Monday, March 27, 2006

Got out a *bit* this weekend

Besides my antics with the bunnies, it was actually a pretty busy weekend riding-wise. I got in 330 miles on Friday and about the same on Saturday. 600+ miles total.

Joining the Inks Lake Camping Crew

On Friday morning I met Scratch and Strider from TWTex for breakfast at a local Denny’s before riding out toward Austin with a nice group of 5 total riders. They were doing a weekend camping trip. I was just along for the first day’s ride.

Interestingly, of the 5 bikes on the ride, all had single-sided swingarms, and only one was Japanese: Honda Hawk GT, Triumph Speed Triple, BMW R1150GS, K1200S, and my R1200ST.

Scratch, the ride leader, chose a fantastic collection of rural goat trails and high speed sweepers. A big first for me was riding over wooden bridges (two) and stopping at a park to view the first bloomings of a field of bluebonnets. In other places, sweeps of yellow, pink, white, and yes – blue created a watercolor effect on fields stretching toward the ever-present horizon.

Texans seem to be really serious about their wildflowers. The state actually landscapes the highway system with them. There were people pulled over in the medians of busy roadways taking pictures!

We had lunch at a little cantina in Lexington. I can’t recall the name, but the place as a whole was pretty forgettable except for the entertainment provided in the form of a wall-mounted TV and the local clientele.

An older gentleman with a long white beard was intently watching a National Geographic segment on swine breeding farms when we sat down. I mostly remember thinking to myself that I really didn’t want to learn anything about the joyfully endorsed future of “pig-human relationships” while eating. After that edifying piece was over, we got to enjoy a re-run of various big cats hunting and tearing up gazelle’s in the African savannah. Let’s just say I was glad that I was seated facing away from the TV. It all very much reminded me of family dinners in my youth when everyone was yelling at dad for turning on “Nature” while we were eating dinner.

I left the group a little while later in Georgetown to slab back to Houston.

Occasionally during the ride I’d zoom out on my GPS, but usually I had no clue where I was or what roads I was on. Good thing I’d just cleared my track log, because I was able to recreate the route when I downloaded the log to my computer. Route (.est, right-click, save as)

March Pie Run to Kyle, TX

On Saturday I met with Cagiva 549 and Speed Triple to head out to the March Pie Run, a monthly event sponsored by the TWTex forum. This one was held in Kyle, a small town between San Marcos and Austin.

The roads weren’t quite as interesting and varied as those from the day before, but it was great to get out again and see more of Texas.

The pie place was interesting. They had a giant and very yummy looking piece of cherry pie hanging over the entrance. It was also exciting to see the entire main street lined with sport-touring motorcycles. Apparently someone walking by was astonished to see so many bikes and only one Harley.

After lunch and some networking (I met a fellow ST.Ner- Bluedogok – and found out that he’s also in the architecture field), Speed Triple (Tom) and I headed back to Houston. It was actually very sad. He’s from South Houston and I’m new to the state. He knew how to get back, but only on major roads. I was the same. So we essentially super-slabbed back. Oh well, at some point I’m sure I’ll get familiar enough to know exactly where to go.

Thanks to M2 on TWTex for this picture:

Here’s the route that we took to get there: Route (.est, right-click, save as)

Sori's Fishing Trip

I took the bunnies outside for some brushing and nail trimming yesterday afternoon. Bri (mom’s bunny) and Ari just wanted to sit in the sun. Sori decided to stretch her legs. She was madly hopping around the huge backyard, jumping more than I’ve ever seen her. Kelsey the scottie tried to keep up, but couldn’t.

My parents have a small goldfish pond right off their covered porch. Most of the time it's covered with a light black netting on black abs pipe frames to keep birds and other varmints away from the fish.

I guess Sori either didn’t see the pond or didn’t understand what the rocks surrounding it meant. In one of her mad dashes, she got herself stuck in the mesh right in the center of the pond. The mesh sagged, but held and she didn’t go for a dipping. It was only one jump for her, but she was beyond easy reach, so we had to pick up the net on one side and poke her with a broom handle to *assist* her off the pond.

