Southern Tier - San Diego to Atlanta

 

Fall 2004

 

Denis Kertz, ©2004

 

Day 32: Thu, Oct 28, 2004 - Del Rio, TX to Camp Wood, TX [78.4, 6:52:52, 11.4, 23.1]

Since I didn’t go to bed until almost 10:00 last night I woke up a little late, just before 8:00.  I ate only a banana and then headed a few blocks to the café with a big pancake sign.  There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and that’s always a good sign.  Inside the place was pretty packed, another good sign.

 

Since there was a light drizzle and no place to lock my bike under protection I leaned it next to a window and insisted on sitting in a booth next to the window.  I ordered the stack of pecan pancakes for $4.95, noting with interest that the short stack was $4.39, only 60 cents cheaper.  What I got was a dream – 5 fair-sized pancakes dripping with pecans.  Finally, a Texas café that could make decent pancakes.

 

When I left it was almost 9:30.  It was overcast with a light drizzle.  I rode to the next light and it was the road I would have taken when riding into Del Rio if I was following the Adventure Cycling route out of town.  So I got right back on the route and rode through town.  Highway 90 did a 90 degree left turn through town and I picked up 90 heading east out of town.

 

A few miles out of town I rode past Laughlin Air Force Base.  The rest of the way to Bracketville was pretty flat, unlike the rolling hills heading into Del Rio on 90.  90 also had a dirt frontage road that was patrolled by the Border Patrol.  I was intrigued to see they were dredging the road with old tires.  Apparently they were clearing the road so any illegal immigrants would create tracks in the road when they crossed in the night.  I was momentarily tempted to create tracks on the road myself to cause some confusion.

 

After 32 miles I rode into Bracketville around noon and stopped for a break.  After my big breakfast I didn’t really need more food but there was nothing for the next 40 miles so I had a mini pizza and cold drink.  I also bought a pair of sun glasses since my regular pair was losing its left ear piece.  I spent close to an hour on a relatively long break and didn’t get back on the road till a little after 1:00.  I had spent quite a few miles on 90 with its wide shoulder and was a little sad to leave it when I left on 334, a simple country road.  Initially 334 had a shoulder but that quickly disappeared but it didn’t matter since there was virtually no traffic.

 

It was nice cycling on a basically flat road with no traffic through scrub rangeland.  However, there were a number of road signs warning of potential flooding so it was good there was no rain.  There were several dry creeks that were level with the road so it was easy to see how any water in the creeks would cause flooding.

 

After 22 miles of 334 it ended and I headed north on 55.  Immediately there was a fair amount of traffic but a wide shoulder.  Ranches and farms showed up as 55 paralleled the Nueces River.

 

About 5 miles outside Camp Wood I stopped at the Big Oak River Camp, a large campground by the Nueces River.  No one was at the office but a brochure listed a primitive tent site as $15, which seemed a bit much although I didn’t really know what primitive meant.  I rode around the campground and didn’t see anyone around.  By this point I was rather turned off by this outfit and looking for an excuse to ride into Camp Wood where there were motels.

 

So I rode on and was glad I did.  Just a little further there was a sign for a Coosley Park just a mile ahead.  This place was right by the road where the Nueces River had a small dam and passed under the road.  I got a nice tent site for $8 ($10 for a non-cyclist) that included a shower.  What really set this campground apart was it had huge oak trees with low hanging limbs.  All around it was a much better choice than Big Oak and I was surely glad no one was around at Big Oak that might have tempted me to stay there.

 

After setting up and eating some pepperoni bites and more peanut butter burritos, I got to chat with the campground hosts who were nice folks, as they were winding down after the day’s work.  The guy gave me some good info on what to expect over the next day that would involve some challenging riding through the Texas Hill Country.

Day 33: Fri, Oct 29, 2004 – Camp Wood, TX to Lost Maples SP, TX [46.9, 4:50:57, 9.6, 42.7]

It was a warm night and I slept on top of my sleeping bag almost all night.  In the morning I ate a banana, packed up and left a little after 8:00.  I rode the 4 miles to Camp Wood and stopped at the Mexican restaurant recommended by the campground host.  As expected the pancakes were so-so.  So afterwards I went across the street to a foodmart for milk and a large cup of granola.

