Having just completed a successful Void 8 rally the few days before - well except for the starting text issue, I repack the bike and get ready to head over to Texas for the 2nd Annual BigTex rally. After a fairly rushed and hurried Void 8 route, the plan was to ride a bit more leisurely, but first I had to get there. First came a half day of work to tie up some loose strings for the week and then I head out to meet up with the Baileys right before the Atlanta rush hour can begin. Unfortunately, just when I merge onto I-85 about 25 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, my dashboard lights up and informs me that I am quickly losing air in my back tire. I am in the fair left HOT lane and have to maneuver six lanes of I-85 high speed traffic to figure out what I am going to do next. Once in the far right lane, I am hoping to make it to the next exit but by that point I am down to 5 psi in the tire and still a mile from the exit. So I pull over to the shoulder.
After a few attempts at finding a spot that is level enough for me to place the bike on the kickstand, I inspect the back tire. No nails or screws sticking out so that either means that the tire spit it out or I have a valve stem leak. If it is a nail, I am fairly certain that I can repair it and my trip is salvageable. While trying to get my repair stuff off the bike, a GDOT Hero truck shows up and offers some assistance. With his help (and air tank), we determine that it is a hole in the tire and not the valve stem, but can't exactly find where the hole is. He gives me enough air to get to the next exit where I will be able to plug the hole somewhere more conducive than the side of the road. I make my way to the exit and am lucky to find a small used tire shop at the top of the exit ramp. I pull into his parking lot and start to look at the tire once again. The owner of the shop comes over and offers to plug it for me for $10. No brainer there. So after about 10 minutes, the tire is plugged and I am back on the road.
I continue on the road to Rick's consistently checking the tire pressure monitoring system and reassured that the plug seems to be holding and I will be able to continue on the trip. I get into Tuscaloosa about 90 minutes later than I was planning but there is a beer and steak awaiting me - just as Rick promised!
The next morning, Rick, Barbara, and myself head out early to make it over to Huntsville, TX to meet up with a army buddy who is fairly new to long distance rallies. Since I was hoping for a more scenic visit through Texas during the rally, the plan is to ride the rally as a group of three bikes riding leisurely along. The ride over to Huntsville was wet, foggy, and, honestly, not a ton of fun. But we made good time and pulled into Chris' home a little before 6 p.m. The hospitality that Chris showed was second to none. We all compare notes as to the rally route and call it an early night.
Since it is a relatively easy ride of about 250 miles down to Victoria, we decide to go the scenic route and by scenic I mean a visit to the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory in Brenham. A brief tour shows some of the simple tasks that are completed to make the ice cream. But the true reason for the stop is the ice cream sample at the end of the tour - not really a sample but a dish full of two scoops of the ice cream and then for a $1 you can have more. I think Barbara and I could have spent the rest of the day there. But alas, the rally awaits and we boogie on down to Victoria.
The night before the rally, most of the riders met at the local Texas Steakhouse for dinner and drinks. We are all spread out, but we do get a chance to meet a lot of neat folks that we don't normally see on the east coast rallies. An early night leads to an early morning for the final rider's meeting before the start.
The BigTex Rally is similar and yet different than other rallies. There are four starting places, but all starting places are scored together. I am not quite how Wayne creates an even playing field from no matter where you start, but he seems to pull it off. The rally is set up to cover about 1500 miles in 36 hours. In addition to the normal bonus locations at fixed places, this year Wayne created 12 true scavenger hunt locations - things to find while riding. So that kept you looking for things while heading from bonus to bonus. It was a great concept and one that I hope other rallymasters adopt.
|A Petrified Boot|
|These signs are everywhere!|
|Riding with others does make photo taking easier|
|Rio Grande City Hall|
|Popeye and Me|
|That f**kin' Marker|
That is quickly reveled when TX336 dead ends into TX 41and turns back to US83. About 10 seconds before I get to the intersection, Rick and company zip through the intersection. Obviously, their Garmin told them to go a different way - wouldn't be the first time. Anyway, we head up to Brady, cold, tired, and once we got to Junction, a light rain and strong winds were upon us. I think it must have dropped 30 degrees in about 20 minutes. The ride into the hotel was slow but we got in around 10 p.m. After hoping to get a pizza (fail - Pizza Hut doesn't deliver after 10 pm.)we settle on a McDonalds meal - which you can imagine how that felt. Anyway, over the quarter pounders we decide to throw most of tomorrow's route away, get a good night sleep and have an enjoyable ride into Austin for the group photo.
|A License Plate in Luckenbach|
|Dead Man's Hole|
I pull up to the service center and explain my situation to the service clerk and he said that it will not be a big deal to get a new back tire - they even have my preferred tire in stock and they are running a tire special so the labor will only run me $25. The only hitch is that it will likely take them about 3 hours to fit me in. Therefore, that means my rally is over. I still should be able to get to the finishing hotel by the rally time limit, but since I will not have stopped at the mandatory BBQ joint, I will DNF. Still, better safe than sorry, and I make the call to the rallymaster and tell him the situation and than I will still be at the banquet tonight, but will DNF. It is a difficult call to make - only the second one in five years of rallies.
The shop actually does a great job of getting me in and out and I am back on the road about 30 minutes earlier than initially planned and make my way to Cedar Hill, TX and the finishing banquet. Knowing that I have a fresh tire makes the ride straight up I-35 easy and I enjoy the scenery as I pass through Waco and come out of the hill country.
The finishers banquet was delicious with an open bar. Since I don't have to worry about scoring or putting my finisher's packet together, it is very relaxing and enjoyable to meet up with everyone over drinks and then dinner. Based on the scores, it is clear that the route that Rick, Chris, Barbara, and I chose sucked big time and they will be finishing (albeit they did finish) near the bottom of the group. Having had more than my excitement for the day and not in the hunt for any trophies, I turn in early after coordinating with Rick and Barbara about our departure time for the next morning.
Our Sunday ride back to Tusacoloosa was very easy. We make incredible time and pull into the Bailey complex at 6:00 p.m. after riding 800 miles. Enough time for the pizza that we didn't have in Brady and an early night before I have to finish up the 250 miles on Monday morning.
Overall, it wasn't the rally that I had hoped it would be. But I learned a lot about routing out west and did see some areas of the country that I have always wanted to see. Plus it gave me some much needed experience in how to handle bike issues while on the road. I still think I made the right call in plugging the tire and continuing with the trip. But I am certainly happy to have past Central Texas Powersports in Georgetown, TX when I did.
The rally season is now over and I have some big plans for 2014 that I hope will happen as planned. Until then.....