Scout's Honor Cross-Country Motorcycle Ride, Part 4: Texas

Eastern New Mexico To West Texas: Long Roads & Daydreams

Everybody wants to sit on a motorcycle.
Out of gas with nowhere to go, we rolled into a small Apache Indian reservation where New Mexico meets Texas. A local man insisted we take a photo of his son on our Indian. And so we obliged.©Motorcyclist

Editor's note: Justin Coffey and Kyra Sacdalan, partners in the travel documentary company WESTX1000, are taking on a new challenge with the help of Motorcyclist—leaving behind their lightweight dual sports to wrangle a pair of Indian Scouts across the country, from California to Daytona. Follow along...

Scout's Honor ride, New Mexico
While New Mexico may seem devoid of any elevation at first glance, don’t be fooled by the map, tall tops are just around the corner.©Motorcyclist

We sat stagnant in Arizona for so long that the excitement of riding across the country to parts unknown nearly left me. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but for weeks I stood on my toes leaning east - ready to take off at a moment’s notice. The flag finally waved mid-March. Immediately, as if no time had passed since my first ride from California, a spark ignited in my belly. With a renewed spirit, I dressed in my gear and was flying down Highway 60 before the Scout Sixty’s rubber could warm up. Nothing was stopping us. Our initial target: Holloman Air Force Base to visit old friends we’d made during a four-month trip to Japan. We would be greeted by the Security Forces Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Day and his equally armed lady. The last time we four were together, Day made us the best brisket ever to pass our lips and then facilitated a once-in-a-lifetime assault by a Belgian Malinois - but that’s a different story.

Scout's Honor ride, mega RV on the highway
The American Dream; maybe a bit too much? But who are we to throw stones? Roll on, mega RV man!©Motorcyclist

Miles behind us, tires tempered and daydreams accumulating, a Ken Burn's program on "The West" had me reflecting on our journey in the opposite direction. Convoys crossing a vast and mysterious country, as it once was. The importance at that time far greater than we know now, well before road trips became synonymous with leisure. But as Justin and I powered the Indians through the high desert towards our first destination in months, the films had me filled with reverie as the blue skies and growing peaks panned slowly down into my imagined sequence. Wagon wheels rolled by slowly over the dusty valley of new terrains not yet a state. I pictured their long journey from an eastern world they knew to a western life that no one could predict. The struggle and sacrifice, the danger and loss. Theirs was passage of pioneers. We'd encounter discomfort, close calls, and disparate cultures, but could I really call our trip an "adventure?" I wouldn't dare - not for a little while at least.

Scout's Honor ride, Holloman Air Force Base
Last light on our way to the Holloman Air Force Base – the white sands provided an interesting contrast to the dry desert we’d seen for days.©Motorcyclist

My thoughts then dwelled further to the evolution of travel, during an era at the end of a great war, when motorcycles would become the answer to “by all means necessary.” The first 400-mile ride taught me something well before I knew what I’d learned: Boredom is a rider’s worst enemy. I had been in a lull for hours when the dazzling white ocean opening up through the canyon pulled me back to reality, setting my sight on a mirage. Horizons ahead felt boundless from our vantage point as we crested St. Augustine Pass. We soared towards the illusion of a vast sea I soon realized was a national monument, a testing ground for mighty weapons and a graveyard for the foolhardy and ill-prepared. The White Sands Missile Range and Monument were all that stood between us and Holloman Air Force Base, yet it would still be over an hour before our arrival. But the time soon came when the most prominent man in Air Force local security would lead us unquestioned through the gates of the United States’ pride testing and training facilities.

Scout's Honor ride, headed to Austin
Pit stop somewhere outside of Austin, TX. It might not look like much, but that’s everything we need to cross the country.©Motorcyclist

"Pass through Cloudcroft on your way to Odessa. And when you do, stop at Mad Jack's BBQ." Apparently, it's best to take brisket advice from an expert. A blaring sun flickered off the desert behind us as we rode our Scouts into an unexpected landscape almost 8,000 feet into the azure. "Cloud" indeed. Cool air snuck between my cuffs in either direction and gave the newly unfamiliar feeling of goosebumps along my arms and ankles. I'd missed this. Trees. Pines especially. For the first part of our expedition, imaginations were put on hold while the marvelous mountains gripped our attention at the nape of our necks. As suggested, we parked the Indians outside of Mad Jack's, sure that we weren't too hungry. Right. Inside, an unorthodox menu hung above us, and yet we were still foolish enough to claim no appetite. But from reading the hand-held scribbles on cardboard to licking our fingers clean of devoured brisket and baby-backs, we were only there maybe half an hour. Clearly, we weren't hungry... Bidding adieu to Jack as he diced up delicious cooked meats onto parchment paper and served his eager patrons, Justin and I vowed (maybe for the third time), "We'll be back."

