Day 23 – Shadow of the Rockies, Part 3

Corona, NM – Logan, NM

275 miles

Today I got up 6:15am to get an early start to make the big push to Logan, NM. As I crawled out of my tent in a remote corner of the town park of Corona, I felt a little like a homeless person with a cool bike. Throughout the night, I could hear freight trains passing through the center of town.


In this age of FedEx and email, train transport seems almost antiquated, but it was cool to see that this part of American history was still being utilized (despite keeping me awake in my little hovel). I drove back to the gas station I visited last night, fueled up and strapped water to every conceivable point on my bike. I was in no mood to run out water like yesterday. I had my biggest day of off roading ahead and I wanted to make sure I was prepared.

I headed 30 miles east of Corona to find the trailhead to get me back on route. However, one problem with following the Shadow of the Rockies Trail is that rest stops and towns are far and few in between.


At one point when I was about 5 miles back on the trail, a pickup truck started heading towards me. Bear in mind, this is the FIRST time I’ve seen another vehicle on the roads I’ve been riding. The driver stopped and I stopped, bracing for a lecture that I had somehow wandered upon private land (I get lectured a lot). The driver was nothing else but friendly and confirmed that I was indeed riding on county roads, not private.

Pick-Up Truck Driver: You know where you’re going?

Me: Surprisingly, I actually do. I’m trying to get to Logan today riding off road.

Pick-Up Truck Driver: Hmmm…not much between here and Logan.

Me: Yeahh…I made sure to fill up on gas and water.

Pick-Up Truck Driver: Well, good luck to you.

I continued on, passing many horse and cattle ranches. Long roads of gravel and dirt stretched out along straight trajectories taking me deeper into the prairie. The temperature didn’t seem as oppressive as the last few days, but I’m still riding in the high 90s.


After the drama from yesterday, I’m feeling a little hesitant to be off road. I hated the reality of being trapped behind a fence with no way out (a situation entirely of my own making). Yesterday, I just got lucky. Today, I made the decision to turn around if I encountered any closed fences.

For the most part, the riding was very mellow, mainly following country dirt roads that bordered ranches. I seem to have left the high desert area and am now entering the Great Plains region (I’m only a few miles from the Oklahoma border).


I was pleased to be riding at a more subdued pace, and I was slowly getting my mojo back after dropping the bike yesterday.


Then things went very bad, very fast. I was riding along a ranch road that had a single strand of barbed wire running across the cattle crossing. It had a few plastic bags tied at the ends that allowed me to see it at all. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it until it was too late. I jammed hard on the brakes and my front tire washed out in the loose dirt, sending me over the handlebars and the bike crashing into the ground. Again, I’m fine (always ride with protection people!), but the bike took it’s hardest hit yet.

I didn’t even have time to take a macabre photo as fuel was already leaking out (the gas cap popped open). Fuel is a precious commodity out here so I stumbled over quickly to get the bike back upright. The windshield was cracked and 3 out the 4 auxiliary lights got pretty mangled. Pretty damn shitty because of a single wire gate. I was (and still am) pissed.

Luckily, the bike started up (I had already began calculations as to how far I’d have to hike out). These BMWs are built like goddamn tanks.

Yeah, no kidding…


Sadly, that last fall really put damper on the rest of the day. Riding through the remote plains was beginning to feel monotonous. Controlled burns were going on everywhere and the high winds were kicking up massive soot clouds. It was hard to see at times and my eyes were tearing nonstop.  You can see the scorched earth in this photo.  Really sort of eerie driving through it.


I met these guys along the way, and stopped to tell them how low I was feeling. They seemed to sympathize or at least faked it pretty well.


I took it slower again, and the roads were still pretty mellow. I was just a bit shaken, and the fear of getting caught with mechanical issues this far out was starting to gnaw at me.

The best thing happened all day when I crossed 1-40 and found the glorious Russell’s Truck Stop. Man, it felt like Disneyland inside these massive traveller centers. I felt like Templeton the Rat from Charlotte’s Web, basking in the air conditioned splendor and running around trying to sample and look at everything. It had an entire grocery store inside along with maps, gifts, beer, sandwiches, a full service diner and…an antique car museum. I know – WTF? But there weren’t just shleppy cars from a junkyard. This truck stop has some serious wheels.





It was nice to get a little bit of (I cringe as I type)…culture at the truck stop. I feel like the last several days have been so much about riding and making miles that I’m not interacting with my surroundings other than enjoying breathtaking scenery.  Maybe I’m just not drinking enough water…

I made it to Logan. So damn thrilled. I debated getting a motel, but ended up at Lake Ute State Park. I’ll splurge on a hotel when I head west to Santa Fe tomorrow after finishing the New Mexico leg of the Shadow Of The Rockies trail.


WHAT HAVE I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: No such thing as riding too slow. Having the bike fail in a remote region is dangerous and potentially a trip-ender. Also, I’m considering taking my next rest day exclusively at a truck stop. I’d get to meet interesting people, eat and drink well and catch up on my straight to DVD backlog of titles.

Day 22 – Shadow of the Rockies, Part 2

Capitan, NM – Corona, NM
67 Miles

Today was very tough, hard day.

I started the day leaving the tiny town of Capitan and looked to continue the Shadow of the Rockies trail north. As you recall from the last post, the reason I stayed in Capitan was because I had some confusion as to where actual the trail was. So far, the directions I’ve downloaded have been spot on. Staying on-course is a cause of some concern for me as I’m venturing 50 miles into ranch country and national forest and if I get lost…well, let’s just say the blog posts would be getting a lot more sporadic.


But around Capitan, things got confusing. Remember that I had a choice of two roads, the righthand route took me into the groovy teen bible camp.

The lefthand route was actually far more gnarly and gated off by the Forest Service. Apparently, due to the drought, there was an extreme risk of fire so Lincoln National Forest was shut down to visitors or any type of motor traffic. At first I figured there was no way that it was part of the Shadow of the Rockies Trail.  It seemed much greater in difficulty than the roads I’d experienced thus far.  However, I knew via my GPS coordinates that I was in the right place.  Clearly by process of elimination, the left route was the correct one.

Only one problem.  A big fat locked gate blocking the entrance.

But in my infinite wisdom, I also saw a really easy way around the gate, and surely the person who sent me these directions would have told me if I should avoid the National Forest.

So I went.


Holy God in Heaven was that a tough route.  I really haven’t been that nervous in a while.  You can see by my distance that it took me most of the day just to do 60 miles. Part of that was due to the increasing numbers of locked gates that I had to maneuver around or partially disassemble in order to pass. I would have never committed myself so far into the route if I had any idea how tough or inaccessible the roads became as I ventured further.  Also, the top of the pass (pictured below) was at almost 10,000 feet and I was getting winded easily.


