|February 2005||Louisiana HSTA Newsletter||Bob Chappuis, Editor|
For February's issue we are lucky to have two great write-ups on the recent HSTA Ride The Rio Rally attended by four of our intrepid Louisiana Road Warriors! Plus some great photos to go along with them. A big thanks to Drew Newcomer and Tony Crowell.
Drew Newcomer; photos by Bill Ellis and Tony Crowell
I must have been ready for the first ride of the season because at 4 am on Thursday, February 17, I was wide awake. I got up and did a few last minute checks then hit I-20 west by 5:30. The weather was clear and cool but my Gerbing's were keeping me warm. The plan was to ride to San Angelo and maybe west of there if weather, and time, permitted.
I-20 was filled with traffic as I expected, but the flow was good and I approached the 635 Loop around Dallas by 10:00 am. Continuing west on the south side of Dallas, I left the Interstate behind as I exited onto Highway 67 toward the southwest. Highway 67 is four-lane for 25 miles then becomes a much less congested two-lane near the small town of Venus, Texas. I stayed west on 67, which has a good surface and was interesting because I had never ridden it before. The weather cooperated all the way to San Angelo with my only delay lasting about 10 minutes for some road work taking place just east of town. Though I had thoughts of continuing, at 3:15 pm and after 553 miles, I was ready to stop. The Motel 6 was calling my name and I was able to get a room on the ground floor and park the R1150R under the stairwell.
It was a good thing I had parked the bike under cover because I awoke on Friday to the sound of rain. Packing is much easier when things are dry! I pulled out of San Angelo at 7:20 am and climbed back on Highway 67 west to head for Fort Stockton. I rode through a heavy mist for about 100 miles, accompanied at times by some light rain. The rain did not last long and I was able to make good time to Fort Stockton where it was time to get some badly needed gas and take a much needed break. I did not realize how cold it was until I pulled my helmet off! The wind was bone-chilling and once again I realized that the purchase of my Gerbing's heated clothing was one of my better purchases of the year before. I am very cold natured and I rode in absolute comfort.
I got back on the road and headed toward Alpine and pulled into the home of Sul Ross State University about an hour later. I gassed up again because the road from Alpine to Terlingua is about as desolate as I have ridden. There is not much of anything of any kind once you leave Alpine heading south on Texas 118. At noon I pulled into the parking lot of the Longhorn Ranch Motel, owned and operated by Betty - native of Deridder, Louisiana! Though not fancy, this was a very "motorcycle friendly" spot, with Betty having taken old towels and torn into quarters and placed in a box that read, "For Motorcycles!" Betty also insisted that we park our bikes directly in front of our rooms on the covered concrete walkway.
It was nice to kick my feet up after eating a large lunch in Terlingua and about 4:30 pm I heard a bike and found Paul LaFort from Thibodaux arriving. Thirty minutes later Bill Ellis and Tony Crowell arrived after taking some twisties in the Hill Country on their ride out west. Paul had brought some Mardi Gras beads which he gave to Betty and the four of us were introduced at dinner to the local crowd. After a cold beer we talked a little more then headed off to bed as close to 1000 miles in two days had taken its' toll on all of us.
Saturday morning Bill, Paul, and Tony headed off to ride the river road and I headed to Big Bend State Park to explore some places I had missed four years previous. The park is quite interesting and I met a rider from Vermont on a Vulcan that was taking a year off from work to travel by bike, take pictures, and write. If I took a year off from work, it would be very difficult to return. I have a difficult enough time returning after only a week! A few raindrops fell but nothing significant and I rode a couple hundred miles through the park and back to Terlingua where I had perhaps the best huevos rancheros I have ever had. Terlingua is an old mining town (there is still a ghost town left) that had as many as 2000 inhabitants at one time. The population is less now but the old ghost town does have an interesting history.
