Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reuniting with Old Friends: Texas Hill Country on the Kawasaki

Here I am, astride my Kawasaki for the very first time.

It sure looked a lot more shiny then.  And not an inch of packing tape (my secret repair weapon) anywhere to be seen.

I was in Texas, picking it up after what seemed like an eternity.  I bought it in off of Craig’s List in November of 2005, but didn’t have the time off to pick it up until Jan of 2006.  During that lengthy interim, it was held in safekeeping by the very person who piqued my interest in motorcycles in the first place.

True, I’m not wearing much in the way of safety gear, but this moment was strictly a photographic opportunity.  My first lesson on my new-to-me motorcycle was not riding it, but learning to pick it up.  I do have a photo of the baptismal (for me and the bike) voyage around that neighborhood, and even some video footage, but the borrowed suit I was wearing is just the outfit I’d need if I was auditioning for the kick line dance number of “Star Wars: The Broadway Revival.” You can't exactly blame me for not sharing it with you.

And, lo!, here I am, almost six years later to the day!

Sporting not just my old bike, but my old jacket, kevlar jeans (first time I've ever ridden more than 2 miles not wearing full leathers - kinda gave me the heebie-jeebies) and a really old helmet, not worn since before I even knew how to ride. But there's only so much you can pack in a carry on.  Not quite so shiny now, but my Kawi is a faithful machine, and I love it for that.

I hadn’t ridden (under my own power) in Texas since that very first day, although I have enjoyed Texas Hill Country more times than I can count from passenger seat.  My old Kawasaki recently moved back to its homeland, so now, when I visit, I have wheels!  Last week, I got to enjoy hill country on my own for a few hours.  I still haven’t dined at the Grey Moss Inn, or seen the spring time blooming of blue bonnets, but I got what I was after that day.  The legendary “Twisted Sisters”, aka “The 300’s,” aka TX 337, 335 and 336.  Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure they deserve the adjective legendary, (the turns are wonderful to be sure, but perhaps a little too few and far between to be classified as top tier riding, although I don’t hesitate to recommend them if you’re in the area), but then again, I’m awfully spoiled with good motorcycle roads at my disposal.

Hill Country is loaded with deer.  I mean, just look at them here at my gas stop.  Seriously, it's not unusual to see 10 or 20 just walking to the mailbox, so be careful out there, fellow riders.

And what fun to be on the old Kawasaki again! It was feeling good with a sorely needed new chain and sprocket set (installed by its new caretaker – even better!), and I found myself enjoying all its modern conveniences.  A center stand!  A sensible diet of regular octane fuel!  An old fashioned analog dash! (In my opinion, they give so much more info at a glance than the silly digital read-outs of 21st century vehicles.  I’ve found the rev-limiter on the Ducati more than once, but I still couldn’t tell you where indeed the red-line actually lies.)  Functioning turn signals and horn!  (No, I haven’t solved the Ducati fuse blowing problem, not that I’ve tried all that hard.)  A clutch lever that fits my little hand! (I can barely reach the friction zone on the Duc, despite its adjustable levers, and even now, it’s rather disconcerting in certain situations.)  An ergonomic-to-me gear shifter!  (The one on the Duc is raised, since I tend to scrape it when cornering aggressively, which really isn’t ideal at all.  Which means I can give myself a Charley horse shifting the Duc from first to second.  I actually DID that yesterday.  Ow!)  There is one thing on the Ducati that fits me better than the Kawi, though.  The throttle.

300 mile day trip to ride the "300's Loop."  Wish I had had time to repeat the loop and explore other areas.  Next visit!

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