* * * * *
August 31, 2005:
Nothing interesting to report on this morning's ride. I logged 25 miles, and all of it fun. I took I-10 to the downtown exit, and then headed west on Allen Parkway. I u-turned and took the Parkway back to downtown. I then took Bagby to Memorial Drive.
I took Memorial to the Park, then Washington to Studemont. I then meandered up and down Heights and Waugh to rack up the twenty-five miles. Sadly, the cool front has not made it here yet. But traffic was fairly light. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 3175 miles on the odometer.
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August 30, 2005:
This morning I decided to just ride in the neighborhood. My only goal was to reach mile 3150. I suited up, checked the air and headed out. I warmed up and then just started wandering. I rode TC Jester, Shepherd, 19th, 20th. Heights, Washington and TC Jester again. The morning was cool, the sun was not yet out, and traffic was light. It was a fun change of pace. Nothing special to report. Just a pleasant time on the bike. And yes, I reached mile 3150 on the odometer.
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August 29, 2005:
No appointments this morning. So I decided to get in a nice ride. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. I then headed out. I warmed up in the Heights and worked my way to the curves on TC Jester. I took TC Jester all the way to its end. I then u-turned and headed back home.
One big difference in today's ride was the presence of tons of big, yellow school buses. I realized that since I got my bike at the end of May, I have done mostly summer riding. So buses were not a factor. Now they are. They move slowly, act as view blocks and attract children. They also cause drivers to maneuver around them, and thus change lanes at odd times.
The other other difference today was that there was lots of traffic both ahead and behind me as I approached the construction area where the rear wheel let go on Saturday. It was barely light enough for me to closely inspect the road conditions. Unfortunately, I guess the nearly three inches of rain we got Saturday night had washed away all evidence. There was some dirt around, but nothing special in the zig-zag zone where I almost lost it.
In spite of the heavy traffic, I slowed way down for the "detour" and made it without problems. I then enjoyed the rest of the ride. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 3134 miles on the odometer. A nice nineteen mile run. Good way to start the week.
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August 28, 2005:
This morning I wanted a (relatively) short ride. Short for the weekend, that is. I wanted a ride, and to sit on the front porch with a cup of coffee and read Cowboys & Indian magazine, and dream about Santa Fe. And, since I made mile 3000 yesterday, I had earned it.
So I got up extra early and was on the road by 6:05 am. Last night, a storm had hit Houston. We had 2.8 inches of rain in the Heights. The thunder and lightning kept Sarah awake all night. Sarah kept me awake. It seems she needed to go outside, but the storm caused her to want to come back in before doing her business. At least until 2:30 am. And, at 5 am, she was hungery. I put that off for a little over half an hour (a luxury of the weekend) and then I surrendered to the inevitable, and fed her.
After checking the email, and drinking a half cup of coffee, I suited up and headed out. The air in the tires was ok, and the gas tank was still full. So I warmed up and headed out.
Last night I had decided that a tour of the airport would be the perfect trip to meet all my requirements. It would be short, but long enough to log mile 3100. And traffic should be light.
The only problem was that the overnight rain lasted well into the early morning hours. That meant that the streets were still wet, at least in places. Warmup was interesting, in that, with my recent experiences with loss of traction, I was, shall we say, cautious in making sharp turns. Not overly-cautious, but super-aware. In fact, I made it a point to not be gun-shy. Or, at least, to try and not be gun-shy.
Anyway, I got up on I-10 and headed east to the Highway 59 exit. Most of the freeway was dry, but there were patches of wet road. Turns were taken with due deliberation. It was a good time to obey all speed limits.
Basically, nothing happened. I relaxed as the ride went on, and even enjoyed myself. I took Highway 59 to the Will Clayton exit, and over to IAH. I toured past Terminals C, B and A, in that order. It was eerie because hardly anyone was out at that hour.
I then headed south on JFK Boulevard, then picked up West Belt to I-45, which I took south. My plan was to take I-10 back to the Heights. However, I was having so much fun that I decided to stay on I-45 to the Allen Parkway exit. I took Allen Parkway to Shepherd, then Memorial to Memorial Park. Joggers were everywhere, even though the running paths were wet. However, I didn't see anyone I know. I took Washington to Waugh, and then on home. When I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 3115. And the road goes on.
* * * * *
August 27, 2005:
I got up early this morning so I could get in my 3000th mile ride. I showered, and went downstairs to start the coffee. I got the newspaper and fed the dog. While I waited for the coffee I checked the Chronicle to make sure no road construction was planned for Highway 290. I had plotted my trip before going to bed, and I didn't want any surprises.
The paper warned of big problems on I-10, but 290 was ok. I had a couple of sips of coffee and went out to add air to the tires. Once everything was ready, and Sarah was back from her rounds of making sure the back yard was safe from squirrels, I suited up and headed out. I had planned on a last sip of coffee, but that's something you can't do once you have a full-face helmet on. That is, unless you want to drink your coffee through a straw. So I headed out the door. The garage clock showed it was 6:15 am.
I warmed up and headed for the gas station. I filled the tank and zeroed the tripometer. I headed east on I-10, caught I-45 north and took Loop 610 to Highway 290. Just as I reached the part where you can exit 610 onto 290, the odometer rolled over to 2900 miles.
I had a specific spot in mind as to where I wanted to turn over mile 3000. This milestone deserved a memorable location, and I had picked my route to make sure that happened. I headed out 290, toward Waller. There was quite a bit of fog along Highway 290. And, unlike the previous time, the fog was on both sides of the highway. And, sometimes, on the highway itself. But it was never thick, and never a problem. Just eerie.
I took the Waller exit and caught FM 362 going south. My goal was to catch FM 529 where it begins to have curves. FM 362 is pleasant enough, but the curves are sweeping, and not a challenge. Still, it is a nice place to pick up FM 562, which I did. A quick calculation showed I would need to head west for 30 miles to make sure I was on FM 562 headed east when the odometer clocked its 3000th mile. Bellville rolled up with me still needing 10 miles in the westward direction before turning around. I kept going west, using State Highway 36. In nine miles I came to the exit for Kemmy, Texas. It was one mile away. Great planning. I took a rural road to downtown Kemmy. Kemmy is named for John Wesley Kemmy, a Methodist preacher of "eccentric" habits, who settled there around the time of the (Texas) War of Independence. The historical marker showed he lived to age 66. Not bad for the early 1800's. Kemmy has a few shops (I couldn't tell if they were still in business or not) and a post office. A dog was in the middle of the post office floor, which I could tell because the door was open.
I took a side road to look for Kemmy Hall, but I could never find it, directional signs notwithstanding. I was on a road whose condition was predicted by a notice that "State Maintenace Ends Here." The road was in bad shape. The Rebel was wandering all over the place. I even stopped once to see if I had a flat. That would be bad. The Rebel has tubed tires, and I have no idea how to fix a flat on the road. That is the disadvantage of spoked wheels. Tubeless tires don't seem to work on them. Ugh. Fortunately, no flat. Just bad road.
I head back to Bellville, having logged the necessary ten miles, and pulled up at Newman's Bakery for a cinnamon roll and coffee. Several bikes were parked out front. I joined the menagerie.
I parked, took off my helmet, and donned my do-rag. Helmet in hand, I went inside. The place was crowded. Really crowded. A neat thing was that my do-rag (or was it the total biker look?) was an invitation for other bikers to say hello. Normally, when I enter a restaurant, no one speaks to me, except the waitress. Here, several compatriots from the realm of two wheels said hello. Since they also had do-rags on, I assume they weren't the locals. I got a cinnamon roll and coffee and sat down at a table where I could people watch. I was wondering what the regulars thought of the biker crowd when I noticed that one of the guys I was sure was a local was wearing a t-shirt advertising a chopper shop of some kind. Everyone was very at ease.
I glanced at my watch and was shocked to see that it was already 8:45 am. I had hoped to be home by 9, and I was just starting back. I called Maria to alert her to the fact that I had once again stayed out longer than I planned, and the I finished up my coffee and headed back.
My goal had been to be on the curves of FM 529 when mile 3000 rolled over on the odometer. In fact, I was about 100 yards away from a nice esse curve when the magic moment came. Because I was still in the straightaway, I was able to watch the odometer carefully as 2999.9 became 3000.0. I raised my left hand and shouted "Yeah," and then put my attention on taking the curves at speed.
FM 529 is a nice rural road. Many varities of exotic livestock are in the fields along the road. Traffic is not too bad, and the curves and hills are nice, especially for the terrain near Houston. You see almost as many motorcycles as cars. I enjoyed the ride.
I decided to head back to Highway 290 by taking Fry Road north. There was not much traffic, and few lights, on this stretch of Fry. A pleasant way to return to Highway 290.