 

I left around 9:15 heading east across Texas Hill country on 337 that was billed as a difficult ride through wooded hills.  It wasn’t long before I used my granny chainring and when I shifted back to the middle chainring I noticed the big improvement made by the new cable housing.  There was a long, steep climb that required my lowest gears followed by an equally long, steep descent with a nice view at the top.  I rolled into Leakey around 11:30 and stopped at a store for a break.  I picked up a couple slices of pizza that would have been good except the crust bottom was badly burnt.

 

I continued east on 337 for more climbing shortly after noon.  There were a couple of fairly long but not quite as steep climbs that offered some nice views.  A fast descent brought me to the intersection of 187 where I stopped at a store for the last food of the day.  While there I removed a stubborn lid on a jar for the cashier.  Then I got another opportunity a few minutes later to do the same again.

 

So I hurriedly left the store lest I get drafted permanently as a lid remover.  I rode 4 miles up the road to the Lost Maples State Natural Area, home to some bigtooth maple trees, which is a popular area.  I had only gone 45 fairly hard miles but there was no camping for another 40 miles so I made it an early day around 2:30.  There were no available campsites in this popular area so I got assigned a spot in a picnic area and was asked to not set up my tent until later.  I presumed the place was filled because it was a Friday but I was told it fills up every day and the next open date was in a month.

 

After paying my $11 I rode out to the picnic area and decided this was probably better than the campground with the only limitation that the showers were back at the campground.  I found an isolated spot down near the river and whiled away the time.  Later, I rode the half mile back to the campground and took a shower.  Back at the picnic area I picked an inconspicuous spot and set up camp.  And I ate my favorite meal of pepperoni bites and peanut butter burritos.

Day 34: Sat, Oct 30, 2004 - Lost Maples SP, TX to Comfort, TX [71.8, 6:15:59, 11.4, 34.1]

I ate breakfast in the dark and I needed breakfast because there wasn’t any place to eat for quite a ways.  I was packed up and gone before 8:30.

 

I headed north on 187 on another overcast day.  Right off the bat I had a pretty hard half mile climb.  Then the rest of the morning was more like I expected in Texas Hill Country – a series of up and downs on a winding road with no hill particularly long.  The scenery was nice on a mixture of wooded hills and grassland.  There were a number of ranches along the way and several looked like they might be harboring exotic game with their abnormally high fences.  Along the way I saw a herd of elk along the road with the bull elk withdrawn in the trees.

 

It was nice, peaceful riding with little traffic.  About 8 miles from Hunt the road flattened out as it followed the Guadalupe River for the rest of the day.  There were some nice homes along the river and it was leisurely cycling.  After almost 30 miles I rode into Hunt around 11:30 and stopped for a break at a country store.  When I left around noon there was suddenly a fair amount of traffic the rest of the way to Kerrville and the peaceful cycling vanished.  Nevertheless it was an easy 13 miles to Kerrville, a town of 20,425.

 

In town I stopped at a bank ATM to replenish my cash.  A little later a sign directed me to a nice library where I checked email and paid a couple bills.  On my way out of town I stopped at the only bike shop and bought a large water bottle with screw on cap to replace the small bottle with the snap-on cap that I disliked.  I also talked to the proprietor who had ridden the same Southern Tier route from east to west.  Adventure Cycling organizes a group ride of the Southern Tier each fall and she mentioned that the Adventure Cycling group, which started from San Diego a week before I did, had been through a week ago and three guys had passed through on Tuesday.

 

A little ways out of town the route crossed over the river to 173 and then to a back road that was peaceful again.  I stopped in Center Point for a cold drink and resumed riding.  The route crossed the river again and rejoined 27 where the traffic picked up again while I rode on a wide shoulder.  I followed 27 into Comfort and stopped at a grocery store for some food supplies.  Then I headed north on 87 to I10 where there was an RV Park.  Since no one was around the office I left and ate at the nearby Dairy Queen.  Then I rode back to the RV Park and an elderly resident took care of checking me in.  He assigned me to a regular RV site with a patch of grass and charged $12.

 

I set up my wet tent to air it out and took a shower.  Then I took advantage of the lighted Laundromat to write my notes.


