Monday, June 18, 2018

HWY 83 - Day 7 - Warmin' the soul
Woke to a sky looking like it was filled to the brim with water.  Stopped to have a McCafe and study the Nebraska map before leaving McCook.  First sip of coffee.  Heard the familiar "Where are you headed?".  A very special thing about the folks in Nebraska.  They don't know a stranger.  In less than a minute Don was sitting across the table from me chatting away as if we were close old buds who were just gettin' caught up a bit.  Born and raised in McCook, Don was a helicopter pilot in Nam, used the GI Bill to study dentistry, opened a practice in McCook, married his high school sweetheart, has a daughter who is following in his footsteps and taking over his practice of 40 years.  "Just work two days a week now. Kinda retired, not really. Don't know what I would do if I couldn't go into the office at least twice a week."  Started to get a good history lesson.  "This area around here at one time had both the tall grass prairie and the short grass prairie.  Grasses were 8 feet tall on the tall grass prairies and 3 -4 feet tall on the short grass prairie.  Over 2 million buffalo roamed the prairies right here in McCook.  Proud history."  It was a good conversation.  A real conversation.  Enjoyed the time chatting with Don the dentist.
83 north from McCook is a beautiful two lane running over the Sand Hills of Nebraska.  Today low overcast, fog, light mist, light rain, then it rained harder than I have ever ridden in before.  Ever.
Even through rain and fog the beauty and tranquility of the Sand Hills surrounded me.  Rained so hard didn't have to stop for a drink of water all day.  Just licked my lips and swallowed. Figured got my 8 glasses easy.
Pulled over and walked to the top of a hill.  The horizon melted into the landscape.  Trees blended softly with the grasses. Sky gently kissed the earth.  Didn't matter if it was raining.  Didn't matter if my goggles were filled with water on the inside.  Took a special moment to stop and give thanks to Mother Earth for all the beauty she provides for us.
Dryin' out tonight in Valentine, NE.  Everything is wet.  That's only the physical stuff.  My soul was warmed and filled with the beauty of the day.

Kickstand down Valentine, NE. 220 wet miles.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, June 17, 2018

HWY 83 - Day 6 - Across the Kansas Plains
Bagged the seat on the bike last night.  First rain of the trip.  Woke me up hitting the window of my room.  Overcast this morning leaving Garden City.  At an intersection turn a wrong direction.  Find myself heading west on Highway 50.  Four years ago I was in the same spot on a new 2014 LowRider doing a story on 50. Still remains one of my most favorite rides.  Morning thought: is Texas flatter than Kansas?  Thinkin' Kansas might win out on this one.  If I had a marble I do believe I could put it in the middle of HWY 83 in Kansas and it wouldn't roll in any direction.  Actually, I'd bet dollars to donuts it wouldn't move an inch in any direction, North, East, South, or West.  Now if I only had a marble...
Stopped to top off the gas tank.  Heard a friendly "where you headed"?  Met Liz and Bob.  Both Harley riders.  Liz works with Lace, Grace, and Gears.  It's a group of women riders attempting to set the world record of the most women riders meeting in one place at one time.  Their goal is to bring 1200 women together in Bardera, TX this fall.  Bob worked for a Harley shop in Illinois where he met and did some crazy motorcycle ice racing with Evel Knievel. Had a good time swapping stories.
The 225 miles of HWY 83 across Kansas is the land of wheat and cattle.  Most of the cattle are in feedlots, not like this perfect "free range" picture.
In the spring of 1868 there were two Williams in the buffalo hunting trade around west Kansas; William Cody, who supplied the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat, and William Comstock, who fed the soldiers at Fort Wallace with his catch. To settle the dispute that they had on who the rightful owner of the nickname would be, they held a contest to see who could bring back the most buffalo in a day. Cody, with his large-caliber Trapdoor Springfield rifle he named “Lucretia Borgia” and his circling technique that kept his kills in one area instead of scattered, won the contest 69 to 46.  The contest took place 10 miles west of the town of Oakley, and the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center was established there in 1995. A large sculpture was commissioned  and dedicated in May of 2004. Placed on a hill just outside of town to keep above the horizon, the statue towers above the plains.  It was all about a "contest" to see how many of these magnificent creatures could be slaughtered.  A sad piece of history.
Kansas travel tip:  It may be difficult if not impossible to find any place open for a meal on Sundays.  If you see a Casey's  Gas/Convenience Store that will be your best Sunday meal plan.
Stopped at Casey's for my Sunday lunch.  "You the guy ridin' that blue motorcycle?  Blue is my favorite color.  Not only that...Blue is my name."  Blue had blue eyes and was wearing a blue shirt with blue jeans.  His uncle had been a rodeo clown following the circuit across Kansas.  Blue was a bull rider for a short time before a serious accident.  His belt buckle caught my eye.
"My Dad gave it to me when I was a kid.  He had a special feeling for the buffalo.  Respected them, loved them, always felt sad about what happen to them."
Out of Kansas into Nebraska tonight...the good life.  No buffalo sighted.

