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Wild Motorcycle Tales

Here's a great story from Jef and Jill Verswyvel. Got your own story? Send it to me.

Trip to Llano

Jill and I talked about going camping by motorcycle for months. It was something we'd like to do together and see places up close. Little by little we acquired all the essentials but weren't able to set a date. There was always something that prevented us from proceeding with the plan. Finally we agreed on the day after Thanksgiving, weather permitting. Llano, Texas was the destination. A friend and colleague invited us to stay on his 5 acre property in the hill country. A perfect opportunity and a safe testbed for this endeavor. I looked forward to this first trip into the wild. If everything went according to our made up scenario it would set a precedent for future travels. This initial trial of weathering the elements of nature would make or break or even definitely burst our bubble of camping out.

The Big Day!!!

9 a.m. was "kick stand", time to get on the road in biker jargon. At 10 a.m. I still had to load the bikes! Luckily we packed everything up in bags the night before. Although I "Kentucky windaged" it, I did a pretty good job in balancing the luggage. It looked like a professional had a hand in it. Even wifey gave me a couple of taps on the shoulder for a job well done. Secretly I thanked God for bungee cords, all 13 of them! Zeb was constantly twinkle-toeing around the bikes, eager to jump on. Strange how some dogs are. When I wanted him to ride with me more than a year before and taught him how to sit on the motorcycle, I never imagined he'd actually love it! Now every time when I have to leave without him he always gives me a dejected look. That little critter knows how to lay on the guilt trip. It was a little windy and chilly that morning, so I put on his jacket and goggles. The man was ready to roll! A quick short whistle and he jumped in his seat. The picture tells a thousand words.

10:39 a.m.: We tweaked a few things here and there and strapped our small backpacks to both fuel tanks. Now we were really ready. About time! Just a few seconds more to take some pictures to preserve history in the making and off we went!

The Jillster was in anticipation of her first big ride. Little did I know she would develop into a speed demon! Zeb, a veteran, was all mounted up and ready to go!

We took the Bush toll way to I-20. Traffic wasn't bad but the wind took us by surprise. Plus it was colder than I had anticipated and severe wind gusts rocked us sideways constantly. Not a good omen for things to come. Weather forecast promised warmer temperatures but that was later by the end of the day. After about 35 miles my goggles came detached from my helmet. We were doing 70 mph and there was no way I was able to adjust it without looking for trouble. Too risky. I signaled Jill to take the next exit. This wasn't going well. The military efficiency of the trip was already out the door and it wasn't even 11:30 a.m. We pulled into a gas station parking lot and I fixed the problem. I promised myself to keep a log of the trip. My wife told me to call it the "Captain's log." I liked that. Although she took the lead of the whole expedition as far as directions (I couldn't find my way out of a parking lot, even if I had a GPS), she made me feel in charge! LOL! Good old Jill. How was it again?: "A man is never as strong as the woman behind him." So true.

After Zeb took a little quick pee behind the bushes we were back on the road in a jiffy. Except for the loss of time and another dent in our schedule, it felt good being out of the wind for several minutes. We got energized by it and were able to find our bearings and brace ourselves for things ahead.

Star date; November 23rd 2012, Mile 38, Captain's Log;..... . Pocket's mount in the foreground.

We decided to proceed to Granbury and have lunch there, about 50 miles farther. Still the wind was pounding but we made good time. Jill pulled into Braum's. Excellent choice. Quick and cheap. We were famished and thirsty. Hard work riding a motorcycle in a wind tunnel! People get hungry.

12:45 p.m.: after wolfing down a couple of burgers and fries we were back in the saddle. We passed Stephenville, Cowboy Capitol of the world and Dublin. Jill wanted a few pictures of the town's clover sign. I took a few of her in front of it and then handed over the camera so she could take one of me. Except for my eyebrows, out of focus helmet and a blurry sign in the background, no one will ever know I was there! I love my wife but please don't buy her a camera for Christmas!

We accumulated another 70 miles till we hit Comanche. This time it was the Bonnies that needed attention and a drink. We got good mileage out of the bikes. About 57 mpg! When we stopped at a Shell gas station it started to warm up a little. We treated ourselves to a coffee and some Subway cookies. Zeb made another pit stop and gladly stretched his legs. The little guy is the perfect back seater.

