Or my Ride Around Texas (RAT)
The Motorcycle Tourer’s Forum, (MTF, http://www.mctourer.com
sponsors many Long Distance rides including the Border to Border (Laredo, TX to Emerson, Manitoba http://www.mctourer.com/rides/2013/B2B
) which I did last year, the 50CC and the 100CCC (50 hours Coast to Coast or 100 hours Coast to Coast to Coast), and many others including the RAT (http://www.mctourer.com/rides/2014/RAT
). The RAT is basically a ride around the perimeter of Texas starting and finishing in Childress, TX with 16 other mandatory stops to ‘outline’ the shape of Texas. See the below route:
There were two timeframes required to be considered a certificated finisher, 70 hours or 85 hours. Registration for either timeframe required the rider to be an Iron Butt Association (IBA) member, and you had to be a multi-day rally rider to be accepted for the 70 hours ‘Insanity Gold’ ride. I was lucky and was accepted for the 70 hour ride!
With the registration out of the way the actual ride planning was quite simple, I eventually planned to sleep/stop and Van Horn, TX and Kingsville, TX. I emailed some friends to see if they wanted a wingman, you know I adhere to the safety in number theory whenever possible, and sure enough I had two riding buddies. Although one dropped out before the start because of his bike required a new engine, and I knew I was in trouble when the other rider was THE most IBA certificated rider. I actually lasted about a day and a half before he needed to ‘ride his own ride’.
On the way to the start in Childress I decide to put some finishing bonuses on my Big Money Rally (BMR) score, and created a serpentine route through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas of about 1100 miles between Memphis and Childress. All in all, except for the Interstate construction in AR the roads were fun, sights were the type you normally wouldn’t see, and the weather was good, if you like hot!
I arrived at Childress a day early to rest up a bit, and meet the other riders as they came in. The camaraderie as usual was GREAT, we ate together and of course swapped stories. And of course everybody checked out everyone else’s bike to see what Farkles they had on it. The coolest Farkle was our own Rally Master’s bike with an infrared camera and a 7 or 8 inch marine GPS display screen. You could see the heat signature from anything in front of him, ie any critters. Got to get me one of those!
I believe we started with 16 riders and 15 were going for the 70 hour timeframe. At the end we only had one DNF and several finished in the 85 hours, because of flat tires. etc., and their wingman staying with them until they were back on the road and finished. We had no accidents, just mechanical problems. A true credit to the experience of the riders.
We all started at 05:00 CDT and headed counterclockwise around Texas. The ride was going very smoothly, and I had time to reminisce about one of my first LD trips on my 1996 Dyna Convertible, especially going up the mountains near Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The last time I was there I WAS USING PAPER MAPS! How times have changed. The ride up the mountains was beautiful and the roads were great, I would recommend it and a visit to Carlsbad Caverns NP. Remember the bats leave the caves in the morning and return in the evening, so no bats in the middle of the day! Don’t ask me how I know that.
Arrived at Van Horn, and the first day was in the books and we were an hour ahead of schedule, total mileage 1088 miles, hotel check in at 22:28. The plan was to rest 6 hours every night so that is exactly what we did so the next morning 05:30 we left Van Horn headed for some great riding.
What can I say about the Big Bend area, except go there! HWY 170 between Presidio and Terlingua and then onward through the Big Bend National Park is worth the trip without anything else. It has its own rough beauty and the roads, depending on your choice of speed can be whatever you want to make them. However, remember the signage isn’t the best and there are blind curves over hill crests.
I also didn’t realize what a tourist area South Padre Island is and how refreshing the Gulf breeze is along the island road. I forgot to mention Day One temps were about 104!
Before long day two was in the books, and I was still ahead of schedule, again! Total mileage 2074, hotel check in at 22:33.
Finish Day-Hotel check out 05:14 and no more resting until Childress. I knew I still had a long way to go but I was feeling good and the ride had been totally uneventful! Although I had an uneasy feeling about thinking that uneventful so far stuff.
I shook off that feeling, and rode the Gulf coast of Texas, took the ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar. Riding the ferry was a great time to rest, snack, hydrate, and use the facilities. When I got off I was heading for ‘home’ and nothing was going to stop me. I was on the move, and my next bonus/gas stop was Port Author about 75 miles away. I filled up with gas and looked at my receipt (our RAT documentation requirement) and the time on it was wrong! No problem, I said I’ll just go inside and get a cash register receipt and I’ll be on my way. Went inside the cashier didn’t speak ‘southern’ and we couldn’t communicate very well, but what I gathered was his entire electronic time system was wrong and there was no better receipt that I was going to get. I started thinking about my ‘uneventful’ thinking, and said to myself no problem I’ll just go down the road and get another receipt and sure enough right down the road, still in Port Author, was a CVS Pharmacy, receipt for gum, and all was again right with the world of RAT riding.
Next stop Texarkana. I was uneventfully riding along when the traffic stopped. It appeared to be stopped in both directions, ah, I thought another good chance to hydrate and relax, but I had to keep in mind ‘you’re still on the rally clock’, and the 70 hours is still the deadline regardless of traffic, weather, etc. After what seemed like a long time I began to worry so I started conversations with the cage drivers around me asking about any detour alternatives. End result was yes there was, but it required about 55 turns, 70-80 miles and you’d surely get lost answer. Well, I was stuck and the cause on the stoppage was a ready mix truck that blew one of its steer tires (first time I ever heard that expression) and wrecked on the two lane bridge ahead of us. After the fire department was able to get the concrete off the bridge, it took two wreckers to move the truck and replace several tires so it could be hauled away, we were back moving after about a two hour delay.
Well it had turned out to be a not so uneventful day after all, but I was fine and headed for the finish. I just had to fuel up in Paris and Wichita Falls, TX then ease into Childress and the finish. I would be later than my scheduled time, but I still had plenty of time to make the 70 hour deadline. Fueled up in Paris and onto Wichita Falls, fueled up in Wichita Falls (at 21:36 ie DARK), and easy peezy cool ride onto Childress, I thought.
Let me tell you something very, very eventful happened between Wichita Falls and Childress. It is called HAIL, WIND, RAIN, and other bad things you can think of including semi-trucks passing me and kicking up tons of spray. I believe they were trying to beat the high winds that could have blown them over. The storm started with the entire horizon becoming a lightning show/storm. And when I looked down at my GPSMAP478 the NEXRAD weather radar image I saw a bubbled shaped burgundy rain cell. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in the flat Texas plains, so I aimed for the thinnest part of the bulb. I almost made it but the NEXRAD image must have been about 5 minutes behind, and I got caught in the storm for about 5 miles. Let’s just say I never want to do that again, that 5 miles was the worst weather I have ever ridden in, and I have got to quit thinking about uneventful, because it seems there is always something eventful, either good or bad that happens on a ride, so just come to expect it.
There were several riders behind me, and by the time they arrived at the storm it was simply too strong for them to continue, so they waited several hours for it to pass and some riders spent the night in Wichita Falls.
Total mileage 3066, Total time 65:20, and final gas receipt Childress, TX 22:20 CDT.
Certificates earned: IBA Ride Around Texas Insanity Gold, SS2000 and SS3000.
Would I do it again HAIL YES!