Monthly Archives: April 2013

DAY 58 – April 27 – Whizzerville Hall to Smithville, TX

Last night we finally found some Texas dance hall music.  Within a mile of camp was the Whizzerville Hall, a pizza place with live music. The Keen Country Band, a local group, had a CD release party and the place was packed when we got there at 8 pm. Dave needs all the calories he can get, so he ordered a 10 inch pizza for an after-dinner snack. The owner showed off his beer card collection and talked with us quite a bit.  A former post office, he had restored the building to its 1903 ambience. Some postmaster decided the town’s name was to common because there were so many “villes” in the area and changed it to Macmahan. Just didn’t have the same appeal as Whizzerville.  Nice crowd, good music and good pizza.

Today was overcast and humid for most of the day.  It was a good roadside wildflower day.  The route wound and climbed its way through 2 state parks.  Dave said it was like a cruel joke, as we thought the hills were behind us.  We are camping tonight at Buescher State Park, where I think we got the last open site.  It’s in the tent area that was reserved for a state park camping training.  We are pretending to sleep in the tent, but plan to slip into the camper instead.  It’s supposed to rain tonight, so we’ll see how our subterfuge works out.  Right now we are in the Pockets Grille taking advantage of the air conditioning and wifi.

DAY 55, 56 & 57 – April 24, 25 & 26 – Leaving Hill Country

April 24 – Wednesday – Cool & windy day in San Marcos, TX – a third day off.  We ran errands, took care of life “stuff” and decided to go to a movie because the weather was so crummy. Tom Cruise entertained us in Oblivion.  Eventually we drove back to Blanco State Park in Blanco, TX where the ride would start up again on Thursday. When I went for my walk, I encountered some of the local wildlife.  The strange-looking ducks, that I’ve learned are Muscovy, were really aggressive. The 4-legged guys were just friendly.

April 25 – Thursday – The ride had a delayed start because the cycle meter/gps was missing . The search entailed mentally retracing our steps for the last 3  days ( & it seemed we had been EVERYWHERE!) and tearing apart the truck to look in nooks and crannies. Talk about a stressful way to star the day.  I got on the phone & started calling places we’d been.  When I called the hotel a second time, they looked in the room & found. Yay! Dave took off on the route & drove back to Kyle to collect the culprit. I think it tried to get away from us by hiding under the bed.

We met up in Wimberly & had a great campsite provided courtesy of the  WImberly EMS Services. Cyclists camp free!  Nice yard behind their building, restrooms and laundry.  After dinner we went to hear some local music at Ino’z.  Nice outdoor patio on the Cypress Creek.  I later learned that the place was named because the owners had visited Jamaica and whenever they asked a question the answer was “I knows…”. In the morning, I went to the Wimberly Cafe for coffee & counter conversation.  Nice little town, where people commute to both Austin and San Antonio, but feel like they are away from the city.  Lots of upscale shopping. Translation: for me – window shopping.

This morning I took a walk along Cypress Creek and checked out the Blue Hole.  This is a regional park that was created around a spring-fed swimming hole that has been popular for years. The purchase was funded by The Friends of the Blue Hole and the city operates the park.  No taxpayers’ money involved.

I found Dave outside of Lockhart  and took a look around. We landed in the Falling Star Lake RV Park for camping. Off the route and a little pricey, but nice.   We have now officially exited Hill Country!

DAY 52, 53 & 54, April 21-23 – A Short Holiday in Austin, Texas

April 21 Sunday – Comfort to Blanco – More twisting back roads, mostly with little traffic.  In Sisterdale, I passed by one of the old Texas dance halls.  If we had turned the other way at the end of yesterday’s ride, we could have been there for the Saturday night dance. Bummer. i also saw my first armadillo roadkill, but will spare the reader viewing  the picture.

When we stopped in a store in Wimberly, I took this picture of a big guy in a bigger chair.IMG_0007We met Katie and Terry in Kyle, just south of Austin. The fun started immediately with a Mexican dinner and  we had a great respite at the La Quinta motel,  THANK YOU Hamrics!

April 22 – Monday – Our Austin tourist day.  We packed a lot in during our wanderings.

