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July 31, 2005:
This morning I enjoyed the weekend, and got a somewhat late start. By the time I walked and fed Sarah, showered, grabbed some breakfast and suited up, I wasn't out the door until around 8 am. I checked the tires and headed out. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th. Today I did much better than yesterday. I was less than two miles from the house when I remembered I had forgotten my backpack. Oh well, I decided I would just have to curtail my buying instincts at the Half Price on Highway 6 and FM 529, which I planned to hit on the way back from my ride.
Last night I got out my Roads of Texas map and decided that Brenham beckoned. So that was my morning destination. Cynthia, my paralegal, had voted for Hempstead, but I wanted to rack up more miles than that. Plus, she was rather vague about where I could get breakfast in Hempstead. So Brenhan it was.
I had gassed up after yesterday's ride, so I decided to not top off the tank with under 30 miles used. I entered I-10 and headed west. Traffic was light. I took the Loop 610 exit, north, and then eased over to the lanes for Highway 290, which I took all the way to Brenham.
There is not much special to report about the trip to Brenham. There was only one exciting event. I was following a truck that was pulling a boat on a trailer. I don't like trailers. I figure there is always the chance that something will come apart, and the trailer will go its own way. So I was watching rather closely, and figuring whether to drop back more or pass the trailer. While I was strategizing, all of a sudden the trailer made a funny move. A sort of bounce. And I soon saw why. The truck/trailer had run over a rather large water cooler. You know, like those five gallon ones Igloo sells. This one was red, but it would never hold water again. Still, it was right in the middle of my lane.
A quick swerve got me around it with no problem. Oh, the joy of road debris. Just shows you that you have to stay alert. Anyway, after that I decided to accelerate around the truck/trailer. It was too much of a view block, especially for stuff on the road.
On the way to Brenham I saw the exit for Prairie View A&M. The neat thing about a motorcycle is that I am more inclined to make a "last minute" change of plans and take that side trip. And this was one of those side trips.
Prairie View A&M was totally deserted. I mean no cars, no students, no nothing. Seemed like a bad allocation of resources to not have some summer classes going on. The campus is ok, but it was strange to have all the buildings and no people. I think I saw three other vehicles, and two of those were security. Oh well.
I got back on 290 and headed to Brenham. When I got to Brenham I took the Highway 290 Business exit. I had some theory that a good restaurant for the locals was more likely to be in the downtown area. Also, I wanted to add Brenham's courthouse to the list of courthouses I have visited on my motorcycle. So far I have Harris County (Houston), Galveston County (Galveston), Polk County (Livingston) and, now, Washington County (Brenham). In the interest of completeness, I must reveal that before the ride was over, I also went to the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead.
But back to Brenham. Downtown was dead. I didn't spy a single restaurant that was open. So I headed for Highway 36. I had seen a billboard for a Mexican restaurant on that highway, and huevos rancheros sounded good. I pulled in to a Shell station and gassed up. I knew I couldn't make it back without a fillup, and this seemed as good a time as any.
I left the station, looking for breakfast. But when I found the Mexican restaurant advertised on the billboard, the sign in their door said they didn't open till 11 am on Sundays. So I looked around and spied an Applebees. Not my favorite, but surely they had eggs. I headed for the "mall" where it was located. I pulled into the empty parking lot and rode past the door. The sign said they didn't open till 11 am. So I got back on 290 and continued west. I had seen another billboard; this one was advertising K-Bob's. Another of my "not favorites," but I figured, with all the grease they use, how could they mess up eggs over easy, with hash browns. When I got there, the sign said they didn't open till 11 am.
By this time I'm beginning to think that there must be some ordinance keeping locals from eating out on Sunday mornings before church is over. I'm heading back east on Highway 290 and I spy a Chili's on the other side of the road. But the parking lot is empty. I don't even bother to buzz their sign. I continue on 290, resolving that Cynthia is going to have her revenge and I will end up eating in Hempstead.
Just as I give up on breakfast at Brenham's, I spy a Mexican restaurant with cars in front. Lots of cars. It must be open. So I u-turn and head for it. I am outside the Brenham city limits by now. Maybe the ordinance no longer applies! On the way to the Mexican eatery, I pass a restaurant next to a motel. I think it was called the Red Dot. It also has cars. I almost pull in there, but huevos rancheros wins out over eggs over easy.
The restaurant is Las Fuentes. 201 Highway 290. I pull in to the parking lot and park the bike. I am closer to the main part of Brenham than I had thought at first. A staff person has just pulled up and he greets me like he is happy I have decided to eat as his restaurant. A good sign. I lock the forks, change into my do-rag, and walk in.
There are no other customers. All the cars belong to staff, I guess. Anyway, there is a table full of staff and they are all eating. I have my choice of tables, so I pick a booth where I can watch the bike.
A waitress comes and hands me a menu. She asks me if I want coffee, and I say yes, in keeping with my new breakfast tradition. She goes away and I take a look at the menu. No breakfast section. No huevos rancheros. The hours for the restaurant on Sunday are listed as starting at 11 am. I look at my watch and it is still before 11. I hope I'm not arrested for breaking some local ordinance. You know how the food police like to pick on bikers.
The menu is pretty good. I spy a fajita dish that sounds good. When the waitress returns I tell her I'd like to change the coffee order to tea, since I'm eating lunch. She says ok. I head to the restroom to wash my hands.
When I return there is a steaming cup of coffee awaiting me. Oh well, why break with tradition. I add cream and sugar and take a long sip. Or big gulp. Tastes good. A waiter brings chips and salsa, red and green. I dig in. Coffee and salsa is not a bad combo, especially if you're thirsty. The tea shows up in short order, and I go after it too. Riding is hot work.
I place my order and relax with the chips. The fajitas soon arrive, and they are really good. They have put a slab of skirt steak on top of a cheese enchilada, with lots of grilled onions. The flour tortillas are extremely hot. So hot that I have to make up my "taco" on top of the serving dish. Most delicious. During the meal I call Cynthia for better directions to the restaurant in Hempstead. I just get her answering service. I don't leave a message. I mean, if she called back while I was on the road it would be impossible for me to pull over, ditch my helmet and have the phone out before she hung up.
After eating all my food, drinking two cups of coffee and one glass of tea, paying my bill and having a lemon slice for dessert, I wash up again, clean the bugs off my visor, and suit up. Las Fuentes has proved worth the bother of finding it. I am satiated, for the moment.
I get back on Highway 290, but I take the business exit at Hempstead to look for the elusive breakfast restaurant Cynthia mentioned. I don't find it. But I do get to see the Polk County Courthouse. And the Business 290 is a much more pleasant drive than the main route.
Just outside of Hempstead I see a sign for Jellystone Park. A sign that features Yogi Bear. I have passed this sign scores of times before 290 bypassed downtown Hempstead. But I never visited Jellystone Park. It is only three miles down a country road. I decide to pay Yogi a visit.
When I finally get to the "park" I find that there is a sign that says it is private property, and only residents are allowed to enter. Law abiding citizen that I am, I turn around and head back to Highway 290 Business. I take it through Prairie View and Waller, till it hooks back up with the regular 290. I stay on 290 until the Highway 6 exit.
I take Highway 6 south. I am headed for the Half Price Books on Highway 529. I toot my horn three times as I pass Cynthia's apartments, but don't slow down. Books are calling. I pull in to the parking lot for the Half Price and go through the change routine, packing my gloves and putting on my do-rag.
I have good luck at the Half Price. I get one of those hand baskets so I can carry both my helmet and my purchases. The first book I spy is a regular-sized paperback. But the next four books aren't. It fact, one of my choices is at least 8 x 11. Still, I know the packing routine well by now, and I figure five books should be within tolerances. But I'm not sure about six. So I pay and head out, after loading my jacket, front and back, and putting on my gear in the air conditioning.
I take Highway 6 on south, toward Memorial Drive. The first time I took Highway 6 I hated it. It seemed that every light was red, and the drivers were in too big of a hurry. I am a better rider now, but the lights were still red. And at high noon, in full gear, that's no fun. My opinion of this road has not improved.
