Poor Wayne. I distinctly remember he just mentioned that we should have a Texas ride-in.
Tag! You’re it! Thanks for volunteering!
He also mentioned Kerrville. I believe I responded with something like “<grunt, snort> Yah! Kerrville das good!” or something equally articulate.
Oh, by the way . . . you also said the word “annual” in there somewhere . . . again, thanks for volunteering! Keep me posted as to when/where the next one is . . .
So, here we go.
Even a hurricane could not stop it. Forecasts on September 23 put Hurricane Isador’s center arriving exactly on Kerrville Friday the 27th, about the time that I was hoping to arrive at the campsite.
Nope, wouldn’t do at all. Texas is a big state, but I am a big guy, and Isador is a big storm. There would not be room here for both of us. Pity Kerrville if we both arrived there at the same time. I committed to myself to go regardless of the weather . . . I needed the ride, I needed the experience. Oh, and Texans never bluff.
There is a strange kind of life taken on by a powerful storm, an odd communication between the hunter and the prey . . . I have fought and been hunted by them before, on motorcycles, in planes, in boats, and on foot. I have always won. So many times now that the line between which is the hunter and which is the prey has begun to blur. (see Into the Maelstrom)
Arrogant? Well, perhaps. Life is here to be experienced . . . experience is our purpose, and it will be all we take with us in the end. I am not stupid about it, but you cannot experience life, if you are avoiding all the experiences at the slightest excuses.
Whatever the reasons, Isador turned tail and went to cause problems in other states (sorry about that, but we had motorcycle riding to do!). By Wednesday it was apparent that the weather was no longer a factor. In fact, we could not have ordered better weather for this event had we been able to!
Friday morning I slept in a bit (normally I have to get up around 4:00am for work), finished loading The Dragon, took my wife out for a leisurely breakfast, passionately kissed the wife goodbye (much to the amusement of the restaurant patrons where we had breakfast, we got sporadic applause), and pulled out of Dallas around 9:00am.
Once again I chose my route with avoiding the super-slabs in mind. Due to constant construction, massive truck traffic, bleak scenery, and dazed cage drivers, I35 is boring and marginally unsafe for motorcycles.
I caught US67 out of Dallas, headed for US281 at Hico. US67 is a pain, it has been under construction for years, and they are apparently not getting anywhere. When I stopped for gas at Glen Rose, I nearly dumped “The Dragon”, as they have constructed concrete curbs and edgings along the street, but paved the street with blacktop . . . which is for some reason about 3” below the level of the concrete edgings. I did not see the edge till I hit it in a mild turn into the parking lot. Guess I should have been watching closer, even though it is a brand new street. Had to gas it and make a very aggressive turn to keep from dropping the big cruiser. Me and the Valk understand each other.
The credit card slot on the pump was not working, so I selected “pay inside” and fueled her up. I needed some caffeine anyway. I pulled the Valkyrie off the pumps into the shade at the front of the store. As I entered the store, I caught the tail end of a tirade from some dirty looking skinny guy. As he was leaving the store he was screaming, “I just want to get to Dallas, and a little gas would help! Dumb bitch!” He was trying to get it for free. As he exited the store, he intentionally ran into me, shoulder to shoulder.
Now I am normally polite, but I do not yield to or tolerate uncivil behavior. I saw him coming and as a result, he nearly went down when I did not budge, give, or sway. One advantage of being a fat guy, is that people continually underestimate your strength. For some reason they associate “fat” and “weak”. Maybe true for some guys. Big mistake in my case. He looked startled, started to say something, thought better of it, and left the store. I made a point of watching him, keeping eye contact when he looked my way, until he got into his car and drove away.
The clerk was obviously upset and was holding back tears. As I approached the counter with my Diet Coke, she snapped at me, “And where are you trying to get to!”
I took no offense, she was upset and could be excused this. There was no-one else in the store to snap at. I flashed my blue eyes at her and calmly said, “My business is mine, but at least I will pay for my gas . . . and my coke. You OK?”
