Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
The next thing I remember is waking up in the morning. I have a credit card receipt from Wednesday night from IHOP in my wallet, so I assume we ate something there. About 20 bucks worth.
The rally did not have much scheduled for Thursday. Our intention was to clean up the bikes, and maybe visit the vendor’s area. In short, we were not going to strain ourselves today.
I gave the bagged oily jeans to the hotel laundry with instructions to wash them hard, but NOT to wash them with anything else. I almost laughed at the guy when he told me that they were jeans, and washing them with other things would not hurt them. I did not repeat myself, I do not give instructions for services I am paying for, just to have fun.
I was just hoping to get a pair of work-jeans back. I have another minor project (see http://cuagain.manilasites.com ), and work clothes are needed in plentiful supply.
James and I headed to the IHOP for a large breakfast. Something with pancakes I believe. Afterward we headed to find a car wash, with a side trip to grab a couple Diet Cokes and for James to replenish his cigar supply.
A note of amusement: James spent the entire rest of the trip buying out the cigar supply at every store and gas station we stopped at. Seems his brand is not popular around these parts, and nobody had more than one or two packages.
At the store, I noticed that the wall ‘O coolers was all Pepsi products. Only one half of one door had Coke products. I grabbed the last two Diet Cokes they had. “That’s an ugly trend.” I said to James while waving in the general direction of the coolers. This was the first conscious recognition of “The Great Pepsi Conspiracy”.
James had purchased a can of “Can Do” back in Dallas to clean the bikes before the rally. This stuff is an aerosol can and contains Carnuba wax and only God knows what else. It claims to clean and shine everything . . . paint, chrome, tires, vinyl, windshields, helmets etc. I had tried it before we left and found that it worked pretty well, but thought no more about it.
Normally on a road trip if you want to make your bike look good sometime along the way, you have to carry some cleaning supplies. Chrome polish, wax, and Armor-all are usually in my arsenal. I also carry a can of Lemon-Pledge for my helmet. This is an old biker’s trick. Lemon-Pledge cleans bugs and stuff of your faceplate like nothing else, and has the added benefit of making water bead up and blow off if you are in the rain. It also reduces the crazing you can usually see in the plastic face shield when riding into the sun. The problem is that space is limited, and all these products take up valuable and needed space.
Here comes a product endorsement: “Can Do” replaces all of those products, hands down. After washing the bikes in the car wash, mine was still a mess. The high-pressure spray, on soap, directed at my pipes from less than an inch away would not cut the baked on gook. Also the water there was extremely “hard” and left a bad film on both bikes.
Out came the “Can Do” and a couple of rags.
I sprayed this stuff on a section of my pipes and let it sit for about 30 seconds. The gook wiped right off, leaving shiny chrome underneath. No problem. Easy. I was stunned.
“Hey James, check this out.” I did it again to another section. James was stunned. We had been talking about buying oven-cleaner for this task.
We then proceeded to wipe every part of both bikes down (except brake rotors guys, use your head). In time we had two clean, shiny, and remarkable machines. You would never guess they had just traveled hundreds of miles, much less the mess mine had been earlier. This stuff works, and works well. It is all I will ever carry for this task in the future.
We headed for the rally grounds. James and I were both disappointed in the vendor selection at this rally. All I really wanted was a new pair of good warm-weather riding gloves. There were none there for sale.
No riding gloves. At a motorcycle rally. Vendors are idiots.
Next I was looking for some leather shin/lower-leg guards. Remember the thump? I still do! One guy had some he would customize and sell for a small fortune. No normal ones to be found. The prices on everything else were unreasonable.
Oh . . . and the clincher . . . “The Great Pepsi Conspiracy” had reached the rally. “No Coke, Pepsi OK?” was the rallying cry. Only Pepsi and beer were to be found. Neither James nor I are heavy beer drinkers (especially when we are expecting to be riding motorcycles . . . duh . . .), and Pepsi is NOT ok. If I wanted Pepsi, I would have asked for it by name.
