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2009 Favorites – Gear, Roads, Meals, Places, etc

January 2, 2010

In 2009 I rode over 16,000 miles from Old Orchard Beach to Key West, from Austin to Myrtle Beach and just about everywhere else in-between. This is a list of my favorite things, destinations, roads, and places in no particular order.

Best on the Road Meal

Anything, and I mean anything, at The Fish House – Key Largo, FL

Worst Meal

Stubbs BBQ, Austin Texas. This is perhaps the worst BBQ in the entire world served on automatic pilot by an uncaring staff of slackers and idiots. Stubbs is essentially a gigantic beer and live music hall & tourist trap. The food, if you can call it that is absolutely awful. At some point this place went on automatic pilot and switched to focusing on attracting big name bands and huge crowds to keep this cavernous ATM machine running. The attention to food is nonexistent.

Second Worst Meal

Carlsbad KOA The Carlsbad KOA is NOT located near Carlsbad Caverns nor is it anywhere near Carlsbad, NM for that matter. It IS located in the fucking middle of nowhere. What else is nearby? N O T H I N G. From the moment you walk through the front door they advertise “delicious homemade BBQ” Perhaps the important question is WHEN WAS IT MADE? I dined one lovely evening in the cavernous dining/function hall serenaded by the beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep of the microwave. Everything served went from either the fridge or freezer into the dreaded microwave. What arrived on my plate was a steaming pile of mushy excrement served on a bun with mass-produced sides and watery iced tea.

Favorite place to drink yerself stupid:
Four way tie between – Snooks Bayside, Key Largo, FL – The Townhouse, Venice Beach, CA, The Interlude Lounge, Omaha, NE, and The Elkhorn Bar, San Miguel, CA. If you put a gun to my head and said choose only one or else,  I’d have to go with The Elkhorn Bar. It’s a true dive and biker bar and has some of the friendliest and most cordial people on the planet. A great bar with a great vibe in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Best Campground/Campsite

Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley, CA
Worst Camping Experience

A tie for worst – Santa Fe, NM versus Big Sur, CA. Trying to get dressed, and my gear put away during a heavy October rain storm while sliding around in thick sticky mud in Santa FE immediately comes to mind. That I managed to make it from the campsite to pavement without dropping the bike is a miracle. It was a wet sticky mess that stayed with me for a long time.

Big Sur makes the list easily but not because the campsite sucked. I arrived late in the evening after the rangers had gone. Usually there are registration forms for late arrivals. ALL the ranger booths were empty and appeared to have been that way for some time. Navigating the park was difficult as it was pitch black. I rode and rode and rode around the campground in the dripping, freezing California redwood gloom and finally settled on a camp site. In the morning I awoke and found a ranger put a hotel style invoice on my bike charging me FIFTY DOLLARS for choosing a river campsite for the evening. What river? It was freaking DARK and they knew that. I hope a biblical plague descends on those vultures. It ruined an otherwise fantastic experience in Big Sur.

Best Motorcycle Gear Purchase
Gerbings Heated Jacket and Controller. I was skeptical about electric gear and almost chose not to buy the controller. That would have been a big mistake. If you wear the jacket correctly (under a snug fitting long sleeve t-shirt) it works perfectly and kept me toasty in 30 degree temps. The controller could use some sort of tactile setting feedback but other than that it’s a fantastic accessory that I will not travel without.

Best Motorcycle Road

California Highway 1 from Big Sur to the Russian River Valley. That road brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It made me want to get my hands on a sticky tired 1198 and a life insurance policy. Fantastic, mind-boggling, and beautiful. A ride for the ages.

Best I-Tunes Music

A surprising three-way tie between Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow and Jackson Browne. None of these three were artists I listened to much before the trip but time and time again I kept dialing them up for long rides.

Best under $20.00 Motorcycle Gadget:

GPS City Garmin Nuvi Snap-in GPS holder $11.00

Best single modification to my motorcycle:

HID lighting. My Aprilia Futura has three 4300 HID lights installed (one for low beam and two for high beam). The headlight switch is modified so that when the high beams are switched on all three HID’s come on at the same time (eliminating the few second startup time for the high beams). You can see me from the space shuttle and I can see a looooooooooooong way down the road. Ask anyone who has them installed – HID lights are fantastic and make the bike significantly more visible during the day. I bought mine from Xenon Depot.

Best Motorcycle Luggage

The Motofizz Tail Bag size medium (forget about the large unless you are planning to be on the road for twelve months or longer).  I got mine from Aerostitch it’s fantastic and can stand up to serious abuse, over packing and horrible weather. See my review on the blog for detailed info. I really like the interlaced bungee cord on the top of the bag for storing a hoodie or my gloves when I’m not wearing them.  The only bad part is having to buy new straps for my other bikes.

Best 5 Star Hotel

The Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN. The delta’s finest hotel and a staff that is second to none in personal service.

Best Authentic Texas Experience

Gruene Hall, Gruene, Texas. This is what you imagine a Friday night in Texas would be. A real Texas dance hall filled with boot clad Texans of all ages sipping cold Modelo and Lone Star beer while two steppin to fantastic traditional country music. The oldest and best dance hall in Texas. Love the place. In the summer you can drift away on the nearby Guadalupe river.

Best Non-Authentic Texas Experience
The 10 day salute to Sausage called Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas. An absolutely amazing time in beautiful New Branfels. For whatever reason there is a serious German presence in New Branfels from restaurants to bakeries. The Wurstfest is THE reason to visit Texas in October.

