bringing up the rear. We stopped at the storage shed to say our goodbyes to Bob, who was already up and arranging storage for the bike until a truck could come for it. He was moving well, but was still in pain. With a tip of his cap, he bid us farewell and we were rolling.

We headed toward Lukenbach on single-lane roads, but maintained a moderate pace. With Bob's crash still fresh on the mind, nobody was in a hurry to slide around on wet pavement. Once there, we settled in for a look around and some refreshments. The sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds and the day was growing warmer and more comfortable.

Steve and Rita decided to split off for home through a more direct route than the rest of us. The FJR with two riders isn't nearly as comfortable on these poorly paved roller-coaster roads as the rest of us singletons on our road warriors (especially 'other' Steve and I on our Stroms). After a quick fuel stop in town (and a chance to remove our liners), we headed for lunch in Buda (pronounced biew-duh) at Bill Miller's BBQ. It was standard BBQ fare and reasonable priced, but nothing to write home about.

We said sayonara to Brian after lunch, as his route home took him north toward Austin. The remaining foursome headed west down 21/71 at a wrist-numbing crawl. The traffic was backed up for what seemed like miles because of construction, but after it cleared we all had a chance to rest our clutch hands. I waved goodbye to the others as I headed for Bastrop State Park, and Mother Nature was in agreement that the day would get better. It grew warmer, and I now needed to open the vents on my jacket to remain comfortable.

I decided to use a route that I'd programmed into my GPS weeks earlier to get out here to the park, only reversed. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to reverse a route on-the-fly, but somehow I did it. What I didn't realize at the time was that the route was experimental...
Often times I'd ridden through the park with street riders in tow, glancing down dirt roads that spanned out to either side. With nowhere to be and nobody with me to complain, I decided it was time to take the plunge and see where a few of them went. The first one was mostly gravel and headed south, but was level and had only a few turns. This is the kind of dirt road I like! It left the park and entered a small grouping of mobile homes, so I turned around and headed back. The next road I took was more heavily rutted, but was passable by truck so I knew I'd be Ok.

Or would I? The road (if you could call it that) became a little steeper and the tree cover had prevented the ground from drying out after the recent rain. The rocks and mud were slick, so I took it down to first gear. I tried to avoid the larger branches in my path while at the same time keeping my eyes up and pointed where I wanted to go. A medium-sized deer ran across my path about thirty feet ahead, but because of my speed it wasn't really a close call. I avoided panic braking somehow, but came off the throttle enough to slow down to about 10mph as I passed a group of three or four of his friends. Ok, this is scary. I wanted to go back, but there was no way I'd manage to turn the bike around in here. I had to keep going.

The trees opened up and the ground became drier just in time for me to come to an intersection. The GPS said to turn right to get back into the park, but the road ahead looked easier to navigate. I decided the electronics are smarter than I am in a situation like this, so I put both feet out for balance and went back toward P1. The rocks and dirt weren't as bad as they looked, but as soon as I realized there was a stop sign ahead and hit the brakes (yes, my instinct was for the back brake so it was Ok) it was too late and I went sliding straight through the paved intersection to the continuation of the dirt road on the other side. Wow, that could have been REALLY ugly. Not wanting to tempt fate, I brought the bike to a full stop and turned around to take the pavement through to the Buescher exit.

Once out of the park, I settled into "the groove" as I followed 153 toward La Grange. Once I hit 77, I knew exactly where to go - Post Oak Road. This is the gravel road that I typically take to bypass the street route south and then back up north. At the start of the unpaved section, a sign declared "Road Closed Fresh Oil". The sign was off to the side of the road though, so I figured it was outdated. I was wrong. I didn't realize gravel roads were oiled, but this stuff was slick. I don't think I got out of second gear on the straights, which helped me slow down in time to avoid the dozen or so goats that had gotten through the pasture fence.

Post Oak eventually passes over to 2981, which continues to wind eastward toward Cedar Creek Reservoir. I've never been over to it, so I followed the signs up Park Prarie Road. Once at the entrance booth, I gave a wave to the attendant and read the sign touting what the park had to offer for the $4 entrance fee. No time to go in today, but it might be worth coming back for an afternoon in the Spring.

I turned onto Ch Allen Rd, which was more graded gravel and rocks and eventually turned into Haw Creek Road. A few of the turns were pretty tight, and one almost got me - my eyes were focused on the ditch separating the ditch from the field instead of where I wanted to go. I managed to pick my eyes up and get the bike slowed in time, and the bike wobbled to a halt right in the groove. Whew!

I continued on down Hwy 1457through Rock House and Industry. The sun was now setting, but I was glad it had at least made an appearance for my ride home. I started cutting out section of the GPS route when more of the roads became familiar. I stopped briefly in Sealy to get off the bike and stretch, something I'd forgotten to do without being in a group setting. This whole riding alone thing is pretty neat.

I finished up my fun on Racer Rd just before it got dark, then hopped on I10 in Brookshire for the home stretch. It was dark and a little chilly by the time I got home, but the weekend had been another fun one for the books. Despite Bob's crash, we'd all made it home in one piece and that's what we treasure most. Well, that and the friendships that tie us together both on and off the bikes.

1076 miles in 56 hours with 7 friends. Not bad for a weekend.

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!