Friday, August 29, 2008

Ride to Laredo: MTF Event and AMA Points

Another great day to get on the road! This time, I'm headed to Laredo for the start of the MTF/IBA Border to Border ride. I had originally signed up to do this ride on the BMW. It's an IBA certifiable ride, going from Mexico to Canada in 24 hours (Gold) or 36 hours. I had signed up for the 36-hr version, even though I qualified for the Gold version, having done a BBG. But I had put some waypoints on the route to collect a few national park stamps and AMA Grand Tour points along the way.

However....I had an unexpected opportunity to sell my very high-mileage BMW and, even though my new BMW won't be here until sometime in late September, I felt that a bird-in-hand was better than two in the bush, so accepted the buy offer. I took the FZ on my trip to the IBA meeting in Tulsa, then on up into MO and KS, as a test of its comfort and capabilities for an LD ride. The new Givi luggage are excellent! Large, capacious, I was able to live out of them for a week, without bringing the topcase. I put the SW-Motech risers on just before this trip, and what a difference they make! The bike gets excellent gas mileage (between 55 and 60 mpg) and has a 5 gallon tank, making the FZ a very capable LD motorcycle. The seat, however, is not up to the task. I bought the Yamaha comfort gel seat, but it's every bit as uncomfortable as the stock seat, maybe more so. The gel is hard, with absolutely no "give" and the seat itself is flat, with no contouring, so I found that after about 400 miles, my ischeal tuberosities (the bony top ends of your femurs, the part that you sit on) felt like I'd sat on a belt sander, they were so sore from bumping and sliding on this seat. I really miss my Bill Mayer seat on the BMW!!

So, without my LD-proven BMW to do the B2B ride, I contacted the ride coordinator to say that I was withdrawing. He mentioned to me that the site witness had decided to do the ride himself, and he now needed someone to replace him, so I offered to do so.

Bike loaded (this trip I decided to take the topcase to see how that works out), I got onto the road at 6:00 AM, to head south down 59. I would be meeting up with three other riders: Tom, who's the ride coordinator; Lewis, whose place I'll be taking as site witness; and Perry, a friend and coworker of Lewis's. We all rode together as far as Beeville, TX, where I split off in search of some AMA Grand Tour points.


I had several AMA Grand Tour point locations entered into my GPS and the first couple would be "Italy in America" points. The first was just north of Beeville, a town called Normanna. Now the town in Italy is really Normanni (which is the Latin or Italian plural form of Normann). So I figured that a female member of this family immigrated to Texas and founded the town of Normanna (female singular form), naming it after herself. Think that will fly?? Well, that point in the bag, I continued north to my turn-off for a tiny dot on the map called Caesar. There is no indication that this is a town any longer, so no guarantee that there'd even be a green town sign.
There wasn't. I expected the terrain to be flat and featureless, but I was pleasantly surprised, as I rode a very hilly, windy road through some really pretty wooded sections.

So 1 for 2, I headed south toward Alice, TX where I'd be meeting a Corpus Christi friend for lunch. I arrived about 30 minutes early, so headed into the center of town to get a photo of the world's largest concrete water tower. Then it was over to Subway to have lunch. The skies had been looking a bit threatening all morning, and they chose to let loose while I was inside eating. An hour later there was still no sign of it letting up and I had to get to Laredo by 3:00-3:30, so I geared up and headed out into it, only to have it stop not 10 miles down the road!

Freer, TX is home to the annual rattlesnake roundup, so it's no surprise that a large concrete rattlesnake greets you as you come into town. This oddity was also on my AMA Grand Tour list of World's Largest things. I pulled over to get the AMA photo, then continued on through town and out the west side. This little Texas town, like so many of them, could be used as a western movie set with very little modification. The main street, with its row of connected store fronts, all facing a raised sidewalk...I could almost imagine the hitching posts out front and the wagons trundling past.

Now it would be smooth and easy riding southwest on US 59 toward Laredo and the Family Gardens Hotel, where the MTF riders would be gathered. I arrived just a little after 3:00 PM, got checked in and rode over to the separate building, were we'd all be staying. The set-up was perfect for what we needed. It had a large, open atrium, and most riders had pulled their bikes up into the atrium. We would be walking to Logan's Roadhouse for dinner, so I unpacked, changed into shorts and sandals, and very soon afterward, we were headed out on foot to dinner.

It began to rain heavily while we were inside eating, and didn't look to be letting up much, so being the all-weather riders that we are, we slogged back to the hotel in the rain, with water up over our ankles in some spots.

Tom and I had the bright idea to go ahead and do the odometer checks and witnessing that evening, which would greatly streamline departure of riders the next morning. So my time that evening was spent getting everyone's odometer and starting witness forms completed. Most riders indicated to me that they wanted to start somewhere between 4:00-4:30 AM the next morning, so I made plans to get up and be available for sign-out, starting at 3:45 AM. The first rider was on the road, headed toward the Mexican border at 3:54 AM, and the last riders were off at around 4:30 AM. I tried to go back to bed to get some more sleep, but by this point, I was too awake, so packed up the bike, made some coffee, and waited for a semi-decent hour to call the EMG contact person and the person who would be the ending witness at the other end. I needed to let both of them know about any riders who did not arrive/start, of any changes to rider plans or EMG contact names, and to give them the departure times of the riders, so that they could plan accordingly.

My job complete, I was now free to get on the road and proceed up to San Antonio to start a nice 3-day riding weekend with a rider friend from Kingwood, who would be meeting up with me along the way. I headed north on I-35, getting off at Pearsall to have a look at the World's Largest Peanut. I saw the peanut that Durant, OK claimed to be the World's Largest Peanut, and have to say that Pearsall has Durant beat by a very large margin!

Tomorrow: missions and cowboy boots.

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