Day 35: Sun, Oct 31, 2004 - Comfort, TX to Lockhart, TX [94.7, 8:14:36, 11.5, 35.5]

I ate a banana when I got up but decided to skip my cereal until later and that was a good decision.  I rode back into town and stopped at a little restaurant that just happened to have a buffet for $7.  On my first pass I had standard breakfast fare but noted there were only enough pancakes for me.  On my second pass some of the pancakes were gone so I had some French toast which was very good.  So I had some more when they brought some more out along with more pancakes.

 

I had two options for the day – a relatively short 60 miles to Wimberly or 100 miles to Lockhart.  I started out on 1621 to Waring on a nice quiet back country road with some scenic views of the Guadalupe River with big cypress-like trees guarding the river bank.  After about 12 miles I picked up 473 and left the river behind, riding through more Hill Country with ups and downs.  After close to 20 more miles of hill riding I stopped at the Kendal Store for a welcomed cold drink but I knew something was wrong since I was in Kendalia and shouldn’t have been.  Checking my map I discovered I had missed the turn on Old Blanco Road to take me to Blanco.

 

Rather than backtracking I continued on 473 to its intersection with 281.  From there it was a straight shot north to Blanco.  However, I realized that was now somewhat out of the way to get to Wimberley.  Checking my state map I saw I could continue on 473 and then pick up 32 east and get close to Wimberley or continue east to Lockhart so I decided to continue.

 

473 was nice east of 281 but ended at 32 which I took east.  32 had a fair amount of traffic and no real shoulder so it wasn’t the greatest road to cycle.  I cycled it for a while and climbed a ridge called the Devil’s Backbone.  On top was a picnic area where I stopped for a break and a nice view of the surrounding hills to the north.  Shortly after continuing I was surprised to see a bar along the road where I decided a cold drink was in order.  The bar was open to the outside and as soon as I stopped I met Mark who rushed out to inspect my rig.  Mark had cycled in Greece and Italy in his early 20s and was interested in my trip.  He invited me in for a drink where the bartender ended up buying me a drink – a Coke since I didn’t figure a beer was a good idea with miles to go.

 

After leaving the bar the road was mostly downhill to San Marcos where I knew I could stay if Lockhart was too far.  But the traffic increased quite a bit and the shoulder was problematic.  First it had the rumbles on the white line and the narrow shoulder next to it rolled off.  Then the rumbles disappeared but the shoulder varied quickly and unpredictably from OK to rough and dangerous.  So cycling off the Backbone to San Marcos required a lot of attention.

 

When I reached San Marcos I was seriously considering staying in a motel.  I figured this sizeable city would have something reasonable.  However, I was told the motels were along I35 and that didn’t bode well for finding an inexpensive motel.  I followed 12 through town to I35 where no motels were in sight but straight ahead was 80 that led the way to Lockhart.  I decided not to mess around in San Marcos and continued on 80, stopping at a Subway for a foot long sandwich, half which I ate and half which I saved for later.

 

I could tell I would be pushing daylight getting to Lockhart.  I also noticed there were no hills in view so I presumed my descent from the Backbone left the Hill Country behind.  80 was fairly busy but it was a 4-lane road so room was not a problem.  Then I turned on 142 for the rest of the way and it had a very wide shoulder.

 

It was getting dark as I made my way through town, known as the Barbeque Capital of Texas.  There were 2 motels and the cheapest was no bargain at $40 so I rode the 2 miles west to the Lockhart State Park on 20.  Light was fading fast when I got to the park where I was the only tent camper, until I started setting up and an RV decided it needed the site right next to mine even though a number of other sites were available.

 

I set up quickly because the mosquitoes were on the rampage.  I showered and dove into the safety of my tent.

Day 36: Mon, Nov 1, 2004 - Lockhart, TX to LaGrange, TX [74.2, 6:29:32, 11.4, 29.9]

Shortly after midnight I heard a few sprinkles so I hurried out to my bike and grabbed the clothes I had rinsed in the shower and hung out to dry.  Then the sprinkles gradually developed into a full blown rain.  About 4:30 I woke up and noticed water under my tent, about a half inch deep.  It was still raining so I tried to sleep and hoped I wouldn’t float away.

