El Dia de Los Muertos Texas Night Ride
Friday, November 9, 2012
Packing up the bikes at Tony's house for the ride down to Galveston.
Our day started out in Austin, Texas.
And ended up on the shores of Galveston Island.
We made it! Now it's margarita time.
No sooner had I scraped the zombie makeup off my face from Halloween night than I was getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Austin. With three-and-a-half hours of sleep I was feeling like a zombie. Black makeup remained around my eyes and people glared like I was an ‘80s rocker with guy-liner on. But I could care less. In a few hours I would be landing in Austin to pick up a 2013 Victory
Cross Roads Classic for a run down to Galveston Island so I could cover the 11th annual Lone Star Rally
My friend Manny picked me up and we proceeded to hit up the Green Mesquite for a BBQ lunch. Felt good to fill my belly with tangy bbq brisket, sausage, and fried okra. Big ol’ glass of sweet tea helped wash it down. Man, sometimes I miss the south, especially the down-home grub.
Soon we were off to Kyle, about 20 miles south of town, to pick up the Cross Roads Classic from Kent Powersports. I thought the name sounded familiar until Manny filled me in that the dealership was owned by former major leaguer Jeff Kent, long-time slugger for the San Francisco Giants. Now he’s doing reality TV. An odd resume, but life sends you in curious circles sometimes. I'm more concerned with whether the bike was prepped and ready.
The 2013 Cross Roads Classic was sitting outside. What a looker. Long, sweeping fenders, a distinctive recessed tank, studded leather saddlebags, highway bars, floorboards and a tall windscreen meant it had everything I needed to log some serious road miles. Somehow I was able to cram in an Ogio bag of clothes, camera equipment, computer, shoes and toiletries into both bags. Luckily they’re deep and hold a lot of stuff. We adjusted the preload on the rear to accommodate a 225-pound rider and about 25 pounds of gear and I was off.
Shot back up I-35 to pick up my buddy Tony who was going to be my wing-man for the ride to Galveston. He rides a 2003 Triumph America, the last year it was carb-fed. By the time we finished shooting the shit, packing up his bike and gassing up, the sun was already going down.
After posting up an article on motorcycle and deer collisions earlier in the week, I can't help but feel a little tension riding at deer-thirty but we trepidly head out at twilight. Manny’s story about the new 85 mph artery between San Antonio and Austin and the packs of feral hogs that have been blasted into roadside bacon when they run out into traffic didn’t help. Even though it's "El Dia de Los Muertos" I'm not quite ready to dance with the sugar skulls. My head was on a swivel looking for motion in the shadows – deer, coons, hogs, skunk, armadillo – they’re out there, I know it.
After about a half hour into the ride the speed limit increases to 75 mph so we pick up the pace. The moon is an unnatural orange and is still almost full as it hovers just above the horizon. I’m still on hyper-alert but I’m settling into the rhythm of the ride. We ride staggered but close, the lights of the 2013 Cross Roads Classic are so wide and deep Tony asks if I have my brights on. Needless to say, the lights on his Triumph are a little dated.
Though the night conceals the Texas Hill Country, the loss of one sense only heightens another. As we pass a cattle ranch, the stench of manure fills the air. Further down the road, the offensive odor is replaced by freshly harvested sweet hay. As we ride, campfire smoke from an unseen campground wafts through the hills. After that, our olfactory senses get the double whammy, first the scent of a freshly splatted skunk followed by the unmistakable stench of death from a carcass somewhere off the road. As the road approaches a small town, I get a whiff of the fryer oil coming from the vents of a fast food joint.
Before we reach the intersection of Highway 71 and I-10, we must have ridden through a bog because the air is rich with the marshy smell of moss and leaves composting. Before long it’s replaced by the acrid scent of crude, oil that is. It hits our nose before we see the derricks roadside, the lifeblood of Houston pumped deep from underground.
Continuing toward Houston we must have passed a winery somewhere because the unmistakable smell of fermenting grapes is now prominent. I grew up not far from Mirassou Vineyards so I know that sweet, rotting smell anywhere. We press on, the moon rising in the sky as it loses a bit of its orange sheen. The closer we get to Galveston, the stronger the blend of seaweed and salt water fills the air. Before long we arrive at the beach, the moon now reflecting off the water, the air cool and crisp, the fear of animals running out into my path subsided and the reasons I like to ride at night alive in my senses.
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