2006 Founders' Feast
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The ride started in Texarkana, actually on Monday evening when I checked in. After discussions with others, I decided to leave a few hours earlier than planned in order to get more daylight riding in the right places and miss afternoon traffic around Houston and South Padre Island. I had the bike packed and ready to go Monday afternoon. Planning a wake up call at 2:30 AM Tue, I tried going to bed at 6:00 PM Monday night, then again at 8:00, then again at 10:00.. and finally drifting off for a little sleep sometime between 10:00 and midnight. I woke at 2:30, signed out and was out of the motel in a hurry. I stopped at a Waffle House for a good breakfast to start the day, zipped a few miles to a known gas station for my beginning receipt and was clocked out at 3:28 AM.
The ride down to Port Arthur was uneventful. High on excitement, I made it down there in about four hours and was on schedule. I met a couple of other riders on the road and simply rode along with one for a while, then another for a while... setting the pattern for the whole ride. This was a ride with ad-hock groups of one or two riding partners then entire three days.
After fuel in Port Arthur, it was a short hop down to Port Bolivar and waiting on the ferry to Galveston Island. A thirty minute ferry ride, shared with four other riders put us in Galveston about 9:30 AM. A quick fuel up and refreshing the water supply, and it was on to Victoria. By now the temperature was rising, and I was feeling the heat. I changed into my mesh jacket while on the ferry, but still felt the effects of heat as the temperature climbed above 90 degrees. I increased my water intake, but was getting so worn from the heat, I stopped along the way for a large malted milk and quick cool-off. Refreshed in a few minutes, it was a quick trip on down to S. Padre Island for fuel and more water.
I had considered taking the interstate back up and skipping the border area of US-83 due to the highway congestion and heat. As I neared the decision point, I keep thinking that if I did take that route, I'd always feel that I did the "Ride Almost Around Texas" instead of the RAT, so I made the quick decision to take 83 along the Mexican border. The ride towards Laredo was uneventful, riding through that area was like touring a third world country.. street vendors, poverty, shacks and such just as if we were deep in Mexico. Fuel at Laredo and heading towards Del Rio for the night.
I picked up a riding companion some where south of Laredo, and we headed towards Del Rio for the night. Saw a few deer, but we'd slowed won for the night ride and had no animal close calls. Had a little delay while the State Police worked a car wreck on the road, but other wise it was smooth sailing. Some where south of Carrizo Springs, he flagged me down and said he was going to hit the IBM for a nap. I left him at a car wash, and kept going. He later caught up with me in Carrizo Springs and said that didn't work out... the car was was full of bugs attracted by the light, and he went across the street for to the back of a store. That didn't work due to a dog chasing him away.... so he hit the road again. He said he'd stop in town there and get some coffee to help him make it to Del Rio, and the next motel.
Shortly after I left him, I saw an old motel on the main road with a couple of bikes at it. I pulled in, and asked the rider if the rooms were ok? He said yes, so I stopped at the office and got a room for the night, with a wake-up call in 3.5 hours. As I was talking to him in the parking lot, I saw Todd ride by, and waved him in. He got a real motel room instead of the IBM for the night.... and was grateful for it. I then learned that other rider was Wayne Boyter, whom I've emailed a few times, but never met. Our paths crossed several more times during the ride. I took a quick shower, changed clothes and went to sleep instantly. Thus ended day one. A 3:30 wakeup call got me out of the motel at 3:56 and towards Del Rio. I was now about an hour and a half behind my planned schedule. A quick trip to Del Rio. The ride from there to Big Ben National Park was uneventful, and I hit Panther Junction about 9:30. Riding through the park at 45 mph seemed to take forever, and I grabbed a cold sandwich at Panther Junction, which I ate on the road for breakfast/lunch. Ride through the park towards Lahitas, where I picked up a receipt and headed to Presidio on the River Road. Now that was a motorcycle road! Fast turning curves with blind corners, good pavement, and sharply decreasing radius turns along with abrupt elevation changes made for an exciting ride. And, the "Lahitas roller coaster" was another fun ride.. but I did shake a power wire loose on the V1, causing it to reset frequently.
At Presidio, Todd left me at the fuel station heading for some more park stamps, so I was on my on again headed via Marfa (no lights in the daytime) towards Van Horn to jump on I-10 towards El Paso and Anthony. I started getting drowsy about 12:30. At an immigration checkpoint, after telling yet another officer that "Yes, I AM an American citizen", I asked him if I could take a nap in the shade of his check station. I got a "HUGH? " answer, and told him I'd eaten a large lunch, and was feeling drowsy, so I wanted to lay down by my bike in the shade. He said ok, and I pulled over, hit the pavement next to the bike and decided I'd sleep about 15 minutes. I suddenly woke up exactly 15 minutes later and was well rested. I then rode to Van Horn, filled the main tank and moved on towards Anthony... just ahead of the El Paso rush
At Anthony, I bought a "Big DOG" hot dog, wolfed it down, and checked the power connection going to the V1. Sure enough, a spade terminal had come loose from the fuse block. Replaced that and the side fairing and I was off again... heading towards Guadalupe Mountain National Park and on to Kermit.
