Quick Trip to Big Bend

I was reading though some email one evening when a VFR forum post called “AM in Arkansas” caught my eye.  This lucky Kansas rider was taking a solo trip to the Ozarks on their trusty Honda VFR800.  A machine I am quite familiar with. 🙂


This strangely made me a little jealous.  My yearly long trip with my band of misfits “my riding buddies” never really manifested.  With the end of the year approaching, I started to feel the door closing on a opportunity for an extended ride.  Argh!!!!  

Blogs, forums, groups.   It amazes me how small the world can appear sometimes when your thumbing through the experiences and knowledge of fellow riders.  I sometimes live vicariously through some of the posts and start to formulate my own personal excursions.  


This spurred that ever returning urge to get out on my bike one more time before the end of the year.  A few of my riding buddies scheduled a late year ride I was not able to originally attend.  One of those kinds of rides that can be a quick get there and back without too much preparation.  That destination is the Big Bend region of West Texas. Lucky me, they reschedule.  The Big Bend area of West Texas has seen me a few times in the past on a slew of different bikes.  I tend to rotate bikes pretty frequently and it turns out that I needed to see what a recent acquisition of mine, a 2006 Ducati ST3, can do out in the deep nothing of West Texas.  


A quick 4 day trip was all I needed.  Not a long trip but just enough to quiet my demons and stretch the Italian legs of my Ducati.  As you can probably already see, my bikes of choice tend to be sport tourers of one type or another.  


It’s funny how big Texas can be sometimes.  Luckily our 80mph plus speed limits help scoot us along to your destination.  We super slabbed it on I-10, observing the very generous speed limits of course.  Only stopping for bio breaks and fuel when needed.  The highways in Texas are gorgeous in these parts.  Rolling hills, smooth pavement, fuel stops adequately spaced and rest stops when needed.  The only concern I had was the wildlife that would wonder onto the highway so we traveled late morning and got to Fort Davis by 3pm or so.  Checked in our very favorite motel, The Stone Village Tourist Camp motel.  I’m not much of a camper so we rough it in a couple of cozy motel rooms.  The temp was dropping so we quickly checked in, unpacked and got ready to visit our favorite Market for beer and snacks and plan dinner later. 


Our evenings for the entire trip were spent at a great bistro in Fort Davis called The Blue Mountain Bistro.  Food, drink, staff and atmosphere were all wonderful. Since the town was small, our stroll to and from the bistro was very convenient.  We indulged and got back to our rooms to rest for the next day.

The credit for the map above goes to rhilliard.net





Our second day was filled with a ride from Fort Davis to Alpine TX down to Study Butte/Terlingua.  Then to do the extremely picturesque and technical road that is 170.  A ride we missed the last time this group and I were in the area due to heavy rains left the road with a ton of run off debris on it.


The trail led us to Presidio for a quick fill up.  Then off to the funky town of Marfa TX.  What an unusually place.  Very artsy and bohemian.  We stopped at Planet Marfa for a drink and a bite to eat.  




Temperatures started to drop again right after our late lunch.  We raced back Fort Davis to call it a day.  Later that evening  our friend Thomas decided to join us from San Antonio after work.  It was good to add him to the mix.  


Map credit to Sundaymorningrides.com



Our 3rd day started with a ride around the Fort Davis Loop.  Another scenic route around the semi mountainous area fill with long sweepers. We made our way towards Valentine to visit the famous Prada Marfa Art Sculpture.  A very unusual item you do not expect to see in the emptiness of west Texas.  



After the Prada Marfa Store we shot over to Alpine Texas to visit some friends that were involved in the Alpine Tx Art Walk Festival.  


Voni Glaves, besides being a wonderful artist she and her husband Paul are also accomplished motorcycle travelers.  More on Voni & Paul here.

We called it a day once again and headed back to Fort Davis.  Another wonderful trip.  Shared one more wonderful meal and back we went to rest for our trip back.

Our buddy Brandan had other plans to get us home.  We scooted east on 90 and took a left on 349 in Dryden TX.   Ended up at Fort Lancaster. We didn’t have time to look around much so got back on bikes and hit I-10 to get us home.  Our buddy Thomas broke off sometime later to enjoy some twisties in Leakey, Tx before getting home.  The rest of us shot straight home. 

Good times my friends.   Do it again soon. 

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Harvest Classic Motorcycle Rally – 2016


Missed last years event due to rain but heard it was one that was attended by many and have stories to tell for a long time to come.  

This motorcycle rally isn’t the norm.  Focusing on classic and vintage European motorcycles of all kind.  Let’s say the Harley crowd is kept to a minimum and easy to spot.   

The rally serves two purposes:  a wonderful together for all motor-heads that love vintage and classic European and Asian motorcycles.  And also the most important of all in the name to battle childhood cancer.  May we cure cancer soon. 


The rally has been hosted for the last 14 years by the wonderful town of Luckenbach, TX.  Nestled in the hill country of Texas.  Made famous by Waylon Jenning’s song Luckenbach, TX.  A sleepy town that is known for its music and those wanting to escape from the city life for a little while.  


