Monday, June 30, 2008

Wreck on a Chapter Ride

Thursday evening I went to the Alamo downtown for the Brad Neely showcase. It was just a bunch of his stuff that's available on the Internet, but I hadn't seen most of it. He did a Q&A afterward, which was amusing as well. I stopped in at the Coyote Ugly afterward and learned that Nicole isn't bartending any more and is just working as a manager. Friday I left work early and went to donate blood at the blood center. Holidays, especially the 4th of July, tend to have high demand for blood, so I gave them some of mine. I had dinner at the Flying Saucer nearby and against recommendations had a beer. After that, I went up to Frye's, but didn't find what I was really looking for and just got an extra memory card and a bargain bin DVD.
Saturday morning I met Kerry at the dealership to pre-ride the ride Sunday to Luling for lunch. We had a nice ride down there, but since the Watermelon Thump was going on, there was a ton of traffic in town and almost nowhere to park. We found out the place we had planned on eating at was closed Sunday, but another barbecue joint a few doors down was going to be open. We sampled their sausage, which was pretty good. We headed straight back to Austin, and I stopped back in at the dealership to check on my Fat Boy. The tech thought the only problem was the cam chain tensioners, which is a lot better than it could have been, but still pretty expensive. Including a new tire, my bill should be about $1500 once it's done, which will probably be some time this week. Since it was already pretty hot at that point, I went home to vegetate in the AC and do a few small things around the house. About 3 I went out hoping to see WALL-E, not considering how popular it would be. When I saw the line out the door and that it was sold out, I hopped right back in my car and went to REI to check out their sale, then went to Hooters for an early dinner. It so happened that the Keep Austin Weird festival was going on across the street, which made getting around difficult. I watched from the comfort of indoors as people, many dressed in silly outfits and costumes, started showing up for the 5K race. I hung around until the race started, then went outside to the start/finish line to watch people finishing. The race seemed to me to be the most interesting part of the festival, so I headed home to resume vegetating.
Sunday morning I read for a bit, then headed out and got to the dealership about 9. There was a pretty good turnout for the ride- I think there were 14 bikes, one couple riding two-up. The ride started out well enough, but only about 5 miles in a guy lost control in a curve and wound up face down on the asphalt. I didn't see what happened, being at the very back and the accident having been somewhere in the middle of the pack. The guy right behind the guy who went down laid his bike down to avoid running over the first guy. Fortunately it didn't create a chain reaction- nobody else went down. I turned on my hazard lights and parked in the road while someone else went back to slow down any cars coming into the turn. The Head Road Captain pretty much took charge of the situation. I was designated to call 911, but soon realized I wasn't sure exactly where we were. The one passenger in the group was the only one who did know, and she was very helpful in the whole situation. Two sheriff's cars came right away, while I was still on with the emergency dispatcher and took over the road and everything else. The ambulance came soon after and went to work on the first guy, then once he was mostly squared away and in the ambulance they treated the second guy for his road rash. It took a while before we could get ahold of anybody to cart the damaged bikes off, luckily a guy with a body shop right down the road came by and offered to tow them in his trailer to the Harley shop. Three of us waited around until the guy came with his trailer. It was a really humid day so we were all sweating just standing there, but once the bikes were secured and we started riding back to the shop it felt pretty nice. We waited around the Harley shop for a while until someone could open it up to secure the bikes inside. I had lunch at TX Roadhouse and went home to watch qualifying from the drag race. I went over to Jimmy's house for grilled steak and vegetables and to bullshit for a while, then went home to watch a little more drag racing before bed.
I rode in to work this morning to participate in HOG's "Million Mile Monday" and took a long lunch to ride out to Spicewood. I was heading for Angel's, but they were closed, I missed Poodie's and went on to eat at Opie's, which I haven't been to since they opened their new place, which is pretty nice. It was a pleasant ride and I wish I could just ride all day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

