Day 2
June 5th, 2003
Martin Dies State Park
Near Jasper, Texas

I slept somewhat fitfully, and was more then ready to get back on the road today.

I was up and packing by 6:30am in the thick Texas air.  The stale, hazy atmosphere of yesterday was still lingering.  A good rain was needed to wash out this area of such conditions.

I idled out the park before the rangers came to work, saving myself 10 bucks. 

When I got to the entrance I turned the ST west on US 190 to start the ride to the Hill Country I've heard so much about.  I figured it was time to check it out myself.

Thick clouds are hanging in the area, but none look like they have rain.

I have a complicated flight plan today, with many route changes.  I wanted to avoid Austin and San Antonio and my planned route will do that, but it will mean lots turns and twists.

US 190 took me west through many small and medium size Texas towns.  East Texas is like another state when compared to the west half.  Here, there is traffic and lots of population, out west only desert and oil fields.

In Huntsville, I took my first break of the day at a gas mart.  I bought a drink and chips and sat outside on the curb.  When I finished snacking I called the fire dept offices back home for a weather report.  Chief Gann reported there was rain in the San Antonio area.  Looks like I'm going to get wet before the day is done.

SR 30 took me out of Huntsville, and a few miles later I passed 3 cars at once on a short straight.

At Roans Prairie I shifted over to SR 90 to Novasota, where I went to SR 105.

Traffic is thick with so many large cities in the area.  I pass a lot cars but still they keep appearing.

When I switched to US 290 west I could see thick rain clouds all around me, but I had hope because the wind was quiet.

Passing through Brenham I pick up a sweet scent.  I look around and see the Blue Bell Ice cream factory.  A huge place.  I was tempted to stop and take the free tour just to get some free ice cream.

I stayed on US 290 till I reached Paige, where I took SR 21.

Just east of Carmine the dark, stormy clouds came into full view.  It was very black looking.  Texas thunderstorms can be very intimidating, but this storm did not have any lightning flashes.  I pulled over to check for alternate routes to take me around the storm,  NO luck, all clear areas were not in my direction.

I decided to hold steady, and continue on my present route, if it gets too bad I will pull off and seek shelter.

A few miles later it grew very dark, and then it hit me.  Strong winds, accompanied by a pelting rain.  I fought to hold the ST steady in the wind, and ducked down behind the windscreen to shield the rain.  I comforted myself by thinking once I get through this storm it will be clear riding all the way to the coast.  No more fronts were on the horizon, the Weather Channel even said the Pacific was quiet, and would remain so for several more days.
With my fuel light staring at me the last 20 miles, I pulled into a Exxon station in Bastrop, and took on over 6 gallons of fuel.  I picked my way through the wet streets making sure my eyes were looking way ahead to avoid having to make any sudden stops on the wet streets.  It was still raining hard.

With my gas tank full I went to I-35 south.  Traffic was moderate, and it was difficult to see in all the road spray.  

A few miles later I exited for San Marcos in a steady rain, to look for something to eat.  Riding in the rain in a strange city, is one of the harder things a Long Rider has to do.  You have to watch for signs, traffic, and wet road surfaces, in a totally unfamiliar place.  A sudden jerk, or quick movement, or lapse in reading the road surface, can instantly put you on the ground.  

I found a KFC and zipped in for some chicken.  I was dripping water on the floor when I placed my order.  I was the only Anglo in the store, and the locals had to be thinking what is this crazy gringo doing out in the rain.

For the last 18 months I had been tutoring myself Spanish.  I knew enough of the language to get by if I had to.  I can read it pretty good, but I'm having trouble with the verbal part if it is spoken fast.  I took my food to a booth, and sat down.  For the fun of it I eavesdropped on a conversation at a nearby table.  I picked up enough to learn they were talking about furniture, but it was too fast for me to get the details.

After lunch I got back on I-35 heading toward San Antonio. The persistent, stubborn rain had slowed to a drizzle.  The skies were beginning to lighten in the direction I was going, and it lifted my spirits.

I was in the far right lane of this 3 lane interstate, when a white Prelude zipped by me at 100.  The driver was lane changing all over the place, darting in and out.  He was way too fast for this wet road and traffic.  The bottom line was-this guy is dangerous.  He raced ahead and I settled back down.  I moved to the center lane and was behind a 18 wheeler when all of a sudden brake lights lit up on all the vehicles in front of me.  I couldn't see what was going on because of the 18 wheeler, so I decided to stay put.  I figured if anything was up there I had the best interference I could ask for right in front of me.

