* * * * *
September 30, 2005:
Yesterday afternoon was cool, and today dawned ever cooler. Sixty- nine degrees, to be exact. Not exactly a cold front, but cool enough for me to try out the new Polartec shirt Maria sewed for me. A few weeks ago I took a jaunt west when the temperature was in the 60's. It was early morning. Dark, in fact. I about froze to death. Or, at least that's how it seemed. Maria heard me complaining, and secretly ordered some yards of Polortec fabric and made me a mock turtle-neck shirt (in black) out of the material. It has an extra long tail, so it will stay tucked in. I have been waiting for a chance to test it.
This morning was the test. I pulled it on, added the Draggin' Jeans kevlar shirt on top, then suited up, checked the air, and headed out. My goals were to test the new shirt and reach 4500 miles. I chose to conduct the test on the loop bounded by I-10 east, I-45 north, Loop 610 west, Loop 610 south and I-10 back east. I did this circle twice.
Traffic was pretty light for most of the ride, especially for a Friday. No close calls. Even though traffic was light, I was stuck with the flow of traffic at 65 mph* most of the time. The highest speed I was able to get up to was 68 mph*, and then only for a short time. Still, I can report that the Polortec stopped all wind from getting through. Although I could feel some cool through my jeans, I was totally warm from the waist up. The Polartec is so good I would hesitate to wear it unless the temperatures were below 70. However, I think it will be great when we get our winters in the 50's. Thank you Maria for this great present.
And while I am issuing "thank-you's," thanks to everyone who has emailed me to let me know you are enjoying this blog. A writer always appreciates knowing someone is reading. I'll try to keep it interesting. And now, back to my ride.
One weird traffic situation happened this morning. As I was going south on Loop 610, I saw about eight ambulances headed north toward Highway 290. All with their flashers and sirens going. When I turned onto I-10 east I saw another four ambulances headed west, toward 290. I did not find out what had happened. When I got home I asked Maria if she had heard anything, but all she had heard was that there was a motorcycle accident on the freeways. Ugh. I always hate to hear that. And I sure don't like Maria, or anyone who knows how much I ride, hearing about a motorcycle accident while I am out.
Anyway, I had a great morning in the cool. And, as I'm sure you guessed, I made the 4500 miles. In fact, I watched the odometer turn over as I rode the overpass for Shepherd on Loop 610. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had a dozen miles beyond 4500 miles on the odometer. And the weekend beckons.
* * * * *
September 29, 2005:
Because of legal scheduling, I could not fit in a ride this morning. I wasn't overly worried, however, because the forecast was for cooler temperatures (and lower humidity) today. I had a productive day at work, then headed home. The car thermometer said the temperature was 81 degrees on my way home. I feed Sarah, suited up, and headed out. Even though it was around 5:20 pm it felt cool out. I think it was more a function of low humidity than low temperature, but I was happy either way.
I warmed up and took TC Jester toward Loop 610. Traffic wasn't too bad, even during evening rush hour. I rode the freeways and the backways. The point of this ride wasn't where I was going. I was just happy to be on the road in cool weather.
This was the first cool afternoon in a long time. I continued riding for a good while simply because it felt so good to be out on the road. I was in a good mood and a good temperature. It was a fun ride. When I finally pulled up to my driveway I had 4479 miles on the odometer, and a smile on my face.
* * * * *
September 28, 2005:
Last night I aired up the tires to save a few minutes on my morning ride. Even so, I got a late start. I suited up, warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street and took Durham to I-10, then headed east to I-45. I took the Loop 610 exit and headed west. Just as I approached the curve where 610 turns south, I hit heavy, heavy traffic. I figure it took me twenty minutes to get to the exit for I-10. I was glad to be off the freeway. Going was so slow it seemed like I "walked" the mile or two involved. I was holding the clutch in so much my left wrist was getting tired. Yuck.
Even with all the lane jockeying cars were doing, I had no close calls. Still, a traffic jam sure makes for a lousy ride. When I returned home, Channel 11 reported the accident was at 610 and Woodway. I never saw it. I did see ambulances, however. I was glad to be home safe and sound. The odometer now reads 4451.
* * * * *
September 27, 2005:
For this morning's ride I decided to do an experiment. But first, I suited up, aired the tires and headed for the gas station. Yes, we have gas again in Houston. Yesterday I topped off the PT's tank at my regular gas station, without waiting in line. This morning I filled the Rebel, also without waiting in line.
I then began the experiment. I headed east on I-10, north on I-45, west on Loop 610, and back east on I/10. This circuit covers approximately 15 miles. I did it twice. Traffic was about as heavy as normal. Another sign Houston is returning to normal after Hurricane Rita.
The ride was fine. No close calls. I covered lots of miles in a relatively short time. Dodging the traffic seemed to occupy my attention just enough so that it was still a fun ride. And it wasn't boring.
I now have 4432 miles on the odometer. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
September 26, 2005:
Life is (almost) back to normal. I decided to celebrate mile 4400 by heading for the twisties on White Oak. I took the long way around.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street, headed north on Shepherd, then east on Loop 610. Traffic was very light on both 610 and I-45, which I took south to the Quitman exit. There, I merged into White Oak, and the twisties. I had to do some riding around to make sure mile 4400 would come up while I was on the twisties, but that was not hard. And, indeed, I was right there as 4399 rolled over to 4400. The twisties were fun, as always.
It was a good morning ride. The odometer now reads 4401.
* * * * *
September 25, 2005:
We still had Hurricane Rita guests this morning, so I put off my "morning" ride until they left. Which was around 1:30 pm. The morning was spent putting things that we had taken out in preparation for the storm back where they belong. Water containers were emptied, fully charged rechargeable batteries were put away, and garden art made its way back into the backyard. We had a great breakfast of non hurricane food, and Ron and Will headed back to Dickinson. Maria and I went to my office and folded up the plastic and replaced the books on the shelves. I'll save the files for Monday.
I came back home, had a nice, long bath, then, suitable relaxed, I headed out to see what was open in Houston. I cruised freeways, Kirby, Westheimer, Memorial, and more freeways.
Things are getting back to normal. I saw open gas stations without lines. I saw many restaurants not only open, but with crowds. Lowes and Home Depot were both crowded. Krogers had a full lot. And, I am happy to report, Half Price Books on Westheimer was doing a booming business.
Ninfa's, Papacito's, a sushi bar (?), Beck's Prime, Hugo's and Luby's were among the restaurants I saw open. All had lots of cars/customers. I even spied an antique store selling (used) wares.
The motorcycle ride was loads of fun. No worries on my mind. Pleasure at how this city's population bounces back from a (thank goodness) psychological blow. And relief that Rita didn't visit us. And I am closing in on mile 4400. I now have 4388 miles on the odometer. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
September 24, 2005:
I am glad I got in a ride this morning. The first ride of the day was riding out Hurricane Rita. Fortunately for us, it passed to our east, so we were on the dry side of the storm. Even so, the streets were full of small limbs and trash. We took Sarah (and Cody) for a walk in the morning, and I checked out the condition of everything. Then, several neighbors congregated at our house for breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade biscuits, homemade cinammon rolls, freshly brewed Starbuck's House Blend from whole beans). Nadine came by and picked up Cody. I was then ready for my morning ride. It was almost noon!
I suited up, warmed up, and headed out, at a slow speed because of all the litter in the streets. Plus, there was mud in lots of places, and I felt the rear tire let go once.
This ride was really a scouting trip. I was watching for open restaurants (one), open gas stations (none) and joggers in Memorial Park (a very few). I also went by my office to make sure everything was ok. It was. I moved all the furniture and paintings I had placed in the law library back to my space. And locked up.
Basically, I just rode around, looking. There were quite a few gusts of wind, and lots of stuff to dodge in the road. Slow speeds were the order of the day, until I was ready to return. I then decided to get on I-10 for a little high speed fun. I entered at TC Jester, headed east to Studemont, then u-turned and headed back to TC Jester. Traffic was light inside the Loop, and the freeways were clear of debris. I ran into a pretty strong headwind on the westbound leg. In fact, with the throttle rolled all the way on, I could only get the Rebel up to 67 mph*. That means there was around a twenty mile per hour headwind. Anyway, when I reached TC Jester I headed north to 11th.
