2023 HoT – World Wide Texas Tour
April 27, 2023
Remember that rally master last year delivering the packet a couple weeks ahead of the ride? I was going over possible routes way too many times! Well, this year Paul Tong handed it to us the morning of the rally. The rally book was enormous and contained a plethora of history about towns all over Texas with names tied to settlers’ homelands. ZZ Top was thrown into the mix with their desire to do a world tour back in 1976-77, but a bunch of countries did not want their wild stage antics. Paul tied all of this together as The Heart of Texas World Wide Texas Tour. In our 48-hour ride, we were to complete at least 8 tours with towns named from different countries and states. We could throw in some tours of planets as well. A tour might consist of only one town (or planet), or multiples. Paul emphasizes safety in his rallies by using tools to monitor rider speeds via our satellite tracking devices and mandatory rest breaks. Each rider had to stop a minimum of 4 hours per day, and there were substantial total score multipliers for up to 12 hours of combined rest during the rally. Meal bonus multipliers were also awarded for stops of at least 45 minutes each day at specified locations. Developing a route just prior to a rally start might be stressful, but it is much safer than working on it in late into the night and winding up tired before an early morning departure.
My goal in this year’s rally was to finish. I would do photography at the end of the rally, and saw the 96-hour riders were to arrive before our 48-hour group. Many riders decide to arrive several hours before the end time to avoid a DNF. With all of this in mind, I would cut short my ride by 5 or 6 hours. My planned early arrival at the finish would limit my gathering of points, and the minimum finisher requirement of 8 tours was a concern before I got back to my room to develop a route. I loaded up the GPX file into my computer, studied the rally book and had a workable route in a couple of hours. My plan was to do a circular route heading towards the Gulf Coast and north of the Hill Country towards my home town of Abilene. I did not have many miles to ride, but I compiled over 8 tours in the route which would get me to finisher status.
This year Paul decided to have our odometer checks done just prior to the ride start time of 2:00 PM. We met at the Calvary Court host hotel in College Station where our GPS and trip meters were zeroed. The odo check course was around 40 miles and ended at Sodolak’s in Snook where we had a great lunch prior to our start.
The first bonus was just minutes away from our start and just like that, the majority of our 48-hr group had just visited Tunisia! Tunis was founded in the mid-1800s as a trading center for large plantations in the area. Italian immigrants settled in the area in the 1890s. I find no history on the naming of Tunis, but Tunisia is located across the Mediterranean very near Italy, so maybe that factors in. Two Tunisian cities would have to be visited in this rally to complete a tour.
My next bonus stop was Washington-on-the-Brazos, where in 1836 Texas declared its independence from Mexico as a sovereign nation. The town was founded in 1833 and named for Washington, GA. But for this rally, my visit here completed my first tour of Washington, DC. Paul uses the LD Rally App to submit bonus photos and document rest and meal stops. This app makes rally riding and scoring much more efficient.
Several hours after our 2 PM start, Spotwalla showed riders scattered all about Texas. The majority of riders (~50) had started two days prior to our group. Paul rotated names every day to help with anonymity. For Thursday, I was Agent Smith. My son Wes got a kick out of this as we were both “Men in Black” film fans! He threw back quotes from the movie – “Mr. Anderson, welcome baaaacccckkk….we….missed you..”.
Berlin, Germany was my next foreign bonus stop. Berlin, TX was settled in 1848 by German immigrants. There are many German settlements in Texas, which is apparent in the rally book. To complete a German tour in this rally, a total of 6 German-named Texas cities would be visited. Salem, OR was my next US stop. Salem was a small community surrounding the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Salem which was built in 1856. This was one of two stops to complete an Oregon tour. Arkansas would be my next destination to visit the small town of Fayetteville, TX to the east of La Grange. Fayetteville was established in 1834 from a settlement formed by three families of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. Two Arkansas bonus stops were required to complete a tour. After Arkansas, I moved on to Egypt. Egypt, TX was settled in 1822 and became known as Egypt in 1829. After my visit in Egypt, I traveled to Austria to visit the Vienna Baptist Church. (Deb and I will be in Austria in June.) Vienna, TX was settled in 1840.
