Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday BBQ: Hard 8 in Stephenville

Since it was Sunday and I didn't need to get back home from the DFW area until the afternoon I took a longer route home. This gave me a chance to ride with my 3Day Route Safety buddy, Chuck, and it let me try out some good Q.

We left his house about 8:30 and headed to I-820 around Ft. Worth. The plan was to go around to HWY 377 toward Granbury. Once in Grandbury we detoured and took in some fun roads worth mentioning. FM 4 from Granbury to Lipan is great. The speed limit is 70 and the corner signs range from 60 to 65mph. This is one of those roads where you could "blow the carbon out" and have fun. Of course, I don't know what the normal LEO status is. From Lipan take FM1189 south. This road has some fun twisties as well although the road surface isn't as good. It sort of reminded me of riding in the hill country. Eventually you'll come to a junction with FM1188, take that west to continue the fun until you reach HWY 108. Take it south to Stephenville and park in the Hawg Pen at Hard 8 BBQ on HWY 67.

Now about the Q. Hard Eight BBQ is some dang good eating. They cook on brick pits as folks in Central Texas. They have a large variety of meats and you order it outside right next to one of the pits. I ordered some brisket and a pork rib then carried my tray inside to get my tea and beans. Beans, Bread and JalapeƱos are free at Hard 8. The atmosphere is typical Texas BBQ joint. The brisket is fall apart tender. You simply have to pick it up with your fingers and put it in your mouth. Don't mess with the sauce as it's a little too heavy and hides the great taste of the meat. This is meat that deserves to be eaten by itself. The pork spare rib was good and had a lemon pepper rub on it which complimented the smoky flavor nicely. The pinto beans, mmmm the beans, they were good. The large slices of bacon turned me off a little but I just picked them out. It looked as if they had just taken a package of sliced bacon and cut it in 2 and then tossed it in the pot. The bean gravy was a little thin but well flavored. This BBQ place will have to go in my custom POI database for good eating places.

After the food was enjoyed and Chuck and I had visited a little more we decided it was time to head out. He was going back up 377 and I was heading down HWY 281 toward Waco. According to the GPS I had about 275 miles to get to the house, a full stomach and 3/4 tank of gas. I could make it home in 1 stop. So at 12:20pm I point the bike south and head out. 281 to 6 to 290 to 362 to I10 to 99 to 90A and I made it home by 5pm with 409 miles on the odometer for the day and 775 miles for the weekend.

One notable part of the trip home was the town of Bremond. More specifically the pitiful excuse of a gas station in the town. There's only the Citgo that I could find and with 5 miles left on the tank according to the computer I wasn't going to ride around a lot. That was a good thing as I put 5.25 gallons in my 5.2 gallon tank. This station is on the corner of 46 and 14, you can't miss it as there's a blinking light there. The pumps aren't digital and have the old analogue spools in them with only even numbers labeled in the penny spot. Well after filling up I walked inside to pay and use the restroom. When I inquired where the restrooms were I was told they didn't have public restrooms. I laughed and thought it was a joke and the lady responded with an attitude and assured me they didn't have a public restroom. So apparently Bremond is stuck somewhere in the 1970's. Thankfully they were there and open as I had really pushed my range a few miles further than I should have but it would have been nice to have a restroom.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Riding Workshop

As an avid rider and motorcycle coach I'm always looking for ways to become better, faster and smoother. The better I get on a bike, the more fun I have, the lower the "pucker" factor is when the road gets zesty and the better I can coach my students. While searching for better winter gloves earlier in the year I came across Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic. The only problem I had was they didn't offer classes in Texas much less Houston. So I signed up for his mailing list in hopes that maybe he'd offer a class in Texas someday. A week later I received his newsletter showing 3 classes in Texas with the last one in Dallas. Wooohooo! I've got friends in Dallas so I'd have a place to sleep.

I spoke to Lee about the curriculum and then went out and bought the book. It was an easy read and after finishing it I started seeing things I was doing wrong. Such as my suspension which had way too much preload dialed in. I knew my cornering needed help and started trying to implement the techniques in the book but without supervision I wasn't making drastic improvements. The class would change that...

The class started at 8am in a parking lot at the Texas Motor Speedway. Looking around I noticed the markings of an MSF BRC and ERC range. So I can only assume someone holds classes there at some time. The temp was just below 50 degrees and the wind was blowing thus creating a nice wind chill. I regretted leaving my liner back in Colleyville. We all did introductions and it was interesting to see the range and experience of riders in the class between the 10 students. Our instructors were Dace and Pilot. Dace was into LD riding, track days and teaching. She had ridden in from Daytona on her ST1300. Pilot was in charge of a WERA race team that was up for rookie of the year and had that military feel about him. Once the house keeping stuff was out of the way, we got started.

