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My Honda Rebel Blog for June, 2006
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

* 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 *

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June 30,2006:

We got to bed at a decent hour last night, so I arose early to get in some reading before Sarah's morning rituals. She let me know when it was time to close the book on philosophy, and open the book on walking. It was good we were on time, because I have a full day. And, included in that day, was a somewhat longer than normal morning ride.

But before I could get on two wheels, I had to satisfy Ms. Four Legs. So, Maria in hand, we headed out for Sarah's morning walk. It was not especially cool, but it was very cloudy, and that helped. At least with the temperatures. The rain chances are now at 70% for all weekend, and my schedule is threatened. So is Sarah's, for than matter.

But not this morning. We completed her walk at a fast pace. Then, while she ate her breakfast, I suited up and headed out. The tire pressure was fine, as was the riding weather. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. I decided to try for three loops today, traffic permitting. And I decided to add the Highway 59 extension as often as backup would permit.

The first loop went fine. The clouds made the morning ride just grand. I may be of another opinion by tomorrow. But, for today, the morning air tasted good. Traffic was mostly light, and speeds were mostly 60 mph* or above.* I did see a lane changer cross three lanes of traffic to take the TC Jester exit at the last second, but I watched that maneuver in my rear views, not in front of me.

I also watched a giant plastic lid come off a truck. And that was in front of me. No problem dodging it, however.

The second loop was also taken at high speeds. Then, as I headed west on I-10 for the third loop, a situation developed. I was in the far right-hand lane. A pick up was in the lane to my left, about five car lengths behind me. I watched a big truck enter the freeway from Shepherd. It was one of those situations where the truck was clearly going to merge onto my lane, but at a very low speed. I faced the choice of really cutting my rate of travel, or of changing lanes to my left. Normally, I would just brake off some speed. But this time, I judged that the safer alternative was to change lanes. Which is what I did.

Things worked out fine. But I am usually against sudden lane changes on a bike. Mistakes are costly. Today, I balanced the alternatives, and decided there was more risk in going 15 mph down the freeway than in changing lanes with a pickup behind me. If the pickup had been any closer, I probably would have just dropped back. I know all this doesn't sound especially exciting, but it is an example of the rapid judgment calls a biker has to make constantly when traveling in Houston traffic.

I finished the third loop, and took the Heights exit on home. I met my goal. I now have 14,753 miles on the bike. Clear weather would give me clear sailing to mile 15,000. But stormy seas are ahead. Stay tuned mateys, and don't forget to think.

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June 29,2006:

There was still a touch of cool in the air today, along with lower than normal temperatures. I got up early, got in some reading, then waited for the mechanical alarm. Our four-footed alarm was patiently impatient.

Our walk was very nice. Sarah enjoyed the cool temperatures, as did we. She also enjoyed her breakfast. While she was eating, I suited up and headed out, after checking the air in the tires, of course. And adding a pound or so to the front one.

After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Everyone stayed in their lanes, and cell phone talk was at a minimum. I completed two quick circuits, with the Highway 59 extension on each one. No backups to speak of. I continued to Washington, u-turned, and headed for the gas station to top off the tank for tomorrow's ride.

As I left the gas station, I headed down the feeder, going east. Cars behind me started herding me on, causing me to up my speed. Houston Police use this stretch as a speed trap. The feeder is three lanes, with no homes or businesses to speak of. They use it as a speed trap because the proper speed is way above the posted speed limit. In fact, the feeder on the westbound stretch has a 45 mph speed limit, and there are condo's and business all along that stretch.

I looked for any cop cars, and was glad the coast was clear. I was also glad when the tailgaters entered I-10, and got off my rear. I continued down the feeder, slowing as I went. All of a sudden, a police officer stepped out from the shadows. He was looking to increase the city's revenues. I guess I wasn't a big enough fish. I rolled by him, and noticed that his motorcycle was parked on the west-bound portion of the feeder, out of sight of his victims. I continued on home.

Rain is predicted for the rest of the week. By Saturday afternoon, the chances are listed as 50%. Ugh. Right now, I am on schedule to make 15,000 by the Fourth of July, weather permitting. Whether it does or not remains to be see. For now, I have 14,696 miles on the bike. And five days to go. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.

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June 28,2006:

Today it was a little hotter--and a little more humid--than yesterday. Made me glad I took my extended run on Tuesday. But, Sarah insisted that it was plenty fine out for walking, so we all trooped down to enjoy a morning stroll.

Now make no mistake. It was still unseasonably cool this morning. Unseasonable for Houston, that is. The low was 70 degrees. Sarah had a great time. We also enjoyed the morning air.

When we returned, I fed Sarah and suited up. The tire pressure was fine. I headed out. Traffic was especially light for most of the ride. I added the Highway 59 extension to both laps. There was no traffic jam at I-10 during the first circuit. However, when I was heading south on the second lap, a very different situation presented itself.

I was cruising along at 65 mph*, as I had been most of the trip. I noticed that the traffic ahead of me--those cars attempting to merge onto I-10 from Highway 59--was almost at a stanstill. I made a quick, hard application of my brakes to peel off some speed, then I let off the brakes and began pumping my right foot to flash the brake lights so the cars behind me would begin their braking process. I also downshifted and scooted to the far right-hand edge of the lane, so I could escape to the shoulder lane if necessary. I then applied more brake to continue the slow-down process.

Fortunately, everyone got stopped without the squeal of tires. And we were soon back on our separate ways. I got on I-10 and took it all the way to Washington before u-turning and heading back to the Studemont exit. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,652 miles on the bike. I am on schedule, but rain is predicted for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. A rain day will play havoc with my mileage. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.

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June 27,2006:

Last night, the weather gurus were predicting low humidity for this morning. And Maria had an early appointment. And I didn't. So conditions seemed ideal for an extended run on the Rebel.

Everything started on schedule. I awoke early, as usual. I showered and took Sarah downstairs to get the paper. Maria joined us, and we all trooped out the door for Sarah's walk. Indeed, there was a touch of coolness in the air. Temperatures were below normal, as was the humidity. Sarah enjoyed her walk.

When we got back, I fed Sarah and then, instead of suiting up, I fixed breakfast for Maria and me. My goal was to be on the road by 7:30 a.m. Maria's goal was to be out the door by 7:30. Happy coincidence. But it was not to be. She ran fifteen minutes behind schedule, and it was almost eight by the time I headed out.

Before leaving, I added some air to the front tire. I then suited up, grabbed a can of compressed air and a compass, and headed out.

Last night, relying on the weather predictions, I had plotted out a complicated route through the Sam Houston National Forest. I wanted to get about 180 miles on the bike, and experience some twisties during the run.

Before hitting the super slabs, I topped off the tank. I only had 44 miles on the current fill up, but I didn't want to run short in the forest primeval. After filling the tank to the brim, I entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took I-45 north. Even though I was going against the grain, there was lots of traffic. The coolness made the ride pleasant, but the traffic kept it from being relaxed.

A few miles before reaching Huntsville, I watched the statue of Sam Houston pop into view. A billboard had announced that it was the world's tallest statue of an American hero. If you have ever travelled north on I-45 you know what I mean by "popped." All of a sudden, there is Sam Houston. And due to a turn in the road, at first it appears like Sam is standing in the middle of the freeway.

I enjoy the statue. In reminds me of my friend Bob, who used to work in Huntsville. Bob was a big fan of Sam Houston. Sam lead an interesting life, and made decisions based on his philosophy of right and wrong instead of always doing what was popular. Maybe that's why Bob admired him. I know that's what I like about the guy.

Shortly after passing the statue, I came upon the exit for FM 19. This is one of the first exits you encounter when entering Huntsville. Before I knew it, I was at the intersection of FM 19 and FM 190. I took FM 190 east, toward Point Blank. FM 190 is a pleasant enough rural road. It suffers from being straight and level. But I wasn't on it long. After about eight miles, I came upon an abandoned business. By the layout, I was sure it had been a gas station, although there were no pumps or buildings left. The concrete pad was consistent with such stations. I pulled in and turned off the engine. It was right at 9:00 a.m. Time to check in with the office. I told Cynthia where I was, and noted that I had just seen the exit for Dodge. After getting assurance that no emergencies were pending at the office, I continued on my way. Within another eight miles I came FM 946. I took it south.

Farm to Market 946 has some sweeping curves, and is a pleasant ride. After another eight miles or so, I came to another abandoned gas station. It was at the spot where FM 156 joins FM 946. This gas station had pumps. When I realized this, I u-turned and rode back for a look. The price on the pump (for regular) was 90.9. No brand name was evident.

Just before getting to Cold Spring, I turned west onto FM 945. This was the road that had inspired this trip. On my maps, it looked wonderfully crooked. In reality, it lived up to the maps. There were curves galore, and even a few hills. Not the big hills like you see around Bellville, but some nice ups and downs, nonetheless. And trees. Lots of trees.

The low humidity lasted until about 10:00 a.m. After that, the only coolness was when I was moving. But it was still a great ride. Right when I got on FM 945, a truck pulled onto the road just ahead of me. Some kind of a tanker. A slow tanker.

All those curves made for long stretches of double yellows in the center of the road. But, after five minutes or so, I came upon a section that allowed for passing. I whipped around the tanker, and had the road to myself for the rest of the time. It was fantastic. The trees were tall, and on both sides. But they had been cut back from the edge of the highway, so that feeling of being closed in was not present. And there were lots of ranchettes along the way. It was ideal country for putting in extended thinking time, and I did not pass up the opportunity.

Next time on this route, I will probably take FM 150 west to FM 1725 to add even more twisties. But let there be no doubt: FM 945 was a fun run. Somewhere along the way, I turned over mile 14,500. I missed watching that event. But earlier in the ride, I had watched the odometer creep up to 14,444.4. I guess it evened out.