The problem is, the road only really runs north. It’s much harder to negotiate the bike going south which meant that I had to keep going with the trail no matter what it threw at me. There was no turning back.



The other reason I took so long is that I had a few crashes. I’m fine but poor Bumblebee finally went down. I knew it was only a matter of time, but still it was very sad and very frustrating to deal with.  I really, really love this bike and it just looks wounded lying down on the ground.  The bike weights over 700 lbs so moving it out of a ditch by myself was a sincere challenge.


Soon, insipid thoughts start creeping into your head. What if I can’t get it out? What if I’m stuck? What if I have to leave the bike and walk out 30 miles? How will I ever get the bike out with the roads being closed and totally unreachable by most 4-wheel drive cars. I’d have to leave the bike here for weeks.  What if I actually got hurt?  Nobody is coming and nobody can help.

What if I really fucked up?


Luckily, after about 2 hours of wrestling and revving I was able to get my bike out of the two ditches she landed in. But I had used up most of my strength, all of my water, and fear was starting to get the better of me.

I finally got the bike through Capitan Pass and around all of the locked Forest Service gates. I was heading for a blessed paved road, Route 246. It stood a mere 10 feet away from me. One problem. Another locked gate. This one was big and there was no going around it. I had also ventured onto private land, which generally isn’t a big deal as long as you stick to the roads (assuming they’re open).

I stood there stumped. I’d be able to overcome every other exhausting obstacle so far, but there was no way I could move forward, and I sure as hell couldn’t go back. I was stuck and there was no way out.


Finally, a truck passed towing a large horse trailer.  It slowed down enough to allow the driver to stare menacingly at me.

Me: Hi there!

Ranch Owner: <silence>

Me: Boy, I sure am lost. Am I on your land?  I feel like I might be.

Ranch Owner: You are.

Me: Well, I’d like to get off it as soon as possible. I’m very very sorry.

Ranch Owner: How the hell did you get in there? The gate is locked.

Me: I came the other way. Over the mountain pass from Capitan.

Ranch Owner: But mountain is closed right now.

Me: I know. It’s been a long day.

Half an hour passes and the Ranch Owner finally comes back with a key for the gate, allowing me to pass. He was definitely a little pissed (rightly so) that I had been trespassing on his land and on the State’s Land when there were clear signs forbidding it. I think my saving grace was that I tried to be as apologetic and polite as possible, but also I had New York plates. Everyone knows New Yorkers are pretty worthless when it comes to ranches so I think he might have written me off as an example of dumb Yankee tomfoolery.

At that point, I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted to bail and just stick to paved roads for a while. But deep down, I knew that wasn’t the spirit of this part of the journey. Despite the difficulty of the riding today, I was still rewarded with some of the most stunning vistas I’ve seen the entire trip.


I pushed down Rt. 246 another few miles until I got to the trail head for the next leg of the trip. Now that I was off the mountain, I was driving on flat country and ranch roads which were much easier going. I traversed the Hasperos Canyon and passed a dozen or so cattle ranches along the way. Beautiful country. I’m so amazed how these ranchers can live such an isolated life. All of them (including the guy I trespassed on) seemed very nice.



Yeah, I went over this…


I made it to another paved road, Route 247, but I was pretty spent at this point. The map wanted me to continue right, but I could see that the small town of Corona was 30 miles on the left. I needed water and I hadn’t eaten much all day. In these situations, I go for the known value, as opposed to risking the unknown.

I’m in Corona now, and despite a promising name, there’s not much here. I stopped at the local gas station / deli and filled myself up with Gatorade and water. I asked the kind woman at the counter if there were any motels or restaurants nearby. She informed me that the nearest of either were about 50 miles away.

I asked about camping and she said nobody would mind if I pitched a tent on their local town park. I feel a little shady and vulnerable, but I think it will all be good.

I came looking for adventure, and today I got mine super sized. I’m a little full now.

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: When a road is closed, leave it closed. I’m pushing it already by going off road solo. Today had some strong elements of stupidity that I’m not proud of. I’m also going to do my best to stay off private property (although it’s a little hard to know the difference between public and private in this neck of the woods). I just got insanely lucky that the ranch owner happened to drive by. Otherwise, I’d still be there. Lastly, BMW School saved my life today. Despite laying the bike down twice, I rode well and kept my cool.

Day 21 – Shadow Of The Rockies, Part 1

El Paso, TX – Capitan, NM

216 miles

WOW!! Today was an adrenaline filled day that had me laughing out loud and smiling for hours. Holy crap is going off road beautiful!!


As some of you know, one of the highlights of this trip was going to be riding the Shadow of the Rockies Trail which is an off road route that takes you from the bottom of New Mexico to Wyoming staying primarily on dirt roads. My goal is to complete the New Mexico portion from south to north. My motorcycle trip to Baja earlier this year was a warm-up to help develop my anemic off road riding skills. Going to BMW School was another step toward building my confidence up. This was going to be the big test.


The trailhead to the Shadow Of The Rockies trail begins 26 miles due east of El Paso. Even driving there, I started getting butterflies as the road morphed from suburban commercial to a two lane highway until it went down to a one-lane highway. I was pretty anxious because I really had no idea what to expect from the terrain. Quite frankly, I was a little worried it was going to be singletrack which would have been difficult to manage with a 700-pound bike and traveling by myself.


And that’s really the big concern. If anything happens out in the desert, I’m all alone. A flat tire is my biggest concern. I have a tire plug kit, but I’ve seen mixed results regarding their effectiveness off road. It will be hard for a tow truck or any support vehicle to get to me given the condition of some of the roads.

But I have to say, the moment my bike got off the highway and touched the dirt, my heart started soaring. My God, its stunning out here. I’m constantly reminded of a really great little indie flick called Off The Map (Rent it! See it!) with Sam Elliot and the gorgeous Joan Allen where she says, “New Mexico is a pretty powerful place. It takes most people a few years to get used to it.”


The first 70 miles were just straight though the desert approaching White Sands National Monument. I thought about all those tiny remote roads you see from an airplane in the middle of nowhere and think, “I wonder who the hell ever drives on that road”. Well, today it was me and was fantastically cool.


The sky seemed to just open up and pull these dusty roads out into the horizon. While I passed the occasional entrance to a ranch, I never once passed another car while offroad. I was completely alone and it felt tremendous.


Not to say, I didn’t hit the occasional traffic jam.


And I thought this was a nice touch.


The views kept getting better and better.


