Tuesday, February 3, 2009

BBFO '09 Day 5 - Going home

No matter how you look at it, the last day of a motorcycle trip is always bitter sweet. Sure you are going home to see your sweetie pie. But you are also going back to the chaos known as your life too.

This morning the alarm clock went off at 6:10am and the next thing I knew I was up, dressed and carrying things out to the bike. I was actually ready before Doug for once. I was shocked and so was he. Everyone seemed to be ready before 7am so we all walked over to Casa Falcon for breakfast. No grits on the menu but a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with hot tea sounded good. Once done with breakfast we paid our tabs and walked back to finish packing the bikes.

By 8am we were all packed and the bikes were running. It was a chilly 26 degrees. We headed north out of town on FM337. The sky was clear and the sun was bright. It made watching for deer a real challenge, so we kept the speeds conservative and went on down the road only seeing one axis deer far up the road. When we got to Leakey we continued on FM 337 to Vanderpool. There we headed south on 187 until we reached 470. Eventually 470 took us into Tarpley where we stopped at the general store for a break. This was the point where Dick would be leaving us as he was going north of San Antonio to get back to New Waverly and we were going south to 90.

After the break and our farewells, we headed south out of town on 462 to Hondo. There we picked up 90 heading east. Just east of town it was clear, the get away was over. We started contending with stupid drivers, polution and warmer temperatures. Now it was just a matter of getting home. 90 runs into I-10 and we stayed on it until Seguin where we stopped for gas.

Once the tanks were full it was time to get back on the road, we were heading for Taco Tony's in Eagle Lake for a late lunch. We decided running the I-10 super slab would get us there quicker so we took it. Getting on the on-ramp I had a little excitement as the bike hit a slick spot and got a little sideways. Luckily I recovered quickly and kept on going without incident. When we passed through Columbus we headed south on 102 to Eagle Lake. With the little slip and slide incident still fresh in my mind I took it easy as I figured my rear tire was pretty much shot at this point.

Lunch at Taco Tony's was pretty good. I had a chicken salad, surprise, surprise. While parking the bike I noticed the center of my rear tire was showing the final stages of it's life so after lunch I told the guys I'd be taking it slow and easy for that last 48 miles to my house, staying a few miles per hour below the speed limit. So once we got through town Doug and Fred passed me and I watched them for quite a few miles as the road is so straight. I decided to go straight through Richmond/Rosenberg although it would take longer because I could go slower and preserve the tire I had left. About 2:30pm I pulled into the driveway. I was home. The tires had made it. Looking in my mileage book it turns out I only got 10K miles out of the rear and 16K out of the front. Not bad considering most of those miles were long distance touring with side cases and luggage.

Total miles for today was 315. Total mileage for the five days was 1,930. Not too bad for a long weekend get away.

Since my rear tire was completely shot and I'll likely need the bike tomorrow for an appointment, I decided to change the tires and mount the TKC 80's because I plan to use them in Alaska too. Hopefully I can get 6K out of the rear, otherwise I'll be purchasing a rear tire on the way home this summer. I haven't bought the portable bead breaker for the trip yet but I had everything else so I decided to change the tires using just the tools that I'll have in Alaska. It turned out to be pretty easy, and I had both tires mounted and balanced in 2 hours. The only real challenge was getting the bead to set on the front tire, I ran out of patience and used my shop compressor but I'm pretty sure I could have used my little portable compressor if I had just tried a little more.

Taking the extra time coming home, really allowed us to travel roads that we would have otherwised skipped because of time constraints. I got to travel on roads that I hadn't seen before and I got to ride 337 which is one of my favorites. Between the new shocks and the riding skills I learned last spring at the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic, this was definitely a fast paced trip when I got into the twisties with good visibility. The GS pulls so well through the corners and now with the shocks I know I can snap it into a corner and the boke will just go where I want it to go. I can't believe I waited so long to get the shocks.

The only things I'll change for the next trip are:
1. make sure I have a good set of tires when going west. They were fine in the twisties but didn't really hold up on the long slab ride home.
2. watch myself a little closer in gravel parking lots.

I don't have any overnight trips planned between now and June when I leave for Alaska but I'm sure there will be one or two more. And at some point I'll start blogging about my preparations for Alaska. It should be interesting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

BBFO '09 Day 4 - Heading home sort of ...