Kickstand down McCook, NE. 230 miles.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Saturday, June 16, 2018

HWY 83 - Day 5 - Dinosaurs, Horses, Combines
Breakfast.  The most important meal of the day.  Today was no exception.  It takes so much energy just packin' up the bike each morning.  Always ready for a good dose of eggs with a side of ....Those are two eggs over easy, a good portion of hash brown potatoes, jumbo patty of sausage, with whole wheat toast lathered in butter.  Oh, black coffee and some strawberry jam included.  Now this will keep you going no matter which way the wind is blowing out there on HWY 83.
In early 1992, Gene Cockrell took $2,000 dollars worth of concrete and steel and built a dinosaur on a bluff outside his home town of Canadian, Texas. He did it, he said, so that local children heading up US 83 would always know that they were almost home. He also wanted curious travelers to ask about it.  Maybe stop a while in town. He named the dinosaur "Aud" after Audrey, his wife who he married in 1947.  Don't know how much she appreciated the dino being named after her.  Then again, we all have different ideas on how to become famous.
Chris Harris put Canadian Tx on the map when he earned the title of National Bareback Riding Champion.  Crusing through Candian this morning on my iron pony, rounded a curve, and there was a full blown barrel racing event firing up.  All young kids warming up their rides to beat the clock circling the barrels.
Around 10am the winds started blowing full force.  83 is a smooth two lane between northern Texas and Oklahoma.  To my good fortune the wind was blowing from the south.  Simply said, that put those 40 mph winds right on my back.  Good place for them.  Before I knew it my speedo was pushing 75.  Had to keep rolling back on the throttle.  Felt like floating  across the landscape.
HWY 83 cuts across a short section of Oklahoma.  Right at the state line was one of the largest wind farms I have ever seen.  Went for miles.  Those blades were generating the kilowatts today!  Clean, quiet, beautiful energy.  Need more like these.
Up and down the road in Oklahoma and into Kansas the convoys of combines and haul trucks filled the road.  Wheat in full harvest.  Grain elevators were advertising $5.00 a bushel.  Must take a lot of wheat when you see the million dollars of equipment in the fields to harvest it.
Finished ridin' into Garden City passing hundreds of "nodding donkeys" better know as pumpjacks.  Working the earth below as the combines covered the ground above.

Kickstand down in Garden City, KS tonight.  230 miles.  40mph winds.  Feeling like I could keep ridin' forever with the wind on my back.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Friday, June 15, 2018

