Sunday, April 19, 2009

Home from the Hill Country

I didn't get a good night sleep last night. I guess because my body knew I would be home tonight or maybe it was the JalapeƱo Pepper Steak for dinner. Whatever it was, I couldn't sleep and by 5am this morning I gave up and just started surfing the Internet. Before I knew it the clock showed 7:15 so I went across the street to the restaurant for  breakfast. Since it was the weekend they had the buffet but service seemed to really suck today. The lady didn't seem too interested in helping people or taking their money. I hope this isn't a new trend.

With breakfast done, I geared up and packed the bike. It was 8:30 by the time I started the bike and pulled out of the parking lot. Since I had filled up last night I headed out of town on FM337 without further delay. As it was still early I kept the pace slow just in case any deer wanted to jump out in front of me. Lucky for me, the first deer I saw today was on the other side of Eagle Lake many hours later. I followed 337 all the way to Medina where I turned left onto Hwy 16. I really like the twisties on 16 so I figured it would be worth going up to Kerrville and catching I-10 east until I got past San Antonio.

Everything was going great on 16. I passed a sign that showed sharp curves with a 15mph limit and another sign that said "HILL". I thought "duh!" It seemed pretty obvious by the rather steep grade in front of me but sometimes people have to put up signs. I was halfway between Medina and Kerrville when I saw a lady on the side of the road with her flashers on trying to wave me down. I thought, "this can't be good".  She told me there had been a horrible motorcycle wreck just up the hill involving an SUV. I didn't think this could be good. I asked if anyone had called 911 and she wasn't sure. So I rode up to where all the bikes were parked and 2 riders ran up to me asking if I was EMS. I said no and asked if they had called 911. I figured if they couldn't get cell coverage I could ride on up the road to the top of the hill where I could get coverage, this all felt a little too familiar. It wasn't until later that I realized I could have pressed the 911 button on my SPOT tracker but then it would have scared Reagan when spot dispatch called. By the time I got up to the SUV, I heard someone say they just got through to 911 and they were trying to dispatch. I figured it would take a while. Since the road was well blocked from the south, I headed up the hill to make sure people were signalling oncoming traffic to stop. The last thing we needed was an even bigger disaster with more vehicles coming down the hill. As I passed the injured rider I glanced down briefly. No blood, OK. I didn't see a helmet on the guy's head but a lady was laying with him keeping his head immobilized. Jacket, check. Gloves, check. Pants and boots, OH OH. I don't think his leg is supposed to have that many bends in it. About that time I heard him say his leg was killing him. I'll bet it was. Since there were plenty of people around him, I went on up the hill to make sure traffic was stopping and as I got there people figured out what they needed to do and they were running up the hill farther to slow and stop traffic. I helped a few other guys move the wrecked bike out of the way and then I stood around to make sure the EMS arrived.

When the emergency folks showed up and more and more emergency vehicles started arriving several of us talked about alternate routes to get to our destinations as it was clear that 16 was going to be blocked for a while and we were just in the way. So I figured I'd just turn around, go back to Medina and then over to Bandera and catch 46 back to Boerne. The road wasn't as fun but I was sort of riding a more sedate pace for awhile. I didn't see the wreck happen but it appeared the rider was coming down the hill and crossed the yellow line around a corner and ran smack dab into the front end of a small SUV.  There were no skids marks behind the SUV from it stopping. As I was riding down the road processing everything that had just transpired it dawned on me that no one had talked to the driver of the SUV. I remember she looked absolutely scared to death. I sure hope she didn't think any of those motorcyclists were going to harm her. I also realized I didn't grab my solar blanket from my first aid kit. All notes for next time. I really need to take one of those motorcycle accident scene management classes that qualifies as our First Aid requirement for the MSF.

