Posted by: Beemer Bob | March 27, 2011

Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Full trip report)


********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 1) **********

Some of you may recall from a previous post of mine, but last February there was a “Tour of Honor” event where the goal was to take a picture of your bike in front of a specified memorial. There were about 7 sites per state and the first ones to complete the tour would earn a trophy. It was my intention to be one of the trophy winners.

On the day the official sites were made public an ice, snow and fridged temperature front swept through Texas (thank you Canada). So I decided to let other braver iron-butt riders go earn the trophies. Now the spring weather is inviting so its time to resume the quest.

I’m going to make this event more of a sponge-butt, stop and smell the exhaust, kind of ride. I am breaking the entire mission into smaller segments with rhe intent of visiting all sites before summer’s end This trip, I’m only going after 2 or 3 of the memorials but take my sweet time doing it To make it even more interesting, I am going to do this on the Raven (Ural sidecar rig)

My first goal will be the San Jacinto Monument in La Port, Tx (near Houston). Additionally I am going to combine this with a Two Wheeled Texans (TWT) “Pursuit of the Perfect Pie” event is the small odd little town of Round Top, Texas.

I’m off. Heading south, down the back roads of Texas, I stop for breakfast and a systems check after about 60 mules (note: prior to thus trip, the longest trip I have made on the Raven us about 30 miles, so I am keeping a close eye on things)

All systems A OK

My first goal is to camp at Bastrop State Park Friday night.

The raven and I make the trip fine and set up camp.

I am joined later by a friend, Rusty (aka: WoodBurcher) who shares the campsite with me.

We go to a local joint for a burger and brew, return to our campsite, drink more, tell lies and then call it a day.

Tomorrow we go in pursuit of pie.

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 2) **********

It was chilly last night in my hammock. Although this is Texas, it is also still March and while the days are nice, it is too cold for a hammock.

We pack up our gear and head out. We have plenty of time, so we take scenic route that meanders through the park and leads through another nearby state park.

We stop at the small town of Winchester for a light breakfast. We find a unique little place there.




I send Rusty ahead to make sure the roads are safe to travel. Actually, with my top speed of 50-55, I need to travel at a slower pace.

I cut across back roads and make my way to the odd little town of Round Top. After a nice ride, I arrive at the infamous Royel’s Cafe.

Myself and some friends put our name on the waiting list with the Great Pie Oracle and Gatekeeper.

It is not often that I can pose for a picture with someone fatter than me, so I take this opportunity.

Once seated, we find the inside continues the same quirky theme. Ok, everybody smile

After the obligatory meal, I order PIE! Pie makes the world a good place. I got so excited with my choice of scrumptious crumb apple pie (al la mode, of course) I forgot to take a picture. I did come up for air long enough to snap a picture of a half consumed pie.

Upon exiting the cafe, I notice a group of folks gathered around the raven mostly saying “what the f**k is it?”.

My rear tire was low on tread and I have miles to go before I sleep. This rig came with a nifty spare tire and wheel mounted on the car. That tire has new tread, so ….

I thinks that since it has this nifty spare wheel, to change out that wheel will be a cake walk – right? I mean they wouldn’t have put it there unless it was an easy one-man job to change – right?

Well since there was this horde of gawkers standing around, I’ll swap out this wheel Likidy split and in the unlikely event I may need a little help, they will be here.

Well what began as a pie run, turned into the Great TWT Wheel Swap. Or, “How many bikers does it take to change a wheel”

Those Russians, it seems, started with the rear wheel and then built the rest of the rig around it. It was soon apparent that I am mechanically challenged; I evolved into the role of management and watched others do the work while I looked on.

What’s that dohickey?

Ok, let’s try holding the entire thing in the air and see if that helps

OMG, I’m bald on top. I never knew.

One person doing the work, but with lots of supervision.

All done. Good rubber on the ground and the wheels still go roundy roundy

And off I go,

Miles to go before I sleep.

