#136b Through the Fog

Fleeter Log #136b
Through the Fog
2008 December 10-21
This is the second part of my Florida and Texas trip.

Interactive map of this trip.

Day 8, Wednesday

December 10, 2008
135 miles

Snow in Texas
Growing up in Texas, I have never thought of December as being a particularly cold month. In South Texas, it was not unheard of for our family to have Christmas dinner outside on picnic tables.

But today wasn't one of those picnic kind of days. None the less, I will be riding from the Texas/Louisiana border to just north of Houston. By the time I pull into my friend's house in Magnolia, Texas there will be snow falling. Not a lot of snow, but the point is that it's that kind of weather--cold and overcast in Texas.

It's not the first time I've seen it on the RT instrument panel, but the first time I've seen it while riding in South Texas. When it gets down to 35 degrees, a flashing snowflake icon appears.

I stop in Beaumont to meet a friend at Willy Ray's BBQ. Best BBQ in the area! I don't care how much they brag, it doesn't make those other states' BBQ better than TEXAS BBQ! I highly recommend Willy Ray's for anyone wanting to try the best BBQ!

I took hwy 105 through Sour Lake, Cleveland, and Cut & Shoot on my way to Magnolia.
While eating at Willy Ray's, it had started raining. The kind of rain that you could just tell would rather be snow. At 4pm, I pull into Rita & Tom's driveway though the light snow flurries and am glad to have a warm home waiting for me.

Friday, December 12, 2008
A new Marine gets his bars!

The reason for this trip to Texas is to attend the commissioning of a future Marine. Rita's elder son, Andrew, sure looks good in a Marine uniform. Semper Fi, Drew!
The tradition of the First Salute, also know as the Silver Dollar Salute, is for the new Officer to slip a silver dollar to the one who offers him the first salute.
Andrew honored his A&M Corp background for his First Salute.

I salute you, Drew!
The juxtaposition of Kyle Field and the street sign makes me think of someone...
You know who you are!
My second home in Magnolia, Texas under an extra bright full moon.

Day 11, Saturday
December 13, 2008
190 miles

Ride with Jerry

The last couple days the RT stayed tucked safely away in my friends' garage. But with nice weather arriving for the weekend, I'll be out rolling with my friend, Jerry.

We stopped for pie in Anderson, Grimes County.
When I spotted this building next to the train track in Navasota, I had to do a U-turn . . . I smelled a photo-op. Jerry was quick to follow my lead and follow me back to the gravel parking lot. By the end of the day, he learned that following a flower sniffer involves lots of U-turns!

A shortcut through William Penn on the way to Independence. The first time I was on this road was in May 2006 while following Ana (Fleeter Log # 21).
We were on our way to Clay, Texas. It's just a small place off the beaten path. Not much to see there, but I lucked out finding this rock entry sign just down the road at someone's private gate.
Some careful placement makes the sign look like a personal statement.
Stickers in Texas! Possibly the reason I never learned to go barefoot.

Train depot in Burton, Texas
By late afternoon the pie was a distant memory and my stomach was ready to make new memories. Jerry knew of this little cafe in Chappell Hill and it was well worth the stop.

Life is good in Texas!

Day 16, day
December 18, 2008
417 miles

Fog to Ferry
Texas knows fog. Sometimes it can linger well into the day. This morning I wake up to soup . . . outside in the form of fog. I decide that it's not worth waiting half a day for it to lift. I saddle up and ride.
Polk County Courthouse in Livingston, Texas: I have a cousin that used to work in there . . .
the basement I think, but still.
Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville, Texas
Even 120 miles down the road the fog is still so thick that visibility remains an issue.
The moisture is not rain, just the condensation from the thick fog.
US190 over the B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir at Martin Dies State Park between Woodville and Jasper, Texas.
The reservoir is built on the Neches River.
Vernon Parish in Leesville, Louisiana
Leesville, Louisiana
By 2pm, I was beginning to feel an empty feeling in my stomach so Rosie's Diner in Simmesport, LA lured me in for a look at the menu.

Classic diner style building and food. I was the only customer there -- guess I missed the lunch rush.
Lettsworth, LA may not be much of a town, but it still has a place on the railroad map.
Lettsworth, LA
The 'plan' was to cross the Mississippi River between New Roads and St. Francisville, LA then find a room for the night in St. Francisville. But when fleetering, it is always good to keep a flexible attitude or else moments like this could torque your day. As the sun sets low, I am less than 4 miles away from stopping for the night -- all I have to do is get on a ferry and cross the river.
However . . . The ferry apparently isn't running. The only sign cluing me in to this fact is the one setting in the middle of the road just as the ferry comes into sight down the hill parked on the bank of the Mississippi. Some readers may recall a similar situation crossing the Mississippi from Modac to Ste. Genevieve in at the end of Day 7 in Fleeter Log #135. Didn't get a ferry ride that evening either. This time the change in plans means routing myself though Baton Rouge during rush hour traffic (there's nothing rushing about it!) adding 100 miles to my day.
Following the Mississippi River south into Baton Rouge. The river is on the left on the other side of that berm.
Once I finally make it through the heavy I10 traffic of Baton Rouge and start moving again, I am ready to put some miles between me and the freeway. My plan is to stay a comfortable distance from I10 and stick to the smaller roads and communities. So I make my way to Amite, LA for the night.

