9.17.2007,12:38 PM
Parker County, TX, Ride

“No matter where you go, there you are.”

Whee, Sherpie, Ed and I explored the southeastern area of Parker County on a wonderfully sunny warm Sunday. At times during the ride, I felt transported back through time and across thousands of miles to the east and the western US. Back to the meandering country and woodland roads of Maine and Oregon.

I sometimes remember those thoughts springing forth when I first moved to Texas nine years ago and exploring the countryside north and east of Austin: “I never in my life thought I would ever find myself here in Texas.” Yet I’m here, and there, and back then and now. I find myself smiling upon the realization on some of my rides that some things don’t change much. They’re different, but so similar that it defies the perceptions to define many places as completely different.

Parker County, Texas, where I currently live, is no different.

Cursed with an insatiable curiosity, I’ve always researched the history of the states and local areas where I’ve lived (except Ohio. Curiosity lost in that state.) Despite the schizophrenic identity of my five acres of sanctuary (1/4 of my property is in Tarrant County), I tend to favor Parker County for my explorations. And today was the second ride to explore the area.

In response to a petition signed by 224 settlers, the Texas state legislature formed Parker County from nearby Bosque and Navarro counties in late 1855. The county was named after a Texas legislator, Isaac Parker, who led the settlers to petition. Weatherford was designated as the county seat and a brick courthouse was erected by 1858, surrounded by cabins and tents.

Because of the Civil War and Indian raids by the Kiowas and Comanches, the county’s population never really soared until the 1960’s. In 1860, 4,200 people, including over 200 slaves, lived in the county. Like most counties in Texas, the main industry and source of living was agriculture. In 1900 the population was slightly over 25,000 and expanded rapidly in the early 1900's with the construction of railroads, and even more when I-20 corridor was built in the early ‘60’s. Then people began moving west and commuting to places of work in Fort Worth. By 2006, the county boasted over 106,000 country residents.

Despite the influx of suburbanites, most of the 902 square miles of Parker County remain devoted to agriculture –crops and livestock- or still untouched or reclaimed by native vegetation. Only oil production rates second in production.

Parker County’s undulating and hilly land is crisscrossed with rivers and streams, dented with waving valleys, and pot-marked with limestone. The richer soil of the valleys near the river and streams encourage growth of crops, pastureland, elm, walnut, and pecan trees. The rolling plains are covered by tall grasses, oak, mesquite.

Elevations in the county range from 700 to 1,200 feet. And it is on one of those 700+ foot rolling prairies that I live and feast on expansive vivid sunsets and cringe under gusts of 60 mph winds.

Today’s ride on the back roads were in so many ways like those I’ve been on in Maine and Oregon with the lush vegetation, farms and ranches, the smell of cows and hay, white pipe fences, trickling streams running under the canopies of trees, old houses and barns, ranch folks in their pickup trucks, many waving, and genuine hospitality that most cities lack.

I felt like I was here, there, then and now. Too many similarities for these regions to be far different. And it reminded me that while this is now my home, my home is equally there. The many places I’ve lived and traveled. A part of me is still there. Just as I am here.
No matter where I go, there I am.

The ride:

Riding south on 3325, we turned west on White Settlement Rd. passing small farmettes and ranchettes on a high prairie, eventually winding our way down to Lake Weatherford. Pulling into a small park in between the road and the end of the lake, I spotted a white egret waiting patiently for me.


Several of his buddies lingered nearby feeding and soaking their feet.


The glare from the sun shimmered off the water and the colors of the trees and grass alternated from washed out to vivid when in the shadows. Sometimes I wonder what the world looks like to horses and dogs with their monochromatic vision. Perhaps like this?


We turned right for a short jaunt on 730, heading NW on North Lake Rd. We picked a route with minimal highway mileage, choosing the country roads. All we had never been on. These are ultimately the most rewarding scenically and in riding. However, today it revealed how bad off the forks are on the Whee. Nearly all the roads are riddled with bumps, holes and uneven tarmac. Every bump was nearly a tank slapper, the front end chattering unmercifully. I felt the front end skid sideways a few times, so my speed was conservative the entire route except for smooth tarmac. Even gravel was more comfortable. Whee needs a doctor appointment.

Passing ranches of various sizes with pastures, cattle, horses and hay, we eventually made our way to Old Springtown Rd and climbed some of those undulating hills. The views behind us as we rode competed with my attention ahead. Finally finding a spot to pull off on the shoulder I tried to capture the expansive view looking out over the waving valleys and hills with my camera. But the photo doesn't do it any justice. I'll have to return sometime and take a panoramic series of shots.


Eventually we ended up in a civilization called 'Springtown'. And there was the ribbon of hot highway with the noisy cars and trucks whizzing by. It's always a rude awakening returning to towns after being in the countryside. This was no different.

By that time we were ready for some lunch and we spied a restaurant across the highway: JC's Cafe. The decor was tamed rustic and I especially loved the wooden rocking chairs and rocking bench on the porch. I could have sat there for awhile, even eaten out there. Inside was a large open common area with a beautiful limestone brick fireplace, double open faced to be enjoyed on both sides. A large screened porch on the side covered benches and seats.

Both Ed and I looked at each other with the same idea: good candidate for a meet and greet, or destination ride. The menu offered choices for breakfast, lunch and dinners, with some locally made pies and cakes. Because the town had a big Wild West celebration the day before, their inventory was a bit low on deserts. And they had run out of hamburger. I was in the mood for a club sandwich anyway. The meal and service was very good. I'll be back there!!


Next issue:
My next house, wild red lilies, algae, finger fish, horses, skunk, barns and getting lost.

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posted by Macrobe
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