by David & Jean Hanson
Jean was itching to take an extended trip on her new F650GS when she found on BMWSportTouring.com that a Big Bend trip was coming up. We started getting ready, reserved rooms and made some Garmin maps for possible routes avoiding any interstates. During discussions on the bmwsporttouring ride planning forum a member which we had not met yet (but heard a lot about) invited us to stop by his place in San Antonio for a mini group join up. Turned out to be 9 of us leaving from his house Friday morning.
Leaving Thursday morning Mar 26, we encountered fog and it was thicker the farther we proceeded on hwy 1. We took a right on hwy 84, then hwy 7 and finally hwy 21 to San Marcus. Fog changed to clear skies about 2 hours out, then later light showers. We discussed stopping and changing into rain suits but thought it was too light to worry about.
About 4 hours out, I did a quick stop at a yellow light, but Jean was prepared to speed up and was late braking. She locked up the rear tire and slid through 1 lane of the 6 lane intersection, then lost control when the front brake took over and she wrestled the bike to the ground. I unplugged my radio cord and killed and parked my bike, ran to get her up and then backed her onto the sidewalk out of the traffic. I restarted the Tiger and pulled next to her bike, all before the light changed for our traffic, so no delay to anyone just a little side show, ha.
She did no damage, the crash bar, hand guard and corner of caribou cases touched down (very minor scratches) and they did their job of protecting the bike. YEA! We had a little refresher MSF course discussion about using the front brake and only light pressure on the rear brake. We proceeded on. Soon, the rain grew heavier along with the wind, so we stopped and put on our rain gear. We ran for maybe 2 hours before the sun came out again although it was much cooler, we stopped and removed rain gear so our mesh gear would get a chance to dry out in the wind before reaching San Antonio.
Later we crossed over Lake Amstead, which had white caps of probably 5 or 6 feet, hard to tell from such a high vantage point on the bridge. Suffice it to say, I saw no boaters out. Around mid morning the winds started picking up out of the north and grew to 40+ mph, Jean was struggling to keep the little GS in her lane, plus holding any speed over 55 or 60 mph. We all encouraged her at every stop, but there was nothing we could do, she was on her own! She said she wanted to cry but knew it would be harder to see then, ha. She commented that we all seemed to be having no trouble while she was struggling, of course that was not true, we all were making many adjustments for the heavy wind, but we were relaxed where she was very TENSE!
Thankfully, the closer we drew to Big Bend and the later it got (like 5pm) the less the wind blew and the more speed we could coax out of Jean till finally about 90 miles out we were up to cruising 80 mph, which meant we might all get in before midnight now, whew!
Our leader (Whip) on the K1200RS (lead group of 4 riders had waited for us at last gas stop) got a performance award (speeding ticket) just outside of Alpine, TX, where the limits went from 75 mph to 70 mph. I had the only RD and I was back with Jean leading her so it was her fault for not keeping up, ha. (Ed. note: and David not getting a ticket!) We came by as they were discussing the award and I stopped to take a picture but thought better of it and we proceeded in to town to gas up and find out motel the Ramada Inn of Alpine.
Many other riders were waiting on us at the motel, some had arrived on Thursday, all complained of the heavy winds. Think they had over 25 bikes, several new 08 GTs that the new owners were enjoying ($16,000 deals). We had a wonderful supper at the eatery next to the motel, which was a short walk. Met and visited with new faces and shared ride tales. One fellow had ridden his 02 Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600 from Alabama and had been to Viet Nam year after me.
Two rides were planned for the next day, Davis Mountain loop and observatory with Whip leading or Big Bend Park. We choose the park as I like forest and animals. Twisties (Jan) and Bullet (Sharon) and Jean and I joined up for the ride to Marathon then Big Bend.
Nice ride and the winds had subsided, thank goodness. We ate lunch at the restaurant on top, many switchbacks and more learning for Jean, this time I followed her and found out that she was riding the brakes even after me coaching on the radio to down shift and get off the brakes. We passed a downed HD rider; lady had broken her ankle in tight steep downhill switchback.
More discussion followed at the restaurant on proper procedure for going down the mountain. Jean was able to come down slowly and came to a revelation that she shared later, she had been down shifting but did not let the clutch out, so no engine braking, I was so surprised, okay back to the basics. Once she realized her mistake it was much easier going. Next we ran the river road, it was washed out around 50 miles but we did not go that far before turning back and heading for hwy 118 and back to Alpine before getting too late. I spotted some desert rams on the high hillside and hailed Twisties up front to the Big Horns and we proceeded to turn around and go back. Jean could not negotiate the tight turn in-between hills so pulled over and waited and listened on the radio.
It was getting late we decided to take hwy 118 back to Alpine and had a nice ride till about 30 minutes out and I started to get a chill as I had removed my windbreaker under my mesh jacket. I announced on the radio that I was cold and was pulling over to gear up, Jean, my lovely wife responds, “Suck it up”, ha. She later said that she didn’t realize I had no windbreaker on.
Arriving at Alpine, we gas up and go shower and change for dinner at the Reata. We all hugged and said our goodbyes that night as all were off to different directions the following morning. Jean and I did a casual getup following morning, Sunday; continental breakfast was great each morning at the Ramada inn. Think we got on the road around 8:30 and not 30 miles out of Alpine on hwy 67N I saw 3 cow elk browsing on tops of yucca plants. When I did a U turn to get their pictures, they all took off, but I still got 2 of them.
Hwy 67N joined I-10 east bound, but I refused after 2 miles and we got off on a northbound road which I forget. But later rejoined Hwy 67N then 79, and finally hwy 84 all the way to hwy 1.
On a refuel stop 70 miles west of Waco, Tx I noticed Jean’s rear tire had a shiny spot, told her to move forward and sure enough on another revolution it was still there, bummer, got a tack. We push over to side and I get my kit out (mushroom plugs), pull the tack and rapidly insert rasp to stop the air from escaping. Then mushroom, while loosening hardly any air. As I was preparing to get out my air pump, Jean had checked with the modern station to find out they did have an air pump and would turn it on. A fellow pulled up in a nice pickup and offered to give me air, said he was flatted once and no one came. He asked to pay it forward; we told him that was one of Jean’s favorite movies.
On the way to Waco, Jean kept a close watch on her air pressure with the TPI on the GS, it was leaking so we refilled with my air pump then later obtained the worm/glue type plug and this held rest of the way to Waco. Jean and I stayed overnight in Waco and on leaving searched for her home when she was a child plus I found the rent house I stayed in when going to TSTC.
We had a very nice ride on hwy 84 (mostly 2 lane and trees finally again) and stopped for lunch at a Dairy Queen (Ed. note. Isn't eating at a Dairy Queen mandatory while in Texas?) before leaving Texas. Arrived home about 3:30, 1850 miles later, very enjoyable trip. We can't say enough about the many enthusiastic riders on bmwsporttouring.com. These folks have a collective ton of experience with roads, bikes and biking in general and I highly recommend joining up with any of their rides in the country.