Map of Trip: Total Miles 3,517 Total Hours 63 Average Speed 55.8
The red hook at the border is the trip to Rio Bravo Mexico.
Day Two Posted - 11/30/08 Addemdum Day Five Posted - 12/4/08 Day Six Posted - 12/13/08 Day Seven Posted - 12/19/08 Day Seven Posted - 1/10/09
Day One – 11/11/08 1,259 – 20 hours
Leaving out on this cold November morning I remembered that it was Veterans Day. I had no flag to don on my Vision yet I relished in the fact that as a Veteran I was tasting that freedom that I stand for in my service to the country by riding to Texas on my motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle, but the one made just for me, the Victory Vision. I think I have said all I can say about the Victory Vision, and would not necessarily dwell on the how great this bike rides and how comfortable it is. The number one feature of this ride is the way it handles and the comfort. I had already proven to myself that I had made the right choice, the only choice in a motorcycle. In September of 2007 I took the same trip on my ’84 GL1200 after only riding again for two years. I was ready to take off to visit my son and his family in Texas on a 24 year old bike. I marked that up as a tremendous feat and only had problems with the clutch fluid. Now I know some of you reading will think to yourself “big deal” and other might say “wow, I don’t think I could do that.” I find myself learning something every time I read about someone’s trip. If you are thinking of taking a long trip, it is best to think about it long and hard. I ride with a safety net in that I really have nothing to prove, so if at any given point I want to give it up, I’ll go to the nearest U-Haul and rent a truck, load it up and go home. But I would say that preparation both physically and mentally is a must and I started a year out both times. On the GoldWing, I was never sure I really wanted to do it until the last minute. I had a few 3 or 4 hour trips under my belt, but a 10 – 12 or more hour trip, I just wasn’t sure. On the GoldWing I set out to do the Iron Butt, Saddle Sore and Bun Burner, and physically I achieved both, 1,000 miles in 24 hours and 1,500 miles in 36 hours. However, the paperwork is still sitting on my desk a year later. Lazy, perhaps, but I also see it this way, I guess I really don’t need a piece of paper to prove what I can or cannot do. I would like to go for the real iron butt in going coast to coast or the one run they do regardless of weather. But no matter what you plan on doing, plan. Planning is the biggest part of taking any trip and it is too late to be in the middle of nowhere and you didn’t plan for the middle of nowhere. I took the important tools with me, making sure I could remove both my rear tire and my front tire in case I had a flat. Also, make sure you have plenty of tread, a good drive belt, and a spare, which I didn’t take.
As Snoopy would write, it was a cold and blustery day, and it was two and a half hours later, making it 8:00 am when I made my first stop. Though I wasn’t going to “Iron Butt” it down, that is, to do the paperwork, I still saved my receipts, marking each one with odometer reading, and trip meter reading. The receipt itself has the gallons, price and location on it. Because I had made the trip previously I knew a lot of what to expect. Though it was a holiday, for many, it was a regular workday but the traffic was a lot lighter than I remembered it to be last year in September. I stopped at one gas station; I believe in Georgia close to Atlanta that was in the residential/warehouse area off of I-85. I almost didn’t stop but I was close to running out, at least I thought, but it only took 4.8 gallons. It is not like me to feel unsafe anywhere, but I did here and was glad to get filled up take a personal pit stop and get on the road. I stopped a short ways down the road to grab a quick bite to eat. When I take the long trips I eat and drink light so as not to upset the works. No onions for me either as it will start a cycle of heartburn that makes it distracting for me to watch the road. I used no GPS and I would set the radio on scan and when a good strong stationed that I like I would hit the set button. Thankfully, I was able to pick up several stations along the way that I could listen to for over an hour or more. I of course, had my iPod for back up. I found the radio reception exceptional and I was most thankful for that. I stopped at one place in Alabama and got my gas, went inside to get a pork bar-b-que sandwich and a drink. Well, they didn’t have Pepsi products and I was looking for a Diet Dew. I settle for my water in the bike to wash down the three bites of the sandwich. I saved the rest for later down the road, actually two more stops. Once I was done and ready to go, a pickup pulls with the passenger to my side. He rolls down the window and says “Wait, I think he wants to talk to you.” He was referring to the driver that was quickly coming around. He said he had read about the Vision but this was the first one he saw in person. He said it look like something Batman would ride. I just laughed along with him. He said he had a GoldWing and wanted to know how the Vision rode. I gave the only answer that can be given, “fantastic”. He thanked me for my time and went on into the store.