For the first part we did classroom, the only problem was they had not been able to secure an actual indoor space so our room was the wide open space of the parking lot. It actually made things pretty easy I thought. Dace pulls out a large set of bound laminated pages and begins with the low tech slide show. I immediately started hearing stuff out of the book. We talked about traction and safety gear and how our minds work. I liked her soft but firm sell on wearing gear. While I wear all my gear I'm always looking for ways to help encourage others. Then it was time to get on the bikes and scrub in the tires to get them up to temp...

This is where it felt a little different from MSF classes because Pilot didn't seem like he was reading from a set of range cards. He simply told us what we were about to do and then had Dace ride a "bad" demo where he pointed out all the incorrect things followed by a "good" demo which clearly showed what we were to emulate. Before we got on the bikes Dace had a little bit to tell us and then we were split up, 5 on each "pad". We'd stay on our side of the range for the duration with the same 5 students.

I could describe each exercise and what it was like but I'm not going to. Because if I did you might form an opinion about the course without seeing the whole picture. Or by telling you step by step what I learned it might take some of the surprise and fun out of it for you as a student.

My goal for the class was to improve my cornering skills. Before the class it was some what easy for me to drag my pegs on the GS, especially when practicing techniques in parking lots. What I wanted out of the class though was to get smoother in the corners which would build my confidence and improve my riding enjoyment in the twisties. This class allowed me to learn the techniques to accomplish that goal. Now lots of practice will make it the norm.

I had 2 great moments in the class toward the end. We had been putting together the 10 steps to the cornering technique and this final exercise sort of put it all together. We had 2 40 foot circles spaced 20 feet apart. The path of travel basically created a figure 8. Look on page 85 of the book under "Transitions" for the layout.

I entered into the right hand circle and the peg began to drag but it was steady and I was hanging off the bike on the inside. As I came around to the transition cones I felt the back tire begin to spin, I could hear Pilot saying something like "pin it! pin in!" and I just stayed on the throttle. I didn't even have the desire to roll off. A fraction of a second later the bike hooked up as I was bringing the bike up right before letting it "flop" into the left corner. The rear wheel spun a few more times while going through the exercise and not once did I have the desire to roll off the throttle.

The second great moment also happened in that same exercise. The last time through Pilot had us raise our left hand and wave at him while we going around the right corner. I was the last one in line and had time to think about it, and let my creative mind figure out all the ways I could go to the hospital. It was then that I thought back to the beginning of the class and told myself "I can handle this". Once in the corner and leaned over, I raised my left hand and started waving. I figured I'd wave with authority and let things fall where they would. Well nothing fell and I was able to transition to the left turn easily once getting my hand back on the grip. The second lap around I started laughing and messed up the corner but I did it one handed.

At the beginning of the day if someone had told me I'd be spinning the rear tire in a corner under control or hanging off the bike with one hand in the air I definitely would have stressed over the course. But the curriculum takes a building block approach so while my moments were special to me, they were actually things I had been prepared for during the class.

Bottom line, take the class. That twitchy feeling you get from the front end of the bike in a corner... you'll figure out why it's happening while you are in the class.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday BBQ run: Woody's Smoke House in Centerville

So this Friday offered me the chance to stop at an old favorite to get some good Q and jerky. I was heading to Fort Worth to attend a riding workshop, so of course I stop off at exit 164 of I-45. That's right, I know the exit number.

At noon I was sitting on the bike making last minute checks before pulling out. I was right on time to get to my destination near Fort Worth by 6pm. I headed west on Alt-90 to 99 where I turned north. At FM1093 I turned left to go to Fulshear. A right on FM359 had me going north again. Once in Brookshire I decided to take FM 362 for some reason, the GPS did not like this and kept trying to route me back to 359 so finally at FM 529 I turned left and headed over to pickup 359 and continue north.

In the back of my mind I knew there was a reason why I wanted to go up 362 and when I got to Hempstead I realized what it was. The GPS was routing me up HWY 6. At this point though it wasn't worth the hassle to track east to 362. My goal was to pick up FM3090 on my way to Centerville. So I stayed on 6 until Navasota where I turned right onto FM3090. After the fun of the twisties the road ended at FM244 so I turned left. When I got to Iola the GPS wanted to route me through the high school parking lot so I stayed on 244 until I reached HWY 39. A left turn onto 39 and I was once again on my way. Along this stretch of the trip is when something happened...

I'm happily riding along when all of sudden I hear a metallic knocking sound coming from below in the engine area. Oh oh.... At first I thought maybe I was running out of gas very early but the bike had power. Then I squeezed in the clutch and rev'd the engine a few times. Nope, the noise wasn't related to RPMs so it probably wasn't in the engine. When I slowed down the knocking would become less frequent, speed up and the knocking sped up. OK, so I started looking for a driveway or somewhere to pull over. A little ways up the road I found a good spot and pulled over. Upon inspection I realized the front bolt of the skid plate had fallen out and then the front rubber bushing separated so it was flapping in the breeze. A wrench in my tool box made quick work of the situation and I was ready to go again. There was a nice guy who stopped to ask if I was OK. I like the friendly-ness of country folk.

