7.27.2008,5:46 PM
Weekend countryside jaunt
"Beep, beep, beep, beep..." Wack!!!

Sorely tempted to drift back into the deep slumber I was rudely awakened from, I slammed the alarm clock at 6:30 am. I rolled out of bed despite the almost overwhelming desire for more sleep and a break from getting up at 4:15 am during the week. Time to hit the shower and get going.

Everything I needed was packed the night before. This trip was going to be bare minimum; I had little carrying capacity on the little 250cc bike. The tank bag I had ordered two weeks ago still had not arrived. The only luggage was the Wolfman tail bag already on the Sherpa and my dry bag packed with tent, bag, a small mattress pad, shorts and another tank top. No food prep this camping trip. The camera, sandals and a few items fit into the tail bag, and the dry bag was strapped on the seat in front of that.

The recovering foot and ankle were gingerly shoved into a thin sock and a summer riding boot. No room for compression bandage, but one was stashed away in the tail bag just in case. I filled my Camelbac with ice, dissolved a tube of grapefruit-flavored drink mix with caffeine in water and dribbled it over the ice. A quick strong suck on the drink tube tasted cold and strongly flavored, but it would dilute as the ice melted.

The Camelbac was slung over my back and tied in front around a thin tank top and the mesh jacket topped it off. Bike shorts under the mesh pants meant sweat would evaporate as long as I was moving. Ear plugs stuffed in under the helmet, fingers shoved in thin motocross gloves and I was ready to mount the Sherpa outside purring and ready to roll forward.

It was now 7:45. After a moment of ritual concentration collection, a deep breath and focus, clutch lever pulled in with two fingers, the left foot shifted the bike down into first: time to go.

Earlier I was concerned about weighting the little bike down too much with baggage, but I quickly discovered that the suspension was no different than without and it rode like the charming little pony it is. A little bit of a wiggle with my rear and the bike quickly flicked side to side making me grin with its responsiveness. I snapped up through the gears but settled with a speed less than 65. No reason to push the bike and it was going to be a long hot ride.

Frequently during the 220-mile ride I pulled on to the right shoulder to let other vehicles pass if I was too slow for them. Some of the roads were posted at 70 mph which is asking too much for the small engine. I waved drivers by and nearly all waved a thanks as they passed me. I waved in return.

The cool of the morning was a siren for bikes, motorized and pedal-powered. I passed motorcycles of all kinds along the way. Most riders offered some type of the typical rider salute, but I was taken aback by one man riding a black Harley. He was nearly leaning off the inside of his seat with his arm and hand outstretched toward the middle of the road in a sideways High Five. 'What in......Dude, I am not going to High Five you at 60 mph on the road!!' He had to settle for my conservative two-fingered sideways V-strom salute.

I wanted to avoid the major highways, especially the Interstate, despite that the mileage and time would be longer. My planned route was simple; only four numbered FM roads heading north and then east through small towns and countryside. Knowing that a portion of the route went through some of the most prime and pristine horse country in Texas, I was excited about seeing horses everywhere I looked for at least an hour. Even though I forgot to write down the exact location of the day's destination, all I had to do was find groups of bikes. It was a TWT Pie Run; at least 50 bikes would be converging upon a small cafe or diner to gorge on pie.

The ride was mostly uneventful and relaxing. The Sherpa handled perfectly with the added weight and the suspension was just heaven. It reminded me how bad the rear shock is on the Whee and I vowed to resolve that issue as soon possible, surely before I'm cleared to ride it again. The dirt-bike suspension is so smooth it nearly floats over bumps and railroad tracks. The only issue was the dry bag occupying more of my seat than I liked. Because I'm constantly moving back and forth on the seat, the shortened space locked me into one position. I was restricted from moving back and stretching my legs. This made me realize space constraints on future luggage plans for the bike. But that's partly what this trip was; a test run with bare minimal packing.

After refueling in Decatur, it took an extra mile or two to find the way to FM 51. This always seems to be the case whenever my route takes me through this town. Can I get there from here?? Finally finding it, I headed east and soon found a group of blurry bright lights floating in my side mirrors. At higher speeds the vibration of the bike and bar blur everything in the mirrors so images become a guessing game. But I knew these were bike headlights. And they were gaining fast.

