A KTM and A Boy Ride South

When the girl friend tells you there’s a family gathering and she wants you to come, primal instinct kinda kicks in; you grimace and plan for the worst. When the girlfriend then tells you that the family gathering is in the Texas hill country and SHE suggests you take your motorcycle; you perk up a little, at least I do. I don’ think she had in mind the same route I did though. Once she learned that my route stretched a 4 hour car trip into an 8 hour bike trip she regretted the suggestion. Oh well! Too late now, hopes are up, let’s find some dirt!



The plan was to leave work early Friday and set off for Kingsland, Texas in time to avoid riding at night. (Tip: Don’t make a plan… They never, ever, work.) First problem; I had kinda forgotten about the trip and as a result I had kinda forgotten to ask for permission to leave work early. I show up on the bike, packed and ready to go. I had intentions of finding the boss early and asking if leaving around noon would be ok… instead he finds me and dumps a few projects on my plate that were needed for a Monday meeting (that of course didn’t happen, ha). Doh. Oh well that’s what I get. I do my very best to finish up the new tasks at hand as early as possible. Done by 3, not so bad… 3 PM +8… ok that’s a little late, but I can always cut it short, no sweat. I gear up, roll the bike outside… key on, LETS GO!

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…Uh I said, LETS GO! …No fire, lights go dead, display goes dead, no power. Damn. So my thoughts go straight to the shop I had just picked the bike up from the day prior. When I rolled out there was no neutral light, which was odd, but I figured it just burnt out or some such. Maybe there’s a ground issue or something in the harness got messed up? I had the forks rebuilt, so they were in the cowling behind the dash… I kick the bike over in the heat a little while, no hint of starting. Damn. I trouble shoot a little bit, no voltage out of the battery, put it on a charger… still no start. Damn. I find a battery close by, but it’s dry and has to have acid added and charge overnight… so it’s 6 and it’s gotta charge over night. The guy at the bike shop offers to charge the thing on his nifty charger; I take him up on his offer and will be at his shop to pick the battery up at 9. Swell.

Of course all of this means I won’t be arriving at aforementioned family function on time, this doesn’t sit well with the girlfriend. After a brief argument over the phone, its decided that I’ll arrive at a reasonable time Saturday even if I take the bike on the scenic route. From my point of view, if I’m not taking the scenic route on the bike, I’ll be driving. No point in slabbing it just to be on 2 wheels. I’ve spent a good amount of energy getting ready for a bike trip, my hopes are set on a bike trip; I’m taking a bike trip.

Next morning I pick up the fully charged battery, head over to work where I left the bike, install the new battery… turn the key, lights come on, click the start button… nothing. Damn. So again the neutral light that isn’t working pops into my head. Suppose the bike needs to be in neutral to start… duh. So I find the neutral sensor, sure enough, a ground wire is loose. Damn. They must have taken it off to change the oil or some such. There are 2 oil lines down there. I hook the wire back to its lug, turn the key on once again, hit the start button… VROOM! At last! Wait… if the neutral light kept it from starting, how’d I ride it home from the shop? Turns out the KTM’s logic is smart enough to know, if its in neutral, no need for clutch. If it’s in gear, clutch is needed. Ah, well that doesn’t explain the battery… or does it? I don’t know, I think it just forced a battery issue that was there to come up sooner perhaps. The battery was certainly dead. Oh well, I’ll tackle this later. I also learned that the headlights must be switched off to kick start the bike with a totally dead battery. Of course the American models don’t have a headlight kill switch like the euro/ausie versions do. Oh well, another lesson learned and another to do item on the list.

All this writing and I still haven’t left?! Damn.

Now that the bike is running its time to button her up, re load the bags, suit up and go. We’re ready and leaving at 10:30. Not too bad.

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The initial portion of the trip is cutting through down town Fort Worth as I head south. I almost never do highways on the bike; it just doesn’t feel as safe and controlled as the slower city streets to me. I come to an intersection with a police officer holding up traffic for what initially think is a funeral. Once I get closer it’s clear that this is no funeral; every car is some kind of goofy, brightly colored oldsmobile with 53” chrome wheels and an uber sound system. I wait for a moment for what I think is the end of this crazy, make shift parade. Just as ‘the end’ approaches a dozen more cars crawl around a corner and it is obvious this isn’t going to end any time soon. I don’t have time for this business; I’ve got a girlfriend that’s mad. I bust a U and cut through some residential streets to an intersection not controlled by ‘the man’. A quick pause while I wait for a chance to shoot between the chrome madness. A gap! I gun it across the street for a quick getaway. It’s at this point that I realize that a KTM 640 adventure with only a few gallons of gas and a fairly loaded tail bag is very, very easy to wheelie off the line. I’m sure this looked cool as hell and appropriately disrespectful to the police and parade goers alike-however I am not accustomed to the ways of the wheelie. This simple tire floating act successfully scared the

    expletive deleted

out of one puny motorcycle rider. Saying that this woke me up for the rest of the trip is a pretty big understatement.

