Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mile 8,406: My Three Sisters

As this adventure is coming to an end, it could not have gone any better than this penultimate ride. I was certain that this section of my final major ride of these "10,000 Truths" would not be able to compare to Colorado and Wyoming. As usual, my certainty was misplaced.

I woke up early and decided to leave while the air was still late-September cool. Only a few miles south until I jumped on one of three roads that form a hundred-mile-loop called "The Three Sisters." FMs 335, 336, and 337. I heard that this loop was one of the top motorcycling destinations in the country, but my suspicions would not allow me to believe it. Really? The Texas Hill Country is beautiful, but top destination? We'll see.

And see I did.

Just west of Medina, Texas, FM 337 starts climbing hills, dropping back down, and twisting and turning. Climb hundreds of feet in a road hewn right out of the hill. Dive over to the other side into a 30 mph curve. Am I really in Texas?

Don't get me wrong. I love Texas more than anywhere. I'm a thoroughbred Texan, just like my parents before me. But I am used to East Texas pine forests and flat coastal plains. Even West Texas with its rugged hills, and the Central Texas Hill Country had all conditioned my expectations. But when on FM 337 I descended hundreds of feet in a matter of minutes on hairpin curves... well... I was just speechless.

Everything on the sisters was beautiful and fun. But I want to go on record here that FM 337 is the single greatest motorcycling road in the great State of Texas, and perhaps in the entire southern United States.

I could debate that point if forced. I could show you a few pictures to give you an idea. But it would probably be better for you to get on your motorcycle and go see it for yourself. Pictures and words just won't cut it this time. In fact, as I write this second-to-last entry, all I can think about is going back.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mile 7,831: MC

It hangs on the wall in a corner of my bedroom next to one of my guitars. My cut. My colors. I took it down this morning and slung it over me to get on my bike.

Mondays are days off for me most of the time, which means I run errands when they need running. This morning was a nice, cool ride in the clean air to the post office to buy stamps and pay taxes. The last part of the previous sentence is made much more tolerable by the first part.

Other than concentrating on the technical aspects of riding a motorcycle, I thought about my cut. My colors. I worked hard for them. Rode over a thousand miles as a part of a project I had as a prospect. Our particular chapter values long-distance rides. Every patch I wear tells a story, every one of which has something to do with one of those rides.

It is why I sought out a "Motorcycle Club" in the first place. Motorcycles. Others who love motorcycles as much as me. At one time I believed that everyone who wore "MC" was a motorcycle fanatic.

But just like any other human organization, you continually weigh the joys against the frustrations. And thankfully I have reached a point in my life where I have decided to embrace the joys and eschew the frustrations.

I tell my kids all the time to not devote their emotional energy to the negative things around them. Focus on the problems, but with an eye toward solutions. Fix what you can fix; ignore what you cannot. As far as those things impossible to ignore... well... chalk it up to the long list of "Things I Can't Change."

But the joys are worth the frustrations. (At least that's what I tell myself.)

Some close friends I have that I would not have otherwise.
The opportunity to ride to amazing destinations like Germany, Wyoming, and Seguin, Texas.
Certain people in the club who are motorcycle fanatics who love to ride.
Great memories of good times, and many good times to come.

And that's where I place my focus. Good rides and good times. Ride motorcycles and have fun.

Then go back home, take of my cut. My colors. Hang them back on the wall of my bedroom.

That is all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mile 7,819: The Whole Trip

Rocinante and I spent most of the mornings this week swimming through the ever-present Gulf Coast September humidity. But today, the ride was a little cooler. Just a little. But enough to tell the difference.

It started with a realization as we opened a lonely garage. There she sat, waiting patiently by herself like the last horse in the stable.

My household has shifted into a new phase. The kids now drive themselves to school every day; the wife is fully transitioned into her career that she began training for almost ten years ago when the babies were no longer babies. So that leaves me and Rocinante as daily companions. Sunny humidity or rainy rain. Blazing hot or the bitter Houston winters that get down into the 50s. This new phase has resurrected my old college habit of not having a backup car for those "just in case" days. I now only ride in a car about once a week.

And I love it. But things have changed.

When I began this "10,000 Truths" project back in May, I had no idea what would come. Mainly good things have happened, although there have been a few storms. But moments like this cannot be anticipated. Major life transitions can excite you, while simultaneously they can leave you a little melancholy. They say the only constant is change. True.

I could not see what was ahead when I started the journey. And I can't see what's coming. But as I am fond of quoting E.L. Doctorow: "We can only see as far as the headlights, but we can make the whole trip that way."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mile 7,800: Blood and Motorcycles

The tall buildings and skyscrapers. Artificial mountains we coastal dwellers build to create height and depth. Our hills are the ramps of parking garages. This is the active imagination of a biker with an ancient island in my blood.

Some of my family just went to the Isle of Man off the east coast of Ireland. And up until just recently, I thought that my dad's side of the family came from England, and my mom's side of the family came from Ireland. I had no idea that the English side was actually a tad more specific. The Christians are from The Isle of Man.

On their recent trip, they thumbed through an Isle of Man phonebook to find two whole pages of Christians. (The proper name, not the religion; although I am a bonafide Christian.)

And if you are wondering where this is going, O Faithful Reader, it is going all the way back to 1907 when the first Isle of Man TT motorcycle race was run on public roads at an average speed of just over 38 miles per hour. (The record average is now just over 130 mph.) It is considered by most aficionados to be the most important motorcycle race in the history of motorcycles. And standing there watching on the roads, and working the pits, and maybe even a racer or two, are a bunch of people named Christian.

So when I say I have motorcycles in my blood, up to this point I thought I was just talking about how much I love to ride. But when you make a family discovery like this one, you wake up the next day even more excited to get on your bike and ride to work.

And then your ride on the city streets becomes mixed with the ghosts of past and present on a little island far away where other "Christians" straddled motorcycles, sometimes as simple daily transportation, and other days as the thrill of a lifetime.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mile 7,757: Water on the Road

The comparisons are impossible. Certainly not fair. How could a ride between Houston and Dallas on I-45 compare to the mountains of Wyoming, or even the green hills of Missouri? Why even try to compare? You know better, but you cannot help it.

On my epic journey last month, I almost always had a bottle of water tucked under the bungee net that held down my extra gear. Don't leave home without it. It is amazing what water on the road can do to get you on your feet again.

But last weekend on the dull conveyor belt that is I-45, aside from the similar impulse to always have a bottle of water with me, I experienced another kind of water on the road.

When you have been riding for a long time, you stop thinking about such things as the way condensation from the air conditioner of the car in front of you sprays you gently. Kind of like those misters at amusement parks or sporting events on a hot summer day. That's what it feels like. And unless you are a biker, you have probably never experienced it. But if you have, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Water on the road.

To top it all off, the chance of rain on the ride this past weekend was way up into 70-80 percent. And you know what that means, right? Not a single drop of rain on the way home. Not a one.

For this trip, water on the road came from a plastic bottle, and the cars in front of me. These are the kinds of things cagers never consider. And if I'm not careful, these things may become so ordinary that I forget to stop and enjoy them in all of their simplicity.

I dare not. It's just too wonderful to take for granted.