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Southern Rail: Downtime

By Robert Filla

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By the time you read this column, I will be frantically racing to tidy up loose ends at the office before taking off for the first major bike event of the season, Daytona Bike Week. I’ll fly into Jacksonville this time, pick up a bike and then take the 100-mile ride south along the coast looking for photo ops.

After arriving at the THUNDER PRESS Daytona Beach compound, it’s a madhouse laundry list of happenings: bike shows, build-offs, interviews, parties, rides, women and song all while in the company of several hundred thousand people. I’ll be there for a full week in a mad dash, bouncing between venues, jamming as much info as I can into both my camera and notepad, providing personal insight for all those readers who either missed the rally or maybe didn’t cover quite as much ground. The last day of Bike Week, I will hop back on a plane for the flight back to Houston, where I will collapse in an exhausted heap. (While this job is without a doubt the best I’ve ever had, it’s still a lot of work.) After a refreshing night’s rest, the following morning I’m up early, eager for the chance for some downtime.

By the time the sun comes up, half a pot of coffee will be gone and I will have finished packing the bike. As soon as the sun is high enough for me to trust these old eyes, it’s off to a quirky café 60 miles away that serves some unusual breakfast fare. I’ve never been there; not even sure if it’s still open but have a pretty good idea where it’s located. Hopefully mine will be the only motorcycle in the parking lot.

And then it’s south, to a little country brewery that I use to frequent in my young hoodlum days. I heard the hospitality room has changed drastically and they no longer pour till ya can’t stand, now merely offering “tastings.” Whatever that might be I’m sure it will still bring back some memories. Hopefully I will be the only biker thirsty that day.

From there it’s just a few miles to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s house. The perfect night would end with a couple of links of sausage on the pit and a few tall tales about the old days when they rode in a local club, with the only music being crickets and grasshoppers in the backyard under a cathedral of stars.

The next day I’ll head west, stopping by the Alamo to relive some historic moments and maybe catching San Antonio native Barney Smith in his workshop. I’ve always wanted to visit his Toilet Seat Museum. From there it’s out through Del Rio to spend a couple of nights on a houseboat on Lake Amistad. Since I’m only feeding me, I’m sure I can catch enough for a private fish fry under a West Texas moon.

Further west, I’ll take the Seminole Canyon Tour, stop at Judge Roy Bean’s place in Langtry and then take in the stunning view down the road at the turnout overlooking the Pecos River Bridge. Hopefully the sound of my exhaust will be the only bike echoing across the hills. That night I’ll stay at the Gage, eat at the White Buffalo and take a stroll while scanning the night sky for meteors.

It’s an 80-mile ride south the next morning down into the Big Bend. There I’ll hire some locals to paddle me across the Rio Grande and then rent a burro for the ride to the Mexican village of Boquillas where they serve up a $2 plate of tacos and $1 Coronas. Afterwards I’ll soak in the Hot Springs back on the Texas side of the river before making camp up in the Basin, falling asleep to the howls of coyotes.

The following day, the Terlingua Ghost Town is in my sights with some shopping for trinkets at the Trading Post and a burger at the Starlight. If I have time I may ride to Lajitas to share a brew with the mayor, Clay Henry the beer-drinking goat, before heading over to register for the rally. Yes, there’s a bike rally and yes, I’m working. But it’s nothing like the scene I will have just left in Florida. These are mostly locals riding both cruisers and dual-sport, enjoying both pavement and dirt in one of the finest motorcycle locations in the South. I’m even looking at tackling a few of the dirt roads on my old rigid Shovel, just for grins and to see what kind of trouble I can get into.

After a day of tomfoolery, I’ve got my eyes set on Peguis Canyon, about 30 miles deep into Old Mexico. I’ve heard it’s bandit free and seldom visited by motorcycles, which would be an excellent way to end this little trip. Cause sometimes the best motorcycle experience is one devoid of motorcycles—other than the one you’re straddling.

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