622 Miles for Lunch

As difficult as it is for me to wake up early in the morning, you may think that I’ve learned to go to bed early the night before in preparation for the pre-dawn start. Nope. I never learn. I’m a glutton for punishment (and No Doz).

At 5:40 when the alarm clock beeped and buzzed me back to consciousness, I’d been asleep for just under four hours. I had a day of miles, pie, and way more miles ahead of me. I set the coffee pot to brew while I was showering, and I added some to my cup of sugar and sealed it up tight to take with me.

It was wet and dark outside. The rain was still coming down, although lightly, and there was standing water scattered along the roadway. I was trying to get on the road by 6, but 6:35 was close enough for me. I’d have to be quick with my refueling and high tail it up the freeway to Waller to meet Becca (RocketBunny) and the others for the ride to Hico.

The black sky had turned to gray by the time I’d made it to Waller. Becca wasn’t there yet when I pulled in, but Sherob (aka CatFreak) was there with his daughter in the car. He’d made the decision to not take her for such a long ride in this weather, and it was the right one. Even with the rain expecting to clear, the wind and dust that would be encountered later would have made for a very crabby 10 year old. They'd come just to say hello and make an exchange.

CatFreak brought me a helmet. Not just any helmet, but a Caberg Justissimo flip-up/modular helmet. There have been a few helmet exchanges at previous pie runs for paint work, but this one wasn’t destined for the studio – it was for my head! My helmet had been through torture since the day I bought it, and I’ve been past due for a new one. CatFreak had moved on to another helmet and this one had only minimal scratches from a waist-high drop so he was “paying it forward”. This community of riders that I’ve grown attached to will always far exceed my expectations. HUGE thank you to Sherob for the helmet!

Becca showed up late but was excused because she’d added her bunny ears to her helmet. Isn’t she adorable!

Dave (dukey33) also joined us in Waller on his Honda Shadow and was prepared to follow a pair of crazy Beccas to Hico!

As we headed out, Becca reminded me to watch the speed limits as we reached small towns along the way, since we weren’t taking the freeway for most of it. We headed straight up 290 and then onto 36 once in Brenham. I pulled over for gas in Milano since Dave said he can only go about 100 miles between fill-ups, but with all of the pumps occupied Becca quickly talked him into stretching it a few more miles down the road.

Once in Cameron, we stopped for gas and Dave and I filled up. Becca has this never-ending gas tank (or so she thinks) and is going to make it to Hico without needing to refuel.

We continued N/NW on 190 following the old Santa Fe RR line. You know it’s a great day to be on a bike when the roads are growing dry, the sky is turning blue, and the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds just as you pull alongside a moving train and have him toot his horn for ya! Too bad I was too afraid of getting the camera wet to take pictures along the way…

Past Temple, we caught Hwy 36 and headed through the Ft Hood Military Training Area. Lots of signs warning of training operations, but all we got was a slow-down behind two big tankers. In Jonesboro, we finally got down to an FM and hopped on 1602 for the final leg to Hico. The wind had picked up gradually as we moved north all morning, and by this time the bike was leaned left when riding straight. It made for some interesting moments – turning right while fully vertical! Turning left was another story – although my bike has few fairings, it was catching the wind down low and it felt like the tires just wanted to sweep out from under me. Lets just say the fast sweepers on 1602 were slow sweepers today.

We pulled into the parking lot at 11:15 (not too shabby for an 11:00 meet) and quickly made our way out of the gusting wind and inside for a tasty meal with friends.

I only got to eat half of my lunch because I was talking and meeting people the rest of the time, but that’s what these things are all about! There’s always time to eat later.

Dave decided to head out to visit a friend in Waco, so Becca and I decided we’d attempt to run some of the curvy roads that we spotted on the maps for this area. Chris (Stinky93071) said he was heading in that general direction and would tag along.

Here he is waiting patiently for a pair of Beccas to gear up and make up their minds on the route.

Stinky: Do you need gas?
RocketBunny: Yeah, but I’m not going to that one because there’s gravel. I’ll go to that one instead. (points down the road)
S: That one is worse. Just go across the street.
RB: I can’t stand gravel. I’ve got enough to go another 30 miles or so. Let’s just go.

And go we did.

We headed up 220 and cut over to 2481. I stopped at the corner and told the others how much the wind was upsetting the bike and that I’d be taking it slow. Becca agreed and said that today was not about a show of speed, and that we should all back off the throttle a bit. She also told Stinky to get in front of her because she wanted to watch his arse end dance around.

No wait, that was me. Becca just doesn’t like people riding behind her.

The roads were great, but the weather wasn’t. On a nicer day I could see this being a lot of fun to ride. I guess we’ll just have to come back!

When we approached the stop sign at the intersection of 67, I put my feet down and struggled to plant myself and not topple over with the gusts. I had to stand there for a minute and wait for a quick break in the wind before I’d be able to get my left foot off the ground to put the bike back in gear (yes, I know, I should have rolled to a stop in gear).

A few miles up the road, I glanced back and only saw one headlight behind me. I slowed to a stop on top of a hill so I’d see Becca coming, but I never did. Here’s a backward view (through a VERY dirty mirror) of Stinky turning around to make sure Becca hadn’t been blown off the road.

My first thought was to just wait because she was probably taking a picture, but after a while I actually started to get nervous.

