Friday, January 30, 2015

Houston, We Have NO Problem - Just A Great Time In Your Town

 After a rainy and cool trip from Orlando to Houston, it was great to see that Texas sunshine and the smiling faces of brother-in-law Stan Smith, with whom I was staying for the week, daughter Joni and her wine making husband Gary, as well as Stan's daughter Shelly, her husband John and son Johnny.
They took us to NASA where we toured space exhibits and had lunch with Astronaut Dr. Tom Jones who took time to pose for pictures.

  The all day visit in included a tour of all the buildings s well as videos and interactive displays.
The next day Stan and I drove to Austin for a two day  visit with Major General Len Smith the Assistant Adjutant General of the Texas Army National Guard, Stan's son,  and his wife Cindy. The LBJ Presidential Library and State Capitol building were scheduled for visits, but first, the one thing every visitor to Texas should experience:
The Salt Lick Barbecue at Driftwood Texas.

Just looking at the picture of the Open Pit Barbecue makes me hungry all over again.


 Hundreds of people waited up to two hours to be served.The festive atmosphere, music and beer made the waiting an experience in itself.

 A long awaited adventure was the tour of the LBJ Presidential Library.
The building was filled with several floors of picture, videos, sculptures and page after page of his home spun quotations and salty humor.

 The Texas State Capital was the next visit

 The Legislature was scheduled to begin meeting the meet morning and the entire building was buzzing with excitement as each meeting room and office was being readied for the big day.
Joni had told the editors at the Houston Chronicle that her 80 year old Father had arrived in  town on his National Motorcycle Tour. They decided an old guy cruising around the country on a motorcycle with a sidecar and pulling a camper trailer behind it, would make a good feature and sent out a reporter write the story.
It should be in print and on-line by Sunday February 1st.
It was a fun interview and I even got to give Leah, the reporter, a ride in the sidecar.
Thanks Joni for setting that up. Your contacts in the publishing world never cease to amaze me.

Following the visit and dinner with Joni and Gary it was time to  continue the ride west.
Saturday morning I left Stan and the cold Texas rain behind, or so I thought, and headed off toward Kerrville, Texas.
After camping in a  night that  dropped to 31 degrees I renamed it Koolville.
That was one night I should have opted for a motel.
Fortunately Stan had taken me to a Lowe's Home Center the day before and I purchased  a small electric heater. It ran all night and managed to ward off some of the cold.

The next day I headed off on I-10 for Fort Stockton, on my way to Roswell, New Mexico.
Camping was great at the KOA and by morning I was ready to visit Roswell and it's famed UFO Museum and research Center.
Passed through Pecos, New Mexico on the way and got a great picture.
Pecos, home of the world's FIRST rodeo. How about that.
Glad I spotted that sign in time to get a good picture.

And then a beautiful bronze sculpture.


Texas and New Mexico towns are not too close together so before crossing the state line into New Mexico I was running very low on gas.
There didn't seem to be any towns near enough on the Interstate so I took a chance, pulled off I-10 and headed for a small town a few miles away.
I made it, but I was running on fumes before I got there.
But the good thing was that it was Sunday morning and a small church had a service that was about to begin.
I walked in during the first hymn and was made to feel right at home.
They had no organ but had two guitar players, one of whom had a great  voice and led the song service. What a beautiful service at St. Jame Lutheran Church in Harper, Texas.

 This was another neat little church I saw along the way.

 Years ago while rewiring a satellite TV system at a house in the North Valley of Helena, Montana, the home owner introduced himself.
Dr. Jessie Marcel was a man I had read about years earlier.
He was 12 years old in 1947 when his Father, a Major in the US Air Force was the first member of the military to view the site where a reported UFO had crashed.
His Father gathered up pieces of the craft and brought them home to show his son at 2am in the morning.
Air Force officers picked up the alleged UFO fragments the next morning and took them away.
Although first reports from the base information office referred to it as a UFO, the air force soon put out a news report that it was a weather balloon.
Dr. Marcell said, "some people have called me a UFO nut, but I know what I saw and it was not of this world."  He never wavered from that belief.

One of the exhibits showed the early news paper stories.

The UFO Museum Research Center.