I took 11th back towards the house. I drove by the Krogers and was pleased to see the parking lot was full of cars. I was hopeful that groceries were available. That was not to be. Papa John's Pizza was what was open, and all those cars (twenty to thirty of them) were driven by people ready for a fresh pizza. It was, afterall, the only game in town.
I weaved my way back home, and noted 4330 miles on the odometer as I pulled up to the driveway.
* * * * *
September 23, 2005:
Rita or not, I got in my ride this morning. As usual, I was on the road by 6:15 am. I immediately noticed a coolness in the air. No wind to speak of.
I warmed up and decided where to go. I opted to head for Memorial Park, to see if anyone was out running this morning. As I passed over I-10 I noticed that the Interstate was almost empty. I had previously resolved that I wouldn't get on the freeways until Rita had passed, but flexibility is always valuable. I decided to cruise the freeways to see what was happening.
I took I-10 and headed east. A sign announced that the northbound exit for I-45 was closed because of Rita. Indeed, it was. This didn't make sense to me. Why close the northbound lanes? And why close them in the middle of the City. What if someone needed I-45 to get somewhere instead of using it to evacuate? What would they do?
I stayed on I-10 and took Highway 59 north. It was open. Traffic was very light. I headed west on the Loop and then took the Memorial exit. In contrast to yesterday, there were joggers out. Not in the usual numbers, but quite a few. I continued on Memorial Drive, then took the jog to Allen Parkway. That was also a fun ride. I took the parkway to downtown, u-turned and headed back. During the westbound segment, I logged mile 4300 on the Rebel. I continued cruising along, enjoying the morning when I spied a HPD officer on a side street. I was not going especially fast, for normal conditions, but I was the lone vehicle out there. Usually, I would be just one of many cars going down Allen Parkway. My speed, which would have put me in the middle of the pack on a normal day, made me stand out since no one was near. I immediately began coasting, and hoped for the best. For whatever reason, the police car followed me for a while, but there were no flashing lights.
I got back on Memorial, headed to downtown. I took Louisiana to I-10, and on home. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 4315 miles on the bike. We'll see what happens tomorrow.
* * * * *
September 22, 2005:
Today's morning ride occurred at around 2:30 pm. That's because Hurricane Rita demanded my attention until then. I spend the morning getting my office ready for driving rain. I spend the early afternoon removing objects from the yard that might become projectiles into our windows. After all this I was ready for a beer. But that would mean no ride, so I suited up and headed out so I could come back and drink up.
The temperatures were hot, but the streets were empty. All day long I-10 had been stop and stop. No traffic was moving when I headed for my office at 9 am and no traffic was moving when I returned around noon. But, by 2:30 pm, there was hardly any traffic on I-10. Not sure why, but I decided to stay off the freeways anyway.
I spent my trip looking for open gas stations. I didn't find any. I only found one restaurant open, and one beer joint. Didn't stop at either.
I did go by the office of the busiest lawyer I know. And yes, she was hard at work. I don't think anyone else in the legal community was working, but, no matter. When I pulled up to her office I discovered more than just her car in the lot. Even her loyal secretary was there. Egads. At least Cynthia, my paralegal, won't be able to rib me about long hours.
The news continues to be that Rita will probably miss us. That put me in a good mood. I enjoyed riding over empty streets that were normally packed with Type A drivers. And I logged mile 4273 on the bike. Hopefully, tomorrow's ride will find me in a similarily good humor. And the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale put a nice cast on tonight's mood.
* * * * *
September 21, 2005:
Today's ride was spoiled by Hurricane Rita. After walking Sarah, I suited up, checked the air in the tires and headed out. I was immediately hit with the realization that it was too cool out. By that I mean that the high that had kept temperatures hot must have left. And that high was also keeping Rita from turning north. Who knows what will happen now. Not a good sign.
And these thoughts of the upcoming disaster kept filling my mind, and ruining my concentration. I think we are pretty prepared for the storm. But my mind is constantly racing through checklists and to do lists, all to the detriment of paying attention to traffic.
I realized this as I was on the freeway. I was able to concentrate on dodging cars, but I had to concentrate. It didn't come as effortlessly as it normally does. Which is dangerous. I resolved that this was my last freeway ride until after the storm. It's just too risky to have your mind filled with negative thoughts while hunks of steel move around about you. And, with coastal communities beginning to evacuate, there will be too much traffic and too many out-of-towners who are lost, and making sudden moves for exits they "almost" missed.
The ride wasn't entirely ruined. I did enjoy snatches of Memorial Drive, and larger snatches of Allen Parkway. But evidence of Rita was everywhere. For example, when I rode through Memorial Park there were no runners. None. That was weird. So weird, in fact, that I doubled back to go through the park just to make sure I hadn't missed them. There were a few runners in the park, but there were plenty of parking spaces, and I estimate the crowds were down by at least two-thirds.
I completed my ride without incident, but also without the joy I usually feel when on two wheels. And the storm is still three days away, if the predictions are correct. I logged 4255 miles. I filled the tank with gas, so I am good to go. Tomorrow I plan to ride, but I'm not sure where. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
September 20, 2005:
I'm back in town. And ready for a morning ride. Unfortunately, the weather forecasters keep talking about Tropical Storm Rita. And the Houston Chronicle says it will hit Houston. So I decided that today's ride would have to be a little short, so I could make a trip to Krogers for some last minute hurricane supplies.
I was out the door by 6:15 am, but I had to air the tires. I then warmed up and headed east on I-10. I then took I-45 north to the Loop. My plan was to take the Memorial exit and then back home. That way, I would get in some curves, and still be back early. Unfortunately, Houston traffic had other ideas.
As soon as I rounded the curve heading south on the Loop I encountered real stop-and go conditions. With lots of stops. Creeping along. As far as the eye could see. I made my way toward the exit for Downtown exit on I-10, and took it. Who knows how long it would have taken to get to the Memorial exit. When I got home the TV said the snarl had created one hour delays. Ugh.
Anyway, I took I-10 back home, and had 4225 miles on the bike when I rolled up to the driveway at 7 am. Not a great start to the day. But a safe trip. And more to come.
* * * * *
September 19, 2005:
I have an out-of-town deposition this morning. In Fairfield, Texas. I have to be on the road by 6:00 am, so my ride had to be short and sweet. Which meant the twisties on White Oak.
I got up extra early, just so I could get in a ride. When I got up (at 4:15 am) Sarah followed me around until I put on my Draggin' Jeans shirt and pants. Then she layed back down, as if she knew it wasn't her time yet. Normally, I feed her before leaving on my ride, but it was far too early for that this morning. At least in my opinion. So I left her upstairs in a remorseful state, and headed out in the predawn dark.
I warmed up on the back roads off 6th Street, then took Shepherd to Loop 610. I took the Loop toward I-45. The Loop was eerily empty. No cars in my mirrors. Only a few ahead of me. Shepherd had also been empty. I guess 4:30 in the morning is not the time Houston heads for work. In fact, I was so busy checking out the blackness in my mirrors that I didn't notice the odometer roll over to 4200 as I approached the exit for I-45.
I-45 was nearly as empty as the Loop. As I neared the exit for I-10 I noticed a car coming up on my left. I rolled on some throttle, did a head check, and eased over into the exit lane for I-10. I had my turn perfectly planned, with a beautiful arc to it, when I realized that I had intended to take the Quitman exit, not the I-10 exit. Oops. Oh well. I finished up the turn, still enjoying it, and exited Taylor. I weaved my way back to White Oak and headed east to the beginning of the twisties. The only thing I was was a dead possum in the middle of the road. I u-turned and took the twisties west.
