The Bumblebee and the Vespa 2014

I think it's time for me to redefine what this new blog is about. In the past I've posted individual blogs for motorcycle/motor scooter rides to places like Alaska, Nova Scotia, Key West, Mexico, Canada, New York, etc. That's all well and good but it seems nowadays I'm dividing my rides into shorter ones comprised of two or more weeks each on different bikes. The total time and mileage is about the same, it's just split into multiple rides with a break somewhere in the middle.

The summer of 2014 serves as a good example of that wherein I rode south to Tombstone, AZ on my '92 BMW R100GS Bumblebee/Ural sidecar rig, (phew!) then returned home for a few days and set out again on my '07 Vespa 250ie motor scooter to visit Canada. That summer has gone and the seasons have changed as will the reports, some will be about shorter rides, some will be about maintenance, and maybe on occasion I'll post a photo or two just for interest. I may even introduce other bikes, a few of which are lurking under cover in the barn...

Navigating this blog is easy, just scroll down the list of posts by date to whatever interests you, click on it and you're in. Photos can be viewed in larger format by clicking on them.

Finally, if you'd care to post comments please do so, I'd love to hear from you. CLICK ON "NO COMMENTS" TO ENTER YOUR REMARKS. That seems really silly but that's how it works. The entry window is located at the bottom of each screen. Thanks for visiting, I hope you enjoy your stay.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Aug 31 Day 11 - The Old Spanish Trail - Baton Rouge, LA

I've come to realize the Old Spanish Trail Southern Borderland has most likely gone the way of the old wild west. To date I've not found much evidence it even existed, at least not compared to what you find for Route 66 or the Lincoln Highway. Even the Pony Express has a few signs up showing the way it went. I'm wondering if the northern version of the trail is better marked? That may have to be the subject for a later tour.

Anyway until this afternoon I'd never met anyone who'd even heard of the Southern Borderland part. Then I stopped at the Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center and there I met a couple of nice ladies who knew of it. They gave me a map to the small mostly Hispanic neighborhood that still bears reference to it that's located just a few miles further on and sent me on my way with an ice-cold bottle of water. That's pretty darn nice I'd say.

You're totally lost aren't you? Have some water sweetie, try to relax.
Does the home know you're missing?
The short section of trail was supposedly just a few miles down the road that I was traveling on - US 10 - and  I was to watch for the College street exit. Try as I may I never caught sight of any mention of that on any of the exits I passed. I must have blown past it in the intense traffic without seeing it so I gave it up and continued on my way east. Buggers!

While all this was happening I noticed the sky was turning into a weird collage of colors and ominous clouds were beginning to form. From recent experiences I figured it was about to start raining really hard but I also wondered if my new el-cheapo sunglasses might be contributing to the colors? I stopped for a few minutes and dug out another pair with bright blue reflective type lenses and tried them out. The same weirdness continued but with a slightly different hue. 

Sometimes I am beyond cool. Sorta mysterious like. Eh? 
This is fun, re-entering a 75 mph traffic pattern from a short ramp-up. No sweat.
After spending more time then was necessary evaluating the effects different colored lenses might have on the atmosphere and clouds I stopped again, this time for lunch at McDonald's. This particular one had a real surprise treat on their menu, a sort of pseudo patty-melt with fried onions all nice and greasy just the way I like 'em. I expect their menu may be more regional driven since I've never seen this sandwich at home. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll start selling it in our area. Or maybe my body will get lucky and they won't.

After scarfing down my burger and most of the fries I again took note of the nasty looking skies. I talked to a couple of local firemen sitting at the next table and they chuckled (evil) and said "Y'all might be able to out run it if you hurry right along." More chuckles. More evil. I left. Outside I talked about it to a guy just getting out of his truck and he said more or less the same thing. Chuckle. Evil sniggers. These guys from Louisiana are a riot sometimes. 
What the heck I thought, I've got plenty of rain gear to wear. Only problem is, it's hotter'n all goto heck and muggy too. Back on the Bonnie I went sans rain gear but within a half-mile there it came, splat! Crimoney I wasn't looking forward to wearing non-breathable rain gear but getting soaked wasn't much fun either. 

I stopped in a convenient driveway apron of a really luxurious looking country home  and struggled into the outfit. It was then that I made an amazing discovery, the pants don't really have a front or back, you can wear them either way. No fly, no pockets, no zippers, nada. As I was hopping around getting dressed up I kinda half-way expected Farmer Brown to come charging out and chase me away from his driveway but no one came. Lucky me.