HWY 83 - Day 4 - Flat, Food, Get Your Kicks
Saddled up in Abilene this morning feeling fine.  Did laundry last night.  Nothing like clean socks and underwear.  Into the Panhandle of Texas.  Flat.  Did I say flat?  Sure is flat...boy is it flat.  This is a flat picture.
Flat: smooth and even; without marked lumps or indentations; lacking interest or emotion; dull and lifeless.  Well, at least the traffic wasn't too heavy.  ZZZZZZZZZZ...
A few hours into the flat ride needed gas.  Stopped in Gurthie.  No gas here today.  Travel Tip: when in the Panhandle do not go by a gas station which is operating without stopping and filling up.  You have no idea where the next operating station may be located.
Let's skip ahead to the food part of the day.  Now this was not flat.  In Paducah stopped at the Dixie Maid Drive Up.  Met Vicky the owner, grill queen, and batter specialist.  She makes everything at the Dixie Maid from real scratch.  Includes homemade fries, and battered onion rings to die for.  She served up the best onion rings I have ever had the honor to taste.  Crisp on the outside with the perfect crunch on the inside.  
After finishing those onion rings needed a walk around town before firing up again.  The county court house is a work of art  Chiseled into the stone roof line is a powerful statement: "To No One Will We Sell, Deny, Or Delay Justice". 
On the north side of the town square is the Cottle Hotel.  Built in 1929 it was one of the largest hotels in the Panhandle.
South of Shamrock and north of Wellington is the Red River.  Wondering why I included a picture of a river with a bridge on HWY 83?  Well, this particular river crossing has an interesting story.  Bonnie and Clyde were on the lamb.  Their lacky W.D. Jones was running so fast from the law he flew into the river with all four wheels when he hit this spot. A nearby family came out to see if they could give the stranded folks a hand.  For their efforts they were held hostage for a brief time by the famous Barrow Gang.
At Shamrock HWY 83 crosses Route 66.  Wouln't be a proper stop without pulling into the Magnolia Gas Station.  Lookin' for the "Kicks on Route 66" tonight.

Kickstand down Shamrock Tx. 230 miles today.  A flat day...but well rounded.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Day 3 HWY 83 - Donuts, Dust, Texas Dylan
Coffee with the sunrise in Junction this morning.  Good night's sleep.  Quiet...peaceful.  Love the old motels where you park at the door, of course you know I like that.
Breakfast in Junction at the Donut Palace.  Know what you're thinkin'...he only had a donut for breakfast?  No, a lot more here than donuts.  But the donuts...light, melt in your mouth, strong black coffee.  Doesn't get any better.  Family run business.  Chanty and her daughter Srey  live up to  their slogan "The Donut Palace - Where the customer is always King".  No need to say more.  When in Junction if you don't stop by the Donut just flat out missed one of the best places on HWY 83 in Texas.  Perfect way to get the kickstand up in the morning.
In Menard found some wonderful old buildings nestled along the tree lined streets.  Figured out this had been a gas station at one time.  Tire ramps on the planters where the pumps were at one time kinda gave it away.  
Dust in the sky.  Thought there was a BIG dust devil down the road.  No, farmer in the field.  Made me think of how the great grass plains were plowed up in the 30's.  Soil carted away with the winds.  Forever changing the destiny and environment of the country.
Decided after today to throw away the old guide books for HWY 83.  Most of the listed special attractions and locations in Texas at least seemed to be closed or "under new management".  Finally found a local motel with "in room coffee, microwave, frig, and cable".  Even had a full size frig blocking the office door.  Parking lot could use a weeding.  What the heck...can't be too picky.
Stopped in Winters and met Steve at the Shop on the Corner.  Yip, sure enough.  Shop was right on the corner.  I was ridin' by real slow when Steve pulled me over.  "Hey, that a Harley your ridin'?  You need a windshield?  Got a spankin' new one...cost over $500, you can have it today for $75."  Now that got my attention.  Not so much the idea of a windshield, but how much Steve sounded like Bob Dylan with a good dose of Texas added in.  Parked under a shade tree and spent the next hour swapping tales with Steve.  He's been married, divorced, reunited, rehabed, reborn, renewed, and repaired.  Bought the building where Shop on the Corner is located for $30.  I said..."Steve are you just jerkin' my chain?" "NO, $30 bought the entire building.  Now don't look at the roof, it's not in too good of shape."  As I left Steve offered me the windshield for $15.  Act of friendship.  Appreciated the thought.

The road is not about the attractions.  It's about the people who make up America.

