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My Motorcycle Blog: Memorable Rides
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

* November, 2006 blog * * October, 2006 blog * * September, 2006 blog * * August, 2006 blog * * July, 2006 blog * * June, 2006 blog * * May, 2006 blog * * April, 2006 blog * * March, 2006 blog * * February, 2006 blog * * January, 2006 blog * * December, 2005 blog * * November, 2005 blog * * October, 2005 blog * * September, 2005 blog * * August, 2005 blog * * July, 2005 blog * * June, 2005 blog * * May, 2005 blog *

My First "Real" Twisties Ride on the Harley

September 15, 2007:
Earlier in the week, John Huval had sent me an email asking when I was free to go for a long ride. I nominated Saturday or Sunday. Ho chose Saturday at seven in the morning. I picked Scenic Higway 390 as our route.

Thus, around 5:00 a.m. on the first day of the weekend, I rolled out of bed, grabbed a shower, and fed Sarah. Next, I picked up the Houston Chronicle to see if any sections of Highway 290 were closed for construction. No problems there.

I checked the air in the tires. Both were properly inflated. I backed the Harley out of the garage and positioned it for departure. I then went back inside and made a pot of Starbuck's House Blend and checked my email.

John showed up right before seven. He accepted a cup of coffee, and we talked about our route. I had drawn a map for each of us. I also mentioned that, if we ever planned a ride where the departure time was earlier than seven, we would have to figure out a mutually convenient departure point. I expressed doubt that my neighbors would appreciate the throaty sound of two V-twins roaring to life in my driveway!

But this morning, because it was already after seven, I had no problem with our firing up. Which is what we did, after suiting up.

I lead the way through the warm-up portion of the ride. We then entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was fairly light as we made our way to the West Loop. Traffic increased as we merged onto Highway 290, but it was never really bad.

Our plan was to breakfast at El Ranchito in Waller. We had eaten there once before, and I, for one, was looking forward to their $2.45 Huevos Rancheros. It is about forty miles to Waller, and we arrived just before eight. The restaurant parking lot was full, but we found two spaces to park our bikes. We both took off our helmets and put on our do-rags. Thus attired, we entered the restaurant.

The coffee was hot, and the eggs were excellent. We had a leisurely breakfast, then headed for the closest thing to mountains within an hour of Houston. Those hills start at Chappel Hill, right off Highway 290. We took FM 1155 north out of Chappel Hill. The curves started almost immediately after the last stop sign in this rural community. Joined quickly by curves on hills. And great views.

I have ridden this route numerous times on the Rebel. This was my first time on the Harley. I was totally pleased with the performance of the Low Rider. It made its way through the twists and turns with all the agility I could ask for. There was power to spare, and the bike was quick to conquer the many turns. When we reached FM 2193 I took the opportunity on one of the long descents to do the bird by holding both hands out at a ninety degree angle from my body. I had no trouble controlling the bike with simple body english.

We turned north on State Highway 105, and then east on Scenic Highway 390. More hills and more curves and more curves on hills. Wonderful. The ride was just fine when I topped a hill to see a loose dog running on the left-hand side of the road. On the right was a man on a tractor cutting grass. I quickly decelerated to a lower-than-normal speed as we made our way past this unexpected hazard. Fortunately, both tractor and canine stayed on their respective sides of the road.

I resumed speed, and was challenging each turn. I entered one particularily sharp turn to the left, and was congratulating myself on a perfect execution of the curve (even to accelerating out of it at midpoint), when I realized that there was another curve, and this one was a sharp twist to the right. The adrenaline flowed as I attacked the curve, and I even drifted across one set of the double yellow stripes. Fortunately, I could see forever, and there was no traffic coming. Made me humble, though.

As we headed into Bellville, I spied a lone buzzard at the top of a hill. Perhaps the recent experience with the es curve played a part, but caution made me apply the brakes before reaching the crest of the hill. Which was a good thing, as it turned out. At least a dozen buzzards were feasting on a road kill, and they were not happy about my approach. Further, they were slow to leave their lunch. The last one to leave took off in front of me, on the same flight path that I was traveling. It caused me to have to slow even more to avoid a collision. For what was only an instance, but seemed like forever, the bird flew directly in front of me, as I edged ever closer. Finally, it veered off. Yikes.

We gassed up at the Shell station in Bellville, and made our way to Newman's for my traditional doughnut. Along the way, I noticed that a blacksmith's shop was open. Cowboy Szymanski runs Phenix Knives out of an old barn-like building at 305 E. Main. Almost every time I have come through Bellville, the shop has been closed. I told John that we we going to have to visit it before leaving.