Getting back onto US-10 took a bit longer than expected due to some construction going on but I finally made it back into the craziness. Man there are a lot of trucks out there, and they all run 75 mph or faster. I only saw a couple of traffic cops and they had cars pulled over, never a truck. I'm not sure what that means but I thought I might mention it. 

Not long after that I crossed over into Louisiana, my first visit to the state. One of the most interesting things I've seen on this tour was the 19-mile long Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Traffic was smoking along at a rate that prevented me from stopping for pics so I found a couple on the Internet. There can't be too many bridges that long, especially ones that are surrounded by alligators. 

Don't attempt to pronounce Atchafalaya more than a couple of times, you could hurt yourself. Or spray the person standing in front of  you with spittle.

Note to the owners of the following two photos: 
If you wish further acknowledgement or would like these removed please contact me and I will do so. 
Atchafalaya Basin Bridge as posted on Wikipedia - Photo by Mich Aelat
View from the bridge. Owner unknown. There be gators out there.
After bumping along in the ultra-hot-muggy traffic for awhile longer I decided I'd had enough freeway travel for the day and furthermore I think I'll do a bit more of meandering starting tomorrow. 

With that in mind I checked into another La Quinta, this one in Baton Rouge. Dinner will most likely be two Cliff Bars and my last Gatorade which should more than suffice considering the lunch I had at McDonald's. It's early yet, not even six o'clock local time which gives me plenty of time to watch a movie or two. Nice.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aug 30 Day 10 - The Old Spanish Trail - Winnie, TX

So where is Winnie, Texas one might ask? I'll get to that later, more towards the end of the post. Right now I'll begin with the morning breakfast routine at the crumby motel I stayed in. Actually it wasn't all that bad, it just seemed like it after experiencing a good breakfast yesterday. Even the instant oat meal was bland. Ugh.

My jeans and socks were dry enough to wear so I packed up and hit the road further south where I'd get to see the Gulf of Mexico. From Corpus Christie you really can't go a long way south as you'll run into the ocean so I went as far as I could and then turned north east. 

Corpus Christie has more oil and gas rigs and storage facilities than you can imagine. They go on for miles and frankly I got a little bored with them. I expected to see more of a military presence but that must have been in another direction as the only thing I saw was the Lexington aircraft carrier which is now a Naval museum. I rode down into the park area, eyeballed her and completely forgot to take any pics. That's too bad actually as she's loaded to the gills with aircraft that I recall from my own brief naval career.  

My first stop was at Aransas Pass where I watched fishermen doing their thing from shore or wading out into chest deep water. No one caught anything while I watched but a kid on a motor scooter stopped and looked the Bonnie and me over, probably thought I was broke down. As soon as he saw my camera he did a hasty exit back to the road. Must not have wanted to be in the book I'm writing.

This is the bridge I'd just crossed over when I stopped for pics
Does "Welcome Aboard" mean I'm allowed to climb on it?

It was still early Sunday morning so there weren't many people around yet
Before leaving the motel I'd dialed in Port Aransas on the GPS as a way point to visit and it took me way out on the end of a point, then I realized I was heading for a ferry out to a small island. The approach to the ferry was confusing, too many people in Hi-Viz vests waving Hi-Viz wands and I ended up riding up to the boarding point in the out lane instead of the in lane. Probably not a big deal as there were only a half dozen cars waiting. I bet lots of people do the same thing, right?

This is the way to the ferry. The blue sign had all sorts of meaningless information.
Anyway once I arrived at the loading area I asked the bearded toothless guy who seemed to be in charge of such things why there was a big arrow pointing at me instead of towards the ferry. His eyebrows moved up and down rapidly, then I think he realized he was dealing with a loony and smiled at the joke. I told him I didn't have a clue why I'd want to go for a ferry ride and after looking at my map he agreed and said I should turn around and proceed in the direction of the big arrow which would then show the way back from whence I came. Make sense? It did to me.

Another big 'ol oil thingy. There should be a limit on how many  of these are made.
Back on route again I was riding sort of northeast through a small but expensive looking area when I saw a sign directing unsuspecting travelers to Fulton Beach. I followed the little side street and sure enough I soon arrived at a small harbor complete with boats and large scary birds with pointy beaks and even a bait shack. 

 Nice fleet of boats here, expensive looking and probably not owned by the likes of me. That's OK, I have my own aluminum one at home resting in the barn in case I ever get involved in show & tell about boats. 