The twisties were as fun as always, even in the dark. I was happy to get in the ride, and more happy to post this blog before heading for Fairfield. I broke 4200 miles this morning, and the odometer now reads 4207. And, barring unforseen circumstances, I should be in my PT Cruiser and headed down the road on four wheels before six.
* * * * *
September 18, 2005:
am: For this morning's ride I chose to visit the airport. I got up, fed Sarah and got in my gear. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. I warmed up and began a circuitous route to Intercontinental Airport. I wanted to put at least 75 miles on the bike so I could get 4100 miles on the odometer.
I went west on I-10, north on Loop 610 and then south on I-45. I then took I-10 east to Highway 59 and the north to the airport. When I took the airport exit I started noticing fog in the fields. Not anywhere nearly as thick as I saw yesterday. And not on the road. But fog, nonetheless.
I circled terminals C, A and B and headed back to Highway 59, which I took south. I went all the way on 59 till it became Southwest Freeway. This was my first time on Southwest Freeway. That section of 59 is pretty beat up, with perpetual construction and lots of traffic. Soon enough, I was back at Loop 610, headed north. I stayed on 610 to I-45, and took it south to I-10. I then went west again, back to Loop 610. I took 610 north, then east.
While I was on the north loop I spotted a Houston Police car. I checked my speed, and decided, for completely unrelated reason, to slow down a tad. Lucky for me I did so. The cop was in the inside lane, four lanes over from me. I was approaching the exit for Ella Boulevard. All of a sudden (but with blinkers on) the cop changed over all four lanes and took the Ella exit, right in front of me. He did it smoothly, but with only inches to spare. I was glad I had slowed down.
Nothing else interesting happened on this trip (other than my first venture on Southwest Freeway). I filled up the tank and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 4128. Tomorrow will be a short ride, because of legal appointments. I was glad to get in some pleasant street time today. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
pm: I also got a ride in this afternoon. Half Price Books had a twenty percent off sale all weekend. I had managed to hit two locations by Saturday night. But the locations up north kept calling. I announced to Maria that I intended to visit these two Half Prices, and that she was welcome to join me. Initially, she said yes. But then she decided she didn't want to make me feel "rushed," so she said I should go by my lonesome. Which is what I did. On the Rebel. Thus, the second ride of the day.
I suited up and grabbed my backpack, for I intended serious buying (I even had a list of what to look for), and headed out. I drove directly to the Half Price off Highway 59 and 1960. I found a nice parking place, fork locked the bike and used the helmet lock to leave my helmet on the bike. I donned my do-rag and entered the store.
I made my selections and headed for the register. The clerk asked me if I was riding a motorcycle. I said yes, and he said that's what he figured, given how I was dressed. He asked me if the gas mileage was good, and I said yes. I have noticed that biker gear gets you a lot more conversations than regular garb. I put the books in the back pack and headed for the bike. I retrieved my helmet and headed to the second Half Price Books, which is due west on FM 1960.
Fortunately, traffic on 1960 was pretty light. I pulled in to the parking lot and locked the bike again. I decided to take my helmet this time, but I did take the time to put on my do-rag.
I loaded up on books, once again. I was watching to make sure I could fit everything into the pack, and I was pretty sure I could. But then, just as I was ready to leave, I checked one last section. And there, sitting on a shelf, calling to me, begging to be taken home, was a coffee table sized book called, The Peacemakers, by R.L. Smith. A giant picture book of guns and gear from black powder to the early single action revlovers. I couldn't pass it up.
I figured I could find some way to get it home. So I got in line and paid. I asked for two bags to hold the books. The clerk looked at me and asked me if I had a bike. I said yes, and we discussed good bikes for first time riders. He told me he was ready to take the Rider's Edge course. Once again, a do-rag and riding jacket opened the door to interesting conversations.
After paying, I headed for the door. Just before exiting, I found a place where I could rearrange my loot. I put a lot of the books in the main compartment of the back pack. I put a couple more in an outer pocket. That still left four motorcycle magazines and the coffee table book. I took of my jacket and stuffed the magazines in the compartment that houses the spine armor. But there was no room at the inn for the gun book.
I wasn't about to leave it, so I resorted to the method I use when I forget to bring the back pack. I double bagged it and stuffed it down the front of my jacket. I put on my helmet and, fashionably attired, I headed out the door. A little girl just looked on and smiled. I hope she didn't think I was a shoplifter when she saw me stuffing my jacket with books and magazines.
The ride home was uneventful, thank goodness. The back pack had some weight to it, but I could still maneuver the bike. I made good time getting back home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 4195 miles on the bike. And a bunch of books. Specifically, ten books, four magazines and a twelve cassette version of Lord of the Rings. I decided to weigh the lot of them, and the scale revealed I had packed eighteen pound of knowledge back with me. Seemed more like forty.
Tomorrow I have an out-of-town deposition. That means I have to get up extra early to fit in my ride before heading out. I am already looking forward to topping 4200 miles. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
September 17, 2005:
Today was graduation day. My goal was to put the 4000th mile on the bike. I was 75 miles from doing that. I awoke at the normal time and grabbed a shower. I then got the morning paper, fed Sarah, and let her out to do her business. I checked for construction projects and noted that both Highway 290 and Interstate 10 were free of construction cones. So I suited up, checked the air and headed out.
I warmed up and headed to the Shell station to top off the tank. On the way to the gas station I settled on my route. Because of the love bugs in the area I decided to stay out of the country. Also, we were having small guests for breakfast, so I needed to be back home by 8:30 am. I settled on taking I-10 west and then heading north on Highway 6, and taking Highway 290 back. That way, I figured I could be on Highway 290 when I turned over the 4000th mile.
This was to be an "all highway" trip. That way I could easily get in the miles and be back in time for breakfast. I filled up the tank and started my trip by heading east on I-10, then north on I-45, then west on Loop 610, back to I-10, where I headed west to Katy. I had left the house at 6:20 am, and traffic was pretty light until I hit I-10 West. There, I faced several aggressive drivers. I don't know if a freeway can really have a personality, but if it can, I don't like the personality of I-10 from the Loop west. Type A drivers predominate. A "take no prisoners" attitude is prevalent. Blinkers are not used, and lanes are changed constantly. All this makes for an unpleasant ride because you have to be so alert for "clown" action. And, this morning, I had my share. No close calls, but I was constantly adjusting my road position to stay out of trouble. Not a relaxing start to the ride.
I stayed on I-10 past Highway 6. I figured I needed about ten more westbound miles to make sure I turned the 4000th mile on Highway 290. So on I went. Traffic smoothed out around Highway 6, and things began to relax. It was still pretty dark, and I noticed heavy clouds on the horizon. Not rain clouds. More like snow clouds. But, since the temperature was in the 70's, I knew they had to be something else.
I topped a hill and spotted fog in the field to my right. I've seen fog before, but this was pretty close to town. It was very eerie. Beautiful, in a way. It put me in mind of Scotland, and the Highland mists. And the novel I am reading, The Turn of the Screw. It's a ghost story by Henry James. Robert M. Pirsig mentions it in his introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, another book I've got working now, and his comments about it caused me to reread it.
The foggy mists put me in mind of ghost stories, and I was thinking about how such fog was probably the inspiration for many such a tale. My musings were interrupted when the fog spread out onto the freeway. At first it was pretty thin, and it was sort of neat to be riding in it. But it kept getting thicker and thicker. The kind of fog that makes people hit their brakes and causes multiple rear enders. And, as I thought about it, the kind of fog that causes the streets to get really slippery with its moisture.
I slowed down a little, and moved into the far right-hand lane, directly behind a well-lit dump truck. I figured cars coming up behind me would be able to see the dump truck, even if they could barely see my puny motorcycle lights.
I wasn't sure exactly where I was along I-10 because, with the constant checking in the mirrors, and the thickness of the fog, I hadn't seen an exit in a while. I did see a sign saying that Brookwood was 7 miles ahead. I resolved to get off the freeway and head back at first opportunity. Which was a long time in coming. But come it did, and the dump truck and I exited and I u-turned to get back on I-10, headed east. I repeatedly had to use my gloved finger to wipe the mist off my visor. The fog was that thick.