 

Around 6:00 while still dark I started packing up in the tent while it was still drizzling outside.  I managed to get my panniers on my bike and moved it to dry land at the nearby restroom.  However my tent was soaked from the rain and it became obvious in daylight that I had managed, in my haste to beat night fall, to set my tent in a little depression where water had collected.  My sleeping pad and bag were also somewhat wet due to sitting on top of the water collection.  I packed up as best I could and rode the 2 miles back to town.

 

I found a restaurant near downtown and had a pancake breakfast that included bacon and eggs where was pretty good.  With the uncertain weather I bought a paper and stretched out the meal.  Despite the heavy overcast the sun made an appearance while I was eating but was gone when I went outside.  I monitored the weather a bit and saw some blue sky coming my way so I took off.  It looked like it could be one of those days when the weather kept switching back and forth and it wasn’t long before the blue sky was cloudy again.  However, the weather got better through the day and I never got rained on.

 

I took 20 east to Bastrop, 29 miles away.  Much of this was easy riding, mostly flat and only a few minor hills.  Near Bastrop I picked up 21/71 into town and traffic was hectic.  Then Loop 150 got me off the major traffic and through town.

 

I stopped at a foodmart and had a late second breakfast of cereal.  While there a guy gave me the welcome news that the weather forecast was calling for hail in the afternoon.  With that cheery thought I rode into Bastrop State Park and paid $1 for the privilege of cycling 13 miles through the connecting road between Bastrop and the adjoining Buescher State Park, home to the Lost Pines.  Shortly after starting my cyclometer stopped working but I was able to deduce that the battery for the wireless transmitter must be weak and a replacement battery it fixed the problem.

 

The ride through the connecting parks was very nice but a bit challenging as it was winding and had a number of short, steep descents and climbs.  The reward was a heavily wooded scene with many pine trees and pine needles lining the road.  The road was narrow and the trees often formed a canopy over the road while the sun light streaked through the trees.

 

When I saw a sign warning of possible flooding my brain went on alert since I had already had my share of water for the day.  I descended to a low spot where the water was over the road.  At first I thought maybe I could just ride through but caution exerted itself and I walked my bike across.  This was much like the mud pool in Big Bend, almost a foot deep, but fairly fast moving.  However, this was just muddy water that didn’t leave me or the bike streaked with mud.

 

After leaving Buescher State Park I picked up 153.  With the weather looking pretty good I was hoping to find a spot where I could stop and set up my tent to dry out.  But I never found a suitable spot and I picked up 77, with its high speed traffic and wide shoulder, into LaGrange.  In town I stopped at a foodmart for a break and set up my tent in the parking lot to dry out.  Of course, the sun promptly disappeared but I still managed to get the tent semi-dry.

 

I asked around about motels and was told the Oak Motel right by the foodmart was probably the cheapest.  It was $1 cheaper than the motel I turned down in Lockhart.  With more impending rain and the need to dry out more stuff I took a room from the Indian proprietor, who showed me a list of other cyclists who had stayed there.  The room was fairly nice and was large enough I was able to set up my tent in the room to complete the drying process.  I also hung up my sleeping bag and pad for drying and cleaned my tent ground cloth in the bathroom.

 

Eating was simple.  There was a Chinese place across the street with a buffet that was pretty good.  Then I retired to my motel for the night.  I started watching Monday Night Football but I was soon nodding off to sleep so I gave up and went to bed at 8:30.

Day 37: Tue, Nov 2, 2004 - LaGrange, TX to Navasota, TX [70.6, 5:54:32, 11.9, 42.5]

I slept very well and at least part of that was because I didn’t sleep so well the night before when it was raining.  When I got up I walked to the nearby town square that had a big courthouse building in the middle of the square, Fayette County Courthouse built in 1891, just like Lockhart.  I ate at a café there.  The menu listed a single pancake for $1.95 so I was pretty sure it was a large one and the waitress confirmed that.  The menu also listed oatmeal so I ordered oatmeal and a pancake.  The oatmeal was a bit watery and only so-so but the large pancake was good.

 

When I paid my bill the waitress asked me about my trip, having deduced from my clothes and map that I was cycling.  She was impressed enough that she gave me a high five and immediately took a commanding lead in the “best waitress of the trip” race.