When I first spotted this guy I went into my stealthiest slow motion mode with camera held as inconspicuously ( my God I spelled that right the first time!) as possible. I took a shot, then moved closer, took another and moved again, etc, until I was only a few feet away from him. He finally grew weary of me, let out a squawk and flew a few feet away, landing on a post where he watched me with his beady eyes. 

I wouldn't want this joker to peck me. He must be the guard bird for the boat people.
The bait shack came with a sleepy looking guy sitting out front texting away on his phone. Or iPad or whatever it was. The sun was shining directly towards my shot so it's not the best but if you look closely you can see the bait guy sitting on the left side of the pic. He kind of reminded me of one of those Asian Kung Fu actors, the one with the weird eye that wandered a lot. I didn't interrupt his texting, no point in that as he'd probably want me to buy some sand shrimp.  

After visiting Fulton Harbor I'd had enough of the Gulf of Mexico so I figured I'd head back to the original mission, the Old Spanish Trail thing. Once I got away from the bay area and inland a ways the oil industry went away and was replaced by cotton fields. I didn't realize Texas was so involved in cotton but they seem to be and like so many things in Texas, they go at it in a large way.

I rode highway 35 northeast to get back on track..
Kinda makes you wanta shuck something doesn't it?

Cotton farms are easier on the eye than oil rigs. Just sayin'
I'd got off to a really early start this morning so I made good time all day. Around noon I stopped for a rest and slugged down more Gatorade. An hour or so later I decided to stop at a Walmart to buy some different sunglasses, ones with blue lenses if they had them. My regular ones have a slight brown tint and they tend to make everything look darker for some reason. Anyway I found two cheap pairs and they helped a lot.

My intended stopping point for the day was Beaumont as it's on my list of Old Spanish Trail cities but after getting keel hauled through Houston I was too beat to continue. My God Houston traffic is awful, you'd think those people would find something else to do on a Sunday other than drive like maniacs on the freeways but no, that's how they seem to spend their time. There were darn few bikes too, which is probably an indicator of how many riders really have a death wish.

Anyway I pulled the plug in the nicest little burg called Winnie with a great La Quinta motel and I'm done for the day. I'll hit the post button and then head for the Cajun eatery next door, see how much more torture my innards can tolerate for the day. Usually I edit my wondrous writing efforts but it's getting late and I don't want to miss dinner so you can send me hate mail if it's awful.



PS - I had fried catfish, coleslaw, hush puppies, & one frosty Corona for dinner. Marvelous!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aug 29 Day 09 - The Old Spanish Trail - Corpus Christi, TX

The Bonnie has been getting pretty grungy these past few days so right after breakfast I got out the wash soap and rag and went at it. It wasn't the best job but with only a small ice bucket full of suds it was OK.

Today's ride took me from Del Reo south on 277 to Eagle Pass where I thought I might stay last night if I made it but luck held and I over-nighted in Del Reo instead. Big difference between those two towns and luck was on my side, Eagle Pass is a rough looking place.

From Eagle Pass I ran south to Laredo, then northeast up 59 to Freer where I stopped for lunch (Gatorade & Snickers). I'd noticed the sky had sort of a murky brown cast to it, about as far as you could see, kind of like pollution. There was also a fairly strong petroleum smell that was enhanced by the hot temps and I finally realized I was in oil well country. Stinky but livable if you can get used to it. After riding fairly fast for a long, long time I escaped from that environment but I won't forget it and I don't envy the men who work in the oil fields.

Looking ahead out of Laredo a few miles
Same place looking back. The heat was intense.
This is what all the fuss is about - Oil is king in this part of Texas
The ride was long and hot and mostly uninteresting but finally I spotted a place worth turning around for. The Long Branch Saloon stood unattended alongside the highway smack dab in the middle of oil country. All along the highway there are dozens of businesses catering to the oil industry, everything from "work force housing" aka short single-wides to tanker trucks for hauling crude. Earth movers abound as do oil rigs and towers, it's amazing how much gear is available. 

You have to admit it's kinda cool. If only it were open

A long porch like this just begs  for folks to sit on
It even has its own windmill water pump
After the Long Branch there wasn't much to take pics of, I just followed the road (more or less) and somehow managed to make my way to Orange Grove  which is on highway 59! No idea how that part happened so I must have taken another wrong turn along the way. 