First a trip to REI for cycling & camping needs (one of my favorite stores and usually very dangerous to enter). There are three stores in Austin, while Ohio just got its first one!

Next stop – The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This arboretum is right up my alley & we enjoyed some walking and wildflower stalking. The former first lady was an inspiring woman. You can check it out the website at www.wildflower.org.

By then we were thirsty and hungry, so we went over to Rainey Street, a short block downtown near the Colorado River.  It’s all old wooden bungalows re-purposed as restaurants and bars with outdoor patios. Not yet “gentrified”, it was a real find.  Bangers is known for its creative sausages and 104 tap craft beer selection,  A very unusual place. We sat out on the patio and it exceeded expectations.  We ended the day with a walk along the river and a visit to 6th Street. A great time was had by all.

April 23 – Lastly, Happy Birthday to Dorothy Drnek.  My mother would have been 90 today! It’s  hard to believe she’s been gone 10 years.

DAYS 50 & 51- April 19 & 20 – Buffaloed & Discombobulated 3 Times

Friday was a leapfrog day with nothing much going on for me to report. The area is very pretty and the route weaves back and forth along the Guadalupe river.  Very nice spot.

I spent most of my truck time editing, sorting and identifying my Wild Blooms photos.  It’s a big project because I have taken hundreds of them Here are a few examples:

When we got to the Kerrville KOA, they supported the ride with a $10 site fee! I was disinterested in cooking after looking in books and spending the day on the computer. The result was going to Mamasita’s for a very good Mexican dinner. Very festive, large restaurant that included an ice cream parlor, kids arcade and party rooms. The place was hopping. Nice end to the day.

It was another surprisingly cold night, with weatherunderground saying 31 degrees at 7:30 am. I started the day with wifi and coffee at the Hunt Store, in Hunt.  A neat store, bank, bar & restaurant with a fire burning all day in the open fireplace. The center of local activity. Next I went grocery shopping at Walmart in Kerrville and took off to catch up with The Rider. So far, so good. The day was still on track.

As I was driving along, I passed a buffalo herd just hanging out in the sun and turned around to take some pictures. They were pretty impressive.

Then I went merrily on my way, enjoying the scenery and ignoring the gps bugging me by trying to get me to drive off the route. I should have listened, because I went 10 miles off the route.  When I got back on, I drove to Comfort, the half-way point of the Southern Tier Route, about 1500 from the east and west coasts.  It wasn’t comforting, because I got turned around enough in this tiny little town that I guessed my way back to the route.  The third mistake was after Dave finished the ride and we were headed to the RV Park USA back in Comfort.  We accidentally got on the freeway and ended up going about 30 miles out of the way before we located the campground.  Prior to today, the last problems I had were in San Diego on Day 2 of the trip.  I guess I was overdue!

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.  Katie and Terri Hamric, Dave’s sister and brother-in-law, are flying down from Boston to spend a few days with us.  We’re meeting in Kyle and will check out Austin.

DAYS 48 & 49 – Texas Hill Country

Before leaving Fort Clark Springs, I got a bike ride in, exploring the fort and the community around it. I really enjoyed the old fort buildings and riding on trails in the woods. While the idea of re-purposing the fort into a leisure/retirement community appealed to me, the whole “members only, secure gated community” idea rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed paranoid racist today, especially when I learned from some roofers that they and other local people could not come in on  weekends to use the pool unless they were “accompanied by a member”.

I met up with The Rider in Camp Wood, our first town in the region of Texas known as “Hill Country”. With good reason! Some of the hills look like West Virginia mountains and hollows. I was happy to be here, because there are trees and lots of green. The trade off is humidity and bugs that come with the package. I’m also excited to start seeing new wildflowers and this area is known for them.  Dave is less excited about the hills.  They call part of the area the Alps.  You can read his blog to get the gory details on them.

We stayed at the Big Oak RV Park outside of Camp Wood on the Nueces River.  Another nice place with a pool that we had to ourselves.

