Part III – Santa Fe to Ft. Worth

Family Loop Tour, Part III

I forgot to mention in my last report the popularity of home made V8 powered trikes in Santa Fe. Most of them looked like junk yard wars creations, but there were a number of fine looking machines also. Most seemed to be built on automobile frames. Also as I entered NM there was a portable lighted sign that read “100 days and nights of summer cops. We’re everywhere.”

Back tracking here as I thought about this in Santa Fe the night before I departed to Houston.

When I was in the early planning stages of my tour, I had intended to go to the rally in Gillette, WY. I figured that I could someone to ride out with and then ride on to visit with my children from there.

This situation would accomplish a lot for me as I have never taken a long trip alone and mentally the trip to Gillette or Denver was going to be the hardest leg for me. Three to five days on the road before I reach my destination as compared to two days for each of the other legs.

Back in 1981 my wife and I did our last two week motorcycle tour. It was decided that we would not camp out and thus didn’t bring any camping gear. We were following the St Lawrence in Gaspe and headed around the east coast of the peninsula when we decided the scenery was way better on the west coast. So I cut across the peninsula on a 75 mile remote road and this is where I discovered that my tent and sleeping bag served as a security blanket for me and my wife was also part of that security blanket to.

I recall being so uncomfortable on that ride that I could not wait for us to reach the west side. Homes were spaced out over 10 miles from each other and I recall keeping track of the odometer readings so that I would know how many miles it was to the last home we saw in case I had to walk there.

When I read some of the travel stories on this list by solo riders, I am in awe. In February at the Del Val BMW riders diner, Doug Raymond did a slide show presentation of Moto Eddy’s around the world ride. I sat there in amazement as I know that I would never have the balls to do such a trip. I had similar reactions to Doug Raymond’s trip to Alaska and Charles Hehl’s trip to Mexico and all the other solo rider trip reports I forgot I read.

As the departure date for my trip got closer and closer, I started to look for reasons as to why my bike is not ready for the journey so that I could say that I tried but it did not work out.

Some real reasons to put off the trip were the seat from Sargent that did not work out and I was not able to get the 12mm bolt out of the right side handle bar to install a throttle lock. It was a tough decision sending the Sargent seat back because I knew that the stock seat would get uncomfortable after 200 miles. I was praying that the Butt Pad would be way better than the stock seat.

So for this trip I had to cross a major hurdle and even though I had room for a tent and sleeping bag on my passenger area, I managed with great reluctance to leave them home.

As I got very little sleep the night before I departed, I got tired about 120 miles into my ride and stopped on the PA tpk service area to rest. Two elderly farmer gents (bib overalls) walked by me and one of them asked where I was from and was I out for a Sunday ride. When I told them I was headed to Denver to visit my son, the one brother that was close to me, his face lit up and he kept saying “Denver” over and over. This was a great Kodak moment and I will never forget the look on his face. He seemed so amazed that some old man was going to ride his motorcycle all the way to Denver.

While I was leaning up against a tree resting I realized that I reached the point of no return. There was no way I was turning back and giving up and no more dwelling on my decision to leave the camping gear home. Time for the journey to begin!!

On discussing my route to Houston there was much discussion with my son’s friends and I about riding on remotely traveled roads. I would only do them as a last resort. So the description I got of the Texas panhandle was: dusty, flat, windy, oil derricks and boring. Not much to look forward to, but it seemed to be the lesser of the evils.

As I knew that I would loose an hour on this day, I set my gps to Central time before I departed. With all these time changes, dawn comes at different times of the morning and I left Santa Fe at 5:45 am Mountain time. The temp was 48 degrees and I had to take a remote road, 285 south about 65 miles to get to I40 east to Amarillo. I only saw one car on this road the whole time and I was somewhat uncomfortable.

The interstate in Texas, had the worst roads of the trip so far and there were no rest stops, only picnic areas and believe me driving with all the trucks, was no picnic. It didn’t take long for the temps and the wind speed to go up. I had to pull off the highway to remove layers of clothing and many times my gear would blow off my seat while I was changing clothing.

When I started my southeast descent towards Wichita Falls on rt 287, I started to realize that this was going to be one tough ride. The winds were howling and the temp was 99 degrees. I was not sure if the temperature gage on my bike would go past 99 because it stayed there so long and it kept feeling warmer. I had on my Silver Eagle cooling vest and my rider warehouse Evapora Dana. As I did not expect temps soo high, I only dampened them.

