Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lured to Fish

Tawnya and I were invited out to fish Cedar Creek Lake from a beautiful lake front property, belonging to the family of a friend. It had been a while since we last got away for a night without work or kids or bills or, or, or you get the idea. My parents agreed to watch the boys so the ride was on. Early Saturday morning when we were packing up for the overnight I decided why not try to hit the ground on this county project that I was dying to begin. A quick look at the map and I decided I could do a few before meeting up in Gun Barrel City at 1800 with our friends.

2 Kids, 2 dogs, and a ferret were deployed on my parents home as a blitzkrieg and I stuffed our gear into the boxes on the Concours, strapped 2 fishing rods on the back and we were off, with no sign of our intent save for the poles on the back giving us the air of shortwave radio operators.

We made quick time rolling into our first stop, Rockwall of Rockwall county. We were greeted with the sweet smell of roasted corn and the unmistakable aroma of swine over charcoal being massaged with sinful mixtures of Texas barbecue sauce. Rounding the corner and approaching the town square revealed some kind of carnival event complete with vendor booths, food, and cowboys in broad straw hats, starched jeans, and pressed white shirts. You could see a bit of the courthouse but I will have to return to collect a good picture, and a great reason to return to a cool little county, the smallest in Texas in fact covering only 147 square miles.

Fun Fact: Quoted from the counties website
The Rock Wall - In the early 1850s, farmers were digging a well and discovered a rock wall that crossed the county and at some places appeared above ground level. Scientists have determined that this is a natural formation, but folk tales continue to say that it was built by prehistoric natives. When the town of Rockwall was formed, it was named for the rock formation. 

Next we trekked into Kaufman of Kaufman county. The night prior to our ride had seen a fairly decent size storm pass through the areas moving east along the route we were taking and left behind in its wake damage that looked to be primarily downed trees and ripped billboards, people's homes seemed to be in good condition and road crews beat us out and left the roads in very good condition. We found the square to be the first of many that would prove quiet and mostly vacant. The smell of fresh cut grass is what I enjoyed as I sat in the shade on a brick step taking in the peace.

Fun Fact: Find out more at http://www.kaufmancounty.net/
Kaufman is home to the Vietnam Memorial Wall Of Texas

Canton of Van Zandt county was up next with a very straight road into downtown. Canton is home to a very active open air market and there was enough traffic to make me think twice about lingering. I took a picture and we continued on.

Fun Fact: 
In 1845 William H. McBee established a gristmill and a sawmill three miles west of Loller's bridge at the site of Hamburg, established in 1850 by James Colthorp. This mill is said to have cut the logs that were used in the first courthouse in Dallas.

In Rains county we visited the county seat of Emory pursued by a large pack of Harleys and their cheery riders in leather vests and bandannas, not a one wave could be pried from them as they rumbled passed. I will definitely be returning one of these days to eat at a burger joint on the town square with a sign sporting a burger with about twenty patties on it. I am not sure they serve this artist's representation but I am willing to find out.

Fun Fact: 
Upon entering the county a sign declares Rains county as the eagle capitol of Texas.

The road from Emory to Quitman of Wood county was the best we encountered with sweeping turns and shaded by mature trees passing some very impressive properties. Traffic remained light and the air crisp under a blue sky made clear by the passing of the nights storm.

Fun Fact: 
In a county of 696 square miles there are 1,521 miles of paved roads.

Up next was a visit to Upshur county with a visit to Gilmer. The courthouse lawn was home to a very large cannon that looked really cool, I wonder what kind of fuel mileage I would get towing that beast home.

Fun Fact:
On February 28, 1844 he [Able Park Upshur] was killed in an explosion of the "Peacemaker", a new cannon on the Battleship Princeton, so when the legislature organized this county they requested that it be named Upshur.

We stopped for lunch after visiting the Gregg county courthouse in Longview. The last time I was at this courthouse I was researching genealogical information and received a parking ticket, we were hungry anyway so no worries about over staying the 2-hr limit this time. Tawnya's father lives in Longview so we frequent the area. Our all time favorite Tex-Mex can be had at Papacita's located on the loop.

Fun Fact: 
Late in 1930, Gregg County was rescued from the Great Depression by the largest pool of petroleum ever discovered in the United States.  

Smith County, home to Tyler is another area Tawnya and I had frequented with family members living in and around the county. We rode past a very cool, old train station turned museum and some very old cobblestone roads just north of downtown. The day was growing old so I took my picture in front of a crowded courthouse and we moved on.

Fun Fact: 
The County was established in 1846 by the new Texas State Legislature and was named for General James Smith who fought for Texas' independence and served during the Indian Wars. Boundaries were established at that time and have not changed to this day.