I took 290 to Loop 610 and exited at TC Jester. I pulled up to a convenience store and called Maria to meet me for breakfast at Tacqueria Aranda's. I then continued south on West TC Jester. West TC Jester is experiencing some construction difficulties. I usually take East TC Jester because of this. As I was headed south, I came upon a sign indicating some hard ninety degree turns ahead. I slowed down, and entered the curves. Unfortunately, there was a lot of sand on the road. Both tires let go, in what seemed like one right after the other. I threw out my right leg (not necessarily a smart move) to keep the bike from going down and powered through the curves. At least I think I rolled on the throttle. I am sure that I came out without laying the bike down, but it was a close thing. Interestingly, I feel more confident now about surviving a skid than I did when the tires let go the first time, when I rolled over a wet spot on Shepherd. This was a much worse skid. Although it was caused by my bad riding (I should have slowed down even more and paid closer attention to the road surface), it was a confidence booster because I survived it. I don't know if I was just mentally tired or if I was getting too cocky at having logged in 3000 miles. But I do know that I need to watch my speed in the curves a little more, especially on those ninety-degree sharpies.
I made it to Aranda's and Maria pulled up just as I did. We had a nice breakfast, then she headed out to do some shopping at Kaplan's Ben Hur (a really neat store in the Heights) while I headed to the gas station to fill the tank. I forgot to mention that I ran out of gas in the main tank while on Loop 610. No big deal, but I like to fill up as soon as possible after the main tank goes dry.
On the way to the station I was behind a lawn service pick-up and trailer going east on 11th. The truck was going pretty slowly. Eleventh is a four lane road on this stretch. The truck changed into the left-hand lane (without signaling) and prepared to make a left turn. Or so I thought. Something warned me not to pass the pick-up, and I'm glad I didn't. The truck turned right from the left hand lane (again without signaling) just at the moment I would have been beside it if I hadn't slowed up. Another close call. I guess logging 3000 miles doesn't come with any immunity cards. Oh well.
I'm glad to have this 3000th mile milestone behind me. I sort of liken it to passing third grade in school. Each thousand miles represents one grade. Not much significant in passing third grade. But I'm still on my way, and still looking for that college degree. I now have 3058 miles on the bike. More to come. Meet you on the road.
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August 26, 2005:
It's Friday. I have the last day of my legal seminar. So, even though we start at 9 am, a short ride is required. This will be the third day in a row I've taken the twisties on White Oak. To make today different, I decided to get to the twisties via the curves on TC Jester.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, then headed north on Shepherd to 11th. I took 11th to TC Jester, and rode the curves all the way to Loop 610. I then took 610 to I-45, and the Quitman exit to White Oak. I enjoyed the twisties, then headed north on Studemont to the service road for I-10, and got up on the freeway. I exited TC Jester, completing the circuit, and headed back via 11th Street. I got in a quick 17 miles. I now have 2889 miles on the odometer. Tomorrow I should get to mile 3000. This should be a major milestone. I am looking forward to it. Keep reading.
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August 25, 2005:
Another short ride this morning. The legal seminar I'm attending starts at 8:30 am, so time is short. I got moving a little early, and then did the twisties on White Oak again. For variety, I took a different route to them. I headed north on Shepherd, then took Loop 610 to I-45, and took the Quitman exit to White Oak. This extends the White Oak run and adds three miles to the overall trip. All to the good.
I got in a pleasant ride and logged eleven miles. I now have 2872 on the odometer. Sadly, tomorrow will be another short ride, but it's the last day of the seminar (which has been very good, by the way).
* * * * *
August 24, 2005:
I got in a short ride this morning. I am attending a legal seminar today, so I had to squeeze in the ride. There was only one choice of routes. I warmed up and took Shepherd to 14th, and 14th to Houston. I then did the twisties on White Oak. I made mile 2861 on the odometer. Eight quick miles, and I made it to the seminar on time.
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August 23, 2005:
Nothing much exciting to report on this morning's ride. I got out the door a few minutes early, but the traffic was extra heavy everywhere I went. I took I-10 to I-45, and I-45 to Loop 610, and 610 to the Memorial exit. That takes up twelve miles. I then took Memorial east to downtown. Memorial was so crowded the cars weren't even doing the speed limit. I u-turned on Bagby and took Memorial toward its Heights exit.
As I topped the first rise westbound on Memorial, I spied five cars entering Memorial ahead of me. Fortunately, they were far enough ahead that I never caught up with them. And double fortunately, Memorial is fun, even at the speed limit. I took Heights to the feeder road for I-10, and gassed up the bike. I have a legal seminar on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so the rest of the week will be short rides. I decided I'd better fill up today, so I wouldn't have to spend that time on one of the next weekday mornings.
Today I managed to reach 2853 on the odometer. That's a twenty-four mile run. Still on schedule to make mile 3000 on the weekend. Meet you on the road.
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August 22, 2005:
This morning there was lightning on the eastern horizon. No rain clouds overhead, however. After walking Sarah I suited up and headed out for a short ride. I warmed up in the Heights and headed east on White Oak to Taylor. I took Taylor to I-10 and headed downtown, watching the lightning show as I rode.
One interesting thing. As I entered I-10, I checked my left-hand mirror, prior to doing a head check. I was surprised to see it was tilted way off base. I couldn't see a thing. I must have moved it when I washed the bike. But the point is that in all my warm up riding, which was over a mile, I hadn't checked the mirror. The warmup was on residential streets, but still, I should have noticed that the mirror was knocked off base. Shows I still don't have all the necessary good habits in place.
Once downtown, I road Milam to Walker. I took Walker west, till it fed into Allen Parkway.
I enjoyed the curves on Allen Parkway, but I couldn't see the lightning because I was going west. So I quickly headed for Memorial at Shepherd, and back eastbound. Sadly, the show was over. I only saw one more lightning flash. Oh well. At least the ride was good. I u-turned on Louisiana and headed back west on Memorial. I entered Memorial Park and checked out the joggers. Didn't see anyone I know. I started for home, via Washington Boulevard. No more lightning. When I arrived at the driveway I had 2829 miles on the odometer. A nice start for the week.
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August 21, 2005:
Today my goal was to reach mile 2800, and not spend all day doing it. I also wanted to ride some place new. So a trip to the country seemed in order. Sadly, in Houston, the only way to get to the country is to head out a freeway. After yesterday's debacle with the stop and go riding on Highway 59, I decided to check the paper before starting out.
I fed Sarah and got out the Houston Chronicle. The freeway closings are on page two of the City-State section. Both Highway 290 outbound and I-10 inbound were clear of construction closings. I had checked out the map Saturday night, and I wanted to take 290 to just after Prairie View, then FM 359 to Brookshire, and I-10 back home. This would give me some country riding, plus enough high-speed freeway miles to make my 100 mile goal.
I suited up and checked the air in the tires. Even with all the riding of yesterday, the tires were fine. I headed out, warmed up and filled the gas tank. I then headed west on I-10 to Highway 290. The ride out 290 was nice. The weather was fine, and traffic was especially light.
Once outside Houston I began to encounter fog. It was weird, because the fog was always on my right. The fields north of 290 would have fog, but the fields on the south side of the freeway were clear. This was true through most of the fog area. I'm not sure why. In the foggy areas the temperature drop felt like ten degrees, at least. Fortunately, there was little fog along the moving lanes of traffic, and I didn't have a fog bank to contend with. I got to enjoy the eerie conditions for about five miles. Then the fog was gone.
The exit for FM 359 is just before you get to Hempstead. I took it south. It is a pleasant enough road, but too straight and level to offer much excitement. Oh well, you never know for sure until you try.
I took 359 to Pattison, then on to Brookshire. I had planned to take 359 all the way to I-10, but I hanged my mind in Brookshire. Highway 90 seemed a more scenic route, and the sun was directly in my eyes. I didn't relish driving into the glaring sun on I-10, even with sunglasses on. So I stayed on Highway 90 clear to Katy. I then had to get on I-10, sun or no.
After a few miles I came upon the HOV lane for I-10. It is open in the in-bound direction on Sundays. So I got on it all the way past Loop 610. I like the HOV lane. It completely protects you from sideswipes. The only worry is impatient drivers who want to go faster than the Rebel can go. Luckily, I was behind a car that was only going 75 mph*, so I was not clogging up the lane. Still, cars were regularily passing us up on the regular I-10 lanes. Sometimes I had to hunker down like a crotch-rocket rider to keep up with the flow. Weird. But fun, for short distances.
I took the TC Jester exit and called Maria to meet me for breakfast. I was ready for a changes from the normal biker fare of huevos rancheros. I wanted eggs over easy, hashbrowns, bacon and toast, so we settled on Andy's Cafe on 11th. We met there and had breakfast. Unfortunately, they boil the breakfast potatoes, which is not the same as fried hash browns. Plus, they offer Heinz jelly. Heinz may make good ketchup, but their jelly is awful. Both the grape and strawberry were pale in color, and had no taste. I highly recommend Andy's for lunch or dinner, but if you eat the breakfast, get the migas or the huevos rancheros.
When I got home the bike had 2811 miles on it. I had watched the odometer roll over to mile 2800 while relaxing on the HOV lane of I-10. It was a nice, quick ride, taking about two hours to rack up the 110 miles. I'm closing in on mile 3000. Maybe next weekend.
