* * * * *
November 30, 2005:
Today it was 38 degrees when I got up to feed Sarah. Too cold to hit the road and enjoy the ride. However, after a while the temperature had climbed to 45 degrees. I decided I had been away from the workday freeway circuit too long. So, after breakfast, I suited up (in winter garb) and headed for the garage.
I checked the air in the tires and discovered that Stubbs had aired them up to 36 psi. My manual says 29 psi, so I let out seven pounds of air from each tire, and was on my way. I warmed up and entered I-10 going west. I took the 610 exit, and then went south on I-45, back to I-10. I did this twice. Traffic was very light. I made excellent time. I made excellent speeds. I made excellent fun.
I was tempted to keep riding, but I had to get to work, and I was already running late. So I headed back to the house. I had 7267 miles on the bike when I rode up to the driveway. It was good to be back on the Rebel for a nice ride.
* * * * *
November 29, 2005:
Last night on the weather they were predicting low 40's for this morning. My original plan was to drive the Rebel to Stubbs for its regular maintenance visit early Tuesday morning. But I did not like the idea of riding at 40 degrees. Still, Maria's schedule allowed her to ferry me back home after I dropped the bike off in the morning, and get me to Stubbs again at the end of the day to pick up my ride. I went to bed hoping for a warm front.
Sadly, the day dawned at 43 degrees. Ugh. Fortunately for my bones, Stubbs does not open until 9 am. I figured if we left at 8:30 in the morning it was bound to be warmer than at 5:30. Which it was.
After feeding Sarah, and fixing breakfast, we headed for Stubbs at about 8:15 in the morning. I checked the thermometer just before we left, and it registered a sultry 50 degrees.
I took I-10 east to I-45, and the Gulf Freeway to Telephone. Traffic wasn't too bad, and the riding temperatures were quite bearable. Maria followed in her Jeep.
When I pulled up in front of Stubbs, David, their service manager, was just opening up. It was not yet nine o'clock. Still, he took down the information and wrote me up. With his assurances that the work would be completed by five this afternoon, I left the Rebel in the capable hands of Stubbs Cycles, and headed back home to change into a business suit for today's work. My first client appointment isn't until one, so everything is working out. Stay tuned.
At about 5:45 pm Maria and I piled into her Jeep and headed for Stubbs. I had dressed in my winter garb, and had grabbed my jacket, boots and helmet. Stubbs had called me around 3 pm to tell me the bike was ready. They close at seven. Plenty of time.
When we arrived, I went in to pay for the scheduled maintenance. $175.00 for new oil, new plugs and the other items on the 8000 mile checkup. Not a bad deal, all considered. I am impressed with the service department. And I was most happy that everything was done in one day, so I didn't miss any riding.
It was already dark when I finished paying. I went back to the Jeep, retrieved my helmet and jacket, and headed out. I got about 50 feet when it happened.
The DynaGlide Low Riders in the Harley section of Stubbs kept calling me. Oh, I resisted their Siren song for now. But, since Maria was already at Stubbs, why not show her my dreamcycle.
She was properly impressed. The salesman told us we could get one for $16,000 (before tax, title and license). Right. I figure at least $20,000 to do it up right.
Anyway, after viewing all the Harleys, we headed out. I had suggested we eat at the Loma Linda Mexican Restaurant on Telephone Road, just the other side of I-45. Maria and I had started going to a Loma Linda restaurant when we were attending U of H. There was one in the old Palm Center, and we would walk there most Sundays. The menu at the Loma Linda on Telephone says the first restaurant began in May of 1956 in a building that was formerly a motorcycle shop. Seems appropriate.
After a great meal, we headed home, with Maria guarding my six. Traffic was heavy on I-45. For a long time it was more "stop" than "go." I was especially alert for impatient lane changers. Fortunately, there were no close calls. Speeds picked up around the Pierce Elevated, and I was home before I knew it. The odometer now reads 7248. I'm not sure what I am doing for tomorrow's ride, given the low temperatures forecast for the morning. We'll see.
* * * * *
November 28, 2005:
It was 54 degrees when I arose this morning. Sarah was more than ready for her walk after her "vacation" in Midland. After walking her, I arranged for her breakfast. I then suited up and headed out.
The air in the tires was still fine. I warmed up and headed for I-10. Time to resume my regular clockwise freeway circuit. But, because I hadn't ridden for such a stretch during Thanksgiving, I decided to limit my freeway travel to a single circuit. Always cautious.
I had a great ride. Traffic was medium but it was nice to see some high speeds. At one point a truck decided to change into my lane. Because of the location, I had no lane to retreat into. Fortunately, the driver saw me at the last second. Plus, I had noticed his move right away and squeezed my front brake. Not really close, but it did show me that I can lose my "edge" after a few days of not riding. I would like to think that I would have never let the trucker get as close as he did if I had been riding regularily.
Anyway, after completing the circuit, I headed back for the house. I had logged sixteen miles in short order. And I got my sea legs back. I now have 7226 miles on the Rebel.
* * * * *
November 27, 2005:
After three long days without riding, I am back. Maria, Sarah and I have been away at my parents' house in Midland, Texas, for Thanksgiving. We had a great time. Sarah rested up. Maria and my mom contributed to the local economy and my dad and I practiced wildlife management.
I brought the double barrel side-by-side 12 gauge shotgun I use in cowboy action shooting with me for our quail hunt. Just before Thanksgving I had purchased a hunting license from a local Academy store. On Wednesday night, after we arrived in Midland, Dad asked me if I had my hunting license. I replied that I had already taken care of that problem. Dad then asked me if I had purchased an upland bird stamp. What? Yes, the "tax-hating" Republicans in Austin had passed a law that now, to hunt quail, you have to have a special stamp in addition to your hunting license. Not a stamp, really. Not like you have always had to do for ducks, but a simple notation that you have paid extra ($7.00) for the privilege of shooting the King's birds. Well, one kind of bird, anyway.
Fortunately for me, Walmart was open on Thanksgiving. So, after a traditional (and delicious) full Thanksgiving feast, I drove off to Walmart where I paid the needed tribute required for the State to allow me to hunt quail on non-state owned private land. I was sure glad it was a user fee and not a tax. That way I didn't have to get upset at the party of small government.
Anyway, on Friday morning Dad and I went quail hunting. More precisely, I went hunting and he went "finding." Mostly we saw blues. Blue quail like to run instead of using the "flush-flight" pattern you get with Bob Whites. And they run fast. All that running means you have to shoot them on the ground, or not at all. Sometimes they would run in groups. Sometimes they would scatter in all directions. I am proud to say that one time on Friday I got a "two-fer." That's a single shot that nets you two birds because they were so close together. Mostly, however, I missed. By the end of the day my Dad had out shot me two to one, and we weren't anywhere near our limit of 15 birds each. Still, it was great fun. And, as I kept expending rounds of ammo, I got my "swing" back sufficiently for me to want to have another go at it on Saturday.
Which we did. I did much better on Saturday. I had two "two-fer" shots and one time I got four birds out of a covey in three shots. How, I can hear you asking, can you get three shots out of a double barrel shotgun? Well, without reloading, you can't. And quail don't usually stick around for reloading. What I did was pick out a particular quail on my left and fire the first barrel Because the quail I picked was next to another bird, I got the "two-fer" (a fact I only learned later). The remaining quail quickly scattered. I swung on one as it flew to my right and nailed it on the wing. That counted as a double (two birds in two shots from the same covey). I was out of ammo, but not all the quail had flown. Some were still under a mesquite tree. Dad passed me his Remington 870 twenty gauge pump and I fingered off the safety and shot another quail. By the time I pumped the shotgun, the rest of the covey had departed for parts unknown. I put the safety back on and handed Dad his gun, got mine in return, and headed over to retrieve my birds. Four birds in under three seconds. I should have gone home in triumph. I knew I'd not have another run like that.
But we continued to hunt all afternoon. It was great weather, and we did a lot of kidding about easy shots missed and remarkable shots made. A great Thanksgiving weekend with the guy who taught me to hunt.
It was hot both days, and we wore snake chaps because of the heat. Fortunately, we never encountered rattlers in the field. However, on the way to a windmill to field dress the birds, we came across a giant rattlesnake sunning himself in the roadway. I estimate the snake to have been at least five feet long. Very big around. And very fast. I watched him slither into the brush, with his rattler on full loud. Glad it was the end of the day. Nothing gives me the willies like an encounter with a rattlesnake early in a day outdoors. Puts a whole new gloss on the outing.