I continued to press on and appreciated the fact that my stops were only for gas and not having to stop because of aches and pains. I reminisced about the ride last year and the number of times I had to stop either to move my legs and stretch or to get gas because I could only run 140 miles as opposed to the Vision 200+ mile range. I was really enjoying my ride and not thinking about how long I could last. There is an ill affect in sitting for so long, as I believe we need to stretch, out, but I found a few Vision exercises. The main one was for the upper body, and though I can ride a few miles without hands, I usually keep at least on the bar at all times. But the first exercise was to let loose of the handle bar and throw the arms straight out into the wind and then along with the wind allow your arms to go back as far as they can go. Now, I am not recommending anyone at all to do this, I’m just telling you what I did, and it helped me greatly. As far as my legs go, I could stretch them out and move them around to keep things fresh and circulating. My legs were never stiff getting off the bike, and that was refreshing. While I had highway ahead, it seemed that I had endless energy. I had to remind myself that I am not superman or anything like it. I’m an out of shape retired Army, current desk jockey that doesn’t have much sense as it is demonstrated by me riding a motorcycle 1,650+ miles in less than 2 days. Most of the ride was uneventful and I was trying to decide to ride it on to Corpus seeing if I could do 1,500 miles in 24 hours making this the Super Bun Burner run. I moved through Louisiana as the sun fell and night settled in. After exactly 16 hours of riding according to my start time, and my odometer, I made it to 1,000 miles. At this pace I could easily do the 1,500 miles in 24 hours. I had stopped the first part of the journey longer than anticipated because I was dressed to handle the cooler tempatures, being about 28 degrees when I left and not getting above 40 until I got to about mid-South Carolina. I expected it to have warmed up in North Carolina so I dressed lighter than I should. I would stop long enough to feel the warmth coming back into my feet and it didn’t take long.
As I moved across Louisiana I thought the next time I did this, I would leave in the evening so I could come through this part of the country in the daylight. Coming across the swamps there is not much light and no way to see the scenery, I pressed on. As I passed through Baton Rouge, where I stopped last year, right at 1,024 miles I felt fresh and was 3 hours ahead of where I was last year. Texas was not far and the weather didn’t seem too bad with a couple of scattered showers that didn’t even slow me down. Before I crossed into Texas a few miles from the border I saw some headlights off to the right of the road. As I looked over I could see a car pointing away from the highway at an angle and it looked like it was up against a fence post. I didn’t think anything of it because there are roads that often parallel the interstate. About a mile down the road, it finally came to me, that the car had ran off the road, across the field and hit the fence as there was no side road. I was far from the next exit and definitely could not turn around. I stopped and called 911 and explained to them what I thought I saw and where I was guessing somewhere between the 6 and 10 mile marker. They said they would send someone out to check and then I was on my way. When I saw the next mile marker I stopped again to call 911 to confirm the location as being between the 6 and 7 mile marker and they told me that had a patrolman on the scene. As I pulled off the shoulder I could see an ambulance headed eastbound, assuming it was to the car off the road. As I came into Texas I could see the sky wasn’t looking to friendly as there was lightning across the sky. I prepped my mind to ride out the storm to the other side. I’ve ridden in rain at night on the Vision and it is not a bad experience. Traffic was light and the road was mostly lit so I didn’t have any concerns. It was beginning to rain on and a few times. About 40 miles in the rain let off and I could still see the lightening so I was hoping I would miss it all together. However, the wind starting blowing harder and harder as I went down the road and I begin to wonder if I was going to wimp out or press on. I thought the worse that could happen is that they would pull me out of the ditch at first light. However, I reasoned that I would be no match if it became a hard rain and wind so I decided to stop at Winnie, Texas. When I finally made it there it was after midnight, actually 11:30 pm Texas time, but to me after midnight. I got gas and then went to about three hotels and all had no vacancy signs in the door. I passed a closed up gas station with a big awning that looked to be home for the next few hours, but there was one more hotel to try. When I got there they had a room which I gladly took. When I finally made it to my room I had to check out the weather and found that if I had gone just a couple more miles I would have been in the red bands of the storm and mostly all the way to Houston and southward. I had stopped just in time. When morning came I asked how did things go with the storm and I was told that it had rained so hard that there was deep water on the interstate and still some in the part of a town that was further westward from there. I’m glad I had stopped for the night and as I headed out into the morning light.