SPAMALOT and Arkansas

Thursday after work I drove to San Antonio to see SPAMALOT. I've wanted to see it forever and was thwarted last November by a strike, so I figured I'd at least see the touring company. I saw that they would be coming to San Antonio and soon after bought a ticket. Traffic getting down there wasn't as bad as I thought it might be and I got to downtown San Antonio about 6. I parked in a garage and brought some of the newspaper to the river walk. I was looking for a place where I could see the "river" while drinking a beer and reading the paper, but I was seduced by the Coyote Ugly. There were a number of people there, but still it was pretty dead. There were only two bartenders, so not a lot of dancing on the bar and such. I sat at the bar and read the paper. About 7 I went to the theater, but they weren't letting people in yet. I was reading the paper in the lobby when a guy I know from the HOG chapter said hello. We chatted for a bit until they let us in. My seat was pretty good, relatively close and unobstructed. I really enjoyed the show, which reworked Holy Grail and added a couple bits from other Python stuff, most notably "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which I was glad not to have on permanent repeat in my head. One of the big things they added that the original Python never had was a good-looking female character. I did, however, think they had a little too much self-awareness, although the audience participation was fun but must have been prearranged to some extent. I was slightly disappointed that the historian wasn't killed. Also, I was a little unsure of "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," not sure how they got away that number. I thought the delivery of the "She's got huge... tracts of land" line was a little off. I definitely liked looking at the hot women dancers in scenes like Camelot.
Friday morning I left the house about 6:30, but there was more traffic than I was anticipating. It was worst where it always is, downtown, at one point coming to a complete, feet down stop. After I got out of town I made decent time up I35. I did have some trouble getting my left ankle comfortable. It was bothering me from the very start and I almost thought I should just turn around, but I eventually managed to get comfortable enough, helped some by a new Harley product, the Folding Heel Shifter. My route after getting off the interstate was, as usual, somewhat circuitous to add Kaufman, Rains, Delta, Lamar, and Red River counties before crossing into Oklahoma. In Oklahoma I got into mountains (so to speak) and woods, which made for good twisty riding, good scenery and entirely bearable temperatures. When I crossed into Arkansas and into Fort Smith, I was pretty disappointed at how crappy it seemed. I rode through town to the convention center, which was fairly contemporary and decent by comparison, to the actual rally site. I had a guy standing there take my picture in front of the ABCs of Touring banner, parked, and went to check it out. I took a quick stroll through the vendors, went inside to take a dump and look at a schematic map of the city which told me nothing I cared to know, and then went on my way, having spent less than half an hour with any official part of the HOG rally. I had thought about having lunch in Fort Smith, but I didn't see any place I wanted to eat and just headed to my camp ground. When I got there it wasn't hot, but it was humid and the air was still, so I was uncomfortably warm unpacking and setting up camp. Once I changed into shorts and a short sleeved shirt I felt much better. My camp site was pretty much on the bank to the reservoir, right next to the boat launch, which made for a lot of traffic. The site wasn't very close to the bathroom, which was somewhat of a nuisance, but it was in a less dense area, so fewer neighbors than some other sites. After I had set up camp I took a run to a nearby tiny convenience store hoping to pick up some beer, only to find I was in a dry county (Yell). Back at camp I was sitting at the covered picnic table when it started to rain, then let up for a little, then rained some more before the sun came back for a little while before setting. The rain didn't bother me since myself and all my stuff were under cover and I didn't have to be out in it. I had dinner and read the newspaper until it got dark, then went into my tent and read my book until falling asleep. It was initially too warm to be in the sleeping bag, then I woke up cold in the night and got in, but later I woke up too warm, and had to unzip and be partially covered.
