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Day 7
March 28th, 2007
Motel 6
Fort Stockton, Texas

I had to get down to business today and get to Dallas.  I was 2 days behind my original plan.  I had uncharacteristically been over ambitious in what I thought I could do.  The long mornings had something to do with it.  No sun till almost 8am meant no 6am starts, which are almost essential for a 700 mile day.  I'm not going to ride early morning in the dark if I don't have to.  I know you can have a deer encounter anytime of day, but it is a fact you have a greater risk in the predawn hours.  The risks not worth it if you ask me.  Ever since the death of Larry G. (which happened just down the road from my present location) I've become more conservative.

I wanted to arrive at Ken's house in Coppel at a decent hour, so I was up early and preparing for the road.  The Zumo informed me it would be a 430 ride, and put the time of arrival at 4:30pm, I've discovered the announced arrival time on the GPS to be pretty close.  I'm going to guess the GPS takes in all the factors.  He knows the type of roads, present speed, and distance remaining, and from that info crunches the arrival time. 
Weather report placed a slow moving front in the picture and moving east.  It contained a lot of rain and bad weather.  By days end it would be closing in on Dallas.  Currently it was a 100 miles west of me.  Thankfully, I'm a day ahead of it.

It was pitch black when I left the Motel at 6:30 am.  I timed my ride to be on I-10 while it was dark, leaving it for U.S. 67 at sunrise.  I gassed at a Chevron station down the street from the motel and went to I-10 east.

The wind hit me as I came down the ramp for the interstate.  A tough crosswind swirled through the fairing of the RT causing it to drift and sway.  The RT has some of the best lighting in the business, and  coupled with the geography of the land, gave me excellent line of sight of the bearms and median, so I put the RT on 75 mph.

I normally like the screen high on a ride like this, but it was too much of a sail in this wind at that position, so I left it halfway.
The dark morning embraced me as I chugged east, traffic was minimal.  Temp was mid 50s.

A scant 15 miles later I peeled off I-10 for U.S. 67 North, my primary route for the day.  It was still dark, my timing was off.  There was nothing I could do, so I bleeped the headlamp to bright, reduced speed, keened my eyes, and played my hand.  "If a deer is gonna ambush me, I'm not gonna make it easy."  Sure enough I had my first encounter within 5 miles, when a large buck was frozen on the south side shoulder as I approached.  It was huge.  I spotted him from a safe distance and came down from 55 mph to 15.  I crawled by and he never moved.  I came within 10 feet and he never twitched.  Go figure.

I was riding north into what seemed like a mountain range, I may not know much, but I know U.S. geography as well as anyone, and I know there are no mountains in Central Texas.  Dawn was breaking, and a wall of clouds seemed to drop from the sky on the highway in front of me, perhaps 20 miles away.  It reminded me of past scenes approaching the Rocky Mountains from the east.  After miles and days of flat riding  they seem fade in from no where in the distance, it always excites me when I spot them ahead, because that means my passage across the Great Plains is complete.

Kind of blurry (I guess I moved the camera) but you get
the idea.  Not mountains but clouds ahead.

I know its a cloud bank, part of the leading edges of the approaching front.  

The oilfields of West Texas dot the land, and company trucks full of workers move the labor to the desired field.  I passed hundreds of them in both directions on this day.

As the night gave way to morning I could see the day was going to mostly cloudy, with cool temps.  I wore the leather sport gloves with the vents zipped.   I skipped over hundreds of dried up creek beds, that looked as if the last time water flowed was the Great Flood of Noah fame.  I crossed back over the Pecos River and was officially back in East Texas.

The wind went away, and the cockpit of the RT seemed even more quiet then usual.  I rode along lost in thought.  I was bound for Dallas today, looking for a chance to visit Dealey Plaza, the site of the JFK assination.   Dealey Plaza was just another one of those places that had always intrigued me, and like the Alamo, Little Big Horn, Gettysburg and Devil's Tower, and others whose images are a part of my psyche, I wanted to walk it personally.

The dried up towns out here all seemed to have seen better days.  They were empty, dusty looking places just trying to survive.  Not much has changed in these towns in 50 years. 


                                                              Forgotten Texas Town on U.S. 67

It was still early morning when I finished off the first 100 miles of the day in a place called Big Lake.  Funny name, because I saw no sign of a lake anywhere.  I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bought a Mountain Dew and chips, and found a table.  
The store was busy with oil workers coming and going.  They bought the usual stuff for the day ahead, a bag of chips, Skoal, and Coke or water to take with them.

After my sandwich I made my usual phone calls, and turned sideways in the bench seat.  A man sat behind me, late 60s, with a lazy eye, and a Cat equipment hat on his head.

"Hey how ya doin." I called to him.

"Not bad just taking things in."

The man was plenty talkative.  He was retired but still drove a truck part time.  We talked about deer, price of gas, oilfields, politics, and women.  He drank coffee here most every morning.

                                   "The man was plenty talkative."