Day Two – 11/12/08 407 – 8 hours
Seeing Houston on the horizon I thought back to last year and being unfamiliar with the area on my GL1200 the intimidation seemed a bit overwhelming. I needed to look for the signs that would lead me to Sugar Land. I knew nothing of Sugar Land and will admit I still don’t know except that is the sign I needed to follow to be sure I could get on 59 toward to Victoria. It seemed rather mythical to me not being familiar with the area but to the rest of the joe’s I’m sure it was just rush hour. This time around I busted on through as though I had lived here all my life. Wednesday morning traffic seemed to be light, but on the Vision it has never intimidated me in heavy traffic. I decided I would look for a Victory dealership so I could get a flag for the trunk rack as I had intended to do. Surely a big city Victory dealership would have one, but the trick is finding one. I never looked one time before I left to see if there were any dealers along the route I would be traveling. So I get down around the south side of Houston and began to watch for a Victory sign. I saw a lot of other motorcycle dealers and sports type places but no Victory. Finally I thought I would just stop so I got off the exit randomly and what do I see, a Polaris dealer, of course, no Victory sign. They had other type motorcycles, but no Vics. As I pull up I see a black GoldWing up front. I mosey on inside a young lady sat and greeted me with a big Texas smile. I asked her where the nearest Victory dealership was. Her answer was simply, “I don’t know, what’s that?” and she further explained she had only worked there for two days and summons someone else over. When I asked about a Victory dealership the man asked “What for?” I told him that I had a Victory Vision and I was looking for a dealership. He then asked if I was ready for a trade in and I told him no I just want to know if there is a Victory dealership around. He quips that he has a nice GoldWing and proceeds to show me the Wing. I told him no thanks and wanted to know again if there is a Vic dealer close by. Finally he relents and tells me how to get there with very bad directions and a “can’t miss it.” As I head out he follows me asking me about the Vision and I told him I had just rode 1,200 miles the day before and have another 400 miles or so to go. He looks at the Vision and says it is different and tells me his friend thinks it looks like a hammer-head shark. I just smile and say I don’t care what folk thinks it looks like, it is one sweet ride. He tries to push his GoldWing on me again which I replied that he couldn’t even give it to me. I make my way toward the Victory dealer based off of his directions and find myself again stopping to ask for directions. I was closer, but it is easily missed. Some fine gentlemen with the rescue squad gave me precise directions and even “escorted” me to the parking lot. When I got there I went into the great dealer ship which had one Vision on the floor. I went to the parts department to get my flag only to find they do not stock many parts for the Vision to include cool flags. I asked where the Corpus dealer was and they said they didn’t have a clue, and besides they don’t do to well so everyone comes to them for the best deals. Finally I abandoned my fruitless pursuit and hit the highway full throttle to McAllen. I told my son I would be there around 8:00 pm but was able to hit town around 7:00pm, and not because I was speeding or anything, I just misjudged the distance. The trip to there was relatively uneventful and I found myself very fresh when I arrived unlike last year as it took me the nearly the whole visit to catch up with myself as the Wing was very tiring. I was already making new plans for my next trip, loving every mile on the Vision. I do need to interject that I ran into a hog rider, who was on business in his car. I stopped at the rest area because I saw the wifi sign and wanted to do a quick check of my email before I got to my son's house. The wifi didn’t work and as I was saddling up a gentleman came up to me and started talking about my Vision. He saw me pass him and he admired how comfortable and smooth the ride looked. He loved to ride his UC but couldn’t do with his job though he traveled all over the south west. He felt it was just as much a bummer as I did but his company frowned on it. He told me he puts about 15,000 miles a year on his bike as he’ll take long rides for vacations and does his best to do weekend rides when he is at home. We took time to grab a bite to eat and talk more motorcycle and he wanted to look more into the Vision as he has friends that ride Vics and they really enjoyed it. He admitted that HD’s were overpriced for the technology and that a person had to make a Harley fit when Victory