Today we pointed the bikes east to begin the ride home. For breakfast we dined at the Chuck Wagon again since the drug store is closed on Mondays. Everyone avoided the Toast and Sausage (soup) gravy. The waitress this morning was sassy and friendly. I think she might have been the owner or manager.

We finished breakfast around 8:15 and headed south through town on 118 toward Alpine. The temperature was around 25 degrees as we started the day. Once we got to Alpine we turned east onto 90. The downside to going home from the west is that you have to drive into the sun in the mornings.

We stopped Sanderson to fill up and say good bye to Bill and Randy. They were taking a more direct route home as they needed to be home today. After the break we continued on 90 to Dryden where we turned north onto 349. Apparently there must be more deer per square inch in this area than any other part of Texas, because there were so many deer stands so close together it almost looks like suburban neighbourhood of deer stands. FM 349 is a very scenic route with some moderate curves. A definite must if you are in the area.

We rolled into Sheffield and tried to stop at a gas station but it was closed, so we headed east on 290 over to Fort Lancaster. After a break we continued on 290 to I-10 and then stayed on I-10 to Ozona. There we topped off the tanks and then grabbed a bite to eat next door at the Subway.

After lunch we headed down 163 to 189. A left turn onto 189 and we were on a real Texas ranch road. The cattle guards were definitely rougher than the those you find around the Hill Country. The scenery was great and after awhile the road turned to a wider, better maintained farm to market road. We took the road over to 277, where we headed south for a short distance.

As we neared our turn off for 55, there was a picnic area at the intersection so we took another break. After a bit, we headed east on 55 toward Rocksprings. We stopped for gas in Rocksprings since they have several stations. The gas stop was the shortest of the trip, a real gas and go. Just another 29 miles to Camp Wood.

By 4pm we were at the Woodbine Inn in Camp Wood checking into our room for the evening. Total mileage for the day was 375 miles. Very little of it was on I-10. I saw several places along the way that would be great areas to own some land. The views you could see from a front porch could be incredible.

I'm really glad that we are taking 2 days to get home. This allows us to really see some neat roads on the way.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

BBFO '09 Day 3 - Riding down to the park

Today started a little earlier. We were at the Chuck Wagon for breakfast by 7:30. A few of the guys ordered the toast and sausage gravy. I don't think they will be doing that again, it was more like sausage soup than gravy. My breakfast burrito was pretty good. I think I might try the oatmeal tomorrow although it's Quaker instant out of a box.

Yesterday everyone had filled up before parking the bikes so we didn't have to do that before we started. We headed down 118 to Terlingua where we stopped to top off the tanks before heading into the park.

By 10:30 we were heading into the park. For those that don't know, the speed limit in the park is 45 miles per hour. So don't get in a big hurry. It took us an hour to get to the other side of the park where we took a break and I visited the visitor center to get my park passport stamped. Everyone started talking about lunch so it was decided we'd head back and go up into the basin and eat at the park lodge. Big Bend offers so many different environments inside the park. As we rode up to the basin we saw more and more vegetation. It was in stark contrast to the other parts of the park where it is so arid.

Lunch was OK, several of us took advantage of the soup and salad bar. The chicken vegetable soup was really good but the veiw from our table was even better. If you are in the area it's definitely a good idea to have lunch at the lodge if for no other reason than the view from your table.

So we saddled up and started our return trip. The plan was to go back the way we came up 118. The alternative was to go up to Marathon and then cut over to Alpine. In my opinion existing the park on the east seems to take an extremely long time and is very boring compared to exiting on the west. So we left on the west.

We passed through Terlingua and decided no one needed gas so we kept going. Doug decided to pick up the pace and I felt it was my duty to keep up. It wasn't long before the group disappeared in my rear view mirrors. Doug and I rolled into Alpine, topped off the tanks and kept going to Ft. Davis.

When we got into town I pulled off and visited the Ft. Davis museum to get my passport stamped again. If you are into the old wild west you need to visit the place. Allow yourself plenty of time though, there's a lot to see. With the passport stamped, I looked around the indoor museum and then jumped back on the bike and headed to the motel. I waited around for the rest of the group to arrive and then Bill and I took a quick little 50 mile round trip up 17 toward Balmoreah and back.

The weather was great today. This morning started around 50 and got into the 60's by the time we were on our way back. Riding in the area this time of the year is a little hit or miss but it turned out great this weekend. Total mileage for the day was around 350 miles.

Tomorrow we'll start heading home and stay in Camp Wood.