OK, so I get to Boerne and hop on I-10. Yuck! Traffic, stupid people and boring straight roads. No fun. I catch 1604 around San Antonio and then get back on I-10 east of town. At exit 617 I head south to catch 90A and get away from some of the crazies. I stop in Gonzales for gas since there was an Exxon and I didn't think I'd make it to Eagle Lake where I knew there was an Exxon. My speed pass didn't work so I still had to dig out my wallet, grrrr. I went inside to use the restroom and get a bottle of water. Today I was using my camelback bladder as things were getting warm and I found myself really thirsty yesterday at the end of the day without it. A quick call to Reagan to let her know where I was and then it was back on the road.

Leaving Gonzales I wanted to take FM532 and check out FM340 as I had planned to do on Friday. About 5 miles down the road however, I had to turn around as the road was closed due to flooding. Ok it was now abundantly clear to me that I was not going to ride 532 or check out 340 from Hallettsville. So I slugged on down 90A through Eagle Lake catching spur 10 over to Hwy 59. A stop by the motorcycle range to see how this week's class was going then I headed home. I pulled into the driveway around 3:50 with 352 miles ridden today. I was home.

Overall the trip was good. Once I got out there I couldn't have asked for nicer weather. The whole trip added another 869 miles to the odometer and put me closer to wearing out the rear knobbie. I put on the TKC 80s to try them out before Alaska. I think they will work great on gravel roads but they aren't much fun on good asphalt or concrete. I'll be happy to have my Tourances back. I wish my friend Chuck could have made the trip but stuff happens. Since I didn't have him to b.s. with I tried to talk to more people. Generally folks are friendly out there but sometimes I think they were put off by my bright riding gear or maybe they just thought I was weird. Next trip out, if it's just me I'm going to go a little further west like to Junction and see what roads I can find out there.

Since __I__ didn't go to the hospital or to jail, it was a very good trip this weekend.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Riding around the Hill Country

This morning I awoke without the aid of an alarm clock. I simply finished sleeping. A quick look outside told me things were still a little damp outside but the radar told me the storms were on their way toward Houston and wouldn't be a problem any longer. So I went downstairs to breakfast hoping there would be something left after the Corvette club finished. I guess they were lite eaters or went elsewhere for Breakfast.

With breakfast done I took my time and adjusted my route. The longer I waited the better I knew the roads would get. Finally I packed everything up and headed out the door. The sun was starting to shine and the clouds were clearing. I fueled up at the near by Exxon and then headed west on 46 toward Hwy 16. A right turn onto 16 followed by another right turn onto 173 pointed me toward Kerrville. I continued North until I found FM 2771 where I turned left. This road would allow me to cut over to 16 without going all the way into Kerrville.

Once I started heading south on 16 toward Medina I knew it wouldn't be long before the apple pie. By the time I got to Hwy 16 the road was dry and it was hard to tell there had even been any rain earlier in the morning. The temperature was great and the day was shaping up to be fantastic.

Riding into Medina I found lots of people. On motorcycles and in cars, it was some sort of fair day or something in the little town. There were vendors up and down the street selling all sorts of things. My priority was the Apple pie though so I parked and walked into the Apple Store. I got a piece of pie, covered it in apple ice cream, planned to wash it down with a bottle of water. Yum! Once that was done, and I finished people watching it was time to get back on the road. I had more curves to straighten.

I headed back out of town and caught 337 toward Vanderpool. I ended up  getting behind a couple on a pair of Harleys. The lady was in front and while she wasn't going very fast, she was very smooth through the corners unlike her husband who couldn't keep steady line through a curve to save his life. Finally I decided to pass them up so I could pick up the pace a litte bit.

I turned right onto 187 and headed north. I had forgotten about the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum and when I passed it I figured I'd stop in on the way back. Finally I turned right onto Hwy 39 toward Hunt. Then left on FM1340 and passed by Stonehenge II. 1340 led me to Hwy 41 where I turned left and went over to US 83 where I headed south. Then it was left on 39 again so I could get back to 187 and the museum.

