And Austin

March 2, 2018

Gorgeous sunny weather for our last day of riding! The topo map showed some pretty ominous hills once again, but something about a new day and sunshine can bring great optimism. Our last day of Texas Hill Country looked beautiful.

We left the hotel earlier than usual since we had a lot of mileage to cover and we were eager to see Donna and Gary. The day started out with even bigger elevation climbs than previously (i mean it!) but we were fresh. We passed through Pedernales Falls State Park, a very pretty narrow winding road.

Pictures cannot even express how steep these hills are, but so pretty!

The back roads took us almost directly east and after about 30 miles we started to see signs of city sprawl. I was ready for it! We found a little brewery we could stop at for lunch, the first midday sitdown spot we had found all week.

After lunch the roads became heavy with friday afternoon traffic, and they were very, very narrow. We rode miles in Austin suburbs heading towards the downtown area, coming in through the north, a more affluent area than the southern outskirts we had ridden through the week before. No sidewalks, no bike lanes, no cyclists or runners or walkers, just heavy gated communities and large SUVs with tinted windows. About 6 pm we found ourselves on the charming bikepath that circles Lady Bird Lake and found a gorgeous sunset with the lovely buzz of city life.

Heading East

Thursday March 1, 2018

We knew for sure (!) we had a moderate 40 mile day today heading east back towards Austin, same terrain, same rolling hills.

We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out into cooler misty weather again. We were riding what is called the Pendernales Cutoff in order to get back to Austin to spend the weekend with my sister Donna and brother in law Gary. This would take us to Johnson City for the night. Hometown of President Johnson, founded by his uncle.

We had our first “debate” of the ride midmorning when Mike thought we should take the scenic loop to stay off the main roads. By now I was ready to bike the highway in order to bypass the hills and make a beeline to Johnson City (Mike says I was like a horse heading back to the barn). He won the debate and rode a half mile in front of me to avoid my vocal disagreement. My theme song on rides like this is Paul Simons “50 ways to leave your lover”. I want this blog to be a true account so I am including the hard stuff, and I felt there was a lot of hard stuff in these hills of Texas!

The morning turned around quickly when we started to see more livestock.

I turned into a happy camper!

We didn’t ride through any towns, or even busy intersections all day, I just concentrated on playing with all the gears my new bike has, and getting up the next hill. With all the complaining I did, the end of a hard day brings so much satisfaction for a job well?? done.

We got into Johnson city, cleaned up and walked to the Pecan Street Brewery for dinner. What a riot! The townspeople were interesting and curious. The older rancher sitting next to me got so excited talking about bluebonnets he could hardly contain himself.

Missed ’em by a week

Really good people who love those hills!

LBJ was here, and so was her husband

Wed Feb 28, 2018

A gorgeous sunrise and twelve hours of sleep did a lot for our, or my, attitude. We headed to the local coffee shop before riding into what the tourism brochure people out here call “bicycling nirvana”, and it was a nice ride! The landscape was changing with more to look at and a bit more civilization. We passed many, many wine tasting rooms with acres of newly planted vineyards. The German presence was obvious, the ranches with either German or Hispanic names but all flying the texas flag.

Can’t forget which state we are in

The humidity was perfect and the hills were fun rollers.

A bit on geology..we noticed the land in hill country seems to be mostly limestone or granite with very thin topsoil. Lots of exposed rocks and boulders, yucca plants, prickly pear cactus and tons of Texas live oak. How they grow grapes we haven’t a clue!

This was a typical pasture. We ran into a rancher near here and asked if this was his cow. He exclaimed “No way! Look at that sloppy pasture!” I guess a good rancher picks out ALL the rocks.

We still felt we were in pretty remote areas until we rode near the Lyndon B Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

I think he is pointing at his house.

We stopped at the visitor center for just a few minutes, we could see LBJ’S house through the trees! So close but we had to move on to get to our destination by dark. Hated to miss it.

Family Church of LBJ. Probably Lady Bird Johnson LBJ

We enjoyed the ride into Fredericksburg, obviously a very popular destination in the hill country. The shops and restaurants were pretty much all German themed, and it was filled with tourists.

Our super cheap hotel room on top. Came with a friendly Kitty!

We cleaned up, walked into town too late to visit the huge National Museum of the Pacific War. It is located here because Fredricksburg is the boyhood home of Fleet Admiral Chester w. Nimitz. Sorry we missed it! (Another reason to come back some day for a visit.)

Of course we scouted out the town, listened to some music and ended up at the German brewery, which served up good American food and beer, but no German lager?

Oh my goodness..Hill Country!

Tues Feb 27

We left the Faust Hotel in a light drizzle (again) and (again) we thought we had a pleasant day of riding. We mounted up in good spirits and headed out with no sense of urgency…we need to learn to read maps. We followed the Guadalupe River, obviously a busy river for “toobing”…their term, not ours. The banks of the river were packed with little stores, cabins, tube rental sheds and bars. Miles and miles of river recreation all brown and dreary in the off season rain, but we enjoyed the winding road and view of the river.

Once we reached the Canyon River Dam we stopped for a leisurly lunch at the BBQ shack.

Sitting under a canopy, protected from the rain, we checked over our cycling maps as we often do when not riding. The maps we use have so much information, points of interest, locations for food and water, mileages, and most importantly the topography of the route. We took our time thinking we were ahead of schedule and happy to be able to dilly dally, our favorite thing. Ugh, once again we found we had misread the mileage (how does this happen??) and we had 30 miles more than we had planned. We had no choice this time but to ride it. Which was fine, but just not planned.

Once we headed out after lunch and passing the Canyon River Dam the real Texas hill country began. The traffic thinned out, but the hills were relentless, absolutely no flat road. The wind picked up so it was hard pedaling even down the hills. The landscape was gray and monotonous, no Texas bluebonnets in sight.

turkey vultures waiting to pick my bones

I would get to the top of a huge rise and see miles and miles of hills in front of me. Dear Mike was so patient, he would wait at the top of each crest and say “tell me when you are ready, honey”. Honestly, I went over many mountains last year, but I found this brutal. My whole body was shaking , the humidity was 90 percent, the constant drizzle. Wow. Even Mike was struggling.

About five pm, still riding in a drizzle we found the little cabin we had reserved on the Blanco River.

It was adorable! Overlooking the water, it had a Jacuzzi tub, a little porch and kitchenette. Pizza ordered in and sleeping by 8. Whipped.

Back on Track

Mon Feb 26, 2018

We woke to a heavy fog and 90 percent humidty in San Marcos. Knowing we had a short day we hung around the hotel until we felt it was at least somewhat safe to travel the 20 miles to New Braunfels. Since we were off route we zigzagged our way through the town and headed out on the rural two lane county and state roads, finding little traffic. We have found the drivers in Texas to be very, very friendly and they give us wide berth, no rolling coal here so far!

About noon we found the cutest town called Gruene (pronounced Green) and the sun came out! This little resort community has an old dance hall responsible for helping start careers of George Strait and Lyle Lovett! I browsed the shops, (I collect little pins for my bike bag) while Mike chatted with some motorcycle adventurers. I could hear them laughing three boutiques down. After some tex-mex food (just add lots of cheese)

We headed into New Braunsfels and the refurbished mansion we were staying at that night. Gorgeous, full of character, friendly.

Heading into town after settling in we found the best country western bar with a little Jimmie Dickens look a like singer.

He serenaded us with a traveling cowboy song. Dennis Jay was his name. A real recording artist who raises horses.

Outdoor firepits, Adirondack chairs and dogs. Really perfect way to end the day.