Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to the real world..

Yep the vacation is over and it is time to go back to the real world. I had 13 days to ponder life and explore the country.

For those who are new to this blog, I ride a Yamaha V-Star 650 and the boyfriend rides the Harley Road King. Every year we take two weeks and we go. We have gone to Washington DC and down the Blue Ridge Parkway to North Carolina and across back to Texas.. We have gone straight through to North Carolina and back through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas. I guess it is quite obvious that we like to travel. This year was the longest ride we have taken. This is my ride report. Links with pictures will be provided. Feel free to pull up something to drink, put your feet up, and vicariously ride along with us!

We started out at 5:30 AM on the 13th from here in Fort Worth. Now just to let you know, I hate riding / driving in the dark. My night vision sucks to say the least. I am a third generation Texan and I am very proud of that BUT... I HATE HOT WEATHER and Texas has ALOT of hot weather. Now I don't mean the kind that there is some air moving and it is low 90's or high 80's. No, I mean the 100+ degrees and the only air moving is the wind that you generate. On a motorcycle, it is like riding in a blast furnace. Riding in the heat just saps any energy I thought I had, so riding in the dark was somewhat pleasant in the fact that it was cooler.

We headed up Hwy 287N towards Wichita Falls. Somewhere around Bowie the sun was up and the temperatures were already starting their climb. We stopped in Electra for gas and breakfast. Electra was named after the daughter of famed rancher W.T. Waggoner. There is also a historic home in Fort Worth called Thistle Hill, built by Mr. Waggoner, for his daughter Electra's wedding present. Electra, these days, is a spot in the road compared to its history. It used to be a booming place but it is now just a throwback to the days of old. It has a FULL SERVICE gas station. For those of you who are too young to remember those, that is where an employee of the station comes out and fills your tank for you AND he checks your oil, air pressure in your tires, and washes your windshield for you while your tank is filling. Yes, it is a few cents higher than self serve but, I can assure you it is worth every penny.

We headed onto Wichita Falls and the temps weren't bad. I hadn't been through there in years and the last time I was, the major arteries through town were under construction. I made Bill lead through town so I didn't get off course and we were through there in record time. Just to let you know, I usually lead when we are on the road. I set the speed as I am on a smaller bike and I can hold a speed (Love you honey!) We stayed on 287 until we got to Childress. Now luckily we were running into some overcast skies which helped to keep the heat down.

From Childress we picked up Hwy 83N, headed for Canadian Texas. If that name rings a bell, think grass fires. A few years back Texas was in one of the worst droughts in its history and the area around Canadian was literally burning up. My brother and a crew from his fire station in Hurst were sent to Canadian to assist with the wildfires. While there, a very nice lady loaned them the use of her house. She packed a bag, handed them the keys, and only asked that it be left as clean as they found it. It turns out the house used to be a brothel and had some very interesting history. Canadians population is 1800+ people. That's it, but there is some serious mailbox money going around up there. New cars, houses, places to shop and more natural gas wells than I have ever seen. There were wells, compressions stations, and switch stations almost every 5 acres. Unbelievable. Of course if your going to eat lunch in a small town, there is no better place than Dairy Queen.

Being the first couple of days, we decided to put down as many miles that we could comfortably handle. That means we were going to put down 500+ miles each day for the first two days. 490+ miles later and we put down for the first night in Garden City Kansas. It really wasn't that far from the state line to Garden City but lord have mercy that was the most boring riding I think I have ever experienced. It is bad enough that your dog tired but you roll into an area that has absolutely no features. No hills, trees, damn few houses, and to top it off, it is now HOT. Did I mention that I hate the heat???

The next morning we headed out again. We headed further North on Hwy 83 to Thedford Nebraska. From there we took a left and headed West on Hwy 2 on our way to Alliance NE. Now let me clarify something things. Most maps will not include towns that do not have post offices and being from Texas I know that sometimes it can be a long stretch of lonesome between towns. Now having said that, Nebraska was a shock! Not only is it a long stretch of lonesome between towns, they put every wanna be town on the map. Even those that don't have anything more than 4 houses. I am serious. Four houses. No church, no stores, no post office, NOTHING!

The problem with that is this: Motorcycles require gas. Towns have gas stations, right? If it is on the map it is a town, right? WRONG! Thedford to Mullen was 29 miles. No big deal. Mullen is on the map and therefore a town, ie.. a gas station. We got to Mullen, 4 houses and a gift shop. A GIFT SHOP... No gas station. No church. No school. Not even a cross street. We were ok on gas so we decided to push on to Whitman, another 37 miles. Whitman was the same as Mullen. NOTHING! Hyannis, Ashby, Bingham, and Ellsworth. All the same. NOTHING. Now I know that my motorcycle will go 190.2 and no farther. The Road King, you really are pushing it at 140. Now at Ellsworth we were really cutting it close. Some people in Ellsworth said the next town up, Lakeside about 7 miles, would be our best bet. Meanwhile Mother Nature is starting to show herself and you see storms in the distance, but we have time, right? The guy at the local gift store (yeah they had one too) makes the comment: "don't let that tornado get ya!"

We pull out and head West to Lakeside. We are at best 3 miles down the road and I look up to see black clouds. Not stormy blue. Black. Black churning clouds. Now the speed limit in NE is 70 mph. It is also a helmet state. Bill has on a skid lid half helmet and I have on the Nolan N42 three quarters helmet with a shield. I am watching these clouds just churn and it has gotten DARK.

We are running 70 mph and all of the sudden the leading winds hit. When the front line of winds hit they cause a down force and let me tell you how bad that can be. That wind hit out of the Southwest at 60+ mph. Bill was leading and I saw him and the bike lean HARD and he was gone. It blew him completely off the pavement, past the emergency shoulder, and out into the grass. Now the bike, Bill, and all the luggage weigh in at more than 1000 lbs. The bike alone is 863 lbs. He managed to keep it upright but the wind was making it nearly impossible to get back up on the pavement. Meanwhile, when the wind hit us, it got up under my helmet. The wind was literally lifting me up off the bike via the helmet. At one point I was standing on the floor boards and hanging on. There was no steering as there was no leverage. The wind was pushing me directly towards Bill. I was screaming but hanging on but I knew if I hit him, neither one of us was gonna make it home, not alive anyway.

I know it only lasted a couple of seconds but it felt like a lifetime. Luckily the wind just stopped, as fast as it started it quit. At this point I have the throttle wide open just from hanging on. It shot me past Bill within a couple of feet. The wind was so loud that my ears were ringing and I couldn't hear a thing. I saw the driveway for an old diner and made for it. It turns out this was the town of Lakeside. A closed up diner and three houses. Great.

Now I used to be a police officer and I have had guns pointed at me. I do not ever remember being as scared of that as I was after that wind. I was damn near hyperventilating. The wind was picking up again and I was trying to get off the bike. It was blowing hard again and it just knocked me off my feet. I was literally holding onto the pole on the porch of this diner just to keep upright. Bill managed to back the bikes around to the East side of this diner out of the worst of the wind. We got our rain gear out and damned if just as we got it on? The rain quit. I didn't care. The wind quit too and I just wanted to get to a hotel. We rode the few miles up the road to Alliance NE and called it a day.

Well that concludes day two. I will post more later. Meanwhile you can enjoy the scenery from the trip. Here are the links:

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