Just outside Cleveland, FM 945 deadends into FM 2025, which I took south to Highway 59. For the rest of the trip, I cruised the super slabs. I was watching the tripometer, and I was getting close to the 140 mile marker. I begin hunting a gas station. I spotted one in a small town, and pulled up to fill the tank. It was a Shell station that catered to truckers. Each pump had diesel as one of the options. I inserted my credit card, got approval, and tried to fill the tank. The nozzle had a full length rubber shield. One designed to lessen the escape of gas fumes into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, I could not get the pump to start dispensing gasoline. A motorcycle tank does not have the set-back filler that one sees on cars. So there was nothing for the rubber shield to fit over. Or maybe it was just me. For whatever reason, I had to cancel the order, and leave without gas. A little ways away, I spotted an Exxon station. This time, everything worked. With a full tank of gas, I headed for home.

I breezed past FM 1960 without pulling in to Half Price Books. I regretted that, but I had a noon luncheon with a lawyer friend that I did not want to be late for. So I continued south on 59. I then took the North Loop west. As I approached the TC Jester exit, the odometer rolled over to mile 14,600. I did not miss that milestone. I continued on, heading south on the Loop. I then took I-10 east, all the way to the Studemont exit. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,608 miles on the bike. Time to grab another shower, then head for my lunch appointment. Mile 15,000 looks possible after all. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

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June 26,2006:

Just over a week till July 4th. We are having some friends over, and on this morning's walk, Maria asked me if I would have mile 15,000 on the bike by then. I told her that I wasn't sure. It would be tough to put enough miles on by next Tuesday and get everything else done. Sarah wasn't interested. She just seemed content to be out before I hit the road. Because of our busy schedule, she had gotten cheated out of her morning walks on Saturday and Sunday. Not that she didn't have an active weekend keeping the backyard squirrels at bay.

Anyway, life was back to its normal workday routine. After taking Sarah for her walk, I fed her and suited up. Because I was running a tad early, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both laps. In fact, it is my plan to do this all week.

I had to add a little air to the front tire. I then headed out and warmed up. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light and fast. A great start to the week. Sadly, the lower humidity they had been promising all weekend was not here yet. But the high speeds provided their own cooling.

As planned, I rode past the exit for I-45 and continued east on the North Loop. At the exit for Highway 59, I headed south. Almost immediately, I encountered an older dark green car. Two occupants. The driver was on the cell phone. She was also wandering out of the right-hand side of her lane. I dropped back. She wandered out of the left-hand side of her lane. At least she was off the cell phone. Then, to my amazement, as she wobbled down the road at 65 mph, she leaned over and kissed her passenger. And wandered out of her lane yet again.

I am all in favor of kissing. There is far too little of it in the world. But I question the wisdom of practicing the art while hurtling along at 65+ mph during morning rush hour. And I did my questioning at a distance. I let off my speed so as to increase the distance between the weaver and myself. I also made sure I could retreat into either the left-hand lane or the right-hand lane--or both--if the driver had a fender bender. Much to my regret, the lady took the I-10 exit off of Highway 59--the exact way I was going. So I was stuck with her until she took the downtown exit onto I-45. She made several more sashays before she exited. But she did signal her lane changes. Well, one time she did.

I was glad to see her go. The second loop was without incident. As I left the lady behind, I looked at the odometer and noted that it was at 14,399.9. I watched it roll over to 14,400. I was glad I could relax again. A sneak peak at my watch revealed that I was still ahead of schedule. I decided to add a few extra miles by going all the way to the Washington exit, u-turning, and heading back east on I-10 to the Studemont exit, then on home. Which I did.

By the time I pulled up to the driveway, my efforts had rewarded me with 14,425 miles. I'm not really on schedule to make mile 15,000 by next Tuesday, but it is still within the realm of possibility, if the weather holds. See you on the road. And don't forget to signal your lane changes.

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June 25,2006:

It was another early morning. With the "honey-do" list I have, it was ride early or ride short. I rode early. As in 6:30 a.m. Of course, that was after getting the paper and Sarah's breakfast. Much to Sarah's chagrin, I skipped her walk so I could get an early start.

And, in honor of my "honey-do" list, I decided to make today's run part of said list. On Tuesday, Maria and I had been at the Enchanted Forest nursery in Richmond. It is a great nursery, and has many garden delights, both hardscape and landscape. One of the things we had seen was a concrete brontosaurus that was about four feet tall at the head. Unfortunately, the dinosaur had no price, and we had already spent more than expected by the time we checked out, so I forgot to ask the toll. Thus, I decided to kill two birds with one stone this morning, and get in a nice ride while checking out the stock at Fraser's Concrete Heaven in Hempstead.

As you may recall, the local road construction projects conspired to limit my access to Highway 290. But, I figured out a way to get there, and the added miles just meant more riding pleasure. But first, I needed to top off the tank.

After getting gas, I entered I-10, heading east. Way east. All the way to the East Loop, which I took north, then west. That way, I avoided the construction roadblock at I-45 North and Highway 59 North. And, twelve extra miles later, I was on Higway 290, headed west.

It has been several months since I made my way west on 290. Last night, I plotted a route that would give me the chance to have coffee and donuts in Bellville. And a chance to ride the twisties on FM 529. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how long of a ride it is to Hempstead. There was no way, given the number of items on my "to do" list, that I could afford the time necessary to breakfast in Bellville. It looked like I would have to content myself with a ride to Fraser's.

When I got to Waller, the sky began to darken. It looked like rain was on the western horizon. Maybe Brenham was getting a shower. Things were dry on Highway 290, but the temperatures droped with the cloud cover. For the first time in months, I actually felt a chill while riding. But the road remained dry.

When I got to Hempstead, I took the Highway 6 exit and headed for Fraser's. I rode slowly down the feeder road, looking for concrete dinosaurs. I saw deer, buffalo and fountains. But no dinosaur. And the gates were locked due to the early hour. There was plenty of unexplored territory, but I couldn't get a clear view of the entire stock. They may sell what I am looking for, but I didn't spot it. Oh well, any excuse for a ride. I made a u-turn on a side road, and headed back for Houston. It was a little before eight.

When I got back on Highway 290, heading east, I got a surprise. Those rain clouds I though might be in Brenham, were ahead of me. And there was definitely rain in them. On my left, I could see the sheeting pattern that clouds make when rain falls.

Just when I thought I would miss the rain, the road curved, and the clouds were on my right. They still looked too far off my course to be a problem. But, just as I was relaxing, the road curved again. The rain clouds were now straight ahead. Of course, another curve would take me out of harm's way. But the road continued straight ahead. And, in an ominous development, I noticed that the cars coming toward me all had their lights on. And it was after eight, and full daylight.

Closer examination revealed that they also had their windshield wipers on. Ugh. About thirty seconds after this thought registered, the rain hit. And hit hard. The big drops stung when they hit my unprotected neck. And they made a loud noise when they hit my helmet. I could feel my pant legs getting wet from the spray from the road. And my visor was clouded with water. This was a big storm. Fortunately, traffic was virtually non-existent, so, I was able to cut my speed to 60 mph*, all the while using the gloved index finger of my left hand to wipe the rain off my visor.

After ten miles, I rode out of the thunderstorm, and onto dry pavement. I twisted the throttle back up to 65 mph*. Traffic continued to be light. I decided to reverse my outbound route, and take the North Loop all the way to the East Loop, and that south to I-10. I would then take I-10 back home.

This was a new route for me. I could use it in the mornings, but I decided that the road was too debris-filled to be safe. The far right-hand lane was full of all kinds of stuff, and would not be safe to ride on with only two tires. Still, the extra twelve miles was woth the exploration. Better to scope out the route on a Sunday morning than during workday traffic.

When I got to Heights, I took the exit, u-turned, and stopped again for gas. That way, I would have a full tank for the start of my workday circuits. When I rode up to the driveway, I had 14,382 miles on the bike. And it was barely nine o'clock. It had been a good ride, with fast speeds, cool temperatures, and lots of thinking time, not including the stretch of rain. I had the entire day to devote to my honey-do list. But, however tired I got, I had already gotten in a very pleasant ride. It was worth the getting up early. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

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June 24,2006:

Today I got moving early. Real early. I had my bath and Sarah's breakfast all taken care of before six. I even had the air in the tires checked, and a pound or so added to the front tire. Sadly, there was no hint of coolness in the air.

Even so, I checked the newspaper to see about freeway closings. Highway 59 North was under construction. So was I-10 West. As was I-45 North. That particular closing prevented me from taking I-45 to Loop 610 to Highway 290. The construction on I-10 closed my other usual route to Highway 290.

So, I could not go north on 45, west on 10, west on 290 or north on 59. That left Galveston. Not a bad consolation prize. I warmed up and entered I-10, heading east. I took I-10 all the way to the East Loop. As I approached the Loop, it occurred to me that I could take the Loop north, then west to Highway 290. But my mind was already dreaming of water. So I took the Loop south, over the Ship Channel bridge. I then got on I-45, heading for the ocean.

Traffic was pretty light, and very fast. I made good time. There was plenty of time for thinking, and I enjoyed the early morning. Only one incident occurred on the way to Galveston.

I was cruising along at about 65 mph*, with no cars around. I noticed a white plastic bag dancing in the air. You know how you will sometimes bump into a person coming toward you in a hallway because you go to your right, and she goes to her left, and you meet in the middle in spite of your efforts to avoid running into each other? Well, that plastic bag and I did a similar dance at high speeds. I tried to zig zag around the floating obstacle, but the bag would have none of it. When I weaved to my left, it moved to my left. When I went to the right, it went to my right. Before I knew it, the bag hit me full-on in the middle of my helmet. Fortunately, it did not stick. It would not have been fun to be going down the freeway with my vision totally obscured by a plastic grocery bag. And, double fortunately, the bag was empty. So, when it hit, it kept right on going. As did I.

When I arrived in Galveston, I took 61st street to Seawall, then I went left (east) to East Beach. I rode Seawall all the way to its easternmost end. I then parked the bike and took a stretch while looking at the ships at sea.