Bill, Paul, Tony, and I rode to the RTR dinner and found a table. The choice of chicken or steak was offered at registration with Paul being the only beef eater that evening. We were so hungry it must of have been good because none of anything was left after we finally got served. Dave Gorham, the ride organizer, announced that 84 riders had made the trip. Naturally, none of the Louisiana crowd won any door prizes so we headed back to the Longhorn in absolute darkness to pack and try and get ready for the long ride home.
Sunday morning we awoke to a cloudless sky. Stars were still brilliant as we eased onto 118 North for the ride to Alpine and then 67 to Fort Stockton. The sunrise accompanied us as we rode meeting only a handful of automobiles. Tony, the ever present "riding photographer" took our photos as we motored up the road. Mornings like this one, to me, are what riding is all about. As the Harley folks say (and I really hate to quote them!) "If I had to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand."
We arrived in Fort Stockton two hours later needing gas and breakfast. After a little unintended sight seeing of Fort Stockton (I did get to see the large roadrunner!) we pulled into McDonald's for breakfast. This is where we said good bye to Paul whose plan was to deadhead as many miles east as he could once he rode upon I-10. Bill, Tony, and I took I-10 east until we exited on Highway 190 and headed into one of Tony's old stomping grounds, Iraan, Texas. Tony found his old street and decided which house occupied his tenth year. Though he wasn't quite sure which house was his between one or the other, he absolutely remembered what kind of motorcycle he had at the time!
Quickly we were back on 190 headed east. By the time we made El Dorado it was time for a break and some gas. The day had been perfect so far. Though it had been a little cool in the morning, the sun warmed things up quickly. And now, there was not a cloud in the sky. After an energy drink required by Tony, we once again headed east on 190. At Menard, Texas, I parted paths with Bill and Tony. They headed southeast toward Austin and I stayed on 190 to Brady. While standing in line for a burger in Brady, Randy Martin and five riders from the Dallas area pulled in a few minutes after I did. They had enjoyed RTR as well and were on their way home. After a nice visit, I left Brady and turned north on Highway 16 at San Saba. After a pleasant 22 miles, I turned east on Highway 84 setting my sights on Waco. I made Waco about 4:30 pm and missed the loop so ended up riding straight through town. Waco is much larger than one might imagine and there was much stopping and starting before I finally made it to the east side of town and back to the "no red light" part of the highway.
At 5:30 pm and after 566 miles I decided enough was enough and found a clean, inexpensive room in Mexia. It was good to take a shower and be able to make some suds! The water in Terlingua had been so hard that getting a thorough washing required a good deal of effort.
The next morning I got back on Highway 84 in a fog until it intersected with Highway 79. Highway 79 runs all the way to Shreveport where I once again traveled on I-20. I arrived back at home in West Monroe at 11:15 am. After lunch I washed a very dirty motorcycle. We were very lucky to have the weather we did. Big Bend is certainly the place to "get away from it all."
By Tony Crowell
Cabin Fever had got the best of me. I once vowed never to attend the HSTA's Ride the Rio event just because it is held in west Texas. God forsaken west Texas. Parts of which have to be some of the ugliest land on planet Earth. Having lived in both Odessa and Iraan, and after commuting across the vast wasteland from San Diego to Louisiana every summer for ten years, I believe I have some credibility on the issue. So it was with this mindset that I found myself e-mailing friends in January about possibly attending the '05 RTR in west Texas. I couldn't believe it myself. The rainy season was here and I needed sunshine. I couldn't wait for the Spring HSTA events, I needed to ride now!
I first wrote Bill Ellis and Bob Chappuis, both of whom also had the "fever" and needed to ride. Reservations were made and all were set to go until late January when we heard the news the Bob had crashed his trials bike and the injuries he sustained would keep him from joining us on the trip. As plans progressed we found out that Drew Newcomer of Monroe and Paul Lefort of Thibodaux would also be heading west. Both Drew and Paul had attended RTR before. Paul would meet Bill and I in Lafayette and Drew would meet us at the Longhorn Ranch Motel north of Study Butte, TX. Blast off was set for 0730 on February 17th.
