Sunday, December 30, 2012

RTE: The Last Ride of the Year

While reading the LDRider email list a couple of months ago I stumbled on a Ride To Eat (RTE) in Stockton, Alabama. Without even looking it up in Basecamp I knew it was a doable ride. I checked with Reagan and she was interested so we planned it as an overnighter. As the weekend neared we ended up with 2 other motorcycles planning to come along. The plan was simple, ride over to Mobile, Alabama on Saturday and check out the USS Alabama along the way. Then attend the RTE on Sunday and hustle home so we could be at work on Monday. No problem.

When Saturday (December 29th) finally came so did winter. It was 34 degrees at the gas station where we all met at 7am. I had planned our first stop to be for breakfast in Orange, TX which was about 2 hours away. Shortly after 7 we pulled away from the Exxon and headed north on Hwy 59 and then took I-10E out of Houston. This was a super slab trip, we didn’t really have the time to take a more scenic route as the day’s mileage was a little over 500 miles and we didn’t want to get into the hotel too late.

I-10 was I-10. Nothing special there. I did see a Texas state trooper running laser, which I don’t see very often. They usually like to sit comfortably in their cruisers when looking for speeders. I wasn’t concerned about my speed but my trusty Valentine One let me know none the less.

We arrived at Gary’s Café & Family Restaurant in Orange, Texas at 9:15. Just about like I had planned. I was comfortable for the most part as was Gary (not the owner of the café). However, it looked like Reagan, John & Terry were a little cold. Once inside we found a table in back and ordered hot beverages to warm up. Breakfast was OK, just OK though. This won’t be one of my top 10 spots to stop in the future. But if I’m headed through Orange around breakfast time I might stop there if I’m not in a hurry. While we were there a few wardrobe changes were made for Terry.

With breakfast finished Reagan decided she had had enough of the cold and wind and decided the short 2 hour ride home sounded better than the 400 miles or so we had left for the day. That left us with 3 bikes and four people; Gary, John & Terry and myself. We resumed our trip east on I-10 heading across Louisiana.

About 70 miles later, John popped in on my Sena Bluetooth system to say they had had enough of the wind and cold. They were going to turn around and head for the house. It made complete sense to me as they were riding a Harley Fat Bob which didn’t really have much in the wind protection department, and they were riding without heated gear. They were certainly tougher then me. So I bid them a safe trip back and radioed to Gary that they were turning around.

With a little over 300 miles left in the day, Gary and I picked up the pace and started nocking out the miles. We had ridden together before and knew how to get in and out of gas stops quickly. In Baton Rouge, we stopped for gas and I thought everything was good. I checked in with Reagan to see that she made it home. As I was leaving the stop to resume our travels east Gary explained to me that his credit card hadn’t worked at the pump and the lady inside wasn’t able to do anything about it. So we stopped at another gas station where his card did work and I had a chance to visit with another LDRider on a gold wing who was headed to the RTE.

Riding along I-10 isn’t very exciting but the ride was made a little easier for me because I had managed to get my cruise control installed earlier in the week. Oh, how I love my McCruise system. Sure it cost a couple of bucks when I bought it last summer, but with their great support I was able to move it from my 2005 GS over to the 2012 GS with minimal costs.

We stopped again for gas in Moss Point, MS and this time there were no problems at the pump for either of us. So we filled up and kept moving. It was 3:27pm when we completed the stop. I had resigned myself to only getting a picture of the USS Alabama as admission onto the ship stopped at 3pm.

We pulled into the USS Alabama Memorial Park and put the side stands down at 4:07pm. The park was supposed to close at 4 so there wasn’t anyone at the gate to charge us for parking and there weren’t any barricades up to block our entry. So I pulled up as close as I could and snapped some photos. Gary and I decided not to stand around too long though because even with the temperature up near 50 degrees the wind was really making it chilly.

We left the park and head north to I-165 and then north on I-65 to the Econolodge in Saraland, Alabama. The front desk clerk was sweet as ever and got us checked into our room. Gary and I unloaded the bikes, got out of our riding clothes and into street clothes. Dinner was had across the street at Ruby Tuesday. I was really surprised with their menu. Good stuff! The walk back to the hotel was COLD!!!


Sunday we weren’t in a hurry. Neither of us set an alarm, we just got up when we were done sleeping. It was a little after 9am when we left the hotel and headed up to Stockton, AL. and the Stagecoach Café for breakfast. Gary was planning to head back a little earlier than me so we went inside and enjoyed a great breakfast buffet. My only mistake was eating too much that I wasn’t hungry for the lunch buffet they would be serving a little bit later.

After breakfast we looked around at some bikes and then Gary left at 10:30am hoping to get home in time for dinner. Meanwhile, I kept walking around looking for other GSes and LD bikes to get ideas. I talked with a few folks, one of whom was a BMW dealership owner out of Pensacola. I like talking to dealership owners who are also motorheads and motorcycle enthusiasts.

The crowd was really diverse, there were several LD veterans there like Greg Rice, Eric Vaillancourt, Cleetha Walstrand and John Ryan just to name a few. Then you had the polar opposites with the bar hopping cruiser crowd. Plus every sort of rider in between. I walked around quietly striking up conversations when I could and just looking and listening. People quickly keyed into the “11,000 miles in 11 days” Iron Butt tags and many of the comments were of complete disbelief. Even the “5,000 miles in 5 days” tag for the mini Iron Butt rally generated comments of shock and awe. It was entertaining to listen to people.

As noon approached I noticed the LD crowd seemed to be thinning out and the cruiser crowd was building up. I had planned to stay until around 2pm but as I was starting to get bored I decided it was time to point the bike toward the house. I managed to get out of the parking lot just as a big group of bikers rolled in and blocked a lot of people by paying no attention to the fact they were parking in a lane.

It was 12:06PM when I pulled out of the parking lot. With no one else riding with me I only had to worry about myself concerning gas stops, bio breaks and food stops. The GPS told me I could be home by 7:30. That seemed like a good time so I called Reagan to let her know I was on my way and to start thinking about going out for dinner.

Thanks to a driver who cut me off in traffic, I found a “rabbit” who I followed across Mississippi and much of Louisiana. My gas stops were about every 150 miles as that’s all I can get with the current 5.3 gallon fuel tank. I pulled into my driveway though at 7:07PM having ridden 518 miles from the café.

Not too bad of a ride to eat breakfast. I think I’ll do it again next year, and maybe catch the December 31st RTE down in Florida while I’m out that way. We’ll see.

UPDATE: It looks like I made the YouTube video

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