We decided that she’d had enough after that.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

First *Ride* in Texas

After a week of slothful mornings (don’t ask) I awoke early and pulled on my riding gear. My GPS was loaded up with my best first try at a good local loop and my bike was prepped to go. The radar showed rain to the north and headed north, so I thought I’d probably be safe in the areas I’d planned to ride.

First step was to get gas. I headed up Mueschke Rd from my community and found a large station at the intersection with FM2920. As had been the case with my last few truck fill-ups, the pump wouldn’t accept my card, so I was forced to go inside. I can hardly wait until Chevron decides it likes me again. A spry old gentleman came over and said, “I wish I could ride with you, but gotta do something else today.”

Heading west on FM2920 I encountered some gentle curves before getting onto the local freeway, US290. I quickly exited onto my first curvy road of the day: FM362. It was on this road that I encountered my only LEO of the day and did my only photo-stop. The wildflowers were in bloom, the trees were lush, and the road surface was slightly damp, but mostly trustworthy.

I marveled at the scenery. People in CA often think of Texas as being a land of deserts, dusty cowboys, and cactus. East Texas (or at least the Houston area) is not at all like that. Rural roads are bordered by tall pine trees and wildflowers. The landscape is peppered with small ponds and lakes. Beautiful to my CA-bred eyes. We’ll see how I feel when the temperature starts to climb.

After FM362 I got onto SR6 for the ride up to Navasota and the eagerly anticipated 3090. A large RV exited the freeway directly in front of me and I got to follow him through probably half the planned length of the road. There was little traffic, but I don’t like passing on double yellows and there weren’t any turn-outs. I finally lost patience on a long straight and gunned it. The rest of the road, although taken at speed limit, was a blast.

After FM3090 I took a jaunt down FM244 to FM149. Rolling hills and dairy cattle seemed to be the big thing on FM149. Losing sight of the road ahead always makes me nervous, and there were several places where rolling hills caused a loss of visibility. Even more nerve-wracking were the “turn ahead” signs preceding the hills. The road got much better as I entered Sam Houston National Forest. I saw several other motorcyclists also out enjoying the road as swooped and dove through tall pine trees.

I got hit with a few minutes of rain just south of Montgomery as I made my way back home via FM249 and FM2920. I’m glad that it waited until the ride was about over.

It felt good to get out, and while the local roads experienced today cannot compare to Mt Hamilton or CA-9, there are definitely curves aplenty.

I can hardly wait to get my dad out too. I’m pretty sure that other than commuting, he hasn’t explored at all in the 2.5 years he’s been here.

My route in Streets & Trips .est (right-click, save as)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Old News: Femmoto Trackday

A thread on one of my forums got me thinking about Femmoto - a women's only trackday that I did last October in Las Vegas with several ST.N women. I revisited the website for it and found that more pictures had been posted, including several of me on various bikes in my riding leathers.

Amusingly, if you go to the page for the 2005 event and then the link for photos on from one of the official photographers, 6 of the 12 identified riders are from ST.N. This out of 150 female riders who attended!

Some shots of me:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Take me home, country roads. Or not.

Well, after much waffling, I decided to attend the Montgomery county TWTex gathering at Phil’s Roadhouse in Montgomery. This is an every Thursday meet which rotates locations within the county. It’s kind of far away for me, 34 miles or 1:15 driving time, but I didn’t have much else to do tonight except sit and watch TV with my parents.

I left home just after 6 and took some back roads out of my community to get over to FM2920 to SR249 to FM149 (Lots of 9s).

It’s interesting to compare the whole roads paradigm to California. In CA, all the roads basically run up valleys or over mountain ranges. If you cross too many valleys or go too far up some roads, you’ll have a hard time getting home and have fewer choices in routes to do so. Each day of riding requires careful planning to get home by dark.

In the Houston area, there are major roads just a few miles away anywhere you go. You could easily pick a direction and go out and get yourself lost. Getting home is just a matter of pointing yourself in the right direction. There are pretty much guaranteed to be roads to take you where you want to go.

Anyway, so tonight I went up some new country roads. They were very rural. There were fields of dairy cows, old barns, and cute little crossroads stores. It almost felt like Wisconsin. There were even a few curves as I got closer to Montgomery. I’m told the road gets even better past that city. I’ll save that experience for another time.

