Why did it all go wrong? Ė I wanna know whatís going on
And whatís this holding me?
Iím not where Iím supposed to be
I gotta fight another fight
I gotta fight with all my might
Iím getting out Ė so check it out
You canít take me Ė Iím free
I hadnít turned on the mp3 player yet. The songs in my head still hadnít run down.
I'd kissed the wife hard on the mouth, and tweaked her on the butt. Yeah, I'm a guy. So? Sometimes I do it the other way around, but we had company. Another tweak and it was time to go.
Dean and I were southeast bound out of the metromess and the heat was already chasing us down. We had elected to hit the minor and back roads on the way down . . . the long way of course . . . and weíd super-slab it back at night to avoid the worst of the wildlife.
I am NOT a fan of the meat-cutting cables TXDOT is installing everywhere.
Seems weíve had a few high-profile accidents and thereís a vocal minority contingent wringing their hands and screaming, ďPlease wonít somebody think of the children!Ē so TXDOT is under pressure to physically divide all the freeways. Unfortunately, the medians have been graded so that any errant car or truck will be pulled to the center to decelerate. Extreme cases will cross over, but most folks will get a chance to recover without serious damage. We used to call these ďrun outsĒ.
To physically divide the freeway safely, they need to grade the median flat and provide drainage, and then add the beveled concrete barriers in between. That gives cars/etc a shoulder to play on and a chance to recover, but can also stop the extreme cases.
But, of course, to save money, they are NOT grading the median and are installing the deli slicer cables seen here. Sometimes they put them in the bottom of the ditch, but the result to any motorcyclist will be the same, even in a minor/slide type encounter. Either cut into slivers on the cables or split half in-two on the metal poles. I am seeing these cheap installations all over the state now. Beware, and instruct your family to sue TXDOT for all the money they saved if you are ever sliced up by these things. By the way . . . due to the picture below you've just read the Least read paragraph on this entire website.
Next slide please . . .
WooHooo . . . ur . . . I mean . . . howíd that get in there? Uh . . . Just seeing if youíre paying attention. Yeah. That's it. They do grow Ďem nice up Canada way, eh?
Ahem. Time . . . To . . . Move . . . On . . . Yes . . .
Ur . . . Oh, yeah. Next slide please . . .
Iím not sure what I was shooting at here but Oh my god look at the hair on the back of my neck! So thatís where itís going. Hmmm . . . that explains the little oriental gal that cuts my hair. When it comes time to trim the back she invariably pulls my shirt away and mumbles, ďOh . . . my . . .Ē
Ah well. It was coming up thin on the top of my head anyway. Glad to know itís not lost, but rather, itís misplaced.
In something like 35 miles we were out of town. Finally. Thatís the short way. If we were headed west Iíd have to stop for fuel before we left the city(s). I snapped a picture of Dean just for the heck of it.
Iíve done this before. They make great desktop wallpapers and stuff. Hereís Dean and his wife a couple years ago on Well Oiled Machine.
Dean got her (Well Oiled Machine, not the wife) from me when I went all Valkyrie. I built that Midnight Special . . . hence the reason it can break the sound barrier.
Okay, not really.
I did build it, and it was hell out fast, but when Dean was breaking the sound barrier it wasnít humid enough for the compression waves to show up. (thanks to my friend Dan for the Ďshop job)
Now weíve traveled far,
but are we any nearer?
Thereís a feeling weíre reaching for,
in the place where it all began.
We were southeast bound and moving fast, and the heatís starting to pickup. Those that have done any distance in high temperatures know, but Iíll point out anyway that the gloves arenít just to look ďcoolĒ. They actually keep you cool. Having your hands out in 100+ degree 80mph scorching winds is not comfortable. Bare fingers would actually cook over time. The gloves provide enough insulation so that your normal blood flow can keep the fingers from overheating.
Yeah, sounds silly. Argue if you will. You wonít convince me. I learned this lesson at about 16 years old with a trip to the emergency room. A hundred-mile jaunt in 116 degree temperatures (summer, 1980) yielded fingers swollen to the size of sausages and gone completely numb. Experience is a particularly potent teacher.
Itís kind of like an Easy-bake oven. Not really all that hot if you look at it in normal roasting temperatures, but itíll get the job done. Wanna try it but donít want to ride all the way to Texas? Grab a hair dryer and point it at your fingers from two inches away and see how long you can hold it there. Hair dryers typically put out only about 110 degrees.
Youíll catch me without a helmet before you catch me without gloves, but needless to say a full-face helmet is helpful in limiting your exposure too. A denim shirt makes the perfect topping to help keep you cool and slow the evaporation of the sweat down enough to actually do you some good, but of course, I usually donít practice what I preach. I do wear the gloves though.