How appropriate that the weather was cloudy and cold… just great. We had agreed to meet Paul at the T/A Truck Stop in Lafayette. We got there a few minutes early and were surprised to see Paul followed into the parking lot by a rider on an older model BMW K-bike. Great, maybe he's a new HSTA member. As it turned out both had just coincidentally exited the freeway together and the guy on the BMW was a complete stranger."Kent" was from Kansas and was on his way to El Paso, TX from Key West, Florida. He was in search of adventure and agreed to ride with us part of the way across Texas. After coffee and rest room breaks we hit I-10 and headed west for Texas. I was on my ST1300, Bill on his FJR 1300, Paul on his FZ-1 and Kent on the K-Bike. Both Bill and I had recently installed XM Satellite radios on our bikes and were anxious to test them out on a cross country trip. Paul has had XM for some time on his bike which planted the seed for us. Paul also has the smallest tank so we agreed to stop at about 150 miles for more go-juice.
The sun almost came out in Lake Charles but quickly thought better of it and went into hiding again. After crossing into Texas on I-10, I noticed we were at mile marker 880; meaning that mm 0 was a long way across Texas near the small town of Anthony. Yes, Texas is BIG. When we stopped for gas in Winnie, Kent decided to visit a friend in Galveston and took off for the ferry. We continued onto Houston but were too early to get into the HOV lanes on the Katy Freeway. They are opened inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. Luckily, traffic wasn't bad at all and we made it through without a hitch.
When we stopped for lunch in Columbus, TX the sun made a brief appearance that raised the spirits of all. Bill and I had reservations in Kerrville for the night and Paul had planned to stay just west of San Antonio. We split up just east of there as Bill and I took the 1604 loop around town. Once again the traffic gods smiled upon us and we quickly left San Antonio in the rearview mirrors. Soon we were pulling into the Econo-Lodge at Kerrville, where the 17 year old motel clerk looked as if he were dying a horrible slow death. His skin was pasty and white. He sweated profusely and coughed during the whole check-in procedure. Great, now I would have to boil my credit card in hot water or the rest of my trip could be ruined by catching whatever malady plagued the kid.
I had chosen to stay in Kerrville because I wanted to ride some of the Hill Country roads on the way to RTR. Bill and I awoke the next morning to more cold and cloudy weather. I had decided to leave my electric vest at home and use some of those hand warmers like the hunters use to keep warm. After all, I was riding an ST1300 the only motorcycle with a built-in heater. At 43 degrees you need an electric vest, heater or not.
FM 39 was scenic and 337 was twisty, but both Bill and I loved TX 55 from Camp Wood to Rock Springs. It was four climbing lanes of twisty fun with almost no traffic. We did stop in Camp Wood for breakfast which turned out to be a very good decision. If you are ever in that small town, save some belly room for the food at B.J.'s Café and Sweet Shop. You can't beat fried eggs and Strawberry cake for breakfast.
After Rock Springs, it was fairly boring to Del Rio on US 377. Heading west the scenic attraction is the high bridge over the Pecos River near Langtry. Very scenic indeed. There's a nice Texas roadside park with great views of the bridge/river. We did stop at Judge Roy Bean's museum in Langtry for a break. It has changed somewhat since I was last there in 1970.
As we left Langtry the sun came out in earnest so we switched to the dark face-shields. No more than ten miles down the road, the cloudy/rainy skies returned. Between Sanderson and Marathon we rode through some of the worst fog I have ever seen in west Texas. Luckily, it lifted just before Marathon where we stopped for gas. After the brief stop we headed south on US 385 for Big Bend National Park. Now, the weather started to clear a little. As we entered the Park the sun came out…partially. No one was manning the entrance of the Park so we got in for free. I had only previously been to the park in the summer… the worst time to go. It was nice to see the flowers blooming alongside the road and the small amount of greenery.