I arrived at Phil’s a few minutes before 7 and parked. I didn’t see any other bikes, but recognized a few faces in the window from Tuesday night. I came in and had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with the crowd. I especially enjoyed talking to a few women, one of whom had her own motorcycles and the other wanted one but was dealing with the objections of her husband (also present).

The food was excellent. I had the Santa Fe Chicken, a marinated breast with grilled onions, mushrooms, and cheese on top. The Caesar salad was also good. Highly recommended. The raw peanuts in baskets on the table were a nice touch too.

It was 8:30 when I started to gear up. I’d decided to head for I45 instead of taking back roads home, so I was fiddling with my GPS when another attendee offered to let me follow him to the interstate. I gladly accepted and was safely home within an hour and a half.

I’ll definitely be going to more of these meets. They’re relatively far away from Cypress, but I really liked the people.

My sister Amy arrives tomorrow for Spring Break. It sounds like she wants to attend a rodeo on Saturday. We'll see how that goes. I'm hoping it doesn't rain this weekend so I can get out and sample some local roads. And actually have some pictures to post instead of these mini-novels.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Settling In

Sunday’s drive shall hereafter be known as “The Day the Weather Cleared Up.” With blue skies and dry pavement, we made good time across the state of Texas. There was a little wind at times, but nothing major, so we pretty much ran speed limit at 75 mph.

It was around 90° F when we stopped at a Sonic for lunch. This one was different, more like a traditional fast food restaurant where we had to go inside to order and get our food. Then we went and sat in the car to eat so the doors could be open and bunnies/kitty could have full ventilation.

I was driving the truck somewhere around Kerrville when I asked my dad “Is it a bad sign if a highway patrol does a u-turn in the median right after passing you?” Yup, hadn’t even been in Texas for a day when I had my first encounter with the police. He informed me that the speed limit had dropped to 70mph a few miles back. I’d had cruise control set at 75, which had been the speed limit for at least the last 500 miles. He was very polite and seemed to realize that I genuinely hadn’t seen the speed limit change. I got a written warning which I’m told will not go on my record.

I was a little shaken from the experience, so Dad took over driving as soon as we could pull over again. From there it was an easy drive into Houston.

We spent Monday unloading the truck and trailer. Cali the cat spent the time mostly hiding behind the guest room bed or under the covers. He came out occasionally to stalk the family room before being scared back into the guest suite by a slamming door or loud voices. I’m sure he’ll start feeling comfortable soon. He’s generally a pretty confident cat.

My bunnies, Ari and Sori, showed no signs of stress from the trip. They quickly kicked my mom’s bunny Bri out of her favorite box and Ari has had to be chased out of the guest room pretty much every time someone forgets to close the door. She’s my little explorer.

Last night (Tuesday) I went out to PO’s Burgers on Telge Rd/290 (about a 10-15 minute ride) for the weekly Two-Wheeled Texan’s meet. TWTex is the statewide sport-touring board. I felt right at home with the group. The people were nice and very welcoming. The board seems to be a great source for local roads and lots of trips posted to various parts of Texas and the surrounding states.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A long day on the road

750+ miles would normally be torturous enough. Mix in snow, rain, high winds, and a few rubberneckers and you have a recipe for a particularly long day on the road.

We got a few flakes of snow as we left San Bernadino around 9am. It turned to rain soon thereafter and then nothing else noteworthy happened until after lunch. Upon getting back into the truck after splitting a Subway sandwich just before Phoenix, Dad and I were dismayed to find that the Silverado’s radio was no longer pushing sound out the speakers.

We pulled over at the next exit to try turning off the car to reset the radio, but found no change. We decided to drive through Phoenix instead of taking the I8 bypass so that dad could get online to do a few Google searches on this MAJOR problem. To break the monotony of driving down the interstate, Dad gave me a pair of headphones to connect to my xm radio.

Driving through Phoenix was a mistake. We got pounded by rain and spent at least an additional hour sitting in traffic slowly passing a few horrendous (and some not so serious) looking accidents. It really seemed to take forever to get to Tucson.