Vendors, organizers, restaurant owners, convenience store operators take note—Pepsi better be paying you plenty, because all you are doing is antagonizing your customers by removing their choice/ability to purchase the #1 brand of drink in the state. Listen carefully . . . we left your location and made our purchases elsewhere over this issue. Plenty of other folks were also irritated.
Not sure what happened to the rest of Thursday, it sped by, and soon Friday was approaching. Friday was to be a busy day. James had signed us up for the group ride to Matamoros, Mexico. For 15 bucks each we would join a “limited” group of riders and cruise to Mexico. The cost covered border crossing fees, and a show and some food and drinks in Matamoros.
This was one of the highlights of the trip, and proved the BikeFest folks to be very enterprising. Something like 1500 motorcycles were in the “limited” group. They staged us in lines of pairs of motorcycles in the Harlingen racetrack parking lot. When the signal was given to “start ‘em up” the vibration must have set off earthquake detectors in California.
We then proceeded in a police escorted parade through Brownsville, across the border, and all around the streets of Matamoros. We got to run every stop-sign and stoplight on our route in two different countries. That alone was worth the 15 bucks. Folks were lined up all along the parade route waving flags and cheering. The people in Matamoros turned out by the tens of thousands. The streets were packed with cheering, screaming, flag-waving people. It really was amazing, and was a hell of an event for the folks that witnessed it. It got no news coverage in Brownsville.
We reached the Matamoros Convention center and staged again in the parking lot. Seven double-rows of 220 or so in each group. 1500-plus shiny and impressive hardware all lined up and ready to go.
They had several local restaurants providing food, and a couple of bands/singers providing entertainment. The cute young Mexican imitation of Britney Spears was good. The music was pop and upbeat, and delivered with passion. She was good looking too, and could wiggle in all the right places. Yummy. The food was excellent, although my famous appetite suffered a bit as it had been a long, hot parade (40 plus miles). I tried Italian, Mexican, and Chinese. They had handed us two tickets each for drinks. “This looks bad.” I said to James as I waved vaguely in the direction of the huge Pepsi sign, and thirty-foot blow up Pepsi balloon-can. Sure enough, no Coke.
We drank bottled water.
Now here is the part that proves the BikeFest folks are enterprising . . . the other major event of the day in Matamoros was a bike show. 1500 bikes were now on display in the convention center parking lot! Throngs of people wandered through the shiny chrome maze. Matamoros police were on hand, but not needed. Everyone had a blast. Burly bikers were lifting families of kids (and their mothers too) onto and off of bikes and snapping pictures. A great time was had by all, and we favorably represented what it is to be an American to the friendly folks of Matamoros.
At one point I thought it was going to get ugly. I was sitting on my bike, talking to James and others that passed while we waited for the ride to head back. Six Matamoros Police Guys were in a group arguing amongst themselves while looking at my bike and gesturing in my direction. Uh oh. Finally one approached me. I was furiously trying to figure out what I had done to piss off the Mexican cops. I was honestly coming up empty handed. With some pointing, hand waving, and halting English he got across that the question concerned the year of my bike.
“1980” I said. Some more gesturing and a rapid exchange of Spanish ensued.
“1100? . . . XS?” he asked.
Surprised I answered “Yep . . . Midnight Special.”
“Gracias.” He stated and waved as he rejoined his group. Laughter erupted and some money changed hands.
I was amazed to be noticed in this sea of $30,000 machines. Says something about the looks and reputation of the Midnight Special.
I must comment on the sea of bikes. I was flattered by the amount of attention “Well Oiled Machine” got. There were no other XS’ives there. There were few older anythings there. Something like 1500 people were being independent minded bikers . . . in a very conformist sort of way. Harley ruled the day. There were hundreds and hundreds of the same model all over the place. “Well Oiled Machine” got attention because she was an attractive mote of “different” in a sea of sameness. Kind of sad really.
It was clearly illustrated when one couple mounted up nearby. “Shit!” exclaimed the guy to his girl. She was looking slightly perplexed. “Somebody stole your helmet!” he continued.