Anyway, we cleaned twenty-two birds. Not a bad day's hunting in West Texas. Dad had outshot me again, but not by much. It was two days of hunting I will always remember.
It made the time away from my bike bearable. Which is my excuse for relating all the details in this motorcycle blog.
This morning we headed back to Houston. As soon as we got home, we unpacked the car, called my parents to let them know we had arrived safely, and I fed Sarah. Then, without further ado, I suited up and headed for the bike.
I told Maria I was going to do a bookend run and repeat my destination of Wednesday. I was going to the post office to pick up for mail.
I checked the air in the tires, sure I would have to add at least a little to each. However, for whatever reason, both tires were still at 29 psi. Go figure. I fired up the bike and headed out. It was in the 70's. Great riding.
I decided to take the long way to the post office box. I hadn't specified the exact route, and I had none of the time pressures present on Wednesday. I warmed up on the back streets off of Sixth. At one point I rounded a corner, just as it was turning dark. I was on a black bike, wearing a black helmet, and a black jacket. A group of young girls playing in a yard let loose with screams upon seeing me turn the corner. I must have looked like a dark apparition on two wheels. Oh, the joys of biking.
I weaved my way to Shepherd and then headed north to 19th Street. From there I headed east to Yale. I took Yale south to the Post Office. I parked, retrieved the mail, and stuffed it in the backpack I had slipped on at the beginning of the ride.
Before I knew it, I was back home. I now have 7210 miles on the bike. Tomorrow I hope to get in a more normal ride, with much higher speeds and longer seat time. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
November 23, 2005:
Today, because of my schedule, I could only work in a quick morning ride. The temperature was 46 degrees when I got up. As I went out to get the paper, it seemed warmer than the mercury acknowledged. I fed Sarah, suited up, and headed out. I had told Maria that I was just running to the post office to pick up the mail in our P.O. box.
Once I got on the bike, my resolution waivered. But I decided that the post office it was. Still, no one could begrudge me the necessity of warming up, so I took the back roads off 6th to do so. They are (sort of) on the way.
I ended up on Shepherd, and took it north to 11th. There, I headed east to the post office. Although the temperatures felt nice when walking around, I could feel the chill when riding. Fortunately, I had put on most of my winter garb, so it wasn't too bad.
When I got to our P.O. box I had a pleasant surprise. Waiting for me was the latest issue of Ride Texas magazine. It is one of my favorite biker mags. Vicarious reading for the weekend.
All to soon, I was back home. As I pulled up to the driveway I noted I now have 7205 miles on the bike. Right on schedule. To all my readers, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
* * * * *
November 22, 2005:
Today it was 43 degrees again when I awoke. For the same reasons as yesterday, I decided to reschedule my morning ride for later in the day.
By the time I headed out this afternoon it was after 5:30 pm. But Sarah was fed, and I was suited up. I checked the air and almost got the bike out of the garage before a gaggle of boys showed up to wish me off. Well, they really wanted to play with the throttle, but their hearts were in the right place. I gave each of them a turn reving up the motor, then I headed out.
After yesterday's lessons on traffic control, I decided to head west on I-10 in my normal workday clockwise circuit. Traffic wasn't too bad till I hit North Loop around Shepherd. This is where it was bad yesterday. And it was equally as bad today. I traveled at about 25 mph clear to I-45. After I got on I-45 the speeds picked up. I hadn't put on my PolarTec shirt because the temperatures were in the 70's, but I quickly regretted that decision. When I was stuck creeping along at 25 mph, all was well. But at highway speeds I could really feel the cool.
I started my second circuit but became really clogged down the instant I got on the North Loop. This time the traffic was backed up clear to before TC Jester. I took that exit and made my way south all the way to I-10. I got back on I-10, headed west. I hoped to log mile 7200 at a high rate of speed while traveling toward Taylor. Sadly, the traffic had other ideas. I-10 was clogged. I took the Studemont exit and watched the odometer roll over as I passed above White Oak Bayou. Not momentous, but at least I made it before Wednesday. And, when I rolled up to the driveway, the odometer read 7200.9.
* * * * *
November 21, 2005:
This morning it was 43 outside in the Heights. But the predicted high this afternoon is 67. Let's see: 43 versus 67. I ride for fun. Thus, I opted for an afternoon ride.
When I got home from work I fed Sarah and suited up. The temperature was 66 degrees by the time I headed out, but seemed lower. I checked the computer to see where the traffic jams were. They were everywhere. It seemed unlikely that I would be able to get far before encountering stop and go traffic.
I checked the air in the tires and headed for the gas station. I topped off the tank and decided, since I had to go eastbound on the service road anyway, I would do the freeway circuit in a counterclockwise direction. I headed east on I-10 and then north on I-45. Traffic was heavy on I-45 till I got to the exit for Loop 610. It then thinned out all the way till Shepherd. As I approached the West Loop, things thickened up considerably. In fact, my speed was under 10 mph all the way to the I-10 exit. Then we got back to the speed limit.
I decided to go for a second loop. I had carefully monitored the traffic on the other side of the freeway during my first circuit, and I figured I could make good time if I reversed my direction and headed clockwise. Which is what I did. Things went fine for most of the trip. There was a little stretch where speeds dropped to about 25 mph. Fortunately, I had a nice thirty mile ride. Although it was getting steadily cooler, I stayed warm during the ride. It helped, of course, that I had put on my winter garb. By about 6:45 pm I had mile 7174 on the bike. Still on schedule to hit mile 7200 by Wednesday.
* * * * *
November 20, 2005:
I got to bed later than usual last night. First, Maria and I went out to eat and we stopped by a Half Price Books afterwards. We left as the store was closing at ten. That meant I got back to the house late. And second, I still had my blog to write. In fact, it was officially Sunday when I finished. And I had to be at the Renaissance Festival by 8:45 a.m. to see Stacy perform at the preshow opening. Stacy is a wonderful actress that works in my building. That meant we had to be on the road by seven in the morning. And I still wanted to get in a morning ride, since I intended to partake of the noble grape at the fair, and wouldn't be riding after we got back.
I got up at 5:00 a.m., and got dressed. I think Sarah was wondering what was going on. She might not have gotten enough sleep. I fed her and headed out. The temperature was 57. In the neighborhood, the streets were a little damp from the overnight rain/mist. I was hopeful that the freeways would be dry, because I wanted to rack up thirty miles before we headed to Plantersville.
After warming up, I got on I-10, headed west. I figured I could take the first exit if the roads were wet. Fortunately, they had been blown dry by the overnight traffic. And there were few cars out at five in the morning. So I had an easy time logging my thirty miles. The only change I made in my normal routine was to slow down a little extra in the curves.
Before I knew it, I was back home with 7143 miles on the bike, and a whole day at the fair ahead of me. Life is good.
* * * * *
November 19, 2005:
Yesterday, Nadine came by the building. We were having our Thanksgiving Luncheon. She was in my office, visiting with Cynthia and me, when her cell phone rang. John, her husband, was calling. He asked to speak to me. It was then, for the first time, that I learned he had rented a Harley again. He knew, from reading my blog, that Saturday was on schedule to be my 7000th mile run. He asked me if I had decided where I was going. I told him I was thinking about Galveston. He asked me if I wanted company. I said that sounded fun, but that I didn't plan to start my ride until 10 a.m., because of the predicted cold temperatures. He was picking up the bike at the Harley dealership in the Woodlands at nine. We made arrangements to meet at my place by ten, and go from there.
Saturday morning, around 3 a.m., Sarah and I snuck downstairs for some milk and cookies. Well, I had the milk and cookies. Sarah just stared at me. Anyway, around four, I climbed back in bed and slept soundly until 6:30. That is late for me. I got up, got the paper, fed Sarah and checked email. We took Sarah for her walk, then I showered.
Maria was fixing breakfast. I added air to both tires, and wheeled the Rebel out to the driveway. As I walked back into the house, the doorbell rang. Jason and Roman, some of the neighborhood boys, were ready for breakfast. I don't know if I have told this story, but a few weekends back Maria fixed breakfast for some of the kids, and now we have a steady stream of visitors on weekends.
Jason was jumping up and down when he learned we were eating in, and he was invited. Roman was happy too. Jason called his mom, and Sharon soon appeared. Earlier, I had made ten cups of coffee for Maria, John, me and a little surplus. I announced there would be no "kid" coffee this morning. We had gone through our supply of whole beans. As a substitute, I made freshly squeezed orange juice. Maria let the boys crack and fix their own eggs. Bacon soon arrived, along with Sharon. Maria started some homemade muffins. I made Sharon some orange juice, and poured her a cup of coffee. Wonderful smells filled the kitchen.
