Ducati to Daytona - Days 4 and 5

The long and short of it, panhandle to panhandle

Tired of delays, I woke up a couple of days ago in the Texas Panhandle and decided I needed to make tracks. It was Friday, and I'd heard New Orleans was a good party town. More importantly, I had a hotel reservation at the city's swanky Hotel Modern. But 760 miles is no joke, and the Weather Channel was calling for one of those "Storm of the Century" things directly across my path. It was a good thing that I prepped for it appropriately - and then some.

I got up early to beat the start of the storm, and suited up all the way. I donned double liners (including the heated ones), thermals, and a Tourmaster rain suit over my waterproof Alpinestars gear. Every stitch of luggage was covered too. I wasn't fooling around, and apparently the rain gods can respect that -- while I encountered some real drizzle on the way, real rain was nowhere to be found.

But it was cold. Not crazy cold, like the 20-something degrees I've run into a couple of times on this trip, but a constant 40-odd degrees all the long, long way across Texas. And I'd forgotten just how far it is across Louisiana tip-to-tip. Coming in at Shreveport and going the length of the state to New Orleans was almost half the trip, and just about all of it was in the dark. N'awlins folk being what they are, it didn't phase Max Materne (Service Manager at the Ducati dealer) that I rolled in past 10 pm -- and felt like going out. Luckily, the bars in this town don't seem to ever close, and random women will grab your butt. Or at least mine.

The Materne Brothers (Max and brother Zach) own The Transportation Revolution New Orleans, and had set me up with a room at the very swanky Hotel Modern on St Charles. The place is covered in a cool blend of modern and traditional art, has books in every room, and they greet you with a glass of wine on arrival. It was a neat experience, but I'm thinking it's more high-end than I am. Even the "good guy" promotional rate on the room made my eyes bulge a little. But it's probably the perfect experience for an actual Ducatisti.

After catching a quick nap from 3am to 8, I was picked up by a surprisingly chipper Max. Ducati North America had overnighted a fresh license plate to replace the fallen one, so Max dug right in and reattached it with about a pint of Loctite this time. Since he was heading out to deliver a bike to the local track, I decided to tag along to get in on the fun. His shop has a track day valet service, where they'll set up your bike on the pit lane so you can just hop on and ride. Just for kicks I did a single session on the Diavel.

During the pre-ride inspection, Max noticed some cupping on the front tire. He wasn't sure what might have caused it, other than possibly over-inflation. I've experienced cupping in the past from underinflation, so this was news to me. I'll keep tabs on it for the rest of the trip, but I'll spare you the details about my fairly slow laps about the track... this is still Motorcycle Cruiser after all. After my morning's fun, I only had a short ride in me. Going east on Interstate 10, I hit major traffic in both Mobile, Ala., as well as Pensacola, Fla. Sick of working the clutch constantly, I finally peeled off with a helpful assist from my GPS to catch US-90 as it paralleled the 10, but without any of the hassle. Even if it ended up taking longer, with the slowdowns for towns, it was less annoying. The other perk of taking an old US route is that the hotels cost about half as much. I pulled into an old 40s era motor inn and checked the rate, fully prepared to bail if it wasn't dirt cheap. $40 was the right price, and that ended my day -- not quite 300 miles from where I started.