7.04.2007,9:19 AM
Texas Hill Country: On the road again
Dose of Hill Country

It was like "Hill Country 101"; a freshman's short-course, first exposure to the infamous Hill Country of Texas.

Frankly, I've avoided the area since I started riding again simply because that's where 'everyone' rides. I hear it all the time: "We're riding the Hill Country!"

My innate aversion to crowded places echoes in my head 'It's going to be full of motorcycles, people and cars,......No thanks.' (same reason I've avoided Deals Gap & Tail of the Dragon). I typically prefer to ride alone and in places out of the mainstream.

However recent stories and ride reports tickled my curiosity and I needed a road trip before I went postal. My feet have been very itchy to the point that the rest of me has been vibrating with restlessness.

'Negotiating' the entire day off Friday, I was eager and ready to go: routes planned, weather watching, more alternate routes planned, weather be damned.

After a brief morning shower, I was off and running. Impatient to get on the road. Once off my home road and onto 3325 heading towards I-20, that mental break shifts in with full throttle and I'm grinning ear to ear, humming in my helmet "On the road again...... It's good to be back on the road again."

My ‘mission’ was several fold:
1. to scout out routes and places of interest that represent Texas,
2. visit a few points of interest that tickled my curiosity,
3. sample the apple ice cream in Medina,
4. acquire a ‘sense of place’ of the region that is known as the “Hill Country”,
5. satisfy, however briefly, that wanderlusty demon inside. (and the inner child; two demons that argue all the time)

When I ride places, I don’t go merely to ride. The bike and the roads we travel are a way and means to acquire what I refer to as a ‘sense of place’. By that I mean to truly experience a place in all its essence: the land, weather, animals, vegetation, people and their interaction with all of the aforementioned. The smells, the textures, shapes, sounds, colors, history, geography….. all of it. They all overlap; they are all entwined. One does not exist without the other.

When I visit these places, I am an outsider, a visitor, a lurker, a participant, sometimes an intruder. It depends on whose perspective. I like to see and sample how people live in their places, their microcosms, their little universes……. It defines who and what they are, and who and what I am. What we all are. No matter how alien we may feel in a place, we are still all bozos on the same bus.

This trip was no different than the others in that respect. And I enjoyed every minute except for the short periods of water torture.

Leaving home (Note to self: what is ‘home’? An inner question that pops up often.) began Part One: the Leaving. But the real essence of the journey began when I pulled off the Road Most Traveled (Hwy 281) onto a narrow Road Less Traveled (Hwy 218). Here is when the odors, colors, shapes and textures really came alive: rural Texas.

Expanses of wildflowers tickled my vision and the sun played hide and seek with the clouds,
shadows dancing across the wide open pastures and fields.



Judging from the water pooled alongside the road and the debris caught in the grasses, the road was recently flooded in many areas.


I could smell the dank musky odors of waterlogged soil. Oxygen in the soil is replaced with water and an different set of microbes dominate, releasing odors associated with those conditions.

The yellow-leaves of corn along the edges of the fields also indicated waterlogged soils. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder and does not like waterlogged soils; nitrogen leaches quickly and the roots become suffocated by the lack of oxygen. Because these two elements are crucial for chlorophyll production, which gives leaves their green color, the plants ‘starve’ and turn yellow.

All these sensations and observations reminded me of Oregon springs after the typical rainy winter. It’s amazing how such sensations can bring memories to the surface and they are almost relived, but instead blend into the current place to encompass a sense of both places at once.

I’ve been in Texas only eight years, but never have I ever seen it so green and lush. At first it felt ‘alien’, but my trip to Arkansas pushed that over the edge to being ‘overwhelming’. I’m not used to such lush vegetation and so much green. When in Arkansas I found myself yearning for the more tempered colors of Texas, especially near the desert: give me some browns, beiges, and rust! Too much green!

Oddly enough, I find the same response here in my current area. But the Hill Country seems to offer a balanced color palette and it sits quite well with me. Of course, I had to remind myself that this season’s plethora of green is atypical. Having lived for nearly four years (several years ago) on the edge of Hill Country, I knew that soon enough the colors would be dominated by dried yellow grasses and chalky hillsides.

But I was enjoying the deception for the time being.

With a feeling of flying over the landscape, I was infused with the scents and colors of the surrounding countryside as I rode through it.

And I smiled; inside and out.

Three quarters of the way to Hwy 16 on 218 was a road sign with a black squiggly line promising curves ahead. Shortly after that was a large flourescent banner: "Road Closed. Detour" pointing that a-way.

So I rode that a-way, out of my way, but nevertheless, eventually the right way.

I was rudely reminded to be watchful of gravel washed onto the roads when leaning into a turn and the front wheel nearly slid out from under me. A brief split-second pucker moment and the bike recovered. I was more careful of road conditions after that.

The ride south on Hwy 16 was pleasant and uneventful. I passed through Cherokee hoping to see a sign of ‘Welcome to…’ to photograph but none exists. Nor did I find the historic marker that the state road sign announced.

Having caught the contagious affliction for Texas courthouses, I captured one in Hamilton. Typical architectural representation of that era as well as placement on a square surrounded by shops and offices of similar structural design. Tall stately trees complement these old courthouses as if they were guardians.


I gassed up in Goldthwait and rerouted myself back on Hwy 16 after taking a wrong turn. Barely two miles south of town I was greeted by that now familiar ominous black and blue bruised sky that predicts it's going to cry. I pulled over, dug out the rain jacket and snuggled in for what I suspected might be a brief rain.

I was wrong; it was a hard, driving rain behind a slow semi truck.
All the way into Llano; 25 miles.

Wet and hungry, I found Cooper's BBQ and dragged my sopping wet self inside where a nice young man brought me a tray with meat that I pointed to from the hot smoking grill. Wouldn't ya know: I walk inside and the sun shines.

I devoured the beef like a starving carnivore and gnawed the corn on the cob like a busy rabbit. After eating the entire blackberry cobbler I was ready for a hot shower and a nap. I found the motel and quickly peeled off wet boots, socks and sweaty clothes and enjoyed a steaming hot shower. After draping wet gear and socks over the bike’s handlebars outside my room, setting the wet boots on the luggage rack to dry in the sun, I fell asleep on the comfortable bed.

Low rumbling throaty pipes announced the arrival of my riding companion for the next leg of the trip and we chatted until giving in to the night, asleep and resting for the next day’s ride.

But not before I bid a silent hello and goodnight to an old friend: the full moon.


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posted by Macrobe
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