Day 2
October 2, 2009
KOA Campground                                   
Caddo Mills, Texas       

I was up early, and ready to break camp but I was way ahead of the sun so l remained in my sleeping bag for first light.  I have a app on the Iphone that gives me sunrise/sunset time for any city I list.  Before leaving I added Dallas, and now it was telling me the sun won't rise till after 7am?

Inpatient, I struck camp in the dark and loaded the bike.  I set the Zumo in the cradle for it to boot up.   GPS are wonderful devices and enhance my long riding immensely, but I've been around them enough to know you better pack a atlas with pen and paper for back up.

My throw away flashlight was almost dead, "I need a Wal Mart run," but I wasn't confident I'd remember it.
My stopping point today is Bottomless Lake State Park near Roswell, New Mexico. I camped there in 2003.  I remembered it as a good place.  My ultimate goal for the tour is Show Low, Arizona, for no other reason it's as far west as I can get in the time allotted, because I had to be in North Carolina on the 8th.

My phone was weak so I plugged the unit in the BMW provided socket and stuck the phone in my coat pocket to charge while I'm riding.  Gas was half tank so I put that off till later.

I was out of the campground before light and eased my way up SR 36 to Caddo Mills.  I'm running a custom route today (meaning I created it in my study on my PC, and downloaded it) that was really not all that custom.  Only one route to know, U.S. 380 West to the campground.  I mostly created it so I would know how far to the end, at any point in the ride.  I'm sure a quick route via Garmin would mean interstate riding and I didn't want that.

I tip toed down 36 in the dark looking for a ninja deer but saw none.  In Caddo Mills, I followed the GPS on several turns, but before I knew it I was on 380 riding west with the sun coming up behind me.

The first 70 miles or so would not be fun.  I was just a few miles north of Dallas, so that meant traffic and urban sprawl.  It was stop and go for much of the morning with periodic sections of open road.

I was coming to a traffic light in Princeton when I felt something hit my knee. "What was that?  I paid it no mind but as I was pulling off I looked to where my phone cable was suppose to be and it was gone!  I hit my flasher and went to a parking lot to see what happened, as I was getting off the bike a lady in a white car pulled in behind me.

"Something fell off your bike back there"

"How far back m'am?"  If it was too far I might skip it.

"Right at that light back yonder"  As she pointed to it.

"Thanks  I'm going back for it now."

I doubled  back down the busy 4 lane highway.  "I bet its in 100 pieces, all these cars running over it."  But I was lucky, I could see it laying in the middle of the track as I approached it.  "It looks ok!"  I had to park the bike a couple hundred feet away,  and as I was doing that a car coasted to the light and ran over it.  My heart sank.  "well there goes 26 bucks shot to pieces."  I ran up and retrieved it anyway, and took a closer look.  The stuff around the plug looked to be destroyed but the wires itself looked ok.   "It might still work."  I tightened down the screws and tried it, Voila, I was in business!  It didn't look like much, but it was working, for how long I didn't know.

With my phone charging back up, I proceeded on to New Mexico.  This tour is something different for me.  I've never been this far west this time of year, and it was taking a little getting use to.  I'm short 5 hours of daylight that I get in mid June, I was especially feeling it in the mornings, whereas in the summer the sun is up around 6am, now it is almost 7:30, with first light coming about 7.  The afternoons grew dark much quicker too, dusk coming about 7pm.
Mckinney was a mess to get through, but I did it.

Near Denton, I stopped for a east bound school bus to load, but no one else did.  In Alabama all 4 lanes must stop.  "They don't do that here?"  Cars shot past me like nothing was there, I was lucky not to get run over.  When I saw no one was stopping I kept going.  It was the dumbest thing I ever did, I should have just kept going, I was lucky not to be rear ended, I was very exposed just sitting there.  But I did check behind me before doing it.  Next time, I'll just take the ticket.
I was careful with east bound drivers, taking special note of any trying to enter the highway.  "They're gonna have a tough glare, good chance I get lost in it, and they don't see me."  I had no problems though.

By the time I made it to Decatur I had put down almost a 100 miles, and none of it was easy.  I found a McDonalds just off the highway near a overpass and went there.  I had a Dr Pepper and oatmeal cookie.  But I mostly had a good signal and a WIFI.  I read my email and the paper while I ate, and then checked in with Debbie.  Before leaving I checked the weather map.  "No rain anywhere except Ohio and I'm not going there."  

While I was there I overheard a retired teacher from California say the state is still deducting taxes from her pension even though she no longer lives there.  California is so awesome.

