After the test run to Guadalupe National Park I was indentured to my land-lady for some house renovation for a couple weeks, and was busy performing for the Cactus Pear Music Festival which takes place in San Antonio every July. I love being one of the invited artists for this festival, ‘cause everyone is so nice and so GOOD!!! Wow. Musicians (many principal players) from some of the top orchestras in the world, and little ole’ me! Cleveland Orchestra, Concertebow (Amsterdam), Milwaukee Symphony, L.A., St. Louis... The list of talent is pretty incredible, and I’m excited to get to play with these folks; it’s like riding a bull! Did I mention everyone was really GOOD!?!? I’m programmed to play a modern piece by Aaron J. Kernis called “100 Greatest Dance Hits” for string quartet and guitar. (No, there aren’t 100 songs in it, it’s just the title). A cool piece that requires the players to use some unconventional techniques, such as beating on the instrument like bongos and all kinds of crazy tapping and plucking all over. I (we) decide this is a perfect opportunity to show San Antonio what the Black Death can do (since I can really beat on it mercilessly without fear of damaging it)!
My plan is to be pretty much packed and ready to hit road for a month the day after Cactus Pear is completed, but finally I admit to myself that this is a bad idea since the night after the final concert is important social/party/network time... with lots of drinks. So I plan my exit from Texas a day later so I can start fully prepared and well rested.
It seems to never work out that way, does it? Even with the extra day the departure time gets pushed back, and back, one errand after another, a phone call, an important email... 8:00 turns to 10:00, which turns to 2:00 and then 4:00. I have to get a few photos for my impending advrider ride report, so there goes another 10 minutes.
My biggest upgrade for this trip is my ADV and VIOLA-TOR stickers. Sweet...
My gawd, get me outta here! Finally I suit up and leave town, heading out into Texas Hill Country for a few turns before I hit the flat pan-handle.
I only make it to Boerne (about 30 miles from San Antonio) and realize that I’ve left one pair of pants on my bed. Doh. I have another pair, but last summer I traveled with only my riding pants and one pair of hiking/whatever pants and found myself wishing for a 2nd pair while wet and cold. I keep rolling for a few minutes weighing my options (such as keep riding, buy a new pair, turn around, ect.). It’s blazing hot, easily 100 degrees. At this rate I’ll be camping in Hill Country sleeping in my own sweat only two hours from my house! That does it, I’m turning around for one more night in my air conditioned bed, I’ll leave the biked fully packed and I WILL leave first thing tomorrow...
*Yawn* Okay, another day down the tubes, let’s get this show on the road! I really DO get up early this time and zoom out of town before rush hour heats up (literally and figuratively), this time with pants. Hill Country is awesome as usual (my playground!). I stop for a pic of these crazy African creatures, because they were unusually close to the fence:
Uhg, West Texas. So, flat, so, hot. I’m trying to avoid Interstates, but I’ll be damned if the quickest way through this part of the state isn’t I-freakin-10. I bite the bullet for a hundred miles or so and turn north at Ft. Stockton towards New Mexico.
BMW’s. What can I say? They’re incredible machines. I was bit by the Bavarian bug right off the bat and haven’t looked back over close to 100,000 miles and six years of riding adventures. Which leads me to:
Final Drives. What can I say? They’re (supposed to be) incredible machines! This is my second final drive failure, and I’ve witnessed another, all giving out far, far from home on long trips. I don’t have any superstitions or an ax to grind with vehicles, they’re simply machines. I ride, they break, I fix, I ride, they break, I fix... But this is getting kinda ridiculous.
I feel the rear wheel grinding and wobbling side to side, knowing exactly what the problem is but not wanting to accept it. I have roadside assist/towing coverage (a hundred miles, a lotta good that’ll do me out here!), but it’s crazy hot so I decided to limp back the fifteen miles to Ft. Stockton to a fast food establishment so I can wait for a tow indoors with a cool drink. I didn’t check my cell phone, but even if I got a signal I wasn’t interested in sitting in the sun for a an hour or more. I’m rolling along with my hazards on the shoulder about 20 MPH, but the wheel feels worse and worse so I slow to 15 and eventually 10 MPH. Damn, it’s hot. It’s funny though, I’m kinda enjoying the ride! The landscape looks very different at this tempo, and I’m actually enjoying seeing the little things that are a blur at 80 MPH.
I’ve back-tracked about 5 miles and a white pick-up truck stops and waits for me. A fellow rider checking on me! Nice.
“I’m alright, got a bad rear bearing, just gonna limp to Ft. Stockton and them probably U-Haul back to San Antonio, but thanks for stopping!”
Twenty minutes later I finally I make it to the I-10 interchange and pull into the gas station where I see the fellow rider with white truck flagging me in. Huh?
“We were waiting for you,” says Gary “we’re actually headed to San Antonio too, would you like to put your bike in the back of the pick-up? I think we can make room...”
I kinda glance up at the sky in that I-love-motorcycle-adventures kind of way and say “SURE!” without a moment’s hesitation. What is it about the two-wheeled machines that brings out the best in people???
Hmmm, now all we have to do is figure out how to get my 600+ pound motorcycle up 3 feet in the air into the pick-up bed. Gary spies a big pile of dirt behind a business. Looks good to me!
It turns out to be more dust than dirt, but oh well. This is the single most adventurous riding feat I’ve yet accomplished! My exploits include track days, knees down on public roads, all night rides, 1000 miles in a day, dragging foot pegs with a pillion on board, the list goes on and on. Riding my fully loaded crippled bike up a pile of dust into a half-full pick-up truck bed is still the scariest thing I’ve done on a motorcycle. Needless to say I opted to remain ATGATT for this stunt despite the outrages temperature.
It took a couple tries, and Gary was pushing from behind to assist. The wheel broke loose in the soft dust and totally showered him with powder... Sorry! I still feel pretty guilty about that. Finally I made it in.
I brought a couple tie downs and Gary had a couple. There were to be four of us in the extended cab Toyota Tundra so there wasn’t really room inside for the Black Death, so I strapped her to the back of the truck, over the open tail gate. Now THIS will be a test! Where no viola should ever go...
Gary turned out to have quite the motorcycle adventure stories, so we had a blast visiting for the 400 miles back to San Antonio. At a rest stop I walked back to check on the load and my viola pack was dangling off the back of the tail gate. I’m not kidding, dangling
! Oh man, string players would normally be fainting if they saw something like this, but I calmly re-secured the load and added a bungee cord to keep it in place. Voila! (or should I say “Viola!”?)
Gary and Company delivered me all the way to my driveway, just because I was *almost* broken down. I didn’t even have time to call AAA before the moto-gods sent him swooping in to aid me. The motorcycle community is pretty darn awesome.
Next installment: What to do about getting this “big” trip finally under way (as in “out of Texas”). A good place to start would be a functional motorcycle, right?