|Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - 03:17 pm: ||
It's harsh up here in Minnesota in the winter, really harsh. So harsh that an ordinary guy might jump at the chance to go where its warm for a few days. This year I was one of the guys that bolted the last week in January. There wasn't much planning involved, just a lot of work getting a tow car and trailer and bike ready.
The idea came out of nowhere. Me and a couple of friends were drinking coffee and talking about taking a Route 66 trip this summer. That's what we do up here in the winter. We talk about and think about taking epic motorcycle trips. One of the guys mentioned that he and his wife were driving down to South Padre Island in a couple of weeks, they've been doing that in the wintertime for a few years. South Padre Island is down on the Texas gulf coast just north of Brownsville.
So from out of nowhere I see myself towing my 1980 FLT on a trailer down to Dallas Texas and dropping the car and trailer off at my niece Tracy's place in Dallas and biking the rest of the way south to South Padre Island. Stay a couple days with my friends and bike back up to Dallas, then trailer the bike back to Minnesota. That was it for the planning.
Unless you've been there and done that you could not imagine how much energy becomes available to somebody that's setting up to escape Minnesota in January. The next two weeks were spent feverishly working at the several jobs that I had already committed to plus painting the tow car and rounding up and preping a 5X8 Menards trailer that me and my brother dug out of the snow next to his garage. The trailer only needed a complete re-wiring and one new tail light.
No problem. When a Minnesota guy sees the possibility of walking around in shorts and shower shoes in January he becomes like the energizer bunny for a time.
The departure date was set for the last Thursday in January. I missed it by one day do to underestimating how long it really takes to change the cam belt and water pump on a VW Passatt with the 30 valve motor. I'm an independent car mechanic.
The decission to leave the FLT home and take the Buell S3T was made three days before departure. The FLT had a really loose shift lever, been loose for a long time. There wasn't enough time to pull the Harley apart and fix the shift lever problem and the Buell was ready to go as far as I remembered so the Buell got the nod.
The Buell is an emerald green 97 with the deep bags and one of those back seat packs that slides down over a sissy bar. I can carry enough stuff on her to stay out indefinitely if I want to. I did a 4000 mile 10 day run on her two years ago and had a really good ride. She has a late tuber Buell accessory seat that transformed her from a fun bike to ride for short distances to a pretty good touring bike.
So off I went the last Friday in Janusry, left North Branch Minnesota just before dark headed for Dallas. A warm spell had hit Minnesota the day I left, it was around 20 degrees.
The drive south was pretty uneventfull. I had one disturbing scare going around Kansas City on I35. The interstate makes a lot of interchanges there and is rough and curvy. I was keeping a close eye on the rear view mirror watching the Buell for any signs of trouble handling the g forces and rough road on the trailer. After a particularly rough section I took a glance in the mirror and saw one of the 4 tiedowns blowing in the wind. Shit! Nobody wants to lose their Buell on I35 in Kansas City in the middle of the night!
I made it to the shoulder as fast as traffic would allow, got out and went back for an inspection. The left rear corner of the trailer was maybe 3 inches higher then the right rear corner, that's where the tie down strap had let go of the D ring on the trailer surface. I inspected the trailer bottom side as best I could with a flash light and saw nothing broken so i decided that the tie down straps where so tight that they sprung the trailer and that was that. I was wrong about that but re-attached the tie down strap and proceeded south wondering how I was going to break the news about the sprung trailer to it's owner, my brother.
I made Dallas about ten oclock Saturday night and had a nice visit with my niece and her family. Sunday morning I unloaded the Buell with some help, packed her up and headed south in beautifull weather that was running in the high 60's and getting warmer the farther south I rode. Texas is awesome! Waco, San Antonio, Corpus Christy,
South Padre. I arrived at South Padre around 11 PM and spent several hours making happy with friends John and Alice, their daughter Jessi and her man Joe. It was definitely shorts and shower shoes weather... in January! It was 652 miles from north Dallas to South Padre Island. It wasn't a record mileage day but not far off. I did a 700+ mile day a couple of years ago on that Buell.
Monday night the TV weather people were talking about a cold front coming into Texas, complete with snow and sub freezing temperatures. Me and the friends discussed a lot of possibilities but finally decided on an early AM departure for Dallas. The plan was to beat the cold front that was coming down from the north. Beat it to San Antonio anyway.