I spent several interesting hours at the UFO Museum.
It is well done with tasteful, thoughtful exhibits and presents a clear picturfe of both Government and Private UFO Research.
The $3.00 admission seemed very reasonable and I said so to the the lady at the desk. She said it is to make the facility available to all.
Great concept. 

The next stop on my ride for today ride was the Carlsbad Caverns, a great place to visit but a hard place to do pictures since it is kept dark with lights on special features.
It was a great tour and one that I will cover in more depth on a future entry.

At this writing I am sitting in a Days Inn Motel waiting for the Arizona winter rain storms to end so that I might continue the journey to San Jose, California, home of some Grand and Great kids.
There are flood warnings out for creeks and washes throughout the Tucson area and I will stay inside where it is both warm and dry.

Watch for me.
I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Long Ride - Orlando to Houston

The rain in Sunny Florida had been steady for several days, but Monday morning on the day of my departure for Houston and points west dawned warm and sunny.
Whited clouds floated overhead and this was, as my son-in-law Ilidio always said, "another beautiful day in Paradise."
 Traveling North on I 4 was great and I was settling in for a beautiful ride to my first overnight in Tallahassee.
 Until I made the turn on to the 295 bypass at Jacksonville about 100 miles into the trip.
As I made the turn rain began falling and I pulled under a bridge to don the rain gear.
It began to POUR!
40 miles later I rode out of the heavy rain and the ride was good again.
The Mini Mate tent camper was soon set up in the Tallahassee KOA camp and I was ready for a light dinner and a warm sleeping bag.
The Tuesday ride was to carry me down Interstate 10 to Destin, Florida and the Henderson Beach State Park. Florida State Parks are great stop overs with clean showers and grounds. This was the short ride on my four day trip to Houston.
As I pulled into Panama City and rode down Highway 98 toward the park I felt the first sprinkles of rain and I pulled into the parking lot of an Ace Hardware Store in Miramar to get the rain gear on.
Moments later, rain gear on and ready to ride I hit the starter switch.
Nothing but clicks.
What's happening?
The starter clutch on some of the Yamaha V Star 1100's was known to go out and this one had been making some noise.
The Ace Hardware guy offered to jump it with his car battery and we did try that.
Borrowing a phone book from the hardware people I looked for a motor cycle repair shop and found the nearest one was in Fort Walton Beach, some 20 miles away.
It was now 1:30 pm and they said they would be open until 6.
Triple A found me a bike hauler who they said would be there in 30 minutes and he was.
I had asked about a starter clutch and they said it would take 5 days to get one shipped in. The crew from Coastal PowerSports climbed up on the truck and checked for other things that could be causing the problem.
"It's the solenoid," they shouted down, "We'll have you on your way in 30 minutes."
They quickly installed a new solenoid, found a screw to replace the one I lost when I removed he battery cover and announced, "You're ready to ride."

As they worked I visited with the two brothers who owned Coastal PowerSports of Fort Walton, Beach, Florida.
When we went in to pay the bill, the owners said NO CHARGE!
They said, "just keep riding and enjoy the ride."
The entire crew helped in getting me back on the road, and then refused payment for the parts and labor.

These are great people.
If you are an LD Rider doing an Iron Butt ride along the Gulf Coast of Florida, you'll find some great people at Coastal Power Sports in Fort Walton Beach.
A great team of people who really know their stuff.
Thanks again folks.
I'll see you on the return trip in March.

With the machine back in action I rode over to the state park and set up camp for the night.
Sleep came easily, heart and mind full of thanks for the good people I have met along the way.
Wednesday was to be my long days ride on this leg of the trip.
I was on the road early heading for my overnight camp at LaFayette, LA.
365 miles flew by with only spotty rain showers.
I was glad for warm riding gear to ward off the cold north wind.
This was a cold ride through the pan handle of North Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and into Louisiana.
The KOA camp was great and even provided a car port to park bike and camper under.
By 6 pm the cold north wind brought in a front with heavy rain.
This is the coldest night I have spent in the camper.
This is one night I should have opted for a motel.
The morning was black with heavy cloud cover and ground fog.
I set out in light rain by 7:30 am.
Within minutes of getting out on I-10, I was riding in a downpour.
This was the heaviest rain I have ridden in and the cold made it even worse.
10 miles down the Interstate I saw an exit and pulled off, hoping to find an awning to drive under.
Better yet, I found a Wendys Restaurant.
As I pulled in I saw a woman coming out the door.
She looked over and commented about riding in the cold and rain.
When she saw the 80 year old Iron Butt Rider sign she said, "you mean to tell me you rode that thing all the way from Montana?"
"Come inside, I'm going to buy your breakfast!"
Turns out Shela was the manager and she did indeed buy a biscuit and gravy breakfast for a half frozen biker.
As I said earlier, I have sure meet some nice people on this long ride across the USA, through over 25 states so far with many more to come.
Thanks Shela, I'll see you on the return trip, and this time I'll buy.