seemed to do a good job out of the box. When I arrived at my son’s house the only other time I planned on riding until I left was to go into Mexico on Saturday. It was great to see my son, his wife and the grandsons. Addendum There is one item that every biker must carry and carry plenty and that is the trusty bandana. My bandanas are invaluable to me on the road and at a moment notice I find a new use or an old use that I just remembered. As I was coming into Texas I remembered how dusty it was in September but didn't think about putting on my bandana over my nose and mouth. That didn't last long though as when I left the burbs of Houston there was construction off to the side of the road and there was a dust storm stirred up by the machinery. I stopped immediately, safely to the side of the road and donned my trusty bandana. I wore my bandana the remainder of the trip and basically have worn it even around town since my return. I find that the bandana for covering the lower face is excellent for cold weather if you use cotton. When I left Sunday morning from my son's it was frosty and I put on my neck gator that I typically wear in the winter time. After using the bandana I noticed that the neck gator didn't do that great of a job of keeping me warm around the face and neck. I put the bandana over the neck gator and found that this was an excellent setup to keep me very warm in the face and neck area then just when I was using the neck gator alone.
Day Three/Four – Visiting with son, no ride
Day Five - Mexico - Posted 12/4/08
Ah, Mexico. This would be officially my 5th visit to the land down under, Texas. Last year I visited 3 times in 3 days. The first time I went over with my son, on foot and ate at a restaurant, the second time to ride my bike over, and the third time, to take a picture of my bike, then my GL1200, in Mexico. This year I went there with my son, wife, grandson, and mother-in-law to the same restaurant and to do some shopping. I enjoyed going back to Progresso, though I was really hoping to see something different, like Reynosa. However, everyone kept telling me that Reynosa is not the place to visit, rather dangerous as any large city, and because of it being a border city, there was a lot of drug problems to include turf wars that lead to unexpected shootings. I more or less confirmed this by a simple internet search and was content to go to Progresso again. I decided that I would ride to Progresso on Saturday morning when my son had some errands to run and drop his wife off at the school. I took off rather early, 7:00 am or so. It is about a 45 minute ride to border from his house and I had done this before, but not on the Vision. I wanted this trip to be a little different so I was plotting to ride just a short piece in and back again, mostly for time, but also safety sake. As I approached the border from the U. S. side there is the toll takers for the bridge. I asked how far I would be able to go in on a regular passport? Her reply was that I would “safely” be able to go into as far as Rio Bravo or Reynosa. When she used the word “safely” I took that as to my personal safety and not to needing a visa. Since Reynosa was out of the question and was a little further than I wanted to go, even though it was on the border further up, I figured a short jaunt to Rio Bravo was in fine. After going through the border crossing in to Progresso, I quickly realized that I would have a dirtier bike when I came out. The streets in Progresso are dirty, though paved, and they water them to keep the dust down. So in essence they are muddy streets. I traveled slow just to keep from slinging mud all over my bike, and I created a “convoy” as I passed through as the cars wanted to pass. I moved to the far right side of the street and most of the cars took advantage of the opportunity to pass.
I finally made it to the other side and headed for Rio Bravo, I liked the sound of the name of that town, Rio Bravo! Brave River! The road from Progresso was no more than a narrow farm road with a few wide spots. I passed by a place that reminded of a spot in Virginia, where there were cement pillars for a fence and a large archway. And just like its Virginia counterpart it looked to have been a big idea with no completion.
I got to the T and made a right turn toward Rio Bravo and this road was a little wider than the farm road, but still much like a third world country highway. At this point it would have been hard to distinguish where I was, such as I could have been in Puerto Rico, however, Mexico in this part was flat, very flat. As I rode along thinking how cool it was to ride my Vision in Mexico I thought of heading to Bolivia someday and see the place where Butch and Sundance hid out from the law, but really just see another place in the world.
