Inaugural Retirement trip – Part 3 – Finally!
Since it has been some time since I was able to post about this trip, there may be some of you joining the journey for the first time. If so, you can go back to the beginning here. I have added links in each blog to connect you to the next installment. It’s been so long due to technical difficulties with the WordPress for Android app on my tablet, which I reported in a really short post here. Sadly, we have returned home, and the WP mobile app is still broken, as far as being able to post pictures. Boo. So back on the laptop we go.
When I last posted, we had just crossed the Sabine Pass back into Texas. ‘Back into Texas’, you say? Well, I lived in Texas for 10 years before meeting my honey in San Antonio, and moving to Georgia, almost 20 years ago. That is kind of the driving force for this trip, to return to where it all began. In April 1995, we ran into each other at a Fiesta event (more to come on that in a future post, for the uninitiated), and have been together ever since. Over the years we have spent many a happy trip riding through Texas. So it was good to be back.
We entered Texas at Port Arthur and got through that industrial hell-hole as quickly as possible. Apologies to those who may feel differently about the area…yes, I know a significant amount of the go-juice we run through our bikes probably comes from there. That doesn’t mean we like riding through it. 😉
We made our way to a small town with a Holiday Inn Express that was available for a very small number of IHG points. Remember that awesome suite in New Orleans we enjoyed courtesy of IHG? Yes, we love our Holiday Inns! A good Mexican dinner, a nice margarita, and down for the count!
The next morning, we left Cleveland, Texas, and headed west on Highway 105 towards Lake Conroe. We passed through a lovely town called Navasota, which had a main street with beautifully restored historic homes. Then just before Conroe, we passed through the amusingly named town of Cut n’Shoot, Texas. Sadly, the name was more amusing than the town. I was surprised to find that Conroe has turned into an extension of Houston, apparently. There was a ton of traffic around Conroe (it was lunch hour for normal people) and then it started to rain pretty hard. We were already suited up and just had to be a little more vigilant for the ‘other guy’ and we got through it fine. After Conroe we saw our first bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush wildflowers, although pictures in the rain would not be ideal, so we didn’t stop for any.
In Washington County, which claims to be the birthplace of Texas on its giant signs, the gorgeous huge ranches with lavish stone or brick entrances and ornate iron gates battled for our attention. It continued to rain on and off into Brenham, the home of Blue Bell ice cream. We thought of our friend Mark, who loves Blue Bell. And the recall…bummer for Blue Bell. 😦
We had our first stop for a train crossing in Giddings, and signs advertised a rodeo on the coming weekend. Based on the signs we saw on our travels, it appears the second weekend in April is a popular time for rodeos and festivals in Louisiana and Texas.
We finally took a break and stopped in Bastrop at the Roadhouse for lunch. Giant portions, and fabulous food.
After lunch, we headed straight for our South Austin area hotel for the weekend, got everything unpacked and then freshened up to meet friends for dinner. Jerry has known Garrick for 30-plus years, and he gave Jerry the opportunity to become Director of Sales for a high tech company in San Antonio, where we later met. We have seen him a handful of times over our years together, in Wyoming and then Colorado, and looked forward to seeing him, and meeting his wife, Kinsloe. They live in a beautiful downtown neighborhood and we rode in to visit, fortunately avoiding most of the Friday rush hour traffic. We must have been a sight in our hi-viz riding through this stately area! Once all the hellos and introductions were completed, the conversation flowed between us as if we had seen each other last week, and we had to remind ourselves to decide on a dinner location. We settled on a neighborhood favorite called Foodheads, which sources their products locally and makes most everything from scratch. The good food and lively conversation caused the time to fly! We were able to sit outside comfortably; the temperature cooling only as we were ready to leave hours later. As we started the process of donning our riding gear again, our hosts were amused and educated about how to keep safe on a motorcycle and they took this awesome photo of their glow in the dark guests!
The next morning, we took our time getting started, with a leisurely breakfast and some rest time before heading to the track. Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin is purpose-built for racing, and it was an impressive sight! We had purchased a ticket package for BMW owners, which included special parking, and seating with views of turns 12 through 16.
We got familiar with our seats, watched some of the qualifying and then decided to tour the facility. It was definitely stadium-like sticker shock, with outrageous pricing for everything from water to food and beers. We did our part for the economy. 🙂 There was a 200-foot tower, which provided a 360 view of the facility, but at $20 each, we took a pass on that. Just call us cheap.
Ducati is a major sponsor for MotoGP and actually had what they called ‘Ducati Island’ in the middle of the venue, with a giant Ducati store, and parking for owners! We trekked across one of the pedestrian bridges and toured the manufacturers and vendor areas, where we saw Nicky Hayden, ‘the Kentucky Kid’, being interviewed in the Honda tent.
Then it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy rain but it was persistent. We decided to call it a day, and headed to the parking lot. As we were gearing up, two couples came to their BMWs, parked just adjacent to ours. Turns out they were BMW MOA volunteers/officers Deb Lower, Stan Herman, and Bruce and Miranda Sanders. We had a really nice chat, discussing different trip destinations for the remainder of the riding season, as well as, options for retirement living. A great chance encounter, with folks we will likely see again in Montana in July for the BMW MOA rally.
That night we took a cab down to 6th Street and had a great rustic pizza dinner on the upstairs balcony level at Due Forni (two ovens).
We couldn’t leave 6th Street without a stop into the Historic Driskill Hotel Bar, which had live music this evening, but was packed due to the race weekend, so we kept moving.
We decided on Maggie Mae’s, a renowned music venue, but chose it mostly due to its rooftop balcony to look down on the 6th Street activity. It wasn’t long before we were rewarded with drunk couples spin dancing in the street, drunk guys sitting down to rest, and the piece de resistance, a completely topless woman walking casually down 6th street. Sorry, she is NOT in the photo. 😀
Race day dawned gray and overcast, but no rain! We had to take a selfie just before race time.
The race was delayed for a while due to water on the track, but once they got started, we really enjoyed our seats with views of turns 12 through 16. It was a tight race between Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, and Valentino Rossi for most of the 20 laps, but Marquez ended up winning with a definitive lead.
We moved to another section of the grandstand and stayed to watch an abbreviated Superbike race that was cut short the previous day; 12 exciting laps that had Cameron Beaubier beating his teammate Josh Hayes, with Roger Hayden coming in third.
Again, as we geared up in the BMW parking area to head to the hotel, we saw our new MOA friends and visited prior to taking off in our various directions. As we chatted the discussion turned to RV options for motorcyclists. Turns out the Sanders had just bought a Toyhauler from a dealer just 15 minutes from Austin and they gave us their take on the topic, as well as, a recommendation for their salesperson. A chance encounter that provided great food for thought for our future travel options!
For dinner that night, we wanted some local Austin Mexican food and found it at Curra’s Grill, only about 10 minutes from our hotel. Their specialty is an Avocado Margarita which was very tasty. So was the food!
All in all, a great time in Austin and at COTA, for our first MotoGP race! Thanks for following along. You can go straight to the next chapter in our Texas adventures here.