Okay, lets test some gear! If Iím gonna do this long term and quasi-professionally I need to be outfitted properly (whatever that means. Iím making this up as I go along!).
Iíve been motorcycle sport-touring for a few years now, and Iíve gotten my system down pretty well, but Iíve recently added new items that will hopefully allow me to chase this crazy music-moto lifestyle. If Iím gonna be ready to communicate professionally I need a computer, so Iíll be taking my Mac which is a first for me. Obviously if Iím gonna be playing I need a viola plus all the instrumental accouterment, so I have to think about that too...
I decided to take a quick three day, two night ďwarm-upĒ lap to Guadalupe National Park for some camping, hiking and practicing to shake down my new rig (viola/sheet music/computer/hiking and camping gear, ect). I love hiking, and so far I havenít yet been to the highest point in Texas (Guadelupe Peak), so I need to knock that puppy out too (Ďcause thatís how I roll, knocking puppies out. Yeah.).
Ride what you got, right? My bike is my, uhhh, ďtrustyĒ BMW K1200RS, ďRed Pill.Ē Ready to roll. I bought a special pack to fit my ultra-light shaped viola case specifically.
Red Pill and I have been through thick and thin for about five years together and tens of thousands of miles near and far. We know each other really well, Iíve dismantled her down most of the way a number of times and I ride her hard, so she has a lot of ďcharacter marks.Ē Iím not big into garage queens. I badly want a big adventure dual sport, but itís not in cards as a struggling musician right now, Iím a one-bike man. Besides, I do like the speed thing and crazy lean angles. Off-road riding will have to wait. (maybe...)
Itís funny, it seems like when I ride everyday I can launch quicker, but being away from the bike and caginí it even for one day messes up the routine and the next time back on the bike takes ages to prep. The early morning departure quickly turns into daylight which leads to afternoon... Doh. I was hoping to make it to the park to camp both nights, but the sun gets low and my map throws me a curve. Naturally Iím avoiding interstates and Iím trying to avoid the ďobviousĒ high-traffic routes too, and my map shows a parallel road that goes out into the nothingness in way-west Texas. Perfect! Or so I thought...
The Farm to Market road appears to connect through, and with the sun getting close the horizon I turn up the heat and head north on the deserted tarmac. The BMW is humming, I crouch down as best I can with my crazy viola pack to at least get some of my helmet behind the windscreen as the speedo climbs: 80, 90, 100, 110, 120... The road is gun-shot straight and not a soul to be seen for miles. I have almost unending visibility, the only thing stirring are a few jack rabbits which bring my numbers to sub-triple digits from time to time. I do this for 50 miles. Iíd really like to make it to Guadelupe to camp tonight, even if it means riding for a bit while itís dark. I figure Iíd ride as fast as I can while I can see, then slow it down considerably for when I canít.
Iím flying along and finally see the ďTĒ junction Iíve been anticipating in the distance and start slowing for the stop sign, raising my body up back into the wind stream. Suddenly the pavement quality deteriorates and the bike starts shuddering as I cross these crazy invisible lumps. Iím still traveling fairly fast, maybe 70-80ish, and I find my self in a tank-slapper! I try to stay loose as the bars gyrate back and forth while the front wheel searches for grip. Somehow I regain control, still a quarter mile from the junction. I curse the road maintenance more than a little bit, and wonder why it gets bad so suddenly. (Wouldnít have anything to do with my speed, surely! ;-)) Thereís an abandoned installation of some sort at the junction: old antennas, rusty buildings, cable fences and even tall street lights, all corroding away. Military base? Middle of nowhere. Naturally my imagination starts thinking of Area 51 type conspiracies. There were some ďno trespassingĒ signs with some cable over the road, but they looked pretty old and unofficial to me. No matter, just passing through! I hang a right at the sign and continue on paralleling an old railroad bed.
Something isnít right. Thereís no center stripe, and bit farther there are shrubs and cactus growing out into and over the roadway, effectively making it one lane. The road surface has lots of pot holes and cracks. After about two miles I come to this:
Great. Private Property. This explains why the very end of the county road isnít maintained very well, Ďcause it basically dead-ends. The gate is open and thereís a phone number on the hand-painted sign to call for permission to pass through, so I skeptically retrieve my cell phone to check for a signal: No dice, figured. I could risk it, try to ride on through, but what if thereís a locked gate at the other end? I have enough gas to go on or go back, but not both. Going back means Iíve just lost a hundred miles worth of time at least. Hmmm, what to do?
If I move either direction I know Iíll be riding in the dark. I retrace my steps back to the junction to see if I missed something. Nope, just like the map says, except for the private property/gate problem. Iím getting tired and I donít feel like making an important/risky decision when Iím not thinking so clearly. Okay, I havenít seen ANYONE for 50 miles, and I doubt I will after dark, plus I have food, water, and shelter so I decide to camp right there off the road a bit next to the old railroad bed so I can decide in the morning what to do with a clear head. I find a flat spot and pitch, becoming more and more comfortable with my decision to chill here as the evening desert sounds start to come alive.
This monster was passing by, I decided to inconvenience her for a photo shoot. She wasnít too happy about it, bit my glove and camera a few times.
Is it a tarantula? It was about that size, but Iíve never seen a black one, most of them are brown and not as aggressive where I come from. Normally you can handle them with no attacks. I heard tarantulasí fangs canít penetrate the skin, but those big red stingers on this one look pretty menacing to me. As a kid I wouldíve simply picked it up, but I guess Iím a little older and more cautious now so I leave the glove on. Maybe in a few years Iíll opt out altogether and just let a spider pass unmolested... LOL!
This camera has a sweet macro mode!
This bug was a little bigger than a lady-bug, and FLUORESCENT red, the pic doesnít quite do it justice. I spotted it from twenty feet away. Anyone know what it is? Kinda fuzzy too.
There are coyotes warming up their voices and a surprising variety of bird songs beginning to sound as the sun touches the horizon. All kinds of Jurassic colossal insects are moving about in the air and on the ground, but none of them are bothering me, and best of all no Ďskeeters!
Iím here to test my gear so I deploy the experimental high-tech moto-viola to contribute my own desert song to usher in the night...