Just as everyone was finishing breakfast, the boys ran up to tell me that John had arrived on his Harley. I poured him a cup of coffee, and got out the maps from The Roads of Texas, so we could figure out our route. I had checked the thermometer earlier in the morning and it was 57 degrees out. I slipped on my PolarTec Wind Bloc shirt, added the Draggin' Jeans Kevlar shirt, and we were ready. I got my helmet, jacket and glove liners, and we headed for the bikes. Just before this Nicole, another neighbor, had arrived to remind Roman that he needed to leave soon for his french lessons. Thus, there was quite a crowd to see us off.
We both started our engines. My Honda ran quiet. John's Harley Low Rider had a nice guttural sound. With farwell waves to the assembled well-wishers, we were off, with Sharon singing "Bad to the Bone" as we left.
Before takeoff, I told John that we were going to take my warmup route to the twisties on White Oak so he could experience the ride he had read about so many time. Only later did I learn that he had cheated again and done the twisties on the way over.
We warmed up on the back roads off of Sixth Street. We took Shepherd to 14th, and 14th Street to Houston Avenue. We then got on White Oak, did the twisties, and continued west all the way to Heights Blvd. We went south on Heights so I could stop to top off my gas tank.
Next, we entered I-10, headed east. We quickly eased over into the second lane from the left, and merged onto I-45. We took I-45 south to Highway 288, and then took Loop 610, headed for FM 521. Sadly, there is no exit for FM 521 going west on the Loop. So, I took the Kirby exit, u-turned, then went right at the first light after the sign for FM 521. Wrong street. Here I was again, reliving wrong turns. John had to save the day, just as he had last Saturday. He got us back on track. Tactfully, he let me retake the lead, in spite of my sterling record on back roads.
We headed south on FM 521, toward Angelton. I was reminded of a key difference in driving cars and riding bikes when we came upon a very light shower. The road got that wonderfully distinctive smell that only comes when long-dry pavement first gets wet. We were also treated to the smells of wood smoke and BBQ joints. Ah, the benefits of two wheels.
I don't have anything nice to tell about FM 521 except that it is not Highway 288. Maria tells me that the rumor is that all the cops are on 288. That was irrelevant to us, because we were always observant of the speed limit signs. Read that sentence carefully. It is absolutely true.
There were two unusual events. First, a driver in the left-hand lane decided he had to arc out into the right-hand lane to make a left-hand turn. Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, I was in that right-hand lane. Fortunately, he only took up about a third of my lane. No big deal.
The other weird event was that, as we got closer to Angelton, I looked up to see a large pickup truck facing me in my lane of travel. And the pickup was going backwards at a high rate of speed. Needless to say, this was disconcerting. Before I could figure out what was happening, the pickup turned to the right, and it was revealed that a small tow-truck was hauling the pickup. And the tow-truck had been completely concealed by the large size of the pickup. Good grief.
When we came to County Road 44 I took it to the left. We were looking for FM 523. County Road 44 quickly intersected FM 523. I took a right, to continue our southernly journey. Another wrong move. We had to go north a little ways before 523 curved around to the south. So, once again, I was playing Wrongway Corrigan. I pulled over, John and I conferred, and I went with the realtor's suggestion.
Back on course, we continued down FM 523. A black pickup pulled onto the road between John and me. The driver was hot to trot. He was tailgating me. I pulled onto the emergency shoulder to let him pass. As he did so, I glanced down at my odometer and realized I was four tenths of a mile shy of mile 7000.
I had briefly thought about doing something spectacular for mile 7000. Something like riding the bike without my hands on the controls. There were two problems with this. First, I didn't relish the idea of trying this stunt for the first time while going 70 mph.* Secondly, and every bit as significant, I was fast approaching a series of "S" turns on FM 523. So I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and racheted up my speed and concentrated on cutting the proper line through the curves. Which is what I was doing as mile 6999.9 became mile 7000.0.
Right after I logged mile 7000 a big truck pulled into our lane. It was carrying some kind of weird, oversized load. It was hard to see around, and the roads were double-yellowed lots of the time. Finally, I saw a gap and pulled around. It helped that the trucker had eased over to the side some. Once in front of the truck, I let up on my speed and waited for John to pass. It was a while before we came to a safe stretch for John to pull around too. What I learned at lunch was that John was back there watching one of the truckers back tires bubble up like it was about to become a dozen road gators. And I hadn't even noticed the tire. Ugh. Just goes to show you there are a thousand things to watch for when on a bike. And one more reason to avoid being near big trucks.
In fairly short order we were on the bridge for Surfside. That was the second neatest part of this trip. One second you are in the flatlands and the next second you are on top of a bridge, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. A gulf that hadn't even hinted at its presence before the bridge. Spectacular.
We went left at Surfside. That's northeast. I let John take the lead since we were in his country. The first thing I noticed when he took over was that it got really cold. It had been warming up as we had continued on FM 523, but once we were riding next to the surf, things cooled off rapidly. And we had over forty miles of surfside to travel. Thank heavens for the view. That was the only distraction from the cold.
We finally made it to the toll bridge into Galveston. The toll is $2.00. Neither John nor I were sure whether bikers had to pay a toll. And we didn't find out today. When we got to the toll booth, there was a sign saying "No Toll Today." Maybe someone was sick. Anyway, we rolled through with an extra two dollars each for lunch.
Just before we had lunch, John turned left down a street in Sea Isle, where he and Nadine have a beach house. I had not seen it before, so I was glad to have a chance at last. The house is next to Dawson's Creek. OK, maybe I am exercising some poetic license, but I did see a street sign that made me think of the TV Series. Anyway, we pulled into a driveway and John gave me the tour. I was impressed with all the trim work that had been done. Also, they have an incredible wood floor that isn't really wood. John said it was linoleum. Hard to believe. It looked and felt like real wood. Very neat.
We warmed up a little after our surfside ride, then we headed for the Seven Seas Grocery and gas station so we could fill up our tanks. Next, we headed for a restaurant. John wanted to try Cafe Michael Burger. Sounded like a good last name. Surprisingly, their speciality is hamburgers. And they are proud of them. John says the place stays full during the week. It was pretty empty on this cold afternoon. But the burgers were good. So were the $2.79 french fries and the $3.19 onion rings. Eleven dollars for a burger and fries and drink. No Wendy's specials here. But the food was good, and the restaurant was warm.
After we pulled up to the restaurant I had the chance to try out my new helmet extensions. We used them both, and attached both helmets to the tiny helmet lock on the Rebel. Pretty neat.
I had put on my do-rag after attaching the helmets. After placing our orders I stretched out at a table near the windows. A very attractive forty-something female entered the establishment and took a table near us. She was wearing knee-high boots, black hose and a bluejean skirt. She also had a young girl, perhaps five years old, with her. And a gentleman who could have been either a boyfriend, spouse or father. Hard to tell. He mostly ignored her, as he read a local paper.
Anyway, the point of this story is that she kept looking over at me and smiling. And it was a nice smile. I would like to think she was taken with the dashing picture I made, lounging in my chair with motorcycle boots, motorcycle jacket, and a great do-rag. On the other hand, she may have been nervous that we were going to raid, pillage, and plunder her town, and been trying to make sure we left her and the child alone. Either way, it is interesting how the motorcycle gard get me reactions that I am not used to. We could ask John his opinion, but, because of where he was sitting, I had this fantasy all to myself. Oh well.
After my admirer left, I agreed it was time to be on our way. We headed out into the cold, and continued down the road to 61st Street. We were going about 45 mph. I decided it was as good a time as any to practice The Bird. That's my term for riding your bike with your arms extended straight out to the sides, no hands on the controls. I call it The Bird because of the scene in Easy Rider where I first saw the technique. I was successful in my attempts, which I repeated several times. I don't know if John noticed my antics in his rearview mirror. If he did, he decided to keep his opinions about my sanity to himself. Anyway, we continued to 61st Street, where we turned left toward Broadway. We got on Broadway and entered I-45.
Traffic was medium on I-45. I turned mile 7100 somewhere along the way north on I-45, but I missed watching the odometer log the event.
