Day 12 of almost home

Twelve days ago we began our cross country motorcycle ride from Key West to San Diego. We are now in Douglas, Arizona, staying at a respectable historic hotel.

Things are looking up in all manner. The scenery. We left Texas and briefly rode across New Mexico, then when we crossed into Arizona, a smile fell upon my face.

Maybe it was the blue skies, the cowboy like scenery, the golden grassland, or the fact that we are that much closer to home.

Yes, we are this close to Mexico.. Note the sign above.

If you think riding cross country on a motorcycle is impressive. Don’t. A group of 70 and 80 year olds left our hotel recently on bicycles.

They left San Diego sometime ago and and are traveling to…….wait for it……….to key west!

It will take them something like 3 weeks to cross Texas. Took us 3 days with only one casualty.

Along the way I learned a little history about each area we visited. For example, Douglas, Arizona was first settled by the Spanish in the 18th century.

It was founded as an American smelter town for the prosperous copper mines in Bisbee, AZ, and was incorporated in 1902.

An incorporated town will have elected officials, as differentiated from an unincorporated community, which exists only by tradition and does not have elected officials at the town level.

Douglas also had a front row seat to the Mexican uprising that began Nov. 20, 1910.

In April 1911, fighting broke out in Agua Prieta, Sonora, just across the border from Douglas. Madero sympathizers attacked Diaz troops as Douglas residents gathered, despite whizzing bullets, to watch.

The rebels defeated the federal troops, a crushing blow to Diaz, who was deposed and fled the country a few weeks later.

Madero was elected president and had a loyal general in Francisco Villa, aka Pancho Villa.
In the early morning of March 9, 1916, several hundred Mexican guerrillas under the command of Francisco “Pancho” Villa cross the U.S.-Mexican border and attack the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico.

Seventeen Americans were killed in the raid, and the center of town was burned. It was unclear whether Villa personally participated in the attack, but President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Army into Mexico to capture the rebel leader dead or alive.

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means.

And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.”

Pancho Villa

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Day 11 of 14

The town was named for the nearby Sierra Blanca Mountains, which were named for the white poppies which grew on them (sierra blanca is Spanish for “white range”).

Today is our last day in Texas. Last night it was still 96 degrees in the shade when we returned from a fantastic dinner. Thank goodness for air conditioning. We are far from any restaurant chains at the moment but, we have a full tank of gas to get us far from this desert climate fast.

T

Truly beautiful to look at and enjoy. Someone took a great amount of time to showcase their place.
Sierra Blanca has served as the junction of the Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads.

When Hudspeth County was formed in 1917 from El Paso County, Sierra Blanca was named the county seat, and has the only adobe courthouse in the state of Texas.

The 10 freeway took the town out pre 70s timeframe. Hotel owner tells me it is starting to make a comeback.

If you ever happen to be driving through Sierra Blanca — the dusty West Texas town (pop. 553) just 30 miles from the Mexican border — leave your drugs at home.

Since 2010, a slew of entertainers including Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple and actor Armie Hammer (The Social Network) have been busted at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint there. The motel owner telks me that Dogg was so upset that he refused to take his limo back. It was auctioned off.

We are this close to home now. Tody we lost our broken wrist bmw rider, tomorrow we lose the Ducati and bmw hooligans. I say this affectionately as those two are the salt of the earth, the rock of Texas, the …..you get the point.

Our rooms have gotten to the point where an outhouse is in the motel square. We are about 68 miles from El Paso now.

This was a great sign today passing through Marza, Texas.

The winds in Texas. We shall not miss you.

Our final night in Texas.

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Key west to San Diego pictures

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Day 10 of 14 Key West to asan Diego Ride

Some of our riders appear to already be smelling the barn; even though said barn is still 5 days away. Today we rode our motorcycles from Eage Pass to Big Bend, Texas.

On a scale of Do gooder, follow the speed limit scale of 1 to flat out balls to the wall hooligans, I would rate me a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.

To keep their privacy and future friendship in tact I’ll just say that the hooligan category, of the group, in my humble opinion are the bmw’rs and one Ducati.

My shook up friends on account of the loss of a foot and now another rider with a broken wrist are playing it yet more safe. The poor guy was wearing one of those Superman type vests that self inflates in a kryton second when launched from the riders seat.

As in unintentional, ahhh, shit moment. In his case he told us how a large dip in the road, propelled him.