Moravia was fun! I arrived in this small 1870s Czech farming community in the early evening and the music and beer was flowing. Two ladies offered to take my photo in front of the bonus sign. I kindly declined and said “Morovia” was obviously the place to be. They corrected my pronunciation and started singing Moon Over Moravia Waltz – “Moon over Moravia, Stars sparkle and shine, Music plays in Moravia, Waltz with me darling tonight”. They were a hoot! Not much further up the road was the Czech community of Praha, settled in the mid-1850s. The name was chosen in 1858 by Bohemian settlers in honor of their homeland’s capital, Prague. These two stops completed my tour of Czechoslovakia.
Once my tour of Czechoslovakia was done, I headed off to the planets to visit Saturn. Saturn, TX was originally called Possum Trot in 1870 and named Saturn when a post office was established in 1902. Paul Partin had just finished up his documentation and was riding away as I rode up to the historical marker. From here I rode into Lockhart to begin my rest bonus.
April 28, 2023
The next morning I grabbed a breakfast pizza and exchanged photos with Deb and our dog, Addi.
A plan to do a early-morning meal bonus northeast of Austin in Hutto was foiled by my lack of research prior to arriving at the Texan Cafe. I pulled up at 8:30 to a dark cafe where the sign on the door showed an 11:00 opening. The plan then was to do a meal stop at Underwood’s in Brownwood before the rally day start of 2 PM. Not much further down the road, I would do another all-important meal bonus point multiplier after 2 PM for my second rally day. I rode on to Georgetown, which was founded in 1848 and named for George Washington Glasscock. For this rally, Georgetown would be my tour stop in Guyana. The bonus location was near the center of town where the Red Poppy Festival was beginning. Barricades were everywhere and I eventually asked a pair of ladies if I could stop briefly within the festival perimeter. They let me in and I walked several blocks to document the stop. I discovered on the other side of the festival that I could have ridden directly to the library where the bonus was located, but the walk felt good. I returned to my moto where the festival staff asked me what I was working on. I explained and she took great interest in the rally book and was excited that her town was included in the Heart of Texas event. I rode just 12 miles further to the northeast of Austin into the former Bagdad community, settled from 1855 to 1882 and named for Bagdad, TN. In this rally, Bagdad would complete my one-stop tour of Iraq.
As I continued towards West Texas, my wife sent me a couple of texts about the severe weather threat pretty much exactly where I was riding. Storms were brewing up in the Panhandle, which was still far away from my route and not much of a worry to me. But as I approached the Mercury planet bonus, I went from 92 to 75 degrees in 10 miles. I knew then that the line in the Panhandle was not going to be the severe threat that I should be concerned with and all of this warm moist air was rising exactly where I was. There was a gathering of HoT riders at the Mercury bonus. As I rolled up, 3 bikes were already there and another appeared as I documented the stop. The Jordan Springs bonus was not far away which gave me another tour in the books for the country of Jordan. I looked up to the east and the puffy clouds I saw earlier were now boiling. If I stuck to my modified route plan (after missing the Hutto meal bonus), my almost 1-hour layover in Brownwood along with a further ride north to Rising Star would put me riding east directly into a developing line of nasty storms. The Underwood’s meal bonus would have to be scratched along with Rising Star and Australia. Oh well… I knew I could not be very competitive in this rally with my very early return for photog work. To the east I turned…
Riding southeast out of Brownwood, I passed under the developing line of storms and back into warmer air. I was not too worried at that point and stopped for a photo of the interesting storm line above some wind turbines. But once I headed directly east out of Goldthwaite, the storm line was diagonal to my route and my 70 mph would not take me safely away if I stopped for any lengthy amount of time. At the crest of a hill, a group of storm chasers had their long lenses pointed west and they were waving and pointing to different areas of the storm. I kept riding and finally stopped to snap a photo of the wall cloud they were pointing to. My radar app also showed the hook echo behind me along with a tornado warning for Gatesville where I was headed. Hunkering down in Gatesville would likely not be wise with a tornadic storm approaching. Now my second rally day meal bonus stop in McGregor was at risk. I made the decision as I rode through Gatesville to scratch the meal bonus and head southeast away from the storm.
As I passed south of Waco, the storm was still building, but I could see that the north end was falling apart. I took my last bonus of the day in North Carolina before finding a spot for a rest bonus. A post office called Deer Creek was established in 1852, but the name was changed to Carolina by settlers from North Carolina who saw the landscape resembled their former home. Dropping all of the bonuses near Abilene earlier along with the dropped meal stops cut my day way short, but it did increase the prospects of some laid-back time…
The best option at this point was to let the storm pass over me since I was in a safe place. I met Jeff from Central Texas at my Exxon bunker in Marlin. He was riding a ’92 Ducati on his way up to Cleburne. We chatted for a while and compared radar screens. The storm was continuing to fall apart at the top of the line and I decided to head east for another rest bonus. I was way early for a rest, but what the heck…
Yeah,,, this worked! I had a great Tex-Mex dinner at Anita’s in Marquez, TX served by very friendly staff. I wandered back to my motel for a hot shower and relaxing evening.