Our last stop on our impromptu county collection trip was Athens of Henderson county, with park benches sporting slogans like 'Home of the friendliest people', well the attendant of a cafe on the square wouldn't let Tawnya use the bathroom so we hit a Taco Bell and bee lined to Gun Barrel City. We met up with our friends and spent the rest of the night and most of Sunday doing exactly what we came for, but that is a different story all together.

Fun Fact: 
The Saturday that we were there was the only weekend in April with no event scheduled at the large fair park complex. Making light traffic for us :)

All in all we got 9 counties done, or 3.5% of all counties in Texas! Not bad for a spur of the moment trip. Stay tuned for more and watch for bikes out there folks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Gas and a Laguna

I was in need of some better fuel consumption numbers and there is only one way I know of to get those. I stepped in to the garage as the door rolled up to get a late start on my day. Would you believe the beauty that spilled in to that garage just then. Sunshine and a breeze that not only carried the perfect blend of cool and warm but with the aroma of fresh cut grass and diesel (it is trash day). I warmed up the bike, strapped on a helmet and was off. I first had to make a quick DVD drop off, made so simple by my new tank bag (thank you Mom and Dad). In go the DVD's to Dave's mailbox and I'm off again, I felt a bit like the Postman in Austraila, only with a cooler bike!

This fellow is a neighbor of my aunt and uncle and he has a pretty good set of bollocks for such a young guy.

I was beginning to doubt that the bike would ever actually hit the reserve so I went ahead and filled up. My mileage increased about 1 mile per gallon to an average of 35.5. I hope to increase that on road trips with throttle control. The bag conceded easily allowing my fuel stop to be a pleasant one, and with my wallet and phone in it's pockets, a convienient one as well.

The Laguna GPS Tank Bag that my parents treated me to for my birthday is perhaps the best tank bag I have ever seen. I will be getting a 12v DC outlet wired up hopefully this week and look forward to using the GPS pouch!

Watch for riders, and ride safe.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A valiant effort.

To further blanket myself in the technology I decided to test out a feature of blogging probably best reserved for the web's elite. This had been posted via text message from my mobile phone, however it split the post into 10 pieces and to add insult to injury reversed the order making the message incomprehensable. I will leave it to the pros, enjoy the post as a consolation prize.

When deciding what to post with my new found feature I came across an anecdote in the old noggin that I am sure I have never written down and rarely found a situation so hard up for conversation that warranted sharing it.

I had ridden on a few varied motorized vehicles in my youth, however the rides were few and far between. This helped me later in life, before I bought my first motorcycle, by not allowing me to know what fun I was missing out on. One summer day when I was about 10 years old my scout troop had taken a field excursion to a remote cattlestation outside of Alice Springs, Australia. While there we were exploring life on what was practically an alien planet, such as grocery shopping, daily chores, and the school of the air. I assure you these things were familiar to us in title only.

We had finished milking a cow that was anything but plump and healthy looking as those to which I am now used to seeing, and we were about to head back to the house. The trip was about a thousand yards from where we were and the group began it's hike. Now the kid that actually lived here had a little moped and planned to leave us in the dust and join us when we arrived hot and thirsty. Before he left I motioned for a lift and he waved me on. I swung a leg over and planted my self on the hot steel luggage rack that was bolted to the rear fender in place of a passenger pillion. I then endured one of the funnest and perhaps most painful to date expieriences that I can remember. It was all off road and far from smooth, but it was my first ride on two wheels.

I do have two children, but this certainly could not have helped.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wingin' it

As promised I will share the story behind how I got the Goldwing home.

I seem to remember that it was March, could have been late or early in the month but I do remember the temperatures here in Texas had begun to rise above freezing and riding a motorcycle should have been a breeze. I had been shopping around for something large enough and equipped to make two up extended rides as comfortable as I could afford. That is when I came across a bike in decent enough condition, in my price range and seemed capable enough for what I wanted. It was in a suburb of Oklahoma City, just west on I-40, I cant remember which but I assure you it did not matter to me at the time. I had Uncle Dave pick me up from work that day to give me a lift the 200 miles north to get the bike. The weather was nice and I threw my light jacket in the back of the Yukon and hopped in, we were off, I believe the temperature at this point on the trucks rear view mirror read something like 60 degrees. Traffic was slow with rush hour attendees and I was a little giddy on the way to I-35 at the prospect of being back to two wheels again. Once we hit the interstate traffic lightened and we picked up speed, the temperature now showed 55 degrees which I attributed to getting close to and crossing Lake Lewisville with a very stiff breeze.