Subsequently the border patrol did play a strong role in his eventual demise. His bmw is packed so that it would take herculine force and two properly functioning wrists to lift back up again.

The CBP drove hin to an awaiting ambulance that drove him to an energency clinic. Thank god our previous foot casualty did not go down here for they may have taken off the wrong foot.

Superman vest as in because when Christopher Reeves horse went down some engineer came up with this device to hopefully prevent the same type of future injury in jumping horse people.

These Texas roads are such that today while 3 of us traveled for a short distance together one farm or fuel truck passed us at over 100+ mph. Don’t know if he was headed to cap an emergency well or arrive in time for the birth of his new steer but, I could attest that he made us look like we were on a Sunday drive.

Today is Monday. The scenery has gone from island views, bridges, touristy dainty island living to border patrol checks, stops and roads with straight line distances farther than the eye can see.

And to think i had nothing to write about on account of the bland scenery. Hurrah! Wanted to get that out on account of surviving day 10. 5 to go. Tomorrow we leave this badlands, ghost town place that was probably too bad even for an Indian reservation and head to Sierra Blanca, Texas. 254 miles away and some hill to mountain pass changing scenery.

Yes, its hot. However, I was in full on wet weather gear when the day started, just to keep warm.

Our lunch option was in the back of a gas em up store, laundrymat and food store. We ate considerably well. Lunch at around 1030 a.m. Topic of conversation was boats and the new gold wing motorcycle.

Great pictures coming once I can upload them from camera to phone.

My phone usb cig lighter played havoc on me. At one time both phone and garmin went totally blank. Gas became the issue. Were it not for the entrance to aBig Bend national park gas stop some of us were probably 50 miles from running out. My bike gets from a 17 mph at hooligan level to 42 mph at the do gooder level. Haven’t run across any illegals yet but all of us at one time or another on at least 5 occasions have been asked if we are US citizens at check points.

At 5 p.m. a ghost town 5 miles away has happy hour in their restaurant. My clock say its 5 o’clock somewhere. May this amazing race continue. You can bet on this survivor. Here is to seeing Texas in the back of my side mirrors. Ready for Arizona next.

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Day 9 of 14

I arrived in Eagle Pass and can clearly see Mexico. Eagle Pass was the first American settlement on the Rio Grande. Originally known as Camp Eagle Pass, it served as a temporary outpost for the Texas militia, which had been ordered to stop illegal trade with Mexico during the Mexican American war.

Eagle pass is so named because the contour of the hills through which the Rio Grande flows bore a fancied resemblance to the outstretched wings of an eagle.

Of the past 8 days today is the least scenic. I rode most days with maybe one other rider. Today after breakfast at Mcdonalds I left three fellow riders and never looked back. High speeds, open roads, and endless scenery, and oil like smells dominated.

Yes there is an Alice and a San Diego Texas too.

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Day 8

One week ago we left mile zero at key west. Today we are in South Padre Island, Texas for the night. Our ride started in Corpus Christ, Texas, about 336 miles ago.

I am the first to arrive at the hotel for the night. The miles just flew by today and yesterday. I started out the day riding with Russ but, lost him when I stopped to take pictures about 50 miles into the ride. Texas roads today just begged for speed. I opened her up and now that she has over 2500 miles on the odometer she seems to run faster and is more responsive. I really, really love this bike. So responsive. Makes me feel like a kid again when I give her all she has and then coast back down to near the speed limit. Sometimes I rest my feet on the highway pegs I installed back home. I also love my cruise control. Its a device you tighten up that hilds the throttle for you. You can let go and ride with one or no hands, make an expresso and keep right on going.

Yes I cheated. Especially during the winds and downpour, I took a more direct route by passing many of the coastal route scenery. I call it risk management. The same goes for having a support van on this ride. All of us flew to Florida to start this ride and shipped our bikes and carried our luggage. I gave my luggage away, the others did not plan on doing the same so we are using the van for storage. I also cheated by not carrying all my extra clothes and underwear on the ride. This is because i was in Miami for three weeks before the ride started.

The guy who crashed on this ride has his foot amputated today. By having a support van we made him and his wifes life allot easier. She flys in today and the van will catch up with us soon. The rider whose 690 KTM was not cutting it for this ride is also using the van as bike storage. He bought a brand new Hinda Africa twin three day ago and is now riding it.

From the nps:

For almost its entire existence, Padre Island has remained undeveloped wilderness. Because the National Seashore endeavors to preserve Padre Island in its natural state, visiting the island is very much like stepping back into the past.