One thing about riding a motorcycle, no matter where you are, always look for road hazards and never follow close behind vehicles, especially on farm roads. Fortunately I had a long look of the road and could see the pot holes that occasionally showed up. Now I’ve seen some pot holes in my day, but these were deep, not big, but “catch your tire in one size and deep.” I kept a vigilant watch as I admired the country side and the electric poles that lined the road. Things looked rather primitive and suddenly I felt like a rich American wanting to gander at a poor under privileged country. It is these views of the world that makes me appreciate what I really have in life. Here I am riding a motorcycle that is over half paid for in a year that is worth more than most of what folk here in Mexico make in a year, and probably worth more than the house they live in and everything in it. I thought that these folk who decide to come to the United States “illegally” only wants a better life, not to take anything from us, but to partake. I had asked my daughter in law how she felt about the fence, expecting her to be sympathetic and say she was against it, she surprised me and said she was all for it. Not to keep out the illegal aliens but to keep them from attempting to come over as many of them lose their lives trying to make that journey only to end up dying in the wilderness or drowning in the river. In spite of the many who make it here to live, more end up giving their lives trying.
I finally make it to Rio Bravo and as I head into the town the pickup truck is slowing and I notice he is slowing for a speed bump. A speed bump? Try many speed bumps, from one end of town to another, especially on either side of a cross street so when you entered and exited an intersection it was met with a speed bump. I went in about half way and took a picture and headed back out. When I got to my farm road back to Progresso I stopped and took another picture of the bike at that intersection. If I had thought right, I would have gotten one with me in it. As I came back toward Progresso, I came to one of those funny, multilane intersections that look like it was one way but wasn’t. I’m in the “turn lane” which is really the oncoming traffic lane and a truck is headed my way. I was able to make my turn and move out the way before I was in any real danger, but I figured I got a “dumb American” thought by the truck driver. I made my way back into Progresso and stopped to get a few Mexico trinkets before I headed back across the border. Once I was done and saddled up the border crossing was backed up, not too bad, but still a wait. The Mexican Army guards the boarder, but they guard it from the inside pointing in, not out. I guess there is a reason, but it seems odd, unless you are trying to keep people in, maybe so. I noticed the soldiers looking at the bike and wished I had parked so they could look closer, but I didn’t want to distract them from their duties. One was atop a little armored vehicle with a machine gun and I gestured to him to swap out my bike for his armored vehicle. He smiled as did other soldiers and nodded to me and did the same swapping motion. We all had a little laugh as the traffic moved forward. I finally made it to the border and I got the passport search and the wanted me to open my bags. So I had to get off and open them to show him my trinkets. He was satisfied, complimented me on my bike and was curious why I was all the way down here from Virginia. I told him my son lived in McAllen and he told me to have a safe trip. I pulled away already planning next year’s trip to Mexico, but more importantly to see my son.
Day Six – 11/16/08 – 975 – 18 hours
I left from my son’s house bidding farewell with much sadness and was ready to press on home. Topped off, I hit the road north bound on 281 to I-37 thinking of the great time I had with my son and his family and how brief it always seems. I thought, just maybe I could save the 5 days worth of travel and fly down to stay a little longer with them. Though flying seems to be an easy answer, it also seems that riding down adds to the impact that in memories they will remember that I would ride my motorcycle down to the see them. We’ll see what next year brings when it gets here. I finally got to I-37 bound for San Antonio but realized that I would not make it that far on the fuel that I had. Some 3 hours plus without stopping my low fuel light indicator lit up giving me warning that I just had a few more miles to go and it would be out. I saw the Pleasanton exit and headed off watching the interstate fade away and I was soon in farm country with no evidence of a gas station. I finally pulled into a gas station in town and filled up. I figured I would take a few minute rest and to warm back up with a cup of coffee. When I had left my son’s house there was actually frost in South Texas. I had to actually wipe the frost off the seat and windshield before I headed out, and knowing the day wouldn’t necessarily get any warmer than the 50’s I was dressed to stay warm. When I pulled into the station there was Sportster sitting out front and the rider was inside and was easily recognizable. Leathers, do-rag, jeans and boots were a dead giveaway, that and the fact that the only other people in the store were the two girls working the register. Rocky seemed to be the local biker stud and I got the impression that he frequent the store. After some short conversations he told me that he lived in the next town over and that he hung out in Pleasanton. Realizing I was a long haul rider he readily admitted to be a bar-hopper but thought about getting a more of long riding bike. The girls mentioned that he was among a few that just recently got bikes to be cool but Rocky was a true die-hard as others had already quit riding or sold theirs. I enjoyed the few moments in conversation and headed out just as a Harley bagger pulled up to fuel up. We exchanged a few platitudes and he remarked he was headed to Corpus for an annual friend get together. He rode his bike a couple hundred miles to a friend’s time-share on the cost that lived in Kansas. When I told him I lived in Virginia and I was on my way back home he says “wait until I tell my friend, he’s trailering his because he feels it’s too far of a ride. “ As I pulled out of town I sat at a light and a car pulled up and the man rolled down the window and asked how much my bike cost. I told him and he rolled up his window. I can only assume that he and a friend was debating the cost and I had settled it for him.