Today I got a chance to spend some time in Leakey, a hopeful town of 476 that actually has businesses that are open. It has a grocery, coffee shop, hardware store, two antique stores, a gift shop and two restaurants, all of which have survived the opening of a Walmart 28 miles away.  I enjoyed a perfect latte and muffin at Ella Purl’s Trading Post.  The owner is a young woman from Philadelphia.  Her youngest daughter is Ella and her grandmother is Purl. She bakes, cooks, sews and knits many of the items for sale in the store. When I asked how she got to Leakey, her answer was “I fell in love with a rancher”. She was good company and I could have lingered longer, except I needed to be available to switch out unicycles for steep hill climbs if needed. And we have no cell service in this area.

A trivia note on the tombstone: I saw several like this with a Woodmen of the World symbol.  When I looked it up, I learned it is a fraternal lodge/life insurance company that was founded in 1890 and still exists today. And Bob’s your uncle!

Loar Maples State Recreation Area, north of Vanderpol, is tonight’s campground.  I got in a good hike on the Maples Trail along a stream and limestone canyon. It took me longer than expected because I kept running into new wildflowers along the way. There are actually a variety of trees, but the signs warn you not to pick the maple leaves. Again, I need to remember where I am — Maple trees are unusual here.  I ran into a group of 22 British birders and learned the place is a birding mecca in Texas.

DAY 47 – April 16 – Brackettville and Fort Clark Springs, TX

I met  Dave outside of Brackettville, TX. Yet another small town past its glory. In the late 1800’s it thrived because its businesses supported nearby Fort Clark, a cavalry post that housed thousands of soldiers. Many businesses constructed of limestone blocks quarried nearby were established. Devastating floods in 1890 persuaded residents to move to higher ground.

Our campsite is Fort Clark Springs RV Park is right outside Brackettville,  Fort Clark was built at Las Moras springs, It operated from 1852 to 1946 and served as a German POW camp during the war. Fort Clark Springs Association is a multi-purpose community that utilizes the old fort’s facilities, including housing, motel and campground.  It is home to the 3rd largest swimming pool in Texas – 300 by 100 feet.  It’s spring fed and 68 degrees year-round. The best part of my day was swimming laps in that pool! Invigorating, but warmer than yesterday’s swim. The second best was when my dinner stir-fry of shrimp, fresh vegetables and rice was a success Another happy camper day!

DAY 46 – April 15 – Layover Day in Del Rio, TX

Enjoying Broken Mill RV Park (on the Southern Tier bike route). Another good choice for Cook’s night off.  Enjoyed a good dinner at Icon Grill near Amistad Lake National Recreation Area.  Today – groceries, errands, a doctor visit, blog internet catch-up & the pool.

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Give me some water to paddle around in & I’m happy (even if it is COLD)

My first tarantula.  Now worries - he was dead.

My first tarantula. No worries – he’s dead.

grateful for shade & plug for computers

grateful for shade & plug for computers

The temperature climbed to 99 and humid. I took another Cook’s night off and we went to Memo’s Mexican restaurant in the old part of town on San Felipe Creek since 1936.  Kids were swimming and it was the first real sense of water we’ve had in a long time.

DAY 45 – April 14 – Seminole Canyon State Park and the Pecos River

Our campsite  for the 13th was a primitive desert site in the Seminole Canyon State Park.  When we get to camp, I usually take a walk to check it out, while Dave takes it easy after his ride.  I told him that I was going on the “watch for snakes” trail and set out to find some wildflowers I had not yet seen. The trail had several flowers. It’s still surprising to me to see such brightly colored flowers against the drab desert environment.   I hope to identify all the flowers and post them together at some point, but so far that’s not happening. The park was interesting enough to me that I decided to go on the guided canyon hike in the morning.

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In the morning, we saw sunrise, then I dropped Dave off just west of the Pecos River. I then raced to the overlook to get some photos.

I had plenty of time to return to the park and go on the 10:00 am hike. The only way to see the pictographs and go down into the canyon is with a guide. Our volunteer guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about the Pecos people who inhabited the canyon some 4000 years ago and the pictographs they left behind. The short hike took almost 2 hours and the “rock art” pictures and symbolism in them were amazing.

I met up with Dave in Del Rio and tonight we are camped at the Broke Mill RV park.