My original plan was to head to Galveston and camp on the beach. Today is, however. the last day of spring break for most colleges and I feared that the beaches may be filled with nude coeds (my wife informs me that I don’t want to see that) so I decided to head towards my fist memorial site at La Porte (San Jacinto Monument) that is on the east side of Houston.

It is SLOW going as I need to avoid major roads. I manage to get past Houston without ever getting on a major road which entailed a lot of zig zagging around.

I make it as far as Pasadena by 7:30 and I can go no more. I’m only about 20 miles from the monument, so this is a good stopping point.

I find a cheap sleazy motel ($35) and check in. It may be sleazy but it is next to a Denny’s, so all is right with the world.

I have a grand slam breakfast combo for dinner, and go back to my sleazy room in a sleazy motel and call it a day.

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 3) **********

I start the day with a wholesome meal that consisted of a basket of greasy pancake puppies coated with powdered sugar with dipping syrup and a gallon of strong black coffee.

The breakfast of champions!

Now that I have proper nutrition I’m off to the San Jacinto Monument. What is the significance of this site you say? Well sit for a spell and I’ll tell ya. After the defeat at the Battle of the Alamo, the Texan Army retreated from San Antonio and zig-zagged back across Texas towards Houston. General Santa Anna thought he was chasing, but General Sam Houston had another plan. While General Houston was buying time, the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio donated a pair of cannons known as the “Twin Sisters”, to the cause.

It was 45 days after the Battle of the Alamo, in an expanse known as San Jacinto, with the help of the Twin Sisters, some 800 Texan Rangers unleashed all they had against 1400 Mexican soldiers. The Mexican army was caught off guard and the battle lasted only 18 minutes before General Santa Anna fled. He was taken captive the next day and Texas independence was secured. April 21, 1836 became one of the mist important days in U.S. history.

The San Jacinto Monument was built 100 years later in 1936 and is still the world’s tallest monument, even surpassing the Washington Monument by 12 feet, and almost twice the height if the Statue of Liberty. The reflecting pool covers more than eight acres. The star on too weighs 220 tons.

“Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.” – Gen. Sam Houston




For a fee, you can ride the elevator to the top. Years ago, I had taken the stairs to the top of the Washington Monument. I thought it would be neat to do the same here. Then I remembered that when I did the stars at the Washington monument I was 18 and in shape. As I am now neither – I paid the elevator fee.

Following are some pictures from the observation area.



Nearby was the State Historic Site of the Battleship TEXAS.

Battleship TEXAS is the last of the world’s “dreadnoughts”, the big-gun battleships designed and built at the beginning of the 20th century. When she was commissioned in 1914, TEXAS was the most powerful weapon in the world and the most complex product of an industrial nation that was becoming a force in global events. She is now the only surviving U.S. naval ship that served in both World Wars.

An interesting shot of the San Jacinto Monument from the deck of the Battleship TEXAS

Beach Ho!!! Onward to the beach!

For grins I take the “Lynchburg Ferry” across the Houston ship channel . This is the oldest ferry service in Texas still in operation. This ferry was used by the Texan troops fighting the Mexican forces Battle of San Jacinto. Also, in what was later referred to as the “Runaway Scrape”, as many as 5.000 Texans fled eastward to escape the advancing Mexican Army utilizing this ferry.



I’m heading to the Galveston area but rather than go through Houston I circle around and head to the Bolivar Peninsula from the east side. To the east of Houston the land is swampy with marshlands and the only road going across this bayou was a major interstate, so me and my pokey machine travel north a considerable way to go around the bayou and avoid the interstate and then return south on the other side if the marsh. It was a long, but pleasant ride. Along the way were some if the beginnings of the wildflower season. Thank you Lady Bird Johnson.

I make it to the beach, engage to sidecar drive and travel through to sand along the seashore.

I set up my hammock and settle in for the night

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 4) **********

Last night was miserable. It was COLD. Unless I can string the hammock high, I’m still on the ground and the only purpose of the hammock is to provide a screen shelter, but other than that, I’m sleeping on the ground. After a while, even sand gets hard. Did I mention it was COLD. I spent most of the night sitting in the sidecar covered with my thin little sheet and thin blankie. I shivered the night away, but morning comes and as soon as the sun pokes through the darkness, things warm up quickly.