When I finished I went back out and took off my sweatshirt before putting my coat back on. I also went to textile gloves.  It was warming up quickly.  On the way out I gassed up at a Chevron station.

I had come west looking for solace and quiet, but so far had none of either.  But now that was going to change as I cleared the congestion of the East for the loneliness of West Texas.  I had much on my mind and I wanted to retreat to that inner sanctum, the one I only get to riding solo across the country.  Just me, my motorcycle, and my thoughts and dreams.  I needed this long ride more then any in a long time.   When I am on the open road I feel at home.  I had 6 hours of honest therapy in front of me; it was called West Texas.

U.S. 380 seemed to stretch out before me like a welcome mat, fast and straight, it looked ready for me and the RT.  A bright blue sky hung over me, "Man, what a perfect day for a ride,"  I thought as the RT got up to cruising speed.  The speed limit is 70 mph which means I'm going to do 75.

At last I could give the RT some reign and it responded splendidly.  I moved the screen high, and set the cruise, and leaned back on the Moto Fizz in a quiet cockpit full of nothing but a muffled wind.  No traffic in front of me, and only the occasional side road to break my stride, I pushed the RT up to 80mph.

​U.S. 380 across West Texas.  Fast and lonely.  The kind 
of road I was looking for on this tour.

My mind drifted back to things I wanted to do, and the stuff I wish I had done.  Out here I didn't have to think about riding, it just seemed to happen.

The towns seem to come and go, and before long they all looked the same.  The only town of any size was a place called Graham.  It had a business district and and busy east side, that appeared to be doing well on the surface. 
But the further West I went, the fewer the towns, and each seemed be a little smaller then the last.  About 10 miles from Newcastle a turkey shot out across the road scaring the bejeezus out of me.

I found this old house on 380, note the 100ft TV antenna,
it had to be high to catch a signal hundreds of miles away.
When people lived in this house, there was no such thing
as Direct TV or cable.

Green foliage was quickly being replaced by sage brush and sand.

A sign entering Throckton read, "Home of Bob Lily Dallas Cowboy Great."  Another said the rodeo had been moved from October 3rd to the 10th.

By lunch time I was in Haskell.  A small patch on the rubber of U.S. 380.  I was looking for a place to eat lunch when I spied a Sonic.  The food there is not bad, but what most appealed to me I could eat outside and enjoy the day.  I placed my order for a hamburger, and sat at a table.  A few more folks thought I had a good idea and joined me, a lady with a small girl, and what looked to be 2 oil workers.  One of the oil guys asked, "Where ya headin?"
"Arizona,  Y'all?"

"No where, just here for lunch, then back to work"

"that sucks"

"tell me about, but at least you get to have some fun"

The hamburger was ok, and I enjoyed the conversation and the being out.

Leaving town I was at a red light behind a lady making a right turn.  "She has right on red, why is she not going?"  She was talking on the phone and I was forced to sit through the whole cycle again before leaving.

Gas on the RT was half tank, but I noted the distances to the next town.  I know I have at least 150 miles in the balance, so skipped topping off.  Out here you have start looking at half tank, or at least take note of things, if not you'll find yourself walking.

Always pushing west, I had to get moving.  The scent of petroleum was often in the air, as I went by hundreds of oil pumps.  I stopped at one that seemed to be shut down and looked around.  What a eerie place it was.  You see alot of these in West Texas.   Closed up houses, stores and motels were everywhere.  Life out here is hard, and some just can't handle it.  For many it is a 50 mile ride to see someone.

​   "I stopped at one that seemed to be shut down"
​But now I was where I wanted to be, on the open plains all alone.  I had missed this kind of riding the last 16 months.  I'd been on a couple of tours up the East Coast, but not the same as a cross country ride.  Things are too crowded in the East to satisfy a Long Rider's need for solitude.  But out here on U.S. 380 that is not a problem.
​Abandoned oil platforms are common in West Texas
Out on the open road, a red 350z passed me.  I was doing 75 mph, but I guess that wasn't fast enough.  Nice car.  I also saw a east bound FJR.

The miles went by quickly and before I knew it I was in the town of Tahoka, a cross roads town where U.S. 87 and 380 intersect.  Five Harley's rumbled off 87 and went east on 380, they waved at me and I returned the gesture.

My lips were drying out and chapping in the dry, warm air.  I've done this enough to know it will happen, but I still forget to take preventive measures.  "I'll get some chapstick at the next Wal Mart stop."  