I glance in the rearview and see Dean hard on my ďsixĒ. The barren cityscape has given way to rolling hills and pine forests. Thereís actually scenery to ogle. Itís still hot though. Iíve run this way often, and today I'm looking for something particular.
Thereís a place out here where this road cuts right through an old graveyard. Tombstones line both sides of the road on a hill, but the road builders cut the hill in two when they ran it through. They used the part of the hill they pushed through to partially fill the next valley enough to make the road grade reasonable (humming the old "Dukes of Hazzard" themesong at the moment)
Straightening them curves, flattening them hills....
Iíve a ghost story to tell about this place. It's from a run (the other direction) through on a moonlit, hot misty night. Yeah, Iím given to the dramatic and interesting things of the night, but why the hell not? Thereís enough mundane in the world. Yíall can have it. I look the other direction.
Listen do you hear?
I thought I had your promise.
But that empty feeling grows,
and Iím scared that I will forget
This trip I wanted to stop and get a picture of the spooky place (yeah, in the daylight), but somehow, in consciously looking for it, I completely missed it. Odd. Thinking back, I guess Iíve only seen the rather amazing sight at night. Hmmm. Yeah . . . Iíll tell that story later.
But I . . .
I can remember . . .
thereís people still hanging on.
Topping a rise, I spotted something else Iíd been watching for. I signaled Dean, throttled back the big machine, and then grabbed the binders hard, chirping the massive back tire as I downshifted. No, I donít have to. I like the sound and feel of it. Yíall donít think I ride this big ole' powerful cruiser to be particularly restrained do you?
Thereís a spring about 10 miles west of Jacksonville, right beside the road. It flows clear and cold, even in the drought weíve been having. Many folks around here have shallow surface wells to take care of their household water use . . . laundry, showers, and such, but the shallow water has a heavy taste and aroma. Most cannot afford deep wells, and this is a working class area. Theyíve never heard of ďbottled water in-home deliveryĒ.
I often see folks lined up here to catch their drinking water. Itís clear, clean, and tastes perfect. Itís also rumored to have curative and longevity properties, but of course those are old wivesí tales.
Today the spring was very slow due to the drought, but the two ladies there poured us a cup out of what theyíd already caught instead of making us wait. I guess we looked thirsty. Thanks ladies!
Refreshed and ready for my next hundred years . . . ur . . . I mean . . . refreshed and ready to ride again (Wivesí tales! Those are wivesí tales!), we hit the road.
All too soon it was time for a gas stop. The Valkyrie isnít kind to my fuel budget. With six carburetors and my habitual throttle-flogging, that fuel line is a 1/2 inch in diameter for a reason!
Deanís Ďwing, of course, with a bigger engine AND fuel injection, still gets substantially better mileage than The Dragon. The Big Orange Couch holds more gas too. I would guess he has double my range. Thatís okay though, Iím usually ready for a break about the time the Valk needs a fill-up anyway and I damn sure didn't buy her for the gas mileage. Zoom zoom!
It takes a lot of liquid to remain hydrated in these conditions. This is just for me. Dean can get his own!
Shortly after we gassed up we came over a hill and encountered a sight we didnít expect to see. Clouds! Not just any clouds, but real, live, storm clouds! What the heck? This wasnít predicted.
Texas gets into weather patterns, and the hot air mass thatíd been sitting on us for about a month rarely moves without a strong front coming through. When the heat and humidity is just right, scattered thunderstorms can break out as the unstable air manages to punch a hole in the cap, but in that case the storms typically run in narrow bands and are short lived.
Since the weather guys had thrown their dart and hit the ďMore of the sameĒ part of the board, naturally I assumed thatís what we were dealing with.
In these cases, for the most part, I wonít bother with rain gear. Itís summer. Itís Texas. Weíre gonna punch through the storm in just a few miles, and even if itís a heavy one (more often than not), weíd be dry in a matter of minutes after getting through it. Itís actually kind of fun. I did't get that nickname of "Storm Rider" for nothing. Yeah, it's fun. Except for the hail. Yeah. The Hail pretty much sucks.
I did have the presence of mind to put the camera up though. I shot a picture of the storms and then stuffed the camera in its waterproof bag inside the waterproof tank bag. You can only drown electronics so many times you know.
The picture of what we were about to head into summed up my mood perfectly.
Without a soul,
My spirit's sleeping somewhere cold,
Until you find it there and lead it back
It would turn out that we'd ride in these very intense storms for the next hundred and fifty miles. I guess our weather pattern was getting all fuzzy around the edges, yes?
songs on this installment (in order of appearance)
You can't Take Me, I'm Free--Bryan Adams
Bring Me to Life--Evanescence
Alexandria, Louisiana on a Saturday Night Navigation:
--Index-- --Part 1-- --Part 2-- --Part 3-- --Part 4-- --Part 5 --Part 6--