EasTex 350 – Winter Dual Sport Riding in Texas

Day 0 – Rusk, TX

While our friends in cooler climates bemoan the absence of riding weather and await the thaw of spring, we ride.  Winter in Texas is often dotted with sunny weekends and temperatures in the high 60’s.  In mid-January we planned a two-day outing to explore the back-roads of East Texas.

We loaded the smaller trailer for a short trip to the Rusk, KOA, our starting point. This trailer has a small, lock-friendly toolbox up front and just enough space for a few bikes.  It’s perfect for weekend getaways.

This small trailer is perfect for weekend getaways.

Friday evening we pulled into the Rusk, KOA before happy hour. Good timing. The campground is set among mature pines and the rolling hills of Cherokee County. Located 2 hours SE of Dallas or 2.5 hours NNE of Houston, the area has a surprising amount of elevation change. With well manicured tent sites, a clean bath-house, electricity, water, fire pits, and cabins available, it has all the amenities you’d expect from a well run pay campsite.

 

Cody enjoying the campsite

The camp host, Walter, was especially friendly.  He and his wife Nancy are from New England and have been on the road for 11 years working at campgrounds across the country.  He shared a few anecdotes from various campgrounds and made us our own pot of coffee in the morning.

Walter, the camp host at Rusk, KOA.

With the sun retreating over the horizon, we set about making dinner.  Tonight’s menu included a baked brie wheel, biscuits, and fire-grilled Italian sausages. With the truck nearby we brought a few extras to make dinner more scrumptious.

Hot biscuits fresh from the camp oven

Sausages cooking on an open flame

After the usual camp-fire stories and predictions, we headed to sleep. A light rain pitter-patted on the tent as we dozed and the thickly accumulated pine needles surrounding our site made for uniquely soft footing when seeking midnight relief.

 

Day 1 – Davy Crockett and Angelina National Forests, 194 Miles

After a breakfast of diced sausage (extra from the night before), egg whites from a carton (easier to transport than fragile eggs), and green onions (pre-cut in a Ziploc), we loaded up our bikes with sleeping bags, tent, a few snacks, and a change of clothes.

XRR loaded for an over-night trip

The roads were wet from the previous night’s rain, but it was perfect.  No dust! We set to finding the dirt route and headed south into the Davy Crockett National Forest.

The pavement ends and fun begins!

A modest rain is always a treat.  It keeps the dirt on the road and out of my nose.  However, to combat those little flecks of mud that can coat any surface, I keep a small cloth in my pocket for cleaning off visors, headlights, and tail-lights.

It’s easier to ride when you can see!

Dirty head- and tail-lights can result in unwanted attention from law enforcement, so it’s a good idea to periodically wipe them clean.

No dust on this ride, but watch out for mud.

 

Cody on one of the fine dirt roads in the Davy Crockett National Forest

After navigating through the Davey Crockett National Forest we found ourselves in Apple Springs, TX.  We gassed up, grabbed a bite of homemade beef jerky, and headed on our way.  The Harley riders next to us made some comments about the mud on our bikes.  I said, “I hope it’s muddy!”  They didn’t laugh.

East Texas is sprinkled with nice gas stations run by Brookshires. They have multiple pumps, a good grocery selection, and as we’d find on Sunday, a nice breakfast bar.

A well-stocked oasis in East Texas, Brookshire Brothers Express.

From Apple Springs we set off for the southern end of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. We traversed farmland, saw a few forest products manufacturing plants, and even a large tortoise that was probably 14″ end to end.

The turtle moved off the road before I could get my camera.

Cody on his way to dinner!

After a total of 194 miles we stopped for an early dinner at The Stump restaurant near Brookeland, TX. The nice weather meant every fishing boat in Texas was out on the lake and now they were coming in for dinner.  Every model and year of Ranger bass fishing boat was represented in that parking lot.  To those fisherman we must have looked like astronauts clomping around in our boots and protective gear.

View looking north of Lake Sam Rayburn

Without a doubt The Stump has the best onion rings I’ve ever had.  I wasn’t about to share.

The Stump has excellent onion rings

After dinner we made our way a few minute ride up the east side of the Sam Rayburn reservoir to the Brookeland/Lake Sam Rayburn KOA.

Lodging at the end of Day 1 near Brookeland, TX / Lake Sam Rayburn

The sites weren’t as well maintained as the ones in Rusk, but we were the only tent campers and had the area to ourselves.

Campsite at Lake Sam Rayburn KOA

I have the ability to sleep almost anywhere…and fast.  Although our campground was serenaded by late night rap music, burn-outs, and barking dogs, Cody said I was asleep and snoring in 15 seconds. Bless him for not punching me.

 

Day 2 – Sam Rayburn to Rusk, 151 Miles

We awoke at 5:45 and packed our gear to get an early start. Sunrise was at 7:21, but we were rolling as the sky began to lighten at 7am.

We stopped for breakfast at a road-side Brookshires Express at about 8am. One of the things we love about motorcycle travel is how accessible you are to others. Everybody loves to comment, make a joke, or ask a question.  This morning was no exception. As we pulled off our helmets a woman dressed in her work uniform and apron stood smoking a cigarette by the front door. As soon as she caught our eye she belted out, “hold on boys I’ll run inside and git-my-sister!”.  We laughed and said we’d be heading off in 15 minutes if she wanted to join. Thank goodness we didn’t have a taker.

This Brookshires Express has a good breakfast bar and some surly staff.

Brookshire Express has a good breakfast bar

Making our way north we headed around Lake Sam Rayburn and connected with Haynesville lease roads crisscrossing San Augustine county.  Sometimes we traversed the terrain on one wheel.

Navigating lease roads in St. Augustine County

Wooden bridges like this dot the route

After a few more miles and a gas stop in Garrison we made our way back to Rusk and the KOA.

Welcome sign for the Rusk, KOA

 

This was Cody’s first multi-day dual sport ride on his XR650L. A few changes are in order. To start, he plans a higher seat to expand the cockpit. He also plans to  adjust the clutch and brake levers down for more comfort while standing, purchase padded under garments, and add a proper rack and tank-bag.

Cody’s XR650L

 

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