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.

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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."

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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."

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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!

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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.

1 comment:

  1. Seems this tag game has taken hold on alot of the forums. Up here in the Northeast we have at least 2 forums that each have a tag for one of the 6 states up here. They can be a challenge, and technology (read Wifi connection ) is becoming part of the game. This is still not gonna keep from my next NPT Tour starting in May

    Congrats on the tag !!