When I reach Memorial, I take it eastbound all the way downtown. Memorial is a nice ride, which makes up for the roads I had to take to get to it. Traffic is light and the lights are few. And the curves are nice. I didn't see any cops. Fun, fun, fun.
Just as I am getting downtown I run over something in the road. I didn't see what it was. It made a weird sound, like maybe it was a piece of plastic strapping. But I am not sure. I look at my tires, and they both seem ok. My plan had been to take I-10 on home. But I am worred that I may get a flat, so I head back on Memorial. A blow-out on I-10 is not on my agenda.
Thank goodness, whatever I rolled over was not a problem. The tires are fine. As was the whole trip. My odometer is now at 1753. That means I put 220 miles on the bike. I left around 8 am and returned around three. Side trips, eating, and bookstores can add up the hours. But I had a good time. Maria returns tomorrow, so all-day trips will be harder to manage. I'm glad I got in these three. I should put the two thousandth mile on the bike by next weekend. And the fun keeps rolling on. Meet you on the road.
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July 30, 2005:
This morning I went to Galveston. I got up, showered, suited up, and headed for the garage about 7:30 am. I checked the air in the tires, and headed out. I warmed up and then went to the gas station off I-10. After filling up I zeroed the tripometer and headed out on I-10.
I took I-10 to I-45, south, all the way to Galveston. It was about 50 miles to 61st Street in Galveston.
I took 61 Street all the way to Seawall Boulevard, and headed east (or south) on Seawall. I took it all the way to the end, past Stewart's Beach. It was probably about 8:45 am when I hit Seawall. There were lots of motorcycles, and lots of people. The scenery was nice.
At the end of Seawall I turned around and headed back west (or north). I spotted a potential breakfast place called Miller's Landing. But I was not ready for a break yet. I took Seawall all the way to Rural Road 3005, and took that clear to the $2.00 toll bridge. I didn't relish the idea of finding toll fare while wearing gloves, so I turned around and went back down 3005 to get breakfast. I passed lots of nice weekend homes on 3005, but not many people were out. I headed back to Seawall, and continued east (or south).
I turned left when I spotted Miller's Landing, looking for a parking spot. I couldn't find one. I circled twice, before giving up. So I then decided to eat at the Galvez. But when I pulled into their entrance, the only parking was Valet Parking. Do valets really know how to park a motorcycle. Why would I let a stranger ride my bike. No thanks.
I pulled back out on Seawall and headed to 21st Street, which I took to the Strand. When I arrived at the Strand, I figured I would find a nice restaurant for breakfast. Not so. Lots of seafood restaurants, but I didn't spot anything advertising breakfast. So I headed back to Seawall Boulevard. In case you wonder about all this back and forth, I was in no hurry to do anything, so it was just fun riding, not frustrating hunting.
Anyway, as I approached the Galvez I made a decision. As long as I was going to spend over ten dollars for breakfast, I might as well eat over the water. So I passed up the Galvez and headed to the Flagship Hotel, which is on a pier over the bay. I pulled in and parked my bike.
I dismounted and hung the helmet on the handle bar so I could get my do-rag out and put my gloves away. Once "changed" I headed to the Hotel. Unfortunately, all they had was a sad looking breakfast buffet. Scrambled eggs was not on my wish list, so I turned around and left.
I got on the bike and headed back to the Galvez. This time I spotted a parking spot on the street and grabbed it. I locked the forks and changed into my do-rag again. I grabbed my helmet and headed for the lobby.
I wasn't sure how they would take my outfit (jeans, black motorcycle boots, black jacket, big black helmet in my hand and do-rag on my head), but I was now hungry. The seater had me wait while she cleared a table away from view of the lobby. I noticed there was already a clean table where everyone could see me eat, but I guess I didn't project the right image for that seat.
Anyway, the food was excellent, as was the Starbuck's coffee. I had eggs Benedict. Yummy. I took my time and drank a full pot of coffee, plus more. I wonder if I will sleep tonight. I don't usually drink coffee, but I have ordered it for both breakfasts on my rides. What's that about?
After breakfast I headed for my bike, and was relieved to see the Rebel waiting for me, untouched. I hopped on and headed back to Seawall, all the way to 61st, which I took back to I-45. My plan was to stop by the Half Price off NASA Road 1 on the way home. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my backpack. Still, I have set a goal of visiting as many Half Price Bookstores as possible on my bike, and I was not going to let the lack of a backpack stop me.
I was within two miles of Half Price when I watched the odometer roll over to mile 1500. I then took the NASA Road 1 exit to Half Price, backpack or not. I pulled into the lot and parked. I locked the fork locks and headed in, do-rag on my head and helmet in my hand. This time I unzipped my jacket but kept it on while shopping. I found a book on tape version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, unabridged. Eleven casettes in a pretty big box. I took off my jacket to see if there was an inside zippered compartment in the back of my Vanson jacket. There was. It was occupied with the CE approved spine armor. But there was enough slack to hold the box of cassettes. And that still left the front of the jacket for, at most, two hardbacks. Which I found before leaving.
I paid for the books and tapes and ask for extra sacks to use as moisture barriers. Of course, I didn't tell the clerk why I needed the extra sacks. Seemed like more information than she needed. Plus, she hadn't even made a comment about a guy in full motorcycle gear buying Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So maybe she wasn't interested anyway.
I suited up in the store. Use every bit of air conditioning you can! Then I got on my bike and headed back to Houston. By the time I reached the entrance for I-45 the sign said Houston was twenty miles away. No problem, I hoped.
And "no problem" it was. No load shifts. No restriction of movement from having a box of cassette tapes in the middle of my back. And the ride was still cool, even though the books did block a lot of the mesh in my Vanson jacket.
By the time I rolled up the driveway the odometer read 1533 miles. It was 1:30 pm. That means I had been on the road for six enjoyable hours, and put 178 miles on the odometer. Galveston is a fun ride, even in the heat of the summer. I am looking forward to heading there again.
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When I got back from the Galveston adventure I wrote up the blog, had a couple of glasses of tea, and headed out again. I had to go to Stubbs Cycles to get some chain lubricator. My owner's manual says I am to lubricate the chain every 500 miles. Oops. Because I expect to put on some additional miles tomorrow, I thought I'd better get the oil while the getting was good. And the thought of getting in another ride made the extra trip no bother. My original plan had been to stop by Stubbs on the way back from Galveston, but forgetting the backpack put a serious dent in that idea. I was not sure where I would put the can, and I sure didn't want to make an unsightly bulge that might let the books fall out. I mean, we have to keep our priorities straight, right?
So off I went to Stubbs, via I-45 this time. I am comfortable on the freeways now, and saw no need to go through downtown like I did on earlier trips. When I got to Stubbs they recommended Bel Ray Super Clean Chain Lube, in an aerosol spray can. Which I bought.
I headed back on I-45. When I came to the Allen Parkway exit, I took it. Allen Parkway is a curvey street that runs sort of parallel to Memorial Drive in Houston. It has the disadvantage that it is relatively short. But there is a long run without lights, and the curves are nice. And you even have some "hills," which is rare in our flatlands. I enjoyed the twisties, and look forward to putting Allen Parkway in the regular rotation of short rides.
At the end of Allen Parkway I took Shepard to Memorial Drive and then headed west, to the park. Not many joggers out in the heat. I didn't see anyone I know, which probably says a lot for their intelligence. Joggers don't make the breeze on foot that one does on a bike.
While in the park I watched the odometer roll from 1555.5 to 1555.6. Fun.
I headed home via Washington and pulled in the driveway. I now have mile 1560 on the bike. Time to lube the chain. I got the aerosol out of my backpack (yes, I remembered it this time) and shook the can, as per the instructions. I then added the spray tube and begin spraying the part of the chain that contacts the sprocket, just like the manufacturer recommended. The can said to spray when the chain was warm. It also stated that after 10 to 15 minutes the oil would not fling off. Actually, the exact words, including the capital letters, were: "ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT FLING OFF when used as directed." It is also "O" ring safe. The Rebel manual made a big deal of not using regular oil because it might harm the "O" rings.
