(A re-post of a blog entry I made several years ago that was picked up by a couple of different motorcycle sites)
We were blessed with a rare, spring day, in the middle of February with temperatures in the mid 70’s. The Harley had been sitting in the garage under a tarp for quite a while now as the wet winter has prohibited it’s use for quite some time with any level of comfort. It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get my Mrs. to agree to a long afternoon ride in order to enjoy the warm weather. With great enthusiasm I pulled off the tarp protecting my 2013 Electric Glide Classic. The cover had done it’s job as the bike was fairly clean. After a quick wipe off with a duster, a cleaning of the windshield, and the re-attachment of the CB and radio antennas she was ready to go. I unlocked the ignition, pulled up the kickstand and backed her out of the garage into the warm sunlight. She looked as good as the day I had bought her. Opening the back luggage compartment I was greeted with the smell of leather as I fished out my riding gloves and glasses. I replaced them with a few bottles of water for the trip and locked the compartment up. By this time the Mrs. had made her way outside and was fashionably placing her pink helmet on top of a long pony tail of blond hair. The driver side window of my car in the driveway served as a suitable mirror to make sure everything was in place. The weather was very warm for this time of year so we chose to forgo the riding jackets this trip, thinking the long sleeve shirts would be enough to remove any nip in the air. After the Mrs. was primped and approving of her appearance we did a quick safety check of the bike and ourselves and climbed aboard for what hoped to be a great afternoon of riding.
The destination I had in mind was the old Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge by the Texas and Oklahoma border. I had seen pictures of it from others in the local Panther Creek Harley Owner’s Group Chapter and it looked like a great place for a visit. Looking up the route on the computer showed a few different options, the most interesting one taking the back roads. The route on the highway would get me there faster but who was in a hurry? Besides, back roads were built for motorcycles. In Texas, they are called “FM”, which stands for “Farm to Market” roads. In the biker’s mind, however, FM stood for “Fun for Motorcycles”.
With the Mrs. and I firmly in our seats I clicked the run switch and fired up the motor. The dash and dials all came to life, and in unison with the engine, screamed “All Systems Go”. After a couple of revs of the big 103 engine to get the dogs in the neighborhood barking I tapped it into gear and off we went. We rolled through the neighborhood easily and on to Highway 75 north. The bike purred along while the wind rolled over the black bat-wing fairing and our heads with little notice. Traffic was light which made the ride up the freeway a very pleasant one until we reached the north side of McKinney where the freeway was under construction. Crews had a bridge shut down which forced everyone over to the service road which meant we were going to be delayed. It really didn’t matter to us as we were in no hurry. We slowly took our time in the line of traffic, alternating between first gear and boot power, waiting for our turn at the merge point to get past the construction. Cars next to us would give us mixed looks. Some would smile at the black bike and passengers out for a ride, while others looked a little annoyed at the engine sounds, as if we were interrupting their enjoyment of the day. We saw more than one car with windows down decide to raise them up as we passed by. Their loss.
We finally broke free of the traffic at the merge point and weaved our way through some temporary lanes through the construction zones. What a mess. The traffic and the narrowness of the lanes kept me relegated to fourth gear as we crawled our way through. Just as we reached the end of the construction zone our exit to highway 121 lay ahead. Laying on the throttle brought forth that low growl that every Harley rider loves to hear as we accelerated rapidly into the soft curve that drops us on the highway. 121 west of 75 is a fairly straight shot with a lot of hills in the mix, with only a few stoplights scattered here and there to slow you down. We kept north by northeast on 121 until we reached TX-160 which turned us due north for the Texas border with Oklahoma. TX-160 turned into Highway 69 in Whiteright which led us to Bells, Texas, where we stopped for a quick check of the map as this is where the route gets a little tricky. 69 to 1897, then to 1753 east, and then a quick turn to Carpenter’s Bluff Road. It was obvious that Grayson County has been ignoring Carpenter’s Bluff Road for many, many years, as it was strewn with bumps and holes. This made navigation a bit tricky at times as the road wound north, then east, then north again. Our last turn to the north brought us over a couple of bridges and then we could see the Red River ahead of us. The road turned east again when we met up with the river and took us through a rural area dotted with small homes and farms. The clean air had a bit of a “farm” smell to it now as cattle seemed to be the bumper crop of this area. As we rolled down the road we could see through the trees our destination, the Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge.
I looked up Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge on Wikipedia to learn more about it. Completed in 1910, it was originally used for the railroad with what is called a “wagon shelf” on the east side for foot and horse traffic. In 1965 the bridge was closed to rail traffic and handed over to Grayson and Bryan Counties who converted the bridge for vehicle traffic. It is a very narrow bridge, allowing for only one car at a time. The wagon shelf is closed due to age and deterioration.
To our surprise, we discovered the Carpenter’s Bluff Junction Country Store at the entrance to the bridge. We were quite amused and happy to find this little convienence store out in the middle of no where. Well, at least for us, it seemed like the middle of nowhere. Carpenter’s Bluff does boast a population of 120 souls so I guess you do need some sort of country store to support the population?
After pulling into the dirt parking lot we removed our gear and took a walk around and snapping a pictures. There is a historical marker here that gives a lot of information about the bridge. We observed quite a bit of traffic on the bridge which I guess should not surprise us as I am sure the next closest bridge into Oklahoma was many miles away. After checking in on Facebook to note our position on a map with our friends (you have to do that to make the trip official, right?), we wandered into the Country Store to see what it was all about. While the Mrs. took happy advantage to their indoor plumbing for a restroom break, I purchased a few cold drinks and chatted it up with the two ladies behind the counter. I regret that I cannot remember their names, but they were just as friendly as you would expect in a rural Texas town. They said their store does see a bit of business, mostly on the weekends, and they get a lot of bikers in and out. They even offer a 10% discount on anything in the store if you ride in on a motorcycle. This made my $4 purchase of an RC Cola and a Sprite slightly easier to swallow. On the stove in the little kitchen behind where the ladies sat I could see some sort of cobbler keeping warm. If I was hungry I would have definitely given it a try.
After giving our thanks to the proprietors and saying our goodbyes, we strolled out to the lot and spent some time at the picnic table there to finish our sodas. The sun was warm and there was a light breeze and we just sat and watched the river go by, along with the occasional pickup truck over the bridge. We both remarked that we will have to come back here in the spring when everything is green as we would bet the scenery changes drastically. After finishing our drinks and donning our safety gear, we climbed back on the bike, woke up a willing engine, and took off south back to reality. The ride seemed shorter on the way home as it almost always seems to do. The sun was just starting to go down and the wind that had kept us comfortable on the way out was blowing right in our face on the way back south. I could feel the Mrs. keep her hands on my back as she leaned in a little closer to me in an effort to keep warm as we rolled down the highway. That’s a great feeling.
All in all we were only gone about three hours, putting about 120 miles on the bike that day. It was no major road trip, no wild jaunt into the wilderness, just a casual ride to an old bridge on an old river, but it was the highlight of our weekend. Riding on days like that really helps you put things into perspective, what is important, what is not, and allows you to clear your head and see things perhaps a bit differently. It’s also a time to reflect on the beauty of this place that God has created for us to inhabit for such a short time. Riding might not be the only way to experience this but it is certainly my favorite.
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands..” — Psalm 19:1 NIV