Best Tourist Trap Place to Visit

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA. I went on a rainy and gloomy day and it was amazing. It’s worth the visit if only to see outdoor and indoor pools. The art deco movie theater is jaw droppingly gorgeous. The indoor pool has full length hand carved marble ladders and gold inlaid tiles. Much cooler than I thought possible.

Best Motorcycle Product Customer Service

Sportbike Track Gear. I had a pair of Alpinestars pants come apart and they were quickly replaced under warranty. STG has first class service and staff. I like the gear reviews on YouTube.

Best Protective Motorcycle Gear Purchase

Alpinestars V-Twin leather pants. Following the product sizing guides I purchased a larger than normal size of these pants and proceeded to ride almost 7000 miles in 38 days. I wore these pants every day I rode and loved them for the most part. As the trip progressed they got bigger and looser as the days went by and the knee completely came apart which is unusual for Alpinestars. I replaced them with a smaller size and rode another 4000 miles without a problem. For anyone who wants leather protection AND not to look like a power ranger on vacation these are the pants. They fit over road racing boots and have just enough armor to make you feel safe (although the hip foam is a complete joke). I’d give these a perfect 100 point score if they were a bit shorter. All V-Twin pants come in a 35 inch inseam which is way, way too long. Tailoring them is impossible due to the pants construction so I just live with the cuffs dragging. I got mine at Sportbike Track Gear.

Best IPhone App for Motorcycle Touring:

Kayak for the iPhone. This is hands down the best travel application I used. Kayak can quickly provide a sampling of the per night room rates including fees and tax. After I get a benchmark for prices I would call hotels and bid them down against each other to get the best rate.

Best tool:

Leatherman. This is not surprisingly, is my favorite tool. I never ride without it.

The Complete Load of Bullshit Award

The weather channel, weathermen, weather forecasting, and the weather for profit industry.  At some point weather has become entertainment. There is even a fucking channel devoted to it and the idiots that chase tornadoes and natural disasters. I know people who during a ski vacation will drive home early if snow is predicted. Snow you say? Ain’t that why you go to a ski area? Perhaps if weather reporters would stop screaming about the treacherous two inches of freshly fallen snow in Hoboken we would all feel a little bit better. It’s all part of the retardation of America, where personal responsibility has declined with every generation. The only things I rely on when I travel are my eyes (Weather Channel addicts – try this sometime – look, the fuck, up) and radar. Radar is a fantastic way to see what’s happening and devise a plan to avoid or go through weather.

Best “embrace your inner tourist”

Grey Line Tours. I love them. Mark me as an uncool Star Trek loving geek but they are fantastic. If I get to an interesting tourist destination for a few days I’ll always take a tour. Case in point. When I was in San Diego I wanted to visit Tijuana to score some Cuban cigars. I thought about parking in the tourist lot and walking across ala “No Country for Old Men” style or perhaps even riding the bike across the border. But with the worst border violence in history I decided to skip both and take the Grey Line. I figured a bus full of semi-retarded greenback waving tourists would be the last thing even the most crazed bandito would want to unload his bought in the USA CAR-15 into. His cousins and relatives would be out of work as Grey Line tours are a significant part of the lifeblood of Tijuana. By the way, Havana Club Rum is muy fantastico”

With that I’ll call it quits on the first 1/2 of my 2009 favorites. Now if it would just stop snowing for a bit and I can get back on the road!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    January 4, 2010 6:09 pm

    What did you do with the Futura ?


    PS, we just got a record 3 feet of snow !!

    • January 4, 2010 7:48 pm

      Hi John, It’s in my garage next to the 1198 and the Caponord!

      There is no snow (well Vermont type snow) down here in the keys and I like it that way!.


  2. January 5, 2010 6:31 am

    Nice rants.
    It’s rare to hear people speak honesty.
    As for the Weather Channel, you’re right, they’re a bunch of over dramaic pussies…
    I got rained on once… It wasn’t as bad as they said it would be. 🙂

  3. Scott permalink
    January 7, 2010 3:31 pm

    Nice list! Great to see so much from Texas on there. Finding good BBQ in TX requires good and recent intel. I used to favor Cooper’s in Llano, TX, but it’s gone downhill the past 4-5 years.

    The German thing in New Braunfels is absolutely True Texan. There was huge German immigrant movement into the Hill Country (centered around Fredricksburg) and also a region south and west from Houston started in the 1830s and continued through much of the 19th century – the result of overpopulation and lack of housing and available land (plus greedy nobles) in Germany in that time.

    Oh, and an irony in that your ‘authentic’ Texas experience is in Gruene, Tx. Gruene (or ‘green’ as translated from German) was a German settlement from the 19th century.

    Check this link out for details:


    Scott E. (fifth generation Texan of German descent)

  4. January 7, 2010 3:52 pm

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for your comments and the link. I absolutely loved the Wurstfest! Pork chop on a stick! I was staying in Austin but eventually began spending all my time in New Braunfels and Gruene. I think at one point I was eating two meals a day at the Friesenhaus!

    On my next visit I’m heading to the Quihi Gun Club! Love Texas!


  5. Evan permalink
    June 27, 2010 10:58 pm

    Great stuff! If you thought central highway 1 was amazing, you gotta head north to mendo, humboldt, and del norte!


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