Sunday, May 31, 2009


Big Bend Spring of '08

The trees are putting on new leaves, the birds are singing, the bees are humming and the Harleys are rumbling! Time for the annual Spring ride to Big Bend!!!

This time Uncle Fester and I talked Trash (a.k.a. John Case) into going with us. Ice Man (Terry Wingate) said he was busy... Guess the trip to Big Bend last Fall was too much for him.

We left on 3/27 at dawns early light. Trash was riding his newest acquisition, a 198? Kawasaki Voyager. UF and I were on our Road Kings (UF's was brand new!). By now I had all the leaks plugged on my RK so we were hoping for a ride without mechanical problems... (see Fall of '07 ride for explanation). We took the usual route, heading out I-10, down Hwy 90 to Del Rio and then over to Aspen. We usually try to stop in Marathon the first day but all of the hotels in Marathon were full this time.

We made a gas stop in Hondo which is on Hwy 90 between San Antonio and Del Rio. Since the oil problems of the previous trip were still fresh on our minds I thought I would have a little fun. My daughter bought me a fake "oil spill" for Christmas which I brought along with me on the trip. While UF and Trash were talking about world hunger, I discretely place the oil spill under UF's brand new Road King and then placed a call to a friend at the office so I wouldn't look suspicious. UF finished with the topic of world hunger and began to explain to Trash the benefits of owning a Road King. While he was pointing out some of the RK's better features he spotted the pool of oil under his bike. I thought he was going to have a stroke. All Trash could say was "that doesn't look good". They both just stared at the oil trying to figure out where it could be coming from. Trash got down on his knees and ran his hand along the bottom of the engine to see if he could find the leak. Finally, he decided to put his finger in the oil to sample it. I guess he was going to give it the taste test. He seemed puzzled that the oil was congealed??? Finally he picked it up and handed it to UF. At this point, I could no longer contain myself and burst out laughing. Looking back, I think the only reason UF didn't kill me on the spot (he and Trash are both Marines and I'm not) was because he was so relieved to find out that his new bike had not sprung a leak... I know, it was a childish prank, but I sure had fun!!!

This trip we managed to get to Aspen, TX before dark. We stayed in a 96 year old hotel called the Holland Hotel. Nice rooms and good restaurant.

The next morning we rode from Aspen to Marathon and then into the park. It was pretty cool starting out. At one point between Aspen and Marathon we came around one of the high plateaus and the temperature suddenly dropped about 10 degrees and the wind blew at about 30 mph. It was cold! We rode to the park headquarters and looked around for a while and then decided to go to the Rio Grande River inside the park and walk across to Mexico (wet backs in reverse). By now it was blazing hot and we were wishing for some of that cool air.

After sneaking back across the boarder from Mexico, we headed out the West gate of the park towards Fort Davis where we were to spend the night. Trash's bike started to act up. I would die on him as he was running along, but after sitting for a few minutes it would start back up. We could not figure out what was causing the problem but fortunately managed to make it into Fort Davis. We stayed at the Limpia Inn and this time the owner gave us the downstairs suite. Fantastic accommodations. We had great dinner at the hotel restaurant, once again eating Buttermilk pie for dessert.

Next morning, Trash's bike appeared to be healed. It fired right up so we decided to press on. We rode through the Davis mountains and took 118 along the western side of the mountain ridge towards I-10. Trash has a tendency to slow down while taking pictures and then catch up with us, so when we noticed that he was falling behind we took no notice of it, at least until we lost sight of him. UF and I pulled over to wait on him and just about the time we decided that we should turn around to go look for Trash, he came over the ridge and pulled along side of us. The problem wasn't picture taking, it was the bike. The bike would do fine going down hill (what bike wouldn't) but it had no power going uphill (sounds like a Star Trek problem - where is Scotty when you need him?). We still had no idea what the problem was, but figured that as long as the bike would run we should keep moving. After all, we were in the middle of nowhere and no one was coming by to help.

We made it to Kent, TX (not on most maps) which is at the intersection of I-10 and 118. The only thing in Kent is a gas station, which is good because it was time to gas up. We all filled our tanks and two of us started our bikes. Trash's bike refused to start. Previously we were able to push start the bike so we tried this tactic again, but to no avail. It was dead and was not going any further. This was the beginning of a long two day ride back to Katy. UF - The bird slayer Trash - Dead bike walking

As I mentioned, Kent is not on some maps and the closest town is 50 miles away. We had no idea what the problem was and no way to get the bike to a mechanic. Trash decided to call his beautiful and loving wife (Cindy) and have her bring their truck to Kent so he could haul the bike home. Now Kent is about 560 miles from Katy so this was not a matter of waiting a couple of hours. I suggested to Trash that the problem might be a dead battery even though the symptoms didn't really point to it. Since his wife would not be showing up for quite some time, we decided that I should make a run to Pecos, get a new battery at the Walmart, and give it a shot. Three hours later we had the battery installed and the bike fired right up!

A little side note... while I was gone getting the battery a group of Christian bikers doing an "Iron Butt" stopped in Kent to gas up, and while they were there they blessed UF's and Trash' bikes. I missed out on the blessing :-( but at least Trash's bike was running.

Our plan had been to ride to Llano to spend the night, but by now it was late afternoon and we were about 360 miles out. We made a change in plans and told Cindy to meet us in Junction to spent the night at the Best Western. We arrived about 8 PM, had a quick dinner at the local DQ and hit the hay.

The reason we wanted to spend the night in Llano was so we could eat at Coopers. Not to be undone, the next morning we all left Junction, rode to Llano and ate lunch at Coopers. Everything seemed to be back on track. Bellies full, we left Coopers and headed towards home.

We three bikers took the back roads towards home and Cindy took the main roads so she could get home sooner. We were crossing I-35 south of Austin when Trash got a call from his distraught wife saying that the truck was acting up. In fact, instead of being ahead of us, she was stopped at a local cafe 20 miles behind us. Turns out that the transmission on the truck was going out so she was having trouble keeping up with traffic. We all ended up taking the back roads home, arriving safely in Katy a little after dark.

I think Cindy will perform a maintenance check on Trash's bike before his next ride...

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