As I headed back I noticed Katy Mills Mall on my right. The fog had been so thick on the outbound leg that I had not even seen it across the freeway. Just past Katy the fog lifted, and all was restored to normal. I stayed on I-10 to Highway 6, and then headed north to Highway 290. When I passed Cynthia's apartment, I tooted my horn three times. Cynthia is my paralegal. I'm sure she heard me.
When I got on Highway 290 I still had a few miles to go to make mile 4000. And the sun was out now. And out in force. I had to exit the freeway and pull in to a parking lot to put my sunglasses on to fight the glare. I got back on the freeway and continued toward Houston.
Just half a mile before I hit Loop 610, and with no nearby traffic either in front of me or behind me, I watched the odometer as 3999.9 became 4000.0. Neat. Soon thereafter I took the exit for the North Loop, and headed east. Just as I rounded the corner, with less than a mile added to the 4000, a motorcyclist on a yellow Suzuki passed me by. He gave me a friendly wave. We are both in the community of bikers. And I returned the acknowledgement, even though I knew he could not see me. It seemed fitting that a fellow biker would salute me for my 4000th mile, and so soon after making it to that milestone.
I continued east on Loop 610. As I crested a hill I saw something in the road ahead. I couldn't place it. It didn't look exactly like a road gator, but it was pretty big, and took up most of my lane. I did a quick head check, only to discover that a truck was coming up on me in the next lane, and I couldn't switch over without hard braking. I concentrated on the obstacle, remembering to not look directly at it so my eyes didn't make my bike head for it. I decided I had room to scoot around it. I also figured out what the obstruction was. It was an upside down baby carriage. Must have fallen off a truck. Oh boy.
After edging past the road hazard, I continued on to I-45, and took it south toward downtown. I had to decide on dessert. I was going to end the trip by either taking the twisties on White Oak or the curves on Allen Parkway. I opted for the Parkway because the whole trip had been at high speed, and Allen Parkway seemed somehow more appropriate.
The curves were fun, as always. Traffic was pretty light. I went to the western end of the Parkway and u-turned back to downtown. I then turned north on Louisiana and onto I-10, headed west once again. I exited and pulled up to the Shell station. I topped off the tank in preparation for tomorrow's ride, and was home by 8:30 am. The odometer read 4025. As I walked in to the kitchen, two of the neighborhood children were sitting at the table, feasting on home-made waffles. With strawberries and raspberries. And maple syrup. What a way to end the ride. I joined Maria, Sarah and the two of them, and resumed my Saturday. That's all for today. Stayed tuned for more adventures.
* * * * *
September 16, 2005:
This morning's ride was erratic. By that I mean that in places there was virtually no traffic and at other points it was bumper to bumper. But I am getting ahead of myself.
This morning, after walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up, aired the tires and headed out. I warmed up and then headed east on I-10. I had no problems getting over the four or five lanes to the exit for I-45, north. On I-45 there was hardly any traffic. Things were looking good as I took the exit for Loop 610, heading west. However, once I got on the Loop things heated up. There was lots of traffic, and everyone was moving fast. With not much space between the vehicles. I guess most drivers feel that nothing is going to happen while they make their commutes. I say that because they seldom leave enough space between their vehicles and the cars ahead of them to react if something happens.
On a bike you have a different attitude. I always figure something is going to happen. Someone will change into my lane without signaling. Someone will hit their brakes hard. Someone will swerve over two lanes (or more) to get to the exit they forgot they needed.
Because mistakes tend to have more severe consequences when you are on a bike, I am super aware of traffic flow. That's why it was disturbing to me this morning to see all the chances the car drivers were taking. Cars were whipping around me like I was going the minimum speed limit (which, I can assure you, I was not). At one point traffic almost stopped, and I was sure the car behind me was going to kiss my rear tire. Ugh. As I merged with the traffic from Highway 290, a Metro bus decided I was going too slowly. Which I wasn't. I was keeping pace with the car in front of me. But I allow a larger gap between me and the car ahead of me than many Houston drivers can tolerate. They have to whip around and squeeze into that gap. Which this giant bus did this morning. Of course, the gap wasn't quite that big, so I had to slow down as the bus "eased" into my lane. I guess he was behind schedule.
Anyway, I wanted to get that off my chest. The ride went fine, with no close calls. And it was enjoyable, in spite of the occassional maniac. And I pushed the odometer to 3925, and had a good time doing it. I should get to mile 4000 tomorrow, easily. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
September 15, 2005:
This morning I had an important legal seminar. So, once again, I had to juggle work with riding. And, because I needed to be headed for the seminar by 7:15 am, that meant a quick morning ride. I suited up, check the air and was off on my ride. I warmed up on the backroads off 6th Street. I then headed north on Shepherd to 14th Street. I turned mile 3900 while on 14th. I then took North Main to Houston, and then to the twisties on White Oak. They were, as always, a blast.
Nothing special to report about this ride. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 3903 miles on the odometer. Today's ride took about twenty minutes. Tomorrow is Friday, and no morning appointments.
* * * * *
September 14, 2005:
I have another out-of-the-office legal appointment this morning. I can taste mile 4000. What to do? Ride the freeways again. I decided if I stayed on the freeways the entire trip I could rack up twenty-five miles and still make my appointment with time to spare. So that was the plan.
I suited up, checked the air and headed out. I warmed up and then got on I-10 and headed for I-45, north. I then took Loop 610 back to I-10 and stayed on it till the Studemont exit. I then u-turned and took I-10 back to Washington, u-turned again and got back on I-10 to the Taylor exit.
At the light for Taylor a weird thing happened. As is my habit, I had raised my visor while waiting for the light to turn green. When it did so I reached up with my right hand and lowered the visor. I then continued the downward arc of my hand onto the throttle, and reved it up. Nothing happened. I tried again. The motor was dead. I pushed the started button. Nothing. A glance at the tripometer showed I had plenty of gas. And the head light was still working. I quickly wheeled the bike onto a sidewalk and tried to figure out what had happened. The Rebel is so reliable, I was sure it was driver error. Which it was. Apparently, as my hand swept down to the throttle I had toggled off the kill switch. Thus, no go. I quickly turned the switch on and pushed in the starter button. It worked. I backed onto the street and continued my ride. A glance at my watch told me it was only 6:45. So I decided to take the Loop again. I figured I could make mile 3900 easily.
I headed back on I-10 and got on the Loop. Just as I was about to travel the north portion of the Loop, one of those billboard signs with traffic conditions came up. It reported a wreck in the left-hand lane of I-45. I decided to cut my trip short so as to avoid the snarl. I took the TC Jester exit, did the curves to 11th, and on home. As I pulled up to the driveway I had logged 3895 miles on the bike. So close I could taste it. And it was barely seven am. Tomorrow for sure.
* * * * *
September 13, 2005:
I have an out-of-the-office legal appointment this morning, so I needed to get in a quick ride. But I am aiming for 4000 miles by Saturday night, so I also wanted to log some distance. The solution was to run the freeways, with Memorial thrown in for some twisties.
I suited up, checked the air, and was on the road by 6:10 am. I warmed up and hit I-10, going east. I then took I-45 to Loop 610, and 610 to the Memorial exit. That gives me a quick 9 miles. Traffic wasn't too bad.
The Memorial run was nice, and uneventful. I went downtown, then took Louisiana to I-10. A glance at my belt watch told me I was ahead of schedule. So I decided to stay on I-10 westbound to the Washington exit. I then u-turned and took I-10 back to Studemont. Right before the Studemont exit I had a close encounter.
I was in the second lane from the right. There was a green Honda Civic ahead of me, in the right-hand lane. The woman driving the Civic slowed, as if to change one lane to the right. She started to move to the right, then slowed and, without signaling, came into my lane. I had not slowed down so, all of a sudden, there was a car in my lane, right next to me. I eased over to the left-most edge of my lane, checked for traffic, and merged into the next lane to the left. No blinker by the Civic. Apparently, a white panel van was merging onto the freeway, and this caused the woman to change lanes. She was probably looking at the van instead of at me.