We did not stop in the park as it was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to check in for the rally. After finding the RTR HQ, and picking up our packets we headed north on TX 118 for the Longhorn which is located about ten miles north of Study Butte. Upon our arrival we were met by Paul and Drew who had arrived earlier. We stowed our gear and went to supper at the restaurant which is attached to the motel.
As it turns out the proprietor of the motel is an expatriate from Louisiana. During our meal we noticed that the place had really started to fill up. Some one had set up a karaoke machine and the entertainment was about to get underway. It seems most of the local ranchers hang out at the Longhorn on Friday nights. Instead of them treating us like the strangers that we were, we were treated almost like celebrities. We all looked through the list of songs but they only had two kinds of music in this place …Country and Western. A good time was had by all but since they had no sixties soul music on the machine I declined to sing.
The motel's TV's only had three channels. Discovery, CNN headline news and some old movie channel. Easily the most bizarre set up I have ever encountered. It was obviously cable or a dish, but how does one end up with only those channels?
The next morning we awoke to more cloudy skies. Damn! I came here to see the sun! Paul, Bill and I headed back into Study Butte/Terlingua and hit RR 170, "The River Road" toward Presidio. Drew decided to ride in the park. RR 170 is easily one of the most scenic roads in Texas. It hugs the river for about seventy miles, up and down and all around. A real roller coaster with great views of the Rio Grande and Mexico.
At the highest overlook we stopped at a turnout and did a little hiking over the boulders to get a better look at the river below. It was here that we saw the "DOM" rock. Kevin Costner made a movie here in 1984 called Fandango; about a group of guys graduating from college and taking one last road trip. They had buried a bottle of Dom Perignon years earlier and had now come back to dig it up… hence the letters D.O.M. painted on one of the rocks. It was still there after all these years.
After numerous photos it was on to Presidio to refuel. Still cloudy but getting a little warmer. We took US 67 north to Marfa where I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful old courthouse on the square. It was here that I encountered one of the scariest and most embarrassing episodes of the trip. I turned the bike off to take the camera out and after taking a few photos I tried to start the bike…nothing, no sound what so ever. Panic set in as I visualized the nearest Honda dealer very, very far away. It was then that Bill said, "is it in neutral"? Damn! I didn't realize the bike was in gear.
Onto Fort Davis on TX 118. The sun was now out in full force with no clouds around. We continued through town and made our way toward the McDonald Observatory located atop Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains. This was my favorite road of the trip. Great scenery, weather and curves. What more could you ask for. How about no TRAFFIC! That's right, just like your own private road course. Paul had taken the luggage off his bike and couldn't stand the thought of following our super tourers up the mountain, so he took off once we reached the good stuff. It was hard for us to keep him in sight but a blast nonetheless. After shooting a few pics at the top we headed back to Fort Davis to eat at a little Mexican restaurant that we had seen on the way into town. Nothing like good roads and red and green chili enchiladas to make your day.
As it does most afternoons in west Texas, the wind began to pick up and made the riding and gas mileage a little more interesting. We headed for Alpine and another fuel stop, before continuing south on 118 and back to the motel. From Alpine to just south of the Border Patrol Checkpoint the road has quite a few nice sweepers. From there to the Longhorn the road straightens out and becomes pretty boring. It was on one of these stretches of road that I pulled over and asked to ride Bills FJR. I had considered this as my next bike but I had never ridden one over 5 miles before. Well, here was a chance to get a good idea of what the bike is all about. After getting up to (elevated) speed I noticed what I perceived to be a lot of vibration though the bars. Although the vibration is probably on par with most in-line fours, compared to the ST it felt viby. But I'm spoiled on the ST as it is almost electric smooth. On the other hand, along with vibes you also get POWER, and lots of it! It made my ST feel like a Cushman Eagle scooter. Another thing I loved is the power windscreen. I have a'03 standard model that doesn't have this great feature. All in all, if you combined the best traits of both bikes you would have the best sports tourer in the world.