At this she came back to the present, wiped a tear from her eye and began to apologize.
I held up my hand, “Not necessary. Some people are just jerks, or cons. Don’t let them get to you.”
“Why are you so nice?” she stammers as she continues to compose herself.
“Because I like people. Life would be a bore if we were all the same.”
We finished the transaction, and I left the store. I stood outside next to my bike in the shade and sipped my coke, while stretching my legs. One reason I like “The Dragon” is that the massive gleaming cruiser always attracts comment, from riders and non-riders alike. I meet more interesting people touring, usually while standing in the shade and drinking my coke.
Shortly the clerk came out to join me. There were no other customers.
She was much more composed. She was in her 20’s, with long brown hair tied in a single ponytail. About five feet tall or so. Long legs. Not supermodel material, but cute nonetheless. Basically, a green-eyed Texas girl. We do grow ‘em nice here.
I usually have a sense about people. I liked her. She will go places.
I pointed at her nametag, “Then how come your nametag says ‘Bob’?”
I was lying, but it got a laugh and she smiled. I then introduced myself.
A bit shyly she asked, “So . . . where are you going?”
“I don’t know where that is. But can I come? I want out of here.”
My people sense told me several things;
1)She was serious.
2) “Out of here” meant far more than away from the store.
3)The offer was comprehensive . . . she was offering herself and well . . . herself in exchange for a different life. Any different life.
4)She had never done this before.
5)I could also tell that she had been propositioned enough that she had a “view” of men, and she did not expect to be refused.
People are all different. For some, this may be ok . . . a new adventure. For her it was giving up on some dream. This was a kind of surrender for her.
Tempted? Well yes. I am a male after all. The desire is there. You cannot help but be flattered and tempted by such an offer. There are none that would not be. But more than a male, I am a man. Some . . . many . . . no longer know or care what that means. But I still do.
I know what is right. Always. But I do not always know how to do it or say it. After all, I am just a man.
What followed was a rapid-fire explicit expansion of the offer and what it meant, sprinkled with a severe dose of self-doubt . . . the “I’m not pretty enough” type of stuff. Her view of men did not allow for refusal unless something was wrong with her.
I took her hand. “I understand . . . I get it . . .” That brought her to a stop. She was crying again.
“You are very pretty. Were my situation different, I would want to know you better. But not like this. You are intelligent, pretty, healthy, and young, and you will get out of here . . . but there are better, other ways to do that, and if you think about it, you probably already know what they are. There are great things in your future. I’ll bet you even have plans . . .?”
Hesitantly, “Yes.” Then more firmly, “Yes.” She looked up at me, meeting my eyes, suddenly comprehending something big. I think her worldview shifted. Zap. Just like that.
Then her eyes came alive, “Yes.”
About this time a car pulled up to the pumps. She sniffed, smiled, and went into the store. She has some things to think about.
She will be all right. A juxtaposition had been reached, a little more about the world learned, and a course chosen.
Strangely, I am elated. The world is . . . well . . . connected . . . soul, road, man, and machine. I know it, it was reaffirmed again, and I think I showed someone else that today. The world is magic. You get from it what you are looking for.
Finally out of the construction. As the speeds climbed, and the gorgeous weather and the music on my mp3 player further elated my mood, I realized I had things to think about too.
People are infinitely interesting and varied. It is too bad we are often short-sighted enough to experience pain and doubt when it is not truly necessary. Some feel this is essential to the “growing up” process, but I disagree. I decided that I still like my approach . . . participate, get out into the world, but always look for the interesting and for the magical. It is there for the taking, and there is plenty for everyone. The rest is all but inconsequential and will sort itself out.
This attitude, my ability and desire to look at the world with wide-eyed wonder, is often mistaken for naiveté by those that do not know me and the things I have been through. I can only look at them with a just bit of pity.
