11.17.2006,12:45 PM
Kingdom of the Possums - Part 2
I watched the weather forecast all week for the upcoming weekend weather. Up until Friday night, rain and thundershowers were predicted. Early Saturday morning, the storms were forecasted to move in on Sunday; scattered of course. Shrugging it off, I finished packing while drinking a pot of coffee to counteract five hours of sleep.

Bernard helped me pack and joined me on this journey. He wanted to sit up front on the console, but until the dash is installed, there’s no way to secure him down.

So Bernard rode in the back and watched the scenery from behind as it slipped away. His only complaint was that he felt like Captain Ahab strapped to Mobey Whee.

As my sister dubbed me, and I fully admit, I am a Weather Weenie. I hate cold. It makes me ache. Since it was chilly and damp, I layered. While living in Maine, I learned how to ‘layer’. It’s simple: you wear as many clothes as you can and remove a layer when you get hot, or when the outer layer gets wet. Hopefully the innermost layer will keep you warm and dry.

I can’t praise enough the UnderArmors: they keep you warm and dry. They are excellent at wicking away moisture from your bare skin. Over the tights and collared UnderArmors, I added sweatpants on my legs and a thermal shirt, fleece collared zip jacket, and a sweatshirt on top. After packing the bike and donning my insulated outer gear, I felt like the Michelin Man. I could barely move. When I sat on the bike I couldn’t turn my head to look behind me. I’m sure I waddled like a little kid in a snowsuit when I stopped in to the grocery store.

As I was soon to discover, the worst aspect of layering, especially in motorcycle gear, is going to the bathroom. No further than 15 miles from home, I had to get rid of all the coffee I drank. I pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store to use the bathroom, buy a Starbuck’s mocha and a munchie. I had to pick up my leg to get it on and off the bike seat; all these clothes impede movement, or my flexibility flew the coop overnight.

I exited the store to waddle out to the bike, picked up my leg to get it up and over the seat and sat down. I flexed and stretched each leg to get all the layers in place so that I could bend my knees and put my feet on the pegs comfortably. While doing so, even though the bike was on the sidestand, it lost balance and tipped to the right. Being a top heavy bike with a full tank of gas and loaded with camping gear, I couldn’t save it. All I could do was stand up and straddle the bike and help reduce the impact of the fall.

With Whee lying on its side, I swore and laughed simultaneously. This is the last straw: the sidestand has to be lowered more. The bike sits too upright when it’s on the sidestand. I looked down at it and wondered how in heck I was going to pick it up with all that gear packed on it. Luckily, a man descended from a blue pickup truck and helped me upright the bike. He kindly kept asking me if I was all right, and I assured him I was; I didn’t fall down, the bike did. I almost mentioned that Whee is narcoleptic, but he probably wouldn’t have seen the humor in it.

Checking everything over, nothing was harmed. The fall was low impact. Unfrazzled, I started the engine, shifted into first gear and rode out onto the road, again on my way. Riding on Hwy180 through Mineral Wells and past Palo Pinto, I could see mesas in the distance dotted with fall colors. A few places alongside 180 and extending even up along the sides of the mesas, I saw the remnants of fire. Dead black branches and trunks springing from the ground like stalagmites, ghosts frozen in time. I saw a green carpet of new grass and other plants starting to fill in the blackened soil and heal what was scorched by intense heat.

Despite knowing that infrequent fires are a natural part of the cycle in forests and plains, it still elicits a distinguished sore spot amongst the surrounding green landscape and a feeling of sadness for what has been burned and now gone. Yet the cycle continues; new plants and animals heal the area as they bring life back to the parched soil, and life springs forth again to catch up with that nearby.

Some time later riding Hwy180 I found the turn for FM33 north to the park. About a mile or so after the turn, the landscape took on a different hue. More color, different trees, pastures strewn with rocks and prickly pear cactus. The road was narrow and winding, a welcome break in the monotony of the wide four-lane highway I had left behind. I passed a few un paved county roads, packed with dirt and gravel. Hmmm…..temptation stirred to turn down one or two of these and see how Whee performed. But I resisted, knowing I had to reach the park soon to have the pick of campsites and also that a loaded Whee is probably not the best to experiment with off-roading. Another time.

I found the park road, which was pleasantly twisting and narrow, and checked in at the park entry. I was directed to find a campsite I liked, stake it as mine by leaving a few items and return to pay the fee. I rode on following the park ranger’s directions to pass several groups of campsites alongside the lake. Near the end of the park road, the last grouping of sites was up a hill and more scattered than the others. The numerous trees offered ample shade and privacy. Some of the sites had covered picnic tables on cement slabs, a fire ring on the ground and elevated bbq grills. I chose one that looked fairly level with a nice view of the lake through the trees.

I pulled off the road and in the front of the spot. After thankfully shedding my outerwear gear, and unloading the two dry bags full of tent and sleeping gear, I explored around a bit, finding a pathway down to ledges that overlooked the lake. Nice.

Pulling out my snack and the Starbuck’s mocha, I sat for a bit and looked around. Bernard wasn't sure what to make of all this, so he hid for a short while until he was assured there were no monsters.

Few of the campsites were occupied and those that were, secluded from the road. It was quiet and peaceful; I liked it thus far. I donned gear once again, rode to the office and paid my fees for my spot. On the way down, I discovered a 90-degree turn that was a surprise. More surprisingly, I failed to notice it on the way up. I’d have to remember to maneuver this one in low gear; it was virtually a blind and very narrow hairpin turn.

Returning to my site, I decided to go on walkabout before erecting the tent and completely unpacking. I grabbed the camera, tripod, and Bernard, who rode in my pocket. I found several hidden paths down to the ledges overlooking the lake, and alongside the lake and down to the cove. It was a mysterious forest sprinkled with ledges and spatters of colors, shades and textures, but not overwhelming.

To be continued.......


posted by Macrobe
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