They sat there, mounted on the machine, for about 10 seconds. Finally she stated, “Honey, that’s our bike over there” as she pointed to another “same” model with her helmet still sitting on the seat. Oops.
James and I glanced at each other with a raised eyebrow. No comment was needed. We were clearly thinking the same thing.
A couple of the other bikes that stood out should be mentioned:
There were two “Boss Hoss” bikes there. Check these out on the Internet if you have not seen them. A “Boss Hoss” is a motorcycle with a 350 cubic inch Chevy engine stuffed in it. The sound of one of these things is impressive, and they will peel out like a demon (on the full size car tire that is mounted on the back). Not sure what you would do with the other 250 extra horsepower. Interesting, nonetheless.
We also saw a small Triumph of unknown but old vintage. It was interesting as its rider was a very short (4’6”) and very petite lady. She might have weighed 95 pounds sopping wet. This bike had to be kick started, and I would have bet she could not do it. I would have lost. She would stand on the lever in its full-up position and it would not move. She would then jump well above the seat and land her entire weight full on the lever. A couple of tries and the beast would pop to life. Maybe one woman in ten thousand would try something like that. Interesting. I like interesting people.
The signal was given, the earthquake roared to life. We pulled out and paraded back through the streets of Matamoros. Again, tens of thousands of people turned out. What an ego trip.
The American crossing is a mess. This is partly because of the recent events, but mostly because we are a bureaucratic nightmare of a nation and getting worse. We are just not very good at this sort of stuff, and it is made worse because we just do not care. The Americans have the traffic backed up for miles waiting to get into the states. Thousands of bikers clearly would have made the situation intolerable, so we got to go across the border on a railroad bridge. 1500 motorcycles fleeing Mexico across the railroad tracks. What a blast.
To sum it up: We went to Mexico. We drank the water. We escaped over a railroad bridge. A great time was had by all.
Once across border the parade broke apart in a spectacularly rapid fashion and was absorbed into Brownsville. One humorous note was when one of the parade section leaders with about 15 riders in tow, pulled up beside us at a stoplight. “Which way to the highway?”
Hell, we didn’t know. We were just cruising vaguely in the direction we needed to go, and checking out Brownsville. Holistic navigation. We figured if you go north you would be pretty much covered.
“I think its up there . . . hang a left at the overpass,” I yelled back.
“No. I think you turn right up ahead,” the section leader called back. That would be south, and back into Mexico. They roared off. I have visions of this lost group of bikers, forever faithfully following a section leader who has no idea where they are going. Hope they find someplace interesting.
The only regret we have for attending the Matamoros ride is that we missed the amateur bike show. I wanted to see what sort of bikes show up there, as they have a “classic cruiser” category for 20-25 year old bikes that “Well Oiled Machine” could probably place in . . . but I want to check out the competition at one of these before I enter. “Well Oiled Machine” is a head turner, but I may really be outclassed. Still do not know.
Friday night Blue Oyster Cult and REO Speedwagon were playing. This was the optional (extra $$) concert and we did not purchase tickets for it. It was just a bit pricey. REO is one of my favorite groups, but we were also kind-of worried about the “geriatric rock band reunion” phenomenon. Would have killed my memories if they rolled them out on stage in wheelchairs or something. Turned out we did not need to worry. We could clearly hear REO from the fairgrounds. They had not lost it.
Dinner at Denny’s . . . Pot-roast and ice-cream sundaes for dessert. For some reason the pot roast at Denny’s is amazing. Saturday was the poker-run, so we had to be up early. After a soak in the hotel’s hot tub I slept the sleep of the dead again. What a trip.
For those that do not know what a poker run is, you are given instructions from a starting point to 5 destinations to be ridden to in order. At each destination they stamp your sheet (or give you a token) and you move on to the next. When complete at the final destination they check your stamps, then you get to draw a poker hand. There are usually prizes for the best hand, second place, and sometimes the worst hand, but prizes are not really the point. The run is arranged so that the ride is scenic, and the stops are interesting.
