Snake Bite

Chapter One

As the title suggests, this story is about a motorcycle trip that had more than its share of setbacks. It was well planned, yet encountered events that were difficult to foresee. Let me explain.

My friend Dave is a veteran of West Texas motorcycle travel. He spent much of his youth there and developed keen knowledge and deep love for the area. It was he that suggested we plan an early 2013 ride that would include camping in the Big Bend National Park. I was easily convinced, it is high on my bucket list. The trick to this trip is timing. There are several factors to consider. Simultaneous vacation availability tops the list. Picking a season in the park when it is enjoyably warm, before the torrid, summer sun can fry us to a crisp, follows close at number two. Taking these things into consideration, we put our heads together. Dave and I hammered out what we thought was a workable plan.

A basic outline for the trip was pretty simple. We'd head to Lost Maples State Park for the first night, stopping in Llano to grab some barbeque at Coopers. We planned on having a quick bite for lunch and taking the leftovers with us for dinner that night. The second day would be mostly taken up with the long stretch on US-90 to Marathon where we'd spend a night at the Marathon Motel. The third day, would then find us southbound on US-385, entering the park and winding our way up the Chisos Mountains to campsite 25, which we had reserved for three nights. After rambling around the park for a few days, the plan would take us away from the park for a hearty breakfast. We'd take the River Road, TX-170, which runs along the Rio Grande, to Presidio. We looked forward to visiting one of our favorite Mexican restaurants there, El Patio. After stuffing our faces with huevos, tortillas, and frijoles, our next move would be rolling up US-69 to Marfa, where a nice house awaited us, with comfortable beds, and more importantly, a hot shower. The next day, Friday, is when I'd say adios to Dave and ride US-69 north to Comanche for the 40th Annual State Rally, hosted by T.M.R.A.

You'd have to agree with me, this sounds like a dog-gone good vacation. Now let me tell you what happened.

Each day as we got closer to our journey, we watched diligently for rain in the forecast. We hoped for a desert floor covered with flowers. Just a little rain would do, the drought plagued ground is begging for the chance to put on a colorful display. As history will show, the much anticipated rain never came.

Saturday morning, dark thirty, my bike, Amana (Dayum She's White), I call her Amana for short, is packed and raring to go. I had just put a brand new tire on the back and my front tire looked like it had plenty of life left. Backing out of the garage I couldn't help but crack a grin, which I'm wont to do at the start of a road trip. I eased her out on the street towards the George Bush Tollway. The first leg of the journey is extremely mundane. The only catch at the moment was the head cold that I came down with on Thursday. It had just begun to drop into my chest. I had a handful of cold meds in my pocket and I was going to be damned if I would cancel the trip I had been looking forward to for so long. With solid determination I nosed south on I-35. Mickey D's in Italy was our prearranged rendezvous. We'd planned to top off the gas tanks and grab some breakfast before exiting the super-slab toward much preferred country roads. I looked forward to riding south and warmer, drier climes. The weather in North Texas was chilly and wet, as a cold front had recently passed through, bringing substantial rainfall. Not to worry, I would soon be enjoying the dry air and warm sun of the Hill Country.

Approaching Italy, I exited at the golden arches, merging onto the access road and looked for Dave. He was easy to see. Dave was standing next to his bike. I followed the road around, pulled in next to a gas pump, and grabbed my debit card to start the top-off process. Dave walked over and said, "There's a problem." I looked at him quizzically and he went on to tell me he was having electrical problems with his bike. It was cutting out on him and he was worried. The bike had just been fitted with a new stator. The only thing he could think of was a loose connection. I lent him a screwdriver and he proceeded to remove the seat on his Road Glide. After fiddling with the connections, Dave cranked her up and she started. He could tell there was something still wrong. He announced that we'd be going to Waco so the mechanic could check for the problem at Harley-Davidson of Waco. This was the best course of action and there was little I had to say about it, so I simply nodded my agreement.

We arrived at the dealership. It was early enough that we had no trouble getting the bike looked over. I still hadn't eaten. I knew that most Harley dealerships had coffee and I hoped some donuts. They had coffee, no donuts. Paul Dulin, a man in motorcycle sales, kept us entertained while we waited. Paul gave us some maps of a local area he likes to ride. He had highlighted his favorite routes. It turns out it was an area south of Glen Rose that I knew fairly well. I thought it was extremely thoughtful of him to go through the trouble. He knew we were not there to buy a bike and didn't live in the area. He was genuinely enthusiastic about riding the roads of Texas and eager in his efforts to make our waiting enjoyable.

After a fairly short wait, the service manager notified Dave that he could not find anything wrong and wrote it off to gremlins. That was our cue to hop back on our bikes and head for the warmth. By now the cold had lodged itself firmly in my chest and coughing became a way of life. I really looked forward to getting warm, dry and fed.

We jumped onto TX-16 at San Saba. Now we're cooking, I thought as we made the turn headed due south. Llano is not far and I can get something to eat. I couldn't tell which was louder, the wheeze in my chest or the grumbling in my stomach. Unceremoniously we arrived in Llano and made a right hand turn on TX-29. We squeezed into Cooper's parking lot. Dave surveyed the restaurant and came to the conclusion it would be at least an hours wait. According to The Plan we were late. This was breakdown number two. "Where do you want to eat," Dave asked. I really didn't care. I was about to chew on my glove; I just needed to eat something. I remembered a burger joint back on I-16, a couple of blocks away. Dave loves burgers so that was an easy sell.

Indeed the burgers were good. My hypo glycaemia having been quelled, I was in a much better mood. I traded my full-face helmet for my Go-Pro camera helmet. I turned it on and away we went towards the Willow City Loop.
Dave's Burger
Dave and His Burger
at the
Burger Bar Cafe
Llano, Texas

Page One