 

Back at the motel I debated about leaving with an uncertain forecast.  In the end I took off about 8:30 with the skies not looking too bad and temperatures in the upper 50s.  I did have the comfort of knowing there were several small towns along the way where I could bail out if the weather turned nasty.

 

The day’s route to Navasota headed northeast to skirt the Houston area while the wind was northwest.  I left on 159 and then 237.  It wasn’t long before it was misting but I never needed my rain gear.  After 12 miles I debated stopping in Warrenton but pushed on since the larger Round Top, population 77, was just another 4 miles.  However, before I got to Round Top the misting stopped.  So when I reached Round Top I decided to push on another 11 miles to the even larger Burton, population 359.  In all of these small towns it was obvious it was Election Day.  These towns were so small it was impossible to miss the election places as I rode through them.

 

In Burton I stopped for a late breakfast of cereal around 10:30.  When I resumed I took 390 on what was considered a scenic highway, La Bahia Road, the first designated scenic highway in Texas.  It wasn’t particularly scenic by my standards but it did go through some nice ranch areas in rolling terrain, a mixture of grazing pastures and wooded areas.  20 miles brought me to Independence where I stopped at a small store for a break.  I continued riding on 390 another 4 miles and then picked up William Penn Road that took me to 105, a major highway with high speed traffic but a wide shoulder.

 

I rode 105 the rest of the way to Navasota, population 6,789.  A few miles outside of town I noticed my rear tire looked low and it wasn’t long before I knew I had a slow leak.  I was able to pump up the tire and make it to town where I inquired about the library.  Before I found it I had to pump the tire once more and made the library just after 2:30 where I checked my email.

 

As expected my rear tire was flat when I left the library so I fixed it.  Unlike my other flats I never found what caused this flat but it was a single small puncture.

 

With the still uncertain weather, I asked and the librarian directed me to a fairly inexpensive motel where I got a room for $35.  There was a big grocery store within walking distance and a Laundromat right across the street from it.  So I gathered my laundry and walked to the Laundromat.  I did my grocery shopping while waiting for my laundry.  Back at the motel I ordered out for pizza.

Day 38: Wed, Nov 3, 2004 - Navasota, TX to Coldspring, TX [65.6, 5:23:10, 12.2, 33]

It was overcast and gloomy when I got up so I knew the election hadn’t gone well.  Incredibly the American people, after nearly four years of Bush lies, deceit, incompetence, and irresponsibility, was about to give him four more years to screw up the country.  The Dumbing Down of America continued…

 

Well, when things are rotten, there’s only one thing to do – go for a bike ride.  I packed up and headed downtown, looking for the telltale collection of vehicles that would identify a breakfast place but didn’t find anything.  So I started out of town and immediately found a diner open.  I ordered the full stack of 5 pancakes that looked good when they arrived but I discovered the undersides were burnt so I requested a new order.

 

From that inauspicious start things got much better.  I got a new order that was good and the owner came by and apologized.  Since the diner was right on the Adventure Cycling route quite a few cyclists stopped with their minds on food.  He mentioned a few groups that had come through that were notable.  So in the end I appreciated the quick reaction to my “blackened” pancakes and the conversation and enjoyed my breakfast.

 

I rode out of town on 105 and continued straight on 90 for 10 miles to Anderson.  There I picked 149 for another 10 miles to Richards.  A few miles before Richards, I noticed my rear tire looked a little flat and when I did a pinch check it was obvious it had lost some air.

 

In Richards I stopped for my late breakfast and then tended to my slow leak.  I feared I had missed what caused my flat yesterday but I found a very thin piece of wire, maybe ¼ inch long, stuck inside my tire.  I patched the tube and continued on 149 and enter the Sam Houston National Forest that was heavily wooded with tall pines.

 

After 8 miles I picked up 1375 to New Waverly.  This was more of the same tall pines but even more scenic as 1375 cut a wide swatch through the forest and there was little traffic.  The road also cut across part of Lake Conroe.

 

In New Waverly I stopped for a burrito break and continued on 150 to Coldspring.  There were more tall pines but there were homes along the roadside, some rather dilapidated.  150 was a major highway with little or no shoulder and a fair amount of traffic and not a great ride.