After the bike cooled off, I lubed the chain and then, in the afternoon, washed the bike. It's all set for mile 3000. Meet you on the road.
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August 20, 2005:
I had one of my longer rides today. We had to take Sarah in for her annual vet visit at 8 am. Maria suggested that I could go for an early ride and meet them at the Clinic. That sounded good to me. Last night I had plotted out a route to take after the vet visit. The weird thing was that we were told not to let Sarah have breakfast before the exam. Sarah is a food hog, and I was sure she would let me know her displeasure at this turn of events. So I wasn't looking forward to the morning.
I got up and showered and changed into my riding clothes. I intentionally did not open the front door to get the paper. I didn't even turn on the computer. I just snuck out the door as quickly as possible so I wouldn't have to put up with Sarah's vocal protests at the lack of breakfast. I was in the garage by about 6:15 am and ready to go. I added a little air to both tires and headed out.
Because I knew today's ride would be a long one, I quickly warmed up and headed for the gas station. I filled the tank and got on Studemont, headed south to Hermann Park. Although I didn't have a specific outline for this part of the morning's ride, I had the vague idea to cruise around Hermann Park in search of some nice twisties.
Sadly, I didn't find any. Oh, there are some fairly nice curves in the Hermann Park area, but something about the Park is not conducive to the speeds that make such curves fun. I will say, however, that the odor of mammal poop is very prevalent at certain parts of the Hermann Park Loop. Very prevalent. I think I could detect the hint of elephant and zebra. Not sure, though.
Anyway, after tooling around (and keeping tabs on the time), I headed west on North Braeswood. When I came to Meyerland, I rode around the parking lot for the mall, continuing to watch the time. I even stopped by the Ammo Dump (a gun shop near the vets) to look in their windows. They sell M1A's, a Springfield Armory rifle I sure would like to have. Of course, they weren't open yet. Another glance at my watch revealed it was about ten till eight. I shelved my wish list and headed to the vets. When I arrived I saw that Maria (and Sarah) had beaten me there. I pulled in and took off my gloves and helmet. I engaged the fork lock. I wasn't sure they were up to the do-rag look, so I just finger-combed my hair and headed in.
Our vet spotted my helmet and had to go outside to admire the bike. I was grateful that I didn't have to hear any stories of people he knew who had been killed or seriously injured on a bike. Those stories don't normally bother me, but it was too early in the day. Anyway, Sarah passed her exam with flying colors, and it was time for the next segment of my ride.
Friday night I had sketched out my route, using my favorite collection of maps, The Roads of Texas. I like this book because it shows detailed diagrams of the county road system. The latest edition even has the rural road numbers for many of these back roads. Anyway, I had sketched out a route that would take me to Bailey's Prairie, then to a back road between East and West Columbia, then to Brazon Bend State Park, then to Half Price Books on Highway 6, and on home.
I left the vet's and headed for Loop 610, to pick up FM 521 south. As I was going down Post Oak, headed for Loop 610, I passed Maria in her Jeep. When Sarah saw me she acted like she recognized me, even in all my gear. Neat.
Highway 521 is the old Almeda Road. I took it to Bailey's Prairie, a small town just west of Angelton. There, I picked up State Highway 35, and headed west. I quickly pulled in to a Texaco station for a bottle of chocolate milk, aka breakfast. I then continued west on 35. Unfortunately, it was under construction. At one point it was reduced to one lane, and the line to continue was fairly long. Ugh.
When I had sketched out my route, I could not determine the number designation of the backroad I wanted to take from East Columbia to Brazon Bend State Park. There are several lakes along the way, and I was sure the exit would be marked. I was wrong. I got all the way to West Columbia without finding the road north. I turned around and went back through the one lane construction bottleneck until I came to a billboard advertising a Columbia Lakes subdivision. I tried it.
At one point I distinctly saw a sign saying I was on Highway 676. I also saw signs for Brazoria Road 25 and one for Cow Creek Road. Whatever it is called, it got me to Brazos Bend State Park, via FM 1462. The Park is actually on FM 762.
When I got to the Park, I decided to go in for a cruise. This was a change in plan. I originally planned to just continue by, but when I got there it seemed silly to pass it up. So I pulled up to the Park Ranger station and asked whether they sold annual passes. The Ranger told me they did, for $60. I asked if the pass would fit in my wallet, and the Ranger told me it came with a plastic cover so I could hang it from my visor or rear-view mirror. I pointed out that I didn't have either of those on a motorcycle, and she agreed I could keep it in my pocket. So I pulled in and bought one.
I then road around the Park. Brazos Bend is famous for its alligators. And I knew I would have to mention them in this blog. So I kept an eagle eye out for them so I could give a favorable account. I have to say that I did not see any gators basking in the sun at the side of the road. At one point I even parked and walked to a lake so I could report seeing one. No gators on the banks of the lake. I did see one suspicious "log" that was moving around when nothing else was, and I'm pretty sure it was an alligator. But it was far away, and I can't be sure. I have seen gators at this park before. Lots of them. But not today. I had left my helmet on for this trip, because I was lazy and because I didn't plan to stay off the bike for long. A weird thing happened. Some kind of wasp took a liking to me and kept landing on the raised face shield. It was unpleasant to think of a wasp being inside my helmet. I decided to leave. I walked back to the bike and headed for the Nature Center.
I pulled up into the Center's lot, and parked next to the only other motorcycle in it. A Honda Goldwing. Its owners were not in sight. I took off my helmet and slipped on my do-rag. I entered the air conditioned Nature Center and got the chance to see a small owl they had there. It was really neat seeing one so close up. The owl couldn't have been six inches high. They also had a corn snake you could hold. The corn snake is named after where it is found, not what it eats. They also had an aquarium with several baby alligators in it, so I can honestly say I did see alligators at Brazos Bend State Park.
I left the park and headed for Highway 59, via FM 762. At some point I ended up on Crabbe River Road, and passed right by the Greatwood subdivision. I entered Highway 59, and exited at the Highway 6 exit. I went south to the Half Price Books on Highway 6 and bought way too many books. I didn't have my back pack, so I had to put some of the books in the zippered compartment in my riding jacket where the back protector is. The rest I stuffed down the front of the jacket. It was hard getting it zipped back up. Those last two paperbacks really stretched the jacket's carrying capacity!
I had called Maria when I arrived at Half Price, so she would not be anxious. I got the answer machine. At least she was not standing by the phone worrying. I made another call as I was leaving Half Price, telling her answer machine that I would be back in about 45 minutes. Which was my intention, but not the intention of the Highway Department.
I know there is no good time to do road construction in Houston. But today was especially bad. I saw a sign saying that Highway 59 was closed ahead, and all traffic was being diverted to 610. You know those message billboards. And like all the others, the message flashed so slowly that I could not get it all read before passing it because traffic was very light (and fast) on Highway 59. But that changed just after I passed the exit for the Sam Houston Toll Road. Traffic ground to a quick halt, and continued for what literally seemed like two miles at "stop and go" speeds. With more "stop" than "go."
I started worrying. All the protective gear I wear is not really hot, except at red lights. But the road work had slowed things down so much that it seemed like there was a red light every 15 feet or so. I started to worry about heat exhaustion. Seriously. I found out later in the afternoon that the temperatures were above 100 degrees, and I was sweating each time we stopped. I started doing multiplication tables in my head to make sure my jugment wasn't being badly affected by the heat. And I also worked my way over so I could get off the freeway. Which I did, after at least 45 minutes of misery. I pulled into the parking lot of the first Wendy's I came to and ordered a large ice tea. I couldn't take my jacket off (or even unzip it) because of all the books I had purchased. But I got the helmet and gloves off. And the air conditioning and the tea were refreshing.
I decided to take Fondren north to Memorial Drive, and take Memorial on home.
Although progress was slow, it was steady. As in moving. As in making my own breeze. So it was not too bad. And part of the way I was directly behind a Shelby Cobra. That's a neat car. It really growls when it goes.
At one point on the way back I actually saw a guy on a bicycle who was riding with one hand because the other was engaged in using a cell phone. It's bad enough when all the cars around you at 60 mph are being driven by one-handed yakkers, but it was beyond belief that a bicyclist would be so lonely that he could not go out for a ride without talking to someone while riding. Ugh.
Some time during todays trip I racked up mile 2600 on the odometer. I didn't see that number roll over. But I did get to watch as mile 2700 rolled over, just as I got on Height Boulevard to get home. When I pulled into the driveway it was 1:55 pm and I had 2701 miles on the odometer. I grabbed a Celius White and started planning another ride tomorrow. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
August 19, 2005:
The only good thing I can say about today's ride was that there was nothing bad about it. It was neutral. No excitement. Nothing new. No learning. But a ride, nonetheless. Still, I have to say it was lackluster. I had no destination in mind this morning. So I did the freeways to White Oak trip. The twisties on White Oak were fun. The temperature was medium. The humidity was medium (for August). Traffic was medium. Medium is not exciting. Or worth writing about. Oh well. Mile 2550 is now on the odometer, and the weekend beckons.