By early afternoon I learned that my temperature gage did indeed read past 99 as the temperature continued to rise. At a gas stop where I soaked my cooling gear in cold water and put them on soaking wet, a rider on a BMW R1150 RT in a one piece Roadcrafter pulled into the gas station. He was returning from Alaska and headed home to Dallas.

I asked how he was keeping cool in his riding gear and he just smiled at me. When I complained about the heat and winds to him, he just said “welcome to the desert”. DESERT, I did not see any friggen signs that said “welcome to the desert” when I got onto rt 287. Those bastards in Texas, don’t pave the roads and don’t warn you about the desert. And they also have the gall to have picnic stops with no facilities and believe me, I was having no picnic right now.

I made one more stop for gas and to hydrate my riding gear and when I went to start the bike, nothing happened. Very calmly, I checked the kill switch and all was well. I thought that maybe the bike had some sort of temperature related starting problem. Then I realized that my side stand was retracted and the bike was in gear.

I added a side stand extender to the bike and the extra weight of the kit causes the side stand to vibrate when it is retracted and it probably vibrated back down.

I rode until about 3 pm when my temperature gage showed 108 degrees, just a mere 60 degrees warmer than when I left Santa Fe in the morning. And while riding through the panhandle, I did keep thinking about the fact that there was no shade to be found. The only thing positive was that there was a fair amount of traffic and if I needed help, I would just stop in the middle of the road.

The only lodging in the next town, Memphis, TX was a Travel Lodge. My least favorite place to stay. But I was beat, both mentally and physically. It took about 10 minutes for someone to show up and check me in. I ask if this was unusual for the temp to be this high and the lady said no, it is usually higher. Well I thought to myself, I’m glad I got here when they were having a cold spell. I only put on 350 miles for my 910 mile ride to my daughters. No way could I do 560 miles tomorrow if the weather conditions stay the same.

The room had the bed in the front and the air conditioner in the rear. The compressor never shut off the whole time I was there. After I showered and put on dry clothes I went over to the restaurant that was on the same property. It was so bad that the plastic glasses that they used to serve water were all chipped badly at the rim. What a shit hole. I also decided to check the temp on my bike and it read 107 so I took a picture of it.

I was really down at this point and I wanted to quit my journey here. But how would I escape from Memphis. If there was a Fed Ex or UPS place nearby, I would disassemble my bike and ship it home in 30 boxes and then hitch a ride with a trucker in his air conditioned rig.

I called my daughter in Houston and told her about my dilemma. It looks like I will not be there until two more days. I asked her to look into tomorrow’s weather for some surrounding towns as I might have to make a course change to get to better riding conditions.

My daughter called me later and after looking at my options it was decided to stay on course as the local temp at sunrise was going to be 71 degrees and moderate winds and head to Wichita Falls where the temps were only going to be in the mid 90’s. Holly shit! Tomorrow I will be riding in a cold front. Pleaseeee, get me to this place as fast as you can.

As rt 287 was very remote, I was concerned about wildlife early in the am. As I didn’t know what time dawn would be, I got up at 3:45 am and got ready to leave. There was some sporadic truck traffic and I checked the weather channel and it showed that local temp at 75 and moderate winds to Fort Worth.

When I went out to load the bike I knew it was hotter than 75 degrees and my bike thermometer showed 82. I can’t believe how bad the weather forecasters are on the weather channel.

While waiting for dawn, I kept thinking about Larry Grodsky of Rider mag who was killed in a deer collision on some Texas backroad. Not a pleasant thought, but as it was 82 degrees outside I was getting desperate to escape from Memphis.

At 4 45 am I decided to leave and I waited at the road side for a car to pass so that I could use it for a shield. In about 5 minutes a panel truck went by and I caught up to it pretty fast. I stayed about three car lengths behind the truck and we were doing about 65 mph. The driver was riding in the left lane and I assumed that he wanted more time to react in case a deer were to come out from the woods on the right side. About a half hour of this and the driver seemed to become suspicious of me following him and he moved into the right lane and then slowed down and I just followed him. As I saw a truck up ahead I passed the panel truck and caught up with the 18 wheeler and I stayed in the left lane about even with the front of his truck. Even though he was going slower that I wanted to, I just stayed where he could see me and I noticed that the winds were picking up again and so was the temp.

At dawn, I broke free of the truck and as I was getting hungry, I stopped for a quick breakfast. The worst scrambled eggs I ever had. It seemed like they added a lot of water to the eggs. Whew, another shit hole.

By the time I got to Fort Worth, I decided that I was going to reach my daughters house that day. The gps showed my arrival time at 1 36 pm and I decided that with minimal stops, I could make it to Sea Brook and beat the rush hour traffic in Houston.

To be continued.