Traffic slowed to 50 mph, and then I began to see debris on the road.  I picked my way around it as it came from under the 18 wheeler.  Tire shreds, hoses, grill and body parts along with glass, were everywhere.  Then I saw the white Prelude in the median, heavily damaged, smoke billowing out from the hood, but the driver outside standing.  On my right I saw 2 other damaged vehicles on the shoulder.  

Apparently the Prelude zigged one time too many and clipped someone, causing a wreck.  I would have stopped to use my EMS skills on the injured but I was in the wrong lane, and too afraid to change with so many drivers rubber necking at 80 mph.  I thought the best thing to do was keep going, too risky.

Before reaching San Antonio, I left I-35 for SR 46.  The rain had ceased, and the sun was coming out.  I was not far from the Hill Country now.

In Boerne I found a office parking lot with some shade and pulled in.  I switched to lytespeed gloves, and put the dark Oakleys back on.  I called my wife at work and gave the latest report.  The sun was out, and it was beginning to get really warm.

SR 46 took me to SR 16.  I followed it to Bandera where I stopped at the local Dairy Queen for a vanilla cone.  School had just been dismissed and it grew crowded.  Students were jamming the place bigtime.  A booth of teenage girls sat next to mine, and I was amazed.  Six girls carried on 3 or 4 conversations at once.  The only people there were not talking about were the ones that were there.  I was amazed so much info could be digested at once.

From Bandera I took SR 470.  The highway grew twisty and I carved the loaded ST as best I could on the curvy road.  Up and down the hills I went, passing by ranch houses and those tree shrub things.  I passed over several creeks, many with cows standing in them.  

I found a small rodeo and stopped for a pic.  Every county in Texas has a small place where cowboys test their bronco skills in front of tiny crowds.  Each dreaming of the big time someday.  But here is where they start, all they have to do is pay the entrance fee and they're in.
​Rodeo is a way of life in Texas, even in the Hill Country
I was using a lot of caution because I didn't know the road, and pratfalls seemed to be everywhere.  Sharp curves, gravel, bumps, and brother riders had emailed me warning me of a thick deer population, they also warned of cattle grates on the road. To top it off, many low spots sported signs saying to watch out for flooding if it rains. Thankfully, traffic was low.

By late afternoon I was on SR 187 south, enjoying more good riding.  I found a way to quickly tell if a joker was local.  If he lived in, or near the Hill Country, he had a steel guard frame on the front of his truck or car.  I called them, "deer bumpers",  and could see they were put to good use.  I saw at least 5 dead deer on the side of the road in a fifteen mile or so stretch to SR 27.  

I passed a solitary windmill, and wondered about its owner.  I think of the damndest stuff when riding.
​Hill Country Windmill
The twisty, hilly roads of the Hill Country were beginning to tire me, so I was glad to reach the turn off for Garner State Park.  I stopped at a nearby store for something to drink, and a can of spaghetti.

The park is located on the Frio River and a large number of folks could be seen floating down the river on tubes.  In Alabama, the Frio would just be a good creek, but in Texas they call it a river.

When I entered the park I had to go in the office and register motel like. 

I covered 422 miles today.

I rode down to the campground and picked a nice shady site out near the Frio.  There was not much grass so I put down on a leafy spot.  The temp was warm, but at least the humidity was down.  I figured I had broken the humidity line 75 miles or so to the east.

I saw people walking behind a row of bushes to the river, so after I set up camp I followed the path and found them swimming and riding the rafts over the fast moving water and rocks.  I took my shoes off and joined in.  I had been hot all day and the water felt good. 
​I was just like this joker a few min. later
The water was warm and clean and I had a good swim.  I even slid down the rocks like the kids.  It was fun, and a great way to unwind after a long ride in the saddle.

After swimming, I went back to the campsite and ate supper, then walked over to the showers.  On the way back to the campsite I stopped and chatted with a retired couple from Michigan, that were on their way to Mexico.

Back at my camp table I called home, then my son.  He graduated college last month and he filled me in on his job search.  He advised he had a interview with Wells Fargo tomorrow.  I returned a few more messages then worked on my journal.  I hooked up the FM radio converter on my phone, and listened to a nearby country station.  After that I got out my DVD player and finished watching Red Dragon.

I retreated to my tent after the movie.  I left the rain flap off and had a cool breeze blowing in.  It was dark and I was tired, so I went to sleep quickly.  Tomorrow, I leave the Hill Country and begin a 2-3 day ride across the desert Southwest.