A panoramic view (south to north) between Tahoka and Brownfield in Texas. Not much going on here.

Texas Express – Day 14

I’m back on the road and heading from Texas back to Michigan… by way of Arizona.

Before the Ride

After a week of the National Model Railroading Association’s (NMRA’s) national convention, it was time to head back to Michigan. If I were to take the direct Slab blast of a route home, it would be about 1,200 miles and take a little as two days.


It just so happens that I had set aside an entire week to get back home, so naturally I’m taking a westerly route today, away from home.

For years, I’ve heard west-coast bikers rave about the curvy fun to be had on US191 in Arizona running north from Clifton to Eagar. I’ve crossed the route several times at Springerville, Arizona where US60 crosses it (one of my favorite routes across New Mexico by the VLA). This year, I figure I’m only two states away, so why not ride it on the way home. I’ve roughly constructed a route through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado before a two-day slab blast back to Ann Arbor. In total, it should run about 3,000 miles.

However, before start of those miles, I must pack up and swing by a local BBQ joint for a lunch with some Dallas-area Netscum.

We’d arranged to meet at Harold Dean’s Smoked Goods for lunch at 11am. Coincidently, that was also my checkout time at the Gaylord Texan. With nothing much to do before that appointment, I hung the Do not disturb sign on my door and blissfully slept until about 9:30am.

After packing, I proceeded to contact guest services to send a bellhop to pickup my bags and cart them down to the front entrance, where I would be waiting with the Nightowl.

Aside: The Gaylord Texan is a bit of a throwback when it comes to traditional hotel services. For one, the cleaning staff still visits your room every day to make your bed, refresh your towels, and leave a fresh set of four bottles of water (the daily high temperatures have been over 100ºF all week). They also don’t let customers use the baggage carts; those are used exclusively by the bellhops that are only too happy to migrate your luggage between the front entrance and your room. This is a nice service given that the Gaylord Texan Resort is the size of a small African country; lugging your bags to your room by hand would be an effort. When I arrived, the bellhop Norman took up my bags while I parked my Bike. The bags were waiting in my room by the time I got there. It’s a very early 1900s vibe.

Unfortunately, I received a chat message from the concierge saying that bellhops aren’t allowed to pick up bags from a room unattended. Ugh. So much for my efficient plan, seeing as I was already 2/3rds of the way to the Nightowl in the parking garage. So, I hopped on the Nightowl, rolled out of the structure and over to the front door, where I stowed my helmet and jacket and walked back to the room.

I happened to draw Norman again, and he showed up about five minutes after I did. We chatted about the coming ride home as we walked down to the front entrance. I transferred the bags to the Saddlebag and top case, bungle-corded the camp roll to the passenger seat, threw on the chaps, jacket and helmet, and I was off.

The Ride

By the time I left, it was already nearly 11am. I sent a text to Pat warning that I’d be a little late, and proceeded to hurry my way the 11 miles to the lunch venue.

Initially, I couldn’t do much to improve my pace. The roads were two-lane with no passing zones. The scenery was kind of nice, along a golf course and a reservoir with a large marina and several boats out on the lake (it is Saturday, after all). The road actually crossed the dam that contained the reservoir. I also noticed that the overflow spillway for the dam flowed over this road; it must close in the rare event of an overflow.

About four miles into the trip, I turned onto a more traditional Dallas-area through street, which was basically a divided six-lane highway with 45mph speed limits.

I didn’t spend much time below 45mph.

With the added space of three lanes, I was that biker. You know, the one that weaves in and out of traffic in an attempt to make all the lights before they turn red.

Aside: The Nightowl is a fantastic enabler when you’re even slightly tempted to turn into that biker.

In spite of my delayed start, I arrived only 10 minutes late.

It turns out that Harold Dean Smoked Goods is a fairly new establishment, but is gaining a favorable reputation. Everybody in our group enjoyed their selections, which varied from pulled pork to brisket to ribs.

Pat and Rick (along with lovely spouses) join me for lunch before I depart Dallas.
Pat and Rick (along with lovely spouses) join me for lunch before I depart Dallas.

I hadn’t seen either Pat or Rick for a few years, so we had plenty to chat about. We chatted a while before ordering. We chatted over dinner. We chatted after dinner. Left to our own devices, I suspect we would have talked it up all afternoon, but I had miles to go before I sleep (apologies to Robert Frost).

About 1pm, I was back on the Nightowl and winding my way to I35W and the slab out of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metromess heading west.

Now… I could have taken a non-slab route, but the late start and approximately 370 miles that I wanted to cover dictated a more efficient route. Another factor was that it was hot, damned hot. The temperature in Dallas when I left was 105ºF and it was probably going to go up before it went down. I was counting on it going down because I was going to leave the metromess and I would possibly encounter some cloud cover later in the day.

Aside: How often do you hear a biker hope for cloud cover?

There was only one slowdown getting out of Dallas and that was at the I35W/I820 interchange. I was in the local lanes (there are separate express lanes) when the slow down started. Luckily, there was an exit right there and that dumped out onto a service road. Immediately after the light at the cross street were on ramps for both the local and express routes. I merged onto the express route, which had scant traffic on it, gleefully rode past the mile of slow cars in the local lanes, and was still able to take the dedicated express ramp onto I820 west. (If you look closely at today’s route map, you can see this deviation.)

Aside: as happy as I am about getting around the slowdown, I wonder if I’ll still be happy when I get my bill for the Dallas-area toll roads later this month. We’ll see…

From the I820, I quickly turned briefly onto I30 west before that gave way to I20 west. It was still another 20 miles west past Weatherford before I began to feel the tentacles of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metromess releasing its grip and letting me escape into the open country. From there, traffic densities dropped significantly, and the pace became faster and more comfortable.