As we got closer to town I assumed the lead again to escort us back to the house. When we reached the Pierce Elevated, I decided on one last detour. I took the Allen Parkway exit and we did the curves on Allen Parkway. We then headed north on Shepherd to 11th Street. We then headed east. At the light for Waugh, I had to make an abrupt stop. I felt the back tire wobble back and forth. I don't think it was locked up. I didn't feel like I was ever in danger, but I don't know why I wobbled. John thought it might be from the uneven nature of the road. Who knows. Anyway, we took Oxford south to 7-1/2 and on up to the driveway. We parked the bikes and I noted I had 7114 miles on the Rebel. It was 3:50 p.m. That means we had a 177 mile long journey, which lasted five and a half pleasant hours. And John logged even more, going from the dealership to my house and back.
After a quick coke, John headed out. We had had another fine day of riding, even counting the cold weather along the beach. Tomorrow will be a short ride, because Maria and I are going to the last day of the Texas Renaissance Festival. In her Jeep. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
November 18, 2005:
Today I had to get moving even earlier than usual. Maria and a friend are taking a British Solicitor to lunch, and she had to be gone early. Sarah seemed resigned to not getting her walk. When I took her outside to get the paper it was 47 degrees and cloudy. No wind.
After feeding Sarah, I suited up and headed out, in full winter garb. It was barely 5:45 am.
The streets were mostly empty. I hardly met anyone except for one stretch when I was between a couple of cars and the paperboy. Mostly, I had the streets to myself. The polyproplene gloves handled the 47 degrees with style. I did not feel the cold.
I took Oxford to 11th, then 11th to Houston, and on to White Oak. No one else was on White Oak, so I had a great time on the twisties. They're fun, even in the dark.
This was a quick ride. I was back at the house about ten minutes after six. After parking the bike I headed inside. Sarah was waiting for me, her tail wagging. I guess she is a forgiving female. And I will have to make up all the missed walks, starting tonight.
For the record, I now have 6937 miles on the bike, and am right on schedule to have a momentous 7000 mile ride on Saturday. See you on the road.
* * * * *
November 17, 2005:
It was another walkless morning for Sarah. The radio was reporting temperatures of 36 degrees. When I got up, I slipped on my silk long johns, PolarTec Wind Bloc shirt and riding jeans. Sarah seemed to understand what that meant. Maria wasn't as sure. I thought I heard some mumbles about insanity and wind chill, but I couldn't be sure.
Anyway, Sarah and I went out for the paper, then I fed her and let her out in the back. She seemed to enjoy the chilly temperatures. My inside/outside thermometer said it was 40 degrees outside. The sky was cloudless and the moon was full. Fortunately, there was no wind.
I checked my email while I waited for Sarah to do her business. When she arrived at the back door, I let her in and slipped on my helmet and jacket. Time to be off.
I added glove liners and boots, and I was on my way. I decided on another short ride for this morning. Not because of the cold temperatures, mind you. Oh no, I wanted a short ride because I am still figuring out my route for my momentous 7000 mile ride.
Right. It was cold. My fingers were cold. My face was really cold. Even with the visor down and the front vent closed, a full face helmet lets in lots of air through the area around the chin. And today that air was cold. Unpleasantly cold. Made me glad I had decided on a short ride.
I started north on Oxford, toward 11th. Immediately a car pulled up behind me. I decided to leave the choke on all the way to 11th. I didn't want to stall out at a stop sign with a tailgater behind me. You can't depend on the motorist behind you stopping if you have to stop. So I waited till I was on 11th to unchoke the bike. After that, everything was fine.
Traffic was a little heavier than I expected that early in the morning. When I pulled onto Houston Avenue there were three cars ahead of me. I didn't want a repeat of yesterday's ride down White Oak, with a slow van ruining the twisties. Fortunately, two of the cars entered I-45. The lone survivor was a Mustang, and a Mustang is no van! It quickly pulled away, leaving me alone. As I entered White Oak I had the road to myself.
Someone once said that if you're having fun, the weather doesn't matter. For at least for the length of the twisties, I didn't feel the cold. Taking the turns warmed my soul, if not my fingers. All to soon, however, the twisties were behind me. But the cold was still around. Ugh. Time to go home.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had logged a frigid four miles in a little less than fifteen minutes. It was cold. My fingers were cold. My face was cold. I was cold. But I had 6933 miles on the bike, and the rest of the day to warm up for tomorrow's adventure.
* * * * *
November 16, 2005:
The front that blew in yesterday afternoon was here in full force this morning. It was windy and cold. As in 46 degrees. I patiently explained to Sarah that it was too cold for her walk and went back to sleep. She was totally understanding. That is, until I suited up for my motorcycle ride. I put on my winter garb before taking her down to get the paper and eat her breakfast. When I went to the closet to get my helmet and jacket, she let me know that we had forgotten something. Something called a walk. She didn't look happy when, instead of my walking jacket, I grabbed my helmet. Sorry.
I decided, in honor of the low temperatures, to make the ride short. I warmed up (the bike only), and took Heights to 11th Street. I took 11th to Houston Avenue, and on to the twisties on White Oak. The wind chill wasn't too bad with all my equipment on, but I did close the front vent in the helmet. Even so, I could really feel the cold on my face.
Sadly, I caught up with--and got stuck behind--an Aerostar Van for most of the curves. And the van was only going 25 mph. Let me tell you, even the twisties on White Oak can't compensate for such low speeds. I had to content myself with remembrances of rides past. Oh well.
I logged five cold (and slow) miles this morning. The odometer now reads 6929. Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder. We'll see.
* * * * *
November 15, 2005:
They say today will be our last day of warm mornings for a while. It was seventy degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. After her breakfast, I suited up for another short ride. I still haven't figured out what to do about my mile 7000 ride. To buy time, I decided to do a single workday circuit, using the old counterclockwise route.
This morning the sky was dotted with small clouds. Today, just after lunch, a cold front is expected to roar in with rain and lightning.
Ten hours ago the sky was markedly different. Last night, after an aborted dinner with a lawyer-friend who got stuck in a mediation that dragged on far longer than anyone expected, Maria and I were headed home. It was about 8:15 pm. There, in the northwestern sky, I saw the biggest shooting star I have ever seen. OK, I know it was a meteor, and not a star. But it sure was shooting. The trail/tail was bigger than the width of a pencil. And the final burst was a lot bigger than a pencil eraser. I have never seen a meteor with as wide a streak and as big a finish. It was really something. But back to this morning.
Today's weather gave no hint of things to come. It was perfect riding weather. Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded of why I have modified my workday circuit. I had warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street, and I headed east on I-10. I then took I-45 north to Loop 610. Traffic started getting a little heavier. I headed west on the Loop. By the time I was crossing Shepherd, the traffic was really starting to slow down. At the merge for Highway 290, it completely stopped. No accident. Just lots of drivers. I inched my way south to the exit for I-10, and headed east again. Traffic thinned out, and I completed my ride in style. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6924 miles on the bike, but it had taken me till seven am to do so. Time for breakfast, a shower, then off to work.
* * * * *
November 14, 2005:
Today it was warm again. They say we will have colder temperatures later in the week, but today dawned at sultry 70 degrees. No need for winter garb. Sarah, however, voiced her need for her morning walk.
After that ritual, I fed her, suited up and headed out. I checked the air in the tires and was on my way. I decided to go for a short ride this morning. Mile 7000 is coming up, and I have not figured out where I want to be when I log it. If I keep to my normal pace, I'll be somewhere on Loop 610. That lacks something in the romance department. Anyway, I needed only 15 miles to make it to mile 6900, so I decided to do a solitary workday circuit this morning.
It was foggy. Foggier than even last week. Mist got on my face shield. Fog had settled onto the grass of a couple of empty lots. The top of the downtown skyline was obscured. Still, the fog did not create any problems during my ride. And, before I knew it, I was at mile 6900. I logged that event just before taking the Shepherd/Durham exit home on I-10.
It was a fun ride, even though short. The temperature, at seventy degrees, was just about perfect for riding. And traffic was light. No close calls. A good start to the week, and 6902 miles on the bike.
* * * * *
November 13, 2005:
Today I relaxed by not jumping on the bike before the crack of dawn. In fact, I had a leisurely morning. Of course, Sarah demanded her walk, but I also had time for breakfast and coffee before the riding bug bit.
Anyway, at about 9 a.m., I suited up and headed out. I told Maria that I was going to take a short ride, and would be back before she knew it. And, as I headed for the garage, I really meant it.
