One of the most lamented states to cross due to the perception that Texas is one big desert. Our experience was completely different from the torture-fest we thought it would be. Following the rivers through dozens of small towns we enjoyed each moment in this first series in the Ride Across Texas.
From Austin our choice of roads was ill-researched as we danced with horseless carriages along Frontage road. Stamped on every overpass support and blazed on the biggest flags available the Lone Star was a constant reminder: Texas Loves Texas! Shoved in a corner off the highway we found the most liberal of all stoner run shops in Texas, complete with Bernie for Pres proudly displayed.
When given the option to ride side by side with an 85 mph freeway or follow “El Camino Real”, the option is perfectly clear. Vive El Camino Real de Los Tejas!! Our camino crossed plantation style houses fit for the likes of Pablo Escobar, the San Marcos River, and more proclamations of Texas’ self-love dumping us onto a plaza filled with college students. A few moments to rid ourselves of wallets and the likes and we were all three leaping into the warm fast moving river.
From San Marcos we head to New Braunfels looking for a little Germany in Central Texas. The larger than life river fed water park immediately captured our attention away from our quest. We were slightly dismayed by small presence of a German festival and Bavarian style architecture and the defiantly Texan residents. New Braunfels also lacked Killen quality BBQ and we resided to leave the town in search for a quiet spot to set up camp.
Having run out of water Chris Ayer was up early and left off to resupply and score a caffeine fix. We moved in our faster than a snail, but slow morning pace making it on the road a bit before 8. Texas wildflowers were in bloom so many unplanned stops to capture them in their macro goodness as well as the castle? Expect everything in the Republic of TX.
Basecamp Walmart was a several hour hurrah, with each of us entering and leaving the store no less than a dozen times. Stocked up on provisions for the Oregon Trail we set off only to make it a hour down the road before detouring toward the Guadalupe River. Hot and sticky in the Texas sun we skipped the entrance station and quickly jumped into the cold water.
From the Guadalupe River we were halfway toward the daily goal of 60-miles. Less eventful we rode through Hill Country, grinding the ups and savoring the downs. The milage goal and end of daylight were concurrent in the one horse town of Pipe Creek. Three Lone Star Beer were the conclusion of the day as we set up camp behind the town’s church.
Good morning Texas should always be followed by breakfast burritos. By that measure today was a success!! Chris Ayers not convinced by my logic started his mission to find a Lone Star bandana, what better place than the “cowboy capital” Bandero.
A common theme in our ride across the Great State of Texas is to follow a river, today’s river of choice was the Medina River. Thrice on this trip we have passed through apple growing regions of the US. One of our favorite fruits Love Creek Orchards was a welcome stop for lunch.
Attempting to keep up with blogging I retreated to the library and was quickly engaged in a conversation about routes with a local. Our ride west would take us over some rather large hills to Vanderpool where it was suggested we turn south and follow the Sabinal River to Utopia. Never one to pass up good information our route changed that instant.
True to description we rode through the valley passing grandiose gates, bisson farms, and retreat ranches decorated in all the western fittings. The end of the Medina River spelled the start of the climbing. Low in elevation Hill Country make up for it in grade. Nearly running out of gears we pushed cresting the top to find Chris with his bike overturned fixing a flat.
Siesta Valley Ranch: A timeless retreat in Hill Country
Our stint on the hilltops lasted but a few miles before the grade reversed sending us coasting down the steepest roads since Appalachia. Spotting an open gate and a covered pavilion Chris & Amanda rode to the back of the Utopia sports complex. The three of us ran to the back of the field to catch the last moments of sunset. Moments later the groundskeeper locked the gate without noticing three bike hobos cooking dinner. We truly found bike tour camping Utopia when we discovered power and running water!
Our plans of cowboy camping changed quickly in the middle of the night upon being attacked by several fire ants. Fire ants were nothing new to us having spent a bit of time in South Florida. The saying goes “everything’s bigger in Texas” fire ants included. Swelling up and feeling wheezy I raced to the country store where I could start the morning off by chugging children’s liquid Benadryl.
Utopia camping. Complete with water, power, and fire ants.
Sufficiently drugged we hung out in the library chatting with the volunteers. Getting more uneasy about the swelling and my tightening throat I split off from the group and break into a sprint to Sabinal in hopes of a pharmacy or clinic, self medicating with Benadryl while riding. Being small town Texas the town offered three gas stations and not much else.
Back together we grab a bite to eat, restock on water and read the headline on the local newspaper: Someone was murdered in the township park last night. This happened in the next town we would be passing through. Keyword passing through. With three riders on relatively flat road we began drafting off each other crushing as many miles as possible stopping only for snacks.
During the day I realized it was friday and my forwarded mail will only be available for pickup until noon. Passing the 60 mile daily goal we kept spinning until daylight began to fade. Tents pitched literally on the side of the road our attention was drawn from dinner to a clap of thunder and a massive storm system bearing down on us.
Camping in a lightning storm atop a hill with few other objects to draw potential lightning we mutually decided we needed to find an alternative. Our searching turned up a rodent infested camper covered in feces. With the help of Google Chris Ayers spotted a structure down the hill and rode off to investigate. A few minutes later in the howling wind he advised us that it was an unlocked hunting cabin and we knew where we would be spending the night. Tent and gear packed in seconds we pulled up to the cabin as the storm unleashed its fury.