The first stop on this run was an air museum and a waffle breakfast. They had WWII era planes flying overhead and doing stunts. Fun. Museums usually depress me though. They had a PBY (massive amphibious plane, it was a workhorse during WW II and is really an amazing airplane) parked out back. It was obvious that it would never fly again. Sad. That’s no way for a machine to go.
After leaving there we needed a drink. We stopped at a convenience store along the route. There were no Coke products at all in the store. Not even any place for them. The operator seemed exasperated when I asked where they were.
We went elsewhere. The next store had one small cooler of Coke products. They also had Diet Coke with lemon. I had not seen this product before and tried it. I like it. Not sure if it is a new product or regional thing. I have yet to see it around Dallas.
One stop was a BBQ place/biker bar. They were out of BBQ. James had a burger, I had the spicy wings. Not too bad. Cute waitress.
This poker run was about 100 miles and with the stops and our typical dawdling around and sightseeing took several hours.
Back at the fairgrounds we drew our hands. We did not win (my hand should have won worst hand, James drew three-of-a-kind . . . threes I think) but no matter. Riding is the point, yes?
We visited the professional bike show. Ten bikes or so. Amazing paint jobs, and obviously a lot of work had gone into them, they were built from the ground up, but the result was basically all the same bike! Again, expressing our independence and artistry . . . in a conformist sort of way. Boring. I left without being able to choose a “people’s choice” favorite. None stood out. I find this disturbing.
There was also a parade Saturday afternoon. Much like the Matamoros ride, except it went from the Iwo-Jima monument to the fairgrounds in Harlingen. It was also about 3 times the size of the Matamoros run. At least 4500 bikes participated and it stretched for miles. The rumble was incredible. Not a car alarm in range could stay silent. The news stated that “500 bikers showed up”. Interesting. Get it right guys.
38-Special played Saturday night, and was the concert venue that we had tickets for (included in the pre-registration package). I am slightly embarrassed that we did not attend. We ate dinner, went back to the hotel, and soaked in the hot tub for a couple hours.
We slept late Sunday, then packed up and pulled out. Looking at the map, we decided that we could go back through Laredo and avoid that horrendously boring stretch of road on US 281. We headed west out of Harlingen on US 83. This route would add something like 70 miles to our trip, but it was a small price to pay.
At Laredo we turned north on Interstate 35 for a short stretch, planning to leave it onto US 83 in about 20 miles.
In that stretch we hit a Border Patrol checkpoint. They have all traffic on Interstate 35 pull off into lines, and they check you out. While we waited in line I pulled beside James. I constantly tease him about all the trunks on his ‘Wing. “You got any illegal aliens stuffed in there?”
He reached back and thumped the right side bag. “Shut up in there, you’re going to get caught.”
The checkpoint reminded me of something out of a WWII movie. Men with guns and dogs stopping all traffic. I am fairly ruthless about my rights. Where I am going and what I am doing is not the business of anybody in authority, unless and until I have been proven to have done something wrong. James and I are apparently the minority these days . . . as we are unwilling to sacrifice our rights and freedoms in the name of security.
These guys had dogs, and were checking out some vehicles. Apparently those dogs hate motorcycles. I mean REALLY hate motorcycles. As we approached the checkpoint, one of the dogs went nuts. It was struggling to reach us and barking and howling furiously. Spittle was flying from its lips. Its handler wrapped the lead twice around the porch railing of their small office. The handler would not have been able to hold it back otherwise. The dog was leaping and shaking the entire porch each time it was jerked up short by its lead. The handler seemed somewhat bored, so I assume this is a common occurrence. Glad he was able to control it.
When we reached the guy at the gate, he asked James “You a US Citizen?”
“No.” says James as he is nodding his head yes.
“Thanks. Have a good day,” says the guy as he waves him on.
I pull up. “You a US Citizen?” asks the guy.
“Huh?” says I.