Spraying this stuff is simple, but onerous. I recommend you have the bike at the far end of the driveway so you can roll it forward in short lengths to make sure all parts of the chain get lubrication. I started with the bike too close to the garage door, and quickly ran out of "rolling" room. Lesson learned.
Well, I hear a book, a hot bath and a bottle of 2001 Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon calling me, so that's it for the biking today. It was a full day, and a fun day. I don't understand why everyone isn't doing this.
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July 29, 2005:
I don't have an appointment today until ten, so I decided I could get in a nice morning ride. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, then got on I-10 and headed east. I decided to take 10 all the way to the Highway 59 exit. I took 59 north to Loop 610, and 610 around to the Memorial exit. I took Memorial to downtown, enjoying the curves. I then looped around and took it back to Memorial Park. Didn't see anyone I know, but the scenery was pleasant.
I then got on Washington and took it to Studement, and on home. The temperature was cool, and the ride was fun. No close calls, even in the morning traffic. Memorial was enjoyable, as always. I put 36 miles on the bike. Odometer now reads 1355. And the weekend beckons.
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July 28, 2005:
For this morning's ride I decided to do a twist on the twisties on White Oak. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th (see below) and headed north on Shepard. For the twist, I got on the North Loop and headed east to the I-45 exit. I took I-45 south during the rush hour traffic. And I took the North Main/Houston exit to get to White Oak. And then did the twisties.
I am pleased that this short stretch is still so much fun. I think it is the hills, banked curves and great scenery. Too bad it's so short. Even with the 610 route, I only put in 10 miles.
So I extended the trip by heading for Washington Avenue and then toward Shepard, which I took to 11th, and on home. Round trip was 14 miles. Nice ride. It's still cool out.
And I did have one "learning experience" on this ride. At the start, when I rode up to Heights on 6th, I decided for some reason to scoot over into the far right hand section of the street. I was thinking about how folks sometimes turn wide when going south from Heights to 6th, and by being on the far right, I would be safer from that.
But that's not what happened. For the first time ever, an 18 wheeler hauling a long trailer turned from the northbound lane of Heights onto 6th. And, like they usually do, the trucker turned wide. Right where I would have been. I think he saw me, but I was sure glad to be over to the right. Lesson learned. I just didn't expect to see the wisdom of this change in strategy so soon!
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July 27, 2005:
It was still cool this morning when I walked Sarah, so I knew the ride would be fun. I wanted to log mile 1300 on the bike, but I have a morning appointment, so not much time. That meant that I was going to have to test the freeways to get everything in.
I warned up on the back roads off 6th, then got on I-10 at Shepard. I took I-10 to Loop 610, and then exited Memorial. I took Memorial all the way to Louisiana. I still enjoy this stretch of road. The curves are nice, the speed limits are nice, and the trees and joggers add to the scenery.
At Louisiana I got back on I-10 and headed west. I hadn't logged that many miles, so I took I-10 all the way to Loop 610 and headed north this time. I took 610 all the way east to the I-45 exit and participated in morning rush hour trying to get downtown. I took the I-10 exit westbound and rode to the Heights exit, then back on home. A fun, cool ride. Logged 35 miles. I am now at 1305 on the odometer, and counting.
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July 26, 2005:
That drop in temperature I noted on last night's ride home turned out to be a cool front. In July! So even though I have a court appearance this morning, I wanted to get in a nice ride in this cool weather. So I got up a half hour earlier than normal, walked the dog, and suited up.
I took the curves on TC Jester. Riding was fine. Traffic on the first leg was light. When I reached the end of TC Jester, I turned around and headed back. For this leg of the trip, traffic was pretty heavy. Must have been lots of people going to work. I was surprised, given the early hour.
So when I got to TC Jester and Loop 610 I decided, since I was in heavy traffic anyway, I would try my hand at morning rush hour riding. I headed east on the Loop, and then merged into I-45 going south. To downtown Houston. As in lots of traffic. The bumper to bumper kind. Pretty intense. Still, I was able to handle it without problem. A real difference in rush hour traffic is that you get to use all the gears on the bike. Usually, I quickly run up the gears up all the way to 5th, and leave it there. This doesn't work in bumper to bumper traffic. I am constantly down shifting or up shifting, depending on how fast we are creeping along. A different kind of riding. And not that much fun. Still, the weather was cool and I got in 24 miles before heading home. I'm up to mile 1275 on the odometer. And now, off to work.
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July 25, 2005:
My goal on this morning's ride was to put mile 1200 on the Rebel. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, and headed west on I-10. I took South Loop to Memorial and rode the twisties on Memorial to mark the event. I was almost downtown when I watched the odometer roll over.
The ride was not without incident, however. No, no cars threatened. But I did encounter some slippery substance on the road at one of the stop signs while I was warming up.
As I approached the stop sign at 7th and Courtland I noticed a car coming toward me. I estimated its speed, and mine, and determined that I would have plenty of time to pull up to the stop sign, stop, signal and pull out before the car was even close. I was smugly reflecting on my defensive driving skills, when I really stepped into it. Or on it, to be more accurate. As I brought the Rebel to a halt, I leaned to my left and placed my left foot down onto the pavement. But it didn't stay where I put it. Even though I was wearing motorcycle boots with great soles, my boot slid to the left. Fortunately, the "stuff" wasn't very wide, and my boot stopped its skid when clean pavement was encountered. So I did not drop the bike. I don't know if I would have been so lucky on a heavy Harley.
When I looked down I saw a trail of a colorless, oily substance that started about six feet before the stop sign and continued as the long-gone driver turned left, just as I planned to do. There was enough "wet discoloration" of the pavement that I should have noticed it. But my concentration was fixed on the approaching car, not on where my foot was going. Just shows you how much you have to keep in mind to ride safely. A humbling experience.
I am once again thankful I chose to get a Honda Rebel as my first bike. The bike is light enough, and agile enough, that it has seen me safely through several beginner's bobbles, without disaster. And by successfully dealing with these incidents, my confidence has been growing, instead of falling. And that makes me look forward to each day's ride with joyful anticipation, not dread.
I also got in a ride after work. I decided to take the bike to my Pilates class. The class starts at 6:30 pm, and it is an easy 40 minute ride by car.
I put on my workout sweats and t-shirt and then put on my Draggin' Jeans, Draggin' Kevlar shirt, motorcycle boots, helmet, and gloves. I checked the air in my tires, and headed for class.
I got up on Interstate 10 and then took Loop 610 South to Braeswood. Traffic was very heavy. This was my first venture in real rush-hour traffic. It was stop and go at times. Some of the time we got up to 30 mph. Thirty seems fast in a residential area, but it seems like walking speed on a freeway.
I was worried about impatient drivers changing into my lane, but I kept my distance and had no problems. I made class with ten minutes to spare.
In fact, I was the first person to arrive. That was a good thing, because I had to get out of my shirt, jeans and boots once I got inside. I was glad none of the females walked in while I was unzipping my gear. Once I was down to my workout sweats I decided to head for the bathroom to see how my hair looked. I had to decide whether to live with helmet hair or slip on my do-rag.
I mashed down the wayward strands and opted for the wet head look instead of the do-rag. I slipped back into class just as the instructor entered. She comment that I was already sweating and, I am sure, thought I had been working out. The full-face helmet and other gear probably changed her mind.
Anyway, I got in a good workout. At the end of class I discretely waited for everyone to leave and then slipped into my riding gear. The ride back was a lot easier because traffic had mostly disappeared. And the temperature felt like it had dropped at least ten degrees. In fact, the ride was so nice, I extended it by going to North Loop, south on I-45 and then back eastbound on I-10, all the way back to Loop 610. I then took the Shepard exit off North Loop and headed home. When I arrived I had logged 1251 miles on the odometer. It was a fun 45 more miles on the bike. That means I put on a total of 63 miles on the bike today!
