Tuesday, March 31, 2009

National Park Tour - Gotta Finish This!

Tomorrow morning "Fuzzy" and I get on the road for a 4 day trip capturing national park stamps in LA, MS, TN, KY, and MO. I'm finishing up my 3rd IBA National Park Tour (NPT) and the clock is really ticking to get this done. This is a highly addictive endeavor. How it works is you visit a minimum of 50 national parks in a minimum of 25 states within a 12 month period. The beauty of this IBA certifiable ride is its relaxed, flower-sniffing nature.

I started this particular NPT in early March, 2008 when I rode out to San Diego to start a 50CC. Well, it's now the end of March, so some of my first national park stamps are now dropping off the back end. I have lost 2 states (CA and AZ) and several park stamps (Cabrillo, Yuma, Saguaro, Casa Grande). If I don't finish this before April 16, I'll lose even more stamps and states. So I'm putting the pressure on myself to finish this one, because...well....I always try to finish anything I've started. Besides, I want to start a 4th NPT when I go to Utah in May. :-)

Fuzzy is all packed and ready to go. I cleaned and lubed the chain, checked tire pressure, and moved the GPS over from the BMW. She's ready....I'm ready. Let's roll!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Playing "TAG" - MTF Style

A few months ago, someone started a game of "TAG" on the MTF motorcycle touring forum, and it's gotten off to a very slow start. A few "tags" have been made, all of them in Texas, north of Dallas. No way was I going to ride 300 miles up and then 300 miles back home, just to capture the "tag" subject in a photograph. And none of my planned motorcycle trips were taking me in that direction.

But finally! Someone posted a "tag" location an easy day ride northwest of Houston...but work got in the way, and by the time I was home and able to get that tag, the same person captured that tag and moved the next "tag" location to downtown Houston. Even better!!

The new "tag" post on the MTF forum was made at 5:00 AM Saturday and I didn't see it until almost noontime Saturday. Now all I had to do was hope that no one else grabbed it before I could get there early Sunday morning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday morning, 7:00 AM and the fog is so heavy I can't see the tree tops in my back yard. But I really wanted to get on the bike and get to the downtown "tag" location while traffic was very light. Getting this tag would require doing something I'm very loathe to do, and that is to ride up on the sidewalk.

As I backed the FZ out of the garage, the fog immediately began condensing on my faceshield. And as I got underway, riding out of my neighborhood, I could truly appreciate just how thick the fog really was. Less than 20 yards visibility, or thereabouts. There's a stop sign at a 3 way intersection with a Conoco station on the corner, near my house. From that stop sign to Highway 288 is no more than 3/10 of a mile, and there's a traffic light at that interchange. As I came to a stop at the stop sign, the highway ahead, the traffic light, and even the cars that were no doubt stopped there, were nowhere to be seen. Just a solid wall of white lay ahead of me.

I moved slowly and cautiously onto the highway, needing to wipe my faceshield every 4 or 5 seconds. What am I doing?! I could see no further than one car ahead of me, and the car coming up fast behind me didn't have his headlights on...stupid! I hoped it would get better as I got closer to downtown, but it didn't.

I navigated my way to Minute Maid Park - home of the Houston Astros - to get a photo of my bike in front of the Left Field entrance, to meet the rules of the game of "TAG."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh great! As I came around the east side of Minute Maid Park, I could see a police car blocking the intersection, and hoards of bicycles wheeling past. A bicycling event! But actually, it was kind of fun to sit there and watch them go by. Clearly the start line was just a few blocks to the west, probably the same start line location used for the Houston Marathon. I watched families go by, little kids on little bicycles, toddlers and babies in trailers towed behind mom's or dad's bicycle. Clearly where I was sitting, I was watching the "back of the pack" go by. I can relate to that!

We were waved through by the policewoman and I rode around the next block in order to catch the one-way road in front of the Left Field entrance of the park. Now I had to wait, again, as I'm now going to turn left onto the very road that the bicyclists are using. I chatted with the policeman a bit, and let him know what I planned to do in order to get the photo. He waved me onto the road with the admonition to NOT hit any bicyclists! No, sir, I won't.