Before I knew it, the long dusty road began to wind into the mountains of Lincoln National Forest and soon the smell of pine and fir permeated through the vents in my helmet. The wide road became less sandy and more rocky causing me to drop me to drop my speed to 25 mph. I could have pushed a bit faster but I wanted to play it safe given that I’m solo and the scenery was so beautiful, so why would I rush?




After winding though some of the fir forests, I stumbled upon my first major rest stop, Cloudcroft, NM. I just like the sound of it. The look of it however, is very much more akin to Frontierland in Disneyworld. It was a kitchy Western styled town, but seemed popular with other bikers. The New York license plate is always a conversation starter as even some Harley guys wanted to hear about the trip. Cloudcroft was a welcome stop to refuel and grab some lunch. Yes, I actually ate here.


At one point, it seemed like I might have entered land belonging to the Apache Reservation but I wasn’t sure. Then I saw this.


The route took me through Riodoso which reminded me a little bit of Lake Placid, NY. There were more than a few bars advertising live bands, and lots of restaurants with tiny flower boxes outside. Pretty town, looked like a lot of fun and I would have liked to have stayed for a night.

I ended the day pulling into Capitan, New Mexico which I learned was the birth place (and apparently final resting place) of Smokey The Bear. My trail led me just outside the town to a fork in a dirt road. One road led into a National Forest which was closed due to the heat and drought. I followed the other road which led me to Pine Ridge Ranch. Great, I figured! Most of these ranches offer rooms for the evening. This will be my chance to live out my inner cowboy fantasies for an evening. Turns out, the ranch is a teen bible summer camp occupied by the stunt doubles from Children Of The Corn. When I rode in looking like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and asked for a room for the night, they seemed very confused but polite. I turned back to Capitan and figured I ridden enough miles for one day and it might be good to chill with my old pal Smokey.

What an fantastic, soul stirring day. I feel incredibly lucky.


WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: Going out in the wild blue yonder alone is scary but enthralling. I haven’t felt this sense of adventure in years. I’m so excited about what I’ll find next. Also, bible school kids like BMW bikes (at least, they said they’d pray for me).


Day 19-20 – The Long Haul

Fredricksburg, TX – El Paso, TX

513 miles

Today I successfully traversed the reminder of Texas, which is really a lot bigger than you think. I know that you think you know how big Texas is, but it’s honestly bigger than that. Trust me.

To get to El Paso in one day, I would have to put on some serious miles. Today wasn’t the day for scenic highways or winding roads through National Parks. I was headed for the freeway right out of Fredricksburg and drove it straight west for the next 7 hours.

I liked this photo as I fueled up in Fredrickburg. Note TWO Texas flags and ONE American flag. Good to know where your loyalties lie.


Interstate 10 is a transnational highway that stretches from Jacksonville, FL straight across to Los Angeles, CA. What makes the Texas section a little different is the sheer distance between exits. It was the first time that I started to get that whole ‘long highway stretching out into nothing’ vibe.


I was warned by another rider to always fill up on fuel whenever you get a chance. Now, the bike I’m riding (R1200GS Adventure) has an exceptionally large fuel tank, and I can get a range of 400 miles when topped off. But I could easily see how some of the smaller bikes I own could get caught running out of gas between exits. Given the heat and the desolation, this didn’t seem like an appealing option.


The only word I can use to describe the scenery along side this long, barren highway is prehistoric. You just see these old rocks and weird desert plants stretching out as far as the horizon. I keep expecting to see a brontosaurus plodding off in the distance. Of course, if a brontosaurus was walking around in the deserts of Texas, it would promptly be killed, cleaned, and barbequed in a semi-sweet mustard based sauce on low heat for 36 hours.


There really wasn’t much to see at all while driving on I-10, but in a way, the emptiness was a spectacle in itself. I watched a dust devil form just off the shoulder then dissipate into nothingness. Vultures and hawks circled around carcasses in the distance. But despite the monotony of the drive, there were some highlights and records broken.

First 500-mile day

First time I broke 120 mph on my motorcycle (actual speed 127 mph)

First Highway with an 80 mph speed limit

Highest Temperature Recorded On My Bike: 111 Degrees Fahrenheit

My First Dairy Queen Ever (this may not be entirely true, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was)

This was lunch today. Not bad. Not great. I’m not in Luling anymore.


I pulled into El Paso around 8:20 in the evening singing Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo in my head. This is my first time in El Paso and I’ll be spending an extra day here to get some work done for my podcast, The Leviathan Chronicles. The city feels like such a “frontier” city. Decidedly western, the only restaurants I have seen are either Mexican or Steak. The city just…sprawls…and seems to be unbelievably well suited for road travellers. All the major chains, all the major stores and hotels are right off the 8-lane highway. Everything seems to be designed to get you whatever you’re looking for, take your money and get you back on the road as quickly as possible. It’s not really a bad thing. It just strikes me as a city meant more for travellers than the actual residents.


One of the other odd things that struck me about El Paso is how the city is built along a ridge that looks down directly into the Mexican city of Juarez. I guess I kept imagining all the Mexicans having to constantly look up (literally) at the United States and see the opportunity and the shining lights of El Paso, and yet have it be so far away. Made me a little sad.

The next stage of the trip will be the riskiest. I’m headed offroad to run part of the famous Shadow Of The Rockies Trail that starts at the bottom of New Mexico and finishes in Wyoming. It’s not inherently dangerous except for the fact that I’m going at it alone. I have no one to help me if things breakdown and no way to get back to a main road without doing some serious walking. I’ve been told that the New Mexico portion is really not much more than standard dirt roads which would be fine in my book.

I’m excited for the adventure ahead.


WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: Like anything, sometimes you just have to put your head down and work hard, even if its unglamorous. Slogging through I-10 felt a bit like work (ask my sore ass) but I still felt lucky to be seeing a new part of the country even if it’s a little empty. I was this close to a hissy fit!! Ice cream is too important in three-digit heat to be messing around.

Day 17 – 18 – Back on the Road

Houston, TX – Fredricksberg, TX
213 miles

Today I left Houston and continued my westward journey heading towards California.  The quickest way out of Houston is the big I-10 Interstate which runs East-West from Houston to El Paso (and beyond).  I left Randall’s house and drove on the highway for about three hours.  During that time, all I could think was that I had nothing to write about today.  Nada.  Just riding a big suburban interstate with the same 40 or so chain restaurants and hotels being advertised beside each exit.

That being said, this guy looks likes he’s going to have some fun somewhere.