Light rain was still falling as I resumed the ride, but it didn't seem as bad now since I was warm and well fed.
I made good time through Lake Charles and the last few miles to the Texas border.

As I passed the Welcome To Texas sign the rain ended and for the first time in days a beam of sunlight found it's way through the clouds.
Thanks Texas, you have come through for me again.
A few more miles and a warming sun was bringing a new outlook on life and I rode past Beaumont and into Houston warmer then I had been in several days.
The Sam Houston Toll road carried me to Richmond where I was to stay for several days with my brother-in-law Stan Smith.
Despite rain, wind, fog and  cold, this was a good ride.
Once again I met friendly, helpful people and made new friends.
Over 7,000 miles and I have yet to meet a rude or unfriendly driver.
Thanks to all who made this an unforgettable trip.
You're the greatest.

It's good to see Stan again and I'm looking forward to seeing daughter Joni and her husband Gary.

May your ride be long and your love song never end.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Saturday, January 3, 2015

St. Augustine - Oldest Continuously Occupied City In The USA

Our visit to St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in the USA, began on a perfect Florida sun shine filled morning.
Temperatures on this third day of the new year were in the 70's and heading in to the 80's.
The drive up Highway A1A through Palm Coast was beautiful with tree lined roads and beautiful houses, condos and retirement communities.
Before we reached St. Augustine we visited a National Monument.
Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in the mid 1700's. The Ranger tour guide explained that the French army had tried to capture the fort, but a hurricane destroyed their ships survivors struggled to the shore where they were captured. The Spanish soldiers had then executed over 250 of the prisoners.

The fort was originally built to protect the 1500 residents of St. Augustine.
To reach the Fort which is built on an island, Park Rangers use a tour boat to carry visitors across the bay.
Many cannons are on display in the same positions they were placed in when the Spanish fought off French and than English attempts to capture the fort and the city.
Rangers told visitors to cover their ears as volunteers, dressed in Spanish army uniforms fired one of the cannons.
The cannons were capable of hitting ships up to a mile away.
The visit to the Fort Matanzas National Monument is free and offers visitors a look back in history to the year 1565 when Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles established St. Augustine as the oldest permanent European city in the continental United States.
A peasant beginning for a day filled blue skies, sunshine and history.

Following the short boat ride back to the visitors center we were on our way to the city itself and another National Monument, Castillo San Marcos.
What a place.
 It was built like a castle, including a moat, and was used by the 1500 St. Augustine residents as a shelter from invading forces.

 One of the original cannons at Fort Matanzas.

The fort was also used as a prison for enemy soldiers who were captured in battles with French or English soldiers.
The bars in the windows provide a frame for my picture.

Rangers gave history talks and explained how in 1763 the Peace of Paris talks gave ownership of Florida and the fort to the English in exchange for La Habana.

In 1783, following the USA Independence, the English had to return Florida to the Spanish.
38 years later in 1821 Spain ceded Florida to the United States.
In 1924 Fort Matanzas was named a National Monument. Care of the facility was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service in 1933.

What a great day traveling through some beautiful scenery and visiting these remarkable US historical sites.
Following the visit to Fort Matanzas we took a walking tour of the "Old Town" part of St. Augustine and visited the St. Photios Greek Orthodox History Center.
The history of New Smyrna and the colonists from Greece who were brought to Florida as indentured servants to run the plantations established by English landowners provided still another insight into the history of the state.

Thanks to Diana's diligent research we had a good time and discovered a fascinating bit of Florida history.

 The cannon ad I.

Ilidio, Jared and Diana
I'll be leaving Florida for Houston, Texas in a week.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist