Saturday, October 23, 2010

The FZ6 and I Do the Cotton Field Tour

You know how sometimes you have plans to do something that's really nothing special yet you still find yourself just soooo ready to get out there and do it? Well that's how I was feeling about the little ride I'd planned for today. Just a little lunch ride, down towards the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, on some roads that are not particularly spectacular but totally representative of the area between Houston and the Gulf.

I've dubbed this route the Cotton Field Tour. It's one I am in the mood to do every once in a while because it's pretty in its own unique way. It forces the wayward traveler to pay attention and really look for the subtle beauty. Oh, it's there, alright. It just doesn't jump right out at you like the obvious beauty of other regions of the USA.

Last time I rode this route, friend Mike and I spied a very newborn calf, still slick and wet from birth, wobbling next to its mom in a pasture near Boling.

Today there were no newborn calves, but there were plenty of freshly plowed cotton fields, newly harvested and ready for their winter's rest, their rich dark brown furrows running straight to the horizon. The shoulders of these tiny little county roads were white with cotton bolls, like small patches of snow on a January-thaw-kind of day in the north. Large bales of cotton sat in some of the fields, waiting to be picked up and taken to the gins.

It was a circuitous route, totally on purpose, totally to avoid anything larger than an FM road and preferably on a county road like CR 5 which starts and ends with a couple of nice crooks in the road, but runs straight as an arrow between these crooks. The route took me through tiny little towns like Danciger and Boling and Magnet. These are tantalizing little towns that sit one block off the roadway, tempting me to come back and explore a bit more another time.

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As I approached Boling, what looked like large granite boulders appeared to be dotting the pastures on both sides of the roadway. But there is no granite and there are no boulders in this part of the state. The mystery was solved as I grew nearer and saw that what appeared as gray boulders were actually Brahman cattle - hundreds of them - on the V8 Ranch, a large Brahman breeding ranch in Boling.

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One of the singular things I love about this route are the giant live oak trees that sit alone at nice intervals on the open pastures. These are huge... easily century trees. And because they live unmolested and free from human interference, they are all beautifully symmetrical. Which of course means they're enormously magestic, lording over their solitary and special spots out in the grazing acreage, allowed to rule over the landscape, enjoy plentiful sunshine and sufficient rain water.

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Lunch at K-2 Steakhouse: Seafood Duo for me (catfish and Matagorda Bay oysters) and grilled shrimp for friend Keith. Then it was time to continue on our circuitous route toward home. But not before stopping along the way for an ice cream.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where's My Dining Room??

Okay, I confess that I am in my element when organizing and planning. Give me a project and I'll have it planned, organized, and executed to within an inch of its life. Years as a Product Manager and then an R&D Project Manager have overdeveloped my compulsive side.

The MTF Founders Feast is next weekend. This is the annual banquet held for the members of our "virtual" motorcycle riding club, The Motorcycle Tourers Forum. At the Feast we recognize our club volunteers, we present awards to our members who have achieved participation milestones in the categories of LD Riding (IBA certified rides), Flower Sniffin', and Off-Road Riding. Oh yeah, we're also fed prodigious amounts of BBQ and we have some really kick-butt door prizes to give away.

Last year, I took over the planning and organizing of the 2009 event sort of mid-stream when the prior event manager (and MTF club president) had an accident and was out of commission. I took the event on for 2010, scouting a suitable location, rounding up a caterer, and recruiting some volunteers to help with various aspects of the event planning. This year an IBA-certifiable ride - Ride Around Texas (RAT) - is being held in conjunction with Founders Feast. Paris TX sits right on the RAT route and is one of the required checkpoints for this ride. So it really made sense to find a suitable location in Paris TX to hold our group for Founders Feast.

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I know from organizing countless other projects that they always use more resources, more money, more space and will take on a life of their own if given the opportunity. I've really tried to stay right on top of this one, watching registrations daily for correct information, payment, and any discrepancies. E-mailing registrants when I see those discrepancies. Prodding folks to pay, if they haven't. Reminding folks that t-shirt sales will actually close weeks before registration closes. Handling drop-outs to get refunds lined up and any t-shirts they may have ordered shipped to them. Purchasing and assembling supplies and materials that will simplify on-site check-in for the attendees.


All through this, things started to pile up. First it was the bag containing plastic tablecloths and napkins I'd purchased for the banquet hall. I set this on the floor in a corner of my dining room. Then the wristbands I'd ordered showed up, so I set those next to the bag on the floor. Soon, a box from a fellow MTF member arrived, containing one of the banners and the roll of doorprize tickets. This went in that corner, too. The USPS Priority envelopes I'd ordered arrived next, and these went you-know-where. When the event t-shirts arrived, I immediately opened the boxes and started sorting, bagging, and labeling. This pile to go to the Post Office, that pile to get packed alphabetically in boxes, ready to hand out to participants at the event. To the one banner mailed to me, I added two more and rolled them up and set them on top of the t-shirt boxes. There's a large tote bag containing all of the extra t-shirts, some supplies like masking tape and Sharpies, MTF business cards, and miscellaneous other supplies. Now that small pile in the corner of my dining room had doubled in size.


I borrowed a portable PA system from our drama club and added it to the pile. I'd ordered some small die-cut bags and these arrived. They'll make nice registrant packets, holding the neck lanyards, doorprize tickets, wristbands. Then....the neck lanyards themselves arrived.

That afternoon was spent assembling the registration packets, labeling each one with the participant's name and then placing them upright in alphabetical order into a large but shallow box. When the Off-Road Rider award plaques arrived, I added that box to the now-giant piles in the dining room.


Add to this, the stuff that has already made its way into the trunk of my car: A 12V compressor, a heavy-duty extension cord, and a motorcycle tire mounted on a rim to be used in a tire-plugging demonstration.

This already-large pile must share space in my trunk with some items I currently have listed on e-bay....I know, poor planning on my part. The auctions end next Monday morning which means I need to bring them with me in case they sell and need to be shipped. But, if they don't sell, I can always donate them to the pile of door prizes at the banquet Saturday night.

Pulling off an event like this for 100+ folks is work, to be sure, but if I didn't absolutely love doing this, I wouldn't volunteer!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Light as Air, Bright as the Sun

The weather "landscape" has changed here in the flood plains of Texas. The air is light and fresh, the skies as clear and blue as they ever get, and the sun has been glorious! It's weather we don't usually see until late October, so what's up with this?!

A series of high pressure systems have been parking themselves over the whole state of Texas for the past week which have kept the streaming humid SW winds at bay over the Gulf of Mexico, and have created a wide chute for cooler air to slip in from the north. So I'm lovin' it! We're all lovin' it down here!

"Take advantage of it!" I said to myself. "Get out there and run. Get out there and ride." I've been waiting for this weather!

Saturday was a long run - 6 miles - still in "recovery" mode from the Maui Half Marathon. The run was beyond fabulous! Another run yesterday, this time shorter but much faster. Another run tomorrow morning. Another run Friday morning. Then a good long run on Sunday.

And riding! Sunday morning I got on the BMW and rode 40 miles up to the north side of Houson, met up with a friend, and we both rode into the Piney Woods area for a 100 miles or so on some fine little ribbons of twisty, hilly road before finding a fabulous lakefront restaurant and enjoying lunch on their deck overlooking the water. We lazed and lingered over lunch, making imaginary plans to visit exotic places where we could dive and snorkel, go sailing, beachcomb. We each have 2 grandchildren of almost exactly the same ages so there was a lot of comparison and cooing to be done over their growth and development.

Today the FZ6 and I rode south with a fellow former co-worker who's also now retired. We had lots of catching up to do: Children's careers, grandchildren, ride reports from recent trips, the general state of retirement. We took the indirect route south to Bacliff and had a fabulous seafood lunch at Noah's Ark on Galveston Bay. Just perfect, perfect!