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[Ride Report] TWT Day Ride 08/23/03


Keeper of the Asylum
Feb 28, 2003

:tab Saturday morning rolls around, I can't sleep, so I might as well get up and get the bikes ready for the ride. Beth and I were up late last night changing the oil on both VFR's and doing other miscellaneous maintenance. Our current temporary residence has the master room on the backside of the building, right where the sun comes blasting through the window bright and early, blinding me and turning the room into a sauna. Not long after we get moving, Paul and Andy show up from Austin. Then Paul and Paul from Houston, followed by Jeff, Shannon and Kelly. A nice turnout!

:tab We sit around chatting a bit then move outside and get ready to roll. As is my custom, I have to get a group shot before we head out. We get all the bikes lined up across the street (in the proper color order :roll: ).

All the bikes and most of the people

Paul, Paul, Jeff and Kelly

Paul and Shannon

The Wonder Twins, Beth and Debbie

:tab Unfortunately, Kelly could not get the time off to come with us for the ride on his new Bandit. He has to get home. Everyone is standing around cooking in the heat so we mount up and head out. We live in a residential area and there is no good way to get out of town without running the risk of the group getting spread out because of stop signs, traffic lights, and other traffic. However, we manage to get everyone out of town and started down the backroads. Everyone gets a big thumbs up for being gassed up and ready to roll when they got to our place so we don't have to waste time on the way out of town stopping for gas.

:tab The first thirty miles or so are straight up FM 247. This is a strange road. I've lived in Huntsville for right at ten years now. During those ten years, this road has seen more than its fair share of extensive repairs and maintenance and yet the pavement quality still sucks in most places :shrug: There are some decent curves, but for the most part it is a good place to get a feel for how comfortable the group will be with the pace. I am doing my best to keep it around 70-75mph tops. What I have found on most of my group rides is that while I keep to that pace, even through many of the curves, many riders will slow drastically for the corners and then run like a mad dog on the straights to close up. Today, much like I've done in the past, I have to slow to around 60mph or so to let the group catch up without having to run so fast. It seems to work well. I get my jollies in the corners and they don't feel left behind. Aprilia Paul is bringing up the rear and I seldom lose sight of his self admitted slow poking Futura for more than a few seconds.

:tab The cloud cover is scattered and it is in the low nineties. Already, there are some clouds that are looking like they mean to get together with some friends and poop on our parade later in the day. I keep one eye on the pavement and the other scanning the sky. When we reach Midway, we head West a block or so on Hwy 21 to the start of the Old Spanish Road (OSR). The first few miles have recently been chip sealed but it is not too bad. When we reach FM 1119, we turn North. Up until now, most of the riding has been just to get here. This is really the start of the relatively fun stuff.

:tab The terrain in this area is rolling hills alternately covered with pastures and woods. Many of the pastures are dotted with large rolled hay bales, the kind about the size of a Volkswagen Bug. Coming upon one of them in the middle of the road would be an ugly experience. I know from past experience to keep a wary eye out for slow moving hay hauling trucks, tractors and trailers. We run the gentle sweepers up and over the hills, in and around the numerous ranches until we reach the turn off for FM 811.

:tab After our turn onto FM 811, I motion for Aprilia Paul to start his video recorder. Parts of this road are really fun and I won't have a chance to tell him once we are rolling. The road starts out quite straight and then bends left into a long highspeed sweeper and good pavement. This lasts for a few miles, until we reach the next county line. Then the pavement becomes a dull grey with patches here and there, nothing to scary, but definitely something that will give your suspension a good workout. The last few miles of the road are the best. It winds through some woods and then through the middle of a large ranch in a series of tight 25 and 30 mph corners. When we reach the North end of the road at Hwy 7, I pull into the Pioneer Cafe parking lot for a rest stop.

:tab It is about 11:30am and already we are cooking like taters wrapped in tin foil over an open fire. Cool refreshments really hit the spot. Beth's car is at the dealership and she needs to get back so she can get there in time to find out if it is ready and to pick it up. Honda Paul needs to head back because he has a prior committment in Houston. So Beth and Paul tear out of the parking lot, their aftermarket pipes howling like wolves on a rampage, and head West on Hwy 7 to pick up I-45 for the fast run home. The rest of us head East to the start of a great road.

