10.04.2007,9:31 AM
Ride-about in Hill Country: Back Tracks

I awoke with the rising sun. A light glow in the sky, I listened to fish flopping, tree frogs chirping, insects clicking and leaves rustling. The water appeared still at first glance but an astute eye could catch life in action above, below and on the surface: bugs flitting about the surface of the water, fish sticking their mouths up to catch them, the adventurous jumping into the air and belly flopping on the water, turtles swimming with only their heads above the surface, circular ripples pinwheeling out from their centers of disturbed water, and early morning light reflected like wrinkles on the otherwise green smooth water.


Tree leaves on the other side of the river bank reflected the expanding sunlight glowing a fluorescent green and contrasting the still dark shadowy water, cliffs and leaves. One can turn their head away, look back in a minute and see changes in colors, textures and light as the sun rises higher in the sky and down into the river barranco. I eagerly awaited the light to shine on the tops of the bluff across the river and highlight the rocky shelves where opportunistic vegetation grew like hanging or balcony gardens.


Meanwhile the guys at the campsite down the way invited me to share their breakfast, again cooked in a dutch oven: omelet and sausages with coffee. Their hospitality reminded me how refreshing and welcome it is to meet people out of the cities, here, sharing a common love and respect of the countryside.

After breakfast and cleaning up, it was time to break camp and pack the bike to head back. Back, the long way home.

Noticing a green grassy open space in front of my campsite and on the embankment to the road, I decided to ride up that rather than the rocks. Geared up and seated, ready to roll, I positioned the Whee and smoothly rolled the throttle open. Making it up the hill was easy, but the necessary turn to the right revealed too late a campfire hole in the ground. And in my way. Unable to quickly swerve to avoid it on the wet grass, I immediately steeled myself for a short rough ride. Rolling the throttle open more, down into the pit we went and over the other side, both the front and rear of the suspension bottoming out. The wheels did a spastic squiggle and the engine cut off. I balanced the bike putting my feet down and took a breath, glad that we saved it again. Looking to my left I noticed a elderly woman sitting in a chair watching me. She smiled and gave me a 'thumb up' and I smiled back while restarting the engine. I pulled onto the gravel road and headed out of the campground area, noting a rattling in the front....somewhere.

Several miles later and back on the tarmac road I decided to change my route back home. Noticing that the Whee was not handling bumps well, riding gravel country roads was no longer attractive, nor helpful to the now instable suspension. The bike would have to go into the shop for complete suspension work sooner than later.

Entering Lameta I stopped at the only gas station for many miles. Best to top off the tank now and investigate an alternative route home restricted to FM roads. Pulling in I noticed two parked BMW GS Adventure bikes. Two retired men were riding the roads testing their new springs. One of them suspected the Whee may need a new spring in the rear and, at the very least, adjustment of the rebound. I clicked the preload up another notch, lengthening my ground clearance which was later to be my downfall - literally. It rode slightly better after that.

After chatting outside and checking maps against theirs, I altered my route from gravel county roads to tarmac farm roads for a smoother ride and to reduce further damage to the suspension. Refilling my Camelbac with ice water and topping the tank I headed north retracing part of the route I rode south. This granted me an opposite vantage point since I had only ridden these roads heading south.

The morning was cool, dry, sunny and clear as a bell. Gone was yesterday's haze that blanketed the landscape; that morning the sky was blue with scattered white clouds, and vistas in the distance were clear and crisp. It was a wonderful morning for a ride!




Time lapsed, I don't even know how long; I didn't care. For now I was in 'no-time': here past, present and future were the same. Eventually I found FM575 which would take me north to intersect another FM road I had traveled before. After several miles of rolling cattle country I crested a hill and slammed on the brakes: the asphalt disappeared. No signs of warning, no nothing. White rocky chert ahead quickly disappeared into the blue sky. Where the hell did the road go??

I sat for a bit, checked and rechecked my maps: no hint or clue what happened to the road. "Well, it must continue north..... won't it?", I muttered to myself. I wasn't about to turn around and head back, so I shifted into first gear and rode the rocky gravel slowly in second and third gear. Still no clue what road I was now on, I followed the bends and came to a turn. Right or left? Relying on my internal compass (and mentally chastising myself for not reinstalling the compass on the bike), I turned to what I thought, hoped, was north. Another few miles I encountered another T in the roads; now where? "My kingdom for a GPS!!!"

Putting the bike in neutral in the middle of the road, I sat and tried to orient myself. The sun was high in the sky and I had no idea anymore where I was heading. Looking right the white gravel quickly disappeared over a hill crest bordered by trees. I couldn't see a thing beyond in that direction. To the left and down the hill was a farmhouse and a water tower far into the distance. I considered riding in that direction; I could stop at the farmhouse to get directions or ride into the valley beyond: water towers are always near towns.

I moved the bike to turn left when I heard a diesel truck approaching over the hill to the right. Ah! I can ask the driver for directions! At my prompt (gloved hand held up), the woman driver stopped the truck and rolling down the window she immediately asked if I was lost. "Yes. Where did 575 go to?!" She laughed and informed me it dead ends; no pavement, no signs, no warning, no nothing. The End.

Finally getting my bearings and with relief I thanked her for directions and started to orient the bike to turn right rather than left. Well, since only one foot now touched the ground, that one foot slipped on one of the rocks and the bike lost its balance. I've learned with my short stature that once this top-heavy bike starts to fall, I can't save it. All I can do is try to save myself by stepping out wide and try to soften its fall to the side.

The bike on its side, I quickly reached over to the ignition key and shut off the engine. Then I stood and realized I would have to remove everything off the bike to pick it up. I was not happy. Luckily the woman in the truck backed up the truck and got out to help me right the bike. It was not easy between the two of us; the bike was loaded with gear and we both were fairly small humans.

A quick search revealed no major damage. Starting the engine again, I carefully turned the bike in a 3/4-circle and in the right direction. Eventually I spotted a welcome sight of gray tarmac. Stopping before entering the road, I saw another FM road heading north but no sign to identify it. I took a gamble that it was the FM road I wanted and rode across onto its back.

I was relieved when I finally spotted a FM sign on the side of the road a few miles down; it was indeed the road I planned on. Now feeling a bit fatigued and hungry I rode north. The landscape was more flat and less scenic but nevertheless still pleasing. Since leaving the campsite this morning I had encountered barely half a dozen vehicles which was welcomed. Shortly after the thought 'I hope I don't encounter any more rocky gravel roads' there ahead were signs announcing road construction and gravel roadbed. With a heavy sigh, I shifted down and navigated the mile or so of white chert, the bike chattering the entire way.

Shortly I spotted a sign announcing the tiny town of Energy, Texas. I had passed directional signs pointing the way for this town and I was curious about it. So it was on my list of points to visit along the way. Like many tiny towns, all that exists to truly give them any identity other than a road sign is a post office bearing the town name. Energy, Texas, fit that description.


The remainder of the way home was uneventful with a stop in Dublin to gas up, refill the Camelbac (now my third time, having drank over 2 1/2 liters with no pee stop) and buy two bottles of Dr. Pepper. Dublin is home to the original Dr. Pepper. The original recipe is still available but can only be found within a short radius of Dublin. One bottle was for myself to test (I'm not a big Dr. Pepper fan) and a friend whom I know likes the original soda.

I chugged down a cold bottled Starbucks Mocha, geared up again and hit the road north again.


The entire trip report is here and begins with the first post at the bottom.

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posted by Macrobe
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