February 22, 2018

A Weekend with Harley – Part 1

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Part 23 - A Weekend with Harley Part 1

Kate has her hands buried deep in her Eagle Rider hoodie as she introduces me to the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster I’ll be riding. In the morning sunshine, the temperate has reached 7-degrees centigrade, which it seems to many Texan’s, is Arctic weather.

Brother Jose who is joining me on the ride to the Alamo is inside buying thicker gloves. Even the short ride across Dallas to Irving is enough to have him noticing how cold the morning is. Being English, I can’t understand what all the fuss is about, yet secretly I’m glad I bothered to bring my RST winter jacket and a pair of highly unfashionable but thermally efficient, base layer leggings with me on the plane.

Brother Jose’s well being is important, as he is leading the way out of Dallas. The roads here all make sense if you know where you are going, which I don’t. In addition to there being a general direction in the road signs – I35 East – there is also the side of the road you are on, included in the name. Take the North I35 East, for example, appears to translate into, take the north side of Interstate 35 going in an easterly direction. Which if I knew which way I was facing would be very helpful.

Kate finishes up introducing me to the Sportster, complete with BMW style indicators and takes a video of the bike, so there are no differences of opinion later on what is an old or a new scratch, and with that, we are ready to go.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Texas FlagsThe 1200 Sportster, wasn’t my first choice of Harley for the weekend. I’d booked the Lowrider, but the previous renter had neglected to return the bike, much to the dismay of Kate and her colleagues. When I’d arrive that morning, there were two alternative bikes ready for me to choose from, or if either of these didn’t suit, they would gladly prepare anything in the showroom. It wasn’t what any of us wanted, but that is the way life goes, and Eagle Rider was bending over backwards to make me happy.

Perhaps, this is a good place to say; I paid for the rental of the Harley. I paid the same rate you would if you hired the same bike. No favours or freebies were received. The people in Dallas Eagle Rider and I assume all the other Eagle Rider locations are bikers and want to help a fellow rider have a great time. It really is that simple.

Resplendent in his new gloves, Brother Jose gives me a quizzical thumbs up to ask if I’m ready and with that, we pull out into the light morning traffic, on our way to San Antonia and the Alamo, some 300 miles south.

The first thing I notice about the Harley is how tall first gear is. As the first few blocks are littered with traffic lights, I’m trying to get from one light to the next without changing in to second and without the vales bouncing of the rockers. It turns out to be easy, which considering the clunk from the gearbox when changing up, it is perhaps a good thing. With a few more traffic lights dispatched, we are on the interstate and “getting the heck out of Dodge”.

The rules of the road are essentially the same in Texas as they are anywhere, but with a few critical differences. “Undertaking” in addition to overtaking, is perfectly fine, so your rear observation skills had best be keen; they are coming at you from all directions. Overlapping with another vehicle in your lane, even when stopped at traffic lights, isn’t allowed and as a consequence, filtering seems to be an alien concept. Which is why Brother Jose is sitting behind traffic in places where even I would filter. That and the propensity for oversize, jacked up, pickup trucks with wheel spacers that fill lanes and the cabs are too high to let the driver see you. They do make you think before proceeding.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Harley DavidsonThe bright sunshine suggests that the temperature should be going up, which alas it doesn’t. A hundred and something miles later, the fuel light on the Sportster comes on, and we pull off the Interstate for fuel. I notice Brother Jose is shivering. It seems the Alpine Stars leather jacket he is wearing, isn’t keeping the cold out. Hunting around the array of shops, fast food chains and petrol stations that have formed at the Interstate junction for somewhere warm, I spy “The Czech Stop Bakery”, which wasn’t hard to miss as there is a line of people was out the door.

Further investigation reveals that The Czech Stop is world famous, in these parts, for Kolaches. Take Czech sausage, wrap it in bread dough and bake. Naturally, they didn’t stop with sausage, and now you can get all kinds of variants including fruit and cream cheese. A few Kolaches and a bucket of coffee later, Brother Jose is back to normal operating temperate, which for a Costarican is somewhere around 40 degrees centigrade, and we are back on the road.

Interstates, like any arterial roads, are boring places. Normally good for getting the miles knocked off, but about as interesting as a dull weekend somewhere uninspiring. As the traffic starts to backup up as we head south from Austin, and as filtering isn’t allowed, I start looking at the three and fours lanes of traffic before me and start trying to judge which one will keep rolling. Filtering, without breaking the rules.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - The AlamoAt the next fuel and coffee stop, Brother Jose is teasing me about being as typical sports bike rider, always cutting through the traffic and pushing on, which has me slightly confused as I ride a Kawasaki Versys 1000 and a Triumph Tiger before that.

It would appear that anything, not a Harley is considered a sports bike. Adventure bikes and Sports Tourers are not standard classifications here. We spend 20 minutes exchanging cultural reference points and then finish the last seventy miles to the Alamo, which we reach just as it is closing.

Day 1 and my first 300 miles on a Harley have gone well. The riding position is a little uncomfortable for me. At six feet and 175 pounds, the Sportster encourages me to slouch which eventually becomes uncomfortable. It isn’t a big problem, but 300 miles in a day would be my limit. Nothing a steak, a few beers, and bed, won’t put right.

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