Going Home Day One

 Going Home Day One

Sunday July 25, 2010

1217 Miles

Objective for the day:

Kerrville Texas


In order to set the stage for coming home, I have to back up and tell you about a few other things that played a part in some of my decisions.  Before I left Albany, Elaine and I had numerous discussions about some place to spend Friday afternoon on a casual bike ride.


If you remember from early parts of the story how hot is was on the bike, you can understand now that the earlier I leave the longer I can ride in the cool evening and early morning.  I have decided that the best thing to do is leave around one in the morning so I can be as far as possible before the sun comes up and the heat sets in.


We pack everything we can in our suitcases and stack all of my odds and ends by the door.  I will pack the trailer as soon as I get out of the banquet tonight.  The party is over at 10:15 and we head to our room.  I change clothes and pack the remaining stuff in the suitcase, and start packing the suitcases in the trailer.


I had mailed home two boxes of dirty clothes on Friday, so I was able to take the carry-on bag Elaine had brought with her.  Everything fit nicely and I was able to put my bag where I could get to it because I would need it on Sunday night.  I robbed an ice machine of all of the ice it had (I donít understand how an ice machine can make ice in this heat) and added it to my cooler.  The ice machine in our refrigerator was sacrificed as well.  Hopefully this is enough to make through the day.


I am packed, and loaded.  I had taken a nap earlier in the day, so I wasnít sleepy.  I was excited to get started so at Midnight (PST) I pulled out headed to Kerrville Texas.  According to my gps, Kerrville is 1170 miles and I should get there around 8:00 that evening.


It is 97 degrees.  It is midnight and it is still 97 degrees.  The air is thick and the heat is really bad.  I sure am glad I didnít wait until later to leave.  There are very few vehicles on the interstate at this hour.  I like that because it allows me to use my high beams.  The moon is full and I can look out at the desert and actually see the plants.  It is really eerie looking.  The coolest it got this morning was 92 degrees


Elaine asked me, ďHow are you gonna see if something is in the roadĒ.  I said I would just keep an eye out for debris.  I think she jinxed me.  Not 100 miles down the road, I had just sat back, propped my left foot up on the foot peg and wham the whole bike seems to leap off the ground.  I do not know what I hit, but I hit it with both wheels.  Now I am sitting up and paying attention to the bike.  I checked the tires by weaving a little.  I watched the temperature gauge.  I donít feel or see anything out of the ordinary. 


For the next hour or so, I pay more attention to the road.  I scan the lane ahead of me to look for debris, but do not see any more.  Instead of riding in the center part of the lane, I ride in the right or left track and ride more in the left lane.  After an hour or two I finally start to relax and enjoy the ride.


Somewhere in the early morning, while it was still dark, I pulled off to get gas.  The station that was open, was a couple of cents more than the one that was closed.  A strange thing is that most closed stations still leave their gas pumps on so that they can continue to make money while closed.  I saw that the pumps were on at the closed station so to save a couple of pennies I pulled in and got off the bike.  While I was filling the bike in the dark, I noticed a person sitting on the curb, and a car with the engine running but no lights on.  I was getting nervous especially after the guy on the curb got up and started wandering.


I got my pistol out and put it in my pocket just for the hell of it.  The car moved from one side of the station to the other still with his lights off.  Now I was really wondering if I had made the right choice.  I finally relaxed and put my gun back in the saddlebag when a Police cruiser pulled up across the street.  Funny thing, I canít figure out where guy is that was sitting on the curb.  I couldnít be happier than when I pulled out of there and back on the interstate.


Note to self:  Only stop at open stations from now on.


It is three oíclock in the morning local time when I stop at a gas station on the east side of Phoenix.  I only remember this because I could not figure out what time it really was.  I thought I had changed time zones, but I couldnít make any sense out of it.  I think the lack of sleep is catching up on me.  I thought I was running fast enough to outrun lack of sleep, but I guess the stops for gas are allowing it to catch up.  If this paragraph doesnít make sense, then you can get an understanding of how I felt.


On the east side of Phoenix is Chandler.  I remember that the Exchange National Convention in 2012 is going to be at some casino in Chandler.  After I got home, I looked up where the casino is and decided that I saw it off to the right as I passed through Chandler.  Maybe I did and maybe I did not, but I am convinced I did.  Tucson is the next big town.  For now it is back onto the dark and boring interstate.  I am starting to see faint indications of the coming dawn.


Probably the worse thing was I started getting sleepy.  About sun up, I started looking for a rest area with a covered picnic table.  I was going to sacrifice a little of my time and try to nap for a few minutes.  It seemed like almost every rest area was closed for repairs.  I finally found one, grabbed a jacket out of the trunk and sat down at a picnic bench put the jacket on the top and laid my head on the jacket.  I had read about Iron Butt riders who say they stayed at the Iron Butt motel.  This is where you pull up at a curb store or gas station and with your helmet still in place and motorcycle on the center stand, lay their head on the tank bag and sleep.