As I ate my doughnut, we decided to retrace our Highway 390 Route in the opposite direction. As Louis L'Amour frequently noted in his novels of the west, the trail looks totally different when you double back. I told John he could lead the return segment.

After finishing up at Newman's, we headed for the blacksmith's shop. We parked our bikes in a dirt area to the side of the store. I commented that I wish I had brought the kickstand pad I had received when we took the Rider's Edge Skilled Riders Course recently. As I was looking around for a beer can to flatten, 'Cowboy' came out with a couple of scraps of sheet metal for our bikes. We both took advantage of his offer. With our bikes safely leaning to the left, we entered the shop.

I had first met 'Cowboy' at a festival in the Heights. I had admired his knife work, and had track down his website I had long wanted to visit his shop in Bellville. Today I got my wish.

The shop is filled with equipment from the late 1800's. As John and I would focus our attention on a piece, Cowboy would give us an explaination of what the equipment was for, and how old it was. I spied an iron bar that had been made into a pick for turning steaks. I told John I used such a tool when I grilled. Mine is called an E-Z Hook, and features a wooden handle. John asked the price of Cowboy's turner. It was $20. John asked how long it would take to make one. We were told it would only be fifteen to twenty minutes, and that a name could be cold pressed onto the square part of the handle. That sold John.

Cowboy started to work while we watched. He had a huge bellows, feeding a bituminous coal fire. He heated the rod, then worked the point, taking it in and out of the coals several times. He used a couple of different sledges, and a variety of accessories on his huge anvil. Next, he formed the opposite end of the tool, making a tight loop. Four twists, in opposite directions, came next. He would heat up the rod, put it in a vise, use a gigantic tool to grip the squared stock, and twist. The he would heat the rod again, use a bucket of water to cool the rod up to the section he was going to work, then, using the vise and took, twist in the opposite direction. He repeated this routine four times, making an interesting patter in the shank of the took.

After everything had cooled, he took stamps, and, with a single wack with a hammer, put one letter at a time into the cold metal. Each letter took up 1/4 of an inch on the handle. John had printed out what he wanted the tool to say, and Cowboy had adjusted everything to make sure that number of letters would fit. The finished product was most excellent.

After Cowboy had finished, John decided he wanted a matching fork. Cowboy started back to work, and a fork that accurately matched the turner was soon in John's hands. John paid for the goodies, then we faced the problem of getting them home. They were too long for his sadlebags, so Cowboy wrapped them in burlap and strapped them on top of one of the bags, using the D rings.

We headed back toward Brenham on Highway 36, with John in the lead. We pulled over once so he could check to make sure the load was still secure. It was. Shortly, we were at the outskirts of Brenham. John passed a Whataburger by. I heard my stomach scream. But then, two driveways later, he pulled in to a parking lot. I recommended that we eat. And, because Whataburger usually is rated the number one choice of fast food restaurants by Ride Texas magazine readers, I voted we eat there. Plus, I added, we could easily watch the bikes while we ate. John allowed that he could eat there, if he skipped the bun on his hamburger. So that's where we ate.

After lunch, we decided that it was getting too late to retrace our route. I suggested that we take Highway 290 east to Chappel Hill, then go south on FM 1371 back to Bellville. We could then take Highway 529 back to Houston. Which is exactly what we did. FM 1371 had some nice curves, and is worthy of another trip. Highway 529, while a little tame, has some decent twisties, and is always full of fellow bikers.

As is usual for our rides, I peeled off when we hit the Half Price Bookstore at Highway 6, and John continued on home, with a last wave. I pulled into the parking lot for the bookstore, and wandered around for a while. I ended up with one philosophy book, one book on longevity and three novels. Not a bad take.

I stuffed the books in various compartments of my Vanson jacket, and headed home. As I traveled down Highway 6, I passed Cynthia's apartment. I gave her a toot on the horn, just in case she was listening.

I made it back to the house just before five. It had been a long, but fun day. The bike had behaved flawlessly, and I had had a great time on the curves. The odometer read 2831 at the finish of the trip. And tomorrow promises another great day for riding.

See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

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For the November, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the October, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the September, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the August, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the July, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the June, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the May, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the April, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the March, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the February, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the January, 2006, blog entries, click here.

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For the December, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the November, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the October, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.

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*Note to Law Enforcement:

All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.

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