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August 18, 2005:
This morning I had a nice, and different ride. The ride was the same, but the route was something new. In fact, it was backwards.
I warmed up, and took White Oak (the non-twistie part) to Taylor. I entered I-10 off Taylor, and headed downtown. Normally I enter Memorial from Loop 610, at the other "end" and head east. This morning I got on Memorial at its eastern headwaters and headed west. At Shepherd I went north to Allen Parkway. I then did both legs of Allen Parkway. I caught the light on Taft red, but it didn't make much difference because the traffic was rather heavy, and everyone was strictly observing the speed limit, which is 40 along most of Allen Parkway. Still, the twisties were nice.
I got back on Memorial and headed for the Park. A fair number of joggers were out, but I didn't see anyone I know. I wound my way to TC Jester (via Washington) and took it north to 11th Street. I then headed home. It was a nice ride, and the temperature was not too bad. When I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 2535. A nice 18 mile run.
* * * * *
August 17, 2005:
Today we shall talk of the contact patch. I'm sure that is a term many motorcycle writers use, but I first encountered it in the book, Proficient Motorcycling, by David Hough. The contact patch is the little area of rubber on the tire that touches the surface upon which you are riding. It is small. And it changes sizes (and locations on the tire) depending on what you are doing on your bike. Turning changes it. Braking changes it. And road surfaces affect it. All this I knew. In my head. On this morning's ride I got to test my book knowledge in the real world.
I decided on a short ride this morning, because of other things on my schedule. But I wanted some fun, so the twisties on White Oak beckoned. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. I added a little air to both tires. I then headed out.
Today's ride was markedly different from the one I took yesterday. There was almost no traffic anywhere on the ride. Whereas yesterday I encountered cars at every intersection, today the streets were empty. The change felt good, and I may have been going a little faster than normal due to the nearly empty streets. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street, then headed north on Shepherd.
My plan was to get on Loop 610 and head for I-45 South. As I approached the light for the feeder road, I was in front of what few cars there were. No one was behind me in the right hand lane. I remember turning on my blinker just a shade before the block ahead of the intersection. The light was green, and had been green long enough for all the yellow runners to have cleared the intersection, yet not long enough to be about to turn yellow. I was sure the light was still going to be green when I made my turn.
It had rained yesterday afternoon, but the streets were mostly dry this moring. "Mostly" being the operative word. Rain was still present in the gutters. I guess I was concentrating on looking for oncoming cars as I made the wide right-hand turn, because I didn't pay any attention to the wet tracks made by cars at the intersection. But my bike did.
As I was turning (at a little faster speed than normal) I felt the rear tire let go. It was sliding. Not out from under me, but not under my control, either. As I said, I was making a wide turn so I would be in the left-hand lane of the feeder, so as to get on the freeway.
Maybe that's what saved me. Anyway, I kept turning. I did not hit the brakes. I may have accelerated a little. But mostly I just let the bike do its thing, and the rear tire found dry ground and the bike gave me control back. It was a weird feeling.
I decided I had to circle back and see what was on the surface. Which I did. As I approached the intersection again, at a much slower speed, I could see the water pattern that lasted about a car length and a half, starting just before the intersection and continuing out about a yard into the intersection. It only filled the right half of the lane. I could have gone around it, if I had been paying attention. I made my turn, but my curiosity was not yet satisfied. It looked like regular rain water, but what if it was something else? I decided to circle back yet again, and park the bike for a closer look.
I pulled in to the parking area for a strip center and shut off the bike. I raised my visor and took off my right-hand glove. I walked to the intersection for a close look. No debris. No sheen of oil. No off color. It looked just like dirty rain water. I waited for traffic to clear and stepped in the road. I bend down and touched the water with my ungloved finger. I rubbed the liquid between my finger and my thumb. Nothing. No slickness. Just water. I tested a couple of other areas to be sure, then went back to the bike.
I put my glove back on and started up the bike. I spend the rest of the ride thinking about this incident. My conclusion is that because of the traffic conditions, I took the turn a little too fast for the surface conditions, which I had not paid sufficient attention to. And that caused the rear tire to let go. Rider error. But another error the Rebel handled pretty well. And another chance to learn. Which is what it is all about.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. I did the twisties, but I didn't do them as fast as I otherwise might have, because I also wanted to check the tread on the rear tire. Just in case. Even though I barely have 2500 miles on them. (It was fine, by the way.)
Funny how a twelve mile ride can be so full of learning experiences. I now have 2517 miles on the bike. And I'm still in there figuring out how to improve. And still having fun. Maybe I need to buy a dirt bike to really experience rear slides. Now I have excuse to get yet another bike. See, there is a silver lining to every cloud.
* * * * *
August 16, 2005:
There were no thunderclaps this morning when I woke up. And no rain. So after we took Sarah for a walk, and after she had eaten, I suited up, checked the air in the tires, and headed out. I warmed up in the neighborhood. I rode my usual route. This morning, however, cars were everywhere. And I'm talking about 6:15 in the morning. Oftentimes I won't see a single car during the warmup, until I hit 6th Street. But this morning I encountered a car or truck at every intersection.
I pulled in to the Shell station and filled the tank. I even remembered to change the fuel switch from reserve to main tank. When I finished filling up I rode to the driveway to exit onto the feeder for I-10. The Shell station was also crowded. In fact, as I was waiting for a clearing so I could pull out onto the feeder, a Porshe that had been filling up drove up beside me (in the "entrance" part of the driveway), and pulled out right in front of me, turning right from the left hand part of the driveway. I had my blinkers on, and I had had only been stopped for a second or two. The guy was impatient. I let him go. That way, he entered the freeway ahead of me, instead of being on my tail.
I took I-10 to I-45 and then headed north to Loop 610. All three freeways were more congested than normal. There were even backups on the North Loop. Where traffic merged from Highway 290 to West Loop the traffic was especially heavy. I had to "bully" my way in to get to the exit for Memorial. Let me tell you, a motorcycle is not suitable for bullying. I had my blinker on, and was doing head checks, but no one wanted to let me over. So I did a last head check and shot into a gap a little smaller than my comfort zone. No problems, however. Courtesy just seemed in short supply this morning.
I took the Memorial exit and headed toward downtown. Memorial was not too crowded. Not many joggers out, however. I guess they were all still in their cars on the freeways.
I took the Shepherd exit off Memorial and got on Allen Parkway. I rode Allen Parkway all the way downtown and turned around and rode back to Shepherd. Because I caught the light on Taft on its green cycle, I had no stops other than for the turn around downtown.
I was almost at mile 2500. I got on Memorial and headed east. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 2500 while cruising at 50 mph* down Memorial. Glad to make it. It seems a major milestone.
I took Louisiana to I-10, and exited at Heights. I rode on home, happy to have racked up the necessary miles to reach mile 2500. When I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 2505. It was a good ride, in spite of all the freeway traffic. More good rides to come.
* * * * *
August 15, 2005:
I awoke to lightning this morning. I turned on the TV to learn that the storm clouds were around Liberty, and not in the Heights. Good. I like afternoon rains, but I didn't want my morning ride rained out.
I need 49 miles to reach mile 2500. I was not going to make that this morning, but I wanted to get in at least half. And have a fun ride doing it. The fact that today is the first day of school in the Houston Independent School District gave me the idea to try the curves on TC Jester to see what effect that had on the traffic.
I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed out. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street, then headed north on TC Jester. The northern trek is usually more fun during the week because there is little traffic. Today was no exception.
As I rode north I could see the storm clouds on the far eastern horizon, but the lightning was no longer visible. What was visible was several areas of fog. The fog tended to be in areas of open field. There are several of theses along the TC Jester route. In fact, at the end of TC Jester was a large field, covered in morning fog. I had watched the PBS Special, Visions of Scotland, last night, so it was appropriate that I would encounter fog on this morning's ride.
Traffic coming back on TC Jester was heavy, as is usually the case on weekday mornings, but I cannot say it was much heavier than normal. So maybe the fact that school has started was not a factor. It might be a factor on the freeways, however, because Loop 610, headed west, was bumper to bumper. I decided to take the Loop eastbound, to rack up some quick miles. Traffic my direction was about normal. I took the Loop to I-45, and I-45 to I-10, and then the Shepherd exit to 11th, and on home. I rolled in with mile 2477 on the odometer. I was on my schedule, but a little late for breakfast.
* * * * *
August 14, 2005:
This morning I got a later start than yesterday. I fed Sarah, had a half cup of Snickerdoodle, checked my email, suited up, and was out the door a little before 7 a.m. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. I warmed up on streets in the Heights, then headed for the gas station to top off the tank.
Last night I had plotted my trip. This was a first for me. Before this I had just mentally selected a route. That is easy if you are just driving to a town and turning around and heading back. But for Sunday's ride I wanted something different. I got out a map of Texas and looked for some crooked roads. I wanted a ride of around 100 miles, with back roads preferred. I picked my route and sketched it on a sheet of notepad, suitable for carrying in my Vanson jacket. I then went to sleep, dreaming of twisties.