Fort Worth quickly turns into open country and dirt roads. Not so much twisty just yet, but it’s good to get away from the concrete no matter how strait the roads may be.

At this point I am doing my best to keep moving; I topped off the 8 gallon tank to the max just before I left Fort Worth. I am making time best I can. Every minute I’m not going south or west I can hear the clock ticking and the girlfriend yelling. As a result of this drive to go south I did not stop for many photos, so I apologize for that. I do my best to keep the speed down on dirt roads, one for safety sake, and two, to enjoy the scenery. The KTM performs VERY well on dirt roads. The suspension really soaks up the minor bumps and dips of typical dirt roads. Even wash boards fly under the bike with no hint of trouble, impressive.

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Now, some where south of Grandbury, I’ve hit the start of hill country, the roads turn from good to wonderful. Ups, downs, twists, turns, water crossings, oh yes, it’s on. Again, I’m trying to keep my speed down in the dirt, but it’s so easy to go fast. As I enter a downhill tight right hander the gravel quickly gets loose and the hard dirt underneath is rutted from rains. The front wheel starts to skid out following an unseen rut, the rear quickly locks and I’m skidding front and rear on a tangent outwards towards a ditch. Except this is a dirt road that’s had a grader run over it and on the edges of the roads are ~1’ high piles of gravel. Of course I’m on a path far from perpendicular to this 1’ high mound. I ease off the brakes, aim for the mound of gravel and brace for a dump… but wait… I’m on a KTM, 1’ tall piles of gravel do not phase my orange beast! I plow up and over and into a ditch, still up right, amazing. I kill the engine and glance back at my skid marks… I can’t believe I made it up and over this mound upright, especially at the angle I hit it. Take it easy chris… I’m still in a hurry though, so I fire up and head out. I’m kicking myself now for not taking pictures…

The rest of the trip south is pretty un eventful, at some point after a good amount of distance on a dirt country road I hit a gate, no trespassing, poo. Even though the map calls it a CR still, damn. I decide it’s late enough and I’ve gotten a good fill of dirt roads, I’ll turn the wick up on smaller country highways to make time to Kingsland. I pull in after a good 6 or so hours on the road in time to enjoy some tubing, some swimming and some food. A good day.

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After a late night of tom foolery with the girlfriend and her family, we’re late to rise. Most everyone is packed up already and on their way out. I pretty much follow suit. As I power up my GPS I realize the “reverse route” option is available in the PC software, but not in the hand held unit… doh. I was kind of counting on that to get me north via my desired twisty roads, the roads I by passed in the last leg of yesterday’s ride. Poo. Oh well, a little bit of time and I’ve got a new route mapped out for getting home.

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Pretty well strait away I’m on small country roads twisting and turning through the hills in route to my first dirt section of the route back. It’s not long before the GPS is informing me of a right turn coming up on to dirt. As I turn I note the sign indeed says CR, for country road, and not PR for private road, good, good. I cross an un gated cattle guard and I see a speed limit sign. Ok definitely not a private road. I press further along; enjoying the lack of fences on either side I spy a gate ahead. DAMN! I hate when these roads dead end into private land… But wait… this gate isn’t signed, it isn’t locked, my GPS indicates it’s still a country road, maybe this is one of those gates you’re allowed to pass through. Just close behind you… Yea… I’ve seen guys do this on the internet all the time. No “No Trespassing” sign, no lock, map says country road; 3 strikes for you gate. I walk up, unlock, push the bike through… I have to admit, my heart is RACING, I’ve got a huge surge of adrenalin running through me, and all I’ve done is go through a gate, sheesh!

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The road opens up again, beautiful weather, big sky, no fences, I’m loving it.

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A few more miles and I stop to make sure none of my gear has shifted, I kick the tires, and all seems well. My front is really showing the pavement miles I’ve put on it since I bought the bike a few months ago. I think this will be its last trip. In profile it looks like a rear dune tire… those knobs started off square, I promise.

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Here’s a water crossing I ran across, check out the downstream rock formations, very interesting. It almost looks like someone dumped a bunch of concrete in piles. I haven’t seen anything like this around before. Not much water across this one, most of the smaller crossings were dry, despite heavy rains the days prior to the trip. This one had just enough water to make it slick as snot, but not enough to splash. I actually road across this one, saw the rocks, turned around, road back, turned around and stopped half way for the picture. I damn near fell walking around getting this picture, how the bike stayed up crossing 3 times is beyond me.

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Shadows are starting to get long, my GPS route says 5 hours till to Fort Worth, it’s about 5 PM. I should probably step it up and make some time before dusk. It’s hard to bypass dirt when there is still light out though. I decide to follow my GPS down some more dirt roads before it gets too dark and just take my time getting back. Oh well if it’s an hour or two later than planned, the lights work fine, just take it easy and watch for deer. I’ll be fine.