Camping is allowed.  And the weather is perfect for it.  Fall has dropped our temps well below of the 90’s.  I hope to camp one of these years.  Folks were riding to and from their camp sites on small pit  bikes and dirt bikes.   The ones that stood  out the most, were the trails bikes.  They were making their way to and from the few made trail areas.  Crazy what these bikes can manage. 



Then there was the area where exemplary bikes were displayed for judging.  Some great examples were found.  


The parking lot was equally impressive with the bikes the folks rode to the rally in.  Also a makeshift tent city where the main grounds were way over booked.   One bike that caught my eye was one that is definately on my bucket list to own one of these days.   The Motus MST.  Well until next year, enjoy whatever is left of your riding season.   

Salud!


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Finally an Italiana. 

I’ve always wanted either an Aprilia Futura or a Ducati ST.  But the typical maintenance horror stories you hear from some have kept me away from them.  I finally bit the bullet and got me a “Duc”.  


A 2006 Ducati ST3 came home with me late Aug 2016.  Not the ST3″S” model, but this one was upgraded with an Öhlins racing rear shock and upgraded front fork springs.  She is a sexy beast.  

The previous owner and Ducati of Austin were very helpful and shared the entire bikes maintenance history.  So I had no real reason to deny her any longer.   

Took her out on a couple of short Hill Country rides recently.  Rides like a dream.  Sounds like a brute.  Looks like a super model.  More to come later.  

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And then there was Buellah.

2007 Buell XB12X Ulysses

2007 Buell XB12X Ulysses

Started my search for an “Adventure” style motorcycle that didn’t mind a little dirt every once in a while. But I wanted something that had some personality.  Originally fell in love with another ugly duckling, 2005 Ducati Multistrada.  But the parts availability and the general uncertainty of the Ducati scared me off this time.  The Buell Ulysses was on the bucket list for quite some time now.

When I first started down the rabbit hole of motorcycling, I had to take a riding class. Since I purchased a Harley, the class I took back in 2005 was the Riders Edge training class.  The instructors were these two older fellas.  Looking back, the instructors wore Buell adventure riding gear and of course rode Ulysses.  I was blinded by the Easy Rider character that I wanted to be.  That i really didn’t care to notice or register the kind of bikes they rode.

This unusual bike produced by Buell decided to do things their way.  Fuel carried in the frame (4.4 gals).  Motor oil in the swing arm.   Powered by a Harley inspired 1200 sportster engine.  All weighing at about 450 lbs.  I’ve owned a sportster in the past and this bike does not ride like one at all.  The bike does share the potato V-twin sound and feel.  With the familiar spastic shake at idle.  But as soon you launch, the bike smooths out.

Rev band is limited, red lining at about 6500 rpm.   Coming from Japanese sport touring bikes, you become very familiar with the rev limiter.  The front and rear suspension is fully adjustable.  Very nice to have to dial in that feel depending on what is ahead of you.  The transmission provides you with a 5 speed gear box.   I found out, that is all you need.

I love the simplicity of the bike.   No radiator and up right riding position.  Two factory power outlets (one on the dash and another under the seat) makes this rig very adaptable and convenient.  Being an air cooled bike, I was surprised to find that it has a cooling fan on the rear cylinder.

After much consideration.  The ruggedness of this bike made me yern for the refinement of a sport tourer again.  I decided to put it up for sale.  Didn’t take long, new owner paid my asking.  Wow!   I’ll try to own another in the future.  


 

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MotoGP at COTA – 2016

Since the opening of the track in Elroy, Texas (Suburb of Austin, TX).   My self and a few of my good friends have been coming to support motorcycle racing at it’s best.   I consider myself lucky to have such a wonderful venue so close to my home in San Antonio, TX that we can just ride up to COTA (The Circuit of the Americas) to partake.

My good buddy Javier was chosen to be a track marshal.  With his stature and build, you would want him helping you get your strayed bike back on the track.  He really enjoyed himself.   Shared that there were volunteers that came from all corners of the US.  And a few from abroad.   Would like to help out at one of these races either for MotoGP or MotoAmerica one of these days.

My group of friends and I have really enjoyed sitting in Turn 15, Section 15 for the last couple of years.   You can really enjoy some really good battles from there.  Plus it’s close to the eats/drinks, entrance and the retail stuff.

I was lucky enough to meet and get an autograph from Pol Espargaro.  Very friendly fella.

Ideas for next year.   This area was teaming with families and their young kids.   I have a 3 year old that would love this.  My wife, not so much.   We will see.

This section was just after the bridge leading into the Retail area.   The smell of the racing fuel and the sound of the racing engines were intoxicating.

 

Bravo Ducati!   Your Ducati Island is one to greatly admire.  No demo bikes to ride though.  Maybe next year.  🙂


 

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“Eleanor”

My good friend Nelson had mentioned that this bucket list bike was my “Eleanor”.  Taken from the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” to describe the automobile the lead actor longed for but never owned.  I’ve owned a couple of 6th Generation VFRs but have been told the best version was the 5th gen with its gear driven cams and no VTEC voodoo. 