A stop in Lampasas for some fuel, and some lunch. Had a very mediocre chicken-fried steak at a cafeteria-style place. I feel sorry for the town if it is really “the best place in town” as I was told by the gas station lady. I usually ask where the best places for food are . . . usually I come out ahead and find a good place. Not this time. Oh well. What does not kill you makes you stronger, yes?
Except in Dallas, and in the construction on US 67, the roads had been deserted. The music and the weather, and the deserted roadways made for some intoxicating riding. Just how wrapped up in the riding I was became apparent when I was roaring down the road south of Lampasas, and eventually I passed a sign that said “Austin 22”. Went on a bit before that finally registered. “Err . . . what?” Twenty-two miles to Austin? But . . . I was not going to Austin . . . well . . . at least I was not intending on going to Austin. What the heck?
Apparently I was not sure where I was going, but I sure was making good time! Holistic navigation--Essentially, you may not get where you intended to, but you WILL get somewhere you needed to be. I am famous for it.
Kept going until I found a sign that told me I was on us183. Oops. Apparently you have to actually turn in Lampasas to stay on us281. I have been this way many times, and cannot imagine why I missed or did not remember this. Looked at my map. Caught a farm road that looked like it was going in the right direction.
A couple miles down the road I came upon a Ford pickup with a flat. It was driven by a young woman, and she had her infant son with her. She had the truck jacked up and the spare out, but she could not get the lug nuts off the wheel. Seems to be my day for women in distress. I could tell the arrival of a 300-pound leather clad biker dude made her more than a little nervous. It happens. I introduced myself and offered her my phone. That made her more comfortable, even as she held up her own phone and said, “No service out here.” Her name was Joyce.
The lugs were tight. Even by my standards. I had to put the truck back down so the wheel would not turn and I could apply a little “force of Danny”. I bent the tire-iron getting the last one loose. That elicited wide-eyed, childish admiration from Joyce. Apparently she likes watching guys bend tire-irons. Glad I could help.
Yep . . . It’s all connected.
The farm road curved around a bit, then hit tx29. I headed west on that to Llano. A 50-mile detour, but it was a great day for it. What’s 50-miles give or take, when you are on a motorcycle?
Gassed up again in Llano. Caught tx16 to Kerrville. Topped off “The Dragon” again in keeping with my general principle of having the machine always ready to leave if needed, and headed for the Kerrville-Schreiner State Park. Checked in, paid my fee, and went to find Wayne.
The park is a nice one, situated right beside the Guadalupe river, and just a couple miles out of Kerrville. In this gorgeous weather, with the impending weekend, it was inexplicably deserted. Wayne’s big red Dodge was easy to spot in the otherwise empty park, even if his very nice dressed XS Standard had not been sitting there. I am afraid to ask how he managed to unload it by himself . . . obviously he is capable. Wayne is a big guy too.
I set up camp, and cleaned some of the bigger bugs off “The Dragon”, all the while shooting the breeze with Wayne.
We passed a pleasant afternoon, talking about bikes, trips, and other things. When nobody else showed by 7:00pm, we took off for town to find some dinner.
Wayne kind of randomly spotted/chose a Mexican food place, and we went inside. Turned out to be the site of the Friday dinner for the Valkyrie rider’s group that was also in town, so we joined them (actually were kind-of herded into the room with them by the restaurant staff). I knew some, and we met others. I tipped the waitress pretty good . . . ostensibly because she was putting up with a bunch of biker types with good humor . . . yea . . . that was it . . . couldn’t have had anything to do with her tight shirt and ample cleavage. The male brain . . . sheesh!
After dinner, we headed back to the campsite, to find that “Shack” had shown up. Shack had trucked his XS in from Nacogdoches and apparently arrived very shortly after we left for dinner. We helped him unload his very nice Special, and passed the evening in pleasant discussion around the campfire. We were expecting Lanny (LtL) but he had not arrived. Phone service was sporadic at best in the area, so we were not sure what had happened. Of course we know from corresponding with him on the lists, that Lanny can take care of himself, so we were not overly concerned.