This was an easy "tag" to get, just 11 or 12 miles from my house, no traffic (just bicyclists) and there were convenient little ramps up onto the sidewalk that let me get my FZ up and in place for the photo. This location is now officially "tagged!" The person who successfully tags the photo gets to select the next location, ride to that location, and take a photo of their motorcycle and then post it as the next "tag."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thinking about where to go for the next "tag" photo, I remembered reading something about a town in Louisiana that is the self-proclaimed Frog Capital of the World. Their other claim to fame is the City of Murals. This town got it's Frog Capital nickname back to the 1880's, when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling frogs to restaurants in the New Orleans area. Word soon crossed the Atlantic, and the Weill Brothers started a lucrative business importing Rayne frogs to France. I've always wanted to get off the interstate and check out this little town, so I thought this would be the perfect day to do it. The fog is starting to lift a bit downtown and it's supposed to be a really grand day, weather-wise.

So I headed for I-10 east toward Louisiana. When I got out of the city a bit, the fog became dense again, but began to thin and dissipate as I neared Beaumont and Orange TX. It was such a great day for riding, I hardly noticed how windy it was and how much traffic there seemed to be on the interstate. More on that, later.

I have ridden past the exit for this town many, many times on my multiple-annual treks across I-10 heading toward FL and/or points east and northeast. It's a small, unassuming exit, with a few gas stations and fast food restaurants, and I'm not even sure I've ever used this exit for that purpose. I've usually gassed up near Lake Charles and don't need gas again until I reach Port Allen, LA. So, getting off at this exit, I'm not sure what to expect.

But a couple of miles south on SR-35 and I see my first of many murals in this town. How cool! It's not a large town, and I worked my way through the streets of town looking for more murals. The murals feature frogs! Many frogs! Dressed like people, and doing the day-to-day things that people do. Some are serious, some are whimsical, and some are just downright cute!

I even found a serious "founding fathers" type of mural:

Reluctantly, I got back onto the road toward home, eager to get my photos posted for the "tag" game before someone else beat me to it. I will definitely remember this town and return again soon!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where did all this traffic come from?? I-10 was literally bumper to bumper and traffic was not moving smoothly at all! It lurched forward in fits and starts, with lots of left-lane loafers and left lane hogs stumbling along no faster than those of us in the right hand lane. Brake lights appeared frequently all along the line of left-lane cars. I bided my time in the right lane, managing to keep a very nice buffer of space fore and aft, while the cars in the left lane moved along with little more than a car length between them. Sure enough! Brake lights appeared like a chain reaction in the left lane and a truck pulling a trailer was unable to slow quickly enough and had to head for the left shoulder. The car behind him headed for my lane and I had to pull on the brakes to avoid him. This near catastrophe narrowly averted, I continued to stay in the right lane and to keep my eye on that left lane of cars and trucks.

Finally!! My exit for the Beltway that will take me over the ship channel and bring me home! Away from the traffic! Away from these now-fierce winds!

Summary: Minute Maid "tag" in the bag; new tag photo that will take the game out of the state of TX (finally) captured; 429 miles on the FZ.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Orange Blossom Special: T+4

One of the best things about attending the IBA party is the leisurely breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. I never know who I'll find there when I wander in and get a chance to meet new folks or get caught up with old friends. This morning was no exception. I joined a group who were already eating and, when they left, I brought my cup of coffee with me to join another group for a bit, before heading outside to the parking lot to see who was hanging around out there.

But before heading to the restaurant, I'd brought my SS2000 paperwork to the validation room, where I stood in line with the other early birds and chatted with them. I took a few minutes the night before after getting into my room, to complete my paperwork, check my receipts, and fill out my log. Submitting the paperwork for validation was a very straightforward process and within minutes of reaching the head of the line, I was done and ready for breakfast.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The first thing I spied as I walked out the door was Tom pushing Porter's bike across the parking lot. My curiosity led me to walk over to where they were to learn the whole story. Apparently Porter had forgotten to shut the valve on his gravity-fed auxillary fuel tank, and had flooded the engine. When he tried to start the bike up this morning, it spewed gas out the tailpipes like a rooster tail. Scary stuff!