After my break, I took the sideroad to East Beach, watching all the fishermen try their luck. No one was reeling anything in. But, as they say, that's why it's called "fishing" and not "catching."

On the way back, I decided to take Broadway back to I-45 instead of going back down Seawall Blvd. So, at the 8th street, I head east. I ran into UTMB. It covers a lot of territory. I wound my way around the complex, and ended up going north on Harborside. I cruised the Strand, then got on Broadway, and headed home.

Because of morning tasks, this was a quick trip. The ride home was uneventful, except for some minor route changes I had to make because of construction on I-45 North, just as it comes to I-10. Anyway, by the time I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,246 miles on the odometer, breakfast waiting, and a long list of honey-do's. See you around the house. And don't forget to think.

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June 23,2006:

What a difference a day makes.

Today started like most others. Sarah was ready to get up before we were. And she let us know her intentions. Because we had gone to bed at a decent hour, I was a bit more accomodating than I would have otherwise been. I got up and invited Sarah to join me in some light reading. She followed. I then showered and checked my email until Maria was ready to join us. It was still early, and Sarah was pleased to be on her walk.

I immediately noticed that yesterday's mugginess was absent. But I didn't really appreciate the morning coolness until after we returned, Sarah got her breakfast, and I was suited up for my ride.

When I entered the garage to check the air in the tires, I was pleased to note that I was not hot. "Not hot" is a good thing in June in Houston. I was also pleased to note that the air pressure was fine in both tires.

As I did my warm up ride, the "not hot" became "cool" as I generated my own breeze. By the time I entered I-10, heading west, it felt like many summer mornings in Denver, as Maria and I would head to the Colorado Railroad Museum, just east of Golden. The morning ride on the Rebel tasted just like those pleasant trips.

The cool temperatures continued for the entire ride, and the drivers were similarly cool. Travel was fast, and congestion was light, especially for a Friday morning.

There were a couple of times I felt like I was close to getting pinned in. I would have a car or truck on my left, and another one on my right. I had to jockey hard to make sure neither car was directly beside me. I wanted at least one lane to retreat into if needed. This feeling was not caused by erratic behavior by the four wheelers, but by the heavy congestion that was sporadically present this morning.

But this morning, I had no such "need." The ride was wonderful. Plenty of thinking time, plenty of speed, and plenty of sheer fun. The contrast with yesterday's prosaic trip was astonishing. I saw the odometer register 14,100.0 just as I passed the Ella exit on the second loop. I was having so much fun, I almost missed it!

To lengthen the pleasure, I added the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. And there was no backup at I-10 on either round. All too soon, I had to take the Heights exit. If I didn't have appointments today, I don't know when I would have come back home. As it was, I filled the tank with gas, and anticipated tomorrow's run. I have a lot of chores planned for Saturday, so I am planning to get on the road early. Not having to stop for gas should give me another precious ten minutes on the road.

For today, when I rolled up to the driveway, I had 14,115 miles on the bike. A great morning. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 22,2006:

Sarah made sure we did not sleep past the alarm today. In fact, she made sure we did not sleep until the alarm today. But we got her back: we laid in bed until we were ready to get up, despite her protests.

The streets were dry, and Sarah got her walk. You could tell summer had arrived. The air was muggy, without a trace of coolness. It didn't seem to slow Sarah down.

Nor did it affect her appetite. While she ate, I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west.

Traffic was pretty light. I added the Highway 59 extension, and had no stop and go where it entered I-10. On the second loop, I caught heavy congestion on I-45 south. There, I did have to come to a complete stop several times. But not "quick" stops.

There was nothing exciting to report on the ride. I got in a quick 35 miles with minimal fuss. When I rolled up to the driveway, the odometer read 14,074 miles. Time for work.

* * * * *

June 21,2006:

Ah, the first day of summer. I know, the temperatures have been saying summer has been here for months, but today we celebrate the longest day of the year. And Sarah awoke ready to celebrate. Which we did. By taking her for her first walk of the new season.

Astonishingly, it was rather pleasant out. Must be because of all the rain we have received lately. Anyway, the walk was on the cool side. And Sarah seemed to enjoy her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up and headed out.

The tire pressure was fine. Because of the pleasant temperatures, so was the warmup section of my ride. I then entered I-10, heading west. No storm clouds were on the horizon this morning.

Traffic was fast paced, but well mannered. It was a perfect morning for extended thinking. I did not pass up the opportunity. To increase the thinking time, I added the Highway 59 extension to the first lap. On the second lap, I decided to take I-45 south. As I topped a rise, I noted that the traffic ahead of me was at a standstill.

A judicious application of front and rear brakes brought me from 60 mph* to 2 mph* in short order. I was more concerned about the car behind me stopping than I was about my rate of deceleration. But everybody behaved well, and then we all went on our separate ways.

That was the only exciting part of the ride this morning. Apart from the ruminations. When I called a halt to my musings, I had 14,039 miles on the bike, and a full day ahead. I took the time to grease the chain, as recommended. I do this every 500 miles. That done, I wheeled the bike into the garage, another ride under my belt. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 20,2006:

I got up a little after five this morning. The radio was reporting rain in the area. I looked out the window, and couldn't tell. There was water in the gutter, but the driveway looked (mostly) dry. I couldn't tell about the street.

Before I could grab my shower, I heard the rumble of distant thunder. Nothing like yesterday, however. And no lightning.

It was not raining when Sarah and I went down to get the paper. But the skies were full of clouds, and it looked like it could open up at any time. We went back inside and got Sarah her breakfast. I then fired up the computer and turned on Channel 11. Both showed rain in the area, but there was a clear spot over the area inside the Loop. It was almost six by the time I decided that a ride was possible. I went out back to check the rain gauge. Yesterday, from six in the morning till six this morning, we got 4.2 inches of rain. That is on top of the four inches we got during Saturday and Sunday! As I walked out the door, I was greeted by a falling rain. Light, but steady. Still, it was falling hard enough to make me decide that a walk for Sarah was out of the question, as was a ride down the freeway for me. Thirty minutes later, it was still raining, Sarah seemed resigned to another morning without a walk, and I was sipping coffee, and making the best of a bad situation. It sure looked like mile 14,000 would have to wait for another day.

I fixed breakfast and futzed around the house. I kept close watch on the weather. I noticed that the rain was letting up. I decided to take Sarah for a walk. Maria took a pass. It rained on Sarah and me during the entire walk, but the rain was barely more than a mist. When we got back, I continued to watch the weather.

The rain stopped. Maria left for an appointment. I ran upstairs and changed into my riding gear. The middle of the street was dry. Surely the freeway was entirely dry.

I added air to both tires, and headed out. I was pleased to note that the streets I used to warm up were dry. I found my way to the I-10 feeder road. The feeder road is asphalt. It was easy to tell that it was dry because it gets visibly darker when wet. I-10 is concrete, and it was harder to tell whether it was dry. I chanced it.

I entered I-10, heading west. I made the first loop in good time. I added the Highway 59 extension, and that was the only segment that was wet. But even that wetness didn't last long. After the first loop, I decided to exit at Heights, u-turn, and top off the tank. I had 142 miles on the tripometer, and I didn't want to run out of gas just as I made mile 14,000. I was surpirsed when the gas meter showed that it took under a half a gallon to fill the tank. Something was wrong somewhere, but I still don't know where. Maybe I didn't quite zero the tripometer last fill up. But I don't think I am now getting 284 miles per gallon!

I got back on I-10, and continued my trip. When I entered the freeway, I was surprised to see a bank of dark clouds to my south and west. Those clouds looked full of rain. As I continued west, then seemed to rush toward me. The question was whether I would turn north before reaching them.

I made it to the West Loop, and headed north, then east. It was still dry out. When I turned wouth on I-45, I noted that the clouds had reached the downtown skyscrapers. I also noticed a dark cloud with more dark clouds behind it. The leading cloud had a scalloped look to it, with the scallops having sharply defined edges. I have never seen anything it.

I noted that I was five miles from my goal. That meant I needed five more minutes of dry road. As I got back on I-10, I noted I needed three more minutes of dry. I passed Heights and Shepherd. I needed one more mile. The TC Jester exit was only 3/4th of a mile away. That meant I had to make it to the Washington exit.

Unfortunately, there were two slow cars ahead of me. One took the TC Jester exit. I slowed down to get some distance between me and the car ahead of me. Then, just before I reached 14,000.0, I twisted the throttle and the bike accelerated to 70 mph* as the odometer went from 13,999.9 to 14,000.0. Quickly thereafter, I took the Washington exit and rode up to the light at Washington. The rain started. I still had to u-turn and head back home. The streets were dry enough, so that's what I did. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 14,004 miles on the bike. And a memorable (and dry) ride behind me. It felt good to get the fourteen thousandth mile under my belt. And a dry belt at that. And I was glad I had managed to get in a nice ride before the skies opened up again. We will see what the morrow holds.

* * * * *

June 19,2006:

Just before 3:30 this morning, Sarah signalled to me that a storm was upon us. As I drifted into consciousness, I noted that we were in the midst of a gigantic electrical display. Lightning flashes were constant. Sarah demanded that we check it out. I tuned in to the radio and noted that the storm was likely to dump a lot of rain. I decided that, in the interests of science, I needed to go empty the rain gauges, just in case they might overflow.

So, as quietly as possible, Sarah and I went downstairs and out the back door. Using a flashlight, I noted 1.4 inches of rain in the gauges. That included everything since yesterday morning. I dumped both gauges and headed back inside, just as the skies opened up. Sarah was close behind, and not yet thoroughly soaked.

I poured some milk, grabbed some cookies, and headed for the computer for a look at the radar. It showed a big, slow moving storm, mostly to our east. A morning ride looked doubtful.