With few exceptions, visitors can now see Padre Island as it has existed throughout most of its history and how it is described in the few extant descriptions by the early explorers.

Four nations have owned Padre Island at different times. The first was Spain, which owned Padre Island from its entry into the New World until the Mexican Revolution of 1820.

Following the revolution, Mexico owned Padre Island from 1821 until 1836, when the newly formed Republic of Texas claimed the area between the Nueces river and the Rio Grande.

Padre Island was under ownership by the Republic of Texas until its territory was acquired by the United States, following the War with Mexico of 1845-1848.

Throughout these times, the island has been known by several names, with Padre Island being only the most recent. It has also been known as “la Isla Blanca” (White Island) and “Isla de los Malaguitas” (Island of the Malaquites, a band of the Karankawa people).

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Day 8

Todays ride is still a surprise for us. Rain or no rain? When I penned those words there was no rain then at 0400 all hell broke loose. Started with lightning, then distant thunder, then rain. Eventually the winds had the rain going sideways. The hotel we stayed in according to the receptionist had rain up to the desk during the last hurricane. She said she waded out to the local Walmart to shop on her lunch hour? Stories you just don’t hear back home.

This morning the weather is all rained out. When we started the ride no rain but, a ton of wind. According to Russ the report called for 100% rain starting at 0500.

Our end route today is Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1519, on the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda discovered a lush semi-tropical bay on what is now the southern coast of Texas.

The bay, and the city that later sprung up there, took the name of the feast day celebrating the “Body of Christ.”

Today our comrade who was injured in a motorcycle accident yesterday is having his foot amputated right after hip surgery. I am told even through all of this he is in high spirits and joking.

Most vowed today they would go the speed limit, remember we are in Texas and the limit is 75 mph. That vow was broken probably the first down shift back to first gear. Our route took us coastal, then on a ferry ride. Free! Just like in Canada on our around British Columbia ride.

My usual partner was a bit shook up so I rode on without him and soon hooked up with a guy on the BMW 800. When we reached a fork I took the less windy route. Then I caught up to one of the two hooligans and throuh thick and thin stayed with them. That Africa twin is well broke in now. I started out in rain gear and got pelted in a down pour. My stupid visor on the helmet kept popping up after terrific wind gusts. Imagine 3 riders doing 85 mph at a 15 degree lean going straight. That be us. The wund qas terrible but, we endured and are much better for it.

Speedy recovery Ed. I think its his shifting foot that us coming off.

At the hotel now. A one star Indian run job with a terrific view.

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The Ride – Key West to San Diego

If you are wondering? Here is how our riding days go. Once up and dressed in appropriate riding gear for the day we place our pack or whatever we dont want to carry on our chase vehicle, a Mercedes van. Normally Russ and I head out first in search of breakfast. Rarely do we see any of the other 9 riders or the van. We have options. W can follow tge blue gps track or set our own course. The days motel is at the end of the days ride. On the ride the gps may at times show a red road option. This option is usually a dirt back road but, not always. It also loops back.

For the past two days I felt the Africa twin calling and the need for some speed. At times I place my feet up on the riding bars that i installed back home. Riding position varies. Russ and I ride tgen I pass him up and never seen him or another rider till we get to the hotel.

Today on the road ahead of us saw Jeep and passed him up. Later Curly passes Russ and I on a BMW1200. I keep up for a while but, his need for speed, my safety and my need for fuel won out. That wind blasted my helmet and windshield at times towards the last 60 miles or so. Since I have a Garmin and maps on my phone I look down and can see traffic, eta, alternate routes, etc. The only way to stay safe and informed.

We are now in Texas! Day 5. We started in Key West. Every day was different so I dont yet have a favorite day, time, ride or food eaten. Yesterday may be our best but, so can key west. The group has gone out on several occasions for dinner, key west, cedar key, dauphin island. That may be our bonding time as well as the no halls motel. The kind that have front room parking. We usually all bring out chairs and the only thing found missing is a camp fire.

When the ride started I was wearing all my riding protection. That included riding pants and an armored jacket, gloves, helmet, everything. Then Florida bit by bit wore me down. Soon the gloves came off. At times I also in the past 5 days dropped the riding pants for jeans and switched gloves for a lighter pair.

For colder weather. Yes, we have had cold weather on one day and almost a full day of heavy down pour. I have thermals tops and bottom. Russ has plug in gloves and jacket to stay warm.

