The Other Side of Nowhere!
In the Pie of All Knowledge, I reckon I've got a pretty small slice. So, I'm always looking to enlarge my little piece. Call me an opportunist...
Last year, while freezing our toes off on a brutal winter dualsport ride in the Kiamichi Mtns of Oklahoma, my Texan friend Monty painfully suggests, "why don't we go down to Big Bend National Park next year....where its a whole lot warmer on the Mexican border?" Hhhhmmm....warmer...never been there....loooong ride from home......I like it. Let's go!
For various reasons we selected a departure date immediately following Thanksgiving Day. And with a year to plan, you'd think we'd easily be ready by departure date. Well actually, I was! But Monty had "issues". Its 4 days prior to departure and I'm ready to roll:
But Monty's bike looks like this:
For reasons only he can explain, Monty decided to have a looksee under the hood just prior to our departure! Oh well, sure hope he makes our rendezvous point in West Texas on Day 1. I'll be 400 miles to get to that point. Won't be too much waiting (on either of us) before moving on. And NO....I don't need no stinking trailer to haul my bike down there. This is gonna be a KLR Ride....All The Way, Baby!!! It was time to spread some love around my stable. My little blue Yamaha WR250R has been getting all the attention for the last several months. But I digress...
The scene at Rancho Highfive following Thanksgiving dinner:
Monty or No Monty....I'm ready to go!
Here I am waiting on clearance from the Tower after filing my flight plan.
Wheels up at 5:49 am. Woohoo ! ! !
But golly its cold....REALLY COLD. About 28 degrees at departure. But I wasn't going to let that discourage me. After all, I was heading South. It HAS to get warmer going South....right? Wishful thinking anyway.
I wasn't about to miss my first sunrise of the trip:
Question: Why does it always seem to get COLDER right after the sunrise? I tell you I was fine until this point. But the next hour of riding was brutual....totally brutal. I felt like a popsicle in a freezer by the time I rolled into McAllister, OK just 2 hours from home. Had to make a stop at McDonalds to thaw out. During this pitstop, I made a new discovery....Yup, added something to my piece of pie:
As they say, Necessity is the Mother of All Invention. Well, "they" ain't lyin. While I stood here warming my "insides" an old man walks into the Restroom and gives me a strange stare. Then, he smiles and says, "I never thought of that before". My simple reply was, "Me Neither".
Now let me see....I've only got 280 miles left to go to reach the Rendezvous Point. Ho-chi-momma!
Lookin' good so far!
When HighFive told me he had never ridden the desert before, I immediately suggested a trip to Big Bend, and HighFive immediately agreed. I had almost forgotten about it until the annual Clayton dual sport ride in October when the plan was reaffirmed. KLR's or other supertanker types only. No puny 2 gallon tanks allowed, we will need long ranges.
Unfortunately, some overzealous riding in Clayton caused 2 bent rims which had to be dealt with. Not to mention the major oil leak which started on the third day of the ride. Then there was the major oil usage issue, separate from the leak. Oil was blowing out the airbox. Meaning the top end needs to be rebuilt. The thing has got almost 50K miles by now, so no big deal. And Ive got almost 2 months to do all the work, or so I think.
A couple of weeks go by. I ordered some parts but did not do much else. Then HighFive calls me up wanting to move the trip up to Thanksgiving week. I checked my schedule and we decided to leave the day after the holiday. Oh crap, now I've only got 3 weeks to get ready!
I start tearing down the top end. I send the cylinder off to Oregon for machine work. Talking to the shop, if it ships 2 day air both ways, I should have it by the Friday before we leave. Then I sent the front wheel to Woody's in Colorado for straightening. The rear rim was not bent as badly, and I was able to get it somewhat straight.
While waiting for those parts, did some other work. New clutch springs, swingarm service, etc. Pulled the subframe to repair the airbox. And cleaned, and cleaned.
With about a week and a half to go, I talked with the machine shop. The new piston and cylinder should be at my house on Friday. A friend is going to come by on Saturday to help me install the cylinder onto the piston. I was expecting the front wheel back on Monday. Which, by the way, could not be straightened, and had to have a new rim laced up.:(:
Friday afternoon, I get home from work to find the UPS man had left one wheel sized box, but no cylinder/ piston sized box. So after checking tracking, I find my cylinder is somewhere in Tennesee for the weekend.:huh There had been some computer problems with the FAA, and flights were delayed all over the country. The piston and cylinder would not arrive until Monday.:baldy
I am meeting HighFive on Friday morning. Thursday is Thanksgiving and I'll be with family all day. I have to be ready by Wednesday, including a couple of oil changes and 300-400 miles in several sessions. That gives me a little over 48 hours.:norton Oh well, what else did I have to do?
