The plans for this ride began when someone on the Gold Wing Discussion List (WOTI) suggested that it was about time for another get together at the Holy Smokes Barbeque in Huntsville, TX. After bandying around a few suggested dates we settled on doing it over the Labor Day weekend, September 1-3, 2001.
For various reasons, the summer of 2001 was filled with problems and distractions that kept me from being able to do a lot of riding, especially if it involved getting too far away from home. But things were settling down a bit, and it looked like I could finally get a ride in.
Unfortunately, about two weeks before the ride was scheduled I started experiencing some electrical problems with my motorcycle, and I was concerned that the dreaded "Fried Stator" problem common to GL1200 Gold Wings was the culprit. As it turned out it was simply a wiring problem which I managed to fix with some contact cleaner and dielectric grease.
Within the last month or so prior to this ride I had replaced my front and rear tires, put new brake pads on the front calipers, made some repairs to a few lighting problems, changed the timing belts, cleaned and re-packed the main fuse assembly and changed the oil. The oil change took place almost immediately before the trip.
Although there remained several other maintenance and repair issues that I intended to get taken care of soon, I decided that these would suffice before this particular trip. I cleaned my bike like I rarely do, including a generous coating of wax, and kept the bike in the barn for a couple of days so it would stay clean (except, of course for when I rode it on short rides)
I do a lot of distance riding the my good friend, Rich Simmons. He shares an interest in motorcycles much akin to my own, and we enjoy each others companionship on long rides. He wanted to make this ride with me.
Rich and I took the day off work on Friday (August 31st) so we could get an early start towards Huntsville, TX. We met at a convenience store in Smyrna at 5:00 that morning. As I was pulling my bike out of the barn it started to sprinkle, and I realized that we were at least going to have to start this ride in some rain.
When I made it to the convenience store, Rich was already there and gassed up. I topped off my tank as the rain began to sound more insistent. At about 5:10 we started down the entrance ramp to I-24 and our journey was underway.
The first major leg of our journey was to take I-40 from Nashville to Little Rock, Arkansas. It was raining pretty steadily as we left Nashville on I-40, and the rain continued over the next couple of hours as we emptied our first tanks and pulled off near Jackson, TN for our first fuel stop of the trip. Along this portion of the trip we were joined by someone who happened to be going our way on a BMW K1200LT. He kept pace with us until we pulled off for fuel and we waved as he rode on. As we filled our tanks the clouds parted slightly and before we got back on the Interstate we were seeing sunshine. It looked like maybe we were going to get out of the rain for awhile.
But the sunshine was just a teaser, because within a few miles we were right back into a pouring rain. This continued on through Memphis an into Arkansas. At around 9:30 it was time for another fuel stop, so we found an exit with a truck stop so it would be possible to eat some breakfast while stopped for fuel. It was a pretty good breakfast buffet and was quite satisfying. Our bikes sat out in the rain while we ate.
When we got back on the bikes during this stretch the rain got worse than ever. It was during this part that the rain was coming down with so much force and intensity that it began to fill our boots with water. We both had the same problem. It was not pleasant. Later, when the rain calmed back down some, the water trapped inside my boots managed to leak back out.
We made the transition to I-30 in Little Rock, Arkansas and started down towards the Texas border. The rain began to subside somewhat, and there were periods of just mild sprinkles as opposed to torrential rain. Sometimes we'd ride for several miles without any rain at all. That was beginning to seem like a treat.
Crossing over into Texas on I-30 was a neat experience for me. It was the first time I had ever been in Texas. As you enter the state there is a large bridge that crosses the Interstate with several giant tressels holding it up. Two of the tressels have gigantic images of the texas "Lone Star", and the center one has (if I recall correctly) a silhouette of the state. It's a pretty impressive entrance.
I know Texas is a big state and it has many different topographies, so it would be unfair to judge the entire state based on the relatively small section I saw, but it really was kind of boring once I got over the mild elation of having actually crossed into the state. We took Hwy 59 South out of Texarkana, which was for the most part a nice enough four lane highway with generous (70 MPH) speed limits in most sections. But with few exceptions there just wasn't much to look at as we rode through. Another fuel stop or two and we had made it to Livingston, where it was time to change highways again. It was getting kind of late in the afternoon by this point, so we thought maybe it was as good a time as any to stop for another food break.
We unceremoniously stopped at a Taco Bell and ate there, then rode across the street to fill up at a fairly cheap station. Then we took Hwy 190 towards Huntsville. Highway 190 between Livingston and Onalaska Texas is a patchwork of tar repairs. I can't remember ever having seen a highway so riddled with a tar brush, and was certainly glad that it didn't happen to be raining as we rode over it.