April 29, 2023
I awoke at 3:30 in the morning. I guess I was worrying a bit as to whether I had enough tours to at minimum finish the rally after dropping some stops the previous day. My original plan was to head somewhat straight back to College Station to start my photog work for the finish. I looked at options in BaseCamp and decided to ride east to pick up a couple of other tours as insurance in Saudi Arabia and Arizona to make sure of my finish. My all important mandatory rest bonus was documented in the LD Rally App and I rode off into the dark woods. Not long after I fueled up, I thought I had blown a LED driving light and looked down to see it dangling by its power cord. At first I thought the bracket had broken but found the mounting screws had backed out. I used an elastic strap that I had been carrying around for 5 years to secure the lamp housing to my highway pegs. I made a stop in New Hampshire to document the community of Concord. This small community was established in 1856 and named for the hometown of the first settlers, who were from Concord, MA. Just 20 miles down Hwy 39 was Saudi Arabia. Paul was adamant that we were not to stop our motos on the side of the narrow farm to market highways. The Mecca bonus was in complete darkness without the lights from my moto illuminating it. I parked in the drive per rally book instructions, walked back and managed to annoy the dogs that were trying to figure out what was going on. I tried illuminating the sign and my rally flag with only my phone’s light and it was not working. After walking back to my moto to grab a flashlight, all was OK. Mecca was established in 1894 and grew to a population of fifty in 1933.
After leaving Saudi Arabia, I headed off to Arizona to secure another tour. Arizona, TX shows on a map, but I can’t find any history on the community.
After visiting Arizona, I made my way through the Sam Houston National Forest to Alabama to document the Town Goat. Montgomery, TX traces its origins to 1825 when Stephen F. Austin signed an empresario contract with Mexico to settle 500 families. Montgomery claims the title of “Birthplace of the Texas Flag” and attributes the design of the Lone Star Flag of Texas to early Montgomery resident, Charles B. Stewart, in 1839.
It was 20 miles back to College Station and my rally would come to an end after I checked in with Lisa Landry. Spotwalla showed riders still scattered about East Texas.
I grabbed my camera gear from the top box and set up along Kimberly and Chris to photograph riders as they arrived. The temperature was not very pleasant with clouds and wind aggravating the situation. My riding gear would stay on me until later.
Riders began arriving with some wearing their ZZ Top beards, which were mandatory to claim bonuses after 2 AM of the final rally day. It was hilarious! There are many rider photos in the Rally Finish Photos album linked below. We heard numerous storm stories from the riders. The 96-hour rider continued to roll in before their 11:45 points-deduction window began along with early finishers in the 48-hour group before our 13:45 window prior to DNF.
A really nice charcuterie board was in my room. I found out later that Cavalry Court had provided it since I had an issue where I lost my first night’s reservation after Deb decided to not hang out at the hotel and we canceled four days. That was nice of the management and I really needed the food! Before dinner and awards, it was time to chill. I always enjoy this time at rallies where people share stories from the road and get to connect up with their long distance friends from across the US.
Paul orchestrated a mass text to Chris Ross where everyone thanked him for getting a rider out of a bind in North Texas. There were future rally announcements including Nancy’s all-women ride in October.
Of course, I was in dead last place which was of no surprise to me. I did score a “rusty horseshoe” for my lackluster performance. It was rusty on one side, but nicely polished on the other along with dates stamped into the horseshoe for the HoT.
Paul presented a signed guitar to Wayne Boyter for all of his mentoring and continued support of the long-distance motorcycling community. Nice!
We rounded up all of the award recipients for a group photo. From left to right; John Anderson, Ben Ernst, Kerri Miller, Michael Fernandez and Claire Ivey, Wayne Boyter, Alex Harper, Jay Bolinger, Chuck Weir, Paul Meyer, Greg Williams and Daniel Eckert. Final standings are shown below.
Paul and his dedicated rally staff have gone above and beyond to host one awesome rally! The weather,,,, well, it’s Texas (and Ken Andrews…).