Not too nervous to snap some pics of my own, of course..

After not seeing Stinky come back right away with a thumbs up, I turned around and headed back. A minute later, Stinky came riding back toward me and motioned for me to follow him. Maybe Becca had decided to turn off and head back a different way because of the wind?

When we got up the road to Bluff Dale, we pulled into the gas station and I automatically pulled up to the pump and started to fill my tank. Stinky parked his bike and went inside, then came back to proclaim “I’m not spending $11 on a half gallon gas tank!”

Ok, so Becca was out of gas. I couldn’t stop laughing! I asked why we left her there and he asked how I was planning on giving her some of mine… Ummmm… I dunno. But why assume I don’t have a siphon tube in my kit-o-stuff under my seat? (Yeah, I’m adding a siphon tube to my kit before the next ride)

He had no cell service, but knew someone that lived nearby. I loaned him my phone (Yup, Cingular is the ol’ reliable out in the boonies) and he made his call. He warned me that we were going to head up an unpaved road. Yeah, so? You see this thing called a Vstrom I’m riding? It was made for this!

Within a half hour, we’d gotten the Ok from Stinky’s friend and were headed up CR148 through downed branches and flying debris to a private road and gravel/dirt driveway. It wasn’t bad at all, and the only scary part was the semi-steep incline to the house.

We loaded up the full gas can and headed back. Good thing I carry a bungee net too, eh?

Notice the difference in sky color between the last few pictures. This is where the dust really became airborne, but it was also when we realized there was a fire somewhere amid the hills and trees. You could smell it all around (which made me a little nervous) but we couldn’t see where or how far away it was.

Coming back down the private road to rescue Becca:

I’m sure she tried to hurry up and get it over with before I could get the camera out, but no such luck. I’m going to bring this one up more often than the “rusty chain” incident up in Arlington!

As we headed back to town so she could fill the rest of her tank and I could return the can, I decided that the dynamic duo would have to wait for me to snap a picture of my bike with this cool lighthouse. There’s no water up here, so I’m pretty sure this is just a landmark for the adjoining restaurant. Either way, cool pic. (IMHO)

The floppy bunny ears were really a hoot in all this wind.

Becca now topped off and the gas can back to its rightful owner, we had a decision to make. Which way home? It was obvious we weren’t going to finish the route (now estimated to get me home close to 2am) and the weather was just not going to cooperate. My GPS had a malfunction. Seems I overfilled it. Oops.

Good thing I still carry a back-up map!

When she went to pick her bike up off the side stand, Becca discovered she’d parked too close to a pole and was stuck. Stinky went to move it for her, and when I told him to stay there while I laughed and grabbed the camera, Becca discovered what I was laughing at – she’d rubbed the pole and gotten blue paint on her side case.

We’d follow Stinky down 377 to Granbury, then he’d split off to go visit mom and we’d head back. Big thanks to Stinky (no, I don’t like calling him Chris – Stinky just works better) for helping us out in a time of need. Yes, it’s good to know people everywhere you go!

Becca was going to Huntsville, so she and I split and I headed down 35 and started to wander towards Houston. I stopped in Grandview for a bite to eat and a chance to put my rain gear back on to block the chill that was creeping in as the shadows grew longer.

Grandview. Hmm – interesting signage for a view like this.

It was amazing – you could look directly at the sun without it burning your eyes because the airborne particles were acting as a UV filter!

35 was getting boring and I needed to head east, so I got off and headed down 84 but quickly realized that east is relative. 84 goes E/NE, so I turned around and got back on 35, this time with 77 in my sights.

Another stop for coffee and a No Doz (they are always with me on the bike for times like these) in Lott, and I came out from the quick stop to find Bob looking for a way home.

I asked one of the locals how far Houston was, and the answer was a disconcerting “another few hours”. With a sign of disbelief on my face, I must have looked pathetic. “Which way are you going?”, she asked.

I guess I was heading straight for stoplight-ville, because she told me to detour over on 320 to Marlin and take 6 from there. I took her advice and wished her a pleasant day, then filled up one last time. If home is more than a tank of gas away, I’m not sure I can make it.

I passed through Hearne and knew I was still nowhere near home. Bryan was a passing blur, and I contemplated stopping for a burrito at Freebirds in College Station. My stomach was growling, but home was still plenty far away and it was already almost 8pm.

I stopped in Navasota for another cup of coffee and a few phone calls, then geared back up for the final push. 290. Becca’s exit. She’s not there, but her folks would let me take a nap if I asked nicely…

Approaching Beltway 8, there was a fully-involved fire at what looked like a warehouse, but there was no safe place to stop on the roadway. I’ve looked on the local news page, but couldn’t find any info. The flames were reaching up pretty high, but I couldn’t see a lot of emergency lights down below.

Beltway to Beechnut. Almost home. Wilcrest. There’s my house… passing it by… I went to the corner fast food frenzy and ordered up some grub. Horrible way to end the day, but I was hungry and my kitchen is an oasis. It doesn’t really exist.

I pulled in at 9:42 am, and discovered that I’d racked up 622 miles for the day. If I’d had a throttle lock, my right hand might not hurt as much either!

As comparison, what we were scheduled to ride would have pushed it up to 697 miles, but they would have been slower miles and much more fun.

Oh well. Good excuse to do it again soon!