Day 3
June 6th, 2003
Gardner State Park
In the Texas Hill Country

I slept much better then the previous 2 nights and was out of my tent by 6:30am.  I noted this will be my last morning on central time for a while.

I was packed and making my way out of the park by 7am.  Gardner is the busiest state park I've ever spent the night in.  I eased by lines of RVs and tents.  Campers were hanging wet stuff all in the trees and bushes.  The park looked like Woodstock.

The Hill Country has many good roads to choose from, but I had to narrow it down to just a few.  I gassed at Leakey and took SR 337.  The morning was cool and pleasant and there was no traffic to speak of.

SR 337 is a enjoyable and quiet road, and I keep my speed down to enjoy the scenery.  The Hill Country does not have a lot of elevation, but the roads are mostly good, and the curves challenging.  I was lost in thought while I carved my way through the valleys and hills.  The area has a number of dips with steep hills and tight curves at the last instant, to test your reflexes.

I saw 2 does scramble up a hill as I approached.  This place is infested with deer, and I keep a sharp eye.
At Camp Wood I briefly went to SR 55 to connect to SR 335. 

On 335 the curves began to pick up and I found myself leaning hard.  I was having a hard time holding the ST on a line.  My rear end was pogoing badly under the load.  My rear shock has to be toast.  It was soft when I returned from California last year, but a few members of the ST bbs suggested I dial it up all the way.  That helped a lot but that was a year ago, and now in the Texas Hills Country, I was struggling.  Noway could I even approach the lean angles the ST is capable off, it was just too scary.

I slowly topped a hill and suddenly had to jam the brakes.  As I crested the top at least 7 deer were standing in the road.  They bolted in all directions.  I felt like I was in bee swarm.  Three or 4 went to the right and the rest cut left, several buzzards eating road kill, joined in the melee.  A rabbit or 2 took off also.  The road looked a jailbreak from a petting zoo.  I was almost at a stop, but I still feared one of the hapless deer would run right into me, and knock me over.  It was scary.

My prudence once again paid dividends.  If I had been going faster, I would have surprised the herd too quickly, and on them before they could safely bolt.  As it was, I was going slow and able to stop the instant I saw them, allowing them a clean getaway.

A few miles later, I was held up at a construction zone.  When I was allowed to proceed, I saw a ranch display called, "Rust in Peace."  A rancher had assembled all kinds of old farm equipment and put their rusting skeletons on display.  He had tractors, shredders, and plows fading for all to see.

The "Rust in Peace" Graveyard"
I came down out of the Hill Country to Rocksprings, and went to SR 55.  It was a great ride in the Texas Hills, but now it was time to tackle the west Texas desert.  Before me lay miles and miles of empty arid land, dried up towns, and lonely highways. 
There was NO traffic on SR 55, and I made good time to US 277 North.  A rest area makes a home at the intersection of 55 and 277, and I made use of it.

Twenty miles later I found myself in Sonora jumping on I-10 West.  I disdain interstates, but I-10 is virtually the ONLY route across west Texas.

The day was still mostly cloudy, but that's ok, it'll hold down the heat.

I passed a Yamaha Road Star and waved when I came around him.  

With the ST close to 90, I booked across the bleak west Texas landscape.  I was doin good, so took a early lunch at a Burger King in Ozona.  A small town on the shores of I-10.  Ozona only survives because a few wayfarers on I-10 decide to stop here, and not at the next town down the road.  The few lonely outposts out here count on more mini vans from California stopping in their city, and not at the next.  I would find it unnerving to know my existence depended on the whims of exasperated vacationers.

After lunch, I saw a sign directing folks to the Davey Crockett Memorial, so followed it.  After all, this is Crockett County.  All over Texas, you will find memorials to the famous Tennessee frontiersman and statesman. 
After the memorial I stopped at the local library to check email.  The librarian was friendly, and I had the choice of about 8 desktops.  I checked my website, and my checking account.  All was good.
​The Crockett County Library
With my business finished, and tummy full, I got back on the road and continued west to Fort Stockton, where I would turn north on US 285 for New Mexico.

I sang every song I knew to kill the boredom of I-10.  Songs like, Amarillo by Morning and the lyric, "When the sun is high in that Texas Sky, I'll be bucking at the county fair."  Good words for this part of the country.
Fort Stockton finally appeared, and I peeled off I-10 for more lonely desert riding.  By now the sun is out full, and its hot.  

US 285 was a blur of fast riding shooting me past rocks and sand.  The ST quickly chased down the cars of migrant workers heading north.  I came around them at 95 like they were sitting still.