“Thanks. Have a good day” he says as he waves me on.
That is terribly effective. They should save everybody the trouble and just put a sign on the highway saying “Terrorists, Smugglers, Drug Dealers Exit Here.”
We hit US 83 and headed north. A few miles in James passed a slow moving 18-wheeler. I got stuck behind it for a while due to traffic and hills and visibility. When the opportunity came I tweaked the throttle and shot around. James was very far ahead so I did not let off the throttle immediately. As I neared him I began to slow and pull into position. I glanced down at the speedometer. Holy cow! 130 Mph. Sheesh.
A few minutes later a juxtaposition of events made for some fun. I was starting to doubt that my speedometer had really said 130MPH. We crested a small hill and looked forward to at least 15 miles of road, slightly uphill, with both sides of the road clearly visible the entire way. There was no traffic in sight and had been none since we passed the truck some miles back. At that moment a particularly rollicking tune started on my MP3 player.
“Well Oiled Machine” chose that moment to get frisky.
“Come on. Let’s go.” she clearly said.
“Can’t, I’m following James.” I responded.
“Got to go. Got to go now. Got to. Got to. Got to. Go faster. MUST go faster.” She insisted. I think I’ll have to watch that super unleaded gas . . . I think it has caffeine in it.
“Ok.” I am a pushover for a beautiful woman.
I tweaked the throttle and shot past James. He would have no problem knowing what I was up to. The road in front of us was self-explanatory.
I never hit full throttle. Within seconds she was at 135 MPH and 8500 rpm (redline). She was still accelerating and showed no sighs of running out of power, but I let off, as I did not want to go over the redline.
“Well Oiled Machine” was smooth and stable, with no unusual vibration or shimmy. I held the speed for a few moments, but was soon cresting the hill. I let off it and gradually slowed back down to 75 or so. She is an incredible machine. The torque and power available are nothing short of amazing.
James zoomed by a moment later and again took the lead. We later found another open space and he pushed it up to 100 MPH and held it there a while. He had to ask later how fast he took us to . . . his speedometer only goes to 85 MPH. Mine goes to 160MPH! Gives you an attitude.
After the rain we encountered out of Dallas, the rest of our trip had been absolutely perfect weather. You could not have asked for nicer days, and today was no exception.
The miles flew by, but so did the time. A couple of fuel stops later darkness was upon us and we were still 100 miles out of Kerrville. Oh well. Don the jackets and take off.
The short way was the fun way this time. Some small backroad between US 83 and Kerrville promised twisties. Kewl. Twisties. In the dark. In deer country. Should be interesting.
This road was extremely twisty, with one-lane bridges and lots of up and down . . . sometimes way, way down into low water crossings. We dodged lots of wildlife. One was a skunk.
As James describes it, “Oh shit! A skunk!” as he is taking evasive action. Then, “Oh crap . . . it’s facing the wrong direction!”
Fortunately neither of us got sprayed.
Halfway through this 100-mile stretch, we pulled off the side of the road for a break. Twisties in the dark takes lots of tension and concentration. We had to get off the bikes. I was starting to cramp up.
We could hear water running in the valley below the road, but nothing else. There were no cars out here. Spooky. Neat. James smoked a cigar, and when we were rested we mounted up and took off.
James stopped after 100 feet or so. He had taken his glasses off to put on his helmet, and set them on his tank. He had forgotten to put them back on. He rapidly figured that out, as he cannot see to drive without them. Bad news.
I turned my bike around and went back to what I was sure was well before the spot we had been pulled off at. I turned the bike around and parked it back in the grass on the side of the road. I left the headlight on. The glasses were not on the road. That meant that they were in the grass. I grabbed the flashlight and slowly walked all the way to where James was stopped in the road ahead. No sign of them.
I turned around and along with James, slowly walked all the way back to my bike, carefully scanning for the glasses.
“The can’t be under anything.” Commented James.
“Unless they’re under my bike.” I joked.
Slowly we looked at each other. Distances are deceiving in the dark.