Soon I was back on the interstate again and found myself in downtown San Antonio. I wanted some Vision Ala Mode, okay, trying to be funny, I wanted to take a picture of me and the bike in front of the Alamo. That just will not happen on a busy Sunday with a walk for Cancer going on downtown. The streets were packed and I regretted getting off the interstate especially when I got to the front of the Alamo and there was not a place to park. I pulled around the side and took a few shots just to prove I was there and headed out. I saw a couple police Wings sitting on the side as the riders were directing the traffic and got a quick picture of them while sitting at the light.
As I got up around Dallas a BMW rider scurried up beside me and took a look as he rode along side and then exited off the exit ramp. Most of the entire day was uneventful and long. I did recall though how people would catch and rode along side and then back off. I might be one of the meaner Vision riders but I really don’t think that folks who do that understand that they will often box us in while riding. I’ll let them take a few moments to gander and if the opportunity presents I speed up and get off into the traffic or will even brake and let them go on. As I got northeast of Houston bound for Texarkana I begin to see more Harley riders on the west bound lanes. As most Harley riders do they did not wave, though there were some that did. One lone batwing Harley riding two up headed west bound took a double take and then thrust upward his middle finger toward me ensuring I would recognize his distain that I rode something other than what he rode. I rode on without lifting a hand sad at the notion that people are so taken back like that. Personally I will take it as a compliment to Victory; especially the Vision that they feel it poses a threat to their image.
Night had fallen by the time I got to the Arkansas border and before crossing I stopped to fill up and get a cup of coffee. When I went in to get a cup of coffee there was none and I got a little aggravated that a lone gas station on a Texas interstate didn’t even have coffee made on a cold night. Then one of the most putrid smells I have ever smelled filled the air and the girl at the counter just quipped “there’s that smell again, they don’t know what it is but it keeps coming back.” As I headed out the door it was everywhere, but I would assume it was the sewage backing up. I left not only disgusted but sick feeling, but the peace came back as I hit the open road. There’s not much to say about the long night ride across Arkansas but was glad when I saw the lights of Memphis. It was in the wee hours of the morning when I arrived, like around 3 am. I was going to sleep as long as I could but had hoped to see Pollolittle and Song Fan from the Vision-Rider forum. Due to them working and me needing rest we were not able to get together. I was amazed though that when I got to Memphis I felt I could put on some more miles, but when I hit the hotel room it was all I could do to make into the bed, I haven’t felt that exhausted in a long time. The strange thing is I didn’t feel that way until I stopped.
I’ll finish this day’s blog by saying the Vision was great those 18 hours and not one minute did I feel uncomfortable. That says a lot to me knowing I still have many more miles ahead after finishing many miles.