Upon arriving in Normangee I turned right onto HWY OSR (Old San Antonio Road), this took me on a more north-easterly track toward Centerville. When FM 2485 came up I turned left to run parallel with I-45 a few miles away. Unfortunately when I got to FM 977 the GPS decided I should go east toward I-45 so I followed. When I got to Leona I decided to fill up at the Exxon since it wasn't crowded and really easy to get in and out. I ended up getting on I-45 at exit 157. Seven miles later I was pulling into Woody's smoke house.

Woody's has a store on both sides of the freeway so it's easy to get on and off regardless of your direction. I went to the north bound store which is the original I believe. They were crowded which was probably due to spring break. I picked out some long beef sticks, smoked cheddar cheese and pork jerky. Then I headed to the bar-b-q counter. Since it was almost 3 o'clock I didn't want to eat too much but I wanted some bar-b-q. I ordered a freshly made sliced beef sandwich, no sauce. I then got a small bowl of sauce and some beans. Iced tea is free with a Q purchase, so I had some tea.

The Q is consistent at Woody's. The meat falls apart when lightly tugged on but stays together when you pick it up. The flavor is nicely smoky without being over powering. It's good with and without sauce. The sauce compliments the meat so you can enjoy both. The beans are tasty although I wouldn't say they are exceptional just good.

With a full stomach, I stored my purchases on the bike and continued north on I-45. In Ennis I took 287 toward Fort Worth. The first stretch of 287 was a little slow since it's a 2 lane road with plenty of large trucks on it. But once I got to where the road opens to 4 lanes it was smooth sailing. The loop around Midlothian has been completed so there's no longer a slow down there. I finally turned right onto hwy 360 which the GPS wasn't so happy with it. It wanted to take me all the way around Ft. Worth to get to Colleyville. When I got to HWY 183 I decided the GPS might know better so I let it lead me west onto HWY 183 at 5 o'clock. Nope bad move as traffic was completely stopped. So much for my handy XM traffic service.

I got off the freeway and took North Industrial Blvd to Harwood Road where I turned left. Past HWY 121 and then right on Central Drive. Left on Cheek Sparger Road and then right on Bedford Road. Then I was in Colleyville and ready to see my friend and his couch. It was a good day's ride.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Eating at the Naked Rib on it's last Friday

Before I forget, I got my bike back from the dealership last Saturday. It took a few hours to rerun the wires but I got it all back together and went riding with Reagan following Sunday morning breakfast with the Fort Bend Riders.

My Friday BBQ Run:
So this week things are sort of back to normal since I have my scooter back, I'm in town and the weather seems to be cooperating. So it's perfect for a Friday BBQ run.

This week's trip was a short one as I had a teleconference at 1:30 that I needed to be on. So since time was short I thought a nearby place would be great, and besides I've been intrigued with a little shack in Manvel, TX called the Naked Rib. many times they would put their blushing pig sign out by the road to attract passers by. And I guess it worked on me although it's taken years for me to finally go there for BBQ.

I sent out invites to two riding buddies to see if anyone wanted to come along. John took me up on my offer after his trip to Abilene didn't happen. Dan had other things on his plate for the day. So at 11am John came by the house and off we went. Down HWY 59 to FM762, then we headed south on 762 to FM1462 where we headed east. I had forgotten how fun the curves were on 762. After passing through Rosharon and going under HWY 288 we turned north on Brister Rd (CR 121). We followed this road to CR 67 where we turned right and continued north. Eventually we came to HWY 6 and turned left. Just about a mile or so down on the right was the Naked Rib. I was happy to see trucks outside which meant they were open.

Normally I like to order 1/4lb of sliced brisket and a side of beans. Well today I thought I'd splurge and get their sliced beef plate with two sides. I had beans and cole slaw. I'm pretty sure the cole slaw was from Sysco but that's cool because I like their cole slaw. The beans were pretty good. The brisket though wasn't so great. It seemed to be cooked just about right but it was dry. Normally I'd guess that it dried out on the steam table but I saw the lady unwrap the whole brisket and slice my serving from it. So it was a little disappointing but good. They cook their briskets in an old Oyler pit which is cool. I had heard stories of cooking on one but never seen one up close. So after lunch I started poking around and looking at it. Since the fire was out I opened it up and looked inside. It was well seasoned. When you're looking at someone's pit you're going to get attention and sure enough the lady came over to talk to me. It turns out tomorrow is their last day, and they are throwing a big party. Afterwards they'll close for a month and do some remodeling that the new owners have planned. From what she said it sounds like it's going to lose it's old BBQ shack feeling for a more sports bar look and feel.

After a little conversation it was time to scoot on home. The ride home was short and pretty much straight back down Hwy 6. I did take a detour at Lake Olympia and went down Oilfield Road and went through the fancy neighborhoods of Sugar Land. I got back to the house just at 1:30. A great but short BBQ ride, and I was able to join my conference call in time.

The route