I was quite content to just hang around the hotel and apparently so were a number of others. I had no problem finding people to talk to and by lunchtime had a couple of others who were willing to walk over to the Steak & Shake with me to grab some lunch.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The lobby was starting to get busy with arriving riders and the later into the afternoon it got, the better the people-watching became. Many MTF shirts were in evidence - bright green shirts, bold gold shirts, and MTF Founders Feast shirts were in abundance.

It was exciting to see such a great MTF turnout!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The doors opened to the banquet room and none too soon, as I was getting hungry, trying to avoid the lobby popcorn as much as possible to save my appetite. Jim and Francine from Canada were among the first to get in the room and they grabbed an excellent table for some of us. We had a fabulous buffet dinner and then settled in for some great entertainment, first by Bob Higdon, a great storyteller, and then by Mike Kneebone. Then he began giving out the certificates for those who did a certifiable IBA ride in to Jacksonville, starting with the easiest rides - the BB1500 and SS1000 - and working his way up to the more difficult rides - BBG, 50CC, 100CCC - and finally announcing the two biggest ride-ins of the week, Greg's BBG Trifecta and Steve's 100CCCx2. Here I am receiving my certificate from Mike for my SS2000:

It was ovewhelming to look around and realize that this was a room full of people who share the same interests and passion for long distance motorcycle riding. As Mike Kneebone said, when he started the annual tradition of having the riders stand up as the rides they've accomplished are listed: "If you've done a SS1000, stand up. Well, that should be everyone in this room."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Orange Blossom Special: T+3

There's loud music playing somewhere and it's waking me up. How annoying and rude. As I became more awake, I realized it was my alarm...and I was in my own bed. It took a few moments to process the situation but then sprang into action. I'd just ridden from Van Horn TX, by way of Lordsburg, was in my own house, and now needed to get on the road to head for Jacksonville.

But first things first. I simply HAD to know how Greg did on his BBG Trifecta. I turned the computer on and, as it booted up, prepared a bowl of cereal and started sorting through the piles of stuff I'd unloaded onto the kitchen counter the night before. I set aside the dirty clothes and reduced the amount of clean clothes down to the bare essentials. Checking Greg's SPOT page I was delighted to see that he was in Jacksonville and the ride was safely "in the bag." Great news!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bike repacked, dew wiped off the seat and cockpit, I was back on the road and headed east by 7:30 AM. It will be an easy 850 mile ride on my "favorite" road, I-10. I have plenty of time and there's no hurry so no need to rush.

All of the gas stop went as planned and only a couple of gas station receipts required a trip inside to the C-store to get a duplicate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Of course, no trip east on I-10 would be complete without stopping at my favorite Shell gas station in Port Allen, just west of the Mississippi River Bridge and Baton Rouge. If I leave my house at 7-8 AM, I am guaranteed to arrive there near lunchtime. They have the best homemade fried chicken anywhere! One of the ladies that works the counter remembers me whenever I go in there. "You're the lady on the motorcycle!" I ordered my chicken thigh and biscuit, grabbed a cold drink and then ate it outside next to my bike in the sunshine. It was so good I almost went inside to buy another, but prudence won out, and I rinsed my hands using my bottled water, put my helmet and gloves back on and continued east.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Many, many motorcyles were heading west on I-10, their back seats, if not filled with a passenger, loaded with motorcycle luggage and, in some cases, camping gear. No doubt all were returning after spending a few days at Daytona Bike Week. I passed a pickup truck with a brand new BMW F800GS in the bed. The driver and I gave each other thumbs up as I passed. Otherwise, my roadside encounters and exchanges were very few this trip.

It grew dark as I approached Tallahassee. My last gas stop before reaching Jacksonville would be about 30 miles east of Tallahassee. There is a Wendy's next door and I considered taking the time to eat, but Jacksonville was so close I could "taste" it, so gassed up and got back on the road quickly, eager to cover those last 150 miles, get my finish receipt and get to the party hotel.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The IBA event hotel was like a beacon in the night! I pulled up to the portico and quickly realized I was pulling in right behind my friend Claye's bike! There was a small group of folks milling about and, as I removed my helmet and gloves, Greg walked over and congratulated me on my ride. He, of the succesfully completed BBG trifecta, was congratulating me?? It was good to see that Claye had successfully completed her first IBA endurance ride, a SS1000.

