Day 23 Revisited and Day 24: Goodbye Texas

Here’s the real story of day 23. I left my buddy Pat’s house at about 10:15AM with half a tank of gas. I figured I would catch one in 15-20 miles so I would have the chain warmed up for maintenance. Here is a tip for anyone traveling to the south with a vehicle that has a small gas tank… err on the side of caution. A normal fill up for me is usually between 100-120 miles and can range from 2 gallons to 2.7 (depends on speeds). After riding 75 miles without seeing anything but huge farms I finally made it to my bike’s savior.

Simple math would say that I had .04 of a gallon left in my tank. Gas stations are few and far between so now if I’m at 70 miles and see a gas station, I fill up.

There were quite long stretches of straight and wide roads in Texas but there are those magical few miles that seem to make all the slabbing worth it.

My GPS called them “ranching road.” I think the street was called County Road 311 and that was when I finally saw some turns. Lots of riders were out that day because the Republic of Texas Ride was happening at the same time. It was a fun 40 miles of curves which helped me justify the other flat and straight 500.

About 200 miles away from my destination for the night I saw a place with smoke billowing out of it.

I didn’t have a clue how to order. He opened up that big box of meats and I couldn’t even name them all. After you pick what you’d like you have to decide how much. He then weighs it and charges you based on the weight. He wrapped it up and told me there was bread on the table and to help myself.

It was delicious. I also talked with a woman who worked there. Told me that Mason, TX, didn’t even have a stoplight and that this BBQ place has been here for over 60 years. Texas has such a wide variety throughout its giganticness. I was sad to leave this morning.

I woke up and headed off to New Mexico. I didn’t know where until I got here but I figured it out. I didn’t even see a “Welcome to New Mexico” sign. The further west I went the less green I saw.

This was in the morning departing Texas.

One thing I will repeat. ALWAYS err on the side of caution with gasoline. I was very excited to get off the 4 lane highway. When the GPS tells me to turn left onto a country road I get excited. That excitement can turn into tragedy very easily if you’re not ready. “Turn left onto New Mexico number something something for 75 miles.” Damn… I’m turning onto this road that will run through only farms for 75 miles. That will push me to about 125 miles on this fill up. Glad I filled up back there even when I thought I didn’t need to.

I saw 2 cars in that entire section of road. It was a fun ride but I had to keep putting off the thoughts about if something were to happen. I stopped for a photo and thought, what if my bike had broken down here? What if I was out of water and in the 95+ heat? Sure there are ranches all around me. One of the signs indicated that the ranch was 5 miles down it’s own private road…

As things get more spaced out they get less forgiving.

And a few miles after that I reached my mecca for this 400 mile day.

Elevation changes, 45MPH sweepers that step into tighter and tighter turns all the way down to posted 30MPH turns. My buddy Owen taught me well… He said you can double the posted speed on a bike. I was just pleased to scrub my tires in. It was a bit worrisome to do that with 40/39 PSI in the tires but they handled great. It was nice to trust the 2CT sides that the Road 3’s have. I may go back and ride 337 again.

I arrived in Albuquerque, decided to eat something since I didn’t find anywhere along the way, and then figure out where I was sleeping for the night. I wanted breakfast so I thought I would give this “Waffle House” chain a try. It wasn’t half bad and it was dirt cheap.

Seven dollars for all that. I’m still full right now too. I found a place to stay in Albuquerque but I’m exhausted and need to plan tomorrow. See you in Arizona.

Day 23: Aransas to Lubbock

This will be the shortest post you most likely see on this website. Today I rode for 10 hours through Texas. The landscape changes throughout the day were pretty amazing. Texas has a little bit of everything… except snow.

I’m exhausted from riding all day and also having a crummy night. I’ll see you all in New Mexico.

Day 20/21/22: Houston to Austin to Aransas Pass

My last day in Houston was once again filled with hospitality. I can’t put into words how generous everyone has been so far on this trip. Around 2PM I was at a place called Top Golf. The last time I swung a golf club was 1998… and I’m not kidding with you. I was a child. A good amount of my friends golf but whenever I was invited to the driving range I would pass because of my fear of looking like an absolute fool.

Before you know it I was landing 175 yard shots with a 4 iron (I think). I know that is not impressive but I was actually hitting the area I was targeting. What a confidence booster. I also indulged in some chicken and waffles which seems to be a pretty normal dish in the south. I want to say it was a blend of both breakfast and dinner. It was also a great flavor combination.

This is also an appetizer they serve.