Day Seven – 11/17/08 – 470 – 9 Hours
Unfortunately I was off beat when I got up Monday morning. I had a great night’s sleep, muchly (my blog, I can make up words, okay?) needed sleep after the long ride the previous day. Now I’m not complaining because while on the Vision I did not feel tired like I did when I stopped. My decision to stop was to hopefully catch up with the two other Vision riders in Memphis, but my timing was way off, and I was pressed for time. When I make my Texas trip, I maximize my time on the road to maximize my time with the son and family, and I can do that, but it leaves little for anything else. My plan was to be back to work on Tuesday, but I knew that would not happen at this point and I really went for the gusto. I wanted to make the Dragon today as well but since my timing was already off, it would be the evening time. I rolled on the highway headed for East Tennessee, Western North Carolina. I really not ever explored this area, so I really didn’t know what it was like, but I knew I would have to drop down through Maryville to get to Deal’s Gap. Now my knowledge of the “Dragon” is just of those who have talked about, mostly about Deal’s Gap, NC. So I have always pictured this stretch of road to be in N. C. My plan was to make it to Deal’s Gap, stay the night and then ride the Dragon on Tuesday if I did not make it before nightfall. Well, to make a long blog short, it was after sundown when I hit the dragon and I didn’t realize I was on the dragon until I crossed over the border and found the Gap right there. Dark and with bags was not my idea of a dragon run and to find out that the hotel at the Gap was closed for the season made me press on for Bryson City for the night. It was getting cold and I had made good use of the heated seats and grips. I stopped at the little store at Topton, NC and talked with a few locals who didn’t get the draw of the “Dragon” to the rest of the world. To them it was just another back road to have fun on and they had plenty around. I understood what they were saying as there are roads in Southwest Virginia and in West Virginia that would make the dragon look like a straight stretch on an Indiana highway. But none the less, it is what it is and it has Kill Bill to grab your picture when you ride it in the daytime. All I’ve got is the memories of trying to track and stay in my headlights while my top heavy bag wanted to take me over the hill while I anticipated the deer coming from the high side and knocking me to the bottom where I would have been found in the spring.
Before I got to the dragon I stopped and fueled up and met a man name JW. Ole JW was a rather heavyset fellow, and I do mean heavyset that rode a Sportster. He definitely looked biker in the truest since. Not that he wore leather, I don’t think he had any except his gloves and he was dressed in sweats and wore shoes. He had a three-quarter helmet with a shield that flipped down below his chin and wore a face pullover that went down around his neck and hairs of his long beard would stick out. After I fueled up I pulled up to where he was sitting to just have a break myself. We chatted a little bike, philosophy and religion. I’m not sure what his life status was, whether he worked, had family or whatever, but he seem to live on his motorcycle and could easily brave a 50 degree day. He said he had been up Maggie Valley to see the fall colors but was too late and he was headed down to Loudon before the sun went down, a hundred and thirty mile trip. I try to talk up the Vision but he wasn’t the least bit interested in the Vision or Victory. He said he was the first person in the U. S. to have a GoldWing in 1975. He said he had read about it in 1974 and was facinated with the shaftdrive so he pressed the local Honda dealer to get one for him. After much dealing with Honda Japan and the such he was able to get the bike. He said he had it for about 100,000 miles and something broke on it and he never bother fixing and went back to riding Triumphs. I want to say I believe his story because the timeframe was in line with what he told me, and emphasized he never owned another Japanese bike since then. As he suited up he mentioned that the odometer went out at 40K on his Sportster and he had no idea how many miles he had. He said he must have blown something by the evidence of the oil down the right side and as he fired it he thinks he wiped a valve by the way it was clicking. He cracked the throttle a few times to smooth it out as he backed away from the curb and soon he was rumbling down the highway. I like talking to other riders as you never know when you’ll meet a legend.
