Day One: June 8th, 2001 Friday
The last few weeks have been nonstop running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. Two weeks ago, I had a low speed wreck on my 98 VFR 800 while riding in the mountains of Arkansas. As there was no way to get the 98 repaired in time for this trip, I managed to dream up a way for me to get a new 2001 VFR, keep the 98 and fix it, and sell the old bikes. But this required me to find and acquire a new bike, get it home and get it broken in before we leave for this trip. I did. Let's just say that I was very motivated. So all of the reservations have been made, Beth has been packed for the last week, I packed just last night, our trailer finally has working lights and it seems we are actually ready to leave.
Of course you realize that nothing is ever so simple. It has been raining the entire week. It seems that a tropical depression has moved in, moved out, and moved back in again because it has nothing better to do. Houston, most of East Texas, and the rest of the Gulf Coast has been receiving torrential rains. Huntsville has received over 12" in four days. And now that I am trying to finish the last minute wiring work on the trailer and get the bikes loaded, it is pouring outside! With no other choice, I venture out into the wind and rain and load the bikes, strap them down, and throw everything else into the truck.
"Wait!", you say, "This is supposed to be a motorcycling trip!?" It is, but if you have ever been through West Texas, especially in June, you'd understand why we are trailering the bikes to Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is about 650 miles of hot, open, and barren land with nothing to see except dust devils and lots of sky with the occasional small mountains and hills. So we are going to head for Austin this evening and spend the night at Will's place. John will bring his bike over and spend the night at Will's as well. This way we can get the bikes loaded this evening and be ready to roll bright and early tomorrow morning. We'll be staying with friends in Las Cruces and leaving the trailer at their home. Then when we leave the Rallye, we'll head South back to Las Cruces, pick up the truck, and trailer the bikes back to Austin. A simple plan.
It seems that Dad is as excited about us going on this trip as I am. So he sends me on my way early. The weather is not showing any sign of letting up at all, and it would be nice to drive to Austin in the daylight under the circumstances. So, I take the truck and head for the house to get Beth. We still have some luggage to put in the truck. But it is now pouring down so hard that simply running out to the truck and back once is enough to make us look like we just fell into a swimming pool. But we have no choice if we want to get going. So we just get soaked, get in the truck and head West!
It would probably have been a good idea to check the Weather channel one last time before leaving the house. As we are heading West on Highway 30, we begin to wonder if we are going to encounter closed roads. Flooding is being reported all over the place. We have to cross the San Jacinto river and it runs through a very low area where the highway is prone to flooding. Unfortunately, there is no other way to head West, other than going South towards Houston and then cutting West. But Houston is flooding worse than any other place. Freeways are being closed all over the city. So we decide to just keep going and see what we encounter.
What we encounter is HEAVY rain! We are in a Dodge Diesel truck that sits up nice and high so we can see over anyone ahead of us. The only problem is that we can't see that far! We are doing well just to see the person ahead of us. Traffic has to slow to a crawl and many cars have just pulled over to try and wait out the rain. But this is not just an isolated summer thunderstorm that will pass in a few minutes. The skies are dark gray, lighting is flashing all around, thunder is booming and echoing among the clouds, and the wind is blowing even this large truck all over the road. All I can say is, "Thank God I did not wash the bikes before leaving!" They are filthy now.
We continue on and don't have any problems with road closures. The rain continues, without letting up at all, even after we have been in the truck for over an hour. When we get to Brenham, a favorite stopping point on the way to Austin, we pull in at a Dairy Queen for a break. I spot several Honda Valkyries in the parking lot. When we get inside, I spot several VERY wet riders dripping on the floor in the dining area. It turns out that they are heading to Austin for the weekend for a rally. One of the guys forgot to bring any kind of rain suit. He'd be hard pressed to be any wetter than he is at the moment. The young girl responsible for keeping the dining area clean is scowling at the puddle forming under this guy, hehe. They spot the trailer outside and jokingly mention that we have room for several more bikes on the trailer, *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*. I explain that their big heavy bikes would crush the ramp we have and anyway, they are already soaked and I'd hate to deprive them of the bonding experience they are having with each other. We wish them luck and they get back on the road. After getting some Ice Cream, so do we.
When we get back on the road, it is still raining. We pass the soaked guys and give them a wave from our cozy, warm and dry truck cab. After about another hour or so, we start getting near the Western edge of Austin. The rain is finally starting to ease up a bit. As we get closer, the clouds finally start to thin out and we can see small patches of blue sky and sunlight peeking through. The last few miles into town are beautiful. The sun is coming in under the receding edge of the storm and highlighting the storm clouds back to the East. We see several large full rainbows. When we finally reach Will's house, the ground is dry and the storm is fading to the East into the night sky. Barely five minutes after we get to Will's place, John pulls up on his bike. What great timing! We get Will's Triumph Trophy 1200 and John's Triumph Sprint ST loaded on the trailer with our bikes. Then we settle in for a relaxing evening before heading to bed nice and early. The plan is to leave Austin at 8:00am so we can get to Las Cruces around dinner time. We are all giddy with excitement now that the trip is actually upon us! Sleep does not come easy, nor does it stay during the night.