Day 16
May 11 - heading home

I woke up refreshed and as I packed the bike for the last time on this journey, it was apparent that I’d burned up oil somewhere along the way. I hadn’t been checking it because I was not too far over my oil change interval and the Strom hadn’t been known for burning oil before.

I topped it off with almost a half quart. Good thing Jamey met me up here, he’s the one who noticed it. He’s also the one who was able to get the bike up on the center stand while loaded, something I still struggle with.

Much better.

I ate breakfast - my decadent chocolate pie that I’d saved from dinner the night before.

Then Jamey went to check us out of the room and return the key. This was the only hotel I’d stayed in that had a real key instead of those plastic programmable cards. It felt good to hold a hotel key in my hand for some reason.

As we headed out, the plan was to head across to Oklahoma on the Talimena Scenic Drive, then head south across the Red River into Texas. Although he’d joined me for the last leg home, Jamey insisted he was just escorting me home and that I shouldn’t change anything about how I’d ride or handle stops along the way just for him. He’d be my shadow.

Well, my shadow didn’t plan for the weather and despite the bright shining sun it was chilly. I was doing ok with my jacket liner and rain pants, so I offered him my thermals so he could add a layer.

I stopped at the border

And he stopped up ahead at a turn-off, so I did what any good friend would - took pictures of him half dressed on the side of the road. : P

The elevation on the Talimena isn’t as bothersome as other areas, since there are more rolling hills than cliffs and jagged rocks-of-death to contend with.

We made it to town just in time to fill up on gas and grab some (real) breakfast.

I really couldn’t have asked for better weather to carry me home.

That - over there - is that what I think it is?

Yup, I was crossing over the Red River and had arrived in Texas!

Spank was glad to see some familiar signs too

And Jamey was just glad we’d finally pulled over!

We made our way down to Lone Star for lunch (kinda fitting, don’t ya think?)

It was Mother’s Day, but we’d missed the hectic lunch rush. It also meant we’d missed out on almost everything they were serving on the buffet, so we ordered up a few plates and talked about the rest of the route while we waited for our food.

Chopped steak with onions and hush puppies, although I’m told these aren’t “real” hush puppies and I’d have to try them again sometime.

We were, um, hungry…

Once done and back outside, Jamey just BEGGED me to ride my bike, so I agreed.
(Ok, so I just really wanted to ride the FZ and I convinced him by BS’ing something about how varying pressure points would help make his long ride more comfortable)

I took the reins of ye ‘ol FZ1...

As we mosey’d on down the road I spotted a sign for a town I wanted to check out. It made a good stop to trade bikes back, as I wanted to be with mine in the picture(s).

Beckville, Texas.

Most of my family calls me Bec, so it made me smile to know they’d get a kick out of my find.

The first sign that had the “H” word on it since I‘d left two weeks prior:

Longer shadows

Strangers falling in line behind bikes they see going their way

The setting sun. I would lose the race against daylight for the last time.

Downtown Houston. Blurry, but visible. No time for stopping, I could take pictures of this any day.

Minute Maid Park, aka “Orange Juice Field” - home of the Astros.

And the last traffic light before my house. Yup, I got caught at a red.

“Arriving at home” appeared on the GPS as I pulled under the carport. It was bittersweet - I wanted to be out on the road still. Making my way across states, traversing miles and miles of scenery, pavement, and memories - but at the same time, I longed to be home. In my comfort zone. Sleeping in my own bed.

I turned the key and returned to reality. It was over.

Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas
468 miles and one great shadow of a riding partner