“Oh shit.” we both said in unison.
Slowly I swung the flashlight around.
The glasses were there, full up against my back tire. They were not the slightest damaged or scratched. Amazing luck. I missed running over them not just once, but twice!
Soon we pulled into Kerrville. Pot roast and ice cream sundaes at Denny’s again. While fishing the last of the hot fudge out of my sundae, I glanced at James. He looked thoughtful. I had a good idea what about as I had been thinking about the last stretch of road. Twisties are a blast. “Want to go again?” I asked with a grin.
“Yeah. Yeah I do.”
Si woke us up with breakfast again. Once again, the mountain of scrambled eggs, frying pan full of home-made sausage, and huge stack of toast stood no chance of surviving our assault.
We pulled out of Kerrville on Texas 16 and this time cut over to US 281 on 1383 . . . a small and twistie of 30 miles or so. This was fun, but was interesting as it was open range land. We crossed a cattle guard, and after that there were no fences at all. Some bloody big beef was wandering around in there.
The grasshoppers made for an interesting trip through here. It was quite cool, and grasshoppers by the thousands were all over the road, sunning themselves. They did not bother James in the slightest, as he was leading. His passage would disturb them and they would leap into the air . . . just in time to smack into me. Splat. I backed off, but that did not help, as they were inevitably on their second leap. I backed WAY off, but then they were on their third leap. Splat, smack, crunch, splatter, splut by the dozens. Ghack! This was intolerable! Eventually I found the exact distance behind James, where they had already leaped and landed, but not had time for the second leap.
We hit US 281, gassed up in Johnson City, and headed north. We had just left the town, and had climbed to highway speed. The road here was not divided and was two lanes in each direction. We were traveling in our usual formation in the left-hand lane.
Directly in front of James an oncoming 18-wheeler suddenly swerved completely into our lane. James and I instantly and simultaneously executed a very hard right, in perfect formation. We then had to flop over and go hard left to avoid driving off the side of the road. One mistake from either of us and a pile of bikes would have tumbled off the road (at best) or under the oncoming 60,000 pound truck (uh . . . that would be worst). The coordinated evasive turns must have been a beautiful sight, had there been anybody else around to see them. These were high speed, peg-dragging turns, and we barely cleared the truck. A car would have been annihilated. After we were back in our groove, I glanced in my mirrors. The truck had gone clear across both of our lanes, and was headed back to the other side of the road. His brake lights were on. Maybe he blew a tire. Whew.
The miles evaporated and soon we were back on US 67. At Keene hunger hit and we searched for something to eat. A Sonic at the end of town proved to be brand-new and still under construction. Looked pretty bleak. Sitting at a stoplight I could see three different donut stores . . . there had to be someplace to eat dinner somewhere. The stoplight changed and James roared off and made a left turn into a shopping center. He had spotted a small place with the imaginative title of “Restaurant” barely painted on the front. It would have to do.
We both ordered chicken-fried steaks, and Diet Coke! They actually had it. Thank heavens the “Great Pepsi Conspiracy” had not reached the Dallas area in our absence.
The last note of humor on this ride was the old local guy in the restaurant that asked me excitedly “What are you riding?”
I replied proudly, “A 1980 Midnight Special.”
His face fell. You could tell he was disappointed. “I had you pegged for a Harley guy.” He mumbled.
I puzzled over this for a moment or two. I was still puzzling over this when we rode out of town. Until I looked down and realized I was wearing my riding jeans. Although they had been laundered, they were still obviously oil-stained up to the knee on the left leg, and over the ankle on the right.
I have not laughed so hard in months.
1934 miles. One-thousand-nine-hundred and thirty-four miles.
As I took leave of James at his place I asked him with a grin, “Want to go again?”
One-thousand-nine-hundred and thirty-four miles. Any normal person would be ready to park the bike and not look at it for a while. Any normal person. He looked back out toward the road and gave the expected answer. The only answer.
“Yeah . . . Yeah I do.”
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3