Scout's Honor ride, Butler maps
Our buddies at Butler Maps helped us find the best way from Odessa to Austin.©Motorcyclist

The Scout and Scout Sixty swiftly descended into hilly horse ranches - beautiful and still as if the world was once again rid of people. Farther, we rolled through broad pastures of golden straw smelling of bread and cows. By then, I began to feel the consequences of sitting rigid for several hours over several days, and though I wasn't in pain exactly, my thoughts began to drift away again unwittingly to save my consciousness from any present suffering. Even the smallest amount of vibration, if continuous, can make your ears ring and appendages numb. The line dividing New Mexico and Texas was where I withstood a pain even the best of fantasies couldn't prevent me from acknowledging. Pushing into the wind with my shoulders, I struggled with a powerful element that swept across the thousand-acre oil fields growing brutish before striking us in the side. I'm ignorant, really, of the best tactic to defeat such a bully. Do I slow down and let the constant pressure swing me back and forth like a pendulum? Or fly as fast as the engine will permit, risking a duel with strong gusts which threaten to end my ride, if not my life? Either way, I could lose the battle. Screw it. I bit down, dropped my wrist and took off praying. Better to get out fast and suffer short, right? Or so I hoped.

Scout's Honor ride, Scout windscreens
Shake, rattle and roll… Loctite would have been a dynamite idea for the windscreen fasteners.©Motorcyclist

Riding isn’t for the faint of heart. And riding cruisers like they’re world travelers is a thing reserved for masochists. Justin and I could relate. Though we wouldn’t know the extent of our brutality ‘til hot water hit the wounds at our next hotel. The sting, a reminder of the significance if only just to us. That next hotel, the “MCM Fundome,” was a place I never knew I wanted to go. It’s a bizarre funland for exhausted parents to set their animated offspring free to play Put-Put or swim or climb through a playset modeled after McDonald’s PlayPlace while they took advantage of the 5 to 7 “free drinks” special in the hotel bar. What a wonderfully weird place that was. We stared at the sullen faces under tacky dance hall lights being bombarded by the high decibel of the sound system before making some new acquaintances. As with anything truly delightful, our encounter with a couple enthused by Indian motorcycles and on the road to leave an empty nest behind was both unexpected and enlightening. With another goodbye in the bank, we waved as we made our way to Hill Country.

Scout's Honor ride, Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country: An absolute gem settled between the dusty plains that precede it.©Motorcyclist

It was worth it. Every blister, bruise and stiff muscle. The dry eyes and runny nose. The Texas Hill country took me by surprise, and it’ll never leave my memory. We had been enduring the drab landscape of West Texas for far too long. As if the gates had opened before us, we rolled into a whirling paradise hiding amidst a dusty hell. Like Dorothy, we skipped down the golden road laid between emerald greens all the way to Austin. Without the help of Butler Map’s certified G1, G2 and G3 routes we would have continued a moderately uneventful trek on Interstate 20 through an increasingly beautiful area for which we wouldn’t quite be able to appreciate. I assume. Because we followed the Pied Piper like hopeful doe-eyed youths, we were fortunate enough to find Lago Vista. It was the final passage in a 112-mile series of windy, graded roads with epic views carved through game preserves, huge private properties and between the fingers of a massive lake like a rollercoaster at an amusement park. And I was quite amused. We relaxed our speed from 80 to 30 absorbing the experience, the fresh scent, the mist from the water giving off an impression like the ocean, and the silence. It was another one of those moments that forced me to reflect. If this “trip” were to be deemed an “adventure,” it would need a lesson, and in the end, a message to enlighten me.

So what has the Scout's Honor ride taught me so far?

That the greatest things in life are worth a lot of labor and a little patience. That wind is a bitch, but lethargy is deadly. But most of all, that I have so much left to learn.

Scout's Honor ride, Texas Hill Country
The camera can’t quite capture the roller-coaster ride that is Hill Country on the road to Austin.©Motorcyclist
Scout's Honor ride, Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas: An oasis for those seeking craft, curation and creativity in a state long known for its steadfast traditions.©Motorcyclist