Eventually we hit the hay, we were meeting any other XSives at a café on Main street for breakfast and to stage the day’s ride early in the morning.
The night was cool and quiet, and my dreams were typical for when I am traveling on the Valk. I am probably a psychiatrist’s dream with my dreams! This one involved “The Dragon” in her dream form and me in mine. You will have to read Hell and Gone . . . all of it . . . if you would know what I am talking about.
I dreamed of dragons and unicorns, horrendous storms, pretty Texas women, and a whole world full of empty roads that always lead somewhere interesting, but never quite where I expect them too . . .
The morning dawned cool, crisp, and clear. A better day for riding has never existed. The three of us managed to get our act together and get to the café. There we met what was to be the rest of our group. Robert and Linda Moore, on their Standard, and Mike Campbell on his Special.
Two Specials, two Standards, and my Valk. Looks like that debate will not be settled soon (of course Midnights are just better!).
After a very good breakfast (eggs, pancakes, sausage, and hash browns for me) we prepared to ride. Amazingly enough, while we were gathered around the bikes, a very nice red and black Standard went cruising by. Alas, he did not see us. Perhaps we should have chased him down. Join the XS group or else! . . . well . . . maybe not.
We mounted up and headed for the hills. Ranch road 337 and 336 were the highlights of the trip. Up, down, and twisties. Scenery too! There are some big ranches out here . . . big money, old money, oil money, drug money, or maybe all of the above. Some certified nuts too, as one quite large ranch we saw was surrounded by a large white brick wall, which was topped on its entire length by broken bottles! Oh well, to each his own. Of course I was tempted to shoot the bottles off the top of the wall, but I suppose that would have attracted the wrong sort of attention . . . I’d have gotten off though . . . I mean . . . I am a Texan, what else are you supposed to do with a bottle sitting on a wall?
I rode sweep for the majority of the trip. There is something extremely satisfying watching all the bikes line up and sweep into the corners. Fortunately no wrenching or first aid talents were needed today. The bikes all preformed flawlessly, and the riders all had a good time.
A stop for lunch at a very inexpensive and tasty hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place . . . we managed to totally bamboozle (technical term) the waiter . . . the straws did it, but nice enough folks and good food. For Robert and Linda. . . One taco . . . each! But 5 straws! That’ll learn ya! LOL!
Shack is a character (of course all XSives are), and at one gas stop, he looked earnestly at Wayne and said “I am only getting about 47 miles to the gallon, something must be wrong!” That Shack . . . almost started a gas, oil, tire, and standard vs special thread right there at the gas pumps!
2002 TeXSive folks. That is Mike on the left, Wayne in the foreground, Robert and Linda in the background, and John "Shack" on the right.
A stop or two for gas and drinks, and a full day of gorgeous riding, and back to Kerrville we went. Playing in those hills is a must-do. The last time I ran these hills was in the middle of the night (see SPI BikeFest). Daytime is so much better. I’ll be back. Hopefully with a pack of XSives.
Back into Kerrville we went for a few pictures at the campsite.
At the Camp
Motley Crew, eh?
Then we regrouped for dinner, and cruised to a good steakhouse (not the one we were looking for, but a good choice nonetheless . . . holistic navigation again).
Good bikes, good food, good people. Makes for a good day, yes?
Back to the campsite the three of us went. Wayne was pulling out early in the morning, allegedly around 4:30am, and Shack figured he would too, so we loaded their bikes into their trucks so they would not have to do it in the wee hours. We then spent a couple hours shooting the breeze around the campfire.
The Park cop guy, with his cute flashing light adorned pickup was making a point of wandering around the park, and stopped to tell us that “quiet time” was from 10pm to 6am. We did have the radio on, very low, but were not really making any noise. Certainly not any noise that compares to driving a pickup all over the park. I think I startled my fellow campers with my urge to tell him “Well, shut the hell up and get out of our campsite then.”