My plan was to head out Highway 290 to Hempstead. As I was leaving the gas station I had two choices. I could stay on the feeder to Studemont, u-turn and enter I-10, and take it west to 610 or I could make like Christopher Columbus and go east on I-10 and take I-45 to 610, then west to 290. I opted to go Italian.
After going east to get west, I entered 290 and headed for Hempstead. The freeway was pretty deserted on Sunday morning. I made good time to Hemptead, and had a good time doing so. I took the exit for downtown Hempstead and went south. When I reached Hempstead I took State Highway 159 to Bellville. In Bellville I found FM 529 and headed back east.
FM 529 is a great road for motorcycles, at least from Bellville till it intersects with FM 362, about two-thirds the way back to Houston. It has hills, curves and little traffic. Somewhere in the middle of this idyllic run I saw mile 2400.0 come up on the odometer. The motorcycle community must know of this stretch of road, because I met as many bikers as I did cars. I highly recommend it.
I stayed on FM 529 till it connected with Highway 290, back in Houston. For the last third of the stretch of FM 529 there are no curves or hills, and you even encounter the dreaded traffic lights when back in the Copperfield area. Still, this is a great road.
I proceeded on back to the Heights, and completed my run in just under two and a half hours. Total mileage was 132 miles. The Rebel and I now have 2451 miles together. And I can already taste mile 2500.
* * * * *
August 13, 2005:
Saturday morning. Riding time.
I got up extra early because I had to work on the Houston Rose Society's website. I had to finish up pages on Griffith Buck Roses and the Fall Rose Festival before going for my ride. I had worked on the project most of last night, and I finished it this morning. I checked my email, fed Sarah, suited up, and headed out the door by 6:35 am. My goal was to take Highway 59 north to Cleveland, go west on State Highway 105 to Conroe, and back to Houston. I wanted to turn mile 2300 on the odometer today.
I check the air in both tires and cranked up the engine. After warming up, I pulled into the Shell station and filled the tank. I then entered the freeway at I-10 and headed to the exit for Highway 59. Traffic was light. Once I reached the exit I curved north to 59 and headed to Cleveland. The ride to Cleveland was uneventful, except for the fun of being on the road in the early morning. The clouds were obscuring the rising sun, so sunglasses were not needed.
When I got to Cleveland I took the exit for State Highway 105. I was ready for a restroom break and something to drink, so I headed for a Diamond Shamrock station/convenience store. As I pulled in I noticed another motorcycle parked in the lot, so I parked next to it. It turned out to be a Honda Shadow, complete with whitewall tires and saddlebags. It looked really neat. A gentlemen was standing nearby, and I asked him if the Shadow was his. I wouldn't usually talk to a complete stranger, but anyone riding a bike is not a complete stranger. Bikers are members of the band of riders. To me, at least, that means we have enough in common to start a conversation.
The man told me the bike was his wife's. He was warming it up because she had expressed interest in maybe going for a ride in the afternoon and she had not been on it for a few weeks. I said I liked its looks and headed inside. After taking care of business I bought a bottle of chocolate milk and returned to the Rebel. The man was still there, enjoying a cup of coffee.
I sat down on the curb and we continued our talk. I said I admired the retro look the whitewalls gave the bike, and he told me it was really hard to find whitewalls in the size the Shadow took. Most whitewalls are made for Road Kings, according to him. He also told me he had reworked the drive so it was now a belt instead of a chain. He liked the Rebel as a first bike, especially the weight. He said they had oowned up to nine bikes at a time, but decided to get rid of all their bikes over 700 pounds to make it more fun (except one for him). He said backing up big bikes was a pain. Just last weekend I found out how true that could be when I tried to back out of a gravel driveway.
He also told me he rode to work on a bike everyday, and that he had taken the MSF course for beginners twice (once with his wife and daughter), the advanced course twice, and a first aid course geared for motorcyclists once. He said he took some kind of rider's course every year, to keep in practice. Sounds like a good plan.
It was interesting talking to him, but after a while we both decided to head out on our separate journeys. He was headed back to Kingwood for breakfast and I needed to continue my ride. I wonder if his wife knew how far he was going when he told her he was going to "warm up" her bike. Any excuse for a ride.
I got on State Highway 105 and took it to the bypass loop just outside Conroe. State Highway 105 is a nice stretch of two-lane blacktop through mostly rural country, with lots of flea markets thrown in. It was a nice ride. Not much traffic, but I did pull onto the paved shoulder once to let a van pass me. I took the loop to I-45 and then headed south on I-45. The ride back was also uneventful. Traffic was much heavier on I-45 than it was on Highway 59, but nothing the Rebel couldn't handle. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 2300 just before the exit for Houston's Intercontinental Airport. I took I-10 to the Heights exit and pulled over to call Maria for breakfast.
We agreed to meet at Aranda's on Shepherd. This is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants. The decor is pretty basic, but the green sauce is unforgetable. The huevos rancheros are nice, and the price for breakfast is very nice. I got to the tacqueria first, pulled in, and changed into my do-rag. I entered Aranda's and ordered some coffee. Maria showed up shortly thereafter and we had a great breakfast. I'm still not ready to take on a passenger yet, so we have to meet for breakfast on separate rides. I haven't yet decided when I will be ready to try two-up. Jerry Paladino, in his tape, Surviving the Mean Streets, recommended waiting till you have 3000 miles under your belt before riding in a group. But he didn't say how long to wait before carrying a passenger. I just know it's too soon at this point in my (short) riding career.
When I pulled in the driveway I had logged 112 miles this trip. The odometer now reads 2317. And the fun is still there in every one of those miles. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
August 12, 2005:
My goal for this morning's ride was to reach mile 2200 on the Rebel. I suited up, checked and added air to both tires, and head out. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street and then, for a change, headed north on Shepherd to Loop 610. I entered north loop at the metered entrance ramp just off Shepherd. I took 610 all the way to the Memorial exit, and then took Memorial to the Shepherd exit, and over to Allen Parkway.
I took Allen Parkway eastbound to downtown. I caught the light at Taft on "green" so I did not have any stops during the entire inbound run. I turned around and took the Parkway all the way back to Shepherd. There are no lights, red or green, on the westbound leg.
I'm not yet ready to crown Allen Parkway as my favorite inner city ride, but it sure is up there with the twisties on White Oak. The curves, speed, scenery and long runs make it a great trip.
At the end of Allen Parkway I turned north and caught Memorial back downtown. I was on Memorial when odometer rolled over to mile 2200. I was glad to be on one of my favorite runs for this event. I continued on down Memorial to Louisiana. I took Louisiana to I-10, and took it to the Heights exit, and on home. I had a nice, 25 mile run. Curves, cool air, and some nice speed. What a way to celebrate 2205 miles on the bike. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
August 11, 2005:
I have a court hearing this morning, so my ride was short. Because it had to be short, it had to be good. That meant the twisties on White Oak.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, then headed up Shepherd to 14th. I took 14th to Houston, and Houston to White Oak. Just as I was about to enter White Oak, an 18 wheeler pulled up. It is very rare to see such behemoths on White Oak. I didn't relish the idea of having to follow such a slow moving vehicle on the twisties. It would spoil the run. And yet, if I waited, I would catch up with the truck all too soon. Passing it on all those curves wasn't an attractive choice either. What to do?
My decision was made for me. The truck pulled into the convenience store parking lot. I guess it was there for deliveries. Anyway, I now had a clear shot at the twisties. They were great. I really enjoyed the flow of the road. It was over all too soon, and I headed back to the house. Ten quick miles. Lots of smiles. The odometer now reads 2180.
* * * * *
August 10, 2005:
My goal for this morning was to have 2150 miles on the bike. I suited up and got out of the house a little earlier than usual. I checked the air in the tires and then backed the bike up and headed out.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th and went south on Durham to I-10. I took 10 to Loop 610 and 610 to I-45, and I-45 to North Main. No problems on the freeways. No problems on the twisties on White Oak, either. They were as pleasant as always, especially in the cool, early morning air. A neat thing about these early morning rides is that I usually have White Oak to myself, other than the joggers and dog walkers. And the scenery is nice.
Because of the circuitous route I took to White Oak, I logged 18 miles in a fairly short time. And pleasant miles they were. I easily met my goal, plus an extra five miles. I'm now at 2155 on the odometer. I think I'll take the bike to work, threatened thunderstorms or not. I'm meeting a friend for lunch, and I'm sure he wants to see the bike. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
It was not raining at lunch, for a change, so I arranged to meet my friend, John, at Skeeter's Mesquite Grill on Weslayan for a meal. John and I took the Rider's Edge course together, and I had my first Skeeter's meal at their location near the Stubb's dealership on Telephone Road. I have fallen in love with their hamburgers. Plus, they serve Cholula Hot Sauce for your fries. What a combination.
