Monday night, John and I meet up at the park with our friend Kyle who brings some balancing toys. Each of them have a few months unicycling experience, and I, none. I’ve wanted to learn how to unicycle for years now, but never took the initiative. I make a good amount of progress over the first hour. I can’t stay balanced for more than a few feet before having to bail. Physically and mentally wore out, I jump on Kyle’s creation, The Tall Texan, and cruise away from my mosquito swarm in the cool night air.

A few helpful tips if you ever have the pleasure of taking The Tall Texan for a spin: Don’t lean back (notice the seat position directly above the rear axle) and don’t lean too far into turns. Before our night ends I’m introduced to Lucas and Brandy, who allow John and I to try on Freemason hats they acquired. Later in the week, I’m challenged twice in this very house to two 4-person chess matches.

Tuesday I get a call from Tejas Motorsports. I’m told the oil pressure measurements that were taken are to spec. They notice what I had known, that the oil is very used, and recommend a change. Having not paid for an oil change in years, I’m a bit hesitant, but there was a discount so I indulged. I come to find out later my stainless steel filter was replaced by a paper filter. Had I been told that in the agreement of the oil change over the phone, I would have gladly given them the new one I’ve been stowing since leaving North Carolina. Wednesday brings another call from Tejas, this time letting me know after 20 miles test driving they couldn’t induce the problem I described. Tomorrow is the earliest I can make it there, so after John gets off work, he takes me to stay with Whitney in Houston for the night. Whitney drops me off the next morning at the shop and I find out in addition to replacing my filter without telling me, they also had no 10W-50 oil and used 10W-60 instead.

I push my bike to the limits that normally induce the pressure problem, but it’s now nowhere to be found. From my experiences in Georgia and North Carolina, I knew using a paper filter and stretching the oil pressure relief spring lessened the occurrence. This newer, heavier-weight (more viscous) oil in combination with these two changes may be making it even more difficult to induce the symptoms. I have a feeling this is going to creep up again. I still want to eliminate the oil return valve as being the problem, so I put that part on order with the intention of replacing it during my next oil change.

Something I first noticed in North Carolina while I had my front cylinder exhaust manifold removed was a coating of oil in the exhaust port of the cylinder head. I also noticed at Tejas, the first half-minute warming up, gray exhaust is seen coming from the rear cylinder exhaust. It was pointed by a family member in Tennessee that this could be a symptom of a bad piston oil seal. I, not being familiar enough with KTMs to say this as an excessive amount of oil, ask the mechanic at Tejas about it. He doesn’t see many 950s either and is hesitant to say it’s abnormal. This is the last shop I’ll be at in the US, so I have a strong desire to get everything sussed. I request a cylinder leakage test to be performed, and to save on labor cost, I remove the crash bars, gas tanks, and fairings myself. I quench my hunger and practice Spanish at a Mexican restaurant across the street and return to find the results from the leak down test. Each cylinder measured <5% leakage. This amount of leakage is common for an engine in great condition. I’m satisfied the tests show no major problem is afoot. I put everything I took off back on and ask the damage. I ride away with my savings $300 lighter for an oil change and a lot of piece of mind.

Friday, John and I plan to eat dinner at Tomo, a sushi restaurant in Houston. Anticipation easily helps me build an appetite. We meet with Whitney and a friend, Brent, at Tomo, and after a delicious sashimi and sushi dinner, John and I are off to catch a theater performance of The Good Woman of Szechwan at Brazosport College back in Lake Jackson. We are running 10 minutes late, and with 30 miles left, are pulled over by a Brazoria County Sheriff. He measured us going 3 mph over the 65mph limit and begins hassling us as soon as he approaches our window. We are both polite and respectful, and he has no basis to suspect we are hiding anything illegal, yet he takes us both out of the car and frisks us. We feel we have been cooperative until this point, believe strongly in our right to privacy, and are already late for our play, so refuse his request to search our vehicle without a warrant. Not satisfied with our response, he detains us while a drug-sniffing dog is dispatched. In the meantime, three more police cars with at least four more officers arrive. I’m put into handcuffs for their safety. I don’t know, maybe I intimidate the five of them.

Even though we are separated, John and I psychically agree to make each officer who interacts with us understand our point of view (para demostrar que son cabrónes). We let it be known that our 10 minute late arrival might now turn into missing the entire theater production. We mention my motorcycle trip and that it has been great up until now and this is the worst experience yet. We continue to let them know they’re wasting both of our time. There are crimes happening with real victims, but two guys going 3 mph over the speed limit are going to be a wasteful distraction to keep more than five officers from fulfilling their true duty to protect and serve.