Witness forms completed and rooms procured at the hotel, she and I walked next door to a Steak & Shake to get something to eat. I was starving. She'd taken the time to eat something at her final gas stop, but joined me anyway. Other riders were just in or were coming in at about the same time. Two riders were in the restaurant, one of them having completed an incredible double 100CCC (ridiing from Jacksonville to San Diego then back to Jacksonville, not once but twice!!) and the other having completed a 100CCC after dealing with battery problems and getting a late start.

It was a really great two day ride! Completing the SS2000 - and having done 1200 miles on the first leg - was not nearly as hard as the BBG I had done a year ago. I was not the least bit tired and it took me a while to wind down in the hotel room once I got the bike parked and unpacked and got settled in. I reflected on the concern that getting up that second morning and getting back on the bike would be difficult. But that was an unfounded concern. I was in fact eager to get back on the road again, looking forward to successfully completing the ride which would, in turn, bring me to Jacksonville where I'd see many friends and acquaintances at the IBA party.

Tomorrow: Hanging out with friends and attending the IBA banquet

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Orange Blossom Special: T+2

This morning would be the day I begin my SS2000 ride that will ultimately get me to Jacksonville FL in time for the annual IBA party. Just to recap what has happened so far...

A few months back, a fellow MTF member Greg put the request out looking for someone who could serve as witness for an extreme IBA ride he'd be doing leading up to the IBA party in Jacksonville. It would be 3 Bun Burner Golds in a row (BBG x 3, or 4500 miles in 72 hours or less). I thought about this for a bit and then volunteered. It would get me out to west Texas so that I could collect a couple of national park stamps I'd been meaning to get (Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns) plus set me up to do an IBA ride in to the Jacksonville IBA party as well. This year the IBA put together what they called the "Orange Blossom Special," or IBA ride-ins for certificates. When we registered to attend the party we were given the opportunity to declare an IBA certifiable ride to the event. They would validate the ride and issue the certificates on-site, making the presentations at the IBA banquet Friday night. It would be a rare opportunity for instant gratification, without the need to mail everything in and then wait by the mailbox.

I initially thought I'd do either a Bun Burner Gold (BBG, 1500 miles in 24 hours) or a standard Bun Burner (BB, 1500 miles in 36 hours). But I already have a BBG and wasn't interested in attempting another along the I-10 corridor headed eastbound. So as I thought about it more, and looked at the routing in MS S&T, it occured to me that with very little effort I could do a Saddle Sore 2000 (2000 miles in less than 48 hours) to Jacksonville by first heading west to Lordsburg and then turning around and heading east, and even sleep in my own bed along the way. That would save me the cost of a hotel room on the road, and the timing would be good, since the fellow doing the BBG Trifecta would be leaving Van Horn for the third leg very early Wednesday morning. I could leave a few hours later, ride 1250 miles to Houston, sleep at home, then ride the easy remaining 850 miles or so to Jacksonville and arrive there Thursday evening.

As the date drew near for me to pack the bike and head to Van Horn, I also got to thinking about the 700 miles I'd be riding to get there. Hmm....I could ride a little further to Deming NM then turn around and arrive in Van Horn with a couple hours to spare before Greg arrived at the end of his first leg. This would be a little over 1000 miles and another SS1000. First and foremost is to be available for Greg as his witness. He'd need me at the end of his first leg, start of his second leg, end of his second leg, and start of his third leg. Any ride plans I made must come second to being there for his ride.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So now, on Tuesday afternoon in Van Horn, I was watching Greg's SPOT track and it was clear that he was not moving as quickly as he did the day before. It looked like he'd be getting in to Van Horn at the end of his second leg at around 11:30. He called me when he was a couple of hours away to give me approximately the same ETA. In the meantime I packed my bike, leaving out only what I'd need to get on the road in the morning, and then took a shower. At about 11:20, Greg called to say he was at the gas station in Van Horn and should be at the motel in a few minutes. I began watching for him, pen in hand and ready to sign his witness papers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Greg looked tired as he climbed off his bike, but he seemed alert and able to remember odometer numbers that I promptly forgot before I could write them in for him on his forms. LOL! He disappeared into his room and I got ready to hit the hay, when I heard him back outside at his bike, so I stepped outside again and snapped his photo.