I have a yummy breakfast of dehydrated noodles; I spend the morning playing in the beach. Interestedly, the water was too cold late yesterday; but was more temperate this morning, so I was able to go for a brief swim. Mostly I walked down the deserted beaches. Everybody has gone home, I own the beach.

As I walk the beach, I see a lot of these guys had washed up.

I remember years ago I thought it would be fun to go stomp on these jelly fish to make them pop. I now know to leave them alone and not to step anywhere near. They may be dead, but they still sting. Ouch!

So much for wholesome activities, it’s time to play with the raven. With the sidecar wheel engaged, this thing is a blast to play with in sand. I was just going up and down the sand, doing figure eights and spinning donuts when two guys show up on motorcycles.

As it turns out, it’s two local retired riders that had been following my tracking and set out to see if they can find me. Well, there I was, right where the SPOT tracking said I was. Two retired bikers can find my location, but professional rescue people cannot (another story). Moral of the story, if you need help, call a biker. I didn’t need help this time, they just came to welcome me to their neck of the woods.

I was honored and impressed that these guys saw I was in their area and set out to go find and meet me. How neat is that! We decide to head to Galveston for lunch, so onward to the Bolivar Ferry we go

Here is me with Jim (TWT handle: “Wilkes”) and Jeff (TWT handle: “JMN”) on the ferry. A couple of great guys

We have a nice lunch and visit at a place called the Spot. After lunch, they lead me back to the ferry before they head home. In route, we pass by a hospital and Jeff tells me he took this route back so that, considering my history, I would know where the local hospital was. Smart ass. 🙂

We say, so long, and I return back to the peninsula by way of the ferry.


Next stop is the old Fort Travis on the Bolivar Peninsula. Throughout history, with all the wars across the world we are been involved sometime we lose site that our own coast needed protection from foreign assaults. Fort Travis was first established to protect the Galveston and Houston ports beginning with the Spanish/American war. Through WW1 and WW2, Fort Travis served as an artillery battery to defend the coast. Fortunately, this fort never saw action.

I continue east on the Bolivar Peninsula. As I travel I notice the shore line to my side and think “wouldn’t it be more fun to ride the coast line instead of this boring road”, so cut over to the beach I go.

After engaging the sidecar wheel, I toot on down the beach. When the sand gets loose and deep, it’s more like drifting through the sand than driving. When you turn to one direction, the rig takes it sweet time before it responds. The rear of the rig swings from side to side as I coast through the sand. Great fun, until ….

Yes I’m stuck! I can go no more!

Notice that I am at the water’s edge and the tide is coming in!

Oh my! Does the Beemer get washed out to sea?

Stay tuned to find out.

Ok, I’m stuck next to the shoreline and the tide is coming in. Oh, what to do.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Yep, that’s right! Time to break out the wine.

As a well established fact, merlot has wings! So after some consumption of God’s nectar, I was able to extract the raven from the clutches of the sand demons and continued my journey.

I find my way to boring pavement and proceed to the town of High Island and find a moderately priced motel and check in (no cold night on the beach for me tonight)

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 5) **********

Upon waking I fire up the jetboil and make a few cups of coffee while I catch up on my blog. Then I heat up a yummy breakfast of dehydrated noodles and proceed to conquer another day.

My next designated site is the Golden Triangle Veterans Memorial Park in Port Arthur. This is about 1 1/2 hour ride by way of boring pavement. Yesterday, Jeff and Jim had told me that it was actually possible to follow the coastline all the way to Port Arthur although the map does not show any roads. As they were telling me this they may have used words like “not advised”, but I’m not sure, so off I go. I turn a short ride to an all day event.

I proceed up the coastline with minimal trouble. There is an abandoned road there but I find it easier to ride the beach line where the tide has just receded.

