The Reindeer Ride
December 1996 & January 1997

Other Reindeer Riders:
Jon Diaz
Ira Agins
Arno Jones
Larry Fears
Butch Hays
Greg Pink
Mike Cornett

From: Mike Cornett
Date: January 1997

This is Mike Cornett's version of the Reindeer Ride. I am intimidated in trying to describe the trip as well as Jon Diaz, Larry Fears, and Greg Pink. But, the trip was too great not to say something about it. I get a lot of grief about the time off I have as a college professor and there are some things I could say to dispel the myth, but in this case they sound pretty lame.

I'm not even sure who thought of this idea of a holiday ride or who came up with the name Reindeer Riders, but the ride not only gave me the opportunity for the ride of a lifetime, but the chance to exchange a ton of e-mail and get to know a lot of super people a lot better. My first objective was to get out of Chicago as soon as possible. My last final exam was scheduled for Wednesday, December 11. The class was an upper division class in political campaign communication and met one night a week. Since I had required my class to do research on the Internet and all Loyola students have e-mail accounts, I got the idea
Larry Fears, Mike Cornett, Jon Diaz & Greg Pink
Share Christmas Day in Big Bend, Texas

of giving my test by e-mail. Hmmmm, advantage to them to not have to drive into downtown Chicago; advantage to me to stay home and get my packing done. It was to be an "open book" exam anyway, so at 6:00 p.m. I e-mailed them the questions and by 8:00 p.m. they had e-mailed me back their answers. In addition to the other advantages, I got to read exams that were typed and spell checked. Some did better than others, but they all passed.

My new (2 miles on it the end of September) '95 K1100LT has it's 6,000 mile service and is running like a dream. Early the next morning I was out of here in the only two days of rain I had on the whole trip. By Louisville the rain had stopped. My goal was to make my brother's house in Shelbyville, TN in time for dinner. Of course, there was an opportunity for a stamp at the Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

On Dec. 30, 1862, Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans leading the Union army camped at Murfreesboro planning the next day to sweep aside Gen. Braxton Bragg's Confederate army on the way to Chattanooga. The armies were close enough that they engaged in a "battle of the bands" that night--"Dixie" trying to drown out "Yankee Doodle." Some band struck up "Home Sweet Home" and tough soldiers from both armies joined in. The next morning the Confederates attacked and in spite of greater losses, the Union army held. Losses were heavy--23,000 on both sides. There was no celebration that New Year's Eve. Eventually Bragg retreated and Rosecrans occupied Murfreesboro and provided the base for campaigns against Chattanooga and eventually Atlanta.

On a happier note, I enjoyed a good dinner with my brother and his family and got a late start the next day. My plans to get the stamp at the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield were thwarted when I foolishly forgot the time change. However, that disappointment is more than compensated for with a great stay at Pat and Linda Roddy's beautiful home in Buford, Georgia. The next morning early Pat and I left for Charleston, SC, and a meeting with Greg Pink who came north from Tampa that day to get the stamps. We arrived at the Charles Pinckney home within 30 seconds of each other and Pat got his first stamp. I love "infecting" people with this stamp business. We continued and got the stamps for Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter and then had a leisurely ride into Savannah for the first of several fun presidential gatherings on this trip. After the food and festivities and a little sleep we all headed in different directions. Greg had to teach for another week and besides he has all those stamps along the Southeast coast. Dave Roof and I rode to Fort Pulaski on a beautiful morning. While he explored the fort in more depth, I headed south and got stamps from Fort Frederica (Gen. Oglethorpe's first settlement in Georgia), the Cumberland Islands National Seashore, the Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve and Fort Caroline, both in Jacksonville, FL. On the way down to my friend Rita's house in Orlando I stupidly forgot about the stamps at St. Augustine and Fort Matanzas. Since I didn't want to drive all the way back up there the next day I stopped in a "less expensive" motel for the night.