At a gas stop in Tucson, Dad opened up the hood of the truck to check the fuse for the “radio amplifier.” He found it in perfect health, so we had to assume that somewhere in the car some wiring must have come loose.

Imagine our surprise to hear music when we turned the truck back on! All we did was pull and reinsert the fuse. Phew!

From there it was mostly smooth sailing to El Paso. The wind died down, the rain cleared up, and we didn’t hit any more traffic.

Poor Cali the cat hit his limit around 11pm mountain time. It was 3 hours past dinner time and he hadn’t seen a litter box all day. I was torn between laughing and crying at the piteous meows emanating from the carrier.

We were all very relieved to pull into the hotel in El Paso just after midnight mountain time. No pictures today.

Next stop: Cypress, TX in the Houston area.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Moving Day

It was tight, and a few things here and there got left behind, but Dad and I managed to get pretty much everything packed into the trailer, truck bed, and extended cab.

Huge thanks to Russ and Robert for coming over Thursday night and Friday morning to help Dad and me load the truck. It would have been a much longer and more difficult process if not for the help provided by these BSG’s (big strong guys).

It would normally be difficult to write about highlights of a dash down I5, but we had some really extraordinary weather.

First, while we were still in the process of packing up the truck at my condo, it started to snow. In San Jose. Mid March. It was very weird feeling the pavement crunch as I walked around on it.

We finally left the condo at around 12:15pm. First stop was Dave’s parent’s house to drop off some sleds (not much in demand in Texas). On the way there, we encountered heavy traffic on 280 with slush piled up on the sides of the road! People were driving very carefully at least.

Other than the frustration of watching cars flash past you (55 mph CA trailer speed limit), the ride down 101 to 152 and 5 was uneventful. There was no snow in evidence on 152, so we hoped that we’d left that phenomenon behind.

I was driving when we saw a *wall of dark clouds* ahead near Buttonwillow on I5. We started getting some rain, then snow, then hail. Dad thinks that a weatherman might exaggerate the size of the hailstones to “golf ball” size. Really, they were more like gumballs. Later dad changed his story, deciding they were more like blueberries. You can see that the hood of the truck is covered with snow in this pic taken through the windscreen.

And a look behind, at snow on the green trunk and on the seat of the BMW.

After that very non-CA-Central Valley experience, Dad got on the computer and started surfing weather and road conditions sites to find out what to expect ahead. He found calls for 30 degree temperatures and 3-5” snow accumulation forecast for one of the towns up on the Grapevine. With it starting to get dark, we wanted to get over that as fast as possible.

It was snowing up on Tejon Pass, the “Grapevine”, but nothing really bad. The roads were staying free of ice.

After coming down the pass into the LA area, we were surprised to find very little traffic on the remainder of our drive to our reserved hotel room in San Bernadino.

Dinner was at a seafood restaurant where we got a free shrimp cocktail because our order was taking longer than expected. The shrimp was good, but the bunnies really enjoyed the spring mix lettuce that it was resting on. Our waiter probably thought it a little strange that we wanted a “doggie bag” for the garnish.

Next stop: El Paso, TX

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tonight's Fortune Cookie

I am NOT a superstitious person, but this certainly was uplifting:

"Look for Happiness and you will find it."


Last night I found out that my ST will go exactly 220 miles on a tank of gas. :/

I've also begun to realize that I have a lot of stuff. And dishes are harder to pack than you'd think, assuming you want them to survive a 2000 mile (Ok Jim, 1952 mile) journey.

Oh, and I somehow had comment moderation turned on with no email address set to inform me that someone had a comment they wanted me to moderate. :( Sorry Carolyn). All fixed now, I hope.

Oh, and STN'ers can be pretty chipper at 8 am on a sunny Sunday. Huge thanks to The Explorer, Twist, Bluepoof, Squidhunter, and Gragorin for waking up and coming out to spend a few hours bs'ing with overpriced coffee.

Thanks to Bluepoof for the pic:
(left to right: Twist, The Explorer, Rocketbunny, Gragorin, Squidhunter, Bluepoof)