The Lone Star State, Texas

We confess, we didn't really know much about Texas, other than that there is lots of oil under it, that it is Mr. George W. Bush's home State and it is the place where most of the cowboy/western movies are based on… Well, here comes the surprise: while all of the above is true, Texas also sports a landscape diversity that lets your jaw drop – traveling from east to west, one can observe terrain that ranges from coastal swamps and piney woods, to rolling plains and rugged hills, and finally the desert and mountains of the Big Bend. Texas is also nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as a former independent republic and as a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today. More facts here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Star_State

Then we were confronted with a number of contrasts – large cattle feed lots between hundreds of oils pumps pumping away next to large wind farms (and we're talking about 100+ turbines per cluster!). Then there was pristine nature broken up by massive industrial complexes (in particular around Houston), and by massive I mean half a dozen of refineries and chemical plants as far as the eye could see. Then there was the smell. With high winds carried the smell of thousands of cattle mixed in with long bursts of oil from the oil wells…the smell was confronting indeed.

Fort Worth was a key destination for us, since it is home to the first official BMW workshop since Colorado, and we booked in our bikes to fix the waterpump and the master brake cylinder. We arrived in the late afternoon at the hotel and CB decided to quickly swing by the work shop to check if everything is in order and to confirm our spot in the workshop. Thank god he did, because it turned out that the spare part order that we placed over the phone a week ago got stuffed up and the shop forgot to include the water pump. Frantic phone calls were made to track down the relevant part, and we ended up placing an express order with the BMW distributor so it would be there in the morning. Guess what, that didnt happen.

Disgruntled by the incompetence of the shop, CB took the master brake cylinder for the Dakar and fixed her up by himself in front of the hotel. Job done in less than 30 min – we were quoted 1 hour by BMW (meaning 100 bucks plus tax) for the same job… Back to the waterpump: as we arrived at the BMW dealer the next morning to drop off 'Wobbles' the said part hasn't arrived. Two hours later we finally got hold of the manager, who was very apologetic and even offered a ride on his R1200GS and free accommodation at his bachelor pad to compensate for the delay. We agreed to let the mechanic to commence the job by stripping down the bike and then wait for the pump to arrive the next day, so the job can be completed first thing in the morning.

Now the irony of the entire saga: late afternoon we received a call from the shop telling us that the waterpump arrived at lunch time and the job is done. In addition, someone found a second pump that was put aside for us when we ordered the parts! Total case of miscommunication. Anyways, bikes are now back in full operating condition.

With the bikes fixed we set our sights to Houston. The drive was a straight long and hot drive and after a nightmare run through Houston rush hour traffic we arrived at our horrible hotel. We are talking cheap but not cheerful here – terrible service, dirty, smelly, the works. We decided that it will be all worth it when we finally go the the NASA space centre the next morning. But alas the space centre turned out to be a disneyland playground for kids…DB was absolutely guttered. Granted, they had some cool stuff there, including a Saturn V rocket and documented the race to space very well, but it was pretty light for our liking…

We raced out of Houston the next day but not before CB lost one of his earplugs for the helmet intercom and DB lost her credit card, NZ drivers license and a recently purchased Golden Eagle Pass to all national parks in the USA somewhere between Houston and the Louisiana border. So, bottom line is that Texas was rather an costly leg of our trip and left an unpleasant aftertaste in our mouths (which also could originate from the last chemical plant we passed).

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