That came rather quickly when I spotted a store on the East side of Brownfield as I was entering the town.  I stopped in and picked up a new flashlight, toothpaste, bag of sweet sour worms, and some Advil, but forgot the chapstick.  Then I went to a nearby MickeyD's for a apple pie and drink.  While there I put a few notes in the IPhone journal, called Debbie, and web surfed.  Also answered 2 emails.  It was a productive stop.

On the way out I topped off the tank at a nearby Conocco.

A few miles later, I was out of the last major city in Texas.  I tabbed the GPS for miles left- 125.  Time of arrival said 6:30pm, which in the past has been pretty accurate.  "Not stopping again till I get to the park."

Bronco, Texas sits almost on the state line of New Mexico, I remembered it because of that fact.

​    I found this old motel near the state line
​  The curtains were still hanging in the old Western Motel
Trees became even more scarce as I rode west into New Mexico.  The miles seemed to be endless while riding into a lowering sun.  Despite having GPS, I study each day's ride with a open atlas.  This gives a me a mental picture of where I'm going and what to look for.  I knew the park was south of the highway down a local road, and there were no other turns till then, so when the Zumo said 50 miles to next turn, I knew the park would be close when I left the highway.
An SUV kept pace with me for many miles, but I failed to notice when he left me.  I looked back in my mirrors, "Mmm where did he drop out?"

​   Twin wind mills on a forgotten New Mexico farm
As I closed down on the park I could see mountains in the distance.  For some reason, the song "Wildfire" entered my head, perhaps it was the glow of the mountains so far away.  "she comes down yellow mountain," was a lyric from that song.  Everytime I hear it I go back to 1977 and a late afternoon at the pickle plant.  We were waiting for a truck to come in, and I went in the office and the song was on the radio.   I don't know why that scene has always been stuck in my head, but I'm sure y'all have similar.

With shadows lengthening I finally turned off 380 onto SR 409, and was just a few miles from the park.  My first visit I came in from the south, so this wasn't familiar.  The road banked around a few canyons and came down in elevation, it was good riding.  

I followed the signs to the park and found the gate, ending a 531 mile day.  I dropped a 10 dollar camping fee in the box and met the campground host.  He said the only tent site he had left was sandwiched between 2 others.  

I found the site next to my 2003 site.  The place was pretty much as I remembered it.  The park has covered tables, with a cement pad, but the ground was like concrete.  I had a tough time putting my tent pegs down.

After sitting up camp I took a walk around the campground.  A number of RVs were on the scene.  The host commented this is one of the more popular parks in the system.  The small lake here is a welcome place after all the surrounding desert.  I like it here.

My mouth was dry but I had nothing to drink, and no vending machines.  The nearest town was a place called Dexter, but I didn't feel like gearing up to ride 8 miles to it in the dark.  

​I noticed this mountain in the distance.  I don't have a 
name for it, but my guess it is over 8 or 9,000 feet.

A retired couple from Albuquerque (the toughest name in America to spell) was in my old site, they spoke out to me, after I got off the phone with Debbie.

"Got everything taken care of?"

"yeah everything is good, I usually call her end of the day."

I walked over and we had a 30 minute conversation.  They moved here from Michigan a few years ago, and they asked if my travels have ever taken me there.

"oh yeah several times, all the way up to Mackinac from the south, and one time I came in from Wisconsin across the UP."
"Man, you do get around," the lady said.  "You even know the local lingo.  If you say UP to most people they wonder why you are spelling the word up."

"Look, there's only one UP in the country and y'all have it"

"Well that's one way to look at it."

I mentioned my dilemma about nothing to drink, and not wanting to ride back into town.  "Well here's a bottled water and a sandwich if you want."  They had a table stocked with supplies.  "You know that sounds good, thank you."  Everybody likes Long Riders.

"I'm gonna walk down and watch the sunset," I said, "wanna join me?  

"we would but we know you're just being nice, I know you prefer the solitude."

He was right, but I thought I would ask.  We never did exchange names, but that's how it is on the road.
The sunset was great, I've always been partial to them.  The falling sun turned the surrounding canyon red in this tiny oasis in a sea of desert.

​Sunset, Bottomless Lake State Park, New Mexico.  I enjoyed
this view from my nearby tent.

​With nothing else to do, I retreated to my tent, put my headphones on and listened to music on my Iphone (about 700 songs stored on it) I also used it to web surface, even though all I had was a slow Edge connection, it was better then nothing.  My new flashlight was working well.
​With the sun almost gone in the west, the moon rose over the
canyon in the east.

I drifted off to sleep in a little while and slept well in the cool, dry desert air.  It had been a good day.  Tomorrow I reach the turn around point, and start back east the following day.