So off I went about 6 in the morning, heading north on the Buell with a warm tail wind behind me. Some bikers think that when you got a tail wind it means your heading in the right direction and doing the right thing at that particular time. I'm one of those bikers.
About a hundred miles south of San Antonio the wind switched around and started blowing cold from the north west. I don't have a thermometer on the Buell but within minutes it was long underwear, snowpants and winter mittens cold. I went into the cold weather survival mode and started stopping every 25 miles, then every 15 miles when I could find a gas station or restaurant. It was 38 degrees out when I got off the Buell at the San Antonio airport and still dropping. I parked the Buell in a secured parking lot and rented a car for the remainder of the trip back up to Dallas. The temperature kept dropping as I proceeded north and was in the low 20's by Waco, Between Waco and Dallas there was snow and ice on the interstate and traffic slowed to a crawl in the Dallas area with parts of the interstate closed by the state troopers.
I arrived at my nieces in north Dallas around 10 pm. We made a speed run to the DFW airport to turn in the rental car before they closed everything up for the night.
The next day, Tuesday, I headed back down to San Antonio with my trusty Taurus tow car and trailer to pick up the Buell. The Dallas schools were closed, a lot of business were closed too. The Dallas roads were passable for a Minnesota guy if you didn't mind going 25 or 30 miles per hour. I didn't mind. The trip back down to San Antonio was really slow, the interstate between Dallas and Waco was iced over pretty heavily and traffic was just creeping along. I arrived at the San Antonio airport about 9 o'clock and luckily got some help loading the Buell back on the trailer from the parking lot attendents. The trailer had a thick layer of ice on it too, even after spending a goodly amount of time with a hammer chipping the ice off. Loading a Buell on an iced over tilt trailer is scary! Nobody got hurt and nothing got broken so I guess you can say it was a success. I spent the night just north of San Antonio in a $32 dollar Motel. The next morning the starter on the trusty Taurus tow car wouldn't engage although I could hear the solenoid clicking. Talk about good fortune! There was an eighteen wheeler sitting right next to the tow car warming up with the driver watching what I was doing. I asked him if he would turn my key to start while I tapped on the starter, he was glad to help. A couple of taps with a 3/8 drive ratchet handle and the started pulled right in and off I went to Dallas. I didn't shut the car off again that day untill I was safely back at my nieces house, that was after dark again because of the extremely slow moving traffic between Waco and Dallas.
I planned on heading back to Minnesota from Dallas Thursday morning but when I got up there was five inches of new snow. That would not be significant in Minnesota but it was enough to keep Dallas shut down for another couple of days. They don't have salt, or plows, or winter driving experience so they mostly just stay home and wait it out. You could drive around the Dallas area if you didn't mind going 15 or 20 miles an hour. So Thursday was declared a day off and so was Friday. The Dallas schools were still closed and if you ventured out you would see car wrecks everywhere.
Saturday morning the Dallas roads where still really bad but I decided to call forth my many years of Minnesota winter driving experinence and headed north for home early in the morning. The worst of the storm apparently was right in the Dallas area. I crossed the Oklahoma border headed north by early afternoon and the interstate traffic was moving at the speed limit again although there were wrecks all over the place. I saw my first totally upside down wheels up eighteen wheeler just above the Oklahoma border. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventfull although there was a lot of carnage on the interstate all the way up through Iowa. There must have been one heck of a snow storm going on while I was putzing around down in Texas. The trailer turned out to have a broken spring shackle mount on the right rear and wasn't really 'sprung' at all. The right rear was low, it wasn't the left rear that was high like I thought. I was thankfull that I took the light weight Buell instead of the hulking 825 pound FLT.
So yeah, I got about a 1000 miles of quality Buell riding in right in the middle of winter!! I also discovered how to completely lose Buell seat awareness. You Buell guys know that you pretty much always got a little seat awareness, especially on long trips. The trick is to ride when it's 38 degrees out. You will have NO seat awareness when it's 38 degrees or colder. Bruce
|Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - 08:38 pm: ||
Thanks for sharing, I'm glad to hear the journey went well, despite the trailer issues.
|Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2011 - 09:15 am: ||
Texas is awesome!
Shhh...don't let the cat out of the bag--everybody will want to come down here!