This was a wide open, straight, flat road once we got past Fort Bliss. It was beautiful coming over the mountain, but some of the most remote and desolate land I've ever seen, especially around Salt Flat. We did notice new seismic testing and oil drilling activity. I arrived at Guadalupe about 6:30 to find several riders already there next to the locked gate. Took a picture, and found out that the campground attendant had been asked and responded that she would not re-open the building to get us a receipt. It was on to Kermit, now about 2 or 3 hours ahead of schedule.
My original plan was to stop at Kermit for four hours, but I got there about 8:00 PM, and didn't want to stop that early, so it was on to highway 385 North towards Texline. I picked up a riding partner at Guadalupe, and he started getting tired around Levelland. We stopped at an old motel, and decided to grab rooms for the night. I wanted to get up early, so we decided to split up again. I was up and out at 3:45 AM, leaving two other bikes in the motel parking lot. On to Texline about 4 hours ahead of schedule now, where I ran into a couple of other bikers. Talked with Richard Burber a bit at Texline, and left two riders behind there on my way to Follett.
I took the north route to Follett. It was a dream road for that area... long, straight, wide shoulders, and barbed wire on both sides. It was an easy route for making up more time, and by the time I was in Follettt, I was about 4 hours ahead of my schedule. Unlike others, I went into "town" and bought gas at a small, old station. Pulled up and asked the owner if he took credit cards (he did with a slider machine inside), and by the time I had the bike on the stand, he had the hose off and was holding it out for me to use. They actually are used to being a full-service station. I almost had to fight his cute wife off to keep her from washing the bike windshield with that scratching-windshield brush, and was off in a hurry. I took a slightly out of the way route down to US 60 on ranch roads. US highways down through Canadian to Childress where I stopped for fuel again. I could feel the ride closing in now. I was hours ahead of schedule, and all was going very smoothly. Fueled in Childress and hit US-287 towards Wichita Falls.
It was here that the mini-disaster struck. As I pulled out of Childress, the Smartire started alarming pressure loss in the rear tire. At first it showed minus seven pounds, then climbed to eight. I pulled off at a quick shop that had an air pump and put her up on the center stand. Found a nail exactly in the centerline of the rear tire. That tire was brand new two weeks before the RAT, and had only 600 miles on it when I started the trip. I worked the nail out, and plugged it with the stopNgo mushroom plug. It took two plugs (I think I put too much oil on the first one. So I started down the road at 50 mph. Made it about 13 miles and the pressure started dropping again. This time, I pulled off on the side of a 75 mph road with about 3' of shoulder. Put it up on the center stand, ripped off my riding gear (it was pretty hot), and was crawling around the rear tire when a black pickup truck stopped just beyond my location. A few seconds later, a State Police patrol car drove up and turned his lights on. He continued PAST me, and parked behind the pickup. He made the motions of writing a ticked (don't know if it was real or a ploy to grab speeders), then they BOTH drove off while I stood there looking at him. A few seconds later, one of those Texas DOT trucks came crawling down the shoulder with his warning lights on. He stopped right before he got to me and paused, waited for traffic to thin, then pulled AROUND me into the left lane and passed me. He pulled back on the right shoulder and continued his crawling down the road. I was really getting upset with the "Texas Hospitality". I aired up the tire with my pump, until the pump quit (burned up). A couple of RAT riders stopped and loaned me their pump and gauge to finish the job. Now, I've used three plugs on the tire, and continue on. I stopped at the next town and bought a new pump at Wal-mart (just in case). I rode about 50 miles at 50 mph, upped it to 57 or so for a few miles, then up to 60 for about 50 miles.
I rode that for about another 50 miles, and just as a couple of RAT riders were approaching me from the rear, the smartire started alarming again. Pressure was dropping quickly, and it was down to about 16 psi by the time I could get stopped. The two riders stopped and I used their pump to air up a replacement plug (plug # 5). One of them loaned me his CO2 kit for the remainder of the trip. They also followed me at low speed to the next town where I found a gas station with a REAL air pump to air up the tire. This time it seated the plug, or else I finally got the plug in right, because it has been holding ever since. I headed back to Texarkana at 50 to 65 mph on it this time.
The rest of the trip back was uneventful, but seemed slow. I did make it back around 10:15 in about 66.5 hours to make the gold. Seems like I lost about 4 hours due to the tire problem.
The Award |
The Route I rode is...
To be updated :)