Day 17, Friday
December 19, 2008
529 miles

Dothan Decision
Before pulling out of Amite, LA this morning, I take my walk around the RT for a once over. It's not the dirtiest it's been, but far from clean. At least it's just dirt, no seeping final drive fluid . . . which is a good thing.
Another foggy winter day in the Southeast. But at least it's not cold -- only 67 degrees.

I take LA hwy10 and come across this hungry bunch.
Can you see who seems to be working real hard at fitting into the herd?
In Bogalusa, LA, I spied Santa getting a last two-wheeled ride in before trading the motorcycle for his sleigh to make his annual trek around the would.
Another day of getting off the main road. This really is a public road I found southeast of Hattisburg, MS near Camp Shelby Military Reservation.
Finding myself on dirt roads isn't unheard of either.
Somewhere near the Mississippi / Alabama state line.
Deer Park, Alabama
Perry Store, Alabama
I make it to Dothan, Alabama shortly after dark. I haven't eaten since my waffle at the hotel this morning and the DQ was pulling me in.

On this trip I made a huge faux paux and it was somewhere in Mississippi or Alabama that I realized it. I don't know how it happened. I just wasn't thinking. I've never been too good at dealing with numbers so I guess I could blame it on being a "number thing." Somehow I let the odometer run way past where I should have been logging a scheduled service (24k). According to the odometer I should have had an oil change back in Florida -- 2, 000 miles ago. Shame on me! I am a horrible RT caretaker! Because of this oversight, I start considering options for getting the RT's belly properly scratched as soon as possible. I'm still 1,000 miles away from home. Should I go directly to a dealer before going back to VA? Tomorrow is Saturday. If I can't get a dealer to fit me in tomorrow here in the Southeast, then it won't happen until Tuesday (most BMW dealer's are closed on Sun/Mon). Should I find the supplies and attempt an oil change myself? Or should I just ride home without being too hard on the throttle?

I decide to phone a friend. Charles lives in Marietta (NE of Atlanta), just 223 miles from here and somewhat on the way with a slight rerouting. He has a garage. He knows how to service BMWs. He's a teacher. He can help me/teach me to change the oil and I can have the rest of the major service items taken care of by Mortons BMW when I get home. I get Charles on the phone and explain to him my faux paux. I await the verbal lashing. But Charles is a kind soul and a patient fella. He goes easy on me. He assures me that the RT will survive the trip home . . . just be gentle on the throttle. However, I am welcome to come to Atlanta for a couple options. He feels that Atlanta BMW will take care of me tomorrow OR I am welcome to use his garage to attempt the oil change myself. However, he is booked solid tomorrow and won't have time for a "garage day."

Add to the decision process the weather coming in. Cold, wet weather. If I ride a direct line (no little forays into Florida, no zigzagging looking for flowers to sniff) back to Virginia, I should arrive in Virginia about the same time the cold weather blows past the Blue Ridge Mountains bringing freezing temperatures into eastern Virginia. If I dawdle, I will have a cold, wet day for my last day on the road.

Strolling around the DQ parking lot, I sip on my cola as I discuss these factors with Charles. I decide to reroute a direct-ish line from Dothan to Fredericksburg on the secondary highways. Before leaving the parking lot, I digitally save the scene where I "phoned a friend" for sage advice to help me with my Decision made in Dothan.
I leave Dothan about 7:20pm with the idea that Albany, about 90 miles away, will be a good place to stop for the night. Since I'll be arriving late on a weekend, I phone in a reservation. Decisions have been made. All is settled. Heading to Albany.

Seems that even after dark, I can't turn off the urge to sniff out one last photo op before crossing the state line from Alabama into Georgia. Probably not the smartest idea to be playing around off the pavement in the dark. But I got the photo and my butt never left the saddle. RT puts out pretty decent light, don't ya think? Stock lights with a bit of help from Motolights mounted low on the forks.

Day 18, Saturday
December 20, 2008
414 miles

Albany to Lugoff
This is where I landed last night after 9pm. I couldn't see much in the dark, but I could see enough to know that it had lots of character. The main building started out as the manor house built in 1934 at the Merry Acres Farm just outside of Albany, Georgia. As Albany grew, the farm found itself in a prime location to show some southern hospitality to travelers passing through the southwest. Merry Acres Farm became Merry Acres Motel. The owners moved into the upstairs portion of the manor house and converted the downstairs into the office and common area. Merry Acres Motel started with a wing of rooms on each side of the house, but eventually grew as more rooms were added on the backside around the also newly added swimming pool.
Merry Acres is now owned by Quality Inn. I am glad to see a major chain taking interest in the older properties. In my opinion, keeping the property's character under new management is a much better answer than razing the old buildings to build a new box with rooms that look like all the other boxes with rooms. I hope this becomes a trend. I, for one, will support their effort by visiting these type properties when looking for an overnight home while on the road.