They've got lots of great looking old bikes at the museum. Old Indians, Nortons, BMWs and Harleys. It was also a chance to visit with other motorcycle enthusiasts and just kick back on the porch for a while.

After the break I headed south on 187 back to Vanderpool where I turned right on FM 337 toward Leakey. Once in Leakey I thought about stopping for fuel but decided I'd be ok to make it into Camp Wood. So I headed onto FM 336. By now the temperature was getting a little warmer than I planned.

I turned left onto Hwy 41 and then left again on FM 335. I was having a great time riding these roads. I found myself behind another Harley rider going slow so I waited patiently and passed him when I finally got to the striped lines again.

Just after 4pm I rolled into Camp Wood and topped off the gas tank. I had gone 278 miles and still had 1.5 gallons left. So I could have rode up to Leakey for gas but I was getting a little tired so I filled up and headed down the street to the Woodbine Inn. It's been a great day of riding. The mileage total was 282 miles of twists and turns. Tomorrow I have to point the bike toward home, but I bet I can find a few more twisties along the way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting to the Hill Country

I woke up this morning before the alarm clock went off. Finally I was heading out of town on a motorcycle trip again. I went walking and then sat down at the computer for a little bit before I completed my workout. Bad idea, the computer sucked me in I never finished my workout.

The weather forecast for today showed a nasty front coming in and it looked like it was going to park itself on I-35 between Austin and Fort Worth. I started to wonder if my riding buddy for this trip was actually going to make it down. I mean, he's not as addicted to the whole motorcycle thing as I am, he's perfectly content to go a week or more without riding. That's probably best for him though because he has some other priorities in his life that I don't. Around 7:30 I got the first call from him, he was watching the weather and was concerned but assured he was still coming down. The second call was at 9:15, saying he was going to wait for the hail and tornado warnings to pass before he left. Whimp. The last call was at 12:32, ok as excuses go this is a pretty good one. He couldn't leave because the storm had blown down a tree in his backyard and it ripped the power line from his house. It's definitely original. So I told him I was heading to the Holiday Inn in Boerne and I hoped he could make it. See this is what I mean about the addiction level, I would have left earlier in the day, probably while the tornado warning was going on so I wouldn't have know about the tree limb falling down or the power lines being ripped out. I guess I'd better have some more branches cut to insure that does happen to me on a future ride.

So figuring my riding buddy has stood me up, and I'm stuck with a $95 HotWire room in Boerne I pull out of the driveway grumbling under my breath about the general b.s. of the world. I stop by the post office, bank and AAA office (wanted to get a Texas map, yes my GPS works). Then I stopped at my favorite Exxon only to find that they no longer carried Premium or even Plus grades of gasoline. Now I was really fit to be tied. I got back on the freeway and headed south toward Rosenberg. A few miles down the road it struck me, I was heading out of town on a motorcycle on a Friday and I didn't have people nagging me about VoIP problems or anything else. Sure it sucked that I was going to be alone on the trip but that would be OK. Sure my room costs would double but I'd get the weekend to myself and who knows maybe there would be wild naked girls partying in my room both nights. Earth to Brian, come back Brian, we aren't in some alternate reality, there will be no parties going on in the room, you're headed to Camp Wood..... Back to planet earth, a weekend alone would be great. I can reflect on things and read more about Futures Trading so I can find the catch in some software that another friend is so excited about.