I am a bit of an anarchist I suppose. Sigh.
The cool night air was perfect for sleeping.
So I did. My dreams this night are best left unrecorded. I am a passionate man, I'm pretty sure some of the things I dreamed are physically improbable--and possibly illegal--and my wife would blush.
I awoke at about 5:45am. Who needs alarm clocks while camping, when you are equipped with the boon of all tent campers . . . the 7 hour bladder.
Dressed and found to my surprise, Shack sitting in his truck. I gathered Wayne was down at the restroom facilities. I knocked on Shack’s window, “What happened to 4:30am?”
He laughed, “Don’t know.”
I could have told them . . . there is really no such thing as 4:30am. Really. It is a myth that has only been sighted by a few unverifiable types. Its existence has never actually been proven.
I missed Wayne as I hiked down to the facilities, they were gone when I returned. I silently mouthed a heartfelt “Godspeed”. I like riding, I like people, and had met more people that I like, and the riding has been sheer joy. Wayne and Shack are good guys, the Moore’s are very nice people, and Mike (the Nasa Engineer) has been charged with getting me a warp drive to install in “The Dragon”. The world is good.
The fire was still smoldering, so I chucked the last log on it and brought it back to life. I sat in the cool predawn silence watching the crackling flames and contemplating. Other experiences, different trips, other times, other people, friends and lovers, present and those that have been lost, slowly come back to me. Life, death, joy, pain, all of it real, some of it very up close and personal. They are all there, and all can bear scrutiny on a morning like this one. All have left their mark, for good or ill, on my self and my soul. Some are deep and painful, others joyous, some simply fleeting contacts, but all very vivid, and continually shaping who and what I am, even when I am not sure myself what that is.
I end up staring intently into the flames, examining old pains, reconciling them with the joy and magic I know are prevalent in the world. Old scars, both real and mental are, one by one, dragged into the open and experienced yet again. People I know. People I have lost. People I have somehow affected. All are met, known, lost, or affected yet again. Slowly integrating, balancing, fusing my experiences, good and bad, with my self and my soul. Sitting there with tears unabashedly running down my face, yet tremendously, strangely elated.
I am who I am, I do what I do.
Yah. It’s all connected. Slowly I smile.
The resounding, echoing, joyous, whooping, “YAHOOOOO!” I sent reverberating around the forest as I jumped up to break camp probably violated the “quiet time” but I grinned broadly when it was promptly answered from across the grounds by a female voice echoing the same sentiment. Apparently I am not the only one for urr . . . quiet reflection in the predawn light.
Mounted up and ready. I fired up the bike. It was time to fly.
I grinned, “The Dragon” roared, and we were gone.
The trip home:
I stopped for breakfast in Kerrville . . . I intended to go to the place we ate at yesterday, but it was closed Sundays. No problem. If you ever need breakfast in a small Texas town, and it is actually early, here is what you do. Drive up and down the main drags (and one street each side of the main drag) and look for all the pick-up trucks. Wherever they are, there is a good breakfast to be had.
Sure enough, pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and iced tea. Waitress that calls everybody “hon”. Six bucks including tip. Yum.
I headed out of Kerrville on tx16, bound again for Llano, where I would make the cut back over to us281.
I entered a really odd fog just north of I10 and stayed in it for miles. It was almost surreal, the sun was up and the fog was only at ground level. Visibility was only about ¼ of a mile, but within that circle it was sunny and the visibility was crisp.
This gave the very strong illusion that I was not moving at all, rather that I was stationary, and things were moving into and out of my sphere of being. I have ridden many thousands of miles, and this is the first time I have ridden in conditions quite like this. From my perspective, the world did not exist outside my sphere of influence, and all the things (like many, many deer) were simply created in front of me, moved silently behind me, and then were destroyed as they vanished.
