WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderSouth 5 - Rocksprings and Shiner, Texas
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 18:47:06 -0800

    For dinner in Pecos, I decided to walk down the road to the Flying J Truck Stop restaurant, about a half mile distant. I cut across a corner of the truck parking lot and went toward the entrance. A burly man held open a side door and said "Hey Driver, this is the truckers lounge." Thanking him, I explained my perambulation and declined, but he persisted. "Naw c'mon. You came in from the lot. No one walks anywhere." By and large, he is right. And by, is he large. I walked through the truckers lounge to the restaurant. Being quite a few meals less than 200 pounds, I was easily less than half the average weight in that room. Some had legs the size of my torso, and some torsos were ... well let's just say that not all belts were made from a single cowhide. Surely there are better fit and less fit individuals in all walks of life, but 'heavy hauling' sure must be hard on the physique. I can see why "no one walks anywhere".
    Now you already know I like my morning pastries, but after remembering visions of largess, I passed the chance to sample Pecos' second claim to fame (after being the Home of the World's First Rodeo): Ma Wilson's Texas Sized Donuts. Besides, it would have been too long a walk. Maybe next time.

    Must be a dry winter. 2000 miles so far ... and I have yet to clean any bugs off my visor.
    Texas has a crude aroma. No, really! The open plains of southwest Texas have a lot vented oil wells, and the sulfurous odor of crude lingers in formidable floating pools of 'fragrance'. It can be startling to crash through a wall of smell without seeing its source, but it is all part of the process of being open to the elements on a bike.

    Woah! I must have gotten reeeealy off track. The sign said Entering Iraan. Oh, wait, that's Iraan, not Iran. Ok. As I learned, Iraan is the oil town built to service the Yates Field, one of - if not the largest west Texas producing area. The town was named for Ira Yates and his wife Ann. It is not pronounced eye-ran, it is Ira-Ann. And so what, do you ask, has Iraan contributed to Americana that was not crude in nature (pun intended) ? A free lance journalist working in town started drawing a comic strip. It became so well known that an entire city park was constructed to present statues of the various characters of Alley Oop in all their glory, in Oopland.

    Interstates have mile markers. Backroads have life markers.

265 miles
Pecos US285 CR1450 CR1053 Ranch11 CR1901 Co-Op Rd.
Ranch305 US190 TX137 I10 US277 TX55 Rocksprings

    The section of Texas from roughly San Angelo to San Antonio, about 200 miles, is like no other under the Lone Star flag. It has hills, and the hills have roads. And those roads have delicious curves. And the combination of hills, roads, and curves is fun! The Hill Country is a motorcycle magnet, especially on weekends. This sunny Sunday is no exception. I see more bikes in this one morning than I have seen altogether since leaving home. But what I can't understand is they all seem to be on the 'main' routes. A Texan rider wrote to tell me Ranch 337 was voted in a Best of Texas contest. So of course, it became part of my route. Yes, it is good, but it is so short! I threw in 335 and 187 just to have time for my belly to get ready for breakfast. These side routes were as good, but even less populated.
    While rounding a tight curve near a thicket by a creek, I saw a slight movement in the bush. Always on critter alert, I straightened the bike to be ready to brake. Suddenly the sentinel took flight and in a blink I found myself in the middle of a flock of wild turkeys, all pounding air like it was Thanksgiving morning and the oven was open. There were perhaps a dozen birds, most with a good three feet wingspan. As the road crossed their path, I had to swerve slightly to miss one at head level, and crouch to avoid being wing womped by another. I could feel the whoosh of air as it angled away. Some riders like to think they soar with eagles. I may only tour with turkeys, but I enjoy these more basic experiences.
    That excitement was a reminder that now being out of the desert, close encounters of the mammalian kind were more likely - so I must be ready. But, you know, the mind is only wired for certain images. About a mile after "turkey bend", I rode past a fence and saw a kangaroo squatted on its haunch. Woah again! I-ran, or Ira-an, or what ever, am I off the continent again? What the heck was that? I just had to be sure. And sure enough, it was a roo ranch. In Texas. Hoppy trails?

    That's it. Time for a break.
    As I pulled into a cafe lot, a Gold Wing came from the opposite direction, and we both aimed for the same parking slot. Motorcycles, like social animals, seek to nest among their own kind. So do some motorcyclists. Among us there are listeners and talkers (and a few motor mouths :). I tend to listen more than talk (unless you consider this writing) ... but was I ever out matched in this encounter. The other rider introduced himself, then his wife. I gave my name - but before I could even say where I was from he was off on explanations. By the time I said "San Francisco" about 15 minutes later, I knew this about him: he has been riding x years, bought his bike for y dollars, z months ago, after a divorce, after which he had triple bypass surgery, then he selected his trophy wife (present during this description) because she has a body like Cher Bono.
    That's it. Time to ride.

    The LDRiders had mentioned there was a full size reconstruction of Stonehenge just a couple miles from Hunt. And since that would cause me to have to take more twisty roads, I not-reluctantly added it to the itinerary. I applaud the family who built it. It appears accurate in orientation, but being complete (all stones on the circle) it somehow looks less impressive. I do not know if it is precise to scale, but is still a kick to visit. Now the two Easter Island kahuna heads at either end of the field are a different story.
    Mid-afternoon found me needing a break, and exactly then a sign appeared: Winery ==>. I stopped to taste at Dry Comal Creek Winery. When I commented this area didn't seem optimum for growing the cabernet grape, they admitted it was not an estate grown varietal. They truck those in - nothing wrong with that, many wineries do it. But how many truck grapes 650 miles from Deming, New Mexcio? Even if it was "New Texico" wine, it was still good. Do I get credit for tasting two states?
    Sometimes the greatest discoveries happen by accident. (Watson, come here, I need you.) I accidentally took US90 Alternate instead of US90. How else would I have ever found the World's Largest Pecan on the steps of the Seguin town hall? How big is it? About the size of Paul Bunyan's big toe. Go see.
    Righting that wrong turn put me on the road to Luling. Luling! I forgot! The City Market in Luling is renowned among LDRiders for outstanding barbecue. Yessss. Dinner. Noooo. The only thing outstanding this day was me in front of the closed-on-Sunday sign. Frel, as they say on Farscape. So instead, I tried the Luling BBQ across the street. Let me say being "near" to greatness is not the same as being near great.

312 miles
Rocksprings US377 TX41 Ranch355 Ranch337 Ranch187 TX39 (Ranch1340)
TX27 TX16 TX46 US90Alt TX80 US183 US90Alt Shiner
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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