After a long day of golf and good eating it was time for the hawks game and some more rest.

I woke up on Day 21 feeling apprehensive about the remainder of the trip. This time it was caused by finding out what the speeding ticket cost me. Now I’m worried about my finances. I know I portray this hot/cold reaction quite often but I don’t know what you are expecting me to say. Three weeks on the road living out of a large duffel bag and the hospitality of strangers will do that to a man. However, I couldn’t beat the view.

I also had a little camera shy friend to keep me company.

Pushing through the apprehension, I headed to Galveston to grab a bite to eat. What a nice little spot on the water.

After a filling lunch, I was off to Austin to meet up with a friend. This part of my journey is starting to get warm. Something I need to keep in mind is the fact that this is only the beginning of the heat I will experience. Even at cruising speed I was sweating. The camelbak is becoming one of the most important items I’ve brought on this journey.

Ryan took me out to a few local spots. I couldn’t get over the amount of beers they had on tap. This entire wall is taps and I witnessed this at a few more places as well.

Obviously I needed to see what 6th Street was all about so we headed downtown. Austin had a bit of traffic similar to Chicago. This was a negative on my “I want to live here” scale. At one of my previous stops, I was told that Austin was a cleanlier New Orleans. I understand why that person said what they did but I think I’ll politely disagree. Yes, there are people trying to hustle you inside their bar because they have 50 other competitors on the block. Yes, they offer ridiculous 3-for-1 beer specials and other nonsense. No, it did not have the same laid-back have fun attitudes of other travelers I encountered in NOLA. It reminded me more of a St. Patrick’s day bar hopping experience.

That being said, Ryan took me to a place that you would never be able to find if someone didn’t show you personally. It looked like an apartment building and you had to buzz the correct name to have someone open the door. I was stunned to find that there are actually more establishments similar to this in other cities.

It was almost completely isolated from the craziness that was happening outside and to top that the bar tenders actually came over and made some of the fancy drinks right in front of you. I’m very interested to search out places similar when I get home to Chicago.

After a few more bars and a few more drinks we headed back to base. I can’t thank Ryan enough for helping me evaluate where this website was going and also suggesting some possible job opportunities located in Austin.

The next morning I was up and on the bike by 8AM. I checked out one of the highest points in the area and relaxed for a bit while I gathered my thoughts for the day.

I headed down to Corpus Christi to visit another friend. I really enjoyed the elevation changes and small amounts of curvy roads that were involved in today’s ride. Texas has been a place that I expected to see tumbleweeds and cactus’ everywhere. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ll upload some photos from my camera at a later date.

I arrived a few hours later, took a shower, and then it was tire time.

This part of Texas has a combination of many places I feel. There was an area in Corpus that felt California-esque and later that evening I saw an area that felt Florida-esque. It amazes me how many activities you can enjoy down here. These past few days have completely blown out what I expected to see here.

If you made it this far in the article, I commend you. It is a long one… I know. This is almost the point of no return for me. If you’ve been following me on twitter you know that I already reached my planned budget for this trip and I’m only 5000 miles in. I’m hearing lots of voices say, “it is time to turn back,” but there’s another part of myself that I hear say, “you’ve made it this far. Are you willing to sacrifice seeing the second half of the US?” I don’t know what tomorrow brings. It’s 2:15AM and I need to sleep. I may be launching west early or I may be enjoying another day down here.

Side note: we will be revisiting my previous posts and updating them with 100% accuracy. I know that is a vague statement but you will see them in the coming days.

Day 18/19: New Orleans to Houston

I still have trouble putting together the right words to describe New Orleans. My good friend Michelle gave me many suggestions which all turned out to be amazing. She calls NOLA her “happy place.” I think it is going to take a few more days to solidify my thoughts on it. I started my day off with a southern breakfast.

Praline bacon is one of the best things I have ever eaten. I almost decided to get another order. This turned out to be my fuel until about 9PM… that’s how filling the eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuit were.

I took the street car down to the river. One of my first stops was the Carousel Bar. The bar spins about 1 rotation every 15 minutes.

I expected to make a rotation or two but this hotel bar is filled with so many interesting people. I ended up staying for two hours and talked with many world travelers.

I stopped in lots of little shops on Royal Street during my walk to Frenchmen Street.