Eventually a Harley rider was created in front of me, and as he slowly slid backwards toward me, he moved over to share his lane with me and waved me by. As I paralleled him for a moment I looked over at him, to find him looking at me. I am sure I was wearing the same ecstatic grin on my face that he had on his. A mutual thumbs up, and I pulled away in front. It was almost with regret that I let him vanish in the mists behind me.
Just short of Llano I topped a rise and the mists vanished. They did not fade away, lingering here and there, or simply become less solid until not noticed anymore, they vanished within the blink of an eye. Quite startling really. I was back in the universe again. Not entirely sure if that is a good thing, but at least the deer were not “popping” into existence in front of me anymore.
This entire trip, I had seen very few cars, trucks, or bikes once I was away from the towns. I owned the road. One of the reasons I love touring. On one lonely stretch I overtook a white Chevy “whatever” . . . you know, one of those nondescript cars. As I passed the car I glanced over. A young lady was driving, and in the back seat was a youngling in a car seat. He was maybe 2 years old or so. He was flipping me off . . . as in, shooting me the bird . . . waving at me with one finger for all he was worth.
My only thought, “Well . . . there’s something you don’t see everyday.”
As I pulled around, the mother glanced over at me, then into the back to see her son’s greeting to the 300-pound motorcycle guy. She was obviously horrified, and nearly ran off the road. I chuckled to myself and drove on.
I stopped for gas, a coke, and a stretch at Hico. As is my habit, I fueled the big cruiser first, then pulled off the pumps into the shade in front of the store. I went in and got a diet coke, and as I was leaning against the bike sipping it, who should show up but the mother of the one-finger-salute kid. She had not seen me parked on the other side of another car, and walked around the car and right by me. She looked up and gasped, went completely white, and nearly passed out!
The kid’s finger is on a aluminum splint, seems he got himself into a little trouble as young boys are want to do . . . I reassured the nice lady that the Hells Angles were not going to come rumble on her over this. Kids are universally cute at that age, and nobody with any intelligence is going to be riled over the actions of a two-year old. There is no animosity there. Heck, adults flipping me off don’t even bother me.
People are funny.
Since I had fueled in Hico, I had no real physical need to stop in Glen Rose, as it is only about 30 miles up the road . . . except that I did need to stop, I wanted to check on Lisa. I pulled into the same station, being careful of the odd concrete edge this time, stuck my credit card into the pump (it was working this time) and put a bucks worth of gas in the Valk. I pulled off the pumps, and as I got off “The Dragon”, Lisa burst out of the store holding a Diet Coke, ran around several other customers, and gave me a flying bear-hug with all four limbs (she jumped and I caught) and a resounding kiss on the cheek. Good thing I am the big guy that I am, otherwise it would have been an enthusiastic tackle! Urr . . . good thing I have a strong heart too . . . that kind of thing will get it going.
I grinned, “Hi Bob! You OK?”
“I knew you would be back this weekend! That’s the only reason I am working . . . so much has happened! I am so excited! You were right! Oh thank you so much.”
I extracted myself, “I take it that is a yes?”
With what seemed to be a bit of ceremony, she handed me the coke. “This is for you . . . Oh yes! Everything is great.” She looked me in the eyes a moment. “I am going to be OK. Just like you said.”
At that she flashed a smile at me, turned, and ran into the store. Somebody’s worldview had shifted.
. . . and all you wanted was somebody to care.
As I stood there sipping my coke, undoubtedly with a big grin on my face, the two Harley riders that had been fueling up walked by. One of them looked at me, glanced at my hard won coke and asked, “What do I have to do to get service like that?
I am sorry. I could not resist. As I saluted him with the coke, kind of tipping it near my forehead, I said, “Just buy a Valkyrie.”
He looked at the gleaming cruiser for a moment. Nodded, “Well, she is a nice bike.”
I grinned, “The Dragon” roared, and we were gone.
Around 900 miles driven. Great roads discovered, new friends met, new experiences consumed. Riding, music, people. Man, road, machine, and soul all reaffirmed.
All-in-all, a pretty good weekend.