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July 24, 2005:
Today I went for a ride up Highway 59. My plan was to visit the Half Price Books that is just west of Highway 59 on FM 1960.
I started out around 10 am. I know that is a late start for me, but I was tired of getting to the Half Price shops before they opened. And I had some other errands to do Sunday morning. I also washed the bike before starting out. I had run over some wet pavement the other day, and the bike needed washing. No rain was predicted for today, so I washed the bike before the ride.
I checked the air, suited up, put on my backpack so I could haul back any books I purchased, and weaved my way to the Shell station on the feeder for Interstate 10, where I filled up with gas.
I then got on I-10 and headed east for Highway 59. Traffic was relatively light, and the heat was not too bad. Highway 59 is a joy to ride, at least on Sunday mornings. Traffic was really light once I got on Highway 59, and the freeway is in really good repair. I was having so much fun when I reached the exit for FM 1960 that I decided to tool on down the road a while, and catch Half Price Books on the way back. Miles turned into more miles, and the fun continued. I passed Cleveland, and decided to try for Shepherd, Texas. At Shepherd I decided to keep going and try for Livingston.
I took Business 59 to Livingston and circled the Courthouse. No restaurants were open on Sunday around the courthouse square, so I headed back to Highway 59, and spied a Whataburger.
It was still before noon, but I was hungery. I decided to eat at Whataburger for my first out-of- town road meal. They were voted the best of the hamburger chain in the latest issue of Ride Texas magazine and I have always liked their hamburgers.
I wheeled into the parking lot, parked the bike and locked the forks. I unzipped my jacket, took off my gloves, and undid the helmet strap. Thus attired, I stepped into the restaurant. I found a table and put my gear on it, and headed for the restroom to wash my hands. I noticed my hair was a mess, but it gave me a wild and crazy look. I had forgotten to take out my do-rag, so I ate au naturel, so to speak. The hamburger and fries were great, and the ice tea was much needed. I took rather longer than normal, and enjoyed the air conditioning. Soon enough, however, it was time to suit up and go.
On the trip back I noted a sign for the Lake Livingston Dam. I had never seen it. So I whipped onto the side road and head west. After about 10 miles of pleasant, two-lane twisties, I came up on the earthen dam. Not all that impressive until you get to the spillway, which was neat. I'm glad I took the detour. As a matter of fact, all my riding is detours, with the trip more important than the destination. Let's hope it stays that way.
After visiting the dam, I got back on Highway 59 and continued back to Houston. I saw several motorcycle riders during the course of this 185 mile trip. Most did the bike wave, where you lower your left arm down to salute a fellow motorcyclist. Harley and chopper riders are more likely to do this than the crotch rocket crowd. I try to always give the wave, no matter what the bike.
At FM 1960 I pulled into the Half Price Book parking lot, unzipped my jacket and removed my gloves. I used the fork lock again, and headed for the bookstore. I asked them to hold my gear behind the counter, and they were most cooperative. I returned the favor by buying several books and a DVD of Shenandoah, with Jimmy Stewart. This is a classic libertarian anti-war film, and they had it for $5.98. And I had a 15% discount coupon. I intend to watch it tonight, after finishing this blog. I was most pleased to find it.
After making my purchases I loaded everything into the backpack and slipped it on over my jacket. One thing about books: they weigh a lot. I had not even thought about the backpack on the way up, but I could definitely feel the weight on the way back, no pun intended. Still, the backpack did not interfere with my handling of the bike. And a backpack is a lot cheaper than saddlebags, especially on a bike I don't intend to keep for more than a year.
On the other hand, I have nothing but praise for the Rebel on the highway. Even though the flow of traffic was about 70 mph,* the Rebel was easily able to handle it, and I never felt under-powered, even when passing someone. I'm sure that would be different with a passenger, but for a single rider, this bike is great. I am glad I bought the Rebel as my first bike, and I would not hesitate to recommend the Rebel to other beginning riders.
I ran out of gas in the main tank on the way back. Astonishingly, this happened at mile 155. All the other times I managed to make 180 miles on the main tank. Either I didn't fill it all the way up, or running at 70 to 75 mph* for extended periods cuts mileage back a little. I got to switch from main tank to reserve while going 70 mph,* but it was no problem. I filled up again when I got back home.
All in all, this was a great trip. Highway 59 is a joy to ride. The Rebel handled flawlessly. I had no close calls in all this highway riding. The food was great and Half Price had the requisite number of treasures within. And I logged my longest ride ever, at 185 miles. I have 1188 miles on the odometer. And the fun keeps coming.
* * * * *
July 23, 2005:
At 6:04 this morning I stepped out the door to go on my 1000 mile ride.
I needed 28 miles to make it to mile 1000. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street and got up on Interstate 10, headed west for Loop 610. My goal: ride Loop 610 the entire circle around Houston. It was early enough that traffic wouldn't be too bad, and no rain clouds were threatening. The roads were dry after yesterday's downpour.
As I approached the exit for South Loop there were three cars on my right. The right two lanes were for the North Loop of 610. The two lanes to my left were for I-10. Only the center lane headed for 610 South, which was my destination.
During the week, traffic is heavy at this point of I-10. But today, no one was ahead of me. Still, I know this exit. Drivers are constantly switching into the center lane at the last moment. And that's what happened this morning. Two of the three cars on my right switched into my lane at the last second. They would have switched into me if I had been beside them. And I would have had no place to go. But I have a policy of never riding beside another car on the freeway if I can help it. So I had held back and given them room to make their move. I didn't really expect them to change lanes since traffic was so light, but two-thirds of them did!
This was not a "close" call because I was prepared. And there were no other "close" calls. But I did face a difficulty on the East Loop. I was headed north, just past the ship channel, when the Loop "divided" into two "two-lane" segments, with a concrete barrier between them. I couldn't figure out why the division existed, and I continued on the right-hand set of lanes. Wrong choice. In about three miles these lanes emptied into I-10 and I had to exit at McCarthy, U-turn, and get back on Loop 610 to complete my circle.
By the way, I missed noting my 1000th mile by six tenths of a mile. East Loop is so torn up that I was concentrating on the road, and didn't notice the odometer until it read 930.6. Because of the 70 miles I put on while the speedometer cable was broken, 930.0 marked my 1000th mile. Oh well.
Missing mile 1000, and having to exit onto I-10 gave me an idea. The miles were rolling on quickly at 70 mph.* I decided that, with minimal effort, I could get to mile 1000 on the odometer on this morning's ride. Plus really loop the Loop, without any exits. Which is what I decided to do.
So I went around again. And I stayed in the left-hand lane on the East Loop. I looked for the signage telling drivers that the right-hand lanes exited onto I-10, but all I saw was a small orange sign saying that the left-hand lanes were "express" and the right-hand lanes were "exit" lanes. Ugh.
Anyway, I looped the loop for the second time and exited I-10, headed east. I was watching the odometer. I figured I could roll over mile 999.9 at 70 mph* if I took I-45 north to Loop 610. Which I did. With two miles to go, I exited at Ella, U-turned, and got back up on 610, headed east. Just before the North Main exit, while going 70 mph,* I watched the odometer roll over from 999.9 to 1000.0. I tooted my horn twice, in celebration, and took the North Main exit on home. I rolled up mile 1003 by the time I reached my driveway.
This was my longest trip so far. I logged 101 miles this morning in a little under two hours.
I'm not sure what my next milestone will be, but I have decided to put the 70 mile ghost to rest. I hereby give it up. No more dual books. From now on, mileage recorded will be exclusively odometer miles. The 70 extra miles is an increasingly small percentage of my total miles, and no longer worth bothering with.
And oh yes, I did have a great hundred and one mile run. The weather was cool, the traffic was fairly light and the ride was without any close calls. It's been a fun first thousand miles, and I am pleased with the Rebel.