Things did not start to worry me until we got to Denison, where a brief glance at the temp now showed below 50 and a wind was starting to blow. Now, I have always been notorious for being ill prepared for weather (which I am getting better about) and I began to think that the light jacket resting in the back seat might not cut it. And perhaps I should have brought a pair of gloves. I told Dave that we should probably stop somewhere before we get to OKC and let me find a pair of gloves.

Crossing the Red River I felt a whole new anticipation. A little rain with a few pieces of sleet thrown in for good measure had begun to sprinkle and the temp display was plummeting and now read about 40 degrees. We pulled over at a truck-stop and apparently truckers have very small hands which do not get cold. I settled on the warmest looking work gloves and we picked up the pace into Oklahoma City to try and beat whatever was on its way.

We met up with the seller and his wife at home and both were very nice and it was a pleasure to meet them, they invited us into their home, out of the COLD, to do the paperwork after I looked the bike over thoroughly and took it for the shortest test ride ever. After a few pleasantries we departed and hit the first gas station before the interstate to top off. At this point Dave probably thought that I had finally lost it and would likely eat crayons and play with my poo if I could feel my fingers, the temperature was at freezing, we had about 15 minutes of sunlight left and 200 miles to cross.

We were off, I led the way back through bricktown and made headway south as the last bit of light disappeared. My new ride hat a speedometer issue and the needle just flew in circles at about 3,000rpm so its your best guess how quick we were moving, all I know is that I wanted to get home. The sleet only lasted about half an hour but the damage was done. My light jacket did little to provide warmth for my core, a great fairing kept a nice pocket which helped, the handlebars extended slightly past the fairing leaving my hands and their work gloves at the whim of this merciless winter blast that had waited all week to show up just for me. I made it to Marietta, about 120 miles, before having to stop. I knew I should stop because when I opened my hand to brake a little for slower traffic, my frozen fingers could not apply the front brake.

I parked at a fuel pump and Dave pulled the truck alongside, into which I clambered as a shipwreck victim might climb aboard a Carnival cruise ship. Dave cranked the heat and I removed my gloves and huddled at the air vent. A conversation then took place in that truck that neither of us have forgotten or will likely forget regardless of miles ridden or cold beverages consumed.

'Dave look I cant do this I had no idea this weather would be coming in, its too cold' I explained, 'the gloves aren't cutting it, I couldn't use the front brake and my thighs are so cold that they cramped when I tried to put my feet down and I almost dropped it.'

'What do you want to do' Dave cracked the window to have a smoke as I considered my next move. I had been so concerned with getting off the road after the discovery that my  hand was to cold to brake that I hadn't considered what I would have to do from here.

'Look I d-don't know I j-just know I'm too cold r-right now to leave this truck' As heat began to return to my body an uncontrollable shudder like I have never experienced before developed, I assume my bodies attempt to warm itself as quickly as possible. It was almost cartoonish.

'Well' Dave rolled the window back up as he extinguished his cigarette, 'just sit and warm up a bit and we will think of something in a few minutes' We sat in the truck under the floodlights of a roadside gas station with no other customers. It was a Friday night and the local bars and restaurants would be teeming with happy, warm residents that did not have another 80 miles of riding in freezing temperatures, practically naked, to endure.

'I'm leaving it' my body had bound and gagged my brain and would now do anything to not have to get out of this warm seat. 'We will park it over there near the door to the store and we can come back tomorrow to get it, it has to be warmer in the sunlight' I explained 'it will be fine, no one will mess with it.'

'OK' Dave lit another cigarette and cracked the window as he dialed up a number on his cell phone and held it to his ear. 'Hey, we are doing pretty good here. Just stopped to warm up a bit.' Dave paused while his wife conversed on the other end of the line. 'Daniel isn't sure that he can make it, things got pretty cold up here and he just doesn't have the right clothes, we are thinking about leaving it...'

When Dave tried to explain our situation, to a person whose replies I could not hear, the verdict was decided quickly. There was no option, the bike would not be left for any reason short of the second coming. When the story is told at a bar the language is slightly different than typed above but you get the idea. Dave says that the decree on the other end of the cell phone that night was, 'I don't care if you have to get your ass on that f**cking bike and ride it home yourself, you DO NOT LEAVE THAT BIKE' I never asked my aunt why she was so adamant about getting that bike home but I can tell you I appreciate it still today.