Time became the essence. The loafing around in the morning and the stops, necessary or not, burnt up too much daylight. We knew we had to make up some. The pressure was on to get to our destination before nightfall. Gary and Connie's cabin was in unfamiliar country, away from population and nearly impossible to find in the dark. No room for error! And then there is Murphy's law! We were suppose to hit I-16 near Goldthwaite but missed it. Partially my fault because I noticed the sign but was over-confident that our fearless leader had seen it too and knew what she was doing. Apparently her radar was switched off at that particular moment and we both passed it. About 5 miles outside Goldthwaite she realized something was not right and pulled over. When I told her I had seen the sign at the town's intersection and not bothered to make her aware of it, I was so glad she wasn't carrying a baseball bat!

Notice the switch of sunglasses for reading ones. This picture was taken with a zoom. Me and Zeb were hiding in the brush until she calmed down! (Never stopped loving her though.)

We had to backtrack the 5 miles to town and start over. Llano was still 55 miles away and it was already 4:15 p.m. Dusk was setting in and on top of that it looked like it was going to rain. Dark heavy clouds hovered over the Llano region. Temperatures dropped tremendously and the wind was picking up again. Miraculously the weather gods were on our side and the threatening storm subsided just as fast as it appeared. At 17:33 p.m. after some of the most sublime maneuvering by my lovely leader through little unknown back roads, we arrived at the gate. A push on the button and it opened like an inviting arm. About 50 feet of pressed gravel took us to our friends' garage. I put my kick stand down but quickly realized that a thin metal rod is no match on gravel. We decided to park on the concrete slab in front of their garage, Jill on the right, me on the left. I looked at my wife and saw the outlines of her sunglasses on her wind beaten, reddish tired face. She became an instant pro! There was still enough energy for a smile. A job well done Babe!

Our metal horses (Vera & Jack) corralled for the night.

We had about 15 minutes of daylight left to pick out a spot and set up shop. Our friends were nowhere to be seen and probably on an errand run. We walked around the premises and threw our bags down about 20 yards to the side of their cabin. This was going to be home for 2 days. Gary told me that everything on his property either prickles or bites and how right he was! There was flora and fauna of the worst kind. Cacti, ants, stickers etc., everything nipped or punctured. We made a little clearing and by the end of the day we didn't do too bad. We planted ourselves in folding chairs and nourished our insides with cheese and crackers we stuffed in our bags at the last moment. We were too tired to get out and find a place to eat. Coffee never tasted so good sitting there in the quietness of the evening (except for the noises of crickets, quails, birds, frogs, dogs and some other critters I'm afraid to think about). But the presence of Jill made it all good and wonderful. This was the life! This trip was already worth it even if it would rain for the next two days. Darkness arrived without further notice and so did our friends who returned from a trip to historic Fredericksburg. It was 7:30 p.m. by now and we told them we were going to take a quick nap and join them later. Well we woke up 2 hours later! Our batteries were 30% charged. Enough to get up and walk to the cabin. Gary and Connie offered us some left over pizza and we gobbled it down like two hungry wolves. It was a welcome treat (even without sugar).

We chit-chatted for awhile about the day's passage and promised our hosts to serve bacon and eggs in the morning, cowboy style.

We staggered back to the tent and crawled into our sleeping bags without further adieu."Good night Ma!" "Good night Pa!" Lights out 11 p.m.

Dawn over the hill country

The night went by and except for the feeling of having spent 8 hours like a corpse on a marble slab, it was alright I guess. On my right side was my dear spouse all duffled up in her sleeping bag with only one eye visible. Probably the one she opens when there is an alarm situation. She looked pretty comfortable on her blow up mattress. Another mistake I won't make again. I wanted to go in all Rambo and use my old army mat to buffer the hardness of the ground but it didn't pan out that way. Guess age crept into my bones. Yeah, my airborne days are surely over. Comfort is the name of the game from now on. Zeb woke up too and although I wanted to strangle him for most of the night, he did quite well. He heard noises that were there but also ones that weren't and his constant growling drove me to a point of insanity. I unzipped the front opening of the tent and let him out. It was sunny but cool. I crawled out and took a towel. I was going to freshen up at the cold water spigot. Man vs. nature! Bare chested and full of confidence I strode to the spot where the water well was located. Meanwhile Gary came out to raise his flag.

"Come and take it"

I turned the water on and cupped some in my hands. It was pretty cold and smelled like wet rusty iron. With a small public watching, there was no way back. I had to go thru with it and make a damn fool of myself. I threw some over my back and tried vigorously not to flinch. I'm sure there were some jealous looks (or not) but all I wanted to do was to take off and sit in the sun for 30 seconds. Anyway I walked away like a caveman with frozen nipples but with his head held high. Now it was time for BACON!!!

Read Part 2 of the story

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