Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Our strategy of skipping a rest day and splitting a long two-day stretch into 3 days worked very well. Today was the third day and consisted of a 24-mile jaunt up a mountain and back down again, going from Leakey to Camp Wood. So, instead of doing this rather strenous bit at the end of a long day, we did it when we were fresh and rested. It turned out to be a great day, as it should be since today is my 59th birthday! We started by heading off to breakfast on an unloaded bike, less than a mile down the road at a colorful little BBQ place decorated with old license plates and John Wayne pictures. Then we headed back and turned off to see the Frio River, less than a mile down another road. The river was very low but clean and refreshing looking. It apparently gets quite high and sometimes dangerous. We saw a herd of about 30 deer scoot across the road in front of us, moving too fast for me to catch with the camera. But a straggler was too chicken to cross before we got up to them and we managed to get a shot of him. We also went by a historic cemetery. Our mystery of the day is how these bits of grass grow on the telephone wires around here. We found out that it's oak moss and grows on the wires once it gets there. How it gets there is still puzzling. Our local expert guesses that the wind blows it up or birds bring it there.
After all that dilly-dallying, we loaded up the bike and took off for the mountain, leaving at 9 am. The road was rough as usual and started ascending gradually almost immediately. It seemed harder than it should have been, which was worrisome, but we soon warmed up and got excited about the ride. The scenery was stupendous - we quickly realized it was the same canyon that we had seen from up above yesterday on Rt. 83. We were wondering which of the many hills around us we would be climbing and eventually detected a road running up a hill in front of us that turned out to be it. The climb got gradually steeper and we started crawling up the hill in our lowest, 'granny' gear. It was slow but manageable and the trees, cliff faces, and vistas easily distracted us from the hard work. The grade went from 5-11% and the climb was about 2 miles long. We stopped part-way up to take some pictures of the view.
At the top, the road was fairly flat for a while, then undulated like a roller coaster for another stretch. There were more great views, a few ranches and houses, rocky soil and a lot of cactus. Then there was the downhill - a lot of fun, although a little nerve-wracking because of the rough road (I worry about what it does to the bike) and the winding turns. But we made it down fine (our top speed was 35 mph, and would have been higher if we hadn't been braking). After that we had a fairly mundane 5 miles to our destination, Camp Wood. We did see a ranch with a very attractive display of rusting antique trucks and farm equipment, cleverly called 'Rust N Peace'. After seeing so many places with rusting vehicles left as lawn 'ornaments', it was pretty funny to see such a creative way to deal with them. A very strong head wind kicked up on our last leg of the trip; we felt very lucky it waited until we had finished our climb, but it made the last few miles a bit tiresome. We pulled into town by 12:15 in 2.4 hours of bike time (a pretty respectable average, we thought, of 9.3 mph), found a motel, learned that all but one restaurant was closed today and went off to have lunch at the one that was open. We were relieved to find out that the breakfast place, reputed to be a very good one, would be open tomorrow morning. We celebrated my birthday by splitting a pint of Blue Bell ice cream (the local brand, and a very good one) and spent the afternoon working on the website, going over the next week's route (more long, desolate stretches!), and just relaxing.
Camp Wood, like Leakey, is a small resort town, based on its proximity to the Nueces River. We haven't seen the river yet, but expect to tomorrow. Both towns are very small (Leakey's population was about 387, Camp Wood's is about 840) but are well known and popular. Motorcycles frequent these towns a lot, and we've seen lots of 'Welcome Bikers' signs that generally refer to the motorized versions. Our destination tomorrow is Del Rio, a good 80 miles away but mostly downhill. At least, Del Rio is a large town and we hope our cell phones will finally work there (AT&T seems to have a lock on this area). We've been able to connect to the internet through our motel wireless last night and tonight, but there may be some nights past Del Rio that we won't have that luxury.