* * * * *
July 22, 2005:
It was a dark and stormy night.
At least it was by the time I got home. I had a deposition in Marshall, Texas, at 10, and left the house by 5:15 am. I didn't get back until after 8 pm. I had lots of driving in the rain, and White Oak Bayou was really high when I got back to Houston. We had local flooding and I noted 1.5 inches of rain on the rain gauge for this afternoon.
But I was determined to get in a ride, dark or not and wet or not. And it was dark. And wet.
Still, I am closing in on mile 1000, and I wanted to put at least 8 miles on the bike. That would make the odometer turn over to 900.0
I changed out of my suit and put on my gear. The streets were real wet. And slippery. This was my first ride at night. I warmed up on the back roads off 6th, then took Shepard to 22nd street. I worked my way over to the feeder for I-45 and took that till it became Houston Avenue. I then did the twisties on White Oak. Another motorcyclist was ahead of me, also doing the twisties. He turned into some apartments just before my odometer rolled over to mile 900 on one of the curves of White Oak. We were both going slow due to the wet streets.
Still, it was good to get in some night riding. It was also good to get in some more rain riding. And it was especially good to get the odometer to mile 902. That means I only need 28 more miles to reach the 1000 mark, due to the broken speedometer cable. And even though I am dog tired right now, I know I'll be ready to have some fun on the bike by the morning. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
July 21, 2005:
I have early morning legal meetings today. I got up a half hour early so I could get in my morning ride. It was dark out when I started. I warmed up, then took I-10 east to I-45, and north on I-45 to Loop 610, west. I stayed on 610 until the TC Jester exit. I then took TC Jester south back to I-10. I got back on I-10 and took it to the Taylor exit. I did a u-turn and got back up on I-10 and headed west to the Shepard exit. I then took Shepard to 11th, and on home. Traffic was astonishingly heavy, but the only difficulty was changing lanes when space was at a premium. No close calls. I racked up 20 miles on the bike. Thirty-eight miles to go to make mile 1000.
* * * * *
July 20, 2005:
I got in a nice ride this morning. I aired up the tires, warmed up on the back roads off 6th, and headed for I-10. I took I-10 to Loop 610, and took the Memorial Drive exit. I took Memorial all the way downtown, and back to Heights. I then headed home. I logged 18 miles in a little over 30 minutes of riding. Freeway miles add up fast. I had a good time, with no close (or far) calls.
This afternoon, after work, I also got in a ride. I don't usually ride after work because of other commitments. However, I am closing in on mile 1000, and wanted to get in an extra twenty miles.
As has been the norm for the last couple of weeks, the skies opened up and the rain came in torrents. It started about 3 pm, and I was doubtful I would get in my ride. I didn't relish the thought of riding in evening traffic with wet streets, and slippery cars. However, by 5:30 pm when I left the office, the streets were mostly dry. I hurried home, fed the dog, and changed into my gear.
However, I did not even make it to the end of the street before two of the neighborhood girls ran up to me to tell me that their dog, Lily, had escaped. It was dog hunt time. Motorcycles are not the best ride for tracking down canines. Oh, you can cover a lot of territory, but what do you do when you find the dog?
I found Lily four blocks away. By "found" I mean I spotted her. I parked my bike on the side of the street and took off on foot. Lily knows me by now, but not in my biker gear. Remember, I had all my gear on. The only thing she could recognize was my voice, and the front of my face. That wasn't enough. Every time I came close, she shied away. Oh, she had some curiosity about my leather gloves, but that was it. Probably thought they would make nice snacks.
Fortunately, a homeowner cornered her, and I grabbed the collar. But now what to do? Walk her back, leaving my bike on the side of the road? I didn't know.
As I gave my bike a last forlorn look, I realized that the headlight was on. It immediately flashed in my mind that the battery would probably be dead by the time I got back. And then it hit me that if the light was glowing, the key was still in the ignition!
Lily and I inched our way to my bike. I positioned her so I could remove the key without her knocking the bike over. I didn't even try to engage the fork lock. Off we went, with me still in full biker gear. A couple of blocks later I met the neighborhood girls coming with a leash. I hooked Lily up and they started back with her. That left me to head back to my bike. On foot. I don't know what people thought when they saw me walking down the street all dressed up with no bike to show.
Anyway, I made it back to the bike, which had not been stolen. I started it up and put on a pleasant 22 miles before I decided I better get back to do some law homework. But at least I am 22 miles closer to mile 1000. And Lily is probably eating her dinner, and scheming about how to get out again. So goes life in the neighborhood.
* * * * *
July 19, 2005:
This morning I racked up my 900th mile on the Rebel. It was a fun ride. I started on the back roads off 6th, then took Durham south to Memorial Drive. I then rode to the park to check out the joggers. Once again, I didn't see anyone I know.
I then headed eastbound on Washington Avenue. For a commercial street, Washington is fun to ride. The street is two lanes each direction, and has lots of interesting stores. Plus, because it's a street undergoing development, there is always something new to see.
At about Washington and Durham I realized that I had a shot at turning the 900th mile while doing the twisties on White Oak. So I headed for Houston Avenue, and north to White Oak. I was watching the odometer all the time. It was going to be a close call as to whether I would rack up mile 900 before reaching White Oak.
Luck was with me. As I pulled up to the intersection of Houston Avenue and White Oak I had two tenths of a mile to go. I headed west on White Oak and was actually in the middle of the first curve when the 900th mile arrived. A fitting event.
I finished my ride and had an extra two miles on the odometer when I pulled into the driveway. I'll have to start thinking about my next goal.
* * * * *
July 18, 2005:
I went for a short morning ride today. My goal was to put 12 miles on the bike today and tomorrow. That way, I will have logged 900 miles on the Rebel by Tuesday. I met today's goal by adding 13 miles to the odometer. The ride was fun, because I did the curves on TC Jester all the way to 20th street. I took 20 to Heights and Heights to Washington. I took Studement back home, getting up on the freeway and taking the TC Jester exit, and TC, all the way to 11th. So I got in a little high speed riding. It rained on the way back, but not enough to cause any problems. Look out mile 900, here I come.
* * * * *
July 17, 2005:
Today is Sunday. I got in my longest and farthest ride so far. I rode from 6:15 am to 10:20 am. However, that included a stop for breakfast. I logged a whopping 85 miles on the Rebel.
My goal for today was to drive the length of Braeswood, east and west. I headed south on Montrose all the way to North Braeswood. I took North Braeswood all the way to Southwest Freeway. I then turned around, put on my sunglasses, and headed back east.
I took South Braeswood all the way until it became McGregor. I then took North Braeswood back to Kirby. I went north on Kirby and headed for the Half Price Books on University. They weren't open yet. I decided to try the Half Price on Westheimer. They were open either. Didn't think they would be, but I have a goal of visiting all the local Half Price Books on my bike. Three down and (at least) three or four to go.
Braeswood was not the fun ride I hoped it might be. The curves are too gradual and the traffic lights too frequent. Also, sewer gas pops up at a couple of locations along the ride. Not a nice smell. Plus, the speed limit is 35 mph. And cops are everywhere. I saw more police cars this morning than I have seen on all my other rides put together. Must have been 10 to 12 of them. And one was after an unlucky driver. Keeping the Rebel down to 35 mph spoiled the ride.
After my "visit" to the Half Price Books on Westheimer I took Montrose back toward the Heights. I pulled over at the Mings Chinese Restaurant parking lot to call Maria for breakfast. I picked the Ming's parking lot on purpose. We go up and down Montrose a lot, and often we will see several motorcycles pulled up at Mings. It seemed a suitable place to stop to make a call. No other bikes there at this time of day, however.
I turned the bike off and pulled the cell phone out of the pocket of my jeans. I left my gloves on. I managed to flip the phone open, and even punch in the correct numbers the first try. I could tell from the screen that I had connected with Maria, but I discovered there is no way to hold a phone conversation on a cell phone with a full face helmet on. Oh, you can talk, but you can't hear. I had to disconnect the call, take off my gloves, put my gloves on the gas tank, take off my glasses, nestle my glasses on top of the gloves, take off my helmet, hang my helmet on the handle bar and redial the call.