Eventually I made enough correct turns so that I arrived in Corpus Christi late afternoon. I checked into  the first place I came to that looked decent, another Super 8 motel. The price I was quoted was thirty bucks higher than normal "Because eet eez a weekend and our rates go up during that time." "Phoee to you guys" I said, "I'll take the room for your normal rate or I'm outta here." This was the first time I dickered over room rates but it ticked me off and I said so. Motel 6 isn't that bad and they're always available if you can get there before 5:30 pm or so. The clerk caved in and I took the room, still expensive for what it is but I'd ridden 320 miles today and that was enough

After I finished haggling over the room rates and got checked in I decided it was time for more laundry work. I'd been wearing the same pair of jeans for a solid week now so into the tub they went for a good scrubbing. Jeans aren't going to dry overnight in an air-conditioned room so I cabled and locked them to the Bonnie. While I was at it I gave my socks and unmentionables another wash too so tomorrow I'll be fresh as a daisy. I wish there was some way to clean the jacket liner but I guess it will take a dry cleaner to figure that one out when I get home. Phew....

My socks look like ears on the Bonnie
Bikes make great places to hang laundry out to dry on.
With all the domestic chores finished I scurried over to the nearby WhatABurger joint and ordered their full meal deal which came in a sack about the size of a human head. It also included a "medium size" drink that looked like a quart to me. I had them add fried onions and chili peppers for an extra fifty cents. Sometimes I'm totally fearless.

Back in my room, ready  to scarf down the meal and multi-task writing the blog I soon discovered the lack of WIFI signal. "Of course we have a good strong seegnal, the best I am sure." Some things just can't be lied away nor can they be fixed so I moved my project up to the dining room where the seegnal really ees very good. 

See ya tamale`



Friday, August 28, 2015

Aug 28 Day 08 - The Old Spanish Trail - Del Reo, TX

I took lots of pics today so maybe they'll serve as a substitute for text? Right now it's late, nearly ten pm and I'm a bit pooped so I'll let the photos do most of the talking. 

Van Horn was located at a juncture where I could continue on a more precise version of the Old Spanish Trail or break off the slab and follow a lesser traveled path heading south. I elected to head south along the border and see what crops up. Leaving Van Horn around 9:20 am I set out on US highway 90 towards Marfa. Why Marfa you ask? I haven't a clue, because it's there I guess.

Texas is a state rich in historic events so there are tons of "point of interest stops all along every highway. I made the most of them as my goal wasn't to make time but to see things.

One of the strangest sites I've seen was this small building stuck way out in the middle of nowhere. Read the information plaque for an explanation of what it's all about, then you can explain it to me sometime. 

Shoes and purses seem to be the focus for this particular "art" exhibit. Seems a bit off to me but I saw a  stranger one in an art gallery in San Francisco. Old shoes piled up in a circle on the floor that was supposed to be representative of something. 

Got shoes?

With my art appreciation time fixed I was off  to Valentine. The run was uneventful, the road long, straight, and bumpy as hell. There were a number of caution signs out regarding the poor road condition but I didn't think it was so bad. The suspension mods Jerry did to the Bonnie while he owned it seem to be working great, the ride is smooth and comfortable.

Valentine seems somewhat, uh, abandoned. The houses still occupied have their windows covered up with bed sheets or foil, most likely to help keep the glare from the sun at bay.

There was a lady watering the plants when I stopped to take this photo but she kind of ducked around the porch out of sight so I didn't want to disturb her privacy. I wondered if she happens to be the Kay Johnson on the sign? I'd like to know more about the library.

One thing of interest were the old telegraph lines abandoned along the highway. The went on for miles and nearly all of the wires were drooped down to the ground and broken.

Open range. Lots of green grass for the bovines
Evidently the old Stardust Motel burned down or got beamed up by aliens. All that's left is a depression in the ground where it used to stand.

The Stardust Motel's footprint is all that remains

Marfa at last. And the water's safe to drink too.

I always like to take a shot of the main drag as I enter a town.
Marfa has a number of interesting buildings done in complex architectural styles. The cost to reproduce any of them today would be prohibitive.

The tile work on the Brite building is amazing. It was built in 1831
I spotted this plaque on the way out of Marfa. That's quite a claim, the oldest town in America.

Wherever Presidio was located it doesn't seem to be around any more. Not that I could tell anyway. It's those darned aliens, always beaming things up.

On to Alpine.
Another plaque, another rest stop. 

The Pecos River

Well shoot, I don't know what happened but all the comments I posted on the pics went away when I published this post. Bugger all, and I'm tired so the heck with it.

I'm in Del Reo, Texas tonight, heading further south tomorrow. All is well.