My mistake was letting her get next to me. Her slowing down caused this, but I didn't cut my speed when she began to slow down. If I had, she never would have been next to me. For a second (and it seemed like far longer) we were both occupying the same lane! At 55 mph! Ugh.
I have to be constantly aware that entering traffic can cause problems as it tries to merge onto the freeway. I didn't notice the van as it came on. So I didn't anticipate the Civic moving over a lane. I should have been warned when the Civic started slowing down, but I assumed she was slowing to switch a lane to the right. I just wasn't thinking hard enough.
The adrenaline didn't really kick in because I did figure out what was happening pretty fast, and because the Civic's speed was about the same as mine, so nothing happened all that fast, relatively speaking. But it did remind me again that one has to remain ever-vigilant when riding a bike.
On the other hand, it was, overall, a nice, enjoyable ride, and I now have 3863 miles on the odometer. And I'm ready to hit the roads again ASAP.
* * * * *
September 12, 2005:
For this morning's ride I decided to visit old ground. I was on the road by 6:15 am, after putting my outfit back together. Maria had washed the Vanson textile jacket on the hand-wash cycle on Sunday. It was covered with love bug guts. I had removed the foam back protector, but left the other padding in place. It came out fine. No shrinkage. This morning I repositioned the back protector, added my do-rag and sunglasses to a side pocket, and grabbed my gloves. I had checked the air last night, after my long ride, so I was off without further ado.
I warmed up and headed west on I-10. I then took Loop 610 to the Memorial exit, and Memorial to Allen Parkway. I did both segments of Allen Parkway, then finished up Memorial to Louisiana. I got back on I-10 and rode it to the Washington exit to get in some extra miles. I then u-turned and came back to the Studemont exit, and on home.
It was a nice ride. Temperatures were cool, and I had excellent views of the clouds that are moving in with the promise of rain. But that promise was unfulfilled on this ride. And traffic was light. I now have 3836 miles on the odometer. A great start to the work week.
* * * * *
September 11, 2005:
Today was the love bug day. Not as in "Herbie." As in the flying bug. As in Plecia nearctica, for those of you with a scientific bent. My books tell me that for about a week in May and in September these wetland flies do their mating flight in numbers too vast to count. It was my luck to encounter these love maniacs on today's ride. And encounter them en masse.
This morning the sky was overcast, but not with rain laden clouds. So I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. My goal was to put 150 miles on the bike, in quick order. Maria had a morning sewing seminar, and estimated that she would be back by noon. I left the house shortly after she did, and, after warming up, was on I-10, headed west, by ten am. I took Highway 59 north, and was pleased to see that it was as deserted as usual on the weekends. And no construction.
Mostly, I just rode. I really had no destination. My plan was to watch the odometer until I had 75 miles in the northerly direction, then turn back (with a quick stop at the Half Price Books off 59 and 1960) for the second 75 miles. Voila: 150 miles. And that would mean I had 3800 on the odometer.
All went according to plan for the first part of the trip. I watched mile 3700 roll over. And I could tell from the mileage signs that Livingston would work out as a good turn-around point. I decided to not stop in Livingston, and take my break at the bookstore. The Plecia nearctica had other plans.
I had passed Patton Village when I felt, heard, and saw, a pair of love bugs splatter on my helmet's visor. And another pair, and another pair, and another pair. I figured you can't wipe them off the visor without smearing the juice everywhere. You have to just grin and bear it. Well, you can grin if you have a full face helmet. Otherwise, you'd better just smile and bear it.
I could see the love bugs as they came at me. There was a center median along this part of Highway 59 and it seemed to me that there were more bugs in the left-hand lane than in the right one. I kept to the right. Nonetheless, there were lots of bugs. I was getting hit everywhere. Not just the helmet. The knees of my jeans were getting hit. My shoulders were taking flak. The entire chest area of my jacket was a wasteland of bug guts. White bug guts on black fabric. I kept having to tilt my head in new directions to see through the increasingly few areas on the visor not yet covered in bug juice.
I decided to adjust my schedule to account for this new development. And that adjustment was a stop in Livingston at the Whataburger I had visited on my first trip through this fine city. I pulled in and stop the bike. I took off my helmet and had a look. Ugh. Time to wash up. I headed inside to the men's room. I turned on the faucet and started wetting down the visor. After the bugs were thoroughly wet, I used my finger (and sometimes my finger nail) to remove the bugs from the viewing area. Thankfully, this restroom had paper towels instead of a hot air dryer, so I was able to dry off the visor.
When I looked in the mirror I decided there was no way I could make an appearance at Half Price Books. My jacket was covered in the white remains of dead love bugs. I finished drying off the visor and headed for the restaurant. I quickly took off my jacket and laid it in the seat of a booth. I placed the bespattered helmet on the table, with the rear of the helmet facing me. I then went to the counter and ordered a glass of ice tea and took a break.
When I was suitably refreshed, I quickly put on the jacket and helmet and headed back to Houston. I was barely on Highway 59, headed south, when a pair of love bugs collided with the newly cleaned visor, dead center. No pun intended. As I was cursing my luck, another pair joined their friends a half an inch to my left. After that, so many met me that I quit counting. Fortunately, there were spots of clear visor I could see through. As I neared Houston the love bugs vanished.
Nothing much else to report except that I ran the main tank dry at mile 137. I usually get at least 150 miles to the main tank at highway speeds, but I had not taken care to fill the tank to the tip top when I gassed up. When I ran dry I was going about 75 mph* and there was a rapid loss of speed when the engine started sputtering. And I was far from the fastest vehicle on the freeway. As I reached down to switch to the reserve tank I saw a car that had been behind me pull into the left-hand lane and pass me by. Once I switched the tanks, the Rebel responded with style, and I regained my speed. I figured I was about twenty-five miles from home, and I was pretty sure I could make it on in on the reserve tank. Which I did.
And oh yes, I also made mile 3800, just as I passed up the exit for Loop 610. I stayed on Highway 59 to the exit for I-10, then took it to the Heights exit and looped around to the Shell station, where I filled up. All the way up, this time. I then headed on home. As I pulled up to the driveway one of the neighborhood boys came up to ask me where I had been. Before I could tell him, he gave me a funny look and asked me what was all over my clothes, helmet and bike. You know the answer to that. He seemed suitable impressed. Boys are like that about bugs. He said I had the coolest bike. I sure hope he wasn't referring to the new accent marks provided courtesy of the Plecia neartica.
After I shut off the engine I glanced at the odometer. The Rebel and I now have 3810 miles together. And I gave the bike a bath before I took mine. Only seemed fair.
* * * * *
September 10, 2005:
When I awoke this morning I sat up in bed and looked out the window, searching for a lightning flash. Nothing. Good. Last night, the news had predicted rain. At least the lightning wasn't here yet. Nor had I heard the pitter patter of raindrops. All good omens. I got up and showered.
Maria had a sewing seminar this morning, so we had a somewhat relaxed schedule, but still one with deadlines. We took Sarah for her morning walk and noticed ominous clouds all around. Dark clouds. Slow moving clouds. Rain on your parade clouds. Still, by the end of the walk, no rain had yet fallen. We had breakfast and she left for her seminar. I suited up, (having checked the air last night), and headed out. The clouds looked like they were mostly in the Galveston area. The television had reported morning rain along the seawall. I gassed up and headed west, away from the darkest clouds. It was 8:40 am.
I took I-10 to Loop 610 to Highway 290. My goal was Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. Traffic was pretty light, even though I was starting a couple of hours later than my normal weekend time. And the clouds were blocking the sun and keeping temperatures cool. It felt good to be on the road.