When I finally got through I asked Maria to met me at Taqueria Aranda on Shepard. She agreed, and I headed for the restaurant. When I reached the feeder road for I-10 I decided to take the freeway to the Shepard Exit, even though that was less than a mile. I hadn't had any real fun yet, so off I went. I rolled the throttle all the way to stop and reached 75 mph* before I realized that I was about to take the exit at a rather high rate of speed. I quickly backed off, and exited the freeway. That taste of speed was fun, and made me realize that the simple act of going fast on a motorcycle has its own attractions. This is somewhat surprising to me because I have never been a speed demon in a car. In fact, I have never even topped out a car I own. I'm not sure what is happening here. A car is transportation. A bike is a way of life. Maybe that's the difference.
Anyway, I reached the restaurant and pulled into the parking lot and parked. I used the key to engage the fork lock. Still outside, I removed my gloves, glasses and helmet. I unzipped my jacket and walked into the restaurant, holding my helmet by the chin guard. Feeling macho. Looking macho (I hoped).
I found a booth and put on my do-rag, to complete the look. I ordered coffee and waited for Maria. We had a great breakfast at Aranda's. They serve a nice Huevos Rancheros dish, and their green sauce is to die for. Some people have told me they thought they were going to die after tasting it because it's so hot. For me, it's just right. In fact, I ordered a basket of chips just so I could empty the green sauce bowl. The regular salsa is outstanding, too.
After breakfast I was not ready to call it quits for the morning. I hadn't had a good ride yet, so I told Maria I was going to do the curves on TC Jester, and that I would be home in half an hour. That was at around 9 am.
Off I went, and I did the curves on TC Jester all the way till it ends. I really enjoy that ride. There are long stretches of 40 mph speed limits, and the traffic "pace" is often around 50 mph. Lights are well spaced, and traffic is usually light. It put me in a good mood.
On the first leg of this morning's trip I logged my 800th mile. But because of the time when the speedometer cable was broken, the odometer only read 730. After TC Jester I noticed that I had a chance to roll the speedometer over to 800 if I worked at it a little. So I took Loop 610 to Memorial Drive, and Memorial all the way downtown. I then took Louisiana to I-10, and back home. When I pulled in the driveway I had mile 805 on the odometer. And thunderclouds were rapidly building.
When I pulled in the driveway, Maria was working in the garage, and let me know that I had been out longer than the 30 minutes I had predicted. I called her over to see the odometer. She was suitably impressed. I need to get a clock for the bike. I can't easily read my wristwatch while riding, and I tend to lose a sense of time when on the bike.
I decided to cap off this longest ride so far by washing the bike. I had put this off because the dust on the bike was a badge of honor for the number of miles I had put on. But all that pracice in the rain on Thursday had made the dust spot! So I gave the bike the Rebel's first wash. It doesn't take long. And the Rebel looked the better for it.
When I came in and logged the mileage, I was surprised that I had put 85 miles on the bike. This was my longest ride yet, and I could have kept going! And I will.
* * * * *
July 16, 2005:
I got up a little extra early this morning, and so, after checking the tire pressure, I was on the road by 6:10 am. When I left the house the odometer was on 740. After warming up on some back streets, I worked my way over to Heights Blvd and headed south to the feeder for I-10. I got up on the freeway and headed east, to the downtown exit.
My goal for today was to take Memorial Drive from beginning to end, and back again. I picked up Memorial downtown, and headed west. The temperature was cool and the traffic was light.
There is not much to report. Memorial Drive is always a delight to take. Lights are (relatively) few, and, at least in the morning, traffic is light. There are plenty of curves, and nice scenery. Several times I have taken Memorial without seeing a single cop. However, that was not the case today, so watch your speed. One cop was hiding withs a radar gun and the other cop I saw was giving a ticket.
The only drawback to Memorial is that a couple of the lights are tripped by metal, and the Rebel doesn't have enough to trigger the sensors. I don't know if a Harley would either. (But I do intend to find out!)
I rode Memorial all the way to Highway 6, and for the one block west of that intersection. I then turned around, put on my sunglasses, and headed back east. When I got downtown I took Louisiana north to where it merges onto I-10 and took the freeway back home. All-in-all, a great trip.
When I pulled into the driveway I had logged 50 miles. It took about a hour and a half. What a way to start the day.
* * * * *
July 15, 2005:
It started to rain this morning around 4:30 am. I know because the rain (and thunder) woke me up. By 6 am it had rained 1.4 inches. I know because I check the rain gauge. But I was not going to let a little rain stop me from my morning ride. And besides, I needed to ride in the rain sooner or later. I declared it "sooner."
About 7:45 am I headed out. At first the streets were just wet, but it was not raining. Then it started to sprinkle. I rode for about an hour and a half. During that time the rain varied from none to heavy. It was never the drenching quantity that gets you soaked in a couple of minutes, but it was heavy enough to qualify me as having ridden in the rain. When I got back from the ride I checked the rain gauge and it rained two tenths of an inch during the time I was riding. I put 25 miles on the bike. Maximum speed was 40 mph. Mostly, I drove slower than usual and turned wider than usual.
The Rebel didn't seem to mind the water. One time I was making close to a 120 degree turn and it felt like the back end was going to slip. But I don't think it did. The sensation was strong, but I never felt I lost it.
A couple of other observations: First, if you want it to rain harder, just go faster. Insofar as rain on your visor is concerned, the drops are more frequent at 35 mph than at 25 mph. Even so, I never wiped the visor, and I hardly ever raised it.
Second, fogging of the visor is more of a problem in the rain, at least at stops. I reacquired the habit of raising the visor at stoplights. Also, rain hitting your bare throat is almost as fun as sand hitting it! Those little drops of water aren't from Culligan.
I wore all my protective gear. I did not get the sensation of being "wet" except at my shins. Apparently, most of the water landed there. Not from splashing, just from riding. I could feel wet blue jeans just above my boots. The Vanson jacket kept me completely dry on the parts it covered, even with the mesh venting. And my gloves didn't even feel soaked, although I'm not sure why. All in all, my equipment worked great, even though it is not conventional "rain gear."
A couple of other observations: brakes don't work as well when wet. I was traveling north on Studewood, in a construction zone, and a work truck decided to run a stop sign on one of the side streets. I was plenty far enough away, but even so, the truck was so big I hit the brakes. I was surprised when my rate of deceleration was not as fast as I expected. The brakes still worked, but not like in dry conditions. Also, of course, skidding is always a problem on wet streets. So allow an extra margin of safety when stopping.
I was also tailgated in the rain. I was doing the twisties on White Oak, but a little slower than normal due to the wet streets. A lady was behind me, and I mean right behind me. I guess she never considered that if I layed the bike down she would run over me. As it was, she turned off White Oak after a few block, and her tailgating saved her at least one second on the total length of her trip. As you can tell, I hate tailgaters. And I hate them even more when I have no way to pull over and avoid them.
The other incident occurred after I filled up with gas. I was pulling our of the Shell station onto the feeder road for I-10. It is three lanes wide. I waited until there was absolutely no traffic coming toward me on the feeder, and pulled out. As I eased over into the middle lane (and at a speed a little slower than normal), I checked my mirrors and saw a giant 18 wheeler coming at me and changing into the far right-hand lane. I think he was executing a "planned" maneuver so he could turn right at the light, but it was a startling sight. I'm sure he had exited I-10 at a high rate of speed. The lesson learned is to check not only feeder traffic, but also look for vehicles exiting the freeway. Glad I learned this lesson without spilling blood.
I guess that's all for now. I am glad I can say I have tackled riding in the rain. But I'm not sure I would want to be on a freeway when the skies open up. Still, I wanted to face the rain in my neighborhood, where I could call it quits if I thought I had to, rather than be caught out in the rain far from home, with no option but slugging on. And I think 25 miles of wet riding was a fair test, at least at neighborhood speeds. Another milestone behind me.