Our fuel stops. When I reach 2 bars on the fuel gauge I start looking for a gas station. The bike takes between 6 and 7 dollars to fill up with premium fuel. This is high speeds at times but, mostly back country roads where the conditions and scenery plays a major role.

Today I stopped for this shot and never saw my riding buddy again.

UPDATE: We are in the southeast part of Texas for the night.

There are five cities that comprise this area. Nederland is Groves is home to nearly 17,000 pecan trees. My favorite pie, pecan gas its own festival every year, the Groves Pecan Festival. The part of Texas where the oil boom began. In 1901 a bubbling pool of mud erupted into a 100 foot geyser and so the rest is history, Texas oil industry.

It is also here where Janis Joplin belted out her first tune and then died from an over dose at the age if 27. By coincidence I found myself this morning with a tune in my head from Janis. “So come on, come, take another part of me baby, baby” or something like that kept me entertained for a short while.

To get here we crossed this huge tall bridge with views far and wide. Now I know it was Sabine Pass. In 1863, the US Navy attempted to invade confederate Texas via Sabine pass. Lt Dowling and 46 men halted the unvasuon by using six cannons to defeat the 4 invading gunboats.

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Day 5 Key West to San Diego ride

New Orleans here we come. New Orleans traces its routes from the French to the Spanish then back to the French before finally being acquired by the US as part of the Louisiana purchase for a sum total of 12 million dollars. And in case you dont think that was a great deal imagine the country without a west coast.
In the 19th century, it was the largest port in the south with most of the exports being cotton.

During the Civil war New Orleans was the first to fall.

Hurricane Katrina will forever put it on the map for the rest of the world as the time when the levee broke.

Update: First one in the group to arrive in New Orleans. Love the hotel. 5 stars now which means we will be back to 1.5 stars tomorrow.

Ate my first shrimp poboy and it was fantastic. Full of so many shrimp. Arrived just in time for the New Orleans festival.

More to follow. Going after gumbo now.v

Also visited a great WWII museum in town.

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D+4 Key West to San Diego

Spanish explorers are believed to have arrived at Mobile Bay in 1519, and the territory was visited in 1540 by the explorer Hernando de Soto. The first permanent European settlement in Alabama was founded by the French at Fort Louis de la Mobile in 1702.

Tomorrow we leave Port St Joe, Florida and 198 miles later arrive in Daphne, Alabama and Central time zone.
Historical records indicate Spanish explorers discovered the area around Daphne as early as 1557.

Researchers have excavated many valuable relics showing that the Tensaw, Alabama, Choctaw, Creeks, and Seminole Indians all lived in this area prior to 1557.

The community of Daphne dates as far back as 1763 when it was commonly known as “The Village.”

French troops and later British troops occupied the area. Other well known historical areas can be found in nearby battle grounds located at Blakeley, north of Daphne; Fort Morgan at Gulf Shores; and Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island near Mobile.

One of our group is a former A-10 military pilot and wants the group to go on a field trip to see the planes at Tyndell USAF. I don’t but, agreed to offer my support on account that he can only get six people in on his i.d.

Update: We tried but, the pass and i.d. section had different interpretations on getting in. And in the end the need for coffee and breakfast won out.  Some stayed, some road on.

I told everyone we needed fighter pilot nicknames before entering the USAF base. I chose “guapo” for myself and named a few of the guys so we now have jeeps, largo, macho, flying ed, rico, doctor …..

Looks like clear sailing from here on out. All is dry for now but, surprisingly cold! As soon as the sun heated things up, back to great weather. Lots of bugs on my front screen now.

I cheated!! After stop and traffic, 25 mph zones and road construction I gave up and found a direct road to Daphne, Alabama and our nights lodging. The 10 freeway magically appeared and so for 100 miles and nearly as fast I took it.  I just learned that th others are arriving on a $10 ferry to the Island of Dauphin.

Just finished my first southern meal.  Chicken fried steak, collared greens.

One of our group does not like his motorcycle of choice for this cross country ride. A 690 KTM. HToday he arranged for a great out the door price and now owns a brand new Honda Africa twin like what i am riding. At least five of the bikes are Africa twin, one Ducati, one Triumph, one BMW 1200 and one sporty BMW 1000 bike.  This morning was his first ride and the Africa twin and he also loves it.

The KTM in the van will likely not see the road from here on out.

Can you believe I paid a $4.00 toll to cross a bridge. And now it looks like a ferry crossing to get to our hotel.

More later.

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