Ducati to Daytona, Day 3

The Better Part of Valor

Sometimes one little thing can cause a chain reaction you'd never think possible. The bikes we press guys get from manufacturers are usually unregistered, coming only with a dealer/distributor/manufacturer plate, and sometimes not even that. It's not a big deal; in California frequently people drive around without plates, sometimes for months without ever getting stopped. If we do get stopped on a press bike, we have the backup of a loan agreement from the OEM, which 95% of the time allows you to skip away from the traffic stop without even a warning.

However, because the arrangement is so casual, things can easily get sloppy. When the Ducati Diavel seen here got dropped off at my house, I forget to ask for the loan agreement. No big deal -- it's got a plate. Or at least it had a plate. Somewhere in western New Mexico it fell off, and I know this because I took a picture of it in New Mexico with the plate still firmly attached. Actually, the plate itself is probably still attached to the mount, because that's what ejected itself. As evidence, I've got the stub of the wire that powered the light that lit the plate before they both left the building.

So, after I awoke this morning in Santa Fe, one of my gracious hosts asked why the bike had no plate. Looking down, I realized he was right. And I had no loan agreement to back it up. In other words, I'm a scruffy-looking brownish dude on a $20,000 bike about to roll through Texas and the South with no plate and no documentation for the rig I'm riding.

Obtaining said paperwork via email and then printing it took all morning. So, I had been looking forward to a 630-mile day -- my longest so far this trip -- but I didn't leave Santa Fe until 11:30 a.m. So I only tallied 400 miles. Getting in at midnight wouldn't have bothered my hosts in Dallas, but then weather intervened too.

Straight out of Santa Fe I got blasted on US-285, which is an otherwise great road through rolling hills and plateau country. Wind kept me leaned over most of the time, then right before I-40, snow started coming across the road sideways. No accumulation, so no biggie. Got gas, got going and it (mostly) cleared up in the next few miles.

But even with that it was in the low 40s all day, with a constant headwind or cross breeze, all the way across into Amarillo, TX. Feeling a bit wiped out, I pounded a NOS and motored on. Heading south on US-287 yielded wet roads everywhere. I found out from the gas station attendant that it was melting snow from earlier, but that was all over now. Only it wasn't.

Thanks to killer waterproof gear from Alpinestars, heated underthings from Venture, waterproof covers for the bags from LowePro, great optics from the Arai helmet, and ABS and traction control from Ducati, I'm not worried about wet, or snow, or cold, or dark, or freezing temperatures ... at least individually. But put them all together and it seemed like a recipe for disaster. 287 goes through some serious cow country, so between towns there is nothing. Once I started to feel the tires slip around and the display on the dash dropped to 32 degrees, I knew it was time to call it a night.

Looking out my window at 10:45, however, I see the snow on the grass melting and liquid all over the place. So it looks like all I really needed was a nice sit-down dinner and some more motoring on. Hey I'm from California, what do I know? Plus I already paid the "you look like you really need a room and have snow on your coat" price of $90 in the middle of flipping nowhere, so I guess this is where I'll stay.

The good news is that two inches of rain are expected in my path tomorrow on an epically long 730 miles into New Orleans. Or not. We'll see....