Day 1: Friday Nov 3

My last vacation day of 2006 had been scheduled since Steve (cruzintexas) posted the Fall Hill Country Ride back in August. I was determined to get out to the twisties for a long weekend before the cold weather set in. Unfortunately, too many things to do in too little time (as always) led to a late start Friday morning.

I was on the road by noon, and Brian (Nixx) was uber-patient and waited for my call to say where we’d meet and when. Having already geared up, I sent a text: “Bastrop state park @ 2”. I was forced to scrap the wandering route out there, and instead fought the gusting wind and drafts from 18-wheelers on I10 and 71 into La Grange.

Riding alone, I am afforded the opportunity to change my mind and do what I want. I know this is obvious to most of you, but I’m a group rider to the core and I’m used to doing whatever the group does. I decided to detour through town and stop at Sonic for a quick sammich and a chance to put the liner in my jacket. ETA was still close to 2pm, so I stretched and looked over the route. I’d have to deal with a little more of the straight and boring, but the rest of the weekend would surely make up for that.

Once up 77 and onto 153, I was feeling good and running through the sweeping curves with ease. My day-long rides never get out this far, so I’d forgotten how much fun it can be. Being a weekday, cars were few and far between but animals were scattered. Some took flight, some stared at me while chewing away at the long grass, some ran for the safety of the trees, and others had already succumbed to the treacherous roadway and were now at the mercy of scavengers. A hippity-hoppity bunny almost became one of the latter, but a quick swerve of the Strom allowed him to go back to his family for the night.

The GPS told me that taking 71 to Bastrop would get me there at 2:03. Not wanting to miss a chance to ride through Buescher and Bastrop State Parks on such a beautiful day, I was willing to risk Brian waiting a few more minutes for my arrival. I hopped off the bike at the west entrance and paid my $2 to drive through. I don’t mind paying each time, but I should probably pick up a TX State Parks Pass and make it an easier process.

The pace in the park is always slow, and I tend to stay in first and second gear through the tight turns, carefully avoiding the hikers and bikers. The park road is flanked by countless pine trees; needles and cones scattered and softening the boundary between pavement and nature. As the sun peered through the canopy of trees it painted ambiguous shapes on the pavement, creating a strobe effect on my visor as I passed through the sunbeams. The area hasn’t seen as much seasonal rain as previous years, so the creeks were low and warning signs still touted a moderate risk of fire.

Nearing the park exit (or entrance, depending on which way you’re going), I expected to see an angry red VFR. No bike in sight, I pulled over and checked my phone. “Where? The park is big” was the message waiting for me. Oops. I’ve only entered the park from the west here at the headquarters and didn’t realize there were other possibilities.
Once Brian was in tow, we headed for the gas station. Not even a mile down the road, I pulled into the Shell station and the bike died. I hit the starter, and nothing. I was still coasting downhill, so I was able to get it over to the pump and fill ‘er up. Whew! That could’ve been much worse if it had happened only a few miles earlier.

The plan was to take a leisurely three-hour route into Kerrville, bypassing the freeways and taking as many curvy roads as possible to get us “in the mood”. This part of the state wasn’t loaded into the GPS in enough detail, so I made a series of index cards with the route and used a few high-powered magnets to stick them to my tank. Not 15 miles later, card 1 of 5 flew off my tank, flipped through the air, hit Brian in shoulder, then disappeared into the wilderness. I still had 2-5, but I’d have to rely on the GPS to get us to Lockhart in order to continue.

Oh, and CR-207 doesn’t exist. Don’t try to find it anyplace other than a map or the internet. It’s not there in real life.

Now completely out of the way and losing more daylight than I’d have liked, I was startled by the sound of a siren. To my immediate left was LEO, passing me and coming around in front of me. A quick check of the GPS showed us a hair over the limit, but well within reason. As my heart rate increased, so did the distance between him and us. I saw his hand go up with a wave, and he was on his way. Was I lucky or unlucky today? I didn’t get pulled over, so I kept a closer eye on the numbers for the remainder of the day.

I’d sent a message to Deb (Snoopster) to let the group know we’d be at the hotel around 6. At this rate, that was highly unlikely. Should we cut out the fun and take the freeway? Brian shrugged his shoulders and said he’d follow wherever I lead, so I headed down 90 a few miles and up 183 to Lockhart. We got stuck at a few lights, so I signaled to keep an eye out for 142. Hand signals work well when the road numbers only have digits 1-5!

We missed the turn-off to 2720, but I signaled and we headed back. I hate U-turns, but without the GPS re-routing automatically, I had no choice. We made it into the heart of San Marcos just in time for rush hour traffic. Yippee. (can you feel the sarcasm oozing from the screen?)

Once on 12, we headed west and took Hugo Rd to CR-214. Rolling to a stop at the end, I looked up at the street sign – Purgatory Rd. I pointed it out and got what looked like either a chuckle or a sigh of dread from Brian. I can’t tell the difference with his helmet covering all but his sunglass-wrapped eyes. As we headed toward the setting sun on 32, I looked up and saw a rainbow. Was my visor playing tricks on me? As I lifted the visor, the wind stung my eyes but it was clear that the rainbow wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. From Purgatory to rainbows – could it get any better?

CR-101 (aka Little Blanco Road) came highly recommended, so although daylight was fading I decided there was no time like the present. It was touted as “paved, but rough, perfect road for a V-Strom”. It was fun and scenic, but taken at a very conservative pace with more gravel scattered in random corners than either of us was prepared for.

As we arrived back on 473, the sun had finally hidden behind the tree line and was no longer attempting to leave me blind. I took the opportunity afforded by the stop sign to change out my visor (without taking off my helmet, a much-appreciated skill) just in time – the GPS quickly alerted it was changing to night mode. Surveying the surrounding woods, it was unanimous that a pit stop wasn’t going to happen there but needed to happen soon. Knowing the deer were lying in wait all around us, we decided there was safety in numbers and we jumped on I10 for the last leg of our journey to Kerrville.

Once we refueled of the bikes and ‘defueled’ our bodies, we made our way to The Inn Of The Hills to meet the group for dinner. As we pulled up, Deb (Snoopster) flagged us down and pointed us into the group parking spaces. I didn’t even have my helmet off before Steve was on my case about being late. They’d called for a shuttle to take us to dinner, so I quickly jumped inside the closest room to drop my gear and throw on a pair of jeans. We got up to the front lobby with enough time for me to meet Bob, a friend of Steve’s from Indiana, and to discover that Howard and Jan were not going to be joining us. Steve (RockmanTex, aka “the other Steve”) was also there with his purdy Wee Strom, equipped with Caribou bags.

What happens in Kerrville stays in Kerrville… including the colorful dinner conversation. Among it, I was reminded – way more than once – that I’d need to be up and ready to roll at 8 am. As many times as I agreed to be ready on time, they continued to hound me. I was already tired, so it shouldn’t be difficult to fall asleep early.

Or would it? Back at the hotel, we gathered at Deb and Erik’s (Rainmaker) room for a game of Mexican Train (a version of dominoes) and some libations. A few hours and some Happy Gilmore-watching later, and it was off to slumber land.

To Be Continued...