Pecos, Texas.  An obscure town in the desert.  Yes, Pecos has seen better days, but no one really knew when.  The town was slowly fading.  US 285 took the ST and I through the depressed business district.   Many of the stores were closed, and those still open displayed faded brick, and with washed out signs from the relentless desert sun beating on them.  

On impulse, I took a side road on the north side of town, that took me into a neighborhood of run down houses and and dirt lawns.  Dust was everywhere and it found its way into every nook and cranny.  On fences, roofs, cars, and everything else.
​Walter Street.  Pecos, Texas
I saw 2 boys bouncing a basketball walking down the street.  I guess they knew where the nearest hoop could be found.

I turned west to go back to the highway.  One block later I found a closed down community center with a dried up swimming pool.  It reminded of the tennis court in Pritchett, Colorado I found last year.

The pool had not been used in many years, its cracks would leak water like the Titanic.  Why did they stop coming to this pool?  Surely the cool water felt good in the desert?  I bet the town has been in a continual budget crisis, and the pool was a luxury it could no longer afford, so down it went.

​The long closed community center of Pecos

I dropped into gear and told the ST, "take me from this sad place of hot sun, and choking dust."
Back on 285 I churned north beaming in on Carlsbad.  The dry hot desert wind felt good, and the Roadcrafter billowed as the wind came through the vents.

Before I knew it I was gassing at a Exxon in Carlsbad and drinking Mountain Dew.  I was standing outside when a lady in a black Dodge with Texas plates pulled in.  I quipped at her-

"hey didn't I see YOU at the Burger King in Ozona?"

"yes that was ME"

"small world ain't it?"

My phone was dying, so I called my son before it was too late.  I gave him a couple of messages to relay to his mother, in case I fail to find a place to charge it later.

It was Friday and I thought about my "Uncle" Phil leaving Nashville this afternoon for Nebraska.  

US 285 into Roswell was uneventful.  The sun was still high when I turned off on SR 409.  The road was not marked but 2 local guys working on car, confirmed it was the correct way to Bottomless Lakes Park.

I stopped in the small town of Dexter at a superette called Kenny's.  This was a true Long Riders store.  Small but jammed packed with everything a guy needs.  I picked up a T Bone, beans, and a can of fruit cocktail for dessert.  I also bought 2 bottles of Mountain Dew and a bag of quick light charcoal.

A young female clerk with a nice smile checked me out, and asked-

"ain't it hot in that suit?"

"only when I ain't moving"

She asked where I was am from and I told her, then I asked her-

"every been to the beach?"

"stop being funny"

'baby, I know a beach where the sand is as white as sugar, and clear warm water gently rolls in."

"really?? Like where"

"Destin, Florida in the Panhandle"

"like I could ever go THERE"

SR 409 took me into the hills and gave me a good view of the city of Roswell in the valley below.  It was a nice setting.  I saw cows grazing all along 409, but I failed to see what they could possibly be eating.  Nothing but dirt and rocks out there to me.

I topped a long hill and could see the park down below.  The only green for miles and miles was found in this little oasis in the desert.

I arrived at the park and again the gate was unattended.  The host advised the rangers come in at 8 and to pay then.  Looks I'll sleep again tonight for free.

I put in 520 miles today.

Bottomless is a great little park with a small, but scenic lake.  Green shrubs clung to the shores of the life giving water.  

I settled in and set up camp.  I fired up my grill and put my steak and beans on.  I called my cousin PJ in Phoenix, and advised her I was on schedule and would arrive tomorrow as planned.

It felt good to get off the road early today.

My steak was still sizzling when I put it on my plate. 

I did good.  It was tender and cooked just right. 

After supper I went and took a shower, and when I returned a single mother with her 12 yr old son had set up camp beside me.

I saw her struggling with the tent in the NM wind and I went over to help.  Together we managed to get things up.

She told me she was meeting friends for some diving the following day.  She quizzed me about my adventures and said she was going to New England someday.  People are always telling me where they would LIKE to go, instead of where they've been.

After 30 minutes I wished her good night and flipped on my TV.  I watched a basketball game, but grew inpatient at waiting for the news, so I got out my DVD player and watched the remake of High Noon, starring Tom Skerrit.  Helluva movie, and the second time I had watched it.

The wind was blowing, so I put the rain flap on.  The desert would be cool tonight. 

I fell asleep about 12, looking forward to meeting my cousin in Phoenix the next day.