But, of course, once I got on the bike, the magic started happening, and plans began to morph. I headed to the gas station and topped off the tank. I then got on I-10, headed east. Plan A was to take the downtown exit, do Memorial Drive and head on back. But, as I eased down the freeway, I switched to Plan B. I would take I-10 to US 59, take that north to Loop 610, take 610 west to I-45, then get on Memorial. This would add a few miles to the trip, and some variety.
So I headed north on Highway 59. Then Plan C popped into my head. I could go to Cycle Gear, see if they were open (why let your fingers do the walking when you own a bike?) and then head south on I-45 to Memorial. That would add even more miles to the trip. And, since they would be freeway miles, it wouldn't add much time. So I passed up the Loop 610 exit and continued north on 59.
Cycle Gear is a great motorcycle store located just off the Beltway 8 exit on I-45. Yes, I said I-45. Not Highway 59. Oops. When I took the exit before Beltway 8 I saw a billboard for Kanes Western Wear. I rode over for a look in the window. It was full of interesting items. But they didn't open till noon. It wasn't even ten oclock. I decided to zip over to Cycle Gear and see when they opened. It was then that I realized I was on the wrong freeway. Oh well. What to do? Plan D: relax and enjoy the ride. I was on FM 525. I took it all the way to I-45. I was then too far north for Cycle Gear. I got on the I-45 feeder, did a u-turn, and doubled back.
In short order I was in the parking lot for Cycle Gear. They were closed. But the sign said they opened at ten on Sundays. A glance at my watch showed me it was ten till ten. Good. Time to practice quick stops and tight turns in a nearby (empty) parking lot. Which I did. For ten minutes. Until the store opened.
I returned to the store, parked my bike and took off my helmet and gloves. My do-rag went on my head. Before entering the place of business, I used my cell phone to call Maria and let her know that I was going to be home later than I had predicted, but probably sooner than she had predicted. I didn't get to hear her reply because she must have been outside. I gratefully left a message on the message machine.
Once inside the store, I saw lots of goodies to buy. I settled on three things. Brad was on duty. We started talking about my concern about being in the hinterland with a flat. I said I guess I would start carrying Fix-A-Flat. He said there was a similiar product made by ThreeBond specifically for motorcycles. It was called Seal-'N'-Air. It is like a miniature Fix-A-Flat, with just enough air for motorcycles. It cost nine bucks, and seemed good insurance. Next. I found a helmet lock extension manufactured by MC Enterprises. This is an ingenious device to give one some extra room in attaching the D-ring to the helmet lock bar. I decided it would save me much cussing, and, at seven dollars, it was a good investment. The small end has a hole in it for the helmet lock. The small end fits through the D-ring and the bar terminates in a "T" shape that is larger than the diameter of the D-ring. You slip the hole in the small end into the bar of the helmet lock and, voila, you are ready to leave your helmet behind. A small device that works as a great extension. And, as an extra bonus, the package contained two such devices for the price of one. That means that, if you are riding two up, you can attach two helmets to the single helmet lock on your bike.
The last purchase I made was an Arai helmet sunblocker wtih UV protection. It is a small strip of green film that fits at the very top of your helmet visor, and blocks out the sun's rays. This means you don't have to wear sunglasses except for at dawn and dusk. For the rest of the time, the strip filters the sun, and you look out the clear area of the visor, unimpeded. I hate sunglasses, so this should be a great add-on for my helmet. Fourteen dollars. I had Brad put it on at the shop. I decided to leave before spending even more money.
I headed back home by taking I-45 south. No road debris. No crazy drivers. Just a cool morning ride. The helmet sun blocker worked great. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6884 miles on the bike. And the rest of the day before me.
* * * * *
November 12, 2005:
This morning I got up and checked the thermometer at the house. Seventy degrees. Not even close to the low they had been predicting for this morning. But rain chances were up. After walking and feeding Sarah I took a quick shower and started breakfast. John and I were scheduled for my first group ride. My plan was to leave the house by 8 am. I was still on schedule.
Last night I had aired both tires and given the Rebel a bath. I wanted the bike to look good for today's ride. Before I could even begin to wash it, a horde of neighborhood boys came over to see what was going on. Nick had a new digital camera he had received for his birthday, so everyone had to have their picture taken on the bike. We took group pictures, and individual pictures, and I even used Nick's camera to take a picture of him at the controls. As the afternoon light was fading, I finally got to work with the soap and water. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to wash down a motorcycle.
I had given the bike a quick drying and wheeled it back into the garage for the night. Everything was ready for an early morning departure.
I had a stout breakfast of oatmeal, peanut buttered toast, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee. After eating, I suited up. Since I was going to be on the bike all day, I gave the tires one last check of air pressure before departing. I also checked the oil. I saw Maria off on her errands, and headed out at 8:15 am. My first stop was at the gas station, where I topped off the tank. I then took I-10 east to I-45, and I-45 north. I had checked the construction map in the Houston Chronicle and there was no construstion listed for I-45 or Highway 290.
Traffic was light on I-45 as I headed for the Woodlands Harley dealership. I logged mile 6600 just as I got to the dealership. It was just a little before 9 am when I pulled into the lot. John was already astride a Harley Dyna Glide Low Rider as I rode up. I asked him if the dealership had opened early and he told me he had cheated. He had rented the bike yesterday so he could get some practice miles on it before we started. He rode around the neighbor for a few hours until he had over a hundred miles on the bike on Friday. He felt pretty comfortable on it by Saturday morning. He asked me if I wanted to be added as a rider, but I declined. The bike was a 2005 Low Rider. I said I definitely wanted to rent a 2006, but I would stick with the Rebel today. We went inside the dealership to plot our route.
My recommendation was that we take Cypresswood to Highway 290, then head for Chappell Hill. John agreed. This route would keep us off the freeways for at least half an hour, and give John some more familiarization time on the rental. I had only two pieces of advice on group riding. First, I said my main hint about riding on freeways was to never let a car drive along next to you. Either accelerate or decelerate. The second piece of advise was from Pat Hahn's excellent book, Ride Hard, Ride Smart. His recommendation on group riding is to ride your own ride. That means you go as fast as you feel comfortable and you take turns in a manner that makes you comfortable. Don't try to keep up with the group and don't let the group set your safety standards. Although I felt a little foolish give an experienced rider like John any advice, he graciously didn't smack me across the head.
We started up the bikes and off we went. We took I-45 south, with both of us staying in the far right-hand lane until we came to the exit for Louetta/Cypresswood.
Cypresswood is a mostly-residential street, although I was surprised to see that we passed the Mirror Lakes Landscape service along the way. I have always admired their work, and it was ironic that I picked this street to get us to Highway 290, not knowing that they were on it.
There were lots of stop signs and stop lights, but little traffic. It was a good warmup street. Unfortunately, it did not go all the way through to Highway 290. In fact, it deadended at Grant. We turned onto Grant and I stayed on it until I saw Louetta. That had been one of the streets we could take to Highway 290. So I turned down it. Sadly, it too deadended. I took another street, looking for a familiarly named road. We rode here and there. No luck. I got totally turned around with all the zigzagging to try to find 290. At one point we pulled into a driveway to try to figure out where we were. I was reminded of Daniel Boone's reply when, after wandering in from the wilderness after several weeks, someone asked him if the famous frontiersman had been lost. "Not lost," he replied. "But I was a might bewildered." Bowing to Daniel, and a might bewildered, I let John take the lead in finding our way to Highway 290.
Before we left the parking lot I pointed skyward, where a single-winged prop job was performing acrobatic moves. The pilot was doint barrel rolls, hammerheads, and flying upside down. He was putting his plane through moves one usually only sees on TV. John and I argued over whether the plane was real, or an radio controlled model. In the end, I think we both thought it was the real thing. Whatever it was, it was a sight to behold.
After taking the lead, John managed to get us to Highway 290 without any barrel rolls of our own. Leave it to a realtor to know how to get somewhere in Houston. At 290 I took back the lead, and we headed toward Chappel Hill. Because of my scenic route, it was getting near to eleven o'clock. I decided we could use a break after being on the bikes for an hour and a half. Thus, at Waller, I pulled into the Love's/Arby's for an ice tea.
After a break, we went on our way west on Highway 290. At Prairie View we took a side trip to Prairie View A&M University. It is a pretty campus. I had visited it during the summer, when no one was about. Today there were more cars and more students, but it still seemed largely deserted. I guess a lot of students communte to the school. Either that, or they sleep late.
At Chappell Hill I headed north on FM 1155. I was retracing the route I had taken just two weeks earlier. I like this path because of the hills and curves. I was hoping John would enjoy it also.
FM 1155 junctioned with FM 2193. We then went north on Highway 105 till it hit FM 390. We took FM 390 west all the way to highway 36. I noticed, as I descinded the biggest valley on FM 390, that I was crossing the place where I had logged mile 6000 less than two weeks earlier. This time the odometer was on mile 6691. I had come 700 miles in those two weeks! Awesome.
Which was the exact word John used to describe Highway 390 when we pulled up to an Exxon Station to top off our tanks. Highway 390 dumps into Highway 36, and we had turned south to the gas station. I told him I was afraid I had spoiled him for most roads in the area, because FM 390 was one of the best (if not at the top of the heap) insofar as curves and hills was concerned.
The ride so far had been very pleasant. I had turned mile 6700 while on Highway 390. We had encountered light sprinkles, but no serious rain. We had also encountered a large cardboard box in our lane of travel on Highway 290 and I had danced with a pickup truck that was coming toward me in my lane. I think the driver had just completed a u-turn. It was not a close encounter, but it was disconcerting to see such a large vehicle headed straight toward me in the "wrong" lane, and for no apparent reason. Fortunately, I was able to slow down enough for the pickup to get in the right lane and pass me. Ugh.
After gassing up, we continued south on Highway 36. At the intersection of 36 and 290 I pulled into the parking lot for Purcell's Country Style Restaurant. I told John he had his choice of Purcell's or, in the true biker tradition, his first road meal in Texas could be at the Whataburger across the street. He opted for Purcell's.
I noticed lots of old Thunderbirds in the parking lot. And a cattle truck. No bikers--other than us. We dismounted and proceeded to eat lunch at Purcell's. The food is served buffet-style. It was good. Just as importantly, so was the tea. The cost was $10.00. We enjoyed chicken, fish, brisket and even green beans and carrots. I also enjoyed spotting the cowboys (and cowgirl) who belonged to the cattle trucks. They were in their full regalia, including spurs. There is nothing like the jingle jangle of spurs.
All-to-soon, lunch was over. We looked at the map, and at our watches, and decided to modify my planned route. I figured we could hit Bellville, then go back to Hempstead and on over to Conroe by 4:30, which is what we did. As we headed south on Highway 36 I noticed a sign for "Burger Construction." I wondered if I had unknown relatives outside Bellville.
We entered the east end of downtown Bellville, circled the courthouse square, and then took FM 1456 north, till it intersected with FM 1371. I had decided to skip Newman's Bakery since we had finished lunch just a short time before. Also, because we needed to get back to the Harley dealership, I had also decided to skip the great twisties on FM 529. They say you should always leave your audience wanting more. This way, I know there are still some great rides for John and me to take when he rents another Harley (or breaks down and buys a 2006 Dyna Low Rider!).
After experiencing the curves on FM 1456, we headed north on FM 1371 toward Chappell Hill. Both of these backroads have lots of nice curves, but few hills. Still, the twisties were very nice, and at one point I let out a yell of pure pleasure at one of the turns.
When we reached Highway 290, we turned east toward Hempstead. Just past Highway 6, we took FM 1488 all the way to I-45. This is a long stretch of road. It was great until we reached Magnolia. Nice curves, light traffic. But after Magnolia, traffic was a bear. Lots of bikers, but lots of speeding (and tailgating) pickups, too.
I was still in the lead. I pulled into a Phillips station for one last break. I got my standard road drink (chocolate milk) and the opportunity to take a stretch from all the riding. John called Nadine on his cell phone while I was inside. He told me she reported that Houston had experienced rain. Fortunately, we had skirted that problem.
Shortly after we pulled out from the Phillips station I turned mile 6800 on the odometer. I decided that the FM 1488 segment deserves another chance, when the Renaissance Festival is not in session. With about 75% less traffic, it would be a great way to get from Conroe to Hempstead. And the part between Magnolia and Hempstead was really nice, even today.
We soon came to I-45, and took it south. John pulled up to a Shell station to top off the tank. Motorcycle rentals are like car rentals. You are supposed to return the bike with a full tank. We circled back to the Harley dealership and, in about four blocks, the ride was over. John told me he really liked the Low Rider, especially after removing the windshield. Apparently, the windshield had caused the bike to vibrate excessively. When it was gone, that problem vanished.
John went to his truck and retrieved the windshield. I watched him as he put it back on. It attached with four clasps that reminded me of the way I closed my galoshes when I lived in Colorado. Four clicks, and the windshield was back on the bike. Neat.
We went inside for one last look at the bikes. John turned in his rental papers and we were done. After congratulating each other on a great day of riding, I was off, headed back home. Thirty more miles to go. Traffic on I-45 was heavy. And the roads were straight. No more twisties on this trip. Or so I thought.
However, road debris furnished some opportunities for high speed weaving. First, a smashed up wooded crate appeared on the road. I managed to miss it. Then, just over the next rise, I saw a big field of tire gators. Apparently, a big tire had disintegrated a short time before. The entire lane was full of black rubber. And cars were in the lanes on either side of me. I picked a path through the minefield and made it by inches. Weaving at 60mph* is something else. Lucky I had practiced all day long!
Just over the rise I saw a trucker sitting at the side of the road, right next to a big truck axel and tires that had come off an eighteen wheeler. And a few yards down the road I saw the disabled truck and trailer, with a missing axel. I figure one of his tires blew, with catastrophic results. It didn't look like anyone was hurt, but I was glad I hadn't been closer when the incident occurred.
Anyway, the rest of the trip home was without incident. When I pulled up to the driveway it was 5:20 pm and I had logged 272 miles on the bike. The odometer read 6842. It had been a full, fun day. My first group ride was over, but there were promises of more to come. See you on the road.
* * * * *
November 11, 2005:
Last night a cold front came through. Temperatures dropped a precipitous four degrees. Yes, it was 66 degrees this morning. After Sarah's walk, I fed her and suited up. I decided to brave the cold without my winter clothes. Which turned out to be fine.
There was no fog around this morning. In fact, the skyline was revealed in all its glory, from top to bottom. And traffic was light. Speeds were high. I was almost tempted to add another circuit to the route, since I was having so much fun. Still, I should have a full day of biking tomorrow, so I stuck with Plan A. Nothing interesting to report. Just a fun morning's ride. The temperature made it seem like Spring.
Tonight I wash the bike, check the air in the tires, and figure out the routes John and I will take tomorrow. We are meeting at the Harley dealership in the Woodlands. He is renting a Dyna Low Rider and we are spending the day on two wheels (each). We tried to do this ride last Saturday, but folks had rented up all the Harleys for the Lone Star Rally in Galveston. That twist enabled me to attend my first motorcycle rally. Tomorrow will be my first "group" ride. I think "two" qualifies as a group. I know that riding with someone else presents a whole new set of challenges. It should be a fun change of pace from my heretofore solitary riding. I have some back roads in mind. Stay turned late Saturday night to see how it went. As for now, I have 6570 miles on the bike. See you on the road.
* * * * *
November 10, 2005:
On the radio this morning they were reporting that Houston had heavy fog. Visibility was one-fourth a mile. When we took Sarah for her walk there were hardly any clouds, let alone fog. So, when I suited up, checked the tires and headed out, I didn't know what to expect.
Today was the opposite of the conditions I encountered on Tuesday. Then, the rain was concentrated just on my route, and it was dry elsewhere. Today, the fog was in the areas next to my route, but the workday circuit was completely clear. It was weird. In fact, while fog covered just the tops of the skyline yesterday, today all the downtown buildings were shrouded in white.
Nothing unusual to report on the ride, except that I had to weave my way through a debris field of shredded tire parts. Weaving at 65 mph* is harder than weaving at neighborhood speeds, but a lot more important. Anyway, I made my way through the minefield without incident, and completed my ride with 6540 miles on the odometer. When I got back I greased the chain and used a spray cleaner to gewt some accumulated road grime off my helmet. Saturday is ever closer.
* * * * *
November 9, 2005:
This morning it was 70 degrees when we got up. And still muggy. Channel 11 reported fog was in the area. We took Sarah for her walk, fed her, and I suited up. When I went to bed last night the cuffs on my riding jeans were still wet from yesterday's rain, even though I had left them hanging on a rod. They were dry this morning.
On the other hand, I had just stuffed my gloves into my riding jacket. They were still damp, but at least the leather wasn't stiff. I added some air to the front tire, squeezed into my gloves, and headed off.
After warming up, I entered I-10, going west. The fog was present, but not thick. The tops of the skyscrapers were covered. The polo grounds were blanketed in white. But the road visibility was very good. And traffic was light.
I did my normal clockwise workday route on the freeways. During the second circuit, on West Loop, I turned mile 6500. Because of all the merging traffic, I missed seeing the odometer turn over by a mile. Oh well.
Not much else to report. When I pulled up to the driveway I noticed my gloves were completely dry. I guess half an hour in the wind did a good job. And they were still flexible. They are Lee Parks gloves, and I like them. And I liked this morning's ride. I now have 6510 miles on the odometer, and an email from John confirming he was able to rent a Harley, and our ride for this weekend is on. Two days, and counting.
* * * * *
November 8, 2005:
This morning it was even muggier than yesterday. The temperature was 73 degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. Didn't seem to bother her. Channel 11 had reported that there would be fog this morning, but not as much as yesterday. There was no evidence of fog during Sarah's walk.
After feeding her, I suited up and headed out. I warmed up on some back streets on my way to I-10. As I entered the freeway, heading west, I saw that the clouds looked even darker than they had yesterday. Yesterday the clouds looked more like rain clouds than fog. Today they were rain clouds. No sooner had I eased onto the freeway than it began to rain. And it was a hard rain afalling.
We have not had any serious showers for a week. Thus, I knew the streets would be slick with a layer of oil from the cars on the road. And I also knew that Houstonians don't like to slow down for rain. So I decided to take the first exit I could. Which was T.C. Jester.
It continued to rain. There was no hint that this was a passing shower. It was dark all the way to the horizon. I decided to call the ride "over." I headed to 11th Street, and on home. Fortunately, it was early enough that no cars bothered me. I had to clear the rain off my visor several times. My pants were thorougly wet. I watched my speed, especially when coming to a stop or turning.
I made it home without incident. Except for the fact that when I was about five blocks from the house, the rain stopped. Dry streets. No rain for my yard. Oh well. I still called it quits after reaching mile 6480 on the odometer. Mile 6500 will have to wait for another trip.
* * * * *
November 7, 2005:
It was 72 degrees this morning when we took Sarah for her walk. And a balmy 72 at that. On Channel 11 they were warning of fog in the area. We didn't see any indications of fog on our walk. Once we were back from the walk, I suited up, checked the air and headed out.
I entered I-10 and headed west. I immediately saw that the skies were overcast. Traffic was light, and there were no problems caused by the weather. The fog was not the type I am used to seeing around Houston. I didn't see any white clouds hovering in empty lots. The skies looked more like a rain was moving in. The clouds were a dirty brown, not a cotton-like white.
Still, the tops of the downtown skyscrapers were not visible, and the cloud cover seemed to grow denser as I continued my ride. When I exited the freeway the fog was noticeably thicker than when I had started. Still, it was not as thick as I had seen on Highway 6 on Sunday.
Fog or not, the ride was fun, but over all too soon. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6475 miles on the bike and it was not yet seven o'clock. Time to get ready for work.
* * * * *
November 6, 2005:
Today was another warm morning. After feeding Sarah, and checking email, I was suited up and out the door by 6:45 am. I headed for the gas station and topped off the tank. I then took I-10 east to I-45, and I-45 north to Loop 610. I took the Loop to Highway 290, and headed west.
As I made my way out 290, I noticed patches of fog in the fields off the freeway. I turned mile 6400 just about at the exit for Beltway 8. When I came to Highway 6 I exited and went by Mancuso's Harley Davidson Dealership. Although they are open on Sundays, I was considerably early. Still, people were there for a Rider's Edge course. Today would be their test day. I silently wished them luck and headed south on Highway 6.
As I passed the apartments where Cynthia, my paralegal, lives, I gave the horn a couple of toots. Not waiting to find out if she heard me, I continued down Highway 6. There was plenty of fog in the area. In fact, the fog was everywhere.
Traffic was light. The lights however, were heavy with red bulbs. Why is it impossible to go down Highway 6 without seeming to hit every light red? At one point the signal changed to yellow just within my comfort zone of stopping. I almost decided to go for a quick stop, but went ahead and accelerated. It was lucky I did, because the two cars behind me (and I mean at least five car lengths behind me) ran what by then had to be a red light. Made me glad I didn't stop.
When I reached Memorial I took it toward downtown. Memorial is always a pleasant run. The sun was out by now. No more fog. I quickly pulled over to put on my sunglasses, and continued on my way. I was watching my speed, which was lucky because the cops were out at the western end of Memorial.
As I neared Loop 610 I saw a small white dog come trotting across the westbound portion of Memorial. It stopped in the grass of the medium, looked at me coming toward it, and calmly waited till I passed before continuing its journey across Memorial. As I watched it in my mirrors, it seemed perfectly at home crossing a busy street. I wish I could give Sarah such car sense.
All too soon, I was at the end of Memorial. I took Louisiana north, and entered I-10, to return home. It had been a pleasant ride on a route I have ignored all too long. I was back home just after 8 a.m., ready to enjoy the rest of the morning. The odometer now reads 6445 miles.
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November 5, 2005:
Maria had a meeting this morning at the Del Lago Resorts in Conroe, so we had to get up at the regular time. And Sarah demanded her regular walk. Therefore, at 5:30 a.m., off we went. The temperature was especially nice, at 65 degrees. When we got back I fed Sarah, showered, had breakfast, and saw Maria out the door. Shortly thereafter, at 7:45 am, I finished suiting up, sans winter garb, and headed out myself. I stopped off at the gas station to top off the tank. Since I only had 30-some miles since I had last filled up, gas ran me only a few cents over a dollar. I zeroed the tripometer, and headed for Galveston.
I have Channel 11 to thank for today's adventure. Yesterday, on the morning news, I saw a report that there was a biker rally in Galveston this weekend. A trip to the internet told me that the the Lone Star Rally was taking place. Over 200,000 bikers were expected to attend. I decided to count myself among them.
This was my first biker rally. Galveston traffic is often horrible, at least by the civilized hours. Thus, I was happy to be on the road before eight. I figured that traffic would be minimal. Which it was.
I made good time to Galveston. I saw lots of bikers along the way, and I pulled onto 25th Street in Galveston before 9 a.m. I found a free parking place at Post Office and 19th streets. I parked the bike and fussed with the helmet lock until I could fit my full-faced Arai helmet's D-ring in the very little slot. I then headed for the Strand. The vendor booths (the main reason I was attending) were due to open at ten.
As I approached the vendor area I saw many bikers going past the barriers closing the roads. They were headed for street parking on the Strand itself. A sign announced that entry to the rally on a bike was $5.00. That entitled one to cruise the Strand itself, and park for "free," subject to availability. The sign said the rally sponsors hoped that attendees would pay the five dollars to keep the event "free." I decided, despite the contradiction, to go with the flow. I hiked back to my bike, unlocked my helmet, suited up, and headed for the entrance.
After paying my five dollars, I entered the Strand. I immediately saw a parking place and, fearing that most of the spots were already taken, I grabbed it. I backed my bike into the spot. I had the bike facing out, with the back tire against the curb. I engaged the fork lock, attached my helmet's D-ring to the helmet lock, and headed out.
Vendors were already open. Good. No need to wait till ten. I visited each vendor. Lots of patches, lot of t-shirts and lots of leather. I saw some really nice leather by Antelope Creek Leather out of Borger, Texas. A good friend of mine is from Borger, and I was tempted to buy something from her hometown, but I am not expert enough yet to tell whether the leather goods will really hold up to the stress of a fall. The jackets and chaps looked really good. The leather felt thick. But I passed. The company has a website at www.antelopecreekleather.com , and I decided to do further research.
The vendors were on the side streets and the parking and promenade was on the Strand. My technique was to do the vendors then walk the Strand, looking at the bikes (and the girls). One thing I noticed immediately was that there was a lot of double parking. Of bikes, not girls. I had a sinking feeling that I might already be blocked in by a bike or bikes parked in front of me. I pushed this feeling aside and continued my examination of the sights.
I gradually made my way to the western end of the Strand. I then found a bench and sat down for a closer gawking at everything. The sound truly was rolling thunder. Every so often I would move to the east, back toward my bike. And I would revisit the vendor booths. Back at the Antelope Creek Leather booth, I bought a cloth patch saying "Galveston 2005" and a silver star with the same saying. I don't have a vest at the moment, but I consider the patches an investment for the future. If I decide to get a vest, I will need patches. Patches I've earned. And how could I go away from my first biker rally without a souvenir to remember the event?
I made my way back to my bike and discovered that yes, my bike was blocked in. Two Harly Road Kings were blocking my exit. The gap between them looked to be about three inches too narrow. I even kicked up a highway peg on one of the Road Kings, but it was still a little too tight. I took a seat on a bench where I could keep watch for the owners to show up, and continued to watch the crowds.
There is no denying that a major attraction of a biker rally is the people watching. You will see all kinds of folks. This is one of the few chances guys have to make a fashion statement. Being guys, the fashion statements are weird, but they are definitely statements. No one rides a bike in regular clothes. Even the crotch rocket crowd wears full-face helmets.
And the women were out in force. Fringe, and plunging neck lines. Chaps and leather boots. I even saw a comely lass who had totally forgotten to put on a top. And was proud of it (as she deserved to be).
As the song goes, "Something for everyone, a carnival tonight."
The clouds that had been threatening rain all morning finally let go, and everyone got wet. But the rain was over pretty quickly. I decided to go up to my bike and remeasure the gap, to see if I was going to chance it. Every way I looked at it, it was just barely too narrow. I didn't want to scratch someone's ride, just because I was blocked in. And, as near as I could figure it, double parking was acceptable behavior at a biker rally. There were blocks and blocks of double parkers. When in Rome . . . .
However, Rome or not, I can't abide a waste of time. Topless beauties notwithstanding, I was ready to get back on the road. I decided to get my helmet off the helmet lock and sit on my bike seat. I brushed off the rain water and sat down. It was as good a seat as any for watching the parade of Harleys.
And oh, yes, I realized that I was going to have to join that parade on my Rebel when the time came. Bikes of every description were at the rally, but Harleys outnumbered everything else by at least thirty to one. I know because I counted. And I did not see a single other Honda Rebel in the whole collection.
Of course, I didn't see anyone else with a motorcycle jacket on, either. Or anyone else with Draggin' Jeans. Or a Kevlar long-sleeved shirt. And there were very few full-faced helmets. Oh well, I was lone wolfing it again. I should be used to that by now.
I was on my bike for about five minutes when a gentleman came up and asked me if I needed out. I said yes, and he moved his Road King forward so I could ease out into the parade. I saw him backing up into my spot as I started down the Strand. In a gesture to rebellion, I left the visor on my helmet in the raised position as I rode the gauntlet of Harleys to the end of the Strand. I then headed to the Seawall, for a look at the surf.
The surf was definitely up. And the Harleys were everywhere on Seawall Boulevard. Normally, I take 61st Street back to Broadway. However, traffic was so thick that I feared a big backup for the light at Broadway. I decided to take backroads. Which I did. I still ran past lots of Harleys. Motorcyclists truly owned Galveston this weekend.
In fairly short order I was on Broadway, headed back to Houston. I count my first biker rally a success, and I will definitely be back for the next one.
The trip up I-45 was fraught with heavy rains. Clouds would open up, dump lots of water, and then be gone. Or, more accurately, I would have ridden through them. Fortunately, the cars cut their speeds back to around sixty, so hydroplaning was at a minimum.
As I approached NASA Road 1, I decided to visit Half Price Books. It seemed a fitting conclusion to a nice day of biking. I managed to find one or two books worth buying (ok, six books, if you really must know), and headed back to Houston. I had remembered my backpack when I started this morning, so the six books were no problem. But, when are books ever a problem?
I made it back to Houston without any more rain, and without any close calls. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6380 miles on the bike. And a day to remember. I gave the bike a bath, grabbed a beer, and reentered everyday life. Time to enjoy the rest of my Saturday.
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November 4, 2005:
Today seemed warm when we took Sarah for her walk. Channel 11 reported the temperature at 57 degrees. I can remember when, earlier in the fall, 57 seemed downright cold. Today I wore a light jacket for the walk. After feeding Sarah, however, I suited up in my winter riding garb for the ride. After all, 57 is 57.
I checked the air in the tires and headed out. I did two of the clockwise workday circuits on the freeways. Traffic was light. No close encounters. And no sensation of cold. As in none. Zero. Zilch. My fingers never even got cool. The polypropylene liners are totally effective at 57 degrees.
That's really all I have to report. It was a pleasant spring ride. I now have 6262 miles on the Rebel. And, oh yes, I heard on Channel 11 that there is a biker rally in Galveston this weekend. That may account for the rental bikes all being gone at the Harley dealership. See you on the road.
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November 3, 2005:
Today it was 47 degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. I fed her then suited up in my winter garb and headed for the bike. I checked the air in the tires and took off. After warming up I entered I-10, heading west. I did the normal clockwise workday circuit on the freeways. Traffic was light.
When I reached Loop 610 at about Shepherd the bike started hesitating. I realized the main tank was empty. I switched to the reserve and continued on. The question was whether I could finish both circuits before running out of gas. I decided to go for it.
I carefully watched the odometer. My calculation was that I would need to log twenty miles to complete my planned ride. Surely the reserve tank would take me farther than that. However, I have never run the reserve dry, so I'm not sure how far it will last.
Fortunately, I finished the route with gas to spare. I headed for the gas station and filled the tank. I now know that I have at least a twenty mile range when the main tank goes dry. I probably can get 35 or more miles out of the reserve. When the main tank went dry I had 152 miles on the tripometer. And that was all highway miles. I put 2.5 gallons in the tank.
On another note, I found out John and I will not be going riding this weekend. The Harley dealership had a run on rental bikes because of a biker rally this weekend. The only one I know of is the Easy Rider show at the George R Brown Convention Center. I'm surprised guys would rent bikes to go to a rally, unless they are from out of town. Regardless, the dealership was out of bikes. Oh well, another weekend.
And, for the record, I now have 6232 miles on the bike.
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November 2, 2005:
Today dawned a chilly 45 degrees. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up for a cold ride. I put on a t shirt first, then the PolarTec Wind Bloc shirt, and topped everything off with my Draggin' Jeans Kevlar shirt. Long johns, Draggin' Jeans and glove liners finished my cold preparations. I put on my helmet, jacket and boots and headed out, after checking the air in the tires.
The ride was uneventful. Traffic was pretty light. No crazed lane changers. No debris on the road. No close calls. The ride was so much fun that I forgot to be cold. (Or, maybe all the clothing helped!)
I noticed that Channel 11 says it will be 65 degrees on Saturday morning. That's good, because I hope to go riding with John on Saturday. If we can pull it off, that will be my first time to ride with another biker. Since John and I took the Rider's Edge course together, he seems a great choice.
And about the t-shirt: the main drawback to the PolarTec Wind Bloc is that, at normal temperatures, it is clammy. The t shirt gets around this problem. When I got back from my ride I left the PolarTec on, and I was not uncomfortable stuffy since I had all that cotton next to my skin. Good to know.
As to my mileage, I watched the odometer go from 6199.9 to 6200.0 just before the Taylor exit on I-10. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6202 miles on the Rebel.
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November 1, 2005:
Last night a big storm blew through. We had an inch of rain. Tree branches were down all over the neighborhood. One branch completely blocked part of Beverly. We discovered this when we took Sarah for her walk. This was not a morning for riding in the neighborhood. Still, after walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and headed for the garage.
It was 51 degrees out, and I had on my glove liners and PolarTec Wind Block shirt. I had to add air to both tires. I then headed out. The idle was a little rough, so I warmed up the engine by adding a couple of extra blocks to my neighborhood ride. I was extra careful because of tree debris.
I then entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very heavy. I saw the helicopters hovering above the freeway. I later learned that an 18-wheeler had overturned on I-10. Everything slowed down. I took the Loop to I-45 south, and everything was slow on I-45 also. Ugh. I decided I did not have time for a second loop. I took I-45 to I-10 west, and exited off Heights. At the stop sign for Cortland and 6th, I checked my belt watch. It was still before seven. I decided to check the post office box since I am expecting a check. Sadly, it's not made out to me.
No check. Oh well, at least I got in a couple of more miles of riding. I made it home by a little after seven. The cold was bearable, but it was no fun breathing exhaust fumes all morning. Still, it was a good ride, and the odometer now has 6172 miles on it. I should make mile 6200 tomorrow.
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For the November, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the October, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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*Note to Law Enforcement:
All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.