Sometimes there is no beach and the coastline becomes more rugged.




At times the sand is very loose and deep, but the raven handles very well and able to plow through. Until …

Drats! I’m stuck.

Well as it turns out, it was not even necessary to break out the wine. I had forgotten to engage the sidecar wheel and once I did that, it pulled right out.

I had been traveling for a while and doing OK with just regular one wheel drive. Once I got it into 2 wheel drive, it was easy going. Incidentally, I still have street tires on her. Imaging how great this thing will be once I install knobbies on her.

Sometimes the beach is wide and inviting. (click on picture for video)
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I have the abandoned beach to my self. There are a lot of tracks and ruts in the sand from trucks and 4-wheelers, but today, I own the beach. Just me, sand, and the sea. Oh, and Raven too. As I travel along, I stop and go wade in the ocean or walk along the beach looking for sea shells.

I broke out the jetboil and whipped up a yummy lunch of dehydrated noodles (again). But hey, when you get to play on the beach, who cares.

I emerge at the Port Arthur end of the beach by late afternoon. This was a LOT of fun. The raven may not be the best vehicle on the highway, but on the beach it was in its element.

As I make my way to the designated site, I pass by the historical site where the Battle of Sabine Pass took place

The battle of Sabine Pass took place in September, 1863 and turned back one of several attempts to invade and occupy part of Texas during the war between the states. Damn Yankees

Shown here are the remains of some of the artillery bunkers used during these battles.




More information on the Battle of Sabine Pass can be found here http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qes02

On to the Golden Triangle Veterns Memorial Park.

The Golden Triangle is an area of Southeast Texas between Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange on the Texas/Louisiana border. It derives its name from the economic boost it got from the significant oil strike in 1901. The Veterans Memorial Park is at the southern tip of the triangle.

Besides the static military equipment displays, the park contains 10,000 names of Golden Triangle servicemen that served in WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, peacetime, Desert Storm, and with the Merchant Marines during WW2. The 50-foot Tower of Honor lists the names, rank, branch of service, and war served of the 930 of those killed or missing in action.

Static displays include an F4-D Phantom Jet, an M60A3 Tank, an UH-1 Huey Helicopter, an anchor from the Texaco SS Mississippi (the last WW2 Merchant Marine ship to be decommissioned), and an assault landing craft. Seeing the Huey, brought back memories of my tours in Vietnam. Not necessarily good memories, but still memories just the same. This gives me pause to reflect that I’m glad I am doing the Tour of Honor thus way instead of rushing through them to earn a trophy. These are memorials to the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. These sites, I feel, deserve ones attention and reverence not to be rushed through. But damn, I still would have liked a trophy. Oh well.


This is Fred. Fred is the overseer of the site and lives in a house to the back of the park. Fred calls himself the “Park Troll”

More pictures of the memorial.

There is a pavilion in the back that after seeing my license plate that brands me as a Veteran, Fred says I can set up camp there if I want. I consider it, but there is a damp wind blowing in from the coast and I opt for a motel instead.

I go in search of a Motel 6. I pass some other no name brands that may have been cheaper, but I find that in a larger town, it is better to go with a brand name.

The best rate I found get was $60 plus tax! Damn, when did Motel 6s get so expensive! I remember when Motel 6 first started and the rate was $6. Boy, those were the good old days. But I also remember that when Motel 6 was $6, I had a professional job that paid an above average annual salary of $13,000. So I guess $60 was not that bad after all, but I hated paying for it and I should have accepted Fred’s offer to camp at the memorial site.

But, the motel is right next to a Waffle House! I’m a happy guy. After a day of noodles, I treat myself to a large artery clogging super value special before retiring for the night.

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 6) **********

It may have been overpriced, but the room was nice and warm and the bed cozy. I whip up a pot of coffee and those delicious dehydrated noodles for breakfast.

After a bit, I meander up the road a bit to Tyler. I leave the sand and go through the beautiful piney woods of East Texas.

