February 9 2010 by Jason Fogelson
The day did not start out with promise. When I looked out the window of my room at the Best Western Ingram Park Inn in San Antonio, the rain was coming down in sheets.
After a quick shower, I packed my luggage, then availed myself of the free continental breakfast in the hotel lobby and weighed my options. I watched the Weather Channel, and noted that the southern end of the storm seemed to tail off somewhere between San Antonio and Laredo, my destination for the day. I decided that my FXRG gear was going to get a good road test.
I checked out, and asked the desk clerk to call a cab for me. Despite the rain and traffic, a taxi arrived within five minutes, and ferried me over to Caliente Harley-Davidson. In just a few minutes, I had the keys to a black 2010 Electra Glide Classic. I loaded my gear into the saddlebags and Tour Pak, and hit the road by 10:00 am.
Because of the rain and low clouds, I decided to take a direct route to Laredo via Interstate 35. I figured that I'd be less likely to encounter flooding and bad road conditions -- and besides, the low cloud cover meant that there was little to see on the roadside.
The Electra Glide Classic is a great bike, and within a few miles, my jitters about riding in the rain subsided. My FXRG jacket, pants and boots shrugged off the rain, and the windshield kept me in a calm pocket of air, with the water sailing off around me.
About an hour into the ride, the rain slowed to a drizzle. I noticed that I was approaching US 57, a rural highway that led to Eagle Pass, Texas. I got off of the superslab and headed for the back roads.
Eagle Pass was the first US settlement on the Rio Grande, established in the 1840s. The International Bridge joins Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, Mexico. The area is home to some 200,000 people, and is a very active border crossing. You can see Mexico from most points in Eagle Pass, and you can feel it everywhere.
I rode to the base of the International Bridge to get as close to Mexico as possible, then reversed course to the first restaurant I could find -- Mexican food, of course. I had a delicious plate of Barbacoa at Tio Juan's, a small, family-owned restaurant in view of the bridge. Fortified by food, I mounted up again and pressed on.
While I was eating, the skies had cleared. For the first time all day, it was blue overhead, and the tumultuous clouds took on a beautiful caste.
I picked up US 277 out of Eagle Pass, then jumped on US 83, a two-lane highway that heads to the south of Texas. Laredo was 120 miles away, and I hoped to get there before those blue skies turned grey again.
My ride took me through some scenic small towns, past ranches and cow pasture. The roads were straight and smooth, and the riding was not very challenging, but the scenery was fascinating. The speed limit on US 83 was usually 75 mph, which the Electra Glide loved.
I picked up Interstate 35 again just outside of Laredo, and rode into town. In no time at all, I located my stop for the night -- the Best Western San Isidro Inn. Celina Solis, the General Manager, greeted me warmly at the front desk. She suggested that I try Tono's Bar & Grill for dinner, a short ride away from the hotel. I unloaded the bike, freshened up a bit, and followed Celina's excellent directions to the restaurant.
Tono's turned out to be a gem of a place, hidden away in a strip mall. A welcoming, cozy place, Tono's specializes in new Mexican cuisine. I walked in with my mind set on a big Texas steak, but when I saw that quail was the evening's special, I quickly changed my mind. Those two little quail gave their lives in service of a delicious dinner, and I honored their passing by devouring them whole.
Back at the hotel now, I'm planning tomorrow's ride. The weather reports have been conflicting, some calling for more rain, some for clearing. If the storm holds off, tomorrow will be my longest ride of the trip. I'll follow the Rio Grand down to Brownsville, then follow the Gulf Coast up to Corpus Christi. If the storm persists, I'll cut straight across the state, through the desert to Corpus. Either way, it'll be a nice ride on the Electra Glide.
Miles traveled: 284