Hwy 190 just kind of "turns into" Hwy 30 in Huntsville, and we stayed on that road until we got to Roans Prarie and took a left on Hwy 90 towards Navasota. We reached Navasota at just a few minutes past 8:00 in the evening. I gave Evelyn Cline a call and she drove out to lead us in to her house.
Evelyn is really a special and unique person. She was fun to talk with and of course she is generous to a fault. She has a nice house which she opened to us. Our bikes were surely pleased when they got parked under a nice dry carport.
She had fixed some supper for us and even though we had just eaten a couple of hours ago we sat down and ate some of what she had prepared. After chatting for awhile we all went to bed and I slept really well. Rich, however, had a hard time sleeping that night because of some stomach problems. He felt puny the next day too, but after getting a good nap in on Saturday afternoon he was feeling much better on Sunday.
Saturday was the day of the actual Barbecue. We rode our bikes back to Huntsville (Evelyn led us) and although we got lost briefly we found the place in plenty of time. Rick Melling was already there and he kind of pointed towards the place we needed to enter in order to park. It had started raining again about the time we got there and I got out my cover and put it over the bike. As it turned out that was the only time during the whole weekend that I actually used the bike cover.
The lunch was great. Quite a few of the WOTI people showed up in spite of the rain and I shook hands with as many of them as I could. After awhile though it was time to head back home. Ray Smith, who had ridden in from North Carolina in a single trip was way too tired to start back so we talked him into coming to Evelyn's house and at least sleeping for a few hours before heading back. He ended up sleeping the rest of the day and all night that night.
Everyone seemed to be pretty tired by this time. Ray was back in the guest bed sleeping, and Rich was trying to nap on the couch in the living room. Evelyn decided she wanted to take a 'siesta' too, but I was wanting to explore. My first trip in Texas I didn't want to spend it napping. So I excused myself and took a ride. I rode a road Evelyn recommended (FM 3090) and enjoyed it, but it was mighty short, so then I got to thinking that since I was only 70 miles from Houston I might as well ride down that way.
So I rode down to Houston. I got rained on again as I was starting back from Houston. The ride down was kind of neat in a way even though there was a lot of flat and not necessarily scenic land. There's something kind of neat about being able to see for so many miles away that has its own appeal.
My impression of Houston was that the downtown buildings seem to have some kind of "motif" to them. It's hard to desribe, but most cities have very diverse looking buildings and there was something about the cluster of buildings in the heart of Houston that made them all look like they had been designed by the same guy, and even though he tried to make them look different they all sort of looked the same.
Although I was tempted to take the Sam Houston Parkway (Toll Road) around Houston I didn't for a couple of reasons. First of all I didn't know how much it would cost, and more importantly I hate having to dig for change while riding the motorcycle.
So I opted for just riding I-10 into Houston and I-45 out of it until I felt like I had seen the whole town. And I actually entertained the idea of riding I-45 on out to Galveston just to see the coast from there, but I didn't know how far it would be, and I didn't want to be real late getting back to Evelyn's house anyway.
So I basically made a U turn and came back the way I had come through, although I missed a turn on Hwy 290 and had to catch it a little later off of Hwy 6 which forced me through a considerably larger number of red lights and towns.
At 8:00 I went ahead and stopped to call Evelyn and let her know I was okay and that I would be there in 45 minutes or so. I didn't know for sure, but I was just estimating. I actually called it pretty close, because I walked into her front door at about 8:40.
We stayed up late chatting again and then finally hit the sack. The next morning around 9:30 or so we began riding to Rich's sister's house near Monroe Louisiana. It took us about 8 or so hours to get there, and yes there was more rain. In fact we may have encountered the heaviest rain of the trip during about an 11 mile stretch through an Indian reservation.
We made it to Darla's house at about 7:00. I met her husband and her three kids (Dennis, Michael, Michelle and Matt). They showed us all around the house, which they had been remodeling for some time. It was (is) a really nice house. Rich and I got cleaned up and we met Darla at a Mexican Restaraunt for supper, then headed back. I slept like a rock that night but woke up the next morning to the noises in the kitchen. There were two more kids being dropped off and preparations were being made for a big family "labor day" cookout.
Rich and I got packed and ready to leave, but not before a nice breakfast at Darla's house. Around 9:30 or so we hit the road and it took us about six hours to make it home. There were several more rain showers to handle on the way home. All in all, this was the wettest adventure I've ever had on a motorcycle I believe.