I take a left off of one nice country road onto a less maintained one that claims to be quite twisty per my GPS. I’m a little hesitant to get my hopes up, as the twisty country roads often turn into private roads pretty quick. This one claims to be a CR all the way through though, let’s see. It’s not long on this particular road before I’m greeted with another cattle guard with no gate, only this one has a small sign to the side that reads, “No Hunting Keep Out!”. Damn. I pause and think. Ok lets use the strike system that rewarded us so well before. No gate, marked as a CR… 2 strikes, damn that sign… Well it does say hunters keep out… I’m not a hunter… 3 strikes, ONWARD! The road starts out promising, a little less maintained than normal, that’s good. The road goes past a few gated entrances to various ranches, that’s a good sign. It means at least a mail man comes out here, this is a CR for sure… the road gets a little less maintained, a green stripe shows up down the center… good signs, GPS shows lots of twists ahead… I pop up a hill and turn a corner… a house. Damn. I hate passing so close by these houses. I had been so nervous opening and closing gates earlier near houses, if there was a gate here, I would be literally right next to the house… not a good sign. I pull in closer and the road disappears into grass. The direction the GPS points me is not a road. Damn. I glance around to make sure I’m not missing anything, it’s clear I shouldn’t be here. I turn around and head back from where I came. As I’m re tracing my steps, prior to reaching the other gated entrances to other ranches I see a white truck rumbling towards me. Uhoh. I’m headed away from this persons house, this person might not be too happy with me… They slow to a stop, just off the road enough to let me by. I can make out a lady driving the truck with a less than friendly face on. Her face is somewhere between “who the hell is this guy and who the hell does he think he is leaving MY house!?” and “why the hell would someone ride a damn motorcycle all the way out here?!”. I slowed and debated if I should stop or not. I gave her a big wave and waited for any sort of motion that would indicate her wanting me to stop. She pretty well just stared at me with her mixed angry/dumbfounded face as I road by. She never changed expressions or took her hands off the wheel, so I just kept going. As soon as I was out of her sight, I turned the wick up. I’m outa here. I don’t want no funny business. I feel a little bad about not stopping, I could have explained myself and told her I was sorry and probably put her at ease that I wasn’t rummaging around her home while she was away. But by the same token, that could have opened a can of worms I didn’t really want to be held accountable for. I gave her the opportunity to open lines of communication, she declined, ride on.

I took the route around the back side to where the road I was on should let out. It ended up being a big fancy gate to some ranch, so if it was ever a country road I don’t think it was one for long. Oh well. Not much further I spot an armadillo rummaging around the edge of the road. These guys are pretty blind and they make so much noise pushing their nose through leaves and pulling up roots I don’t think they are ever too aware of their surroundings. I watched him for a while, never turning off my bike and I don’t think he ever knew I was there. Crazy guy. A few miles later I round a corner to see 5 or 6 deer running from me. They run along the road a few feet, then turn and jump a short fence and sprint across a field. Way too fast for me to pull my camera out, sorry guys, I didn’t mean to interrupt your meal.

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I spy an old Texaco station on the side of the road and take a few pictures. Judging from the tire tracks in the gravel, I’m not the first to have this idea. There must have been a lot of bikes out today. I never saw em though. Aside from a few passing cars, the back roads of Texas are EMPTY.

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I stop at a Dairy Queen for dinner with intentions of getting a hot fudge Sunday, but make the mistake of filling up on my burger and fries, oh well, some other time perhaps. Shadows are getting long. I dunno how other bikers do the whole picture while moving business. It took some doing to get this, and I was basically putting along in 1st gear. How on earth do you keep the camera handy and work it with gloves on while going 60? Nutters.

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The sun starts to set and I race towards a ridge to try and capture a nice sunset. It never really materializes though, the sun disappears behind low distant clouds without much fanfare.

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My last planned dirt road in the dusk has a semi worn “no trespassing” sign next to the un gated cattle guard. I debate taking it, but being dusk, I decide to re route a less scenic route and get home. While I’m stopped a fellow in an SUV stops to make sure I’m OK, I mention that I’m just re routing per the sign, and he wishes me luck and drives off.

As I’m slabbing it home, I spot a quick ‘short cut’ around the backside of a state park, I decide to take it despite the darkness and see what it has to offer. It starts out twisty, and fun and drops down into a small valley. I pass a sign that states there is a load zoned bridge ahead. Joy. Much to my surprise, a small wooden decked truss bridge, awesome! I block the road for a few shots. The lightening bugs floating all around me, my headlights really set them off.

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More slab into Fort Worth, the last little twisty 2 lane road into town is spent behind an overly cautious Lexus SUV, I really dislike these things. Engine off at 11:30 or so, safe and sound. All in all I probably did around 500 miles there and back. Good times. Thanks for reading!



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Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 7:19 pm in category blog

3 Responses to “A KTM and A Boy Ride South”

  1. Rey Says:

    DO NOT BLOCK DOOR!!!!!!!!

    Sounds like a good ride, all-in-all. Glad you didn’t give up on it just because you had some electrical issues in the beginning.

  2. chris Says:

    It was tempting. It was actually quite good fortune that I wasn’t able to get it going that night, as there was a SOLID line of storms from here to Austin. I would have been one miserable dude.

  3. MARMA Says:

    YARR I be testing a post. Ignore this. HI REY REY

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