DAY 43 & 44 – April 12 & 13 – “The Law West of the Pecos”

This part of the route is like a big blank on the west Texas map.  No real towns or services, rolling desert and shallow canyons.  We ended the day Friday at the Judge Roy Bean Welcome Center in Langtry, TX.  Nice visitors center with wifi.  We were happy because cell service is also absent in this part of the journey.  We blogged and then dry camped at the Community Center, the old town school.  Bathrooms are available 8 am – 5 pm.

Now it’s Saturday and I’m back at the center, taking advantage of the wifi and a leisurely tour through the museum and grounds.  The women who work here are very friendly and helpful. The town of 45 is right on the Mexican border. Judge Roy Bean was a larger-than-life guy, an entrepreneurial  saloon owner who was appointed Judge in the late 1800’s. Court was held on the front porch of the saloon.  He was known as the “hanging judge”, but he never hung anyone. As far as the law went, he made up his own and did what he wanted, quickly dispensing his brand of justice.

DAYS 41 & 42 – April 10 & 11 – West Texas is Growing on Me!

DAY 41 – April 10 – Alpine and Marathon

Last night we camped at a picnic area  south of Alpine.  The evening cooled rapidly from the high of 99 on our ride north from Big Bend.  When we left the truck this morning it was 38 degrees.  It’s all about elevation.  A 40 degree difference in one day is not unusual. 

Alpine is a college town with a good feeling about it. They take a lot of pride in the historic district and have some interesting murals on buildings.  Sul Ross State University claims Dan Blocker, aka Hoss Cartwright, as a graduate. It is home to the Museum of the Big Bend.  It is a small museum, but has really engaging exhibits.  Here the exhibit on the Buffalo Soldiers was really well done and did a good job of honoring their service.

The Rider did another 50+ mile day and I picked him up east of Marathon, TX. We set up camp in the Marathon Motel RV Park in mid-afternoon.  After supper, we went over  to the White Buffalo Bar in the Gage Hotel, another TripAdvisor find. This place is a destination hotel-spa.  I wasn’t sure if it would be casual enough for us, but no problem.  There we met Ron and Natasha Riedel from California.  They are a father-daughter team riding east on the Southern Tier Route. They are self-supported (no support crew or vehicle) and traveling as light as possible.  We had a great time talking with them for the evening. Brenda and Dave from Houston joined us and it turned into a party.

DAY 42 – April 11 – Marathon to Sanderson, TX

We woke up to even colder weather, a dark 36 degrees.  I really give The Rider a lot of credit for still being motivated to get an early start. I didn’t  even want to uncover my face this morning inside the truck. I tried to talk him into a warm breakfast at the bakery in town, but his position was that it really wouldn’t make much different and was mainly psychological. Psychologically speaking, I would have felt better if he would have conceded, but no…..  So I went back to the Burnt Biscuit Bakery for coffee and ended up eating breakfast with the Riedels.  I believe those cyclists were thinking right.

Marathon’s slogan is “where there is nothing to do”.  They are also the gateway to the Big Bend. The keystone of the town is the Gage Hotel, built in 1928. The hotel deteriorated until it was purchased and restored in 1978 by a Texas oilman who loves art and local history  The hotel owns several properties in town and one of the residents told me that it is what keeps Marathon going.  It appears to have plenty of guests, a well-known restaurant.  And we can attest to the White Buffalo’s ambience.

The garden paths held a surprise for me.  They were all sparkly in the bright sun.  When I looked closely, I could see multiple colors of finely ground glass mixed in with the small stones. Great recycling idea. And a refreshing change from all the broken glass we’ve been seeing along the roads. People seem to think nothing of throwing bottles out of cars, even in the rest areas. Roadside trash has advanced to pet peeve status for me!

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The Rider racked up another 50+ mile day due to favorable winds and terrain.  We met up with the Riedels  again at the Sanderson Café, where I had my first hot dog of the trip.  We are “dry camping” again in a picnic area.  This one thoughtfully has a little stepladder built over the wire mesh fence around the perimeter, presumably to make it easy to exit the immediate area for personal needs.  Texas version of a maintenance-free bathroom???? It’s actually very peaceful and another solo campsite.