Austin Respite

Written October 25, 2015

By the grace of god and some incredible people, I’m writing this at the kitchen counter of an Austin condominium we have all to ourselves.  We’ve spent the last four days mainly relaxing and waiting out a massive weather front, connected with Hurricane Patricia, which has come through the Austin area. 

Lost Maples State Park, in the Texas hill country, was our point of departure to head into Austin to pick up water pump parts, get the bikes fixed, and then figure out how we would weather out the big front coming through.  We rode along little roads again this morning, and as we approached the Austin area, we saw more and fancier houses and properties along small rivers, and the ranch gates got bigger and more grandiose as we went.  Some were big enough to have me in awe as to how much people would spend announcing themselves to the world going by, and to someone like me who still had not the slightest clue as to why they were so important.  Still, I admired the incredible craftsmanship of the stone and iron work, and the beautiful dry gardening seen on some of the properties.  Maybe we’ll get a bigger mailbox when we get home.

We swung into Austin, and having no plan other than rest, checked into a crappy, broken down Motel 6 near the BMW shop, where we would pick up parts and, hopefully, change out the water pumps on both bikes.  It was in a hard-working section of town, and filled mostly with construction crews on contracts in the area.  A fellow in a room near us who rode bikes chatted with us, and recommended the taco trucks at the gas station next to the hotel.  Boy, was he right!  Jalene had an incredible gordita, and I had what were the best pastor and barbacoa tacos I’ve had in my life, washed down with a Jarritos, of course.  I wish we’d shot a photo of that place to recommend it to others.

Early the next morning, we packed everything up, not wanting to stay there again, but not sure what we’d do for shelter that night.  Formula 1 was in town for the annual US Grand Prix, and all rooms were already booked.  But in the meantime, we went over to Woods Fun Center, the local BMW shop, and picked up our parts from Matt, who had been incredibly helpful over the phone in the preceding days.  Drew, at the service desk, had the guys clear out a small area just outside the big service bay doors under cover where we could work on the bikes that day, protected from the darkening skies.  Jalene’s bike was first.  We removed the skidplate, drained the coolant, then laid it on it’s side to keep the oil in the engine, and just make it easy to work on the left side of the engine.  Ted, the service QC guy, helped by providing a drain pan and some cardboard to kneel on, which made it much more comfortable, loaned his calipers, and did myriad other little things for us.  Also, I have to thank Mike, the BMW tech, for answering all my questions and providing me with the factory seal drivers needed to do the job really right.  It took about two hours to do her bike, which involved pulling the water pump and clutch covers off, disassembling the water pump, installing the new one, and then re-assembling everything.  They had premixed coolant on hand, and once refilled Jay’s bike fired up with no leaks.  Next we did my bike, which had occasionally been showing oil from the water pump, and was going to need this soon anyway.  Finally we were done.  All told we spent about 5 hours there, and I can’t thank the people working there enough.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about indifference shown to travelers by dealerships, but not here.  Whatever I needed, they worked hard to help me with, and I know I was causing disruption to their day.  This is a big, busy shop (open on Mondays!), but no one complained about the two travelers.  Maybe we were only a minor annoyance to them, but to Jalene and I it was a huge gift.  In the end, they seemed genuinely interested in our trip, and making sure we were given all the help we needed.  Again, I can’t thank these guys enough.  If you need help when travelling through Austin on a motorcycle, call Woods Fun Center.

While we were working on the bikes that day, we got back into contact with Chris, Brian, and Jamal, whom we had met at Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.  Texts flew back and forth, and soon we were invited to stay with Chris and his family that night, and then transfer to Brian’s mom’s empty condominium for the remainder of our stay in Austin!  Once again, we were astonished at the warm hospitality shown to two strangers along the road.  We arrived at Chris’s warm house, and after parking bikes and gear in his garage, he took us for a boat ride down Lady Bird Lake, which is a dammed river running west out of the city, seeing some of the beautiful houses along it, some owned by well-known names.  For us Oregon hicks, it was fun seeing how the other half lives. 

Later, Chris grilled steaks and veggies, perfectly done, and we ate like kings, enjoying some good wine and great company with he and his wife Kara and daughter Story.  The next day we moved ourselves over to Brian’s mom’s condo, which is where we are now.  That evening, we met Brian and some of his friends at the Little Longhorn Saloon for some Texas fiddle music, and had a great time drinking beers swapping stories of bikes and travels. We spent Friday just resting here, doing nothing but relaxing, though we did get out for a walk to the grocery store up the street.  Yesterday, we braved the rain and took Uber (similar to a taxi but cheaper) to Black’s Barbeque for what Jalene and I agreed was the best BBQ of the trip, and our new favorite BBQ joint.  Locals we met said we had to try Franklins, which seems to be everyone’s favorite who lives here, but then they admit that the wait can be 5 hours, and there’s no guarantee they won’t run out by the time your turn comes.   After that, it was off to the Continental Club, where a great blues-rock band was on stage.   We sat back and enjoyed live music along with gin & tonics for a couple hours.  Finally we went down to Rainey Street, where a very soggy Formula 1 FanFest was going on, but we opted to just get some take-out Indian food from one of the food trucks, and headed back “home.”  After a great meal of Tandoori chicken, it was off to bed.  I fell asleep halfway through “The Wild One”, watching Marlon Brando play a biker gang leader in that classic which just makes me cringe.  Jalene stayed up until midnight, watching a movie (she can’t remember the name) downstairs.  Ahhhh…R&R is good.

A word about motorcyclists.  Here we are, having been invited into Chris’ home, and now staying in a beautiful condo, owned by someone who knows us not at all.  All of this was offered after a chance meeting on the road.  Motorcyclists are adventurous by nature, and as such are more willing to extend themselves in the hope that getting to know a stranger will be a wonderful and rewarding adventure in itself.  Whenever Jalene and I have welcomed a fellow rider into our home, we’ve always been rewarded with wonderful tales, and often lasting friendships.  I only hope Jalene and I can somehow return the kind warmth and generosity shown by Chris and Brian and their families.  They have enabled us to relax and regroup, and our gratitude toward them is boundless.  And I should also mention that not just Chris and Brian offered shelter, but others, too in case we needed it while here.  All of you are held dear in our hearts.

Today we’re cleaning up the condo, anticipating a morning departure.  This afternoon we’ll head over to Brian’s house to watch the Formula 1 race with him and his friends.  Tomorrow the weather is forecast to break and we will see the sky again.  Though it’s been heaven getting the bikes fixed and then just relaxing here, it will be good to get on the road again.  It’s time to head south for real this time, and Mexico is the next destination on the map.  We plan to cross the border at Eagle Pass, and head south through east-central Mexico.  Now the real journey is about to begin.

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Check out photos of the Hill Country and photos of Austin.