500 Miles on a Sportster

Updated: Nov 5, 2020


It’s fairly true that life is simplest with the fewest moving parts. This statement couldn’t be truer than with moving from one state to another. So naturally owning a motorcycle and a car creates some levels of complexity when relocating, especially when the owner is paranoid enough not to trust any moving company to touch his bike.


I had every aspect of my move to Clovis New Mexico from San Antonio Texas planned out except what to do with the Harley. The only feasible idea was to leave it at a friends place in SA and then come back at some point to fetch it for a nice 500 mile ride through friendly west Texas. This journey started from Lubbock Texas, that’s right Lubbock, not Clovis. Why? Because the Clovis municipal airport has I think one flight a day to Albuquerque, which is not only the wrong direction, but the whole ticket to San Antonio would be around $700.  I’m fairly sure I could hire a dog sled team in the middle of the summer to take me there for cheaper. So the only option is to take a cab, sorry I mean shuttle 100 miles to the Lubbock International airport (Clovis is not well known for their cabs, for which they have zero).  On a side note here are some highlights of things I have found that add to Clovis’s contribution to the Land of Enchantment. 1) no starbucks 2) no bookstore 3) no Sports bar, or bars open on Sunday…major games and world cup finals apparently played at the local movie theater.


After my pondering of what flights could possibly be international from the Lubbock airport with its one terminal and nine gates I arrived in San Antonio. I packed light knowing that anything I carried would have to be put on the bike for the trip back. After a much needed and relaxing weekend I saddled up and galloped out of town mid afternoon on Monday. With a full-face helmet, mesh jacket with extra padding, gloves and newly borrowed TBags I was set.  Unfortunately so was the sun. Baking in 100-degree heat it didn’t take long before the essentials of so called safe riding got placed by the way side.


I don’t care how much mesh and vents you have, it’s freaking hot in South Texas in July.  After about 100 miles I also learned that the seats that come with sportsters really aren’t designed for long range riding.  My butt was going from spasms, to numbness, to I think I just grew a tail. Frequent stops were a must, but overheating while sitting still was a plague of stopping.


Despite all the compulsions in me to best appease the wishes of my dear mother I had to lose the helmet and join the crowd of helmetless riders or loosely put it in the words of my Dad’s Girlfriend one of the only examples left of modern day natural selection. I manage to justify this to myself by saying that riding while enduring a heat stoke would also be suboptimal.


With the wind now wiping through my hair, the sun beating on my skin and nothing but 1200cc of pure American horse power between my legs and only a long lonely Texas road before me the nostalgia of the whole experience begins to set in. Perhaps James Dean or Emerson can sum it up better, but there is a combination of freedom, exhilaration, and Americana that can only be created in its right proportions with the aid of motorcycle, empty roads, and hokey small towns. Side effects however include sore bums, and a mouth full of gnats, but still worth every tender bit of protein.


To break up the ride I stayed in Sweetwater Texas, pretty much half way between Clovis and San Antonio. Sweetwater’s claim to fame is that it is the center of the western hemispheres largest concentration of wind powered turbines. In some directions theses colossal starship like three bladed towers stretch for as far as can be seen. Sweetwater itself despite being the largest town between Clovis and SA at least on my route was not as impressive. There were plenty of options in highway motels. A few miles back at a truck stop someone told me if I was really in the mood for a “treat” to stay at the Days Inn, but this fine gent did warn me that they did have a pretty kickin bar and I might not get an early start the next day.


Armed with a piece of insider travel advice from this seasoned trucker I pulled up to the Days Inn expecting a relaxing hotel, yet wild Vegas night life. Strange that this clubbing resort/spa looked very similar to a run down motel. Turns out that the attached sports bar at the Days Inn was the only bar in town and quite the hot spot according to the owner.  After negotiating a room I attempted to unlock my door with the keycard only to be meet by an angry red light, after several attempts a women opens the door half asleep and looking rather irritated at me. Turns out she was staying there and paying by the week and had no idea why they would try and rent out her weekly apartment. The woman at the front desk realized the computing error that had been made and redirected me to a different room.


Upon arrival to my new vacant room one of the motel minions was in the room changing all the light bulbs, but left the door open allowing a healthy swarm of flies and various winged creatures in my room. After scuffing at this I asked if he could bring me a fly swatter. After about 30 minutes he comes back with an air filter and two cans of insect killer spray. I’m not sure what the air filter was for, but I didn’t want to poison myself so I elected to deal with the infestation on my own terms. Although the place was otherwise fairly well maintained I do wonder what this trucker considered a dump?


Resisting the 50’s something redneck crowd at the motel bar I managed to get to sleep at a decent time and got on the road at 7am the next day. Riding early in the morning with the sun barely peeking over the horizon proved to be a smart decision. I managed to keep all my gear on until arriving in Clovis around noon without ever feeling overheated. The only challenge of the ride was staying awake, with long straight roads and nothing but flat fields of grain I longed for a curve.


As a whole I enjoyed the ride, but I can understand why most riders that take frequent cross country trips don’t own small sportsters. I just don’t think I will ever be able to bring myself to buy one of those giant bikes that have all the amenities of a modern day living room. Maybe my butt will toughen up before the next time I move. Although the idea of a cappuccino machine on my bike with reclining seats now seems quite appealing.

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