The ride to Skeeter's was uneventful. I did get behind a flat bed trailer to see if I would have any trouble estimating distances to braking, like I had had behind the one without rear lights on I-45. This trailer had working brake lights. We didn't get to do as much stop-and-go as I faced on I-45, but I had no problems estimating the distances. Maybe it was the lack of brake lights on the first trailer, or maybe the traffic conditions made the difference. More experiments are needed.
Because of the overcast sky, the temperatures weren't too bad, even at stop lights. John was heading for the restaurant just as I pulled up. He spotted me and came over to look at the bike. I think he was impressed. I let him hop on the seat to try it out for size. He thought it was just right. This is quite an endorsement coming from a guy used to Goldwings. (John is an accomplished rider, and was at the Rider's Edge course for a refresher, not to learn to ride.)
After much talk about bikes and guns, I headed back to the office. I took Weslayan to the feeder for Highway 59, and got on the freeway till the Shepherd exit. I took Shepherd back to the office. The only thing unusual about the ride back was that I got caught in a sort of slot in the road. There was a v-shaped rut that lasted about ten feet just before the intersection with Vermont. This is the second time my front tire has become "trapped" in a grove. This one was more v-shaped that u-shaped, and it was straight (and short). No adverse consequences. I was curious enough about what I had landed in that I circled back to take another look. Even looking for it, the rut was pretty hard to spot. That made me feel better, but only a little. I was more glad to have encountered another "road hazard" in miniature, so I could recount it in the blog without having had a disaster.
When it was time to leave the office, I had a problem. I have an important court hearing tomorrow, and needed to take a trial notebook, two file folders and two law books with me. I had my backpack, but fitting everything in was a problem. Fortunately, I had a nice briefcase at the house, so I had a suitable place to fit everything, assuming I could get it home. After much juggling, I got the whole mess in the backpack. When I tried to slip the pack on I discovered I had put so much stuff in it that the straps were too short. When I got the straps adjusted I discovered that the weight made it feel like I had a monkey on my back. But nothing could be done about that, except to leave everything and come back with the car. Right.
So off I went, with my first "passenger." How appropriate it would be the law. Riding with such a load was truly different. I didn't feel as agile on the bike. I was certainly more cautious. But I made it home just fine. Other than a sore back. And I now have 2170 miles on the bike.
* * * * *
August 9, 2005:
Even as I walked out the door this morning, I had no clear idea where my ride was taking me. I didn't have a lot of extra time, but I didn't want to repeat one of the standard rides. I checked the air in the tires, and had to add a pound of air to the front tire, which was the first air I had to add since Stubbs had done its inspection over a week ago. I backed the bike out of the garage, and headed out, destination unknown.
I quickly realized that I should go for gas. I had noticed yesterday that I had accidently moved the tripometer when washing the bike on Sunday, causing it to register way more miles than were really on my last tank of gas. So I wasn't sure how close to empty the main tank was. I decided to ease my concerns by filling up.
I got my gas and headed for the exit from the Shell station. I still did not know where I was going. As I had driven to the Shell station I had glanced up at the traffic on I-10. It was real heavy, even though it was before 6:30 in the morning. I didn't feel like joisting with the cars. However, as I was ready to leave the gas station, the traffic looked a lot lighter. An illusion? A change in moods? I wasn't sure, but I decided to get on I-10 and head for Memorial via I-45 and Loop 610. Which I did.
When I got to the Memorial exit of Loop 610 an idea formed. I headed east on Memorial and enjoyed the morning. When I got to the Shepherd exit I took it south to Allen Parkway. I entered Allen Parkway, headed east. Allen Parkway is about two and a half miles of twisting road. It even has ups and downs as the Parkway goes "under" cross streets. Only one light (which you may catch green if you're lucky). Wonderful.
I stayed on Allen Parkway till it ended at Bagby Street in downtown Houston, then turned around and took it back westbound. There are some really nice, sharp curves at the beginning of the westbound segment. No lights at all on the way west. And the scenery is nice.
I had a great ride to Shepherd. I took Shepherd the few feet to Memorial, and then got on Memorial headed east, back toward town. Neither Allen Parkway nor Shepherd were heavily traveled at this time of the morning. At the end of Memorial I took Louisiana till it fed in to I-10, and then took the Heights exit back home. A very enjoyable morning ride, covering 27 miles. Odometer now reads 2137.
* * * * *
August 8, 2005:
My goal on this morning's ride was to reach mile 2100 on the bike. I only needed 17 miles, so I was not worried. I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. It was very dark out. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th and entered I-10 headed west. My destination was Memorial Drive. But instead of taking the Loop to the Memorial exit, I decided to stay on 10 till the Campbell Road exit. This would give me a little more time on Memorial, and shouldn't add many more minutes to my ride.
I exited at Campbell Road and headed south. Unfortunately, I came upon road construction almost immediately. I couldn't figure out how to continue south on Campbell, so I took a side road and weaved my way to Memorial. Beinhorn was one of the roads. It was a very pleasant drive, and deserves further investigation to see if it can be placed in the regular rotation.
I eventually reached Memorial, and took it all the way downtown. The morning was cool and traffic was medium. No incidents. I took Louisiana to I-10 and back to the Heights exit and on home. The odometer now reads 2110. All right.
* * * * *
August 7, 2005:
This morning was my big ride to reach mile 2000. With only 34 miles needed, only a hurricane could stop me. Or so I was convinced. I got up, showered, fed Sarah, had half a cup of freshly brewed Snickerdoodle Coffee, checked my email, and suited up. I was out the door by a few minutes after 7 am.
I checked the air in the tires, and headed out. I hadn't yet decided what to do for this anniversary ride. The curves on Memorial sounded nice. I could either take 290 to Highway 6 or take I-10 to Highway 6, then south to the start of Memorial Drive. Or do something else.
I was headed for 6th Street to warm up when I realized I would need gas, wherever I headed. So I stopped by the Shell station near the house and filled the tank. At the station I decided to take I-10 west to Highway 6, then head for Memorial. I was pretty sure I would be somewhere on Memorial when the odometer rolled over. I wasn't as positive about that happening if I took Highway 290 to Highway 6. And I sure didn't want to be caught in the red lights of Highway 6 when the big event happened. So I-10 it was.
I got on I-10 and headed west. One of the freeway signs said it was something like six minutes to Beltway 8. It also said something else was two minutes further, but I didn't catch whether the sign was advertising Highway 6 or not. Could it only be two miles between Beltway 8 and Highway 6? That seemed in the ballpark, but a little short. Anyway, I continued west on I-10.
I was in the second lane from the far left. It was one of two lanes going straight on I-10 when the intersection with Loop 610 arrived. There was a red pickup truck ahead of me. I had to slow down for the pickup because it was only going 55 mph. I was close to the big interchange when I came up behind the pickup, so I just tried to relax and hang behind him, at a safe distance.
I followed him through the interchange with Loop 610 and then through the area where 610 north and south traffic merges onto the Interstate. He slowed down a little. No one was behind me in either lane. I knew it was stupid, but I decided to pull around him, passing on the left. I remember thinking that passing on the left was dangerous because I had no room to swerve if the driver decided to drift into my lane, but what were the odds of that? Also, passing on the right had its own dangers, with all the merging traffic entering I-10.
Just as you probably guessed, the pickup driver started drifting into my lane as I began to pass him. My reactions were not the best. The experience was humbling. I squeezed the clutch in a death grip and hit the front brakes, while still holding onto the throttle. I could hear the engine racing loudly because I had not let off the throttle. I seemed to be stopping much slower than I expected. I totally forgot to use my right foot to apply rear brakes, and I didn't even think about downshifting with my left foot. Still, I had been alert for the possibility he might drift, and no harm was done, except to my ego.
I spent the next few miles thinking about all I had done wrong. I can't tell you if I dropped back and let the pickup take the lead or if I went ahead and passed him. I have no memory of which course I "choose." I do remember being in a gloom about my stupid decision to pass the guy on the left and how I almost didn't make mile 2000. I kept thinking that I wasn't the experienced rider I was beginning to think I was. It put a real funk on the ride. A ride that was supposed to be celebratory. And I knew all of you would know of my dumb moves, since there was no question but that I would include it in the blog.
But, as I continued to think about what happened, my evaluation gradually began to change. First, this was my first "panic stop/slow"on the freeway. And I was mentally ready for it, even though I considered it unlikely when I made my move. Also, I had squeezed the clutch, just as one should, without thinking. My problems were that I totally forgot the rear brake, which lowers the center of gravity of the bike, and I held the throttle in a death grip even when applying the brake. But, on the other hand, I hadn't applied too much front brake. I hadn't skidded. I hadn't lost control. And I had slowed down, although not as quickly as I thought I should have.
But why, I wondered, had I slowed down so little? I decided to find out. I checked to make sure no one was behind, beside or ahead of me, and I applied the front brake while going 70 mph*. The Rebel doesn't immediately slow down when braking at that speed. Or it doesn't seem to. It does slow down. And if one lets off the throttle, the engine itself helps in braking. But the effect is less than instaneous at 70 mph*.