The dog arrives and after at least two passes around the car, the trainer says there was a signal for the trunk. For the next twenty minutes I watch four round, flashlight-toting officers in cowboy hats tear apart John’s car. Sorry, no photos, I was in handcuffs. They rip off body panels, pull up the trunk interior, go through my entire backpack, and so on, invading every corner of the car. Their search of course ends drugless, and without an apology, we are told that at one time there must have been Dope in our car’s trunk. The officer is tongue-tied and doesn’t know how to respond to John’s question of how he can cover up or clean that smell so next time he isn’t hassled like this if he’s ever pulled over again. He says there’s nothing that he knows of. Disgusted, we get back on the road an fixate our attention to the play. We arrive an hour late for what turns out to be a three-hour production. The remaining 2/3 at least is an alright performance. It helps bring back the spirit of the evening.

The Brazoria County Fair is in town for the next few weeks. John hasn’t gone since he was a small child, so we plan to meet Whitney and our friend from sushi the previous night, for a Saturday afternoon of carnies and dangerous, rickety rides. Whitney and Brent are the first to feel queasy after the Starship 2000 (AKA, Gravitron). I manage to hang on until after the Kamikaze. I keep things slow for the rest of the afternoon and eventually regain my composure.

John, having the hardiest of our four stomachs, manages to convince Whitney to venture into a metal cage of the Zipper with him. He makes it through the majority of the ride without incident. Near the end, the ride comes to a stop near the top. His head starts spinning and his saliva glands begin pumping (you know that feeling?). He manages to keep his composure and makes it through the rest of the ride. We’ve all nearly gotten sick at some point by now, so we’ve reached our goal (¿?) and we’re done at the fair. Following my lead, the four of us quickly and covertly scalp our ride wristbands at the ticket booth line for 75% their cost. We say goodbye to Brent and the three of us head the 2+ hours north toward Plantersville, to camp for the night with friends at the Texas Renaissance Festival.

We arrive well after sundown, and after some iffy directions, find our party and raise our tents in the dark. The evening lasts much longer into the night. We meander to a large bonfire and drum circle, where many interesting people are met and fire spinning is abundant. I spin fire poi twice at the large bonfire and I’m met with the largest crowd response I’ve ever experienced. It’s certainly not my largest audience, as I’ve spun at Florida Preheat and Afterburn, but with dozes of other equal- and higher-skilled performers at the same time. From what I see here, I’m one of the more experienced spinners and am spinning solely in front of a large group of rowdy, drunken Texans. The flames are bright and what’s beyond them is not easy to see. I notice only for a few moments the large crowd of people that’s forming. Finishing, I receive a huge applause. The volume of it catches me off guard. It’s very unexpected. My second burn has an equally large applause, but while trying to spin out the last flaming wick, the entire poi slips from my grasp and flies into the darkness! I’ve never had this dangerous and embarrassing of a mishap. Luckily it extinguished as it left my hand, had a high trajectory, didn’t hit anyone, and most were looking away by this point. Whew! I didn’t see where it went, but am taken the 40+ feet to its place of impact by someone who did.

After spinning, I open a cold brew and mingle. Soon after, I see a girl approach my friends, limping. I notice her left leg is badly burned. I then recognize her as Rachel and is a part of our party. We had met her earlier in the week in Lake Jackson at one of Coco’s house parties. No one at our camp has a first aid kit and I don’t have my bike with its comprehensive kit, but I remember I’m carrying my smaller kit in my backpack, specifically made to care for burn wounds. We get a ride back to the camp, and I clean out her wounds with fresh water and soap. There are three third-degree burns, 2 to 7 cm in length, from her ankle to her knee, and one large second-degree burn around the ankle burn. I apply neosporin before bandaging and taping her wounds to reduce the risk of infection.

I sit for a couple more hours around our camp’s fire before retire to my tent. I’m out cold. I wake up to the sun sweating me out of my tent, well rested and hungry. I prepare and eat a breakfast of sliced avocado on kalamata olive bread, throw some apples and a cliff bar into my camelbak, and head into the festival. Although much larger than the RenFest I’m used to in Deerfield Beach, FL, not much about Renaissance history has changed, so I’m met with a familiar crowd.

After an eventful weekend, John’s work week begins again. I fill the time waiting for my part by tying up loose ends. These include but are not limited to, spray sealing my tent’s rain fly, creating a decoy wallet, printing and laminating important documents, pre-registering for a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit into Mexico, applying for Mexican motorcycle insurance, updating my paper journal’s currency exchange rate page, and livening up my gray top case with some sticker art created by a friend and Houston artist, Billy Jewkes.

Aha! The obligatory motorcycle pictures. I know my riding is lacking, and that makes for a piss-poor ride report for some, but don’t fret. My desire to continue south is still burning strong. It will pick up once I’m back on my bike, the way I like it- without a clear destination. I’ve enjoyed staying with my friend John, and I thank him and his roommates for their generosity, but with the arrival of my part any day now, I’ll soon be Mexico-bound.

Hasta la próxima publicación, Cuidate!

Kyle Gabriel

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