* * * * *
July 14, 2005:
I fit in a short ride this morning. I have a short legal seminar to attend at 8 am, so not much time for riding. But I also have a meeting tonight, so it was this morning, or nothing at all. So it was this morning.
I took Oxford to 11th, llth to Houston Avenue and Houston to the twisties on White Oak. I then came on back home. A quick, five mile ride. It'll have to hold me till tomorrow. And the weekend beckons!
* * * * *
July 13, 2005:
This morning I took the back roads off 6th to Shepard. I then got on 11th, westbound to TC Jester and did the curves on TC. I cut back east on 19th, and took Heights back to the house. Traffic was very light. A nice, ten mile run.
* * * * *
July 12, 2005:
This morning I made mile 700 on the Rebel. I clocked the mile right as I was turning into the cul-de-sac at the end of the ride. I had taken the back roads off 6th Street to Durham, then to Memorial, then through Memorial Park to check out the joggers. There were fewer than I expected for 6:30 in the morning. Didn't see anyone I knew.
I returned via Washington to Yale, to 6th to Oxford. Nothing noteworthy about the ride, other than logging mile 700.
* * * * *
July 11, 2005:
I took a short ride this morning. I took the back roads off 6th to Shepard, to 14th, to Houston Avenue, to the twisties on White Oak. I then took Studemont to Washington, to TC Jester, to 11th, and back home. I logged 13 miles. A nice fun ride. Tomorrow I should log my 700th mile on the Rebel.
* * * * *
July 10, 2005:
This morning I took my longest ride so far, both in distance and in time on the seat.
I left the house at 6:27 am and returned at 8:34 am. I racked up 63 miles in that two hours and seven minutes.
I started out doing the backroads off 6th Street, then took Durham to I-10. I got on I-10, westbound, and headed to Loop 610. I took the Loop to Highway 290, and headed for Highway 6. I took the Highway 6 exit and pulled in to the Mancuso Harley Davidson lot. Mancuso's is open on Sundays, but not till noon. I pulled around to the back parking lot and saw a row of Buell Blasts lined up for a Rider's Edge class. It brought back fond memories.
I headed south on Highway 6, and blasted my horn as I passed Cynthia's apartment. Cynthia is my paralegal. I don't think she heard me. Because it was before 7 am, I did not stop or call.
Highway 6 is not that much fun. There are long stretches of highway with no lights, but it seems that I caught every single light on the highway. And I caught them all on red. I got in plenty of practice on quick stops. What traffic there was tended to take the speed limit signs as guidelines, and conservative ones at that.
I rode Highway 6 all the way south to the start of Memorial Drive. I headed eastbound on Memorial, and rode it all the way till it ended at downtown Houston. I had to stop to put on my sun glasses because the sun was low and glaring at that time of the day. Traffic was mild, and the air was cool.
As I approached the end of Memorial Drive I realized that, with a few more miles, I could turn the 600 mark on the odometer. So I kept going eastbound, circled the old Palace Boot shop on Prairie and then passed the District Courthouse. I headed back on Memorial Drive, going west, and was doing a steady 50 mph when the odometer rolled over, just past the Shepard overpass.
I turned into Memorial Park and looked at all the joggers. I didn't see anybody I knew, although I have friends who regularily jog there. Maybe I was too early. Or too late.
Anyway, I headed back home, via I-10, going east. By the end of the trip I had 606 miles on the odometer. Because of all the red lights, I would not recommend the trip again. Still, a nice morning ride.
* * * * *
July 9, 2005:
Today my morning ride featured several milestones.
I decided to head out I-10 this morning. As is my habit, I weaved my way through the Heights, getting my sea legs back. I practiced shifting, stopping and turning. I treat this like warm up exercises. I want to be loose and in the right state of mind before testing the freeway.
Because I knew this was going to be a long trip, I decided to gas up, even though the main tank was not quite empty. It only had 183 miles on it. Accoring to the gas receipt I fit 2.1 gallons of gas in the main tank. I was careful not to overfill the tank, because I did not want to smell gasoline all morning. I also remembered to zero the tripometer, so I could tell when it would be time to gas up again.
After filling the tank I rode around the Heights for a couple of more miles, then entered the freeway at Shepard. The odometer was at 485 miles. I headed west.
I think the time was around 6:45 am. The traffic was a lot heavier than I thought it would be. Traffic was moving between 70* and 75 mph*, and although I was keeping pace with the majority of vehicles, cars were regularily zipping past me on the inside lane.
The odometer turned past the 500 mile mark on this trip. Somewhere around Memorial City I noticed I was going 75 mph* with some play still left on the throttle. I decided to retest the maximum speed. There was a tank truck ahead of me, but I was pretty far back from it. No traffic on either side or behind me. So I started adding throttle. I was watching the road and watching the speedometer. It steadily climbed to 79 mph. I rechecked the road to see where the next hill was, confident I might make 80 mph. As I glanced ahead I got the surprise of my life. The tanker ahead of me rolled over a giant hose that stretched across most of the lane to my left and all but a sliver of the lane I was in. I think the diameter of the hose was at least six inches. It had a chrome nozzle on the end. I immediately decided I had room and time to swerve around the far right-hand end of this unexpected obstruction. Fortunately, I cleared it with inches to spare, and without straying out of my lane.
This incident illustrates the mixed blessing of morning rides on the freeways. On the one hand, traffic is light. On the other hand, obstructions tend to be in the middle of your lane because not enough cars have hit them yet to bounce them into the edges where everyone can avoid them. I have read about the dangers of road gators (those big sections of retreads that are everywhere on the freeway), but this hose was far worse, because it completely blocked a lane and a half of freeway. Yikes!
After this incident I was even more alert, if possible. And I decided not to try for a new speed record due to the heavy traffic. Eyes on the road. Which was good because a driver on my right decided to change into my lane as I was passing him. There was a slow car ahead of him, and he couldn't wait. I don't think he ever saw me. Fortunately, I noticed what he was up to. The Rebel met the challenge and I was able to rapidly accelerate out of harm's way. I am very pleased at the amount of acceleration the Rebel can give me even at freeway speeds. I was worried about that until this morning.
I continued westbound all the way to Nelson's Water Gardens in Katy. Nelson's is one of my favorite garden stores, and I highly recommend a visit. Sadly, I arrived at 7:15 am, and it was not yet open. I stopped in the parking lot, checked my watch, and realized I still had plenty of time to head back. This marked my first trip out of Houston proper.
My original plan was to return eastbound on I-10 to Highway 6 and take that to the beginning of Memorial Drive, and take Memorial eastbound all the way back. However, I was feeling pretty cocky about my freeway riding, so I decided to save that trip for later, and return all the way on Interstate 10. Which I did.
Traffic was even heavier going inbound that going outbound. Trucks were everywhere. At one point I came upon a gravel truck. It was hauling sand. You know that sensation in a car when you can hear the sand hitting your windshield from an uncovered gravel truck? Well, on a bike the sensation is different. The sand hits your bare skin. Which in my case was my neck. Ouch. I quickly accelerated around this hazard.
Traffic thinned out and riding was easier. The soundtrack to Easy Rider popped into my head. I started singing into my helmet. Fortunately, no one could hear me. And what tune came to mind? Not the expected Born to be Wild. No, what I sang was The Weight ("Rolled in to Nazareth, I was feelin' 'bout half past dead.") by The Band (they did the version in the movie, but the group Smith did the version on the soundtrack). This was the first time riding made me feel like singing. I promise I'll always wear a full face helmet (with visor down) if such a mood ever strikes again.
Anyway, it was a great morning for riding. I got in 61 miles of riding, with 50 of that being on freeways. I now have 613 miles on the bike. And counting.
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July 8, 2005:
I got up a little earlier than normal this morning, so it was still dark when I started my morning ride. We had rain storms last night, and the temperature dropped to 73 degrees. That is cool for this time of year. These conditions made for a great morning ride.
