TRO

Your Sport Touring Motorbike Fix

Kelly HowardApr 24, 2024ContentsCommentShare

Unfold our FTC disclosure melodrama here. The following article was last updated on May 18, 2024 ...

Weathering A Grand Tour of Texas

My friend Scott and I had plans for a weekend ride. I'd signed up for the Motorcycle Grand Tour of Texas. For the uninformed, it's an annual event where fifty interesting places around Texas are identified as stops.

From one side to the other, remember that Texas is a large state. Huge! To be exact, it's 877.455 miles on I-10 from Orange, on the east side, to El Paso, on the west side. There are many riders who take it as a challenge, battling to see who'll reach all fifty sites first. Each rider is assigned a number and you take a picture of your motorcycle and your number flag as proof of you having been there.

I use the tour as an excuse to get out and ride.

The first year I didn't make any sites. Last year I hit three total. This year, a little more ambitious, I've already tagged three at season's start.

One of the stops, an old fort, is on the Bolivar Peninsula across the bay from Galveston. Take the ferry to get from one side of the bay to the other. That is unless you want to ride around the bay.

In addition, there's Stingaree Restaurant in Crystal Beach, a great seafood restaurant, locally owned and one of my preferences, it's not part of a chain.

"Not So" Grand Tour of Texas Weather

The weather forecast wasn't great. Rain was predicted. Call me a sissy, but I don't like to ride in the rain because it gets my motorcycle dirty. I spent several decades with a motorcycle as my only transportation. Rain, shine, wind, and cold, I rode.

Grand Tour of Texas Weather Radar

Now being retired and able to afford a second 4-wheeled vehicle, I take the dry way out when there's a serious chance of rain.

Sunday morning, despite a seventy percent chance of rain, the day was looking beautiful. Sunny at my house, and a pleasant Houston spring temperature of 70-ish, it was turning into a great day to ride the Grand Tour of Texas. My friend Scott had the same thoughts and shot me a text, saying let's go!

I checked the radar and there was only one little blob of showers traversing east to west along the Galveston area shoreline. Shouldn't be a problem. We agreed to meet in Freeport, a small coastal town southwest of Houston where another one of the Tour stops was located.

The gulf coast routinely proves the truth of the old saying that if you don't like the weather, just wait an hour or two. I'm an ATGATT kind of guy, so I donned my Aerostich (waterproof), full face helmet, leather gloves over a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt. I'm also a total whiner when it comes to cold, wearing my electric vest even when the temps are in the high 60's.

Timeline: It's an hour ride from my house to Freeport and it was sunny when I pulled away from our house. It was cloudy before I reached Alvin, 15 minutes away, and pouring down rain 10 miles on the other side of Alvin. And cold (to me), at 66 degrees.

Worse, the highway from Alvin to Angleton was under construction, and work vehicles had dragged dirt up on the road, now a sloppy, slippery mess. I finally arrived at Freeport and found more construction. Turning onto the street where my first stop was located, there was mud. I hoped it was solid. My front tire sliding sideways told me it was mud.

Meanwhile, Scott hadn't even worn rain pants, and he knows better!

Five Stages of Beef

We rode down the Bluewater highway towards Galveston, and the rain got worse, with minor flooding and the threat of lightning. On the seawall in Galveston, it started storming in earnest. A lightning bolt striking the gulf a little ways off shore was a good enough warning for us to find a restaurant, get a meal and warm up.

I'm sure everyone's heard of the five stages of grief. I'm referring to denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Originally presented about death, it was soon realized that these stages are felt by most people for any disappointing news.

For example, my wife recently drove off with her iPhone 14 ProMax sitting on the roof of her car. She made it about halfway home when her Apple Watch alerted her that her phone was no longer connected to her watch. We both keep an app on our phones that lets the other one know of our location, so we knew about where her $1000 phone was located, within a few meters.

I walked back and forth on the side of that freeway several times without finding her phone. We definitely went through the five stages of grief. I went through the stages on my rainy ride with my friend Scott along the Grand Tour of Texas.

My first awareness of rain possibility was seeing dark clouds on the horizon as I left the house. Denial was in full force. They were southwest from my general intended route, and I thought "they may not be rain clouds". Fifteen minutes into the trip they were looking ominous. Still in denial I reasoned that they didn't look all that bad, maybe a sprinkle.

Denial turned to anger when it started coming down heavily. It got worse as the road was covered with mud. I'm mad now as I'd just washed my motorcycle and didn't want to get it dirty. A sudden red light on this county road caused a slippery, sliding stop in the slime. Cursing ensued.

A half dozen miles further down this slimy road, I was bargaining. Okay, if the rain will stop, I swear I'll be more careful in the future before I take off. Honest ... I'll listen to the predictions!

Depression. Rain had trickled down the back of my helmet and dripped onto my shirt collar under my Aerostich suit. Cold rain.

My gloves and shoes were waterlogged. How much worse can it get?! About 15 feet of mud, standing water several inches deep on the Bluewater highway, and an unexpected squall with major lightning not more than a couple hundred yards nearby.

Finally, acceptance. We were both wet. Scott in a pair of jeans was not only wet but uncomfortably cold. To hell with the rest of our trip, let's find some place to eat. Galveston has some wonderful restaurants and we pulled in for some warmth and a meal.

Settle Down There, Chipper

Restaurant patrons gawked at us as we dripped our way to our table. The general manager came over and showed us a good place to put our soggy gear, then wanted to talk! He'd recently taken a motorcycle safety class and was all excited about motorcycling. He raved about our motorcycles and regaled us with his new experiences.

We drank our hot coffees and slowly warmed up. Both of us enjoyed a Texas meal we should all avoid: greasy, cheesy, salty, and double portions. Dang it tasted good.

Kelly Howard's Dirty Kawasaki ZH2

The rain had ended by the time we suited back up and headed for home. My motorcycle was an absolute mess. First stop was going to be a quarter wash with pressurized soapy spray.

Dirt and mud all over the swing arm and wheels and front of the motor. My bike has a short tail section so mud had splattered the back of my Aerostich. We were smiling nonetheless.

Scott and I have been friends for several decades. There's no telling how many miles we've ridden together. This Grand Tour of Texas was another worst experience to add to our best war stories (and we'll likely try it again).

Checkered Flag

A Motorcycle Grand Tour Of Texas, Um ... Toast

Maybe it wasn't the best day to ride the Grand Tour of Texas but we'll try again. What catastrophes have you experienced that could've been avoided? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!

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Kelly Howard

About Kelly Howard

Kelly Howard is a track day enthusiast, instructor and road rider. He's best known for the involuntary smile his Kawasaki ZH2 imposes using g-force alone.

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