:tab FM 1511 needs to be a few hundred miles longer than it is. Right now, it only runs about ten miles or so. But those ten miles are a lot of fun. The pavement is good, wide and consistent. The curves, most anyway, are predicatable with no major surprises. There are some places where coming over a blind crest I have to make a quick lean at the last second to make the next curve. but for the most part is a great run for those wanting to stretch their legs a bit. I tell Jeff where to wait for us and send the whole group on ahead. Debbie and I fall in behind Aprilia Paul for a while.

:tab When I am riding, I am constantly scanning for what will make a good picture. Often, I wish I had a bionic eye like the Million Dollar Man so I could just capture an instant snap shot of what I see with my eye rather than having to stop, power up the camera, frame the shot, put everything away, and get going again. At one particularly nice spot, I stop and turn around to go back for a good picture, letting Paul zip away.

A good shot of what FM 1511 has to offer

Debbie sits in the hot sun wondering what's taking me so long...

Debbie and I get turned around, mostly without incident... and then zoom away to catch up to everyone. A mile or so up the road, we round a fast right hander and see Aprilia Paul zoom by us the opposite way?? I guess he noticed we were not behind him and came looking for us. I slow down to wait for him to get turned around and to catch up with us. Then we cruise on to find the rest of the group waiting for us at the end of the road.

:tab FM 1511 deadends into FM 831. We turn West and head for Old Hwy 75. There are some really fun curves on this short section of road. I send everyone on ahead and bring up the rear. Once again I get to sit back and watch Aprilia Paul burn through the corners, his big twin thumping out its' song of joy! His lines are smooth and clean. I so seldom ride at the back of the pack, it is refreshing to sit back and watch the line of bikes snake through the corners. Jeff, Andy and Triumph Paul pull away from the rest of us, leaving Shannon and Aprilia Paul ahead of me. It is good to see Shannon not getting caught up in the common urge to "keep up" with the rest of the group. If he sticks to this, he will undoubtably become a better rider as he progresses rather than an ego induced statistic in some database.

:tab We reach Hwy 75 to find everyone waiting patiently. I cruise to the front of the pack and lead the way up to Buffalo for our first gas stop. It has only been about 100 miles but the next gas station will be about another 60 miles or so. I encourage everyone to fill up now. It always seems to be hard to get everyone to fill up even if they still have a half tank or so. For some people, it is painful to get gas if they are not running on empty. But my group riding experience has confirmed that if a few people don't fill up, then everyone gets out of sequence and we actually have to make more gas stops and waste more time. This happens on almost every single group ride. Maybe I need to be more forceful :pound: ?

:tab I decide to take the group farther North than I have recently gone. The last time I was up here, we had to cut out part of the route. I want to see what we missed. So after everyone is gassed and ready to ride, we head East on US 79 to the start of FM 1848. This road looks really squiggly on my map which is usually a faithful indicator of how good a road will be. Apparently, the normal map maker took a holiday when this road was penned on the page. It looks good on paper but is totally and completely unremarkable, which is ironically the very thing so remarkable about this road. :| We head back Southeast on FM 489 to US 84, more of the same. US 79 again back West to Oakwood... Don't even get me started :suicide:

:tab At Oakwood we head South on FM 542 for about a mile to the start of the East end of FM 831. Aprilia Paul has to stop to change out his video tapes. Everyone else goes on ahead. Debbie and I wait for Paul. Good Lord it is hot out here!! The temp only shows that it is in the mid nineties, but for some reason it feels much hotter than it really is. The heat index must be off the friggin scale! After a few longggg minutes, Paul is again road worthy and we head off to catch up with everyone else, Deb and I bring up the end of the train.

:tab FM 831 is one of those roads that would be an incredibly fun ride if it ever gets repaved. Right now it is just mostly fun :wink: Here are a few shots of the typical scenery along the way, bumps and all.

Can you spot the white bird in this picture?