In fact, it was so fine that I was tempted to just keep riding. Nowhere in particular. I just wanted to be on the bike. It is very peaceful around 6:30 in the morning, and traffic is light. It really makes for fine riding conditions. I can see how someone could get so entranced with riding a motorcycle that he would want to forget all the other things in his life and just take out. Before this morning I could not imagine myself taking one of those week or month long trips on a bike. Now I can at least understand the wanderlust involved. It must be the same feeling that horse people feel when they mount their steeds.
The ride was nothing but fun. No close calls. Nothing special to report, except for that specialness that comes from being on the back of a bike early in the morning.
I did give in to reality, and returned back after twelve pleasurable miles. Now to face the world.
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July 7, 2005:
I had a court hearing in Liberty this morning, so I could not squeeze in my normal morning ride. However, when the hearing was over I drove back and felt like celebrating. So I changed into my riding gear and took off.
I knew I didn't have all that much time, so I decided to do the freeways as a way to rack up miles quickly. I entered I-10 at Heights, took I-45 north to Loop 610, and Loop 610 westbound all the way to the Memorial Drive exit. I then took Memorial to Heights, and back home.
By the odometer that was 12 miles of freeway, and 19 miles for the entire loop. Not bad. The odometer now reads 470 miles. Freeway traffic was pretty heavy, but the ride went without incident.
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July 6, 2005:
I was running a little ahead of schedule this morning, so I decided to use those extra minutes for a longer ride than normal for a work day. I had no particular goals in mind, other than some seat time.
I did the back roads off 6th Street. First, I saw a car run a stop sign right in front of me. It was a four-way stop, so I was not moving. The car, however, was. The driver must have been in a big hurry, because he made the quick slow-down you see when someone had decided to intentionally run a stop sign.
Next, while making a right-hand turn I faced another interesting situation. A car was parked on my side of the road I was turning onto, half on the pavement and half on the grass. That cut my lane width in half. This was just after my turn, about two car lengths from completion. A pedestrian was walking nearby. There was debris on the road. My attention was divided, but on high alert. As I completed the turn, I a car appeared that was coming at me from the opposite direction. I had room to scoot by on my half lane, but it did get the adrenaline rushing. And this was on a quiet street where I have never even seen a car before, let alone a pedestrian.
The rest of the 19 mile ride was uneventful. I did get up on Loop 610 at Shepard, headed westbound, to see what it was like to drive in rush hour traffic. Most of the traffic was headed estbound, but there was a lot more traffic going my direction than on weekend mornings.
The entrace was metered by one of those stop lights. When my turn came I sat there and sat there with the light still red. Finally, I just took off. I think my bike didn't register with the metal detecting device. That's my theory anyway. I have faced a similar situation on a couple of left arrow intersections. The freeway riding is getting more and more comfortable.
That's all for now. A nice ride, in morning traffic.
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July 5, 2005:
This morning I knew that I would put in the 500th mile on the Rebel. How to mark that anniversary? I decided, because I still have to go to work today, to mark it by the short ride on the twisties on White Oak.
I needed 5 miles to reach my landmark. I made it easily, with two miles to spare. And I watched the odometer roll over to 430 while on a nice curve on White Oak. Mile 430 marks 500 miles because of the time the speedometer was broken. (I did have to run the twisties three times to get to the roll over point, but so what. The twisties are always fun, and I made sure that I was headed the usual westbound direction when the roll over happened. Being in a curve was just plain good luck!) Anyway, happy anniversary to me. Still having a blast.
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July 4, 2005:
Happy birthday to the sweet land of liberty.
Lots to do today. Nonetheless, I snuck in a quick morning ride. Because I knew I couldn't spare much time, I plotted a route with many miles in a short time. In other words, I rode the freeways.
This was my first major excursion on Houston freeways. Yes, I have been on them before, but only for short distances. Maybe a mile or two at most. Today, I decided to take a longer trip.
I left the house at 6:36 am, having slept in in celebration of the Fourth. I entered Interstate 10, eastbound, at the entrance ramp just east of Heights. I worked my way over to the far left lane to exit onto Interstate 45, northbound. Traffic was light, but there were 18 wheelers to dodge around. Boy do they look big from the back of a bike.
I took the exit turn from I-10 to I-45 at the speed limit. I didn't want to run out of road on my first high-speed sharp turn. Everything went smoothly.
Originally, I planned to exit at North Main and do the twisties on White Oak. However, I was having so much fun that I decided to rack up some more miles and take I-45 all the way to Loop 610.
I headed westbound on Loop 610 and stayed on it till the TC Jester exit. That gave me 9 miles of freeway riding. The Rebel did fine, but with a top speed of 78 mph, there is not much room for quick acceleration on freeways. I don't expect to pass many Houston drivers, but I have enough speed to keep up with most of the pack.
I took the curves of TC Jester all the way southbound to Washington Avenue. I took Washington to Studemont, and then back home. I now have 425 miles on the odometer and I have 495 miles on the bike. Tomorrow, I make mile 500, for sure.
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July 3, 2005:
New records today, and four key events.
First, I got in my longest (in miles) ride, riding 34 miles.
Second, I got in my longest (in minutes) ride, at one hour, twenty-five minutes of riding.
Third I put mile 400 on the odometer.
Fourth, I put mile 400 on the odometer on Loop 610, while going 78 mph*.
I have actually riden 477 miles so far. The broken speedometer cable has made calcutaions weird, to say the least. Today I knew that, with a little effort, I could get the odometer to the 400 mark. I did the back roads off 6th, then the curves on TC Jester. My plan was to go to the end of TC Jester. Unfortunately, a Sunday morning train blocked the way. I doubled back until I found a place to cross the tracks. I then returned to TC Jester and rode it to the end of the street.
On the way back I encountered another train. I headed eastbound parallel to the track to look for an intersection that could go over, or under, the railroad tracks. I went all the way to Shepard before finding anything. A glance at the odometer showed that, with a little luck, I could be on the freeway when I hit mile 400.
I got on 610 right after Shepard, headed westbound, and practiced head checks and lane changes at speed. I got off at TC Jester, went past Louisito's Mexican Restaurant, and took a back road over to TC Jester, which I took to the 610 feeder road. Going eastbound, I got on the freeway. It was cloudy, so no sun in my eyes. Traffic was light.
When I got on the freeway I started accelerating. I was watching the traffic, watching the odometer and watching the speedometer. I topped a hill and wound the throttle all the way to its stop point. I watched the speedometer climb to 78 mph*. I was going that speed when the odometer turned over to mile 400. What a way to celebrate that milestone. I'm pretty sure that is the top speed of the Rebel.
I got off the freeway, headed southbound on Durham to Washington, over to Studemont, and on back home. It was a great ride. Because of the extra 70 miles while the speedometer cable was broken, I am closing in on mile 500. And still having a blast.
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July 2, 2005:
This morning I got in my longest ride so far. I am pushing hard to get to the 500 mile mark. Today I took the curves on Memorial. Traffic was heavy during the 7 o'clock rush hour. On Saturdays the rush hour for Memorial is from 5 to 8 am because of all the joggers. Today was no exception. Tons of people were already at the Memorial Park trail. Once I cleared the park, however, Memorial Drive was pretty deserted. It makes a nice morning ride, with speed limits of 35 mph most of the way. Some areas are 40 mph and some are 30 mph. Keeps you on your toes. I took Memorial all the way (westbound) to Gessner. Then back downtown, so I could get in some time at a 50 mph speed limit. Memorial is a great drive, other than the gap in the center seam. (See my blog for June 24, 2005).
Nothing unusual to report. No close calls. Just lots of fun. The ride lasted 30 miles.
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July 1, 2005:
Today I got in 10 miles this morning. I did the twisties on White Oak and the back roads of 6th street. The only thing worth reporting is that I noticed I was grining widely as I was doing the twisties. I guess that means that I am still having a blast, even on these short rides.
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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.