This morning, the mother hen thing still would not let go and I found myself awake at 4:30 with the immediate thought to check outside, make sure his bike was gone and he was on the road.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now I could concentrate on getting to the IBA party myself. It's 1500 miles from Van Horn to Jacksonville. But I decided to do 2000 miles so, with bike already packed the night before, all I had to do was brush my teeth, put on my riding gear, and get on the road.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is very dark in west Texas at night. Between Van Horn and El Paso there is little settlement - just Sierra Blanca - to pollute the night skies with light, so millions of stars twinkled down on me as I rode westward on I-10. It was a beautiful night, not too cold, no traffic, just clear roads all the way to El Paso.

On my pass through Anthony for the SS1000 two days before, I learned that the Anthony fuel exits are very congested, so I continued on to the really cool Akela Flats gas stop I had used for my SS1000 turnaround. My bike had the range to get there and it has a good gas receipt with all IBA required information, easy off/easy on, and a great store with clean bathrooms and with food and coffee. I ate a package of mini chocolate-covered donuts (one of my favorite road foods) and washed them down with a double mocha cappuchino while chatting with the older woman who was working the counter.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At my turnaround in Lordsburg, a fellow approached me a the pump to tell me that he'd just sold a BMW R69S. Wow! Hope he got some good money for it!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The gas mileage on the new BMW has been improving as I break in the engine. It averaged just at 50 mpg on the SS1000 to Van Horn, which is what I got on my previous BMW, the R1150R. This is helpful to know, since I'd be pushing the range a little on this SS2000 trip and I was a little worried. As anyone who has ridden in West Texas or New Mexico knows, the gas stations are few and far between on the interstate. The situation is even worse if on local roads, especially at night, another reason not to plan an endurance ride using only local roads, if at all possible.

So, with that in mind, I did my turnaround in Lordsburg, NM and headed east. I stuck to my plan for the gas stops and was pleased that I was keeping to my schedule, according to the little cheat sheet I always put in my tankbag when doing IBA timed rides. Van Horn, Fort Stockton, then on to Junction.

About 35 miles west of Junction, my low fuel light came on and the computer began to display the countdown to empty on the BMW. I was watching the distance count down on the GPS and correlating it to the distance-to-empty countdown on the BMW. Not being familiar with the accuracy of the BMW countdown, I was beginning to worry...

When I got to within 5 miles of Junction, the BMW computer was telling me I had 11 miles to empty. I began to plan for the possibility that I'd have to run or jog along I-10 to the gas station in Junction to get gas. Let's see...get the motorcycle gear off, I already have the LD Comfort shorts on, so that will work...the running shoes are in the left side case. But I never had to implement that plan. Thankfully.

The bike took 5.4 gallons of gas. The stated capacity of the bike's gas tank is 5.6 gallons.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had planned my Van Horn departure time for 5:00 AM with the thought that this would get me through most of West Texas Hill Country before dark. And before the deer come out to play in traffic. This was a good plan. I passed through Kerrville just at dusk, and it was completely dark by the time I got to Boerne. It's more densely settled in this area, and I only saw a few deer. It also brought me into San Antonio on the Anderson Loop after rush hour was over. Everything was working out very well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The timing would also get me to my favorite Buc-ee's gas station in Luling for my last gas fill-up of the day. It would be a good place to get something to eat, as well, my first food since the chocolate overload in Akela Flats that morning.

I ride this part of Texas so often that I could now say that I was almost home, even though it would still be another 150 or so miles to my driveway. I filled up again at the Buc-ee's just 1.5 miles from my house and then headed for home to sleep in my own bed before finishing the last 850 miles of this SS2000. I didn't even pull the bike into the garage...just left it in the driveway, removed everything off the bike and dumped it all on the kitchen counter to sort through in the morning.