 

When I got near Coldspring I had gone just over 60 miles and was not ready to quit.  However, there really wasn’t any place to stay for another 25 miles and even then the option wasn’t a good one.  So I stopped and asked about the camping.  There were several options and the Doublelake Campground, a USFS spot, sounded good.  I doubled back a little ways and was surprised to find a library in this town of 544.  As small as the library was it had 8 Internet PCs and I checked email.

 

Then I continued a couple more miles to the campground where I was surprised to find a primitive site cost $16, about double what I would have expected.  This was a recreation area that probably accounted for some of that but the place really wasn’t anything special.  The restroom/shower was gated as if it might be closed but it had a simple unlocked latch.  The shower area was a simple open communal area with a somewhat dirty concrete floor.  Then it took 5 minutes or so to coax some lukewarm water out.

 

After the shower I walked by the lake which was small but peaceful.  Then I retired to my tent for the night.

Day 39: Thu, Nov 4, 2004 - Coldspring, TX to Kirbyville, TX [110.4, 8:32:21, 12.9, 26.2]

When I got up I saw a strange sight – a cloudless sky.  It was at least a couple of weeks since that had happened.  I packed up and headed to town, still perturbed at the exorbitant $16 cost for a public, government supported campground.

 

In town I found a restaurant and had their pancake breakfast that included bacon and eggs.  Again the pancakes were good, making 3 days in a row.  Just as I was about to leave the state the pancakes had made a run.

 

I took 150 11 miles to Shepherd.  There a little jog in town got me on 223 out of town to Dolen where I picked up 787 to Romayor.  Just before Romayor I passed a campsite that I had considered yesterday but rejected because it was another 25 miles and not a particularly great location.  Today after yesterday’s expensive camping it looked like it would have been a good location.

 

I stopped in Romayor for my late cereal breakfast.  I continued on 787 to Thicket.  Most of the route continued through thick forest which was rather repetitious.  In Thicket I took 1293 to Kountze with miles of straight road through thick forest.

 

I stopped in Honey Island for a burrito break and talked with a couple guys who had also stopped there.  I learned that on Monday it had rained for more than 24 hours.  So I was fortunate not to have come through a few days earlier.

 

In Kountze I had a major decision to make.  I had gone just over 60 miles and it was early afternoon.  My option was to call it an early day or continue another 50 miles to Kirbyville, the next place with a place to stay with no campgrounds in between.

 

I finally decided to continue and make it a long day.  I was starting to think I needed to take a rest day and making this a long day would allow a short day to DeRidder tomorrow where I could rest and effectively get a day and a half off.  So I pushed on through Kountze on 418 and then 1122 to the intersection with 92.  There I made my final stop for a sandwich at 2:30.  I still had 40 miles to go in 3 hours and began to think I might have bitten off more than I could handle before darkness set in.

 

92 was a major highway with a wide shoulder and noisy.  There was also some headwind that I didn’t need but I made pretty good time to Springer where I picked up 1013 with 18 miles to go with an hour and 10 minutes left to 5:30, which I expected would be close to sunset.  At this point the race was on but I was finally feeling confident I could make Kirbyville before dark.

 

I pushed on with my legs still going strong.  I rode into town after the sun had disappeared and daylight rapidly fading and not knowing where the motel was.  At the intersection with 96 I asked a couple guys at a foodmart and they directed me just a couple blocks south, which was fortunate because it was dark.  I activated my rear red blinkie light and made it safely to the motel where I got a room for $36.

 

I settled in with my legs feeling surprisingly well on my longest mileage day.  I walked a few blocks north and ate at a small Chinese place and stopped at a grocery store on my way back.

 

Prior to the trip I decided it would be good to be on the road and not around for all the campaigning leading up to the election and that was true.  What I didn’t allow for was all the time I would have to think about the disaster of having Bush for 4 more years after the election.  But there was one bright side to all of this – Bush was good for dogs.  Cyclists continually talk about how to handle chasing dogs and one common tactic is to simply yell “bad dog.”  Today, when a pack of 5 dogs chased me I simply yelled “Bad Bush” and they hung their heads and slunk away.  Later, a single dog ignored the “Bad Bush” yell so I assumed he was just a conservative dog without a conscience.

 

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2004. All rights reserved.