However, one thing kept nagging at me.  Every 30 or so miles this giant bucktoothed chipmunk, apparently named Buc-ee, kept showing up on billboards and extolling the virtues of his clean bathrooms, cold drinks, free beef jerky and all-around family fun.  My father once had his finger bit by a chipmunk so I generally regard the rodent species with a high degree of suspicion.  But the repetition of his message finally wore me down and I pulled over to see the famous Buc-ee’s and understand what this pushy chipmunk was talking about.


The first thing I learned is that Buc-ee’s is a large chain of roadside gas and general merchandise stores.  However, the one I was visiting was one of their three largest.  The first third of the store was dedicated to clothing depicting the cheeky chipmunk that drew me in.  Think about that.  Imagine walking into your local Stop N Shop, Food Lion or Wegman’s and seeing the first third of the store dedicated to T-shirts with an A&P logo.

But what really blew me away was the next third of the store which was dedicated to food (no surprises here).  Most kwik-ee marts might offer a few gross hot dog roasting since the beginning of the Regan era or some cold sandwiches in a depressing refrigerator.  But Buc-ee’s had a massive selection of fresh Southern delicacies, a giant sandwich bar, and a touch pad system for ordering hot entrees.


But what caught my eye was the huge selection of beef jerky.  Jalapeno, teriyaki, mild, spicy, elk, buffalo, turkey jerky were all sold by weight.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a selection that large in person, but I finally settled on a ¼ pound of buffalo jerky (after sampling 8 others of course).


Randall had given me an idea for a detour from 1-10 which involved entering the Texas Hill Country and finding a road called The Devil’s Backbone.  How could I resist?  I pulled off at the Luling exit and remembered an article I read that claimed the town was home to some of the best BBQ in all of Texas.

They were wrong.

Luling, Texas is home to the best BBQ on the entire planet.  It is quite simply the best BBQ I have ever had in my life.


Right off Main Street lies City Market BBQ, home to a temple of slow roasted meat since 1968.


You walk in and quickly see a separate hermetically sealed chamber in the back where you enter to place your order for BBQ.  It was like going inside the humidor room at the Davidoff Cigar Showroom.  Inside, the pit crew takes your order and serves it up on some butcher paper with pickles and bread on the side.  I went with a half-pound of brisket and a half-pound of ribs.  No plates.  No forks.  No knives (not that you would ever need a knife – so tender).


You leave the pit chamber and go to a separate counter to order your drinks (for me, sweet tea is the only libation to accompany BBQ of this caliber).  I sat down in a secluded booth to enjoy my feast much like my dog Piper goes into a quiet room with her bone.  The meat was so succulent of full of smoke and richness.


A dash of their secret BBQ sauce added just the right notes of sweetness and vinegar to the luscious beef.  Just a hit of firmness would give way to the luxurious softness that everyone associates with BBQ.  Again, it was the best I ever had.

After finishing, I took the opportunity to walk around Luling and saw signs everywhere for the annual Watermelon Thump that would be happening in the next few weeks.  Apparently, this famous festival brings people from all over the area including live bands, eating contests, and amusement rides.  A local waitress was telling me how Main Street was wall-to-wall people during the Watermelon Thump.

But what interested me the most were the signs all over the streets and establishments of Luling soliciting votes for teenage girls to be elected ‘Thump Queen’ of the Festival.



Now, I’ll be honest.  I’ve done a lot of thumping in my time.  But I’ve never heard of a town rallying behind, celebrating even, a girl who thumps the best.  Perhaps more towns should, given the value of the girl’s contribution to small town life.  The reality is, I sadly can’t stick around Luling long enough to evaluate for myself so I pushed on to Fredricksberg, Texas where I’d be staying for the night.


Along the way, I found The Devil’s Backbone which coasted gently along the scenic ridge of Texas Hill Country.  The speed limit was 70mph and I didn’t push it much further than that.  It felt refreshing to get a little bit of altitude after the monotonous flat roads of Alabama and Mississippi.  But this was no Blue Ridge Parkway so I took a few photos and pushed on.


Fredricksberg was founded by German immigrants over 150 years ago.  Their influence can be seen in the beer gardens, and German restaurants that still populate the town.  Everyone that knows me understands how much I love German food.  But after eating BBQ earlier in the day, I really wanted to indulge in a bit of lighter fare.

I spent the night at a Howard Johnson’s (the temperature at 102 degrees ruled out camping) and asked the lady at the front desk where one could get the best salad in Fredricksberg.

“Um…I don’t really eat a lot of salad.  I guess that’s really bad.” She admitted sheepishly.

“No,” I said reassuringly. “That’s not bad at all.”

But I did manage to stumble on one of the coolest restaurants I’ve discovered on my trip.  I drove 10 miles north out of town to the Hilltop Café.  This small roadhouse with neon highlights outside, camouflaged a fully gourmet menu and wine list.  Old jazz from Count Basie and Fats Domino played on the jukebox and old tin placards adorned the walls.  I had a salad along with red snapper ceviche served with homemade chips.   For an entrée, I enjoyed southern fried shrimp with a jalapeno grits mash (I know – this is light eating for Christof).  Everything was delicious, and soon I was back on the bike with a full belly riding back to the hotel.

Interestingly, this was the first time I had ridden on my bike in the evening.  Within one mile, I saw two families of deer cross the road.   I quickly slowed back down to 40 mph for the remainder of my ride and activated my auxiliary lights and my PIAA lights.  I was really grateful that I installed the extra lighting system because I could see the entire road like it was daylight.  And because I was wearing shorts and flip flops, having an accident would have been….severe.

I have to say there is something special about Texas.  The trip definitely no longer feels like the South, but rather, distinctively western.  Signs for ranches litter the roads as well as other reminders that I’ve crossed the half way mark to the West Coast.


Tomorrow, I’ll try to make it to El Paso!

Day 14 – 16 – Class Is In Session!!

Greenville, South Carolina

0 Miles


I arrived in Greenville, South Carolina along with my friend Frank from New York to attend a two-day BMW Offroad Riding Clinic held at the company’s U.S. manufacturing headquarters. I had been waiting for this weekend for months. This was going to be awesome!

Two days of driving MY EXACT BIKE through terrain and obstacles I would never have the courage to attempt. But because it’s BMW’s bike, one can afford to make small mistakes (like dropping the bike and letting it roll down a gravel hill or smashing it into someone else’s bike – both of which I witnessed).

We showed up at the gorgeous facility that BMW calls its Performance Center. The company hosts a variety of other programs at this location which features a huge winding test track for their automotive clinics (including a slick pad that is kept wet and allows drivers to correct spinout due to loss of traction) as well as miles of off-road riding for the motorcycles. They also constructed a huge gravel pad, sand pit, hill climbs and a myriad of other obstacles to help us learn what our motorcycles are capable of, given the correct technique.