I woke up in about 20 minutes and that seemed to be just what I needed.  I was refreshed and ready to take on the grueling miles ahead.  I drank some coke and ate a pack of cheese crackers and hit the road.


I spent the night in Lordsburg New Mexico on Tuesday night.  I knew there was a McDonalds there and so I stopped to get my oil changed (There is enough grease and oil in the food that it is the equivalent of getting an oil change).  BIG mistake, the place is packed and it takes a lot longer than I wanted to spend.  I prefer to get in and out quickly when I stop for gas or food.  I am always fighting the time, and every minute stopped is another minute added to my arrival time.


I am back on the road and I am running tank to tank between stops.  I go till I need gas and stop long enough to fill the bike and empty me and hit the road again.  I am only getting about 160 to 170 miles on a tank of gas because of the speed and the weight of the trailer.  Sometimes I do not wait until I need gas because the gas stations can be few and far between.  I am trying to stop before the need gas light comes on. 


The only really large towns today will be Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso.  Large towns slow me down quite a lot.  They have reduced speed limits and lots of traffic.  Luckily it is Sunday so traffic is not as bad as it could be.


As I enter El Paso, traffic comes to a dead stop.  Three lanes of traffic and we crawl about 100 feet and stop; crawl another 100 feet and stop.  I donít mind telling you that I was really roasting.  This went on for about 30 minutes, and then off we went again.  I remember 80 mile per hour speed limits when I was going to California.  I am now at least 20 miles east of El Paso and no 80 mile per hour speeds.  Just when I am about to give up, here is the change.  I quickly push my speed to 81 mph keeping in mind what the trouper had told me on Tuesday.  Everyone was easing along at the same pace, which made traffic run nicely.


The only close call on the entire trip was where I-10 and I-20 split. I-20 goes north and I-10 goes south.  There are three lanes, with the center lane going in either direction.  The only other vehicle in the intersection was a semi running in the far right lane like he was going to turn onto I-10.  I moved to the middle lane to pass him.  I was just about even with the cab when he decided to change his mind and turn across both lanes and head to I-20.  I was in the far left side of the lane as is my custom when passing a semi.  I caught his movement out of the corner of my eye; he was heading right for me.  I hit the throttle and moved all the way to the emergency lane and he came behind me.  I realize he was probably about 40 feet or so behind me, but he never made any effort to correct his mistake and he was way to close for my liking.  He is a lot bigger than me and looks even bigger when he is this close.  I am thankful that this is one of the times when I was paying close attention.


I ride through a couple of showers today and am thankful for the relief from the heat.  I do not bother to put on my rain suit.  Ahead of me is a really menacing looking black cloud.  I ponder stopping and putting on my rain suit and decide not to.  It rains really hard, and I get really wet, but it feels good.  I play around with this shower for about 30 minutes before running out on the other side.  It doesnít take long for me to dry off.  Just as the rain is ending, I pass a pickup truck sitting on an off ramp pointed in the wrong direction.  It appears he has spun out and there is bush debris around him.  I could not tell what happened, but others were already stopping to see about him so I pushed on.


The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  I-10 through western Texas is barren of traffic.  Yes there are cars, but you feel more like you are on some county four lane instead of an interstate.  You have to be careful and plan your gas stops.  I went a little too long and had to stop at a station in the middle of nowhere and with no competition.  Gas was $3.17 a gallon.  I didnít think gas could get more expensive then my stop in Presidio, but it can.  When I went inside to get my receipt the guy standing at the counter had a mask on his face, but was wearing a white hat.  I guess the mask was because I had just got robbed, and the white hat was because he saved me from running out of gas.  Go figure.


 There is not much to look at.  The scenery doesnít seem to change much.  It seems like everything is small scrub plants and flat mesas.  The mesas canít be more than a few hundred feet high.  I passed one area where there were wind turbines on top of the mesas.  Some had one or two and others had fifteen or twenty.  It was interesting that in any given group there would be three or four just sitting there doing nothing while the others toiled away.  I think this is an interesting concept, and wished I knew more about it.  Makes you wonder how much they cost and whether they are private or owned by the utility companies.  There are a lot of different size wind turbines mixed helter-skelter on each of the mesas.  I donít see any rhyme or reason for the different sizes.


I get to the motel around the time the sun was setting.  I got checked in and was going to find something to eat.  The desk clerk said there were only two sit down restaurants close by and neither was what I was looking for.  He told me that there places on the other side of town, but I was too tired to go that far.  Chicken McNuggets and fries eaten in my room turned out to be my meal


After finishing my three course meal, I went back out to the bike and programmed both gps for the trip home on Monday.  Both say I will be at home at 8pm so I plan to get up at 4am and be on the road at 5pm.  I went back to the room where I relaxed in the whirlpool tub and went to bed.  I was out like a light, probably just before my head hit the pillow.  I woke up in the middle of the night and the TV was still on.  I turned it off and went back to sleep.