As a side note. It was not until my playtime on the beach that I knew I had the settings for engaging the sidecar wheel (for 2 wheel drive operation) backwards. Seems that I have had it engaged all this time. Something you are not supposed to do on pavement, but all seems OK so no harm done. But I now notice that the rig is easer to handle and I have more power. I can now cruise at 60-65 with short burst of 70 when I have to. This makes traveling much better.

I make an uneventful trip to Tyler and able to find my next designated site. The Camp Fannin Veterans Memorial.

Camp Fannin was active from 1943 to 1946, as an Army Infantryman Replacement Center. They trained over 200,000 soldiers here who were sent into both theaters of WW2, and using the conservative 2.4% mortality rate, over 5,600 of the recruits lost their lives and twice that number wounded. Even with its limited lifespan, Camp Fannin had a huge economic and emotional impact on this small town that is still felt today.




It’s getting late, so I head to Tyler State Park to camp for the night. Being in East Texas with all the tall pine trees, finding a place to string up my hammock won’t be a problem.

I pay the modest fee and find me a nice spot. I’m able to get setup and prepare for the night. I did not notice before, but it seems that I had camped near a youth group that spent most of the evening singing Kumbaya.

After a yummy dinner of, you guessed it, dehydrated noodles, I broke out my box of wine. I find that if you drink enough wine, the bad singing does not bother you as much.

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya …
Over and over and over and over

I thought of going over and teaching them the words to “99 bottles of beer on the wall”. At least that song ends.

G’nite Y’all

********** Tour of Honor – Segment 1 (Day 7, the conclusion) **********

The temps dropped down to the mid 50’s during the night and my thin throw blanket and sheet proved to be insufficient for the weather. Prior, to leaving, my sweet wife kept telling me to bring some cold weather gear and clothing, but I insisted that it would not be needed. Moral of the story: Listen to your wife. Wives know best.

A few shots of the campsite.

East Texas with the tall pine trees and beautiful underlying blooming dogwoods make Tyler State Park a pleasant place indeed.

In this shot, see the hammocks by the river. Those are some of those with the youth group that sang most of the night. If it was not Kumbaya, it was a song about Michael and his boat. I thought about waking them up and asking them what happened once Michael reached the shore. All they sang about last night was Michael rowing his boat ashore, but never addressed what he did once he got there.

After a bit, I got packed up and on my way. Camp Fanning was the last memorial I was going to capture on this trip. It’s time to head home.

I take a short diversion so that I might stop in the town of Edom for lunch. A restaurant by the name of “The Shed” there is a top rated place for travelers and Edom is a quirky and interesting little town catering to the tourist.

The special today is Texas chicken fried steak, so I partake

There is a competing restaurant across the street.

So after a full meal at “The Shed”, I waddle over to the Edom Bakery and have this

I continue home, but I stop in Fruitcake City for a 10 cent cup of coffee

I make it home at last. Raven pulls in to the garage and snuggles up next to Scarface.

Raven: “Hello Dear, I’m home!”
Scarface: “Who gives a shit.”

This trip is now complete. There are 4 remaining Tour of Honor sites to be visited, but they will be done as separate trips sometime in the near future. Thanks for tagging along with me on this trip.

Thanks again for tagging along with me on this trip.

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Responses

  1. Bob,

    I enjoyed the latest and greatest on your blog.
    A great read as always.

    Scarface would probably feel better after some
    PM and a new set of shoes.

    Jack

    • Glad you enjoyed the report. Scarface, I think, needs to be taken for a ride soon to lift his spirits

  2. Love your humor, Bob! Seems, one day I need to ride to Texas. If it just weren’t so far away … 😉

    Take care,
    Guido

    • It’s ain’t far. Let’s ride!

  3. Great trip report, Bob. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Just got back from my trip Camp Atterbury, In. Still in use today getting soldiers ready for Afghanistan. Nice travel stories. Be sure to put the Texas National Rally on you to attend list. It’s coming up 8-10 April. Bring your brother.

    Dave Hoover

    • We will be there! See you then.


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