I missed watching mile 3500 roll over. I started out with 3480 miles on the odometer, so 3500 rolled around fairly quickly. I was either watching traffic or just having too much fun. Anyway, after about 60 miles I exited Highway 290 at Chappell Hill. I headed north on FM 1155. I had two maps with me for this trip. First, I had sketched out my route on a piece of note pad. The note pad listed major cities and the roads I planned to take. But this morning I also had a backup map. A few weeks ago I had purchased a second copy of The Roads of Texas, for $14.95. This is the best map of Texas, in my opinion. Each page is eleven by fifteen inches. The large pages mean that lots of detail can be shown. Like county roads. And gravel roads.
Last night I had torn out page 125 from the book and folded it up into a packet that would fit in a front pocket of my jeans. To keep sweat and rain from ruining the map, I cut a plastic protector a little larger than the folded packet, and taped up two edges of the plastic, making a nice clear pocket in which to put the map. I like having this extra map in case I miss a turn and end up on roads I did not sketch. And the map has sufficient detail so that I am confident I will be able to figure out where I am in short order.
At first, I didn't have to use the new map. The road to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park was clearly marked. I rolled through Chappell Hill, and decided it was too early to stop for coffee. FM 1155 is a great road for the motorcycle rider. There are curves, and hills, and little traffic. The pastures are all fenced, and there was no livestock on the road. I think I saw more bycyclists than cars. I also saw horses. Lots of horses. Beautifully cared for horses. It was a great segment of the ride.
But, all too soon, I came upon Park Road 12, and my first destination. I pulled in and headed for the visitor center. They have an ok display of Texana and a working farm, with the workers dressed in period costumes. There is an admission charge to tour the farm. Due to the press of time, I passed on the farm tour and continued on my own route. One new thing. I decided I was tired of carrying around my full-face helmet, so I tried the helmet lock on the bike for the first time. The key opens a bar and you insert the d-ring through the bar and lock it up. I did that before touring the visitor center. When I was ready to leave I stuck the key into the lock and started to turn it. The helmet fell on the pavement. It seems I failed to properly secure the helmet lock, so the helmet was held in place simply by gravity. Live and learn. I retrieved the helmet and stuck it on my head. To hold in my brains. I then headed out of the park.
My plan called for me to get on State Highway 105 and head in a generally eastwardly direction to Plantersville. I pulled over and got out my Roads of Texas page to see how to find 105. There was a note of a Washington Cemetery Road (listed as a graded road) that seemed to connect to 105. I realized I had just passed it. So back I went, and headed due west on the gravel road. I couldn't exactly place the road surface. It looked a little like caliche with a coating of whitish dust on top. There were rocks, but they seemed fairly imbedded into the surface. Still, I had a passing worry that they might be eating up my tires.
The Washington Cemetery Road passed right by the cemetery. A fairly large one. I didn't stop. Neither did the four foot long golden snake that slithered across the road ahead of me. He made good time to the side of the road, and I made good time to State Highway 105. And on to Plantersville, via Navasota.
I passed the entrance to the Texas Renaissance Festival. There was lots of activity. I have it on good authority that the players are already hard at practice getting ready for opening day.
After Plantersville I came to Magnolia. The last time I rode through there I was freezing to death. Today, my worry was getting soaked. The clouds looked threatening. But no lightning yet. Maybe I would luck out and stay dry. I stopped at the Yankee Doodle Donut Shop on FM 1774. I am on a quest for the best cinnamon roll in Texas. I ordered their entry, and coffee. No prize on either score. The cinnamon roll was good, but it was really just a rolled up donut, not a cinnamon roll. At least not to my mind. Oh well, I still have an excuse to continue my search. My belt watch said it was about ten minutes after eleven. Too early for lunch, so I had a couple of extra bites of the cinnamon roll, which was an excellent donut. Then I went back to the bike and headed out.
As soon as I got back on FM 1774 it began to rain. Not a gully washer, but not a light sprinkle either. I had previously practiced riding in the rain, so I wasn't totally inexperienced. But this was my first time in heavy traffic, at high speeds. I was pretty keyed up, but I managed to ride out of the shower without incident. Sometimes my visor was so rain splattered that I had to use a gloved finger to wipe it clear. I tried to do this at stop lights, so I could keep both hands on the grips.
I made it to Tomball and got on Highway 249. I took that toward Houston. When I pulled up to the FM 1960 intersection there was no rain. So I decided to go to the Half Price Books on 1960 near 249, and eat lunch thereafter. When I pulled into the parking lot the clouds didn't look all that threatening. I decided to try the helmet lock again. I locked the helmet to the bike and turned the helmet so the liner was facing down, just in case the clouds let loose while I was inside shopping.
While I was inside at the Half Price I would occasionally look out the front windows to check the weather. All was fine. I was about finished when I heard the workers talking about the rain. What rain? I looked out and a light rain was falling. I decided to immediately check out and leave. Maybe I could ride out of the rain again. Just as I got in line, the skies opened up and a deluge struck. Change of plans. I decided to go through all the shelves again. Maybe I had missed that once in a lifetime book find. And maybe the rain would stop.
I checked several times, but the rain kept coming. In torrents. Patience was needed. Patience I had. After about forty-five minutes the heavy stuff had passed. A call to Maria revealed that not only was she back home, the streets were dry in the Heights. So maybe I could ride out of it.
I paid for my book and headed for the bike. I wondered how wet my helmet would be. Turns out it was dry (on the inside). I put it on, pulled on my gloves and started up the bike. A medium rain was falling. I got back on FM 1960 and headed west, back to Highway 249. I figured this was the way to go because I could keep my speed down. If I took 1960 east I would hit I-45, and I did not want to test my skills at driving in the rain at 60 mph. And I know Houston drivers don't slow down for rain!
At 249 I turned south, staying on the feeder roads. When I got to I-45 I also stayed on the feeders. It was still raining.
I came to North Shepherd, and took it south, all the way back home. Once I got on Shepherd, the rain stopped. The streets were actually dry. I made it home without incident. I wasn't even all that wet. The Vanson jacket does a good job of keeping you dry.
I took Shepherd to I-10, and I-10 to the Shell station. I filled up with gas for tomorrow's ride. Let's hope it is a dry one. When I pulled up to the driveway I had logged 3652 miles on the odometer. It was 4:15 pm. And I still hadn't had lunch.
* * * * *
September 9, 2005:
For this morning's ride I had no real goal in mind. Just some seat time. I suited up, checked the air in the tires and headed out. I warmed up on the back roads off of 6th, then headed north on Shepherd. I got on Loop 610 and took it to I-45. Traffic was light on both freeways. I exited I-45 at the Allen Parkway exit and took the Parkway west to Shepherd. I then got back on Memorial and went downtown. Lots of nice curves on these two stretches. I then took I-10 to the Heights exit, and on home. Nothing special about this ride. I covered twenty miles in about forty minutes, and had a great time doing it. I now have 3480 miles on the odometer.
* * * * *
September 8, 2005:
I have a legal seminar this morning, so I needed to make the ride a quick one. That meant the twisties on White Oak.
I suited up, warmed up and headed north on Shepherd to 14th Street. I took 14th to Houston Avenue, then on to the twisties. They are still as fun as always. It's neat to know that even if I am pressed for time, I can get in a morning ride.
Speaking of time, this morning I was able to track the length of my ride--in minutes. I left the driveway at 6:15 am and was back by 6:35 am. So the twisties take me twenty minutes to run. The reason I know this is because I went to Academy yesterday and spotted a watch that you can attach to a belt loop on your jeans. The watch is "upside down." That means that when you flip the watch up, your are looking at it "right side up." The watch I bought was on sale for under five dollars. It works great. So far. Let's hope it is shock resistant. It didn't say. But at five dollars, I was willing to take a chance.
The only other thing worth comment is that I passed six cars coming at me during the three blocks I was on Oxford after turning off White Oak. I think that is a recond for traffic in the neighborhood at this early hour. Thankfully, there was little traffic before this. Anyway, in my twenty minute ride I covered seven city miles, and logged mile 3460 on the odometer.
* * * * *
September 7, 2005:
This morning dawned clear and cool. And, most significantly, there was low humidity. The TV said the temperature was 68. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. I try to always do this if I am planning freeway riding, which I was this morning. The tire gauge showed both tires needed a little air. I added it, and took off.
I warmed up and headed for the Shell station for gas. I didn't really need gas today, but I would by tomorrow, and I will be pressed for time tomorrow morning. So it seemed advisable to fill up today.
After topping the tank, I pulled out of the gas station. Traffic on I-10 looked pretty heavy, especially for so early in the morning. It was barely 6:20 am. Once I had accelerated to the flow of traffic, however, I had no trouble working my way over to the far left-hand lane so I could take the I-45 exit north. I traveled I-45 to Loop 610, and took the Loop to the Memorial exit.
This was the first time in a couple of weeks I had used Loop 610 to get to Memorial. I had taken this route off the rotation when they closed I-10 two weekends ago so they could "re-route" traffic at the I-10/610 interchange after completing another segment of the construction project. I wanted to give morning computers plenty of time to get used to the new lanes before I tested them. I don't want some confused driver crossing three lanes, into me, to get to his new exit.
No problems this morning. It was crowded, but everyone was civil. I took the Memorial exit and headed east. After blowing by Memorial Park, I continued down Memorial Drive. I was in the right-hand lane. A small, gray car was ahead of me. The woman driving was going 39 in a 40 mph zone. I decided to pass her. No cars were behind or beside me. I turned on my blinker, did a head check, and eased over into the middle lane. I was about a car length behind her. I rechecked everything and prepared to make my move to pass her. Just before I added on throttle, the lady drifted into my lane, without signaling. No reason for this move. I know she didn't even see me. I tooted my horn to let her know she needed to pay more attention, and changed into the right-hand lane and sped around her. At least she wasn't on her cell phone.
The rest of the ride was without incident. I rode both segments of Allen Parkway and finished up by taking Memorial to Louisiana, which I used to get to I-10. I took the Heights exit and had 3453 miles on the odometer when I pulled up to the driveway. And it was only 7:10 am. A good start to the day.
* * * * *
September 6, 2005:
I did not have time for a ride this morning because I had a court hearing in Liberty, Texas. I had to choose between walking the dog and riding the bike, and Sarah won. So I rode after work.
I didn't have any destination in mind. My only goal was to put some miles on the odometer and have some fun. I rode around the Heights, and managed to do both. The humidity was low (for September) and that made the temperatures, even after work, seem fairly mild.
I took some streets I had not been on in a while. Even at 20 to 30 mph I managed to put 15 miles on the odometer in fairly short order. I now have 2425 miles logged. And no hearings in the morning.
* * * * *
September 5, 2005:
Early to bed, early to rise. We had a neighborhood pool party Sunday afternoon and, after an exhaustive couple of hours keeping half a dozen neighborhood boys entertained, I came home and got to bed at an early hour. That meant I also awoke at an early hour. As in four am. I layed in bed for a little while, then got up, fed Sarah, and was out the door by 4:45 am. What was I thinking? I'll tell you: I was thinking that I could get in a nice ride and still be back for a leisurely morning at the house. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. And, as a bonus, have the roads all to myself.
I had checked the air in the tires the night before, so I after I suited up, I warmed up and headed for the Shell station, hoping it was open at this early hour. Yesterday, heading out an hour later than today, I had encountered heavy traffic, starting with a car at the second stop sign I came to. Today was different. It took three stop signs! Oh well. Doesn't anyone sleep in on holidays in Houston?
Even the gas station was crowded. A driver was filling up his car, and a couple of homeless people were panhandling. Funny, but they did not ask me for anything. Must have been my clothes.
Anyway, after topping off the tank I headed east on I-10. It was really dark, and no cars were in sight as I entered the freeway. I easily got on I-45 and headed for Loop 610. Both those freeways were pretty empty. I took Highway 290 north, and I also had it pretty much to myself.
I was headed to Waller, and to FM 359. I don't know what the temperature was, but with the wind chill I generated it was really cold. My riding so far has been during the summer months. And the Vanson mesh jacket I wear has really good ventilation. Which is excellent during summer. But this morning it was positively cold. It was like I was riding without a shirt on. In the dark. With temperatures in the upper sixties. With a 70 mph* wind. Burr. Double burr.
It was also dark. As I got out of Houston the freeway lights became few and far between. In fact, only the exits were lighted. It is neat riding at night, but you sure don't see much of the country. That, coupled with the cold, made me begin to regret the early hour. But I pressed on.
I took FM 359 north. I then took RR 1488 to Magnolia. These back roads had some nice curves, but all I could think about was the bitter cold, and whether deer were out yet. I kept my eyes peeled to the edges of the road, looking for the tell tale shine of deer eyes. And my concern about deer became real when I passed a business advertising taxidermy and deer processing. Yes, I was in deer country. I conjectured that deer may injure more motorcyclists than any mammal other than the ones that drive cars.
It was the darkest I've ever ridden in. When I checked my rear-view mirrors there was often nothing but a patch of total blackness. I kept my lights on bright as much as possible. In fact, this morning was the first time I continually toggled between regular and bright lights. Just like in a car. And I sure appreciated the extra light the bright bulb offered.
At one point, I was on RR 1488, willing Magnolia to appear so I could stop and warm up with coffee. All of a sudden I spied a shape on the other side of the road. The shape was moving slowly. The adrenaline came on full force. A cow? A deer? A werewolf? No, none of these. It was just a stooped over guy walking down the road. At six in the morning! At least I forgot the cold for a moment.
Magnolia came up shortly thereafter. As I entered town I spied a McDonald's and a Burger King. Not much choice there. I opted for the Burger King. I rolled up to the parking lot and swithched off the bike. I entered the restaurant and ordered coffee. I don't think I've ever had Burger King coffee before. It is hot. But that's about all I can say for it. Even though Burger King offered real Half and Half for the coffee, nothing could overcome the lack of taste in their brew. But hot was much appreciated. I took my time drinking the coffee, and enjoyed the warmth of the restaurant. A train came through town. I watched it until the last car passed. I then got up, put on my jacket and helmet, and headed out.
First light was barely here. And the temperature seemed a little warmer. I headed west on FM 1774. When I was sipping the warm brown stuff at the Burger King I heard the workers talking about the loss of electricity around 3 am. On the way out of town I saw three big trucks, with cherry pickers, working at the side of the road. They were working on the electric lines. In fact, I saw smoke rising from the area near the trucks, and I think it was from a line that was down in the weeds.
I took 1774 to Tomball, then got on Highway 249 and headed for Houston. Along the way I saw a sad sight. A police car was pulled into a parking lot, flashers going. A red motorcycle was parked in the lot. A poor fellow was standing next to it, all decked out in racing gear. He still had his helmet on, and he was wearing full racing leathers. I guess the Tomball police didn't appreciate his speed. I decided to make sure I was going the speed limit, or below. That also kept me warmer.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I was never happier to see Interstate 45 come up. Home, and warmth, was oh so close. Traffic was still pretty light on I-45, and I made good time back home. As I pulled up I spied Maria on the porch, and Sarah ran out to greet me. An unforgettable trip. The odometer read 3410. Hard, cold miles. But the route had promise, and I resolved to take it again in daylight. And not set out anytime soon before six in the morning.
* * * * *
September 4, 2005:
No lightning or thunder this morning. And no rain. I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am and, after feeding Sarah, was suited up and on the road before six.
Right away I knew I was not going to get the ride I wanted. At the second stop sign I came to I encountered a car coming from my right. A car at an intersection that is usually deserted. And a car out before six am, when I am supposed to have the road to myself. Not a good sign.
I finished warming up and headed for I-10. I entered the freeway and headed east to Highway 59. Not much traffic until I passed the exit for I-45. Then things heated up. By the time I was on Highway 59 there were eighteen wheelers, tankers and SUV's galore. Where had all this traffic come from? Normally, Hiwhway 59 is empty on weekend mornings. That's one reason I like it. And this was early on the second day of a three day weekend. All sane people were at home asleep.