Again the morning was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed getting those stamps plus the one for the Canaveral National Seashore. I especially enjoyed the fact that while riding up I-95 about 90mph on the license of a young lady in a black Mitsubishi Diamante I was passed by a Florida Hwy Patrol car doing about 120 on his way to pulling over the aforementioned young lady. The first of many bullets dodged on this trip.

I had a good visit with Rita (a friend from college days) that night and the next morning I go into BMW Orlando for new tires. I will see if the highly touted Dunlop 491s are really that great. (8,000 miles later I concluded they are.) The service was efficient and they took me right away. My buddy Rick Landi was working there for a little while between opportunities and he loaned me his car to go to Perkins for breakfast. Readers will quickly note the common thread of food running through reports of the Reindeer Ride. A lazy ride to Tallahassee (I have two graduate degrees and good memories from FSU) and I arrived in time to run, eat, and see a movie. The next day I rode my second day in the rain over to Corky Reed's place in L.A. (lower Alabama). I was having withdrawal from a whole day without stamps, so I stopped at the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola and also Fort Barrancas.

The visit with Corky, Mayor of Reed's Landing, was worth the trip by itself. We played with his computer, went out for a great seafood dinner and talked nonstop. The highpoint was the SNOW. It was really coming down there for awhile and a bit farther north was sticking to roads. Naturally all the Mobile schools closed. But, what a beautiful sight is was to see snow falling on Reed's Landing and the steam rising off the river! (and my bike in the Mayor's garage)

The next morning it was COLD--especially for lower Alabama. Corky loaned me his Widder 'lectric gloves. Thanks buddy, they saved me since I had mailed some gloves and other cold weather clothes back to Chicago from Florida. I got the stamp at the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs, MS and three more in New Orleans before meeting President John Petty for dinner in the Quarter. What a super dinner. I'm sure five of my ten favorite places to eat in the U.S. are in New Orleans. John and I had never met (ain't this Internet stuff great?) and we had a great visit, though he is still trying to figure out how I got that free room in the Comfort Inn downtown. New Orleans had record (by 3 degrees) cold that night. I bailed out of a trip to Avinger, TX, to see Herb Stark since it was even colder up there. I managed to do that to him twice on this trip. Sorry, buddy, I owe you.

Part Two

I’m leaving New Orleans on a clear, sunny morning with record cold—25 degrees. It doesn’t matter. I have Corky Reed’s electric gloves and my vest is plugged in. I cruise out of town with very little traffic (remember, I live in downtown Chicago) and head north for the military battlefield park at Vicksburg where I hope to actually watch the movie! The Campaign for Vicksburg was one of the most important of the Civil War and the Union’s victory led by Ulysses S. Grant opened the Mississippi to the uninterrupted passage of troops and supplies into the heart of the South. The park is special. There is a 16 mile tour of the battlefield marked by numerous monuments to the men on both sides who fought and died there. Plan on at least two hours or even half a day to see it all.

After Vicksburg I fill up with gas, eat two cereal bars and head for Natchez to get a stamp that I find out about from the ranger and that Greg didn’t get when he was through here during Thanksgiving. On the way down I spend about an hour on the Natchez Trace, which I have ridden before, but which has a haunting beauty even in winter. Unfortunately, at the southern end of the Trace the stamp is not available during December and January. I do, however, get the stamp at Melrose, a restored antebellum plantation home that evokes memories of the wealthy cotton planters and the thousands of slaves who worked them. Natchez was the second largest slave market in the South. I arrive well before the posted closing time, but obtain the stamp only by banging on the door of the visitors’ center. They were inside "counting the money."

Cruising back to Baton Rouge on back roads I get a chance to try out my newly installed "Penetrator" twin 100 watt driving lights. Wow, I have to remember not to leave these on when oncoming traffic is within a mile. They’re a great confidence booster at night in unfamiliar areas, especially if Bambi is around.

Leaving Baton Rouge (red stick?) the next morning, I ride over to Lafayette and pick up the stamp at the Acadian Cultural Center. I think it’s Saturday, but since I’ve been on the road for over a week I’m not sure anymore. What a great feeling! The ride to Texas is uneventful, at least for me because I go with the flow. Many others are not so lucky and I see at least six people getting highway performance awards from the local "do rights"—as they are called around there. It’s true what they say about I-10 in western Louisiana. A high point for me on every trip down this way is crossing into Texas. After all, this is Texan-in-Exile #1 writing here. I zip on through Beaumont, which I didn’t like even when I lived there. Big Thicket is not far away and it’s a "whole other world" as they say in Texas. Early settlers avoided this "impenetrable woods," which at one time covered 3.5 million acres. I get my stamp, but I’m lucky I didn’t do a Pinkman and get here at opening time since they are on a more "relaxed" schedule during the holidays. The rest of the trip to Austin is leisurely, considering the speed limits on even back roads in Texas is 70 mph. The other Reindeer Riders, who are a day behind me will interpret this as meaning triple digits are okay.

So far, the trip has been an almost perfect mixture of social encounters and alone time. One of the best social experiences occurs this evening when I arrive at David Sine’s house in Austin. I get my own room, bathroom, and access to a computer with America Online. Wow, can it get any better? You bet. We go to dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants that help give Austin its reputation as the Promised Land. Besides Dave and his friend Jan, we meet Leah Larkin and a friend of a friend of her’s who is in town looking for a computer job. Sounds like a plan to me. After dinner we adjourn to a funky outdoor bar and test the skills of the bartenders in making "black and tans." Eventually they get it right, or maybe we relax our standards. Dave is driving and doesn’t touch a drop. Well, his business is risk management after all. By now I’m pretty sure it’s Saturday night.

Early in the morning I am startled awake by a deep voice saying, "Welcome, you’ve got mail." I finally figure out that Dave has scheduled a "flash session" to retrieve his mail. Back to sleep. When we finally get going we head for another Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Why don’t all restaurants serve migas, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros for breakfast. Naw, Denny’s can’t even do it right with what they have on the menu. After breakfast it’s time to head to the Lyndon B. Johnson home in (imagine this) Johnson City. Few places are as fun to ride as the Hill Country of Texas. If you’re heading for the BMW National, you’re in for a treat. I get my stamp. I drop my bike very slowly. First time. Slight scrape on the mirror, but I have touch up paint with me. Waves of stupidity wash over me. Dave and Jan don’t laugh, at least to my face. A quick ride to Lukenbach and an ice cold Dr. Pepper soothe my spirits. From Lukenbach we head for Comfort, TX, home of Arlene’s Café and some of the best pie west of the Sabine. When you get there, I hope they have the "sawdust" pie that day. Ooooooooo. The bike rolls over 10,000 miles going south out of Lukenbach on Texas 1376 through the Hill Country at triple digits. Does it get any better than this? If not, I don’t care. After the pie we zip along Texas 473 to the junction of 281 where Dave and Jan head north back toward Austin and I head south to my sister’s house in San Antonio.

The next few days I spend in San Antonio visiting my sister Patti and her husband Larry, and my mom. Mom has been living with Patti and Larry since my dad died suddenly last February. They are saints. My wife Sarah flies in from Chicago on Monday and we have a couple of days together before I leave early Christmas morning to join (finally) the other Reindeer Riders in Big Bend. I love my wife even more than I love my bike, if you can imagine that, so it is great to see her in the middle of my epic ride. Sarah actually used her raise (she’s a deputy sheriff) to buy me the new bike. You all should be so lucky!

Part Three

This is part three of my report on my participation in the now famous Reindeer Ride. I left San Antonio EARLY (well, 6:00 a.m.) on Christmas Day with thoughts of getting to Big Bend and finally joining the rest of the Reindeer Riders - Greg, Jon, and Larry. Any references to the Three Stooges (plus Shemp) will be ignored. Anyway, it was cold - in the 's. And again Corky Reed's electric gloves saved me. So did my new super driving lights since, as you can imagine, only reindeer are out that early (late?) on Christmas morning. I made excellent time and was delighted to find a gas station open in Junction and another one at Fort Stockton. In the early dawn I passed two serious tractor-trailer accidents and dropped the speed a notch, until daylight. Five and a half hours from San Antonio to park headquarters in Big Bend. Not bad. And I love those West Texas roads.

When I got to Marathon (Gateway to Big Bend only 70 miles down the road, or up) I stopped to see if I could get a late breakfast at the Gage Hotel. The only day of the year they don't serve non-guests. Too bad, like Greg says, it's not to be missed. As I walked disappointedly out of the Gage I saw a yellow K1100RS zip through town and I wondered if it could be Arno leading the pack. Yep. He soon made a U-turn and headed back for a two-cigarette chat. He wasn't feeling well and had decided to head back to Tucson early. His GPS with moving map display is so cool I can't stand it.

Sure enough they had our reservations at the Chisos Mountain Lodge and I was easily in time for the Christmas lunch in the dining room. Wow, Christmas turkey dinner and all the trimmings and everything included for $8. If there is anything better than good food, it's good food CHEAP. While I was eating, some real Reindeer Riders came up to the window - Rangers riding horses with reindeer horns on them. It was either run out and take their pictures and let my food get cold or. . . I didn't get the pictures. After lunch I sat in the sun by the cabin and figured my mileage for awhile. Not good that morning for sure. By now I'm wondering where the guys are so I jump on the bike and head the ten miles down from the Basin to the headquarters building, which, of course, is not open because it's Christmas! No problem for me, I already have my stamp. But, this means Greg will not be able to leave at Pinktime tomorrow morning in search of more stamps. Ah foolish me, that night Greg talks me into staying until the Ranger Station opens at 8:00 a.m. and getting a stamp for him. Fits my schedule. I think he was in New Mexico by then.

Anyway, they finally do show up after the free meal they scammed in Marathon and we have a "stimulating" ride down to Rio Grande Village, though we opted not to wade over to Mexico. The donkeys had Christmas off. That night we had a fun time at dinner in the lodge as I had my second Christmas turkey of the day.

The ride the next morning was one of the most fun times of the entire trip. I just LOVE that road - 170 - from Lajitas to Presidio. It was a perfect morning, the sun was at our backs, there were no representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety to be found, and almost no traffic. Larry was enjoying the scenery and stopping to take pictures. Jon and I were trying to get rid of those little rubber whiskers on the sides of our new tires. We succeeded. After a good lunch in Fort Davis (notable for the free pie and the very nice waitress (no "servers" out there!) we head to the Fort and another stamp. As is true for most of us "stamp collectors," I had been to Many, Many places that have stamps before I started collecting them. In fact, I stopped in Fort Davis to gas up last summer with my passport book in my pocket. At that time, I thought the only stamps that counted were from National Parks.

Didn't know about National Historical Sites, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Memorials, National Battlefields, National Battlefield Parks, National Seashores, National Scenic Riverways, and more. Another great road is 2903 from Fort Davis to Kent. Even with the 10 miles of construction it was a kick. From there to Carlsbad, NM, was another "quick trip." Greg had planned to meet us at the Super 8, but his stamp collecting had taken him too far west to return. The three of us had a fun (though the food was mediocre) dinner at Denny's.

After the "continental" breakfast at the motel we headed up to Artesia and then over the mountains by Cloudcroft and down into Alamogorda. That road was okay, but not spectacular. (I think Greg disagrees.) Our real goal was the "Spanish Kitchen" restaurant in Las Cruces. Finding it was a comedy of errors. I, myself, asked four different people and got four different answers. It was worth the search. If you're going, ask us, we'll draw you a map. Out on I-10 heading toward Tucson I managed to find a couple of people interested in warp speed and I needed to get a couple of stamps before 5:00 so I got with them. I went down the dirt road to Fort Bowie, but when I saw the sign that said you have hike 1.5 miles to the ranger station I knew I didn't have time to do that and get to the Chiricahua National Monument before they closed. Hmm, I thought, I KNOW Greg didn't get this one so I'll come back on my way home and get it. Little did I realize that Greg would sweet talk (or bribe) the woman at Chiricahua and get a "secret" map showing how to get to Fort Bowie without hiking! He managed to tell me he had the stamp before I was even off the bike in Tucson. Of course, it was the first thing I asked. That night I shared Greg's "Veggie Lover's" pizza, with only one small piece of the double pepperoni from next door.

The next day was one of my favorites of the trip. I left the motel to go to Saguaro National Park just east of Tucson. When I arrived (after passing the location of about a million mothballed planes of every description) the drizzle had stopped and a huge rainbow appeared. I took the 8-mile scenic drive and declared this my favorite park (well, one of them) of the entire trip. Leaving the park, and not finding a gas station, I decided to see how far I can go before running out. Of course, I did have an extra gallon stowed securely in the top box. The answer: 5 miles. Last summer on the Blue Ridge Parkway with Greg I managed 210 miles before the light came on! I cruised on down to the scenic Coronado National Monument and then by the PAVED road over to Nogales and the Tumacacori National Historical Site and up to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument before pulling into Skipper Brown's place in Chandler (Phoenix) about 5:00. Wow, what gracious hosts he and Kathy are. And the fun we had as we visited with other presidents from as far away as San Diego and Kansas (Paul and Voni Glaves) would be hard to top. High points: meeting a lot of neat people, some I'd corresponded with by e-mail and many others I knew about; great food (including fantastic chili and guacamole), home brew, Voni's secret presidential handshake, picking Paul's brain on technical matters, watching Larry try to talk Paul into rebuilding his bike for him (well, mostly changing the air filter).

After breakfast with Skipper and his son at a wonderful bagel place, Jon headed for San Diego and Greg and I headed for the elusive stamp at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Mexican border. It was a beautiful morning. There was hardly any traffic. You would have been tempted, too. The road looked clear when I flicked the wrist, but when I looked up from the speedo (just a quick glance to see that it was really over 130) there, out of NOWHERE, was the highway patrol car. Officer Guerocha was most pleasant in spite of the embarrassing amount of groveling we did. I will always treasure this Arizona Department of Public Safety memento of my trip. I especially like the part where it read "This warning is issued to you as a courtesy and to remind you to do your part in promoting safety on our highways by closely observing our traffic laws," and the part where it says, "posted limit: 55; approx. speed: 55+ ." After that, Organ Pipe Cactus, Highway 2 in Mexico and the run into San Diego were sort of anticlimactic. I do remember the desolation of the Mexican desert, the canyon-sized potholes, the three foot drop from the side of the road in lieu of shoulders, the horrible traffic in Mexicali, the looong wait at the border, the immigration checkpoints on the US side, and especially the arrival at Butch Hayes' house.

When we pulled up at Butch's beautiful home in San Diego, Greg and I both almost fell off our bikes from laughter. There on the garage were pictures of all the Reindeer Riders blown up large enough to see from La Jolla. We put the bikes in the garage with the carpeted floor, met a lot more interesting people, and started in on the feast that Ester and others had prepared for us. After much food and frivolity, we each retired to our own rooms. (I think Larry did have to sleep in the hall, but then I think he is the youngest.)

Butch even washed and dried clothes for us, though that may have been in self-defense. We had our own rooms, by the way, because Butch made his kids sleep in the garage with the bikes! What a prince!

This is the final report of Mike Cornett's Super Holiday Reindeer Ride. I told Greg Pink that I was tempted to just end this by just listing the stamps I got, the motels I stayed in, and the restaurants I ate at. Maybe there should be a little more than that, after all this was a wonderful opportunity and I know lots of people would like to be able to take a month-long, coast-to-coast motorcycle trip in Dec./Jan.

The morning after the festivities at Butch Hayes' home in San Diego it was time to hit the road again. But, not before getting the stamp at the Cabrillo National Monument. The monument recognizes Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, 50 years after Columbus, first explored the West Coast as far north as Oregon. He discovered San Diego, which he named San Miguel. (In fact, it seems that a later explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, later covered the same territory and renamed everything Cabrillo had named.) How unfair--though the indigenous peoples might have felt the same way about Cabrillo! When Cabrillo reached what is now Los Angeles, he named it "Bahia de los Fumos," which seems to me an entirely appropriate name for Smog City USA.

Cabrillo died of gangrene in 1543, but according to his wishes, his ship continued to sail north. At one point in the journey the ship encountered a terrible storm and the crew feared they were lost. But the sailors made a vow they if they were saved they would "go to their church stark naked." They were saved. There must be a lesson in there somewhere. Ira?

I owe a great debt to Fulton Martin who put up with me on the pillion while my bike was having some minor warrant work done at Fun Cycle (they claim to be the largest motorcycle dealer in Southern California.) The monument is in a beautiful location at the site of an old lighthouse high on point of land in San Diego Bay. We were there during the annual gray whale migrations, but even though I borrowed some binoculars from the most attractive female ranger in the entire National Park Service (in my opinion :-) I didn't see any.

Back on Fulton's GS to get my bike and by noon Greg and I were off to Santa Monica and Ventura for more stamps. This was the most tiring day of the trip for me even though it was one of the shortest. Now, I learned to drive on the freeways in the L.A. area, but that doesn't make it easier. We took turns leading the assault. To stay with the quickest traffic required speeds between 70 and 80 and a LOT of changing lanes. By some miracle we never took a wrong turn (otherwise we'd still be there.) An hour or two of this wouldn't be TOO bad, but 8 hours straight? My neck was sore by the time we got to Indio via Ventura. Oh yeah, we got stamps at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (which you will never find unless WE tell you how to get there) and the Channel Islands National Park. As far as I can tell, it would be impossible to get around on a motorcycle in Southern California without lane splitting. All in all an amazing experience. It was a lot of effort for only two stamps. Our reward was 1) we don't have to go back there for any more stamps; 2) a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Indio.

The next morning the precip we had avoided the day before caught up with us in the form of light drizzle. But, hey, we're wearing Darien jackets and we don't care. We head north from I-10 for seven miles to the Cottonwood Visitor Center at Joshua Tree National Park. By now we've learned to ask the rangers for any information that will affect our stamp quest. In this case they tell us that the person who usually runs the ranger station in the Mojave area is ill and won't be into work that day, which happens to be New Year's Eve. Greg has called ahead and ascertained that they DO have another stamp, but to get it now requires a trip to Baker and about 300 more miles than I had planned to do for the day. We split up, not expecting to see each other until next Spring at the Georgia Mountain Rally and Greg goes to get a stamp that I don't have. On the other hand, I go to get a stamp that he already has. A Mexican standoff.

Back on I-10, I AGAIN get a "rabbit" who wants to drive in the triple digits. Greg can't figure out where I find these folks. I zip toward Phoenix with a lot of people who are going to the Texas-Penn. State game in the Fiesta Bowl. Now, should I take the long, and paved, way to the Tonto National Monument or try the back way with 22 miles of dirt road--in the rain. I go for the adventure--Arizona 88, the Apace Trail. It's the steepest, narrowest, windingest dirt road I have ever ridden. But, it was fun and the scenery was spectacular. I think that's where a rock must have hit one of my driving lights and knocked it out. Tonto is in a beautiful area. I really wanted to see the ruins, even though it's about the eighth place I've been this year with interesting ruins, but alas, it's raining harder now and it's getting dark and it's an hour round trip just to the lower ruins. Another place to come back and spend more time. Onward through some neat twisty roads in the rain and the dark. Tucson and the Day's Inn look pretty good to me, but I'm not looking forward to spending New Year's Eve alone. It was not to be. A nice couple riding a K1100RS invites me to a party with some of their friends. I politely decline. (Later I look at their bike and see that it is from Alberta, has an "Alberta 2000" sticker, an Iron Butt license frame and a fuel cell. Serious rider. Just as I am unpacking the bike, Greg pulls up. We're good at that kind of timing. I didn't think he even knew where I was staying. He had put in about 700 miles for the day and I had only done 500, but I think we were equally tired. We opt for New Year's Eve dinner next door at Carl Jr.'s. It is the most forgettable meal of the entire trip. We go to sleep early and miss Dick Clark or whoever does New Years these days.

January 1 is a beautiful day. I leave only a little after Greg and head for the elusive Fort Bowie stamp about 120 miles east of Tucson. Now that I have the "secret map" finding it is no problem. I spend a lot of time here because the setting is beautiful, the history is fascinating, and the ranger is lonely. I get the first stamp of 1997! Greg explained the significance of the fort in his trip report, but the thing that interested me the most was the way they used heliographs. You know, those instruments for sending messages by flashing mirrors reflecting sunlight. Wouldn't work in Chicago, but it worked fine in Southeastern Arizona. With heliographs on all the mountain peaks the army was able to keep track of Geronimo's movements and eventually capture him.

Leaving Fort Bowie I head for El Paso. As I go through Las Cruces I debate the idea of stopping in at the Spanish Kitchen again. I keep going and get to El Paso at about 2:00--a rest day. I need the stamp from the Chamizal National Memorial, which is supposed to be open. It's not. They are doing some construction, but I find a semi-official looking worker and plead my case. He contacts the chief honcho of the place and they let me in to get my stamp. I am the ONLY person who has a Chamizal stamp dated January 1, 1997! Only two stamps today, but they are satisfying ones.

That night I patronize the best (yes, even better than the Spanish Kitchen) Mexican restaurant I have experienced the entire trip. It's off of I-10 East and it's called "Julio's." Don't miss this one, it's in a league with the Cowboy Kitchen in Williams, AZ (that story another time.)

When I leave El Paso the next morning at 5:00 I don't have to worry about construction delays going out of town. Soon I find yet another "rabbit" who wants to drive the 120 miles to Van Horn in an hour. I drive on his license all the way to breakfast. After breakfast I head into the sun toward Marfa and Marathon. I'm doing 90 and even though I pass two highway patrol cars before I see what they are, they "don't pay me no never mind." Just before I get to Del Rio, and the highly coveted stamp at the Amistad National Recreation Area, I run into thick fog. Before this I had been riding under a completely cloudless sky. Of course I get the stamp, even though that particular stamp doesn't have a '97 on it. Now comes the really, really fun part of the trip. It's my last two hundred miles and I make it count. Warning: Don't do this route unless you have a high tolerance for excitement. West from Del Rio on US 90, north on 334 to 55, then north to Camp Wood. Northeast on 337 to Leakey (here you can either go up 187 past Lost Maples St. Natural Area to 39 and then Kerrville or south on 187 to Utopia then east on 470) Or you can continue on 337 to Medina as I did. As many times as I've done these, I can't decide which way is best. The solution: ride them all. No problem if you go to MOA National in Fredericksburg nearby. I head down 16 through Bandera (lots of neat places for lunch here) to San Antonio and the official end of my journey, which started December 12. 8,000 miles and 44 new stamps. Extra special thanks to the other original Reindeer Riders--Greg Pink, Jon Diaz, and Larry Fears for making the Reindeer Ride a "peak" experience. Many thanks also to the Presidents I stayed with (Pat Roddy, Corky Reed, David Sine, Skipper Brown, Butch Hayes) and the many others who met me/us along the way. And to the many people who encouraged us and expressed interest in the trip, and some who even professed interest in reading all these reports. The trip of a lifetime.

After a few days of visiting with my mom and sister, and getting my 12,000 mile service at Alamo BMW, I jump the jet for Chicago. BUT, the bike is in Patti's garage and the second part of my round trip ticket says March 1. With wind chill temps of 50 below today, I think I can wait that long.

[Jon Diaz] [Ira Agins] [Arno Jones] [Larry Fears] [Butch Hays] [Greg Pink] [Mike Cornett]

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