I tried another experiment. I took it back up to 70 mph* and then squeezed in the throttle. The engine makes a horrendously loud sound at that speed, just like the one I heard. There is no slowing down from engine braking so long as one holds the throttle steady, as I had done earlier.
I thought about the addage "practice makes perfect." I know that is not true. Practice makes permanent. And, even so, it takes a lot of practice to make permanent. I decided I needed to practice using both feet and both hands when "panic" stopping, until everything is permanent. But at slower speeds, at first, and on safer roads.
And, with that decision, I started to feel better. And get back into the ride. I was determined that this ride would be fun, mistakes or not. And so I continued down I-10. I passed Beltway 8, but somehow never saw Highway 6. I kept thinking it would be the next exit, but it never came. Well, it never came after I started looking for it. I can only think that the pickup truck incident was still bothering me, and I missed the exit.
So I revised my plans. I decided to head for Brookwood, and the Brookwood Community Nursery, which is one of my favorite plant nurseries in all of Houston. Not to mention the great restaurant they have. Which I was sure was not open at that hour. Darn.
Just before I reached Brookwood I noticed a white bird off the road on my right. I'm not sure what bird it was. Seeing it made me think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the comments of the author on seeing red-winged blackbirds. Which made me think of the red-winged blackbirds I had seen at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg this April. And how I wished I knew the names of more birds. Like the white one I had just seen. And just as I completed this thought, I looked down and saw the odometer was at 1999.9 miles, and rolling to 2000.0. I'm sure glad I didn't miss that once in a lifetime event. The ride was getting better.
Pretty quickly, I was at the exit for Brookwood, which I took. I rode south to Brookwood Community Nursery, and turned in. Being on a motorcycle emblodens one. At least it does me. So I decided to drive the back roads of the nursery, to see all the greenhouses on the premises. The roads were gravel, and I slowed down a lot. It was weird riding in gravel. It sounded like the rocks were eating my tires. But the Rebel never skidded. Probably had something to do with my slow, and careful, speed.
After touring all the byways, I headed back for I-10, and decided to head on west to Sealy, and the Hinze's barbeque joint there. Hinze's is one of my all-time favorite places to eat. They have restaurants off 59 South and in Sealy. Both are great. I had hopes that I could get a slice of pie and some milk for first breakfast. Sadly, when I rolled into the parking lot they were not open. A guy tending the fire told me they opened at 10:30 am. Too late in the day to stick around. So I headed back to Houston.
I don't like the heavy traffic one finds on I-10 headed east into Houston. The drivers are obsessed with getting home, whatever the hour. And they don't adjust their speed, however heavy the traffic. I was surprised to see how much traffic there was on a Sunday morning. So, when the HOV lane came up, I decided to get on it.
On Sunday's the HOV lane is open for inbound traffic, just like it is open for outbound traffic on Saturday's. I liked being in the HOV lane. With concrete on either side, I felt totally protected. Except from the rear. I worried about impatient drivers tailgating me, since the Rebel would only get up to around 78 mph* on the HOV. I was keeping pace with the car ahead of me, but I wondered what a driver coming up on me from the rear would think. I didn't find out, because no driver followed me. And it was nice to relax from worrying about someone drifting into my lane.
I exited the HOV just after passing Loop 610 and continued on I-10 to I-45, which I took north to Loop 610. On this leg of my trip I had my first encounter with road gators in my lane of travel. Road gators are those pieces of rubber left all over the highway when a tire shreds. If you are lucky, passing cars knock them into the area marking the edges of the lanes, where everyone can avoid them without even swerving. As I topped one of the rises on North Loop, I spied numerous pieces of a disintegrated tire, all over my lane of travel. Vehicles were in both of the lanes next to me. So I quickly evaluated the situation and determined I could easily weave my way through the debris. As I was doing so I marvelled at the fact that I could smell the burning rubber, even though no disabled vehicle was in sight. The tire pieces must have been from an eighteen wheeler whose driver continued on.
After negotiating the rubber mine field, I exited at TC Jester and pulled into the parking lot of Louisistos, another favorite restaurant. I called Maria on the cell phone, and arranged to meet her at Taqueria Aranda for breakfast. I then got on TC Jester and did the curves to 11th street. I then went to Taqueria Aranda and parked. Before I could dismount a guy on a scooter pulled in next to me, into the same parking slot I was using. I asked him if he had had a nice ride this morning and he told me he was just there to pick up some breakfast for his wife. That's a nice use for a bike. Are you listening, gentlemen?
I took off my gloves and helmet, put on my do-rag, and headed inside, after locking the fork brake. I ordered coffee and a basket of chips, with Aranda's wonderfully hot green sauce. Maria soon showed up and we ordered breakfast. Huevos Rancheros for me. Most delicious.
After eating I suggested that we go to Wabash Antiques and Feed on Washington to get some corn meal for the yard. I have noticed that several yards in the Heights have fade-out fungus from all the rain. Corn meal prevents that. So I needed to put some out. Maria agreed to take the Jeep to Wabash. I was sure I couldn't fit a 50 pound bag of corn meal on the passenger seat of the Rebel.
When I ordered the corn meal the cashier asked me which vehicle I wanted it loaded on. This was with my full-face helmet on the counter, and my motorcycle jacket and do-rag still on. I was tempted to tell her to put it on the Honda Rebel out front, but resisted. A guy delivered the bag to the Jeep, and I paid and left.
I took Washington back to Studemont and on home. When I pulled in the driveway the odometer read 2083. That's neat. Unless it rains all day, I should rack up mile 2100 tomorrow. I'm getting there, panic stops notwithstanding. Meet you on the road.
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August 6, 2005:
Last night on the news they listed all the freeways that would have construction projects on them during the weekend. Most freeways had something going on. Highway 59 was not mentioned. For that reason, and because it is such a pleasant freeway, I decided to head out 59 for my Saturday morning ride. I have other things on the agenda today, so I was looking for some quick, but fun, miles before I have to get in four-wheeled vehicles.
I got up, showered, fed Sarah, checked my email and suited up. I checked the air on the tires and backed the bike out of the garage. I had rewatched Jerry "Motorman" Palladino's Surviving the Mean Streets last night since I am loaning it to a friend next week. Toward the end Jerry had talked about the fact that women, of whatever size, could handle even big machines (with his techniques) because it is the finesse of the rider, not the strength of the rider or size of the bike that controls. The only exception he made was when it came to backing up the bike. There, especially on hills, Jerry could not finesse around the strength issue. I was thinking of this because the first thing I do each ride is back the Rebel out of the garage. I have never had any problems doing that, and it doesn't seem to take any more strength than duck-walking the bike forward. So I was thinking about that segment and wondering if he was making a joke I just didn't get. You'll see the irony in all this later in this blog. Just remember that the thought came up.
I headed for 6th Street and warmed up on the back streets off 6th. Of course, almost every morning I want to dispense with the warm up ride and get to the main part. But I resist. And so should you. By getting in the grove of turning, stopping and shifting, you are less likely to get in a problem once you are "on the road." So I warmed up, headed south on Durham, and got on I-10, headed east to Highway 59. Traffic was pretty light at 6:30 in the morning, and the temperature was wonderfully cool.
I got on 59 and headed north. I was on this freeway a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday, and I was not sad to be back. The freeway is wide, clean and pretty deserted on weekend mornings. You don't have it all to yourself, but almost.
For those of you who have ventured onto other of my web pages, you know I am a fan of the 1890's era of American History. Thus, it was especially neat that this morning I got to watch the odometer make its way from 1890 to 1899. Ride 'em cowboy!
I have mentioned before that one of the neat things about morning rides is that you get to smell all the wonderful scents of people getting moving in the morning. Usually, the smell of frying bacon is predominate. Today was different. I was cruising up 59 when, all of a sudden, I hit a wall of air filled with the aroma of baking breads and cakes. I could hear cinamon rolls calling my name. I looked around and spied an Aranda's Bakery across the freeway. Sure smelled good. Too bad it was on the wrong side of the freeway. Plus, I was not sure they were even open at this early hour.
I kept going north. I wanted to put at least 30 miles on the odometer during the outward leg of the journey so I would be on schedule to turn mile 2000 tomorrow. Cleveland was a little far for that goal, but a sign said Patton Village was coming up at just about the right milepost. Plus, I had never been to Patton Village, even though I had passed the exit for it numerous times.
I pulled off 59 at the exit and got on the feeder. I came to a sign that said Patton Village was to the right. I headed to the right. I crossed some railroad tracks (with crossing arms) and saw a sign for First Street. That looked promising, but no "village" was in sight. Nor was there a sign saying that Patton Village was "x" number of miles up any of the three roads.
The first street I took deadended pretty quickly. I u-turned, and tried another way. I found Main Street. No houses around, but it sounded like I was making progress. I took Main for a good distance. Eventually, I passed by a cluster of three metal buildings, none too large. The first building said it was the Municipal Courts. The second building was City Hall. The third building, which was just a couple of feet from the middle one, said it was the City Hall Annex. Someone has a wry sense of humor. Or visions of grandeur.