Kickstand down in Abilene.  Not a lot of miles today, 150.  People met and stories shared...too many to count.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Day 2 HWY 83 - Spinach, chocolate shake, and a tree 
Saddled up early in Laredo this morning just as the sun was breakin' the horizon.  Headin' north.  After a full day of stop and go lights across the Rio Grande Valley yesterday it was breathing easy on the road this morning.  Looking forward to a day of spinach, a chocolate shake, and a famous tree.
It usually takes a day or two to get into the rhythm of the road.  Today it was working.  Tires humming on the pavement, thump of the motor, bugs splatting my sunglasses, open road...freedom soaring in my soul.
Pulled over in Crystal City "The Spinach Capital of the World" searching for Popeye.  Crystal City is famous for growing spinach as well as their Popeye statue which has been on the town's main street since the 1930's.  Thinking about coming back in November for the annual Spinach Festival...maybe not.
Few miles further down the road Ulvade Rexall Drug, the oldest retail establishment in the community has been in continuous operation since 1883.  The soda fountain is world famous for their chocolate shakes.  See the sign two blocks away.  Been dreaming of that shake for miles.  Pull up, park...

...Under New Management...actually closed and gutted out.  No one around to ask what is going on.  End of an era.  As Dylan says, "The Times They are a Changin".  Couldn't find a milk shake anywhere in Uvalde.
Bump on the horizon signals the beginning of the Texas hill country.  Hit me so much by surprise, pulled over to double check it was actually part of the landscape.
How does a tree get the title of "Oldest Oak Tree in Texas".  Just how old is it?  How accurate is the claim?  Had to stop at the Rio Frio Post Office to ask where it was located. Found it on private property. "No Trespassing" posted.  Hard to get up close and really see how old it could be.  There was an official state historic marker.  Must be the Oldest Oak Tree in Texas...maybe.
Wanted to get some fried chicken at Chicken Earl's Kitchen in Leakey.  He was closed.  Didn't even see any chickens running around.
HWY 83 wound through the hills.  Up, down, pressing the handlebars left, then pressing right into sweeping turns.  A good way to finish the day.

Kickstand down in Junction, Tx. 240 miles.  BBQ Ribs at Lums.  Looking for a cold Lone Star.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Day 1 HWY 83 - Brownsville to Laredo
Flew into Brownsville, Tx yesterday.  Kickstand down at the Pecan Tree Motel.  No wifi, no cable tv, took a walk and enjoyed the evening light.  

But...let me back up a bit.  After landing at Brownsville, rang up Mad Boar Harley-Davidson.  The LowRider had been shipped to them.  Juan, the service manager told me to sit tight.  He would send one of his guys over to pick me up.  "Just look for a truck with Mad Boar HD on the door".  That's when I met IBM.  Now all bikers have biker names.  That's just part of it.  "First things first...we need to stop and get you some lunch, then we're goin' stop by and see when Freddy Fender is laid to rest."  As we're ridin' along I'm waiting for IBM to tell me about his name.  Finally, after several very colorful stories of his early days growing up in the area he confides in me.  "When I was a young kid I was very small.  One day my grandfather started calling me IBM.  Now I'm no f*#&kin' computer guy, so I ask my grandfather what does this name mean...simple he says...Itty...Bitty..Mexican.  Just stuck ever since."
IBM stops the truck.  Freddy Fender was born in San Benito, Tx.  He was a county and rock and roll artist working both solo and with the group Los Super Seven.  IBM tells me about the band he was in and how they opened once for Freddy.  It was at that gig IBM met his wife.  They had one son.
IBM turns and in a quiet moment says..."Here is my son next to Freddy.  He served in the Army.  A mortar round in Iraq took his life."  I thought I was just getting a ride to pick up a motorcycle.  In a few short minutes a man called IBM had shared a big part of his life with me.
HWY 83 is dedicated as the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway.  Town after town pays tribute to those who were lost and served in Vietnam. 
Between the towns of Weslaco and Mercedes is the last operating drive-in movie theater on HWY 83.  The Wes-Mer is a family run business.  The charge is a flat $10 per car and includes two movies per night.
Family businesses and services line the streets in the small towns of the Rio Grande Valley.
230 miles today.  Kickstand down in Laredo, Tx tonight.  Always a good motel when you can park at the door to your room. 

be strong, be safe, Talon