Hello!!! Can we get back to the ride report???? I guess when I'm by myself I don't get to decompress with others at the end of the day and I babble in my blog. So I stopped for fuel at the Chevron south of Rosenberg and then cut over on spur 10 to 90A. I took 90A west to Hallettsville. To this point I really hadn't gotten into any rain, there was the occassional sprinkle but not really enough to wash off the dirt. Once through Hallettsville I turned north on FM340. Now the rain was starting again and it was clear mother nature had big plans, it was dark, very dark. It's not often that I appreciate my HID headlight at 2:45 in the afternoon. Then it came, the rain, lots of rain. Ever wondered what it would be like to stand under a 1,000 gallon water tank and have it's bottom suddenly disappear? Well I think I have a pretty good idea now. The rain was falling so hard that I couldn't see more than 50 feet in front of me. And then it started hailing on me. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

Funny enough, I thought of my buddy Chuck who didn't want to come down because of the tornado watch. Now I was thinking there might be some merrit to getting the heck off the road. So I turned onto the first dirt road that I found and turned around. Sorry, no graceful u-turn. It was a 3 point turn with my feet on the ground. I pulled up under a tree figuring it would help to shelter me a little from the hail. Then I remembered the lightning. I'm not a rocket scientist but I realized that was bad.

I decided to head back to 90A since it was just a few miles back the way I came. At least if I was riding through HELL, I wanted to be on a wide and familiar road. By the time I got back to 90A the storm had seriously subsided but I stayed on 90A toward Seguin anyway. Exploring a new road would have to wait for another trip. Did I mention my jaket leaked? Oh yeah, it leaked big time. I probably would have stayed more dry if I had taken the jacket off and huddled underneath it beneith the tree during the lightening storm.

So I'm riding down 90A, nice and wet but I'm on a motorcycle trip. I had to remind myself that riding a motorcycle in the rain is still more fun than sitting at home solving computer problems. I make it through Seguin and head up to New Braunfels where I was supposed to meet Chuck. The rain had stopped by Seguin. I hadn't received any calls this afternoon but I was hoping to see a text message saying he was on his way. When I stopped at I-35 and 46 there was no text message. So I continued west on 46. HWY 46 from New Braunfels to Boerne wasn't one of my greatest routing decisions but at least there was some pretty scenery along the way.

I get into Boerne and make a wrong turn before realizing my error and finally make it to my hotel for the night. When I pull in there is a sweet looking old Pontiac Firebird and then I see all the Corvettes in the back. I check in and ask what all is going on this weekend. There are 3 different events including a car show for the Vettes.

Once checked in, it was time to get out of the wet clothes and find some food. Luckily I had scoped things out on my way in and there was a oddly named placed called Cheesy Jane's that I wanted to try out. It was OK but I get a little nervous when people want to wait on me in an establishment serving hamburgers. At least the waitress was nice and my grilled chicken salad was ok.

Today's ride was only 242 miles in length and I really didn't get started until 1:30. The destination had been planned previously and the room paid for due to the two of us meeting up for the weekend. The Holiday Inn is definitely a fancier hotel then I would normally stay in but the bed is comfortable and I was happy to get out of my wet clothes.

Tomorrow the plan is ride the 3 Twisted Sisters (335, 336, 337) and since I'm by myself I'm going to check out 39 and 1340 as well. Plus there's a ranch road that is supposed to go from 335 to 336 so i'm going to try and find that too. That's why I picked up the Texas map. All of this is dependent on the weather though. Forecast says thunderstorms in the morning and clearing later. So what I don't ride tomorrow I'll certainly ride on Sunday. But I will make it to Camp Wood tomorrow, that's where my next room is and it's a little cheaper too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Heading to the Hill Country tomorrow

Finally, I'm getting away for the weekend on a motorcycle trip. I'm meeting my buddy from Dallas for a weekend riding around Central Texas.

Wouldn't you know, there's a front coming through and rain is predicted for all day tomorrow. But Saturday the forecast is looking better and there's no rain in the forecast for Sunday so the ride home will be nice.

So the bike has been serviced, and I'm already packed. But I'm sitting here this evening waiting for the latest Garmin map update to complete. 83% complete, oh boy. I know, it's a bad idea to change things before a trip but this is a simple weekend get away and I'm headed to a familiar area so if things go sideways I should be OK.

Check back tomorrow and I'll tell you how I get to Boerne.