As the elephant said to his mistress, the mouse, – nothing is easy, neither was BMW Off Road School. In its literature, the school states that riding continues through rain or shine. It also continues in the 100+ degree heat wearing helmets, armored jackets and pants along with knee-high riding boots. I thought my earlier riding through Alabama, Mississippi and Texas were tough. But leisurely riding on paved roads paled in comparison to the physicality of off road riding in the heat and humidity in South Carolina. I was utterly drenched in sweat all day, and even overnight my riding pants couldn’t completely dry out. It was crazy hot.

Three instructors, Ross, Blair and Ricardo, would be our sensei in all aspects of offroad motorcycle proficiency. When you finally decide that you want to ride your motorcycle across Mongolia or traverse the Darien Gap, this is the place you come for training. These guys are the best of the best.

Our class was comprised of eleven students of varying ages, although the average probably skewed a bit past 35. The instructors remarked that despite our class being all male, they usually had at least one female in attendance. None of us possessed any extensive off road riding experience, and a palpable sense of anxiety permeated the room as we watched a marketing video depicting motorcycles slogging through deep mud and catching air off 6-foot ledges. One guy asked if anyone had any Advil or Aleve.


After a brief classroom session, the eleven students (including me) went out to the racetrack to meet our steeds for the next two days. A BMW motorcycle buffet was presented to us featuring F650GS, F800GS, R1200GS, and of course my favorite – the R1200GS Adventure.

The class started with a presentation of the different motorcycles and their varying operation. The instructors then surprised us by taking one of the R1200GS bikes and laying it on the asphalt.

“You’ll be dropping these bikes a lot over the next two days so the first thing you better learn is how to pick one up.” Blair explained to the class.

Bear in mind, these bikes weigh over 600 pounds when fueled so “picking one up” is not a trifle matter, especially when one has been eating at Waffle House and scarfing BBQ for the last two weeks. Blair demonstrated an ingenious method of turning your back to the motorcycle and “walking the bike up” using your legs and opposed to throwing out your back. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was clearly doable.


With the basics out of the way, we proceeded to mount our bikes and head out to a gravel field where we learned the next foundation skill – standing on the pegs. We were expected to be riding standing up at all times to facilitate greater control over the motorcycle. This way, the instructors explained, the bike can be jostling underneath you, while you stay above it and in control. This also meant that yours truly would performing a half squat for 6 hours each day. Please review the above descriptions of the South Carolina heat and my poor dietary choices before comprehending how arduous this might be.


But man, the instructors were right! Standing up afforded us far greater control over rough uneven terrain that sitting down ever could.

“Stand up, and stay in control. Remember if you’re sitting down, you’re just along for the ride.” The lead instructor Ross continually told us.

We proceeded to ride in long ovals practicing standing up while alternating lifting our legs from each peg, then riding with one foot tucked underneath our butts, then graduating to riding sidesaddle. This is where the part about dropping these behemoth motorcycles came to fruition.

Bam! Crash!! Crunch!! Bikes started dropping like hail as we tried to master riding while having our LEFT legs standing on the RIGHT peg. Think about it for a sec. Pretty damn hard.

Luckily, Germans don’t make wimpy motorcycles and all the bikes are fitted with roll bars protecting them from the inevitable put downs. The curriculum quickly accelerated to riding our bikes over sets of ruts, small hills, and drop offs.


The overriding emphasis focused on accomplishing these riding challenges in a slow and controlled fashion. Pinning the throttle to plow through whatever lay ahead would only result in launching a 600-pound bike though the air possibly landing on top of you whenever your body should choose to crash back to Earth. This was sadly proven to the class through example on more than one occasion.

I found myself doing well balancing the bike though slow tight maneuvers on the enduro course and I had a pretty good sense of exactly how much throttle to apply when I approached hills and camelhumps. But soon, I would meet my nemesis.


Unghhh! I HATE driving a motorcycle through sand. Earlier this year, I went on a motorcycle trip with my brother to Baja, Mexico where we rode through hundreds of miles of sand. I hated almost every minute of it. That’s because I totally suck at it.


The trick to riding in sand is hitting it with enough speed that you effectively surf on top of it, as opposed to sinking into it. This increased speed means that every bump and ridge on the surface gets translated into your handlebars that much faster.

I did Baja with my 300-pound Husqvarna 510TE motorcycle. Now I was at BMW School with a big GS bike weighing more than double.


As soon as my front tire hit the deep sand pit, my handlebars started gyrating like a drunk Elvis impersonator. Of course, the inbred male response to all predicaments automotive is to give the fucker more gas. I heard one of my earlier driving instructors refer to this masculine phenomenon as “red mist”. This sudden application of throttle in deep sand results in either the bike spinning around 90 degrees tossing you unceremoniously over the handlebars (I call it the Bavarian rodeo) or your bike promptly sinks two feet into the sand. Both suck.

Sadly, I was never able to successfully negotiate the sand pit without laying my bike down (or shooting off into the grass on a diverted 90 degree angle – that’s really fun too). I tried keeping my head up and eyes looking forward, not down. I continually maintained a steady application of throttle. But, I just couldn’t keep my bike upright in the deep sand. On the bright side, I have now learned that should I encounter such sand during my off road travels in New Mexico or the Southwest, I should promptly turn around and seek the safety of the nearest Waffle House. Good to know these things in advance.

However, my off road education ended on high note, literally. Throughout the school session, there was one monster hill near the center of the endure course that kept winking at us, daring us to scale its heights with our trusted bikes. None of the instructors would tell us when we would be tackling this hulking obstacle but all the students suspected that it would somehow pop up on the final exam.


In the last two hours on the second day, our class broke up into smaller groups each lead by one of the instructors through the enduro course. Everything was fair game as we tackled all the forest, bridges, ruts, bumps, and drop offs that we had encountered previously, albeit at higher speeds this time. Finally, my group pulled up beside the Big Kahuna and I looked up at 50 feet of steep loose gravel that lay before me.

“Are you guys ready to hit the big one?” our instructor Ricardo asked.

Now, what do you say to that? In an all-male class, declining a testosterone laced challenge like gunning your motorcycle up a steep hill followed by a sheer drop off would by like admitting to knowing the lyrics to Les Miserables. The only acceptable response to the instructor’s question was “hell yes!” or faking a mild cardiac arrest.

I approached the steep hill cautiously, applying a committed burst of throttle as my front tire reached the incline and the motorcycle’s suspension compressed. I quickly remembered to keep my eyes forward and to look straight ahead which startlingly meant I was now staring straight up at a cloud formation and a Continental commuter flight on final approach to the nearby airport. But just then, my bike managed to summit over the peak and my straight-ahead gaze was rewarded by seeing a gravel path leading me back down to Earth. Pretty goddamn thrilling.