Another thing I cant explain is what happened next. Dave said he had his gear with him and would ride for a bit while I warmed up the rest of the way. Shocked I turned around in my seat to find that he had brought his helmet, leather jacket and leather gauntlet riding gloves! We walked around to the back of the truck blocked from the wind and suited up Uncle Dave. He was wearing a shirt with a nice sweater over it, to which we added a leather jacket, and for good measure we squeezed all this into a Chicago Bears jacket. Helmet was next and we shoe horned the hoodie of the Bears jacket over the helmet. After donning the gloves Dave looked like some kind of biker astronaut. Without complaint Dave mounted a bike he had never been on and rode the rest of the way home in pitch black, freezing, windy conditions at about 85 miles per hour (no speedo remember). Instead of going home that night I spent the remainder of the evening in the hot tub drinking rum and coke and trying to forget what cold feels like.

Everything ended well and I had great memories made on that bike. To this day when I am browsing for a good deal I always take a peek at OKC ;)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How many counties in Texas?

I decided that with my ambition of long distance riding and taking a motorcycle all over the country I needed a very tangible goal to get back in the swing of things.

Something that I always wanted to do was visit every county courthouse in Texas. Many people have accomplished this in their own states including fellow Texans. I plan to have a photo taken of me and/or my motorcycle in front of a county courthouse, old or new, in every county seat in Texas.

I have blasted through my home state so many times over the years that it would be worthless to count. Don't get me wrong I have seen a great deal of beauty that Texas has to offer, but I wouldn't dare consider that I have seen 'most' of it. The majority that I have seen has been through a car window as we sped along to some clever and interesting destination either here in Texas or elsewhere on the continent. I believe by taking on this task I will better be able to say, at the end, that yes I have seen a great deal of the Lone Star State. I have a map that I will be posting here along the way so that you all...[sound of crickets chirping]...can dutifully follow along. If you catch this blog before I am done with the County Quest, and feel like you would like to join me for a spell, please contact me. There is enough road out there that I think I can manage to share.

By the way, there are 254.

Bike's very first picture



My first motorcycle was a 1999 Yamaha V-Star. This little bike put up with more than it's fair share of ridicule from the general public. It seemed, though I know I must have had a hand in it, that the more trash talk that this machine had to endure, the attitude of the V-Star grew closer to the breaking point and eventually leaped directly over the edge becoming a mean looking and behaving little motorcycle. One of the biggest insults hurled at my motorcycle on a regular basis was how incapable a 650cc motor must be as a cruiser. Tipping the scales at just a hair over 'none of your damn business' I can assure you that this bike did everything I asked of it including the highway riding two up, with only 649cc. Anyway, I did not have any problems out of it until shortly before I sold it when there developed a slight shudder in the front end. Never did figure out what that was?

The V-Star was sold to purchase a catalytic converter and some other parts and labor to get our 1993 Chevrolet Caprice Station Wagon to pass the Texas State Inspection. Before long, however I found a 1982 Honda GL1100 Goldwing Interstate that promised to fill the void in my life left by the Yamaha. I purchased this bike from a gentlemen residing in a suburb of Oklahoma City, I then lived in Anna, TX which is about a half hours drive north of Dallas. The trip home with this motorcycle was a journey of its own which I will share in another post, for which it deserves. This bike faithfully preformed the entire time I owned it. I enjoyed my first Motorcycle road trip on this bike, alongside Uncle Dave and his 1986 Aspencade, and have been dying to see the rest of the country ever since.

The Wing and a Kawasaki Ninja 250 that my wife, Tawnya, had been learning to ride on were sold in the late spring of 2008. The exact reason I sold these bikes escapes me just know but I assume it had to do with something along the lines that I would rather eat and feed my family than ride a motorcycle. In hindsight I often wonder if it would not have been more beneficial to keep the bike and just skip a few meals myself?

The drought has ended and I can breathe again now that I have purchased another set of wheels. After a rather long winter and a short but draining battle with a boat ('break out another thousand' Rick would say) I met a beautiful looking sport tourer, a category with which I admittedly have very little experience. This 2001 Kawasaki Concours will be the subordinate character in these tales for the foreseeable future.

I am commuting to and from work on this motorcycle both to try and catch up on lost time aboard a bike and to get a good idea of what I will need to get in order before attacking my first conquest. The counties of Texas...............................

Today a Blog was born

I have decided to join the rest of the planet and use this blog as a storage space for all my thoughts, pictures and writings while enjoying the roads of the United States and beyond. Many post may make little sense to those that know me and hear about my journey first hand, and may make no sense at all to those whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting, yet. This blog may turn out to be little more than a landfill for everything that I don't trust my mind to hold safe and complete. Enough with the first post, Blogging is all about getting to your second 8^)