The Texas Hill Country

Since last post I’ve had to struggle with strong headwinds, rain, fences and the Texas Hill Country, which is quite nice actually. After riding over the Rocky Mountains, these hills are like little bumps, but still nice views.

First the wind. I had several days of strong southeast winds, which forced me to take a more northerly route than I wanted to. But riding directly into a 25 mph wind is downright discouraging, even more so than hills. At least with a hill you may struggle up it, but you know you get a nice downhill coast afterward. But riding into a headwind is relentless. There’s no break. I was forced to use the electric motor a lot just to keep a 5 mph pace. Then the problem became a low battery, so I needed to find places to charge up during the day, which was not always easy. Plus, it takes time to recharge the battery, so it cuts into my riding time.

The upshot is that I gave up riding into the wind and had to go northeast for several days so that the south wind was on my quarter. But now I am further north than I want to be so I have to zigzag southeast somehow. I’ve decided that if I must ride into a strong headwind I just need to plan on shorter days. If I use 75% of my battery in four hours, then I can only go 20-25 miles in the day, rather than 40-50 which is typical. That’s bike touring–you’ve got to be adaptable.

Next, the rain. I used to ride in the rain when I was younger. I had a rain suit and was able to cover my panniers. But now I hate it. Luckily our technology today allows me to look ahead and see the weather forecast for the next several days. If if looks like rain, I plan a route that will get me to a hotel. In fact, that’s exactly what I am doing now. I am currently in Groesbeck, sitting in a hotel. It is supposed to rain all day and all night so I am hunkered down for a day. Nice.

When it’s not raining I try to free camp as much as possible. There are few campgrounds where I go, and the RV parks are right next to busy highways, which makes no sense to me. Camping is supposed to be in nature, where you get away from the noise of cars, factories, airplanes, etc.

So I have been free camping, but it has not been easy. Everything is fenced off, gated, and locked. This is pasture land, so they have to keep the cows in place. I budget about an hour to find a spot. That means if it gets dark by 7 pm, I want to be in my spot by 5 pm, which means I start looking at 4 pm. I’ve been pretty lucky. Once I found a gap in a fence and was able to crawl through. Another time I found an unlocked gate, another time a flood destroyed part of a fence so I was able to slip through. But it is a bit stressful. Here I am gazing wistfully at a perfect camping spot, but unable to get there.

Typical gate (locked of course).

A couple of my campsites from the past two weeks.

You can see I am out of the desert now and among forests and bushes. This helps a lot actually as it provides good cover when camping.

This is ranch country. There must be thousands of ranches in central Texas, which is why all those fences.

This is also conservative Christian country. Lots of Trump signs and flags.

I’d rather not think about this one.

I was resting by the side of the road one day and this sheriff came by. They were looking for someone. We chatted a bit. Nice person.

In one small town I stopped at a memorial park and charged my battery for a couple hours. They had replicas of artillery and helicopters.

I was interested because I had just finished a great podcast by Dan Carlin call Supernova in the East. It is a compelling story of the Pacific theater in WWII. Mind boggling stuff those guys went through. In many ways it was worse than the European war due to the isolation, rain, lack of food and water, and of course the Japanese soldiers, who refused to surrender. Awful stuff.

In some towns you don’t get much of choice regarding hotels. They are cheap, and sometimes a little scummy.

Wait, no door handle?

Speaking of wind, you know when you see these you are in a windy spot. The things are huge, and noisy too when you get close.

Ostrich farm, central Texas.

Some views of the Hill Country.

By David – Flickr: Willo City Loop Orton, CC BY 2.0

The last thing I expected to see in Texas was a winery, but I rode right past one and got a bottle of wine and a sandwich for my dinner. It wasn’t bad! Here is the proprietor.

Fiesta winery and a Heart of Texas red.

That’s it for now. Total mileage so far is about 3,500 miles. Here is my current location.