I saw more loose dogs in Patton Village that I had in all my previous travels put together. They were mostly peaceful, and uninterested. I did, however, encounter my first dog who wanted to chase the bike. And my second. And my third. None of the mutts had any luck, but it didn't seem to phase them. They were all on the small size, so a twist of the wrist got me going faster than their legs could carry them. One of them barked his displeasure at my antics, and one chased me for quite a distance. No close calls however.
I took Main Street all the way till it ended at a "T" intersection. I had a pickup on my tail as I approached the end of Main Street. I decided to go right, hoping he would go left. He didn't. So I looked for a place to turn around. I didn't see anything promising, so I pulled into a gravel driveway and came to a halt. My plan was to back up and head back through "town."
Remember when I told you I was wondering whether Jerry Paladino was making a joke when he talked about the difficulties in backing up a big bike. Well, the Rebel is not a big bike, but backing up a bike in gravel is no fun, even on one the size of the Rebel. I got it moving in reverse, but came to a quick halt when I reached the "edge" between the gravel surface and the blacktop of the road. It took me several tries, and much momemtum, to back the bike over that small lip. Ugh. Now I know what Jerry meant. No more pulling off onto gravel driveways for me. At least not unless I can u-turn in them.
I headed back west on Main Street, and was alarmed to see a police car on my tail. Fortunately, I was just meandering around, so my speed was within the limits, but the cop followed me for a good distance. I've yet to have any trouble from the police while on my bike, but it does get the adrenaline flowing when you see a police car following you.
After my visit to Patton Village I got back on Highway 59, headed south. Traffic was a little heavier than when I was traveling northbound, but still not too bad. At one point I decided to see if I could get the Rebel above 79 mph*. Try as I might, I couldn't. So I decided that 79* was the top speed.
However, a little while later I was cruising along when I glanced down at the speedometer. I was doing over 75 mph*, and not keeping up with the traffic. In fact, a box-like van had passed me and got back into my lane. I guess the rectangular shape was creating a wind block. I decided to try slipstreaming, so I layed on some throttle. I watched the truck, the other traffic, the road, and the speedometer. The needle kept moving until it settled in at 81 mph*. I didn't like the viewblock the van was creating, and the bike didn't seem to want to go any faster, slipstream or not. So I declared victory, dropped back, and determined that, under the right conditions, the Rebel's top speed is 81 mph*. But a realistic top speed is still 78* or so.
The rest of the ride home was uneventful, until I reached the exit for I-10. As I eased into the exit lane, I found myself behind a Browning Ferris garbage truck. All those times I marvelled at how you can really smell the air when on the back of a bike came back to haunt me. The truck was going as fast as I wanted to go, and seemed to be headed exactly where I was. At least it was always in my lane of travel. I had to follow it through the tricky interchange with I-45 and then onto the section where Louisiana Avenue feeds into I-10. And all the while I got to enjoy the heady aroma of fresh Houston garbage. No cinnamon rolls on board. Oh well.
My ride was over before I knew it, smells notwithstanding. When I rolled up the driveway the odometer read 1966. I should make mile 2000 tomorrow, no sweat.
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August 5, 2005:
I have an "appointment free" morning, so I opted for a longer ride than I can sometimes fit in. I checked the air in the tires and headed for 6th Street. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th and then took Shepard to 11th, and 11th to TC Jester. I rode the curves on TC Jester all the way to the end of the road. Traffic was light and the air was cool. I really recommend this stretch of city riding. I usually take the "western branch" of TC Jester. Give it a try.
I tried something different this morning. Last night I watched Jerry "Motorman" Palladino's Surviving the Mean Streets. I had previously watched his Ride Like a Pro III, and both DVDs are very good. One of the tips he gives is to ride with your right fingers covering the front brake when approaching an intersection. That will save you about a second of reaction time. That second will translate to lots of feet of distance, depending on your speed. It might make all the difference.
During city riding, if you cover the brake near each intersection you might as well get used to resting your fingers on the front brake lever all the time. Which I tried.
I tried several different positions, but did not find one that was really comfortable. Still, the tip is sound, and I plan to keep trying. I know one can get used to anything, and, through repitition, awkward moves begin to feel natural.
Anyway, the ride was fun. When I got back to Loop 610 I took it east to I-45, and then took 45 south to I-10, and on west to the Heights exit. When I rolled in to the driveway I had 1883 miles on the odometer.
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August 4, 2005:
I have a court hearing this morning, but wanted to rack up some miles. Lots of miles in a short time equals freeway riding. I checked the air in the tires, and let some out. Stubbs had inflated them to 36 psi, and the manual recommends 29 psi. I'll have to ask them about that.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th and entered I-10 at the Shepard entrance, going east. I took I-10 to Highway 59, and then north to Loop 610. Traffic was heavy on 610. Very heavy. There was an accident plus the normal morning users. The accident was at I-45 and the other "stop and go" started around Ella and continued all the way to the I-10 exit. Still, I got in 24 miles of riding in fairly short order. No incidents, even in the heavy traffic. Because of the rain last night, temperatures were cool, especially for August. The odometer now reads 1858. Closing in on mile 2000!
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August 3, 2005:
No morning ride today, because the Rebel was in the Shop for its (overdue) first checkup. I had the oil changed earlier, and I am having the rest of the checkup done today. Stubbs called me in early afternoon to let me know they had completed the work. How often does it work out that a car dealer calls you before you have to get on the phone to see if the work is done. I am continually amazed at the difference in Stubbs and car dealersips. And, of course, Stubbs comes out on top.
I went to the Service department and my ticket was waiting. I took it to Parts to pay, and by the time I was finished they were wheeling the bike out for me to ride away. They recommended changing the oil every 2000 miles on the Rebel, and cleaning the oil trap once a year. A Rebel has no oil filter.
I put on my gear and took Telephone Road to Leland and on back home. I avoided the freeway because I forgot my tire gauge, and I didn't know how much air was in the tires. The ride home was pleasant, and uneventful. The odometer now has 1834 miles on it.
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August 2, 2005:
I got in a short ride this morning. I have a full schedule, so I warmed up on the back roads of 6th and took Shepard to 14th, and 14th to Houston Avenue. I took Houston to White Oak, and west on White Oak. The morning was still cool, and the twisties were great.
I then went to the Shell station and gassed up. Tonight, schedule (and weather) permitting, I will take the bike to Stubbs and leave it overnight so they can do the 600 mile check up. Odometer now reads 1813 miles. And counting.
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This afternoon the clouds did not threaten rain. So I headed for Stubbs to drop off the bike for its 600 mile inspection. I know, I'm about 1200 miles late. But I did have the oil changed ahead of schedule, and most of the rest of the inspection is just checking to make sure everything is ok. At least, that's how I read the owner's manual.
Anyway, I decided to take the Gulf Freeway to Stubbs, even though it was rush hour. The part of I-45 that funnels in to the Pierce Elevated was really congested. As in stop and go. Several times I had to put my foot down on the freeway. Something one doesn't do in a car.
The only interesting driving incident involved a trailer. One of those low trailers that gardening people use to haul lawnmowers, etc. The kind without sides and with wooden decks. The pickup truck driver lowered his window and motioned to me that he wanted in my lane. I graciously let him in. I then discovered that the trailer did not have working brake lights. The trailer was long, around ten feet. And very low to the ground. I noticed immediately that the brake lights didn't work, and allowed some extra distance. Still, and even though we were going slowly, a couple of times when the trailer stopped I misjudged the gap between us, and had to brake hard. Once I braked so hard (even at my low speed) that I stalled the bike. In the middle of the freeway! I quickly restarted it, and that did not happen again. But I did have to brake hard once more. I'm not sure why I couldn't judge the distance accurately, but be warned. Even though I had a clear view of the pickup's brake lights, I was still thrown off in my estimates of stopping clearance to the trailer.
That's all the excitment I have to report. I left the Rebel in the capable hands of the Stubbs folks, and Maria and I went to dinner (after I changed out of my jacket and Draggin' Jeans Kevlar shirt). Went I left the bike it had 1824 miles on the odometer. My plan is to pick it up Wednesday after work. I plan to ride it home, rain or shine. Stay tuned.
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August 1, 2005:
My goal for the rest of this week is to get to mile 2000 on the Rebel. Maria comes back today, and I am picking her up at the airport. Plus, I have some legal business to take care of. So, in order to get in the most miles in the least time, I decided to ride the Loop again.
I got up at regular time, walked and fed Sarah, then suited up. I checked the air in both tires. Surprisingly, given the number of hours and miles I rode yesterday, there was no air loss in either tire. So off I went.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, and entered I-10 at Shepard. I took 10 to Loop 610, and headed south. Traffic was light and the humidity was low, for August in Houston.
I had a pleasant ride, with no mishaps. I took 610 all the way back to I-10, then took it to the Studemont exit, and on home. I put fifty miles on the bike and was back by 7:15. Nice.
I was almost exactly over Height Boulevard on Interstate 10 when the odometer rolled over to 1800. By the time I pulled in the driveway, the odometer read 1803. Getting closer.
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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.