Saturday morning I got up and found some papers strewn about, and then realized that they had been under my sack of food, which had been dragged about 10 feet away from the picnic table where it had been. At first it didn't look like anything had gotten into my food, the drawstring was firmly closed and there didn't appear to be any holes in the bag itself, but when I opened it it was obvious that something had gotten in. A PBJ sandwich was the most damaged, but almost everything had some marks. I threw out anything that was obviously compromised, which was more than half of what I had. I had a breakfast of two oatmeal packets that didn't look like they'd been gnawed or clawed. After breakfast I rode to Mount Magazine State Park nearby to go to the highest point in the state. As the whole park is quite new, the buildings were all new and they spent a good bit of money on them. I stopped in at the information center before going up to the lodge on top of the mountain. The lodge was really nice, very contemporary with a huge number of windows to take advantage of the view, but still having an old lodge feel. I checked out the restaurant, intending to return for dinner, before heading across the street to the trailhead to the actual high point, Signal Hill. It was an easy hike, not very steep and maybe a quarter mile long. Even stopping to take a few pictures and sign the registry it only took about a half hour round trip. I left there and headed for Mena, the start of the Talimena Scenic Drive in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The ride there was pretty nice, wooded twisty roads, but the Talimena itself was gorgeous. It winds along the top of mountains, so there are vistas right and left. Fortunately there was very light traffic, so I could ride as I wished, which made it lots of fun. I stopped at Queen Wilhelmina SP, checked out the view before blindly heading down the trail to lovers leap. I didn't have any water or anything with me, which of course was pretty irresponsible, but I hadn't planned on hiking on this trip. The trail took me about 20 minutes to get to a wooden deck overlooking the forest and hills. I didn't think it was much better of a view than I'd seen elsewhere, but it wasn't bad. I was hot and sweaty when I got back to the lodge and drank from the water fountain and cooled off in the AC. Since I wasn't in Texas, it didn't take long to cool off and continue riding, which felt really good. On the way back to camp I took a detour to get a six pack of beer at a place the clerk the night before had told me about. I don't know what the liquor laws are like in that area, because this little convenience store was in the same county (Logan) as a couple others I went into that didn't have beer. I went back to camp, showered and changed shirts and went back to the lodge on Mount Magazine. The menu wasn't as sophisticated as some parks lodges are, surprisingly only a couple of fish dishes considering that fishing is a major hobby and tourism draw in the area. I had the pork chops which were good with mashed red-skinned potatoes, which was delicious. Back at camp I drank my warmish beer and started a fire using some logs that had been left there. They had obviously been there for a while because they seemed like they were water logged, but eventually they did light, but once the small stuff burned the logs just smoldered. I would have played with the fire for a long time but was too tired and put it out and went to sleep.
I woke up at about 5:30 Sunday morning, packed, ate some pop tarts I'd bought, and was on my way about 6:30, and the boats were already streaming in. I rode some really nice roads, which are fun but don't make for good time, to Hot Springs where I picked up some bigger roads, and more traffic. I burned down the interstate to Texarkana, getting off onto a US highway and adding Cass and Marion counties to my roster. That part wasn't real bad, but I could definitely feel the day warming up by 11. The ride through Tyler was a complete nightmare. It was over 90 degrees around noon and traffic was terrible, even on the "bypass" road. It was terrible, almost every light was red. I stopped outside town for gas and a Snickers ice cream bar, which helped, but I really didn't want to be riding in that heat. I pushed on and thought about stopping for dinner near I35, but didn't see anything I wanted and I'm not familiar enough with the area since so much stuff has been built recently. I jumped on the interstate and booked it home.
I got home and started watching the coverage of the drag race in Englishtown and was very sad to hear about Scott Kalitta's death. It's really terrible to have another on-track death in the sport. There are always big explosions and fires in funny car, but deaths should be more rare than they have been. One thing I hate, though, about these situations is everyone who says "it's the way he would have wanted it." It may be true in some cases, but I really hate the expression and the presumption it embodies.

