Raul (houstonredrider) and I met bright and early (ok, not that early - 10:05) north of Houston so I could show him some of the local unpaved county and forest service roads. Since purchasing a Vstrom 650 a few short weeks ago, he’s been wanting to get out and explore but has never been offroad in the area. I was to act as a tour guide of sorts. Wait, ME? Uh, I usually just follow…

I got to the gas station and filled up, then looked over his bike as he pointed out what it came with and what he’d done with it so far. He asked me if I had any tips or advice for riding the big bike on loose surfaces - I explained the opposite lean, standing on the pegs, staying loose, and staying off the front brake. These are things I can remember being told when I started, but I honestly don’t remember as much of the details as I should. I just kinda point myself in the right direction and go. I can’t (and shouldn’t) teach that.

I did make mention of HATING sand and to shift your weight to the back to keep the front wheel from plowing. I think. Oh geez, I hope I said back…

The paved roads grew more narrow the farther we got from suburbia, and painted lines were soon absent. Concrete curbs gave way to loose tumbled rock and pastures surrounded the ribbons of asphalt.

The dust was everywhere. This is when being the leader on dual sport rides works out in your favor - you can ride with your visor open for air while the rider(s) behind you inhale the grit and grime you’ve kicked up. By the time we arrived in Navasota for lunch, there was a coating of the fine powder all over Raul and his bike.

Yes, it’s a black rim.

A beautiful pair of Zuks.

Raul - thank you for insisting on me handing over the camera. I usually hide behind it but then complain when there aren’t any pictures with me in them….

I figured I could give poor Raul a break after lunch, so I waited until we had a long section without directional changes and sent him on ahead. We did a few runs practicing locking up the back wheel from first and second gear. It’s something I was taught when I started, so I figured I could pass it on. It helps you get used to the feel of the bike doing its own thing - it’s about relinquishing control for a few seconds and trusting that your inputs will have the right effect.

The advantage of being behind the lead rider in a group is the heads-up warnings you get. If you see the rider ahead of you wobble, wobble, plow, POOF! (huge puff of sand getting airborne), it means DON’T follow him into the beach-deep sand with any speed!

I hit the sand and got my own pucker before seeing Raul hit the deck. I deployed the outriggers and brought the beast to a halt, then asked if he was Ok. He was already up and answered yes, so I told him to stay still. I grabbed the camera - which is what any good friend would do after getting the “I’m Ok” from a downed rider. LOL

I almost let my bike’s weight down on my kickstand before realizing my bike was going over . Out comes the kickstand plate, which I’m very glad I put back in the tank bag! As I got to Raul, he was trying to get the bike up but the back end was sliding. I was able to hold the back end still while Raul grunted the weight back up onto the tires. The clutch lever looked like it might have gotten bent, but of all places to land on the ground, this fluffy sand was about the softest he could have picked.

We continued on, and at least one CR listed on the map has either become private property or a property owner is WAY out of line to build where he/she/they did. It’s as if they dropped their house right ON the road. Grr

As we crossed over Hwy 30 southbound into the Sam Houston National Forest, the smell of fire wafted in the air. Raul and I agreed it appeared to be controlled brush fires to clear out the dense underbrush.

We played hot potato camera

Then headed for more of this

The surface become less sandy and more rocky the farther east we went. We got to one of the trailhead parking areas and there were a few riders milling about, so we went in to take a break and look around. Nobody I recognized, but there was a pair on a GS and a Strom leaving as we arrived.

We took the opportunity to park the bikes and stretch for a few minutes, and Raul got a call that his presence was requested for dinner in the Woodlands. We’d let the day stretch on long enough, so we remounted and headed for I45, slabbing south. We waved adieu as Raul took his exit, and I wrestled my way through traffic back down into Houston. Mother Nature decided to pitch in on the bike and gear cleaning effort, opening up the skies with showers after I'd entered the loop, not stopping until I was a few blocks from home.

Purple - proposed route
Yellow - track log of today’s ride

234 Miles
Start 09:15
End 18:31

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