Day Eight – 11/18/08 – 415 – 7:30 hours
This is my last installment of the blog of the trip to Texas. As anything the details fade with time, but the memories will last a lifetime. I look forward to the years ahead to hopefully repeat the trip to Texas as long as my son lives there. I don’t recall if it was the last day or not, but I stopped to get gas and warm up a little. As I walked into the store to get a cup of Joe, the lady behind the counter in a southern draw says “It’s a little cold to be riding.” I told her I was returning from Texas back to Virginia and she asked if that was the new Victory. I replied with the affirmative and she told me she rides but not in this kind of weather. It may have been in the low 40’s, high 30’s at this time, which leads me to recall it was toward the end of the 7th day in Tennessee. She said was from Alabama which accounted for the “deeper” draw and that she rode a VTX. She said she like the Victory’s but that the Vision looked like a spaceship, which I replied, “And it rides like one too!” We chatted back and forth about it being a big bike, and I told it handled like a small bike and there were ladies riding Visions as there bike (GATrixie came to mind). But none the less it didn’t seem to interest her and it just makes me wonder what folk really look for when riding, comfort or looks. But anyway, I had stayed the night in Bryson City, NC just south of Maggie Valley and was glad I had called for the extra day off. When I had stopped they were calling for scattered snow showers across Western N. C. and I had hoped it wouldn’t stick because at this time I was really ready to get home and before night fall. As I went out to pack the bike up for the last time I saw a skiff and snow on the seat, however the ground around had turned a speckled white from sufficient snow flurry overnight. There was still flakes blowing around and I knew I had to head out. I finalized packing and checking out of the hotel, ensuring I was tight from exposure. Choosing my route through Maggie Valley would allow me to take a few scenic twisties before hitting the interstate. As I approach Soco Mountain it was apparent there was still some snow action, and it was 26 degrees.
I had donned the video camera and it was running so I could capture the ordeal. This was the first time I used the camera on this trip and figured it would serve as a “black box” if I was to take a tumble off the mountain and they found me and it come spring. As I went up the mountain the road became very wet and knowing the highway department had salted the road provide some comfort, however, as cold as it was there is still a chance that the salt would quit working and the road would begin to ice over. I wanted to get home and figured I would take my chance as it was not apparent of any icy spot so far. Once I got to the top of the mountain and started down the other side, I try to keep up with the cars in front. We were all traveling about 45 mph but because of me anticipating there may be ice I backed off and found myself going about 25 mph. There was a lady behind me in the car and I was hoping she would pass, but instead she backed off. She maintained a relatively safe distance behind me much to my relief. Fortunately I made it into Maggie Valley without incident and the road cleared so I was on my way home.
I finally made it to Interstate 40 and made my first stop for breakfast and fuel. Though I was dressed warm I was only good for about 2 hours in this cold. It only takes a few moments for me to warm back up and then I good for another 2 hours. At my next stop I made it a point to warm up before I got my fuel and heading out again. I sipped on my coffee when an SUV pulling a trailer come in that was bearing Canadian plates. When I was ready to go fill up the man was walking around my bike. I spoke to him and he made it immediately clear he didn’t understand nor speak English. He did read the Victory on the trunk and said “Victory”. He gave me a thumps up but also gave me a negative gesture about how cold it was and wouldn’t be riding. He motioned for me to come to the side of his trailer. He held up three fingers and made a motorcycle revving gesture as though he was holding handle bars and twisting the throttle. He opened up the side and there was a GL1800 trike. I gave him a thumbs up and we both shook our heads in approval. I grabbed my map out of my pocket showing my route to Texas and back and he returned the favor by showing me he was headed to Corpus Christi. He shook his head again and gave and thumbs up and off they went.
As I rumbled past Winston-Salem it took me back about 17 years when we used to live there when I was an Army Recruiter for two years. Things have really changed around there and I thought that it would be nice to come back and stay for a day just to see the changes and perhaps look up old friends. My wife had relatives that lived there and even she had spent several years there through high school. It made it much more bearable when we were assigned there then if we had known no one. Most have since passed or moved so even a visit wouldn’t be the same.
As with any trip, the road home is the capstone to the whole event. I was soon back on I-85 headed north where just 8 days earlier I was headed south bound. I recounted how great the trip was on the Vision and that it was without any hazardous situations that would make me think twice in even taking another road trip. As they say all trips are great when you can ride again. I must say it was bitter sweet as I was already plotting my next big trip. I wanted to ride down for Christmas, but I think I would spring for the heated clothing so I can ride like it is summer. To me it is acceptable to dress warm enough to last two hours on a motorcycle. And I dress in such a way that when I stop I immediately begin warming up again so it was very tolerable. I was able to pull into the drive before the sun went down and the regret of the whole trip was not being able to do the Dragon in the daylight without the burden of bags. But that is for another day…