Monday rolls around, and I am done with work for the week and home by 1PM. The UPS man shows up at 2.:clap It's on.
I worked on it until about 11, then started it the next morning. It started right up and I rode it and tuned the carb, changed oil, and fiddled with it the next two days. It ran great except for some backfiring and an intermittent turn signal problems, which I thought I had fixed.
I was ready to go, just barely. But, looking at the weather forecasts, it seemed as if we were in for some weather. But its too late now, the train has left the station!
Before leaving, I got an idea from another forum post and bought a $2 face shield from Harbor Freight. A little velcro....and I had a nifty windshield extension. This did a good job diverting most of the air flow away from my chest. :norton I was sooooooo thankful for this little mod by the time I was passing thru southern Oklahoma, as it was still so very cold this day.
That's when it happened. In a flash, a gust of wind ripped the little windshield extension off the fairing and sent it whooshing into oblivion. :eek1 :cry :baby
Now I realized just how effective this little device was. Even though I was dead on schedule to hit the rendezvous, I had to divert into Home Depot at Gainesville, TX to devise a replacement. 30 minutes later, I'm all fixed up, and the improved replacement model would hold out for the duration of the trip! :clap
No photos in transit, cause the real trip didn't start until after the Rendezvous Point. That was the only real plan we had....to meet at Braums in Weatherford, TX for a burger and a celebratory milkshake toast. But that's where the Plan ends and the Adventure begins. No schedule, No maps, No problems! :deal
Amazingly, Monty is waiting on me when I arrive. :wink: I've just ridden 5 hours and need a break. However, he only gives me 21 minutes and 32 seconds before ordering "mount your horses, we've got to ride! Its a big state, we've got to hurry!!" :huh
Oh well, off we go....into the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Apparently, we are going to ride All of it. Take the Loooong way down to Big Bend.
This is Monty's country. He's Trailboss now. I'm just enjoying the ride and some "warmer" weather.....I think it was up to a balmy 40 degrees. I was starting to sweat.
We went south from Weatherford toward Fredricksburg and hit all the good stuff. Really...REALLY...beautiful roads through there. And I was so pleased to discover the Fall Colors were still "in" across this area.
I'm poking along, taking in the scenes, while Monty is WAY out front playing Scout. That's when I make another discover....yup, add a little more to my slice of pie:
Hit the Brakes and skid to a stop! And I do what it says...
And this is where Monty finds me....300 yards ahead in front of this entrance...when the Search & Rescue backtracks to my location:
I mean, Hey, its not every day you find a "Motorcycle Friendly" spot like this. I think we need to go check this place out. "Nothing doing", says the Trailboss, "we're in a HURRY".
Huh? I've got all week....maybe more. I ain't in a hurry! No Plan, No Schedules, No Problems....remember? Besides, how can you honestly "hurry" across the full length of the largest state in the mainland USA? Hhhhmmmm........
Another KLR adventure! :thumb
Only one of us had no schedule. I think if I left it up to HF we would still be on the way there.:lol3
With darkness approaching, I soon learn why Monty was in such a hurry. At Llano, Texas, he diverts our route into this special pitstop:
Looks mighty fine to me, as I reeeeally need a break. I've been 12 hours in the saddle today and covered over 600 miles. This is a nice reward:
This joint has the most unique & effective menu system in the whole free world. You go up to this guy and he does this:
You pick out what you want and he plops it down on a tray which you take inside to be weighed. They throw it on a big piece of butcher paper, and you go find yourself a table.
Mmmmm....good. Truly a lovely experience. But don't expect any Wait Staff....you're on you're own. Sort of a Survival of the Fittest contest. And you know you're getting closer to Mexico because they have big jugs of Jalapeno Peppers waiting for you across every table. And I really did it two of them! :deal Muy Bueno!
Now, I'm ready to find a campsite and get some rest.
I loves me some Cooper's barbeque. :raabia
Makes me want to jump on the KLR and ride down for lunch. If it was not 300 miles away, and 25F outside right now, I would consider it. It took three days to thaw out from the trip, though, so it will have to be another time.
It was rather painful to leave Cooper's BBQ joint.....not because of any emotional attachment, but because we both ate too much. Onward mush as we race southward into the darkness. Thinking we have a long way to go because there just aren't very many places to camp along these roads. Everything is fenced in by private ranches.
But suddenly and unexpectedly, we make a wonderful discovery only 15 miles away from Llano: "The Oxford Campground". A private ranch which Welcomes campers onto their beautiful (& large) estate. We sneak deep into the backwoods and setup camp at a beautiful enclave in the trees near a pond.