Monday, June 16, 2008

ROT Rally

Thursday I rode the Night Train from work to the Expo Center to register for the ROT Rally and check out the vendors. The vendors were pretty typical, nothing I was really looking for. I did talk to a guy with Paul Yaffe who seemed to think that their "springless" kickstand might work with aftermarket forward controls on my bike, but when I looked at it again online later the bolt patterns didn't look the same, so I doubt it. That's the one thing I really want for the Night Train that nobody seems to be making. There were a lot of custom bikes, but at this point it seems like it's all been done before. One thing I saw that was off the charts of absurdity were two V8 powered "bar stools" with the already absurd Boss Hoss motorcycles. I watched the 3 Dog Night concert for a little while, then headed for home. While the real craziness hadn't started, it still took a while to get through all the cars, golf carts and bikes and onto the main road.
After work on Friday I had dinner at Chuy's before heading downtown. Traffic wasn't too bad until I got to Congress, which was partially blocked off above Chavez. I turned, headed up Red River toward Sixth, where traffic was all but stopped. After three cycles of the light at Sixth, I finally turned with the light a dark orange and went straight into an available parking spot, in what is normally a lane of travel. My first stop was the Iron Cactus where a guy I know from the HOG chapter had rented out part of the upstairs patio. It was a pretty good vantage point to people watch Sixth Street, plus it was shaded and there was a breeze, so it wasn't too hot. After hanging out for a while I went to Coyote Ugly. At that point it was crowded, but not really any more than some weekend nights. There were, however, a lot more bartenders, bouncers and they even had cocktail waitresses as well. I hung out there for a little while, but other than the bartenders I didn't see anybody I knew. I wandered Sixth for a while, and went over to Congress to see the parade coming in. I decided to check out the Gingerman, partly out of curiosity to see if there were bikers there, and partly because I had been to the Coyote three times since the last time I was in there. While I was sitting at the bar, I started talking to a guy who, it turns out, is in the same business as me and knows some of the same people. We were talking shop for a little while, then started talking with two women who had walked in. We chatted at the bar for a while, then we all sat down at a booth with one woman's coworker and her boyfriend. Altogether it was very bizarre and random. I headed back to Sixth, and there were even more people crammed in everywhere. I just kind of wandered for a while before heading home about midnight, and went straight to bed.
I woke up at 5 Saturday morning, read for about an hour, went back to sleep for about an hour, then got up and went downstairs and saw a puddle in front of my refrigerator. My first thought was it was the line to the ice maker or something like that, but I opened the freezer to find all the ice was melted and everything inside was thawed. I mopped up the water and threw out anything that had been in the freezer for more than a year and called Sears to get it repaired. They said they'd send a technician on Wednesday, so I looked in the phone book and somewhat arbitrarily picked one to call. The guy came over about 11:30, pulled off the back panel and immediately said the "starter" for the condenser had failed and he had a replacement. The whole thing felt like a total scam. He said the replacement part would cost $309 or something like that, but he would ask his boss if he could do it for $238. He stepped outside and almost certainly didn't actually call anybody, but came back and said he had to charge $258. I felt totally scammed but didn't feel like I had a lot of choice, it would have cost $50 to get rid of the guy and anybody else would almost certainly do the exact same thing. So he replaced some electrical part in about 10 minutes and my refrigerator was working again. The big problem then was what to do with about 10 pounds of thawed meat...
I spent the viciously hot afternoon inside watching TV, surfing the internet and otherwise keeping cool. About 5 I headed back to the Expo Center for people watching and hanging out. I parked on the main drag and started wandering. I found the camp a friend of mine was staying at and hung out there for a while in the shade. I walked over to the concert with them, and ran into some more friends. We chatted while Johnny Winter played. The music was fine, but nothing special to me, I didn't recognize his music. After he played Charlie Daniels came on, which was enjoyable but I only really know one song of his, which he of course held until the end. We didn't stay long enough to hear it, but it wasn't a big loss, I saw him at a previous ROT. We went through the throngs to hang out along the drag with some other friends, who were parked next to a trailer with a sound system and a stripper pole. The "parade" was pretty crazy and the setup inspired extra craziness. I wandered along the route back to my bike and hung out there for a little while before heading home. Overall, I'd say there were similar numbers of women whose breasts I really didn't want to see as breasts that were pleasant to see, with a lot of mediocrity and only two women that really stood out to me as being especially good looking.
I didn't do too much Sunday, a few things around the house. About 5 I took my thawed meat over to Jimmy's to have a little barbecue. His kids came over with a couple people, but we barely ate half the burgers and steaks. I took home as much as I thought I could eat before it spoiled. It was a pleasant late afternoon/evening, not too hot out and at least all that meat didn't just get thrown out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lazy Weekend