Stats for day 1 of SS2000:

Time: 18 hours, 27 minutes

Miles: 1196

Tomorrow: Finishing up the SS2000 in Jacksonville

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Orange Blossom Special - T=+1

Today was a good day to just go for a ride. By "a ride" I mean one that doesn't entail gas receipts and recorded odometer readings.

Ever the mother hen that I am, I awoke at 4:00 AM to check the parking lot, make sure Greg had gotten on the road. Will someone please tell me when motherhood and clucking over chicks will cease? I mean, really! My little chick has flown the coop and already is making his own little chicks!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
TJ (Traveling Jake) and I decided to head for the hills...the Guadalupe "hills" that is. Highway 54 leaves from right downtown Van Horn and rollercoasters its way up to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 40 miles north of Guadalupe and over the New Mexico state line is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Time to do a little passport stamping.

Highway 54 will send you airborne if you're not careful. And not wanting to make TJ seasick, I kept a leisurely pace. Besides, it was far too nice not to. Many raptors were catching the updrafts and turning big circles over the desert as I rode by. Some appeared to have wing spans well over 4-5'...I wonder what they are. The cliffs along this mountain range reportedly are excellent dwellings for raptors. Yesterday I spied a very large raptor, standing at least 2 feet tall, snow white breast with only a few small speckles along the edges, chocolate brown shoulders. He was standing just off the shoulder of the interstate in New Mexico.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I took the "Big Room" self-guided cave tour at Carlsbad. This is remarkable because I really don't like being 750 feet underground no matter what the reason. But, well...I was there, so why not. TJ stayed up on the bike, said the cave dampness would ruin his feathers. If it weren't for the fact that caves are underground, they are pretty neat! This one is all calcite formations so no pretty colors, but it had some really interesting formations. My favorites included Fairyland, a myriad little "busy" ornate formations on the floor of the cave. If you used your imagination, you could see a cast of thousands of little characters in a Steven Spielberg space movie, or a bunch of "extras" in a Dungeons and Dragons-type game. The other favorite was Rock of Ages, a speleothem (cool new word!) growing up from the floor with peculiarly symmetrical rows of "ruffles" around its circumference. Many small and aptly named formations were Chinese Theater, Doll's Theater...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Did you see the movie "Cars" by chance? Well, I walked to the nearby McDonalds after returning from my ride today, and coming back, I was moved by the vague similarity - just a passing thought, really, you kinda had to be there - of the scene in front of me to the town in that movie, Radiator Springs. Picture this: deserted street, looking a little run-down at the heel, blinking red light over head, tall mountains and buttes as a backdrop...See what I'm saying? You can't really see it, but there's a blinking red light hanging over that intersection.

And look! There's even a 'Mater after his makeover:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tomorrow: Leg 1 of my SS2000 to Jacksonville!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Orange Blossom Special - T=0

Ever notice how cold feels colder when it's dark? The cold this morning clung like dryer sheets to the hills west of San Antonio. It will take a good tug of sunshine to release its grip.

Shiver spasms struck each time I got back on the bike after fueling up...until the Gerbing warmed up again. 24 degrees was the low for the day, somewhere near Sonora TX at 9:00 AM.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There are quite a few wind farms out here in west Texas. They sit up top of the buttes on the north side of I-10. I passed a butte-ful of idle windmills and thought, "What are you just standing there for? Get to work!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Riding along for 1,000 miles or so gives you lots of time to think. I got to thinking about my shrinking retirement fund and about how much mutual fund shares are a lot like fat cells. I have a fixed number of shares in my portfolio and a fixed number of fat cells on my body. When we lose weight, the fat cells don't go away, they just shrink. So, when times are good my mutual funds and my fat cells get bigger. When times are tough, both shrink. I wish that weren't true. Why can't fat cells shrink and funds grow when times are good?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Texas has been experiencing the drought of the century. Parts of west and north Texas are now officially the driest areas of the country. Evidence was abundant along I-10. I saw two wild fires - one on the shoulder and one on the median. And I saw plenty of large areas burnt from recent fires. Careless disposal of cigarette butts, no doubt. Scary to ride a motorcycle past a raging fire just feet away on the median!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eastern New Mexico along I-10, though flat, is quite pretty this time of year. The grasses are platinum blond and when the sun slants in from the south and touches the prairie it literally glows!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A very bad accident had I-10 eastbound closed a few miles west of Anthony TX. Traffic was backed up for a good 5-6 miles. I was heading west to get my turnaround receipt near Deming. When I passed the accident site going the other way, I had 47 miles to go to that turnaround...so I figured I'd be passing the accident site in about 100 minutes. I took my time at the gas station, had a drink, something to eat. Killing time. It worked. When I got to the site, traffic was slow, but the accident was cleared, just a few state troopers on the shoulder creating some rubber-necking.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Official start time: 3:26 AM