We had great day of riding. We returned to the Longhorn early enough to relax a little before riding in to Terlingua for the evening's banquet. The banquet was held at the Starlight Theater. We had heard the that HSTA had reserved the whole place for the evening but that was not the case. When we sat down at one of the few un-crowded tables we were soon whisked away by the management to a less desirable table directly underneath one of the most powerful speaker boxes in Texas. My hearing is just now starting to return to normal. It was impossible to carry on a conversation without screaming.
Logistically speaking this was one of my least favorite HSTA events. One reason is you have to cover a lot of straight, boring roads to get there, then when you arrive there's not enough lodging available for everyone to stay in the same motel or even near the same motel. Maybe a large chain will move in and take care of the lodging problems but there is no excuse for the $15.00 chicken served at the banquet. It was mediocre at best and was definitely not worth over $8.95. Having said that however, the riding in the area was great and it was actually nice to get out in the desert in the winter. After the banquet it was a nice moonlight ride back to the Longhorn. Bill put in his earplugs to protect his hearing from my snoring and soon we were fast asleep.
We decided to leave about 7 am which in west Texas is very close to 6 am and consequently dark outside. We fired up the bikes at the break of dark and headed north on 118 in 43 degree temps. During the ride north the temperature dipped down to 37 a couple of times. The sun was out by Alpine and the warm up started fast. By the time we stopped for gas and food in Fort Stockton the temp was up to 63, time to shed layers. After breakfast we all headed east on I-10. Drew, Bill and I waved goodbye to Paul at mm 307 as we took US 190 and Paul motored down I-10. US 190 is an empty, straight road where the small towns are few and far between. You can make good time on it because of this desolation. We made a brief stop in Iraan so I could show Bill and Drew the house where I lived in 1970. Next stop was El Dorado for fuel. While refueling, four or five bikes passed us heading east, I assumed they were coming from RTR. Bill and I never caught up with them. Drew split up with us at Menard and headed northeast toward a nights stop in Mexia, TX. One of the interesting aspects of riding from west to east is the changes in the trees and vegetation. Every mile the grass is a little greener and the trees a little taller.
We rode in glorious sunshine from Alpine to Llano. The clouds started to roll in when we got onto TX 71 and stayed with us until Austin. We had a good day of riding and decided to stay at a Laquinta motel there. As luck would have it the motel was next to a great Mexican Restaurant. Filling our bellies made it easy to get good nights sleep. Next morning saw us putting the clear face-shields back on because of thick fog. We had planned to take US 190 out of Austin but either me or the TXDOT screwed up a sign reading. Anyway, we ended up on a loop and decided to stay on TX 71 to Columbus.
Onto I-10 for the final blast home. We were able to get into the HOV lanes just before they reversed the direction of travel. Once again we breezed through the city. The sun was out now and the temps started to rise. At one point in Beaumont I saw 82 degrees on the ST's dash. That's on the border line of too hot for my roadcrafter jacket, much over that and would start to miss my Darien jacket which is much cooler. Over the Sabine River and into the Bayou state once again. Ah…the rubble, I mean the roads of LA. I guess you just get used to them if you live here, but when you come out of Texas it's like riding a jackhammer all the way to the Jefferson Davis Parish line. Pathetic is the only way to describe it. Fairly smooth all the way to Baton Rouge, but then you run into another problem that should not be. Why is it that we can breeze through the fourth largest city in America (Houston) and be stuck in traffic in Baton Rouge? Bill and I decided to take Nicholson off the Bridge to avoid the traffic by taking the surface streets home. A little over 2200 miles by my odometer. All in all a good ride. I must now take back my earlier disparaging comments about west Texas and say that only some parts are the ugliest on earth. Mainly around Odessa actually. Nothing can help that area. Sorry people from Odessa. If we can figure out the lodging situation, Cabin Fever may once again take over and force me to Ride the Rio…maybe next year.
The above calendar was stolen from the terrific FL newsletter so blame any errors on Bill Royal ;>
RIDE SAFE and KEEP IN TOUCH!
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