A typical curve on FM 831, smoother than most :-P

More of the same

:tab Aprilia Paul must really be moving because after taking a few quick pics, I can't catch him! Debbie will elighten anyone that might suggest I wasn't moving fast enough to catch up to him at his normal pace. As she so eloquently put it, "That was exciting! :eek: " We reach the intersection of FM 1511 and 831 to find the group waiting patiently. Triumph Paul has his bike parked under the awning of what looks like an abandoned old single pump gas station. Everyone else is baking like lobsters in the afternoon sun. Another quick stop and then we head South on FM 1511.

:tab I am back in the lead but once again see a photo opportunity and wave everyone on by me. By now they know the drill and I expect to find them waiting at the next intersection.

Fast sweepers on FM 1511

A closer look

We have to do one hay trailer dodge before cathing up to the group at the intersection of FM 1511 and Hwy 7. We head West a few miles back to the Pioneer Cafe for lunch and cold drinks.

:tab Once again, the food and service at the Cafe do not disappoint us. If you are a vegetarian, this might not be the place for you. There are salads on the menu and they look good, but seriously, this is where you come for the big juicy cholestrol packed bacon cheeseburger from ****. From the lack of talking and the heavy napkin usage, I am guessing everyone is enjoying their lunch.

Triumph Paul, Ninja 250 Shannon, and Vtec VFR Andy

FZ1 Jeff and Triumph Paul

Pillion Debbie and FZ1 Jeff

Vtec Andy and Aprilia Paul

Getting ready to ride off lunch

And here are the people pics with their beloved steeds:

Paul Massie and his Triumph Sprint RS

Andy Baxter and his Vtec VFR 800

Jeff Dean and his Yamaha FZ1

Shannon Baker and his Ninja 250

:tab After lunch we lost Andy. He has a committment in Austin that he promised his wife he'd be back in time to attend. So he heads off from the cafe straight West on Hwy 7 to make the best time home. The rest of us head back South down FM 811.

:tab About a half mile South from Hwy 7 is where we get back to those low speed corners that pass right through a large ranch. This time there is a horse and rider sitting in the middle of the road as we approach. I notice a good sized herd of cattle on the right, just inside an open gate and another horse and rider. I normally give horses a lot of room and slow down so as not to spook them. But even going slow, the cattle turn and try to move away as we come up on them. I am hoping they don't freak and stampede :? Despite a few that wig, most of them seem not to realize what is happening until we are already past them. Then we are off and running through the fun stuff again.

:tab We run back down to FM 1119 and head South, back the way we came up. About midway back down 1119 we turn and head West on FM 977. This is a great road! For the most part it has excellent pavement and wonderful curves. As we are zipping along, we pass a long row of what appears to be cages. A half mile or so later I pull over and ask Debbie is she saw several tigers in the cages?! She says yes and I decide to make a uturn to check it out. Sure enough, there are several tigers. This is strange because we are in the middle of nowhere and this place looks like it could be abandoned except for the presence of the tigers. I take some pics from far away:



:tab The tigers are doing the typical cat thing on a hot day... nothing. They are lazily stretched out, panting in the heat, and generally looking incredibly bored. One barely manages to lift his head at the sound of all the bikes before noncholantly noding back off into Tiger dreamland.

As I approach the cages, I notice a white tiger in a nearby cage!!

:tab I am thinking the white tigers are supposed to be quite rare. But then I notice several more. The first one seems very interested in me and gets up to come nearer the fencing. He starts rubbing on the fence and looking like he wants to play, or sucker me into putting a hand into the cage... yeah right!? :suicide: Most of the cages have what appear to be bowling balls in them for the big cats to entertain themselves... whoopee!

The deep claw marks on these balls are a serious reminder of what those claws can do :eek:

I figure everyone is getting impatient as the heat is really coming on strong now. I finish up and get back on the bike.

:tab The first really good curve after stopping to look at the tigers is a fairly sharp left hander, no banking to speak of, and LOTS of hot slippery tar and oil that has oozed to the surface of the pavement. I notice it in time to reduce my speed and then ever so gently roll on the throttle through the turn. Even so, the bike wiggles and squirms all over the place. I can feel Debbie tensing up as she senses the bike moving in an unusual manner. As I leave the curve, I scan my mirrors and watch to make sure everyone else comes through cleanly. They do and I let out a sigh of relief! The rest of the ride is fantastic.