Official finish time: 7:32 PM
Completion time: 16 hours, 6 minutes

Miles: 1043 by the GPS; 1057 by the odometer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I noticed when I first got this new BMW that the speedometer has only a very small error compared to the GPS, much smaller than that on my previous BMW. Timed distance rides on that old BMW always showed significant mileage error after 1000 or 1500 miles. Refreshing to note that the difference between my new BMW and the GPS is only 14 miles. It would have been close to 50 miles on the old BMW.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Talked to Greg Rice about an hour ago. He should be in Van Horn within the next 15 minutes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The eagle has landed.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Orange Blossom Special: T-1

I awoke very early this morning, my mind spinning through the final details of preparation for my departure early tomorrow morning. It was a chilly night for south Texas - down into the low 30's - and the house was cool when I awoke at 5 AM, forcing me to snuggle deeper into my down comforter. My cat was pressed hard against my legs, providing some warmth, but no doubt she was also seeking some warmth from me, as well.

Tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM my alarm will go off. I'll be departing my house for the Buc-ee's gas station a mile away to get my start receipt for a SS1000 to Van Horn, TX. I'm excited at the prospect of getting on the road for a good long ride. It's been nearly two months since my Tucson AZ trip and I'm ready...more than ready. This will be leg 1 of a 3-legged trip. Leg 2 will take me up into NM for some national park stamping, and leg 3 will be a SS2000 to Jacksonville for the annual IBA party.

The BMW was recently serviced and on Friday I wiped her down, checked the tires, air pressure, moved the GPS cradle over from the FZ, and checked the mileage. Oh my gosh! I realized that I had a slap-full gas tank! And believe me...unlike my previous BMW or my FZ, I can really get this new BMW's tank very full. You see, there's no metal "cage" over the filler neck, so I can really top it off. This would make it very hard to squeeze a few ounces of gas in for that starting receipt. Into the house, change into jeans and boots, grab the jacket and helmet and I was off for a 50 mile loop to burn some of the gas.

My trip to Van Horn will be by way of Deming NM, to get the full 1,000 miles needed for a SS1000. I love the stretch of I-1o west of San Antonio and I'm looking forward to seeing it once more. The landscape changes dramatically from cattle grazing to rugged hill country in almost the blink of an eye as the road exits the San Antonio area and continues west. And while it does get flat west of Ft. Stockton, the road begins to rise again and ridges of mountains begin to appear near El Paso. Although this trip will be "fast track," I may stop here and there if a photo opportunity presents itself.

In Van Horn I'll be witnessing another rider's extreme multi-leg ride. I'm thrilled to be his official witness. When he finishes it, he will be one of only a small handful of LD riders to attempt and complete such a ride. I hope to get photos of his arrivals each of the two nights that mark the beginnings and endings of the ride segments.

So here it is...Sunday morning. Witness forms, map printouts, and logs - one set for each of the two certifiable rides I'll be doing - are printed out and tucked into ziplok bags. Routes are entered into the GPS. The bike is packed. Items are laid out on the kitchen counter to be grabbed as I walk out the door early Monday. My start witness will be over this evening to sign my paperwork. Have I forgotten anything?

Tomorrow: SS1000 to Van Horn