I took 59 all the way to the exit for Intercontinental Airport. At one point I was coming up on a van. The van was in the lane to my right. Just as I had mentally decided to accelerate around the van, the driver changed into my lane. Fortunately, he used his blinker. I eased over a lane and avoided touching him. Because I was ready to pass him I had already checked to make sure the lane to my left was empty. I don't think he saw me before he changed lanes. But at least he used his blinker, so I was warned. And, of course, I was ready for him anyway. My rule of never letting anyone drive next to me paid off again.
I continued down Highway 59 and took the Airport exit. Right at that exit is K's Motorsports. I have passed it up before because it is located right where you exit, and there is hardly time to get over. This morning, since it was still dark, I decided to take the u-turn and circle back for a look.
As I completed the first turn in the u-turn under the freeway I came upon a yield sign. This was a little different from the normal u-turn under the freeway, and it was even more different in that there was a line of cars coming at me that caused me to have to really slow down. I guess I was not ready for that, although the way traffic had been so far, I should have been. I slowed down, but I negelected to downshift. When a gap opened up I was in the wrong gear to accelerate at my low speed. And one of those eighteen wheelers was behind me in the u-turn, raring to go. Bad timing. I quickly realized what was wrong and down-shifted a gear. Still not low enough. Another gear down (third, I think) and I was off, without the truck behind me even tooting its horn.
I did another u-turn (downshifting this time) and pulled up to the driveway for K's Motorsports. I turned off the bike and hopped the low barrier blocking the driveway. I window shopped for a few minutes. There were bikes, and ATV's and lots of jackets, helmets, etc. Might be worth a visit during regular business hours.
I got back on the bike and headed for the airport. Traffic was still heavy. One thing I like about the airport is being there all alone on my bike in the dark. Dark I still had. Being alone was not going to happen. Still, I enjoyed circling the terminals in the pre-dawn light.
After passing terminals C, A, and B, I headed back home on I-45, via Beltway 8. Nothing remarkable to report about that leg, except that traffic continued to be heavy. I exited Heights Boulevard off I-10 and watched the odometer roll over to 3300 while on Arlington. By the time I pulled up to the driveway it read 3301. And it wasn't even seven-thirty yet.
* * * * *
September 3, 2005:
I love the rain. But it conspired against me today. My plan was to be on the road before 6 am so I could be back home early. I did my part. I awoke at 4:30 am and listened to the radio till five. Richard Hoagland was talking on Coast to Coast about his offer to help the victims of Hurrincane Katrina. I made a note to visit his website. I continued to listen to the radio show, Perspectives, on 740 AM. After several minutes of the latest reporting on the storm, I decided to get up. Just as I made this decision, I thought I heard something. I turned off the radio and listened.
It sounded like a big wind. And it sounded like the start of rain. I sat up in bed. Time to head to the door for a peak outside. A flash of light filled the windows. As I was trying to assess whether I had seen lightning, and really heard rain, another flash occurred, followed by a clap of thunder. I sank back onto the bed. There went my morning riding plans. The rain sounded heavy. I don't mind riding in the neighborhood in the rain, but I didn't want to try a freeway in a full storm.
I showered anyway, and the rain continued. I went down and fed the dog. I started some coffee and continued reading The Valley of Horses. The rain slacked up a bit so I went out and checked the rain gauge. We got six tenths of an inch of rain in the downpour. But maybe the streets would dry out pretty quickly. I went back to reading.
After breakfast the skies darkened again, and rain threatened. I decided to head for the Half Price Books on Gray. Just as I made this decision, the rain started up again, full force. So much for Plan B.
I kept reading. But it was like I had runner's fever. You know, that urge regular runners get to be on the track and the jitters they get if they don't run. Since I got the bike I have not missed a ride except for one day I was out of town. But I had another complication, besides the rain. I have a meeting of the Houston Pond Society at 1 pm. And Ray, our host, is a maker of homemade wine. Which I was for sure going to sample. And that would put a crimp in my riding possibilities.
I went upstairs and continued to read. But I was watching the clock, too. When 11 am rolled around I decided to suit up. It was still raining lightly. Maria asked me if I intended to get on the freeways, and I assured her that I was just going to ride in the Heights. Which I did.
I rarely got the bike over 20 mph. I took turns especially carefully. The rain continued to fall, but at least I didn't. Fall, that is. But I did come close one time when I decided to brave 11th Street. I was going about 30 mph when I came to Dorothy Street. I slowed to make a right-hand turn. I was using the rear brake to slow. I felt the back tire start to let go. Not a skid, exactly, but definitely not under control, either. A quick glance showed me no one was on Dorothy, so I took up the entire street and made a superwide turn, going all the way into the oncoming lane. Everything worked out fine, but I'm beginning to wonder if the Rebel's rear treads are unsuited to water or if the Rebel's owner is too heavy handed (or footed) with the brakes and throttle. Time will tell.
That's all I have to report. The rest of the ride went fine. I do enjoy riding in the rain, at residential speeds. There is increased risk, but there is increased fun, too. I highly recommend rain riding if you can stay on the back streets. When I pulled up to the driveway, wet but not soggy, the odometer read 3240. Not the 3300 I had planned for today, but still a fun hour on the bike. And that's what it's all about. Meet you on the (dry) road.
* * * * *
September 2, 2005:
This is the start of the Labor Day weekend. This morning I suited up, warmed up and gassed up. I then headed east on I-10, north on I-45 and west on North Loop. I took the Memorial exit and headed to Allen Parkway. I did both halves of the Parkway, then took Memorial to Louisiana, and I-10 to the Heights exit.
Traffic on the freeways was heavy. Must be people leaving town. Traffic downtown was lighter than normal. Temperatures were nice and, because of the absence of most traffic, the curves on Allen Parkway were excellent. I now have 3228 miles on the odometer. A great start to the weekend.
* * * * *
September 1, 2005:
This morning I had an appointment with a service person, so my schedule was weird. Instead of slipping out the door a little after six am, I put off the ride until 7:45 am so I could take my time. All I had to do was be back by 9.
I checked the air in the tires, suited up, and headed out. I warmed up on the back streets off 6th and headed up TC Jester. My original plan was to take Ella Boulevard to its northern end. However, plans change.
I changed my route because of the time. Normally, when I head out around six, it is dark and there is little traffic. Things are a lot different around 8 am. First, you can see details on the buildings. I was noticing features on houses I regularily pass in the dark that never registered in the dark. Colors, for instance. They say all cats are grey at night, and it is certainly true that colors are muted at dawn. I was surprised to see some of the paint schemes people had chosen for their houses. Vibrant colors. Bold colors. Big colors.
I was also astonished at the increase in residential traffic. Intersections that are always empty had traffic. Streets that normally had traffic were congested. That's why I changed my route. Too much traffic to enjoy the ride up Ella. I figured that as long as I was going to be in traffic anyway, I might as well test the freeways. So I got on Loop 610 and took it to Highway 290. I took Highway 290 north. My revised goal was to revisit the Red Onion Restaurant.
I had had an enjoyable dinner with friends at the Red Onion last night. It is a restaurant I highly recommend. The food and service are outstanding. It serves a South American style of food. Pineapple salsa in addition to the normal red. Plantains. Perhaps the best onion rings in Houston. My favorite dish, and what I ordered last night, is a medellion of beef Colombian. The beef is unbelieveably tender. It is coated in coffee grounds. I know, that doesn't sound especially tasty, but give it a try. I bet you will thank me for the recommendation.
Anyway, after riding past the Red Onion, I doubled back on 290 and picked up Loop 610 North. I then took I-45 to I-10, and exited at Heights. I pulled up to the driveway at 8:40 am, and had logged 25 fun miles. The odometer now reads 3200.
* * * * *
For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.
* * * * *
For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.
* * * * *
For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.
* * * * *
For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.
* * * * *
For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.
* * * * *
*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.