Overall, the class was a game changer for me. It greatly expanded on my existing riding skills and made me appreciate my own motorcycle even more. I’m not sure what roads lie ahead as I tackle the Great West and some of our nation’s largest national parks. But now I feel I like I have the skills and confidence to negotiate most terrain (or at least know what to turn around and run away from).

On a side note, Frank and I did manage to sneak away from school long enough to visit the Zentrum BMW Museum where they showcase some amazing vehicles from BMW’s past, present and future. I could try to describe some of the amazing cars and bikes we saw but I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.






WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED THIS WEEKEND: The most important lesson about motorcycle riding is where you look. Your head is always up high, eyes on the horizon looking ahead not down in front of you. Feels sort of like a life lesson.

Day 13 – End of the First Stage

Sea Rim State Park, TX – Houston, TX

144 miles

Today I’m heading to Houston! Once I arrive, I’ll be leaving my bike there for a few days while I fly to Greenville, South Carolina to attend a two-day BMW Off-Road Riding clinic that is held at their factory. I’m incredibly excited to attend the clinic, and hope to gain off road riding skills specific to my BMW model that will help me as I explore remote areas of New Mexico and Colorado as well as Yellowstone and Yosemite. Of course, the obvious question is why the hell didn’t I attend the school when I was driving by South Carolina. The truth is that I made the reservation for this clinic back in December before I had even formulated my cross-country trip. I didn’t want to delay my departure date any further so I just figured I’ll fly there and back to keep my journey on schedule. Every trip has detours. This is one of mine.

So, waking up on the beach is a pretty great feeling. A constant breeze coming in from the Gulf kept the tent cool, but I was pretty parched as I had run through the last of my water. I packed up my gear, said goodbye to the imaginary alligators and went in search of a decent breakfast.

Now here’s one thing that’s been driving me crazy in the South – I can’t find any damn diners for breakfast (or any meal for that matter). Nothing! I really try to avoid franchises and chains. Eating healthy on the road is obviously a challenge (I’m open to suggestions) and I don’t want to start off my day at Mickey D’s, Starbucks, or Jack In The Box. I keep seeking some mythical diner where a sweet matronly waitress calls me ‘hon’ and tells me I look like I could use a cup of coffee. She smiles kindly at me and asks me where I’m headed. If it’s lunch, she says she has one last piece of pecan pie she’s saving in the back for me. But I’m looking for a fresh breakfast somewhere. Or at the very least, a place where I could maybe get fresh egg whites, perhaps even some granola.


So instead, I went to Waffle House. Bear in mind, I was raised in the Northeast so my experience with Waffle House is regrettably limited. I enter and quickly realize my hopes of an egg white omelet with spinach, heirloom tomato aioli, and a gentle crumbling of Greek feta are substantially diminished. Instead I order an All-Star breakfast with consists of 2 fried eggs, bacon, crispy fried potato mush, and of course a waffle (with fresh corn syrup on the side).

Waitress: “Anything to drink with your Grand Slam Breakfast?”

Me: “I’d love an ice coffee.”

Waitress: “Coffee?”

Me: “No. I like some ice coffee.”

Pregnant pause.

Waitress: “We don’t have that.”

Me: “You don’t have ice coffee?”

Waitress: “I mean, I could bring you a coffee and a cup of ice.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure that would do it.”

We finished the conversation both confused about the other person’s motives, but at least it resulted in a bit of enlightenment for both of us.

After ingesting a soulless glass of ice coffee and enough breakfast calories to sustain a West African pygmy tribe through the monsoon season, I blasted towards Houston to store my motorcycle and see my good friend Randall.

But as soon as I breached the Houston city limits, the first order of business was to get the bike serviced at Gulf Sports BMW in Pasadena. I’ve already put 1500 miles on the trip, and I had that little overheating snafu on my first day so I figured it was a good idea to let the doctor check over the patient and at least get the oil changed. After all, if the bike dies – the trip dies (as well as a little piece of my heart).


Patty and her staff at Gulf Sports BMW were so incredibly kind and asked lots of questions about the trip. They fit me on short notice and gave the bike a minor overhaul. She also explained that I should be using different motor oil considering the heat that I’m riding in. They changed my oil, checked the fluids, and pronounced my beautiful bumblebee of a bike to be healthy.


From there, I took off to see Randall, one of my closest friends for more than a decade. He lives in Houston and was kind enough to let me store my bike with him while I attend the Off-Road Riding School over the weekend. It was terrific to see him and his wonderful children (who have tripled in size since I had seen them last).


Everyone wanted to check out the bike and hear about the trip. Most importantly, I was kindly offered a shower of which I was in desperate need having gone a few days without, while driving in 100+ heat. After I was made somewhat fit for human company again, we had a great steak dinner at a new restaurant that apparently also doubled as a cougar support group for the local women of a certain age. Lastly, Randall was kind enough to drive me to the airport at 4 a.m. to catch my flight. Just an awesome, awesome guy.

Off to BMW school! So psyched!! 2 days of crazy riding on GS Adventures (my bike model). Next post will be when I get back from school!

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: Heavier motor oil is better in warmer weather. Also, cougars are very demanding of the personal hygiene of their partners.

Days 11 & 12 – Beach to Beach

New Orleans, LA – Grand Isle, LA – Sea Rim State Park, TX

462 miles

Today I left New Orleans heading west towards Houston on I-10. I figured I’d take the freeway out of town so that I could be far enough away to hopefully explore some more local roads that might bring me closer to the Gulf. I got about 70 miles outside the city and pulled over to get some cold water. Once stopped, I looked at my GPS and noticed a really small state park called Grand Isle WAY off on a narrow spit of land reaching out from Louisiana into the Gulf. I looked it up and apparently they offered camping. I was off!

The funny thing is I didn’t quite realize what direction the road was taking me. If I had scaled out a bit on my GPS, I would have realized that my route to this bucolic state park actually took me most of the way back to New Orleans. I experienced a fleeting moment of regret that I wasn’t making the westward progress I’d originally intended. Then I stopped caring.

Trust the trip. Who cares what direction or how long it takes. Exploring is more important than making time.

Soon, I approached my destination but was very surprised by what I discovered.


On the map, Grand Isle seemed like this remote seaside nature preserve like a primitive Fire Island. The reality is the Grand Isle is a thriving beach town more like the Jersey Shore or Ocean City and has been well known and well populated for decades. I felt like I had stopped some New Yorker on the street and said, “hey, have you ever heard the Hamptons? I hear they have some nice beaches there”.

Oh come on!! I missed this??!!



Eventually, I rode through all the developed areas to get to the State Park.


Despite the development, the actual State Park was at the remote far end of the isle and had a nice sense of seclusion to it. Upon checking in, I spoke with Debbie – the Park’s administrator manning the entrance post. She explained that Grand Isle was ground zero when the BP Oil crisis occurred – literally the first place that the oil made landfall. She talked about how difficult it was to keep the park running as initially it was hazardous to have people on the shore. Then subsequently attendance evaporated due to fear of sickness or pollution which further constrained their already severely limited budget. She said they kept the park running with only three women (her included) staffing the entire facility. She also informed me that they only offered tent camping at the RV Park, not on the beach. When I asked why, she said that they were still waiting to get a full time ranger assigned to the facility.


It really struck me how dedicated the people who work to protect and serve our state parks are. We’ve always heard the rhetoric about the National and State Parks being our nation’s “jewels” or part of “heritage”. Frankly, I never really visited any of them other than the Adirondacks so my experience in our Parks system has been limited. But the moment I started riding on Skyline Drive at Shenandoah State Park, I understood that these assets are rightly treasured. Not only are they picturesque and scenic, but the people employed there are passionate about the preservation of these parks for future generations. These public servants are fighting for a cause and usually with little resource and even less remuneration. I told Debbie I thought she was pretty damn heroic.

Despite being in the RV parking area, my campsite was just on the backside of the beach dunes. I took the opportunity to finally dip my feet in the Gulf (no oil!) and enjoy the first cigar of the trip.


Originally, I thought I would just bring the cigars to trade with local people for furs, trinkets and real estate. It felt like a quiet moment of victory to be on / in the Gulf finally and I took the time to savor it. It was incredibly restful to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the waves rolling into the shore.


The next day, I could have pushed to Houston if I felt like it but I still had an extra day to kill. Looking at Google Maps, I found another coastal State Park located just over the Texas border called Sea Rim that offered primitive camping. I’m all about the beach these days. Done!


I saw this happen along the way. D’oh!!


But the oddest thing happened. As I triumphantly crossed the border into the Lone Star State and approached the long single lane road leading south towards the Gulf, several massive, sprawling oil refineries erupted out of the landscape. Not few Mobil stations running back-to-back. I’m talking gargantuan tangles of steel pipes, smokestacks and holding tanks from out of a deranged Terry Gilliam nightmare.


Seriously, all I could SEE for miles were these gigantic petro-industrial complexes. Then, all I could SMELL for miles were these gigantic petro-industrial complexes. Where the hell was my pristine state park where I could pitch my tent on a powder sand beach and be named the Pelican King?

All I could think about was some mythical backroom political deal made decades ago between the Texas Governor and some oil baron wearing a 70-gallon white cowboy hat, silver spurs on his boots and turquoise bolo tie in the shape of a cattle head.


“But Mr. Glugg, if I give you all that land for your oil refineries, you’ll be spewing toxic chemicals into the land, sea and air like you were an Iraqi dictator with irritable bowel syndrome. Some of the environmentalists in our state have expressed some grave concerns over your development plans”

“Now see here, Gov. Whogivesashit. I’ll build you a dinky State Park at the end of the road to keep all your little hippy, hemp wearing friends happy and playing hackysack while smoking maryjane. And just so you know, those toxic chemicals will be paying for the donation to your favorite charity that I’ll just leave in this alligator briefcase by the door.”

“I see your point. Well met sir! Thank you for coming in Mr. Glugg!”


But finally the sight and smell of these mammoth steel cities faded into my mirrors, and after passing several miles of wildlife preserves, I saw the sign for Sea Rim State Park. Here, there was no ranger – just an unmanned information booth with envelopes for placing the $10 overnight “primitive” camping fee.

I drove over the “camping” area which was really just a paved parking lot. I did however spy a dirt road leading onto the beach. I looked around and since the entire park seemed deserted (it was 7:00pm on a Tuesday night) I downshifted a gear and drove onto the beach.

I rode my bike about 2 miles along the beach before I discovered the remains of a several day old campfire. Based on previous evidence, it seemed like this would be a good place to spend the evening. I managed to carefully set up camp without getting too much sand in my tent or sleeping bag (the secret is wearing socks on the sand – horrible look but nobody was watching) and fell asleep again listening to the waves crashing a dozen yards away.


Alright, let me honest – I TRIED to fall asleep but camping directly on the beach is not entirely the Blue Lagoon fantasy you might conjure. First of all, I was terrified that the bike would get knocked over by a rising tide. The sand was firm but not enough put my bike on the more secure center stand. As a result, my bike was resting on its side stand which dug a bit more into the sand. And if that underlying sand got wet, the bike could have fallen over and now be sitting in corrosive salt water. That would be sad.

Before I tucked in for the night, I reassembled my bike and luggage so that if I detected the tide coming in, I was completely loaded for a quick getaway. Leave the tent, I thought. Get the bike to high ground – assuming it was still upright.


The other thing I didn’t mention was that behind my tent was a tidal pool connecting to some of the bayou that sounded the oil refineries. I tried not to give it much credence but I had some vague concerns about alligators. I actually went so far as to inspect the area leading into the tidal pool and examine the ground for any alligator tracks – like I would have even the slightest clue what alligator tracks look like. I felt more than a little foolish.

I did however finally manage to fall asleep and when I awoke, I was instantly glad that I had made the decision to crash on the beach. Imaginary alligators or not, the trip was starting to feel like an adventure.

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: We’re incredibly fortunate to have such beautiful National and State Parks at our disposal, as well as patriots who keep them running. Also, scary (or at least unfamiliar) things are usually worth doing. Lastly, imaginary alligators don’t leave tracks.

Day 10 – The Big Easy

New Orleans

0 Miles

Woo Hoo!! New Orleans!


New Orleans has long been one of my favorite cities in America specifically because it has always retained such a distinct culture of its own. Yes, the French Quarter is a tourist hell filled with young women exposing themselves for $.05 worth of beads (which would normally cost a gentlemen at least dinner and two hours of meaningful conversation), but the city’s architecture, food and soul set it apart from from other American cities .

So far, I’ve talked a lot about food in this blog, and God knows New Orleans has some serious eats. But New Orleans also has an incredible diverse, vibrant music scene.


Saturday night on Bourbon Street is expectedly crowded but one of the great perks of the French Quarter is a “to-go cup” where bartenders will pour your beer in a plastic cup and allow you to walk outside with it, even walk into other bars. On weekend nights, most of the French Quarter bars have live music that you can hear all over the street. What ends up happening is that you can walk in and out of each venue sampling the live bands playing different kinds of music. It’s really like an acoustic buffet ranging from hard rock cover bands, to classic jazz, to jubilant zydeco music. And to be honest, I’m not even that huge a fan of live music but each venue is so intimate that you always feel like you’re getting a personal concert. So awesome.

My favorite has to be zydeco (which for my European friends is traditional Cajun music featuring accordion and washboard instruments) because it’s so rare that I can listen to, let alone see, this form of music. It’s such inherently happy, fast paced music that always seems to beckon at least few people to the dance floor. The washboard (which is played by scratching two metal forks against the metal washboard worn across the chest) may seem like a primitive instrument but seeing it played live makes my tone deaf toes start tapping. I swear, these Cajuns could elicit Beethoven’s 5th Symphony out of those forks if they felt like it.

During the day on Sunday, I walked through the deeper parts of the French Quarter and got to spend time listening to the street musicians who have a sizable following. Some of the performers really treat each performance like a live set in a club and perform as professionals, not panhandlers. It’s so great that New Orleans fosters this sort of environment. And the sheer quality of the countless musicians in the city keeps the caliber of the street performers high.


I spent a fair bit of time listening to two women on Front Street named Tanya and Dorsie, that completely blew me away. They rocked the coolest sound with a cool mix of classical violin with deep blues guitar. Go check out their MySpace page. I stood listening for about 20 minutes and was so pissed I didn’t have my camera. I bought one of their CDs in which they perform a rendition of Pacabel’s Canon in D which is a deeply personal piece for me and it almost brought me to tears. It’s so hard to discover cool new music, but even more rare to discover it in person. Check them out!

Of course, no visit to New Orleans would be complete without indulging in the most Creole of foods. Crawfish!! These really are one of my favorite foods to eat. Yes, there is a technique to it and the exercise is certainly a messy one. But there is something deliciously primitive about the process of extracting the meat while sitting at a big newspaper covered table with others all doing the same while the fragrant heat brings a small sweat to your forehead. The spicy / salty seasoning of Zataran’s was cut by a cold Dixie lager which was the perfect foil to the “mudbugs”.



And I really thought my trip to New Orleans couldn’t get any better. But then in my random wanderings I discovered that this weekend was the New Orleans Oyster Festival!! What God did I please? Oh man, oysters prepared every which way, the Abita truck pulling beer, and a live music concert in the bright hot sun made this the PERFECT afternoon. Rockin’ Doopsie Jr was on stage howling, yelping and doing James Brown splits.



One of the biggest lines was for the Dargo’s Roasted Oysters similar to what I had the night before at Wintzell’s in Mobile so I thought I’d include some photos of that.



Mmm..Crawfish pie! I’ve only had this at Jazz Fest. SO psyched to find it here.


Not exactly sure where I’ll go tomorrow. Part of me wants to explore the Gulf Coast but the other part is curious to see some of the State Parks in the middle of Louisiana.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: You never know what’s around the bend (in this case, an oyster festival). That, and Tanya & Dorsie. Lastly, wash hands before AND after you pee when eating crawfish. Just trust me.

Day 9 – Good Voodoo

Mobile, AL – New Orleans, LA

189 miles

I’m headed to New Orleans today. I could take I-10 as a straight shot and save some time, but I’ve always wanted to explore the Gulf region, especially after the devastation of Katrina and the oil spill.

Mostly I rode on Rt. 90 West which ran about 2 miles in from the coast. But I kept veering south on smaller roads to find some mythical beach road that might hug the coast. What I did find was a lot of frustrating dead ends, but at one point I did finally find a road to the beach which made me feel somewhat triumphant.


Soon I crossed into Mississippi and found a road that ran along the beaches near Biloxi. I have to say that I was surprised both how nice the beaches were, but also how deserted. Now for all I know, there were hypodermic needles all over the place or maybe some Cajun sea monster had been recently reported, but very few people were on the beach.

I was also amazed to see so much beachfront real estate laying vacant, abandoned or for sale. It was a little sad, despite being scenic and getting to ride along the beach.


Things changed when I crossed over into Louisiana. There was an instant sense of being in the bayou, and shrimping boats could be seen from the road departing through the tributaries. Being surrounded by nature was a lot more comforting than the urban decline in Mississippi. There were some really beautiful stretches coming into New Orleans.



I ended my day by hunting for Mosca’s Restaurant. This was another place in New York Magazine’s 50 State Dinners and was located on a particularly deserted stretch of industrial highway 30 minutes outside New Orleans.


I pulled in, removed my helmet and tank bag and started to walk to the entrance. There was already an awkward crowd that had congregated outside the door.

“Do you have a reservation?” one of the men gruffly asked me.


“Well, they’re only letting people in with a reservation.”

“But I drove my motorcycle all the way from New York to try this place.”

“Yeah, well…so did we.”

I wasn’t going to be deterred by a group of sarcastic disgruntled suburbanites that didn’t understand the epic nature of my journey, and how hungry I was. Just as I walked in, the waitress was carrying a sign to post on the door saying there were ONLY taking people in with reservations.


I proceeded to beg the waitress to let me sit at the bar, sit in the bathroom, sit anywhere that I could have dinner at their lovely restaurant that I had heard so much about and travelled so far to see. Maybe it was the vaguely pathetic look on my red, overheated face. Maybe it was fact that I was literally dripping sweat in her foyer, but she finally relented.

“I can’t let you eat at the bar, but…”

“I’ll take anything.”

“I could make you like a makeshift table, but it would be really crappy.”

“I’ll take crappy!”


The kind waitress then proceeded to take the table that was being used to hold napkins and silverware, threw a tablecloth over it, and stuck it against the wall. “Perfect!” I said. That being said, the table looked like something the Lollypop Gang might use for Thankgiving Dinner. The undersized dimensions make me look like I’m an overgrown fat giant feasting in the Land of the Little People. But giants can’t be choosers.


Mosca’s is a blend of Italian & Cajun food. Their speciality is a pan roasted oyster stew topped with homemade bread crumbs, garlic and spices with a secret sauce (there’s always a secret sauce). They serve it with a small side of pasta to dip in and pair with the oysters. Let me say this: it works. So glad I got to eat there. I feel like this is the New Orleans equivalent of Rao’s and I was a fortunate to get a peek inside.


Heading off to the French Quarter for two nights in a proper hotel. Yessssss!

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: This trip has good voodoo. People seem to want to help. Trust the trip. And, I shouldn’t eat so much garlic.  Ungh.