After finishing my "midnight" snack, I headed back upstairs, and fell asleep. At 5:30 it was still raining. I showered and got dressed. Sarah and I then headed downstairs for the second time this morning. Getting the paper was a wet affair, as the rain was a lot heavier than when the storm first hit. Sarah didn't seem to mind. She didn't even seem all that upset at the constant lightning and thunder. Maybe her mind was on other things. Like breakfast.

I fixed her food and my coffee. Both the radio and TV were reporting street flooding. Neighborhoods within ten miles of the house had received five to nine inches of rain. While my coffee brewed, I grabbed the flashlight and headed out the back door. I left the door open so Sarah could join me when she finished her breakfast. She was about two nanoseconds behind.

The back yard was covered with water, and the rain was coming down hard. Surprisingly, there was only six tenths of an inch of rain in the gauges. I use 6:00 a.m. as the rain cut off for the day. That meant we had had two inches yesterday. And it was still coming.

Channel 11 reported heavy rain hitting downtown, and that the White Oak Bayou (the one nearest the house) was getting full. Lots of flooded streets surrounding the Heights. I figured I could make a post office run, but I decided to enjoy the morning and postpone my ride until after work. That soon became a wise decision, as the rain continued to fall in ever-increasing amounts.

By the time I headed for work, many roads were impassable. Even Studewood was under water. However, I took 11th Street to Durham, and had no problem crossing White Oak Bayou. By eleven, the rain was mostly over.

At five, when I headed home, the rain was back. I had to use my wipers the entire drive home. And, of course, the streets were wet. I fed Sarah, and changed into my riding gear. I decided a ride around the neighborhood was in order. The freeways were too wet, and too full of speed demons.

I cruised over to Houston Avenue, then south to White Oak Boulevard. White Oak Bayou was really high, but it was not out of its bank. I decided to burn some additional miles checking out various routes out of the Heights. Taylor looked good. Studewood dips down too much.

I also rode over to the post office and got the mail. I then rode back to White Oak Bayou--just to make sure I had the escape route right. Before I knew it I had racked up eleven miles. As I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 13,964 miles. One dry day will get me to mile 14,000. But more rain is predicted for in the morning. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 18,2006:

I got up early today, but the radio's weather forecast was not promising. Rain was expected this morning. And Sarah let me know she was not happy either, because lightning was everywhere. We went downstairs, got the paper, verified that the lightning indeed was everywhere, and fed Sarah her breakfast.

While she ate, I fired up the computer and visited Yes, indeed, the rain was on the way. Radar showed a wide band of red and green, already in Wharton. I couldn't get a clear idea of how long it was going to take to get here, but only I-45 was still clear of the mess, and if I started out and guessed wrong, I was certain to get thoroughly soaked.

On the other hand, I really enjoy getting in my rides before it gets too late. But, as I studied the radar, I decided that the rain was coming in too fast for me to have a ride of any length. So I fixed some tea and headed back upstairs for a leisurely morning.

The lightning continued, and was joined by the rain shortly thereafter. My decision seemed wise.

By eleven, the rain was gone, and I suited up. I had to add air to the front tire. I then warmed up, topped the tank with gas, and headed east on I-10. I took I-45 north to the Loop, then headed east on 610 to Highway 59. I took that north.

My goal was to redo the ride I tried to take last weekend when fog made me change my plans. That involved heading north on Highway 59 all the way to FM 105. Traffic was light on Highway 59, and the ride north was very pleasant. Lots of thinking time, and nice speeds to boot.

Just before I reached FM 105, I pulled over to browse the Sword shop on the side of 59. If you have headed north on 59 on the weekends, I'm sure you have seen the big tent with "SWORDS" emblazoned across the front. I am a fan of edged weapons, and I decided today would be a fine time to stop to check out the wares.

I pulled up, and a black lab (on a chain) began braking furiously as it tugged, repeatedly on its chain. The dog belonged to the sword shop. The owner told me the lab had a thing against motorcycles--and lawnmowers. Nothing against me personally. Well, okay. I studied the knives and swords. There were no price tags on any of the items. I hate that. I didn't see anything I wanted, so I got back on the bike and continued my journey north.

When I got to the exit for FM 105, I took it and headed to my left. As soon as I was pointing west, I saw dark rain clouds before me. There was the distinct possibility I was going to get wet on this trip.

FM 105 is a mixed road. It has lots of rural areas, and many commercial sections. Traffic was pretty light. Because of the clouds, the temperatures were on the cool side. I was enjoying the ride so much that I missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,900, which it did right outside Cut 'N Shoot. Oh well.

I continued on FM 105 all the way to the intersection with I-45. I then headed south. The roads were still dry.

I-45 has an entirely different personality from Highway 59. For one thing, one usually finds a lot more traffic on I-45. Which was the case today. And that traffic usually goes faster and closer together. Which was the case today. All this makes one concentrate on road conditions, to the exclusion of any cogitation time. At least I had no close calls.

As I rode south on I-45, I enjoyed the wonderful smells of restaurants all fired up for Father's Day. Because I had not yet had my own lunch, the smells were wonderful. Because I had not had my own lunch, I also appreciated the 75 mph* average speed the other vehicles were forcing me to travel on my way home.

I headed south all the way to I-10, and took it on home. I exited Heights, then u-turned under the freeway and headed for the gas station. I topped off the tank, ready for my work week riding. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,953 miles on the odometer. If the rain stays away, I should be able to rack up mile 14,000 on Tuesday. On the other hand, the rain hit less than thirty minutes after I got back from my morning ride, and it continued on and off all the rest of the day. I was lucky to get in a dry run when I did. We will see what the morning holds.

* * * * *

June 17,2006:

Because of all the rain that was forecast for today, I jumped out of bed early so I could check the radar. But first, I grabbed a shower, grabbed the paper and grabbed Sarah. Not necessarily in that order.

While Sarah ate, and Maria slept, I checked to see where the rain was falling. The skies were pretty clear. Most importantly, Galveston was clear. The Chronicle did not show road work on I-45, south. So, afer Sarah finished her breakfast and morning romp, I headed upstairs to suit up. Maria was up and about. I told her my planned route, and how long I intended to be gone, and headed out.

I had to add air to the front and back tires. Ugh. I then warmed up, and headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the second lane from the far left, and took the I-45 exit, heading south.

The sky had clouds, but not rain clouds. At least not in downtown Houston. I felt more comfortable in heading for Galveston. Yesterday, when I got back from my ride, the television was full of report of heavy rain in Galveston. But today's radar had not shown a repeat of Friday morning.

So it was that I was somewhat surprised when I encountered rain and wet roads just south of the 610 Loop exits. And this was an ugly rain. In fact, most of the problem was from cars splattering road wetness onto the front of my visor. The rain was hardly falling. It sure wasn't falling enough so that I could use my gloved finger to clear my visor.

I decided to give the rain ten miles. If, after ten miles, it was still raining, I would turn back. Fortunately, traffic was light because it was still before seven. On the other hand, at a cruising speed of 65 mph*, I was the slowest vehicle on the road. In fact, the only thing I passed was an old repainted woody that problably had antique plates. Everyone else seemed confident that they would not hydroplane at 75 to 80 mph.

Within seven miles, I was on dry pavement. Unfortunately, another five miles and I was back on wet roads. But not for too long. I decided to keep heading south. From LaMarque on south, I had dry roads. I took 61st street toward Seawall Boulevard. When I topped the rim on 61st, the ocean came into view. The whitecaps extended way out this morning. And the water was a deep blue. At Seawall, I headed to the left, toward East Beach. The sun was behind a bank of clouds. That made for a distinct glossy silver line on the horizon's waves. In fact, those waters looked like a tidal wave coming toward me. because of the distinct color.

And the sky had its own colors. Ahead of me, to the east, the sky was that washed out color that comes from a small raincloud. Behind me, the sky was a brilliant dark blue--another sign of storms coming. Tigers above, tigers below. I grabbed for a wild strawberry and savored the moment.

As I continued on east, I drove into a heavy thunderstorm, just before the end of Seawall Boulevard. I could have turned around and stayed dry, but I was bound and determined to go to the end of the road. Plus, the rain was doing a great job of washing away the road crud that had coated my visor from the trip south. Because it was pouring down, I did not tarry too long at the turnaround. I made a u-turn and headed back west. Toward that brilliant blue storm.

By the intersection with 6th Street, I was out of the eastend storm, and back on dry streets. I savored the moment, and enjoyed the view of the ocean, and athletic creatures out for their morning runs. Viewing the sights was easier, now that the sun was at my back.

Besides the femmes fatale, I could see the storm coming ever closer to the beach. The question was whether I could make it all the way to 61st Street without getting (re)drenched. I could not.

By the time I reached the San Louis Resort (37th Street?), the storm had made landfall, and was pouring over me. Once again, the rain was coming down fast enough to wash my visor clean. I also noticed that the water ran downhill from my gas tank, and tended to puddle up at the front of my seat, creating its own sensations. Oh well, I guess that is the price of not having rain gear. And, apparently, I was the only biker who didn't get the word on the rain. In fact, I only saw one motorcycle all the time I was in Galveston.

After a few blocks, I reached 61st Street, and headed toward Broadway. Once there, I headed north, and entered I-45. The trip back was totally dry. I made it all the way home without further moisture. And it was still early enough that traffic wasn't too bad.

By the time I pulled up to the driveway, I had logged 120 miles, in about two hours and fifteen minutes. The odometer read 13,840. I still had time for breakfast, and a trip to Mike's Hobby Shop to pick up my new battery powered LGB Forney steam engine. That trip, unlike my early morning run, was made in a hard driving rain. But on four wheels.

This morning, because of my early start, I had had lots of pleasant time for philosophizing. And I had taken advantage of that time, and had a great run. After I got back, we got two inches of rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be another rain day. Stay tuned to see what riding I can get in. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 16,2006:

When I awoke this morning, it was to the radio telling me that there was an 80% chance of rain today. Fortunately, the traffic report had not mentioned rain-slickened streets, so I listened closely to figure out when the rain was supposed to start. It sounded like it would be after my morning ride. And after Sarah's morning walk. I stayed in bed until the clock reached 5:30.