I arrived a few hours before the live music began. I stopped in a this bar called d.b.a. I walked in when there were only 2 other patrons. I ended up talking with that couple from Colorado for over an hour. I get a sense of accomplishment while I get to all these different destinations but the biggest pleasure I have is the conversations I have along the way. After they headed off it was just me and the bartender. Some people would think this is an awkward situation but we ended up chatting for over an hour and a half. To top that, she ended up sharing her dinner with me since I had never tried what she was having. I think it was rice and something else wrapped in grape leaves with this really good sauce to dip it in. It was phenomenal. Where else in the world would a total stranger share some of their meal with you because you never tried something similar?

After that snack, I headed off to a dinner spot she suggested. I figured it was time to try something extra crazy. I ordered an Alligator Po’ Boy and to be honest, it was amazing. Not one meal was a disappointment here and I’m very thankful for that. So much good food and so little time!

The live music was awesome. So much energy. I honestly thought about staying another night since I was so exhausted by 11PM.

I know New Orleans has crime but every city has that. I wasn’t venturing too far off the beaten path but once I left Frenchmen I started going the wrong direction. Everything was dark, nobody was outside, there were no cars, and I had 10% battery left. I stayed off Bourbon Street the entire day to avoid the tourist traps but at that moment in time I headed that direction as fast as I could. I was very relieved to see and hear swarms of drunken vacationers. To refuel from that brisk walk I decided to try a “hand grenade.”

Way too much sugar. A friend of mine also said I needed to stop at one more location before I left… just something I had to do.

The next morning I slept in and plotted my route. I was feeling a little dehydrated so I decided to hop on the highway for the first 100 miles.

That cookie and pop tarts were to be my mid day fuel. The highway system is crazy in Louisiana. Most of the stretches are elevated above water with no exits for 20-30 miles. It is a crazy sight.

I was so close to Texas I could taste it. Unfortunately, Louisiana wanted to take some more of my money. I haven’t even bothered to see what the damage will be on this but after 4,500 miles I guess it was inevitable. I’m looking into buying my old radar because this could have been avoided. I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in 8 years of driving/riding.

“Everything in Texas is bigger,” is a pretty common phrase. I’m going to have to agree. Right when I crossed the state line the roads even seemed to widen.

I’m staying with Wes and his daughter Ashley. I laughed so hard when he opened the door for Ashley and says, “holy shit! You found Chezz!” I was cracking up. I took a quick shower and then we headed to dinner. Chicken and onion rings… you can’t go wrong with that.

I met a few very interesting people while we were at dinner and then the bar. Southern hospitality is a real thing.

We shot some shuffle board. That is something I haven’t played in over 10 years. The girls beat us guys but it didn’t matter. The laughs that were had were worth the loss. Then I spent some time looking at this sign and could not figure out what the 51% stood for. I asked 4 different people and got 4 different answers. Finally I asked the bartender and he explained that if alcohol sales equal 51% or more of total sales then it is illegal to have firearms there. Amazing.

It’s now 1PM and Wes is going to take me to some event. I have no idea what to expect but that is all part of the adventure.

Day 16/17: Rain

The common theme over the past 2 days has been rain. Lots and lots of rain. Day 16 had me riding out of Florida. I stayed in Tallahassee for the evening. I stayed in a low key place but came with a friend.

I didn’t really take many pictures on this day. Most of the ride was spent driving through spread out communities. As I got closer to Tallahassee the landscape changed. Hills and twisty roads came! It honestly is a beautiful area. The folks I was staying with said it is pretty much southern Georgia.

Look at that majestic camera strap.

I got up early and departed for New Orleans. I was fortunate to get 40 miles in before the rain started. I spent 300 of my 400 miles in real shitty conditions. There were points where I couldn’t see 100 feet in front of me. Also, hitting big puddles of water at 70MPH on a motorcycle is interesting to say the least. One could almost say this was a test to see if I was capable of dealing with it. There are points when I didn’t think I could.

It seemed to chase me the entire day.

It rained so much I had condensation on the inside of my camera lens.

I arrived to an amazing sunset in New Orleans. My gracious host suggested a few places to grab a bite. Parkway was amazing. Riding all day and eating nothing but nutrigrain bars or other fake bars meant I deserved a good meal. I was not disappointed that is for sure.

Po’ boy!

After a bite and a drink I thought about going down to the river. I was pretty tired so I decided to stop here instead.

I played some pool with good company and called it a night.

From my one night in town, I feel like I’m in an alternate reality. I don’t really know how to explain it but so far NOLA has been awesome. I think it is the atmosphere and the way everyone is that I met so far. I’ll work on a better explanation for you later. It’s almost 11AM and I’m hungry. Today I will do my exploring.