Rise & Shine. Plenty of peace, quiet, & firewood residing here.
I really like this spot, and could easily stay another day around these parts. Before long, I take a hike into the woods to "see a man about a horse". But what's this I find upon returning....:eek1
The Trailboss is already working on his bike....:huh
Seems he was losing sleep over that nagging blinker problem. With a little encouragement we find the well hidden flasher unit and dissect it.
But no luck making a trailside fix, the little contact motor is just too pooped to putter. Monty felt so bad about it, I kindly offered to make run back into Llano and see if I can find a suitable replacement. No luck. Everything auto is 3-prong, Frankenstein needs a 2-prong flasher. But I tried...
Suddenly, Monty is in a HURRY again. Apparently, we've lost WAY too much time breaking camp. And you'd think it was MY bike that was laying in pieces on the ground. But what do I know....??
This is where I learned the Most Important Lesson of this next chapter in Highfive's Excellent Adventures: "Everything that goes wrong on this trip is my fault, and everything that goes right is Monty's responsibility." Hhhhhmmmm.....and interesting twist in the rules, I think.
I can tell that Monty needs something in his stomach....to calm his nerves. So, I teach him a Grand new fire trick: "Biscuits on a Stick".
He was a skeptic at first. But I quickly found a new convert who was looking for some honey & butter...
Its easy peasy....just buy some canned biscuits and stretch one out (elongate) then gently wrap around a stick and cook it slowly. MMmmgood.
Soon we're on are way racing through some more fine Texas Hillcountry. I think we went down Hwy 16 near Bandera. Wow, what a great ride....like a chute through the cliffs. Monty was showing off with his new big bore 685 kit from Schnitz Racing and setting a blistering pace. Then it happened. He got stopped by a LEO, and somehow I got roped into the deal even though I was WAY behind. Go figure. Now I must apologize for the lack of a LEO photo.....since that was my fault. Apparently I hid Monty's camera in his glove box (too deeply) while I was surely sleepwalking the prior night. Or some such story....
Eventually, we need to make some serious tracks Westward to get to the Big Bend Park. That's when I spot a terrific shortcut on my gps.....a County Road. But it turned into a few gates...
Ok....maybe a lot of gates...
Aaahh...who's counting anyway. Must have been 10 of them, one every half mile or so. But hey look, "Something Old & Something New"
That was cool. At least I thought so.
Now for the really big OOPS or was it WOOPS? My nice shortcut dead-ended into a private farmhouse that was the basecamp of rather zealous group of deer hunters. Indeed it was prime deer season, and actually about 4:00 pm in the afternoon. That'd be primetime to go get into your treestand for all you Yankees. While the men didn't look so happy to see us, they did behave bravely and send their woman out to instruct us. Actually, she was quite pretty all dressed up in her camo. She explained this was a private ranch and we had to go back thru all those gates to the main road....yada yada. Said not to worry....a big RV pulled in just the week before (doing same thing we did). Somebody needs to tell those Garmin Mapsource folks, I reckon.
Now, I must apologize again, for not getting a photo of the pretty lady in camo with all the mad men in the background. Apparently I did something to cause Monty's lens to fail to open too. Man, these "bad things" are starting to pile up on me! I think I'll let Monty explain the rest of Day 2 from his vantage point.
Everybody knows that HighFive is the master chef of food cooked on a stick.
The biscuit on a stick was surprisingly good. That and some leftover 'que from the night before made a great breakfast.
I had plans for some unpaved roads for the day, but with our late start,figured we had better stick to the pavement. But, that's OK, because there are some great roads in the area. We hit some of the highlights, and must have been having too much fun on Ranch Road 337, when we were pulled over. The LEO says he clocked us both at 70 in a 55.:eek1
My plan for making it across west Texas was not going so well, especially after one of the dirt roads I had planned on taking turned out to be gated and locked. This forced us to detour in the wrong direction. When HF spotted a shortcut going our way, we decided to try it. There goes HF into the sunset.
This was a great little county road that would have saved us 30 or 40 miles. If it had gone through.
We finally made it to the interstate just as it was getting dark. Almost immediately a large deer crosses the road just in front of us. We do about 100 miles down I-10, while dodging freshly killed, still steaming deer carcasses. Not fun, but we decide to keep going. There is nowhere nearby to camp, and I dont think either of us wanted to be the first to mention a motel.
We finally get off the interstate onto 2 lane roads. The deer seemed to be even thicker. I missed one particularly large deer by inches, so when we pulled into Sanderson at about 8PM, we wisely decided to get a room.
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