More to come later.

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Consuelo is gone, the itch is back.

The time came to sell my 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14.  She was a fun and reliable steed.  But once again I long for something different for this new riding season.

Disfruta Diego!

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MotoGP Viewing Party at COTA

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To celebrate the return of a new season of MotoGP, The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) hosted a viewing party of the 1st race from Qatar.  The sponsors RideSmart and Woods Fun Center gave out door prizes and raffled out goodies.  COTA graced us with a parade lap!  Thanks to the powers that made this happen.  I hope they do this again in the near future.

Can’t wait to return for the big show in April with a few of my friends.

GO ROSSI !!

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Off season gear shopping

It’s summer in Texas and the temps are in the triple digits plus humidity at +50%. Most of my riding is on hold until the weather gets a little cooler. During this off time I start to “troll” through Craigslist and eBay for riding gear. Trolling is simply the act of enthusiastic searching. Shopping can be very fruitful when looking for off-season riding gear.

I’m a bit of a collector of riding gear and because of that I have to be frugal when shopping. This leaves me looking at quality pre-owned/used gear. Some are put off by used gear and I can understand. Most jackets, pants and such can be washed/cleaned. I would be leery about purchasing a used helmet but almost everything else is game. My suggestions and methods may vary in your area or your comfort level. Used gear can be from from online retailers, forums and local classifieds. When dealing with an online retailer, you may not have the luxury of a return policy. Knowing your particular size from the manufacture you are considering is key. Most manufactures will post sizing charts and guides to give you an idea how their gear will fit. A common issue is that European companies tend to sway to a more a slim/athletic fit. We here in America tend to be more robust in areas so be aware. Sizing can also deviate from the normal XS-XXL and use a traditional jacket measurement utilizing Chest/Waist/Neck sizing normally found in suits and others. Sizing may be in inches others in metric measurements. A quick visit to YouTube can sometimes find a review or two from a retailer that can help with sizing.

I start with my local Craigslist and a similar site called OfferUpNow. Search through the general catagories vs the specific category to cast a wide net. Trying common misspellings and such. Next in the motorcycle sale ads. Sometimes you can pick up some gear from a person selling a bike. Next I’ll try SearchTempest.com. SearchTempest is a search engine that polls multiple Craigslist cities at once. Sometimes it will pull up older ads folks may have forgotten or passed by. Dealing with an out-of-town seller can take some trust. Some may agree to a PayPal transactions other may not.

Forums are another great source for gear. But with like minds comes like tastes. Gear usually gets snatched up pretty quickly. The trust level is higher in forums. Folks tend to have a reputation within that community and the likelihood of being scammed is low. Your riding groups is another great resource. Some use Meetup and Facebook to organize rides and discussion chats. Easy to set up a face to face for a purchase or even a trade.

I know of one retailer that sells pre owned gear. That is Motorcycle gear.com (formally new enough.com). Revzilla and others may post closeout and limited size runs sometimes but are few and hard to find sometimes. I really miss YellowdevilGear.com. The owner moved on to other things but her gear exchange store was unique and classy.

eBay tends to be self-explanatory. What I have found out is to search for misspellings and sometimes auctions with little description. You can ask the seller for more info to see if an item fits the bill. Don’t be swayed away from the international market. I have found some great deals from Europe and Australia. Shipping can be higher but it all depends on the deal.

I hope this helps someone fill their gear closet with the missing pieces they need. If you have other suggestions, please feel free to share.

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Prescription Eyewear and Helmets

Riding motorcycles for a person that is near sighted leaves us with a few of options. Either wear contact lenses, wear glasses or have a procedure to correct your vision like LASIK.
I’ve been wearing glasses ever since elementary (primary school). So I’ve grown accustomed to them and they have, in someway, become part of my personality. I tried the contact lens route but was troubled with the wind drying them out and continuously applying rewetting solution. The risk and quality of Lasik still concerns me and I am willing to wait for bigger and better things.
But as most of you (fellow glasses wearers), our battle with our glasses and helmets is a daily task. I used to struggle with my metal frames, carefully trying to tuck them in between the padding or my helmet and my head. Either to slowly start tearing the padding or bending/breaking the temples itself. So I started researching other options. I remembered watching war movies that involved pilots and how they seemed to wear glasses with temples with flat paddle temples that were not curved around the ear but straight and contoured to the shape of the head. The only glasses I could find in that style were the old square aviators. They were not back in fashion at that point so I looked else where. Found a cool pair of Oakley Fives.

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I wore the Oakley Fives through 3 prescription changes until I came across a classic frame. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer. Flat paddle, fairly straight temples and a much sturdier frame. Combining this frame with the latest transitions lens coating makes this combination my favorite so far.
The only thing that is still a pain to deal with is the fogging of my glasses even thought my visor has a pinlock lens on it.

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Hope you find some of this helpful.

Ride safe.

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