06 May 2017 16:39 IST

Riding through Texas, a motorcyclist’s paradise

From Bedford to Wichita Wildlife Preserve, we spent the Good Friday weekend a little differently

Texas is a motorcyclist’s paradise. The State is large — it’s more than a fifth of India’s land area! The weather is bike-friendly for nearly eight months a year, and it has an excellent network of rural four lane and two lane roads to complement the interstate highways.

And when it comes to natural wonders, there’s something for everyone.

Over the Good Friday weekend, my son and I decided to to ride a little bit north, into the beautiful State of Oklahoma and visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve. Friends had told us about this wonderful wilderness in southwest Oklahoma, about an hour north of the Texas-Oklahoma State line.

The weather forecast couldn’t have been nicer, with a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius temperature and light winds. I prefer riding the rural roads to avoid the big trucks. Plus, we can cut through small towns, stopping about every 50 miles to stretch our legs and walk around.

Up close

Our first stop was to inspect up close a long BNSF freight train. BNSF is headquartered in Ft Worth, Texas, and as one of the largest rail-roads in the country, it attracts heavy train traffic into its massive depots and sheds.

After admiring it, we rode further along, and stopped at a gas station in Bowie, TX, a small town. Here, we took a single lane highway all the way to the Red River, which borders the two states. In the US, most State borders are drawn by rivers, thus ensuring equitable sharing of water.

For most part of the ride on this stretch of the road, we were the only ones. When we pulled the bike over to the side and turned the big engine off, an eerie silence descended around us, broken only by the sound of occasional wind gusts.

Well into Oklahoma now, we turned left on State route 7, heading west into the afternoon prairie wind. So strong were the wind currents that I occasionally found my head being pushed away from the road’s line of sight ahead. But my big motorcycle ploughed through without any concern whatsoever, the heavy pistons never once demanding a rest-stop.

We rested overnight at a hotel in Lawton, OK, and left early next morning to ride another 20 miles to the preserve, fully fuelled up.

Amidst nature

Wichita Mountain is the oldest managed wildlife facility in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service system, spred over nearly 60,000 acres. It is home to huge populations of bison, elk and the Texas Longhorn cattle, having protected them from extinction in the early 1900s. Signs around the park warn visitors that these big animals can attack if provoked.

The panoramic views of the preserve are breathtaking — distant mountains, tall prairies, numerous lakes and bubbling streams. Park brochures warned us that this was snake country, so we were careful not to hike away from paved roads.

Our return ride started around 2 pm from the visitor centre. This time, we rode all the way home, stopping only at a couple of country stores in Wichita Falls, TX and Decatur, TX.

About the bike

The Honda VTX 1800 is a big, five-speed, V-Twin cruising bike designed for long distance touring. The tare weight of the motorcycle alone is 775 lbs (352 kg), sans any accessories. It sports the second largest power plant among production motorcycles worldwide, next only to the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000.

A highlight of all Honda V-Twins is that power transmission is via a drive shaft immersed in oil (i.e. no chains). This enables a smooth ride. The engine is oil-cooled and the ignition is timed electronic through two spark plugs per cylinder. The speedometer shows a maximum of 150 mph although cruise speeds of 80 mph (130 kmph) are common. Fuel tank capacity is about 20 litres with reserve capacity of about 4 litres. The bike comes with a fuel gauge that electronically indicates when the level is low. I typically fuel up approximately every 100 miles.

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