Sarah and I got up, and were followed by Maria a while later. We all headed out the door, watching the sky. It was dark, with clouds in the south, but clear to the west. I had not paid attention to where the rain was coming from. Sarah didn't seem to care, so long as she got her walk. Which she did.

When we got back, I fed her and suited up. The air was fine in both tires. I headed out, warmed up, and entered I-10, heading west. The horizon was cloud free. The air was heavy, however. There was a breeze (not counting the two-wheel generated one), but the air still felt oppressive. Maybe it was the barometric pressure.

Whatever it was, it was slowing down the traffic. There weren't that many cars out, but I noted that speeds varied between 45 and 60 mph, for no reason I could discern. When I turned east on the Loop, I could see the buildup of clouds on the southern horizon. They looked like storm clouds. Dark and menacing. But far enough away that I was sure I could finish my morning run without moisture.

Because I was running a little ahead of schedule, I added the Highway 59 extension to both loops. And because traffic was light, there was no backup at the intersection with I-10. Still, speeds continued to be somewhat sedate. I hardly ever got above 65 mph.*

I did manage to watch the odometer roll over from 13,699.9 to 13,700, just as I passed the Washington exit on I-10. I almost missed the event, but I noticed the odometer just three tenths of a mile before it was too late. Because traffic was light, I focused my attention on watching the roll over, so I would not miss it like I had most of the roll overs in the thirteen thousand mile run.

The forboding skies cast a pall on my thinking time. The thought of rain all weekend was not a cause for joyous meditations. Still, the ride was fun, in the way it is when you are running just before a storm, and outracing it.

Anyway, I completed the two circuits in great time, and without incident. When I pulled up to the driveway, I was still dry, and I had 13,720 miles on the bike. We'll see what the weekend holds.

* * * * *

June 15,2006:

Today, the touch of coolness in the air yesterday was all but gone. The humidity was at 83%. It did not feel hot, but it did not feel especially cool either. Sarah didn't seem to mind. After we took her for her morning walk, I fixed her breakfast and, while she ate, I suited up.

The front tire pressure was fine, but I had to add a pound of air to the rear tire. I then headed out on my warm up ride. Next, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very fast this morning, but well behaved. No close calls, and no stop and go. I added the Highway 59 extension to both loops, and still managed to get in my ride at a record pace. Plenty of time for thinking, and plenty of time to enjoy being on two wheels.

Before I knew it, I was taking the Heights exit on home. By the time I rode up to the driveway I had 13,678 miles on the bike. They say rain will be here for the next two days. We'll see. Either way, don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 14,2006:

I slept a solid seven hours last night. Or, more accurately, Sarah slept a solid seven hours last night. I like to think I can get by on six hours of sleep, but I may be deceiving myself. It may be Sarah that gets by on six hours of sleep. Well, six hours during the night. I also think she sleeps a lot during the day!

Anyway, I got up at five, read a little, and grabbed a shower. I then checked my email and waited for Maria's alarm to go off. We then took Sarah for her walk. According the Channel 11, the humidity this morning was a 73%. That may sound high for the rest of the country, but I can assure you it was very pleasant for Houston. It felt like a morning in the fall. The wind was from the north, and all was well.

Sarah enjoyed her walk, as did we all. She then enjoyed her breakfast, while I suited up. I had to add air to both tires before heading out. I then warmed up and entered I-10, heading west.

Traffic was heavy this morning. Several times I felt crowded in. I noticed I was having to accelerate or slow down constantly to prevent anyone from driving next to me. At one point an especially persistent driver kept next to me on my right-hand side. Finally, I had to use some brake to get away from him. As he passed me by, I noted the scarred front fender, and scratches on the passenger side rear bumper. I was glad to be rid of him.

Even with all the traffic, there was time to devote to thinking. Yesterday, my riding buddy, John Huval, and I had gone to lunch to relive his 475 mile ride on Saturday. John had found a website on a guy who blogged his way across American in the 2003 Iron Butt Rally run. It makes for interesting reading. John decided that he wanted to see what such a run was like, albeit on a much smaller scale. He decided to try for 500 miles in ten hours. His adventure was compelling, and you can read it in full by clicking here.

I enjoyed going over his learning experiences over lunch. Some of the valuable lessons we gleaned included making sure you have a full charge on your cell phone before starting out (or having a power outlet installed on your bike so you can operate the phone from a cigarette lighter type device). It is also important to make sure you take time to eat. And don't forget to take some bottled water in case you have an unexpected stop along the side of the road. Speaking of which, take the telephone number for AAA or the HOG number, carry a spare tube for each of your tires in case of a flat (that way, any motorcycle shop with proper equipment can change out the tube, even if they don't sell your particular type of tube), and, most importantly, stay off the shoulders and those stripped mediums. The reason for that last warning is because John picked up a sheet metal screw in such an area, and it changed the entire course of his ride. When you think about it (as I had not before this event), all the debris that starts out on the road ends up on the shoulder area as cars bounce the stuff around until it is out of the active pathways on the road. So, if you pull over there, it is like riding into a mine field. Ugh. Once again, I encourage readers to sample his well written narrative to get the full flavor of these findings.

But, back to this morning's ride. When I left off, I was traveling east on the North Loop, dodging cars. Because of the especially pleasant morning temperatures, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension. Everything went fine until about a mile and a half from the exit for I-10. Then, cars backed up, and came to a stop. It was stop and go clear till I-10. In fact, the backup continued as I headed west on I-10.

Sadly, I had used up so much time that I decided I would be unable to add the Highway 59 extension to the second loop. So it was that, after traveling both north and east on the Loop, I found myself heading south on I-45, thankful for the fast speeds on that segment. But that all changed suddenly.

I was behind a big, white pickup, heading south. Traffic was thick, but fast. I watched a trucker try to ease one lane to the left about a hundred feet in front of me. Instead of letting him in, the pickup truck driver panicked and hit his brakes hard. They locked up, the pickup began swerving, and bellows of rubber smoke started pouring from both rear wheels.

I was a good four car lengths directly behind him when the squealing started. Several things happened, all at the same time. First, I hit both the front and rear brakes. Second, I check the lane to my right in case an escape was needed. Third, I checked my mirrors to see what the drivers behind me were doing about this sudden development. Fourth, I concentrated on not locking my brakes. Fifth, I squeezed in the clutch with my left hand and started toeing down the shifter with my left foot. I didn't want to be caught in the wrong gear if I had to accelerate away from a car coming up behind me too fast. Sixth, I did not feel the adrenaline kick in. I'm not sure that is a good thing, because the situation certainly warranted it. But I had not been caught off guard, and I had a plan.

Fortunately, everyone got stopped without kissing bumpers, and the body shops (metal and biological) had no business. I'm pretty sure, however, that the pickup driver now has two flat spots on his rear tires from all that skidding.

I continued south till I got to I-10, then headed west. I took the Heights exit and decided to circle around to top off the tank. To do that I have to turn left at the intersection of Heights and the I-10 feeder road. That intersection has a double left. It is a weird one, and I am always cautious when I use it. The far left lane is a left turn only lane. It has its own arrow. However, the middle lane can either turn left or go straight. Traffic hardly ever turns left from the middle lane, but it happens enough to keep one on ones toes.

This morning, I caught the arrow. I was first in line. I made my turn, staying in the left-hand lane of the feeder road after completing my arc. In my mirror, I saw a blue car turning left from the middle lane. The car continued down the feeder in the right-hand lane. I needed to get in the left hand lane to enter the gas station. After all the good judgments I made during the quick stop on I-45, I made a bad assumption on the feeder.

I figured the blue car was going to head east in the right-hand lane for the half mile until he could take the Studemont exit toward downtown. So, after making sure no one was behind the blue car, I eased over into the right-hand lane. My mistake was that I was only about a car length and a half behind the blue car when I made my move. Plenty of room if the blue car continued on its way. But it didn't. Instead, it hit its brakes in preparation for a hard right turn into a parking lot. Oops.

I hit my brakes hard for the second time this morning. And my reaction time was still good enough to keep me from disaster. But I had clearly put myself in harm's way because of my assumption that the blue car would continue down the road at its established rate of speed. Lesson learned.

I topped off the tank and headed on home. No more excitement for this morning. Which was fine with me. I now have 13,639 miles on the bike, and more valuable lessons learned. Keep safe. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 13,2006:

Today everything was on schedule. I got up a little early and read for a while, then we all trooped down for Sarah's walk. Temperatures were acceptable, if not cool, and Sarah had a good time. After feeding her, I suited up and headed for the garage.

I had to add a pound of air to the front tire. The back one was fine. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Speeds were fine.

On the first circuit, I experienced rain around T.C. Jester. Well, "rain" may be an exaggeration. But several drops of clear liquid splattered my visor. And no trucks were nearby to explain the phenomenon. Nor did I notice a flock of birds flying overhead. Anyway, before I could resolve the source of the moisture, it evaporated away.

I continued on my journey. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to the first lap. All went well. I did not even encounter any backup at I-10. However, as I approached the Loop, I noticed a motorcycle policeman on my tail. I was going with the flow of traffic, so I was pretty sure I was not in trouble. The cop, however, was not content with going with the flow of traffic. After a minute or so of following me, he whipped around on my left, and accelerated away. As I topped the exit onto Loop 610, I spotted him near a stopped truck. I also saw another motorcycle cop coming toward me, against the grain of the traffic. He was in a protected area where the West Loop and the I-10 merging traffic come together. The cause of the commotion became readily apparent.

The truck did not have mechanical difficulties. It had had a wardrobe malfunction. Boxes from the back of the truck were all over the freeway. Theses boxes were about the size of toasters, and they were everywhere. The truck driver was out picking them up. Cars were dodging around them. So was I.

I threaded the gauntlet without difficulty, and then I was at the exit for T.C. Jester. I watched a car behind me accelerate into the "exit only" lane and I watched a car two lanes to my left streak across the stripped triangle to squeeze into the exit. Fortunately, the first car slowed down, so I did not have a chance to test my weaving/braking skills.

Otherwise, the ride was without incident. I got in lots of nice thinking time. In fact, I missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,600 because I was otherwise occupied. Oh well. I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,604 miles on the odometer, and I was way ahead of schedule for the day's activities.

When I got back inside, Channel 11 had revised their forecast, and they were saying that there was a 20% chance of scattered rain today. I decided that the stuff on my helmet was indeed such rain. But I cleaned the visor off, nonetheless. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 12,2006:

Today I awoke at five, but layed in bed for awhile, before Sarah let us know that it was time to get moving. Even so, we were running a little late by the time we hit the road for her walk. Still, she settled in, and had a good time. Mondays are trash days, and she especially likes all the new items to smell along the way.

Anyway, it was almost seven by the time I fed her and suited up. On the other hand, I have no appointments today, so I decided to go for a long ride. I added air to the front tire, and headed out. While I was warming up, it seemed that every woman in the neighborhood was out walking her dog. Must have been because of the late start that I saw them. The streets are usually pretty deserted when I head out. I decided I liked the dog walkers better.

Anyway, after a pleasant warm-up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was not too bad, and the speeds were wonderful. Everything was flowing great. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to the first loop. No problem, except for a pickup that decided--at the last minute--to change from the far right exit only lane for I-45, across two lanes to head for Highway 59. All right in front of me. But at least he had the courtesy to use his blinkers. I only had to let off on the throttle to keep out of his way.

Road debris was a problem this morning. Retreads were all over the freeway. At one point I saw an orangish object coming toward me. I quickly swerved to the right, and passed beside an outdoor extension cord. When I got on I-10, I saw two 8 x 2 inch pieces of lumber in my lane. The were parallel to the direction of travel and to each other. I threaded my way between them, and thought that I would face that hazard again on round two of the circuit.

Traffic continued to be fast, but mannerly. Most of today's hazards were laying on the road, not moving over it. I continued to have a pleasant ride. There was a slight coolness in the air, and everything was going smoothly enough that I had some nice cogitating time.

I had almost completed the second lap. I was going west on I-10. All of a sudden, I heard someone run over a piece of metal in the road. The sound was to my left, and behind me. No risk to me, but it did remind me that I should have come across the two planks. Had the traffic bounced them onto the side of the road? No. There they were, coming up fast. But I was ready. And the planks were now right on the lines dividing the lane, one on each side. Even a car could thread them now. I rode harmlessly between them.

I took the Heights exit and headed home, passing more dog walkers as I made my way to the house. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,569 miles on the odometer. I lubricated the chain and headed inside to finish getting ready for the office. It had been a great start to the week, and it wasn't even eight o'clock yet.

* * * * *

June 11,2006:

Today I actually slept till six in the morning. More to the point, Sarah slept till six in the morning. That doesn't include a trip to the refrigerator for a glass of milk around four.

Anyway, at six I got up, got the paper, fed Sarah, let her out the back door, and fixed a cup of coffee. When Sarah came back in, I headed upstairs for a bath and book. My own B & B.

Today was another day filled with honey-do's. By seven thirty I was back downstairs, and working on small items on the list. The day's routine was work, breakfast, read, work, lunch, read, work, etc. By 4:00 p.m., I was ready for a ride.

I suited up and headed for Micro Center, a local computer store. I have a new Dell Dimension, and it has been amazing the number of things I have had to buy to get back in business. Today, I needed a special cable for the printer, and another one for the old keyboard, which we wanted to use in place of the new (USB configured) one.

After checking in tires, I warmed up and headed for the station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took I-45 to the North Loop, then west to the West Loop.

In short order I was at Micro Center. Three purchases later, I was headed back home, via Memorial. Traffic was pleasantly light everywhere I rode, and speeds were pleasantly fast. Even with dropping several dollars on cables and extensions, it was a nice ride, with no "close calls."

When I returned home, computer purchases under my Vanson jacket, I had 13,530 miles on the bike. Not a long weekend drive, but very pleasant, nonetheless. And I actually got in some thinking time during my short jaunt. Still, I can't wait to get in some longer rides in July. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 10,2006:

I managed to lay in bed until just before six. Yesterday, I hadn't gotten even six hours of sleep, so I made sure that last night I got a little over six hours in bed. I can't say I ever slept after five this morning, but I tried to be relaxed.

Anyway, I am not taking a morning ride today. I have a "honey-do" list that goes on for several pages, and I decided to pare it down some during the morning coolness. Then, in the heat of the day, I could take my ride, and generate my own wind to keep me cool.

I got up, fed Sarah, and enjoyed an hour or so in the bathtub with a good book. Or two. And a freshly brewed cup of Starbuck's House Blend. All too soon, it was time to get moving. I figured I had until eleven or so before the heat would give me a break from the honey-do list and I could go for an "afternoon" ride.

Still, out of old habit, I checked the air in the tires before breakfast. The front tire was down a pound, so I added air to it. The back tire valve stem was in an awkward position. Leaning over the seat, I could barely get the pressure gauge on the stem. To sight it in, I had to look "through" the spokes. Several attempts produced only leaking air. Finally, I gave up and went around to the right side of the bike to get a proper reading. By then, my numerous failed attempts had drained a lot of air out of the tire. I had to add pressure to bring it back to 29 pounds. Which I did. I was ready to roll, when the temperatures got hot.

Unfortunately, the list was longer than I had feared. Eleven came and went. As did noon, one, two and three. At four I called a halt to the drudgery and suited up. I was on the road by 4:15 p.m., and happy to be there.

I warmed up and headed for I-10. I entered the freeway, heading east. My plan was to go north on Highway 59. Highway 59 is a left-hand exit off I-10. That involves crossing four or five lanes of traffic. Fortunately, one has lots of time to accomplish this feat. Unfortunately, traffic was pretty heavy for a Saturday afternoon, and I had some difficulty finding breaks in the flow. I worked my way leftward, keeping a sharp lookout for fast traveling vehicles. All was well until I tried to get in the far left-hand lane.

A quick head check had revealed that there was a pickup truck about four car lengths behind me, in the lane I was angling for. I was going about 65 mph.* As I made my move, I noticed that the pickup was going real fast. It was closing the gap much more quickly than would be expected if the driver was going anywhere near the speed limit.

By necessity, head checks aren't long enough to get a clear estimate of the relative speed of upcoming traffic. But my left-hand mirror was rapidly filling up with speeding pickup. Time to react.

I quickly headed back into the second lane from the left, to let the pickup pass. However, I guess my sudden weaving spooked the driver. He cut his speed, and stayed about two car lengths back. I accelerated and got into the left hand lane, half expecting him to tailgate me in protest of my (relatively) low speed. But he didn't. He hung back for the rest of my journey down I-10. He must have thought I was a crazy biker, and wanted nothing to do with me.

I took the Highway 59 exit, and headed north. Highway 59 was pretty empty, making for an easy ride. The only noteworthy development was that there was shredded rubber tires all over the road. I swear that a half a dozen trucks must have lost their retreads. It made for an interesting ride, dodging all the road gators.

I rode about ten miles past the exit for FM 1960, then u-turned back toward downtown. As I reached the exit for 1960, I took it and headed to the Half Price Books. I parked, put on my do-rag, and headed inside. I spend a pleasant half hour surrounded by friends, old and new. I found a couple of keepers, paid for my finds, and headed back to the house.

The trip back was uneventful, allowing me plenty of time for productive thinking. It was a wonderful afternoon ride until I took the Heights exit. I had just missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,500.0 because of my philosophizing. I turned north on Cortlandt, just like I do every morning. At the second intersection, I watched a brownish SUV pull up to the stop sign. I was about three car lengths away. The driver started forward, stopped, started forward and finally stopped to let me go by. Which I did--at a reduced speed, and in a reduced gear and with my hand covering the brake. Of course, the SUV turned left behind me. What would life be like for bikers but for all the left turners?

When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 13,504 miles on the odometer, I wasn't too late for the rest of the night, and I still had a Sunday ride to look forward to. But, like today, I'm not sure when I will fit it in. That honey-do list isn't markedly shorter. Oh well, at least I had had a pleasant, thought-filled ride this afternoon. Stay tuned to see what the morrow holds.

* * * * *

June 9,2006:

I woke up early today. And so we got a relatively early start. Which was fine with Sarah. She enjoyed her walk, even though there was not the slightest hint of coolness in the morning air. At least she got to eat her breakfast in air conditioned comfort.

And while she ate, I suited up and headed for the garage. The air pressure was fine. I backed out of the garage and got off the bike to close the garage door. When I returned to my bike, I noticed a souvenir from the end of yesterday's ride. An envelope-sized piece of cardboard was stuck to the bike. I must not have dodged all the pieces of the box that fell apart in front of me. Pocketing the cardboard, I headed out on the warm up portion of my run. Yesterday, the first yield sign I faced had presented the first problem of the ride. Today it was a different story. I breezed through the intersection, the lone traveler.

Likewise, the rest of the warmup went fine. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very light for a Friday in Houston. Speeds were predictably fast. Still, I had no difficulty gliding down the freeway. The ride was going well, so I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both circuits, traffic permitting.

Traffic was virtually non-existent. I had no problems with other cars. Or pickups. Or eighteen wheelers. Oh, they were out alright, but not in numbers to cause concern. The morning ride was really without incident.

Which was fine with me. I am having lunch with John today, and I have enough stories to swap with him without adding any adventures from this morning's ride. In fact, the only thing worth noting about the ride was that I definitely had my rhythm back. And I had time to enjoy many pleasant thoughts. Which made for a great start to the day. And the weekend beckons. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 8,2006:

Today I awoke at 5:30 a.m. But, for a variety of reason, we were slow in getting moving. Sarah was pleased, however, that we did not short change her on her walk. Temperatures were not cool, but she enjoyed her stroll. And, when we got back, she enjoyed her breakfast.

While she ate, I suited up. The tire pressure was fine. I headed out, following my normal warmup route. That route includes a yield sign. I pass it every day. Visibility is good, but I am always cautious. Today, a pick up truck was heading toward me from the opposite direction. Just before I got to the intersection, the driver turned left in front of me, without even slowing down. For an instance, I was tempted to breeze through the intersection, figuring that the side streets must be clear because the pickup had not hesitated to make the turn. But, almost as soon as that thought occurred to me, I rejected it. I was not about to depend on other drivers to do my thinking for me. I cut my speed, and glanced right and left. Which was a good thing, because a car was headed down the street, coming from my left. I quickly hit the brakes, and yielded the right of way.

Because I was low on gas, I headed to the station to fill up the tank. After replenishing my gas supply, I replaced the gas cap, zeroed the tripometer, and started up the bike. As I eased forward, I noticed a car coming toward me. It had just turned into the driveway, and was headed for the other side of the pumps I had just finished using. I hit both brakes, and came to a quick stop. That was the second car that had appeared suddenly this morning. In both instances, I had reacted properly, but the unexpected appearances had been disconcerting.

Vowing to be extra alert, I got on the feeder road and headed for the u-turn lane so I could enter I-10, heading west. As I was making the u-turn, I was watching over my right shoulder for traffic coming up from the eastern portion of the feeder. Somehow, although I have taken this curve scores of times before, I "felt" like I had misjudged the apex. I thought I was turning too sharply, so I had to make a mid-course corection. Which I did, without incident.

I entered the freeway, heading west. Because of the lateness of the hour, traffic was fairly heavy. There were lots of eighteen wheelers, and being caught within such metal canyons was not setting well with me this morning. And I was having trouble finding a safe slot because of all the traffic. Oh, everyone was behaving well, but I was still uneasy.

I made my way to the North Loop. I was following a small truck, which was acting as somewhat of a view block as to conditions ahead of me. I was keeping a safe distance between the truck and my bike. All of a sudden, a road gator appeared in the middle of my lane, as the truck passed harmlessly over it. Although the rubber was pretty big, I managed to escape with just the slighest bit of weaving. Not even a close call, although another surprising development.

That was the final straw for me. I had had too many startling events on this ride. Yes, I had handled all of them with correct responses, but my timing was off. My body was telling me something. I consider myself a student of reason. But reason was telling me to listen to what my body was saying. Today, things were not going easily. I was making all the right dance steps, but I was not gliding effortlessly around the floor. Or street, as it were.

I decided to head for the house. One circuit would have to do. My sense of timing seemed off by just the slightest bit. There was nothing I couldn't do tomorrow. And, because of the increased attention I was having to put into my riding, I was not enjoying the trip. Time to call it a morning.

I missed seeing the odometer turn over to 13,400 miles. When that event had come up, I was busy dodging the scattered remains of a large cardboard box that had fallen onto the freeway. It had been that kind of morning. Too many surprising events. Time to head home.

I made it to the driveway without further incidents. I noted the odometer read 13,402 miles. I was glad to be back home, and glad I had not ignored my body--or my mind. When your riding feels "off," don't ignore the message. Live to ride another day. I expect to have a nice ride in the morning. And I expect my sense of timing will have returned. Stay tuned to find out.

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June 7,2006:

For the third day in a row, I have an early morning appointment. And, for the third day in a row, I got up at 5 a.m. so I could squeeze in a ride.

We took Sarah for her walk, then I got her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up.

I had to add a little air to both tires. I then warmed up, and entered I-10, heading west. Because of a court hearing, I could only squeeze in a single workday circuit. But, to make it more fun, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension.

As I was heading east on the North Loop, the freeway message billboard warned of debris on the road at Shepherd. This was the first time I can remember seeing such a warning. I eased into the second lane from the right so as to have extra maneuver room.

It turned out that I didn't need it. All I saw was a few pieces of a disintegrated truck tire. Nothing at the side of the road. I'm not sure what provoked the warning message, but I was glad there was nothing for me to weave around.

Otherwise, the ride was most excellent. I was in a good mood, and thinking pleasant thoughts. I can't say the temperatures were cool, but the ride was definitely so. After my twenty-mile run, I noted 13,385 miles on the odometer when I pulled up to the driveway. On schedule for this morning.

No appointments tomorrow. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

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June 6,2006:

I woke up extra early this morning. As in before five. I layed in bed for a while, before giving up. I got up and, followed by Sarah, headed for the shower. I guess I woke Maria up because, by the time I was finished up, she was moving about too. I felt bad about that, but Sarah did not seem the least bit upset. She was ready for her walk, regardless of the early hour.

There was a touch of coolness out this morning. If anything, it made Sarah more eager than ever to enjoy her stroll. Which she did. When we got back, I fed her and suited up.

The air was fine. I headed out. I warmed up and entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Speeds were fast. There was nothing remarkable to report about the ride. I got in two quick circuits, and was still back in time to stay on schedule.

Unfortunately, I have another appointment in the morning. And this one is in a nearby city. Tomorrow's ride will be really short. But, for today, I managed to get the odometer to 13,365 miles. And in short order. Don't blink if you want to see me on the road tomorrow.

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June 5,2006:

I have early morning appointments today, tomorrow and Wednesday of this week. Morning rides will, by necessity, be short for the next few days. This morning, however, I got up extra early to take my shower so I could get in at least one circuit. Sarah was not all that disturbed, because she got her morning stroll. And breakfast.

When we got back from her walk, I checked the air in the tires and skipped the warmup section of my ride. Not because of the press of time. No, I had a specific goal in mind. You see, I was only 13.1 miles short of a goal. And my morning cirucuits are 15 miles. And I needed to be stopped when I reached my goal. All will become clear.

I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. As I traveled down the far right-hand lane, I "sensed" a car drifting into my lane. Its front tire was just even with my back tire. I had been watching it in my left-hand mirror as it moved up. I had the immediate sensation that the car was edging toward me. I scooted to the far right-hand portion of my lane, and slowed down so the car would pass me. I don't know if it was my compound movements or just my imagination, but the driver did not drift into my lane. Nor was she on her cell phone. I couldn't tell if she saw me or not. I continued on, a safe distance behind her, nonetheless.

When I got to the exit for Loop 610, I took it and headed north, then curved to the east. At the TC Jester exit, a car accelerated past me on my right, then whipped in front of me from the "exit only" lane. This has become standard operating procedure for this exit. It keeps me extra-alert when near it. I continued on.

I was paying close attention to the odometer. I had a camera with me, and I intended to preserve an historic mathmatical event. At the end of yesterday's ride, I realized that when I put an additional 13.1 miles on the bike, the odometer would read 13,333.3 miles.

One round of my normal workday circuit is 15 miles. My plan was to cut off at Quitman, pull over at the appropriate moment, and snap a pictue. Watching the miles roll on, I revised my plan. I took the North Main exit off I-45. I needed two more miles. I headed south on Houston Avenue.

When I got to White Oak, I was three tenths of a mile short. I turned right on Beauchamp and headed north. I thought it would be neat to stop on this street because I know folk who recently moved there. Unfortunately, I needed another tenth of a mile as I passed their house. So it was a block or so later when I pulled over to preserve the moment. Fortunately, no traffic was on Beauchamp this morning. I got out the camera and fired away at the odometer. 13,333.3

I then u-turned, headed back to White Oak, and did the twisties. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 13,335 miles on the bike. And I was barely on schedule. Time to put away the camera, fix breakfast, and head out on four wheels.

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June 4,2006:

This is a hard blog entry to write.

After I got back from yesterday's ride, I was glancing through the latest issue of Rider magazine. I subscribe to two motocycle magazines. One is Ride Texas. I read it because I ride in Texas. The other magazine is Rider. I subscribed to Rider because of one columnist: Larry Grodsky. Each issue has featured a column by him titled "Stayin' Safe." Those columns were full of cogent advice on how to avoid many of the perils that come with riding a motorcycle. Yesterday, I opened the magazine to learn that Larry Grodsky had died. In a motorcycle accident.

From what I know now, Larry was returning home to Pittsburg from the annual International Motorcycle Safety Conference in California. Of course, he had ridden his bike to the conference. He was on a straight stretch of rural road at night when he hit a deer. He died at the scene.

I remember reading Larry's column in the November 2005 issue of Rider about the dangers of deer. He reported that each year one out of every 200 vehicles will collide with a dear. That column really struck home because one of my reasons for taking up motorcycling is to ride in the Texas Hill Country. I have driven the Hill Country in a car just after dusk, and the out of control deer population made me resolve never to drive at night in the rural portions of that area again. It is surprising to me that we put up with these threats to safety. We hold ranchers responsible if their cows get out on the road, but because no one owns the deer, there is no incentive to keep them under control. Hunters would surely aid in population control of the deer, but government regulations work against this solution. I'm not sure what riders (and drivers) can do. Not everone can or is willing to give up night riding simply because of deer.

Anyway, Larry's death weighed heavily on me all day yesterday. I know riding is dangerous, but I do everything I can to lower the odds of injury. And I looked forward to Larry's hints on how to become a better rider. It was especially hard to know that even an expert could die doing something he loved.

But I guess, in a way, that is the point. I refuse to retreat inside a womb just because the world is harsh. You do what you can to tilt the odds, then you have to get on with life, or become a hermit. There are no guarantees, except failure if you don't try. So, when this morning came, I got on the bike and went for a ride. The ride turned out to be related to Larry in ways I could not have predicted.

After checking the air in the tires, and warming up, I headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. It was barely 6:30 a.m.

My plan was to travel up Highway 59, head west on FM 105 to Conroe, then head back to Houston on I-45. I had done this route once before, but it has been some time. I figured I would enjoy the jaunt, and it wouldn't take all that long to complete.

Traffic was light on Highway 59, and I made good time. The ride was relaxed, but my thoughts kept straying to Larry and the deer. I was pretty sure I wouldn't encounter any such animals at this early hour in June, but that didn't keep the thoughts at bay.

When I rode past Kingwood, I gave a silent wave to good friends I know in the area, and continued north. Within a mile of Kingwood, a fog set in. At first, it was kind of neat. It was the type of fog I enjoy. The freeway was clear of the clouds, but the trees and surrounding countryside were shrouded in mist.

However, as I continued northward, the fog thickened up. At first, I just had to wipe my visor from time to time. But things rapidly closed in. Water drops formed on my mirrors. I'm sure the road was getting slick. I had to use my finger more often to clear the fog from the visor.

Visibility kept getting worse. I was driving into a fog bank. A thick fog bank. Suddenly, I noticed that I had unconsciously dropped my speed to 55 mph. That was not good. The visibility of a bike is problematic at best, and I have not added any extra lighting to the manufacture's array, unlike some smarter riders I know. I began to worry that someone would come up behind me at 75 mph and run me over.

I decided to turn back, even though I was only a mile or so from Highway 105. The risks had gotten out of balance. I saw a sign that there was an exit in 1/2 a mile. It seemed to take forever. I was riding with one hand. My right hand was on the throttle and my left hand was constantly wiping my visor so I could see better. I was watching ahead for stopped vehicles and behind for oncoming lights.

Finally, I saw the white line on my right indicate I was at the exit. I couldn't really see the exit that well. I did a quick head check of the feeder, and took the exit. I saw cars were coming up behind me, so I maintained as fast a speed as I could, as I took the u-turn back to Houston. I was sure glad I had new tires as I rounded that corner at a much faster speed than I would have preferred if there were no cars on my tail.

When I got on the southbound feeder, I decided to stay off the freeway so I could maintain a lower speed. I stayed on the feeder for about three miles, until I came to the junction with FM 1413. Visibility was pretty good, so I decided to take 1413 to Conroe. It was twenty miles.

As I started west, I was firm in my resolve to turn around if the fog thickened up, no matter how close to Conroe I was. I made it two miles before I took a quick left into a dirt parking area so I could turn around. The fog ahead looked as thick as any I had seen all morning.

I waited for a string of eastbound vehicles to pass, then I quickly accelerated back onto FM 1413. In less than half a mile, I was back where visibility was pretty good. When I got to I-45, I stayed on the feeder for a mile or so, until I could see that the fog was finally thinning out. I then got back on Highway 59.

I gave another salute as I passed Kingwood. By this time, the fog had rolled south enough that the freeway was still a little misty. But things soon cleared up.

On the way north, I had noticed that they were doing road construction on 59 South, and that traffic was really backed up. I hadn't paid attention to where along the freeway the construction was, however, because I had not planned to be back that way. Well, things had changed. But I could not remember how far south it would be before I was caught in the congestion.

When I came to the exit for FM 1960 I passed it by. That road takes forever to get to I-45, and there are plenty of red lights along the stretch. Farther south, I came to the Will Clayton exit for the airport. I knew I could use that and JFK Boulevard to get me to Beltway 8, and hence to I-45. I took it.

There were no more fog problems. In fact, the rest of the ride was very pleasant. Somewhere along the way, I rolled over to mile 13,300. I missed that event, just as I had missed mile 13,200 yesterday. Oh well.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,320 miles on the bike. I was glad I had taken the ride, and I was pleased with the way I had dealt with the fog. Larry will be missed, but the things I learned from his columns will continue to help me stay safe. And keep riding.

* * * * *

June 3, 2006:

Sarah and I beat the alarm this morning. Actually, Sarah really beat the alarm, and I managed to stay in bed until just before it was to go off. Anyway, we trooped downstairs and out the front door to get the paper. Because it was before six, no paper had arrived. I fed Sarah and checked the air in the bike's tires. I then took another look for the paper. No paper. I needed the paper to check for road closures.

I went back upstairs and showered. When I finished, I suited up. I told Maria I was going to check again for the paper. She said she was sleeping in, but that she had heard the plop of the paper arriving while I was showering. She was right.

I checked the highway closings for two things. First, I still had not chosen my route for this morning's ride. Second, I wanted to make sure our route for the pond tours was not subject to the dreaded orange construction cones. I tore out the second page of the city/state section, and went back upstairs to deliver the paper to Maria and tell her I was off.

It was 6:45 a.m. by the time I pulled out. A later start than I had wanted. But I still had no route in mind. I warmed up and headed for the gas station to top off the tank. Thus filled, I pulled to the exit for the gas station, with no destination yet in mind. I felt the need to be near water. Maybe because of the upcoming pond tours. Galveston would take too long. I latched upon the idea of the Ship Channel bridge as an acceptable substitute. I headed out, traveling east on I-10.

There had been no traffic on the feeder road, but I-10 was another story. It took me the best part of a mile to ease my way over to the far left-hand lane so I could take I-45 north. Which I did.

During these lane changes, I was reminded that the sun was still low on the horizon. It occurred to me that it would be smart to start my trip in a westward direction, to give Mr. Sun a chance to get higher in the sky. Then it came to me. I had my morning route.

I decided to do a complete loop of the Loop. I would travel 610 all the way around Houston. I took the exit for 610 and headed west. I noted the mileage on the tripometer. I had come four miles since zeroing the tipometer at the gas station.

Traffic on the Loop was pretty light. Of course, it was right at seven on a weekend morning. Still, the lack of traffic made for a pleasant ride. I was struck, however, by another "lack." There was no hint of coolness in the morning air. The temperatures were not oppressive, and the sixty miles an hour breeze helped, but there was no sensation of coolness. I guess summer has really arrived.

All went well until I hit the eastern end of the South Loop. There, the construction cones narrowed the traffic to one lane. Lots of stop and go, even at this early hour.

Once I was through that area, all was fine until just before the Ship Channel bridge. Then, more construction. And we were down to two lanes. Traffic crept along at about five miles per hour. Which was fine with me because I got to study the goings on around the ship channel itself. I saw a lot more than I would have at sixty miles per hour.

Once atop the bridge, traffic picked up speed. I continued around the Loop. When I came to the exit for I-45 South, I noted that the tripometer read 42 miles. Subtracting the four miles it took me at the beginning of the trip, that meant that it took 38 miles to loop the Loop.

I took I-45 south towards I-10. During this stretch, I got to play dodge ball with some sheets of metal that were bouncing around on the freeway. Most of the pieces were the size of roof shingles. Some were larger. All were erratic in their paths. But I did not have an encounter of the metalic kind.

I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,239 miles on the bike. And it was barely eight o'clock. Time to reshower, fix breakfast, and be on our way. I hear ponds calling. I hope everyone gets in some riding time this weekend. And thinking time, too.

* * * * *

June 2, 2006:

No rain this morning. And cool temperatures. As we found out early enough when Sarah insisted on her morning walk. There was leftover rain in the ditches around the neighborhood, a fact which Sarah felt compelled to verify.

Fortunately, she was mostly dry by the time we got home. I got her breakfast, and suited up. I added a pound of air to the front tire, and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. And fast. Tomorrow they are going to close the stretch of I-10 around the Washington exit for some road work. I just hope I remember to avoid this stretch on my weekend rides.

This morning, however, all was flowing smoothly. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. Everything went fine for the first round.

On the second circle, something interesting happened. I had just passed the exit for I-45 on the North Loop. I was covering that stretch of the Loop between I-45 and Highway 59, heading east. An eighteen wheeler was in front of me with a load of lumber. It had the "wide load" label, and a red flag sticking off to the passenger side where the boards stuck out a little too far. I didn't really think anything of it. I was cruising along, about six car lengths back. The truck was in the right-hand lane. There is construction going on at this stretch of highway.

All of a sudden I heard a loud noise as the part of the load that was sticking out hit some scaffolding that the construction crew was using in their repair on the side of the road. I saw the scaffolding rock from the impact. I saw men look up in astonishment at what had just happened.

Apparently, no one was hurt. The scaffolding was not knocked completely over, just moved a bit. No one was on it at the time. Which was lucky for the construction crew. And the lumber stayed on the truck. Which was lucky for me. Otherwise, I would have been facing a road-full of one by sixes while traveling at 60 mph.* The lesson I learned is to pay more attention to wide loads. You can't always count on the truck driver to remember how wide the load is. And a load hitting something on the side of the road could spell disaster for vehicles following behind the truck. Including the two-wheeled variety.

Otherwise, I had a great ride. Lots of nice thinking time, and lots of nice speed. All accompanied by cool temperatures. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,190 miles on the bike. Tomorrow's ride may be short, because Maria and I are doing the Houston Pond Society tour of local ponds. If you like water gardening, give it a try. You can purchase your $10.00 at any of the ponds on the tour. Details, including locations, are on their website. Enjoy the weekend. And don't forget to think.

* * * * *

June 1, 2006:

Today is Sarah's eight birthday. And she didn't even want to sleep late. In fact, she was pawing me awake way before the alarm went off. I guess she thought she should get her morning walk early, this being her birthday and all.

So, off we all went. The streets were dried out from yesterday, but the ditches were still full of rainwater. And Sarah was happy to sample a bunch of them. When we were finished, I fixed her a special breakfast. I sang happy birthday to her while she ate. All I can say is that my singing didn't seem to hurt her appetite. But I can't say she paid rapt attention either. Maybe dogs don't have the same view of time as humans do. Or maybe it was my voice.

Anyway, I suited up and headed out for my time on the roads. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. The freeways were totally dry. Traffic was medium, and speeds were fast. There was still a coolness in the air.

Because I had settled for a short and wet ride yesterday, I decided to add an extra circuit to this morning's trek. Nothing really exciting to report on. I got in some thinking, but no progress on any problems. No close encounters of the four-wheeled kind. Just a fast, fun ride.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,150 miles on the bike. It was nice to get some extra minutes of saddle time. And it was nice to be back home. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

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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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