The wind was blowing from the northeast and it carried a few darker clouds with it. From distance, you could see the veil of rain under these few clouds. None of these isolated cloudbursts were very strong or very large. Given this and the uncomfortably hot temperatures, and the occasional shower was going to be welcomed, not dreaded.

I encountered the first thunder shower (I wouldn’t call it a storm) near Ranger and found my way through another smaller one near Baird. Coming out of these rain cells, the temperature dropped down into the mid-90ºsF, and it felt wonderful. While neither of these showers soaked me, the dampness they added did make the next 20 miles or so a little less oppressive.

With the faster pace, I was burning gas more quickly than usual. Besides that, the on-board water supply in my Camelback was about the same temperature as a hot bath; not very refreshing. I was in fairly significant need of cold fluids and air conditioning, so I stopped in a QT station in Abilene.

I picked up some Vitamin Water for cold fluids and a Payday bar for a little protein and salt replenishment. One note about the QT convenience stores: they serve food, even made-to-order hot food, but they have no place to sit and eat it. For the second time this trip, I stood at the counter near the coffee-making equipment (not selling much coffee on a hot day like this) to consume my snack.

There was another rain cell approaching my location, and it looked darker than the two I encountered earlier. I mounted up and pointed the Nightowl westward again.

It was only another 20+ miles when it was time to turn northwest on US84. This was another four-lane divided highway, but with surface street intersections. However, those intersections were so rare that they actually put up signs with flashing lights warning drivers when one was coming up. To make matters even better, out in the sticks between towns the speed limit was back up at 75mph, just like on I20! With the cruise control set in the low 80s, the Nightowl devoured the miles.

As I’d headed west over the course of the day, I noticed that the terrain got more rolling and had more erosion zones where runoff carved some low rock formations on the walls of the valleys. Somewhere along the early miles on US84, I rode up a hill through one of those erosion zones and emerged on the flat. By flat, I mean flat as far as the horizon.

Off in the distance, I could see yet another solitary dark cloud with it’s trailing veil of rainfall. As US84 adjusted its course left and right, that rainfall varied from being in my path, to upwind of my path, to downwind of my path. About the time I hit Snyder, the teasing was over and the routes converged. This was the lightest dowsing I’d had that day, but it still did a little to improve my comfort level for the next several miles.

At the thriving metropolis of Post, I turned west on US380 for the final leg of today’s journey. The horizon continued to be absolutely level with no variation; nothing but wide open spaces, now made even more open by the reduced amount of cloud cover (I was now behind the line of showers traveling southwest).

Shortly before Tahoka, I spotted a tumbleweed rolling across the road. But it didn’t make it across the road. It dodged left, then back right, then back left again, like a squirrel that can’t decide whether it can get across the street before being squashed by the oncoming car. As I adjusted my path to pass just left of the indecisive tumbleweed, a strong gust of wind pushed the Nightowl left and then immediately back right. The tumbleweed’s erratic behavior suddenly became clear: I’d just ridden right through my very own isolated dust devil. It was a curious sensation.

After slowing down to pass through Tahoka (population 2,375), I was back out on the never-ending plain. This is the Texas that many of us imagine in our heads, so I pulled to the shoulder to take a quick panorama.

Aside: I’m not sure why I bothered to pull over to the shoulder. There wasn’t a vehicle within five miles of me; I could’ve stayed in the middle of the road.

A panoramic view (south to north) between Tahoka and Brownfield in Texas. Not much going on here.
A panoramic view (south to north) between Tahoka and Brownfield in Texas. Not much going on here.

I did eventually see the common great-plains indicator for a distant town: a water tower (actually, I saw two). That would be my destination of Brownfield. I found a gas station near the end of town and filled up so I’d start tomorrow with a full tank. Then I drove to the intersection of the east/west and north/south main drags, turned north for a block, and pulled into my hotel’s parking lot.

After the Ride

I checked in, found my room, and started peeling off the sweaty gear and clothing. The chaps weren’t bad, but the jeans under them were wet. My tshirt was completely damp, as was the inside of my jacket; both were set out to dry. I also set out the helmet near the air conditioner to dry out the interior, especially the forehead pad.

Now basically stripped and enjoying the air conditioning, I noted that this room was actually a notch above NAS. While the reviews were favorable, this Best Western didn’t have very flattering photos and I thought it was going to be another NAS room for sure. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. Having said that, the pool was in need of a cleaning (the front desk clerk suggested that I skip it), and the WiFi never really worked, but cell service is decent so I can live without it.

With no pool to cool off in, I treated myself to a cool shower. With today’s sweat washed away, I felt human enough to venture out into public for dinner. I didn’t really want to ride anywhere, so the Pizza Hut across the street fit the bill. (Ok, so I have a weakness for the occasional personal pan supreme pizza). The good news was that the Pizza Hut was:

  • Nearly deserted.
  • Had plenty of inside seating.
  • Had excellent complimentary WiFi.

I ordered the aforementioned pizza and a order of mozzarella sticks. As I waited for and subsequently munched on my dinner, I leveraged the good WiFi to upload the day’s few photos and outline this trip report.

For the short after-dinner walk from Pizza Hut back to my motel, the temperature was a mere 88ºF with light breezes. While this will still sound oppressive to readers in the north, based on the last several days, it was lovely.


Here’s today’s admittedly boring route. Click on the image to open an interactive map with more metadata.


I need to cross New Mexico and get somewhere near the legendary stretch of US191 in eastern Arizona. The challenge will be finding lodging or perhaps a campsite; that region is pretty remote. I may also have to dodge a wildfire or two on the way. Stay tuned…

Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.