He spoke to me a Texas drawl,  "I'd have more then I got now, but first 2 wives took most of my good stuff."

"And number 3?"

"Still with her"

"And she's the reason number 2 cleaned ya out?"

"To be a young feller yer pretty smart"

"Well I'm still with number 1, but I know a thing or 2, but if ya don't do right, always a price to pay"

"yeah, I reckon so"

"well look here, I gotta git goin, been good tawkin to ya," as I rose up from the table, looking for my phone.

"where south didja say you were from?"


He knew the 2 girls working the busy counter, and shouted out to them.
"Hey this boy is from Alabama, and on his way to Dallas, anything y'all wanna say, I saw Emily lookin this way"

Embarrassed I called out to the 30ish blonde, kind of thick, Emily.  "M'am, I didn't put him up to this."

"I know, he does it all the time, been tryin to hook me up for the longest," in a quaint southern accent.  "He's always tawkin me up some kind of date."

"Any luck so far?"

"Most of the time no, but ever once in while, he picks a goodin, but they were too shy to pick up what he started."

On that sentence I headed for the door.  "Well have a good day ladies, road is callin," then I looked over to the old man and said, "you take care, and be sure to look out for any Long Riders out there on the highway."  I pulled my Energizer AA phone charger out of the bag and placed my one bar phone on charge.  I've been using it off and on the entire trip, I like it.

My intended short break, wound up going 45 minutes. 

I left Big Lake and continued north on the cloudy, somewhat drab day.  The wind had returned but I wasn't surprised, always windy out here.
A pack of 3 south bound sport touring bikes were coming at me, a BMW RS 1100,  An 1150 RT, and a blue Honda ST 1300.  A friendly wave followed.  My guess all 3 were heading for Big Bend Country.  Made me want turn around and go with them.

The GPS kept me on course as I went through the busy city of San Angelo.  It directed to the by pass, and I caught up with 67 on the north side of town.

By the time I arrived in Valera I needed a restroom.  I was about to find a bush when a old gas station came into view.  The restrooms were on the side, with 3 pick ups in the 4 parking spaces.  I was taking my gear off when a Coleman County Deputy pulled in and called out to 2 good old boys from his car,  "Hey is that Stafford's truck?"


"where's that joker at?"


"tell him to cmere"

One of them beats on the door, "hey Staff, the law wants ya out here"

"For WHAT?  Pissing?"

Come to find out they were just friends, and he wanted to chit chat.  I was hoping to see something go down.  Headline-"Long Rider from Alabama witnesses beat down of good old boy, says he'll testify."  Then I make the rounds on the talk shows etc.  

You see all kinds of things on the road, and you never know what will come next, or what you will see.  Why I always keep my camera in the breast pocket of the Roadcrafter.

A few miles later I was in Santa Anna gassing up at a FINA station.  "This should get me to Dallas."  After topping the tank off, I stopped at Norretas for lunch and had a ok chicken sandwich.

I retrieved my phone from the Moto Fizz bag, expecting to see it all charged up.  "That's funny this joker is dead."  I checked the connections and all seemed in order.  I rolled the charger over to see the blue flashing light noting the phone was charging was quiet.  "Dang those batteries didn't last long.  My new charger is only good for a few hours, the Motorola battery must drain power quickly.  "I'll hafta to remember to only use it when I have to, and continue to charge the unit with AC power every chance I get."

I kept pushing east and north and the miles ticked off.  The population centers came more quickly and I fell off the fast pace of the morning.  I was beginning to see more green also.

Some kind of Dr. Pepper museum exists in Dublin.  I don't know why.  "Is this where the drink was born?  Or do they just like Dr. Pepper?"  I still don't know for sure.

                                    Dr. Pepper Museum.  Dublin, Texas

My custom route ended just north of Stephenville, so I tapped in the route Ken zip filed to me to direct me to his house.  His route didn't begin till somewhere on the 360, I was a long way from there, so when the Zumo asked me if I wanted to be directed to the starting point I said yes.

I picked up I-20 about 20 miles west of Fort Worth and fell in with the line of cars.  The Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex is one of the worst in the country.  It is immense, with loops around loops.  It is 30 miles from the west side of Ft Worth to Coppel.  

On the west side of Ft Worth I took the Weatherford exit and went to a truck stop for batteries for my phone charger.  I use the time to down a quick fancy water.  On the way out a 18 wheeler making a right turn cut the corner too quickly and bottomed out.  His trailer was dragging everything.  A hook was on the scene, but the the mishap was bogging down traffic.  I pointed left to let the cop know where I wanted to go and he let me pass.

                   This truck bogged traffic down at a busy exit off I-20.

He bottomed out on curb when he turned in too quick.

The course Ken made for me took me through the least transitions, and worked well.  The GPS was easy to follow.  Since bringing the GPS online, I noticed I stopped looking at signs.  Now I just watch the areas on the screen. 
A LEO on a HD was in front on me on the 360 as I made my way out to the northern suburbs.  I was riding a few lengths behind him.  I'm guessing he was on his way home from work.  For 10 miles I had the rule of the road, cars moved over for us, didn't crowd, and used their signals.  It was great.

By late afternoon I was at Ken's house.  I wasn't sure I had the correct house so called and he stepped out.  I was practically sitting in his driveway.  The day ended at 439 miles.

I brought the RT around to Ken's garage and went inside to wind down.  I met Ken in the Blue Ridge last fall, just a super nice guy and we have a lot in common like:

Both of us in the fire service

wife named Debbie

Son named Chris

Both ride Honda STs

Kind of eerie, like something out of a Lost episode.

After unwinding we decided to ride down to Dealey in Ken's mini van.  It would be a nice, to get this out of the way in the late afternoon, so in the morning I can get on the road and head east.

It took 30 minutes to drive into downtown from Coppel.  I got a chance to see some of the city most guys don't.  Dallas is a BIG place.  Ken and I talked about motorcycles and fire department so the time went quickly.  It was good to have someone that knew where he was going.

When we arrived at the Plaza everything looked like it did that day.  I was surprised though to see everything was so close.  It just looked bigger in pictures. The Book Depository seemed to be right on the sidewalk, and the roadway underneath the 6th floor, where the President was shot, looked like a ribbon tied to building.  I saw the famous Grassy Knoll and walked over to it.

                  The area looked smaller then I thought it would be.

A bunch of guys protesting someone in jail messed up the picture taking, and took up most of the sidewalk.  They made it where you could not get a picture without them in it.

I took this pic in the same spot Zapruder captured his famous
8mm footage.

Several guys were walking around selling souvenir pamphlets, explaining their theory on what happened that day.  One guy was selling DVDs of the Zapruder film and saying, "see how brain matter flys backwards after the fatal shot, indicating a frontal shot.  "Yeah I see it, but don't ya reckon the fact the car is moving forward at 40 mph might have something to do with it?  Didja expect it to fly forward?  I laughed out loud.
I know I'm in the minority, because most folks saw the Oliver Stone film and for some bizarre reason think its true, but I don't believe in any kind of conspiracy, I use to, but after educating myself, and reading the arguments from both sides.  Oswald did this, on his own.  Just one crazy guy.  

                                                 The 6th floor window.

Modern technology, has allowed us to take the Zapruder film, and make a 3D image of Dealey Plaza exactly as it was that day.  The people, buildings, and the cars.  From that work you can insert yourself at any spot at anytime, and virtually recreate what happened that day.  The people that did this have no agenda, they were contracted out by the Discovery Channel.   It was convincing evidence in my eye.

But more than that I went to this simple example of what the conspirer guys want you to believe.  They believe the government had something to do with this, along with the Mafia.  That would mean the Defense Department, the CIA, FBI, all the way down to the local police would have to be in on it, it would involve hundreds of people.

They say Oswald was planted in the Book Depository.  Well ok, now explain how he was hired months before the president's route was even known, hell JFK himself didn't even know he was going to Dallas to just a couple weeks prior.  And if that is true, now you're going to tell me the folks connected with City of Dallas school system was in on it too?  I mean somebody has to pull the strings to get him hired.  See where this is going?  It would have to be the biggest thing of all time and for almost 50 years not one of the hundreds involved have cracked or any hard evidence ever come forward, because if this is true, it has to be out there.

One of the vendors selling theories tried to hook me.  "Look here in this pic, see the window on this building is also open."  "Man y'all are too much, you got everybody in Dallas with a gun, guys on roof tops, in the grassy knoll, behind fences, next thing you're gonna tell me Elvis is going to appear on the corner, and the government has alien bodies in Roswell."

       S                 tanding in another American Landmark.

I captured some video and pics, and even stood in the same spot as Zapruder when he captured his famous film.  

When the excitement was over we met Ken's wife for a nice Mexican meal in the downtown area.  The meal and company were good.  Ken's wife works for the state, dealing with EMS issues, and a really nice lady.  Ken has his time in with the Dallas Fire Department, but likes his job and has a daughter to get through school, so he's going to stick around longer.  I know how that is.

On the way back to Coppel Ken told me his daughter Kate is leaving Texas to go to school at the University of Georgia in Athens.  I'm hoping over the next few years Ken will stop in to see me on his way to and from.

At home I chatted with the Hendrixs' briefly, and excused myself for bed. The bad weather should reach Dallas the next day, by then I'll be 400 miles away.  I should be able to stay ahead of it all the way home.

Next: out of Texas to Arkansas

Update 4-15-07- I recently received this email from a reader in the Dallas area about the Dr Pepper plant in Dublin.
"Hey Guy, I was just reading your Texas journal and saw that you had a question about the Dr. Pepper plant in Dublin. It's their oldest bottling plant in the state and they make the product with REAL Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. It's the best Dr. Pepper you'll ever drink, I've had some. The stuff with artificial sweeteners doesn't even compare. Just thought I'd let ya' know."