:tab FM 977 is a long stretch of really great sweepers marked from 25mph up to about 50mph. There are lots of nice elevation changes. The pavement is good. As we cross over I-45 onto the Western half of the road, the pavement gets quite wet. We are lucky enough to have just missed what appears to have been a good shower. The road is not soaked, but it is wet enough that the evaporation is cooling the air. Within minutes, the temperature has dropped from around 97 F to a wonderfully cool 86 F!! This is a delightful surprise indeed!! I slow to around 70mph for the wet pavement but notice that Aprilia Paul and Shannon have dropped out of sight. A few times, we slow up in the long straights to make sure they are still hanging with us and nothing has happened to them. The countryside is very scenic along 977. Some of the pastures are incredibly beautiful, with rolling deep green pastures.

:tab When we reach the end of FM 977 at FM 3, Triumph Paul decides to head North on 3 in an attempt to circumnavigate a nasty looking thunderhead off to the Southwest, the direction we are heading. Aprilia Paul momentarily decides to follow Triumph Paul and then changes his mind and decides to follow us to Normangee. We say goodbye to Triumph Paul and head South. FM 3 is a lot like FM 977, nice sweepers and pretty scenery. The road has dried out and the temperature is creeping back up towards the low nineties.

:tab At Normangee we stop at a local filling station so everyone can make their time of arrival update phone calls to their SO's. We have not hit the rain yet but it looks like it could happen any moment. It is around 4:00pm. Beth tells me her car is ready and that when I get back, we'll need to head down to Conroe to pick it up. Everyone else is getting antsy to be heading back towards Houston before it gets too late.

:tab About a half mile down the road on FM 39, we hit the OSR again. Aprilia Paul heads West to pick up Hwy 21 and run towards Austin. The rest of us, Shannon and Jeff, head East towards Madisonville. With a quick wave, Paul vanishes off the the distance. A few miles out of town we head Southeast on FM 2289. This is just a run of the mill no frills FM. Well, no frills except for the huge black cow standing in the middle of the road!! :eek: It looks like the SUV coming the other way is about to broadside the beefy critter but it bolts over to the shoulder on our side of the road and runs along the pasture fence. We very carefully make our way around it and continue on our way. After a few fun curves, we reach FM 978 and head East into Madisonville and pick up Hwy 21 East to I-45. Because it is getting late in the day, we decide to just run down I-45 to save time.

:tab No sooner than we start heading South towards Huntsville, the skies to the South start looking nasty and ominous. I decide to pull over and get my valuables out of my pockets and tuck them safely away in my GIVI topcase where they will stay nice and dry. After washing my last pager recently, I am not thrilled about the idea of having to replace another because of rain. I also put my tank bag cover on to protect my camera and GPS from the rain. Then with a fatalistic sigh, we get back on the road acticipating a good soaking.

:tab The wind kicks up and starts blowing us around. We are running with the traffic at about 80mph. I am a little concerned about Shannon's Ninja 250 and whether or not it can run on the freeway at this speed comfortably, but Shannon does not seem to be having any trouble, so we press on. Incredibly, it never rains!? We make it all the way to Huntsville without incident. When I exit, Jeff and Shannon give a wave and then continue on their way. It occurs to me that it is funny that I started this ride with seven other bikes in tow and prior to getting home, it is down to just me. It was a fun ride and as usual, I really enjoyed visiting with everyone. Soon after getting home, Beth and I take off to go get her car. the rest of the evening is spent preparing for our departure for Arkansas on the bikes the next morning, but that is another story...

:tab Let me recall that mostly incidnet free uturn I mentioned earlier in the story. By late evening, it appears that I may have over extended my left leg when straining the keep the bike from leaning to far in the down hill direction on the road. At the time I didn't give it a second thought as I did not recall straining very much. My groin muscles seem to have a better memory that I do and they are not at all happy with such abuse. By the time I am ready to call it a day, my left inner thigh and groin is good and sore. Thank God for Ibuprofen... Better living through Chemistry I always say! :mrgreen:
Last edited:
Mar 2, 2003
Austin, TX, USA
buck000 said:
Great write-up! Eagerly waiting for the next installment... :)
Me too....

Thanks once again Scott for leading out such a fun ride. I hope next time I will be able to hang out with ya'll for the whole thing.

BTW :bigokay: for the Pioneer Cafe