On Tuesday I rode my Fat Boy to work and then to the Harley shop to drop it off for an 80,000 mile service, and for the Road Captains meeting. It was hot and I ran into terrible traffic trying to get onto the interstate. It was miserable. When I went back to pick it up on Friday afternoon the traffic was just as bad, but at least I had air conditioning. I was pretty pissed though that of all the days, that was the one when my paper didn't arrive in the morning, so I didn't have that to distract me from the traffic. After I finally picked up my motorcycle I rode home and got on my bicycle and rode back to get my car.
I woke up early Saturday morning, first at 5 but fell back asleep until 6:30. I would have loved to sleep longer, but I got up and got ready to go for a ride. There was a chapter breakfast ride leaving at 8, so I skipped my usual breakfast and joined what turned out to be a large group. There were 26 people, which is far more than I would have preferred to ride with. At the restaurant we pretty well overwhelmed them. Even with two waitresses it took quite a while just to order. One half of the enormous table got its food well before the other half, and a few on my side (myself included) got our orders even later, after almost everyone had finished eating. The food was good and the portion was pretty good- I didn't feel like I was going to pop the button off my jeans. Most of the group continued on from there for a fair bit more riding. At 200 miles total, it was about as long a ride as I care to take on my Night Train. After a patchy morning sky and a brief soaking rain that left me cold all through breakfast, the late morning/early afternoon was sunny and hot. Since I didn't have any gear with me, I didn't have any sunscreen on and wound up paying the price for it. It took a little while after we stopped back at the Harley dealership before I really turned red. The shop was abuzz with a pre-ROT party, with live music, a bike wash, radio stations, and tons of people. Coyotes washing Night TrainAfter hanging out and cooling off inside in the A/C I got my bike washed by the Coyote Ugly girls, it having gotten dirty in the rain. About 4 I went to TX Roadhouse with the intention of watching the Belmont horse race. After the race was over I went back home for a little while before heading downtown to the Coyote Ugly. I had seen something about an 'after party' for the party at the dealership, but the bartenders were about the only ones I recognized as having been at the shop earlier. I was a little disappointed that Nicole (one of the ones washing my bike) wasn't working, but had a good time anyway.
Sunday was a very lazy day. I woke up at 6:30 but tried to go back to sleep for a while. About the only thing I did all day other than watch TV or surf the internet was some laundry and a half hour picking weeds in my backyard. I didn't even leave my property at any point. ESPN's coverage of the drag race was uncharacteristically bad this weekend. Their originally scheduled coverage was inadequate- two hours each for qualifying and finals, when it's normally three hours each even without the motorcycles. Then when rain delayed things not only did they not stick with it an pre-empt something else, they even cut the qualifying show short. I don't know how they ever planned to fit finals into two hours, and even though another rain delay didn't seem to affect the show, they just cut it off during semifinals.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Birthday Weekend

Since Friday was my birthday, I decided to go to Chuy's for lunch and managed to get three co-workers to join me at the last minute. Someone mentioned it was my birthday and fortunately they didn't sing or anything like that, but the waitress did bring an order of sopapillas. I was full and it was a beautiful day and if it had been just me I might not have gone back to work, but I did at least for a few more hours. I left early and did some phone shopping on my way to read the paper for a little while at Shady Grove. I went home and watched TV for a while before Jimmy and Renee picked me up and we had dinner at TX Land & Cattle. Dinner was good and I stuffed my face for the second time of the day. We went from there to Coyote Ugly downtown. It wasn't really crowded when we got there, but it picked up after a while. One of the bartenders I've chatted with before, Karly, was working (she was also working the night I broke my ankle, so I was hoping she wasn't some sort of jinx). I had a couple body shots, some other shots, got birthday lashes (a studded belt- with the studs out), and generally had a really good time. It got a little rowdy, but not out of control.
I woke up about 8 Saturday morning and didn't feel too bad, so I decided to go see Indiana Jones. I headed out on my bicycle about 9:15 and got to the theater about 10, before the ticket counter was open, so I read the paper for a little, then got my ticket and waited for a little while longer inside. I had one of their specials- an Indian dish- for lunch and it was quite tasty. I bought myself a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt on my way out and headed toward downtown. After a spin along the hike-and-bike trial I went to Uncle Billy's, which I found is under construction, and sat down to drink beer and read the newspaper. About 4 I started back home. It was in the high 90's at that point, and the ride home is more uphill than the way north, so I was hot and sweaty and not moving so quickly. I stopped at a park not far from home that I've passed countless times but never checked it out. I sat in the shade cooling off for a little while reading the paper, then rode the rest of the way home. When I sat down to cool off in front of the TV I was disappointed to find that the drag racing qualifying show I was hoping to watch was postponed due to rain at the NASCAR race. After cooling off in the AC and fan for a while I took a shower and went out to get some dinner. After a little more phone shopping (I think I found the phone I want, but it's with a competitor to my current wireless carrier) I had a burger and milkshake at Steak & Shake. When I got home I finally watched the season finale of Lost and season premiere of Battlestar Galactica (I just finished watching season 3 on DVD).
Sunday morning I went for a ride with the Road Captains on an initiation ride for two new RCs. We went down to Gruene and ate at the Gruene River Grill (one of the new RCs' daughter waited on us), which was quite good, but they could do some work to take advantage of their potential river view. When we got back to the Harley shop at 2:30 it was hot out and I was sweating. I went home and chilled out in front of the TV watching the drag race until Jimmy called and I met him and Renee at the Texican for dinner. I fell asleep on the couch about 11 watching elimination rounds of the race.