Following hwy 300 to the northeast takes me along railroad tracks and several old depots.
This old depot south of Warwick appears to have been relocated. That, or the tracks have been relocated.
Past Cordele, I take US280 through Pitts, GA and on to Vidalia.
Rochelle, GA
Notice the labels on the jugs? Shop, Rye, Cheer
Wilcox County courthouse in Abbeville, GA.
Abbeville is known as the Wild Hog Capital of Georgia.
The Wild Hog Festival is where you go to show off your dancing skills at the Waller Dance.
This deserted shack caught my attention not just because it looks like it has been here long enough to be the setting of some interesting stories, but for what I saw in the window.
The dilapidated building obviously has no electricity, but this window fan was spinning like it still has a purpose and doesn't know that it was long ago abandoned. Kind of a "disconnect feeling" to see the fan spinning like it was still in use . . .

Still following the railroad tracks. Still coming across old train depots.
This one is in Milan, GA
I see this "final transport" a few miles west of Vidalia. It deserves a U-turn for a closer look and documentation for the Fleeter Log.

Vidalia is known for more than just antique funeral wagons.
Between Swainsboro and Twin City, I spot this fella at a wide spot in a creek. Yep. Another U-turn. I went back to see if he was catching anything. Not yet he said, but sometimes its not just about hooking the fish, but more about watching the cork bob in the slow current. Don't I know it! Another philosopher with a fishing pole.
Jenkins County courthouse in Millen, GA.
My final stop in Georgia is at the Visitor Center on US301. This is the kind of visitor center I like best. It's on a secondary highway without a lot of people milling about. Whenever I see these, I always stop and take advantage of the center. When stopping at these locations, be sure to sign the guest book. Hopefully, they will have enough numbers to justify staying open. Just across the state line on the South Carolina side, I notice their abandoned visitor center with barricades blocking the entrance and an overgrown landscape. Sad.
The dark clouds are catching up to me and the wind is blowing in cooler air.
Another sign of yesteryear along US301. Places like this remind me how the US highways used to be the main thoroughfare as people traveled across counties or states.
Calhoun County Courthouse in St. Matthews, SC.
The sun disappears as I ride the last 45 miles north on US601 from St. Matthews to Lugoff. I get a few drops of rain as I go through my "end of the day" routine securing the RT and farkles for the night and getting myself settled at the Quality Inn. A couple hours later the wind picks up and the rain starts comeing down with purpose.

Day 19, Sunday
December 21, 2008
397 miles

Trying to Outride the Clouds

The next morning it's still raining. A little bit cool and a lot of wet at 8am while I'm packing up to depart Lugoff, SC. I leave the cover half on the RT as strap on my duffle, put on my tankbag, and get the GPS connected. Since the rain is still coming down steady, I put on my helmet and riding jacket first. Why not? The helmet and jacket will keep me dry as I go through my "saddling up" routine.
Light rain at the train depot in McBee, SC.
McBee, SC is home to A.O. Smith.
This brings back memories of my swimming pool service days with DCC.
A.O. Smith is a company that makes motors. Lots of those motors find themselves attached to pumps circulating pool water.
Still following train tracks and finding old train depots along the way.
Here's one in Patrick, SC.
Remember that cold weather I spoke of during my Decision in Dothan? Well, last night's rain was only the beginning of a weather system moving in. That was the wet stuff, but the cold stuff is still on it's way. Here we see that I'm soon to be meeting the cold stuff.
I decide maybe it's time to get something to eat today when I make a fuel stop in Apex, NC. The temperature has dropped to 48 degrees and that calls for adding another layer. Time to pull out my quilted jacket liner and pull on another Buff around my neck.

The smells from the Bojangles next to my fuel stop convinces me that I'm hungry for chicken. A couple of the employees there were quite taken with the RT and the fact that I was on my way to Fredericksburg, VA. When they found out that I was in southern Georgia just yesterday and Texas a couple days before that . . . well, they just didn't know what to say. But one of them kept repeating how she wished she could do something like that. I asked, "Why not?" I suggested she find an MSF class and find a small used motorcycle to see how it feels. Who knows where it may take her!

From the Bojangles in Apex, the RT takes me without delay to my next stop. Less than a gas tank away and 230 miles later, I arrive home in Fredericksburg. By the time I pull into the driveway at home, it's 36 degrees and dropping. I was glad for the quilted liner, but thinking again about the electric heated gear so may riders use. Maybe . . .

WWW Ride Summary
Total trip miles: 3,777
States fleetered in this trip: 9
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas

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