Again I pulled onto the wide shoulder of the road, dropped a couple miles per hour and waved them by. They waved in return and this scenario would be repeated twice more. After I turned on FM 455 I passed them as they were fueling up at a station and they passed me again several miles down the road. This was repeated once more. But I had to giggle when they passed me as I was walking to the cafe after I had not only parked my bike but also changed into sandals. I beat them there.

A few miles before arriving in Celina the road traversed the edge of the huge Ray Roberts Lake. A strong pull tried to draw me off the road and into the water like a fish to a mud puddle. But I resisted with good common sense and kept riding while enjoying the odors and sight of the lake. I hoped to be camping there later that day, but remained flexible for whatever happened.

My only minor mishap on the way to Celina was a bee that went down the back collar of my mesh jacket and stung me twice. After tearing off my jacket (after I stopped), I took perverse pleasure watching him writh and die on the ground.

As I approached the town I saw ahead of me a small group of sport bikes turning left. 'Follow that group', I muttered to myself. I was sure they were heading for the same destination. Sure enough, as I approached a cobblestone square there was a long line of bikes already parked on the right. Immediately seeing no large gaps for me to easily maneuver into, I quickly assessed my options and pulled off to the left side and along the inside of the square. A lone bike parked in one of three empty parking spaces with a slight incline. Perfect; I can use gravity to help back myself up.

Before I completely got off the saddle I stretch the right hamstring which had tightened during the ride, locked into one seating position. Bending forward and holding it, I felt the muscle give into the stretch and relief in my back. The left leg followed and my back felt better. A nearby bench proved handy for sitting and pulling off the boots, replacing them with the stowed sandals. An extra bungy cord served to secure the boots onto the bike. The helmet was hung on one mirror and the jacket came inside with me to stay cool inside.

Chuck wandered over to tell me space was available for me to park the bike in with the others but I thanked him and told him I can't back the bike up with this foot. I was staying put. I wandered over to the front to mingle and visit with those already there and take some photos. Bikes were arriving in force now and filling up all the holes along both sides of the one-way narrow road that bordered this side of the square.

Occasionally attending these events for a couple years now and I've noticed a prominent pattern in myself: sensory overload. I've learned to avoid the gastronomical overload by eating light, but the visual (and auditory) senses still overload. It's like going to Madison Square Garden and unable to see anything in the sea of lights, colors, hustle and bustle; there are so many bikes in the sea.

So I usually find a wall to stand against, or a seat to sit, and just watch. And break the photographers' First Rule of Simplification (avoid busy and 'noisy' shots) by shooting close ups of a huge group of bikes: a chaotic mix of colors, shapes, textures....... I was especially fond of this group because of the colors and juxtapositions: sports bikes next to dirt bikes-wannabe-sport bikes-and-turned-into-Motards (motards are a juxtaposition in themselves, but I think I can sense why they are so popular). I shot many photos of this group from a variety of angles for different perspectives.



I have to admit this was another, maybe most favorite group. After all, they are what I like, and have: street legal dirt bike and a V-strom. I grinned big when I saw them pull up. Knobbies on a bike are Doc Martins; serious business shit-kickers. They suck on the freeway but just as fun on sweeper and roller coaster tarmac as they are biting mongrels on dirt/sand/gravel. I had a blast with the 250 this trip and on the winding FM roads. (as yesterday's wheelie testified).


Then there are the bikes that are so unusual and interesting they stand out alone in a crowd. A Piaggio MP3 and a pristine Ural.



Despite best intentions of enjoying some cold ice cream, there was no room for anything after eating only half of my sandwich. The heat and tiredness took everything out of me and all I wanted was a nap. After visiting with fellow riders outside and shooting more photos, my plans changed and I headed out to find a place that offered cool air, plenty of water and a place to curl up in a ball and sleep. Eventually I did and the evening slipped into nothingness after a good hearty dinner, cobbler with ice cream and cooler temperatures.

It was morning too soon. Time to go again.

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posted by Macrobe
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