Southern Tier: Texas forever

The “heart of Texas” is what I am riding through now. Leaving Austin, my path goes quickly through Cedar Creek and Bastrop. I go into a “Chick-fil-a”. After I finish eating, someone asks how my meal was and offers to refill my soda cup — a new experience in a fast food restaurant.

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Bastrop Park ranger wants to charge me $2 for riding through. I kindly object and at the end she lets me through on the condition that I stay at the next door Buescher Park. The ride through the park is full of the steepest rolling hills I have ever gone through — I walk the one with the %17 grade. The park had a fire in 2011 and is far from recovery. Burned landscape is haunting.

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When I arrive Buescher Park to register, it’s getting late and a storm everyone had been waiting for is approaching. I ride to the closest town, Smithville, for groceries and get caught in the rain on the way back. I take refuge in the shelter which is pretty large and comfortable. Just when I think I will be alone all night in this part of the park, a woman appears to announce the coming of her boy scout group. Next morning a man hugging a set of spot lights show up in the shelter and says he reserved the space for a class. It’s getting busy by the minute.

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Rain comes and goes until I reach La Grange. I stop at an intersection to check the map for a motel. A woman appoaches and offers help — she has lived here all her life. I ask where the Oak Motel, the only motel in town, is. She stares in the sky as if she has never heard the name. Finally she remembers and points me the building, but she hasn’t done yet. We talk in the rain like we haven’t seen each other for years. Oak Motel’s owner is friendly. He asks me to add my name to his thick bicycle registry, says I can use the motel laundry to dry my clothes, and gives me a small bottled water without asking.

Rains hard the rest of the day. I walk into a nearby market for groceries. A thunder hits very close and power goes out. Generators kick in, but the checkout machines are out of order. The whole town is in the dark.

Next morning, the famous “Lukas Bakery” is closed. The woman at the counter of the only other donut shop in town says “what do you mean ‘with cheese’?” when I ask for kolaches with cheese. I buy some other donuts with coffee, accidentally break the coffee cup when pushing the lid down spilling hot brown liquid all over the place and leave the place in shame.

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On the way to Round Top a long truck passes carrying an identical truck on top. And another truck carrying a cabin wider than the lane. Don’t know how it missed me.

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Just out of Round Top there is an interesting place called the “Festival Hill”. A concert pianist named James Dickey created a large area with gardens, a concert hall and living space for musicians. I walk around the serene place and take pictures of the “roman ruins”.

My next stop is Yegua Creek park. The ground is covered with nasty thorns — I have to carry my bike from the road to the campsite. They spend a long time registering me at the gate and then proudly tell me that whenever I go to another “Corps of Engineers” campsite, my name will pop up. Why exactly is that good for me?

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Next day I pass through Independence, a town incorporated about the same time as Texas announced its independence. Navasota is next with a railroad crossing the main street and old buildings glowing in midday light. I spend two hours in a restaurant named “Filling Station”. I don’t eat much, just slow, enjoying fried catfish with pancakes. People are very friendly and I can feel Texas growing on me.

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Scenery gets more lush as miles pass towards Richards. A group of longhorns get spooked by my approach and start to run with me along the white fence. One of my old time friends, Candan from Dallas, had been following my progress and suggests to meet at New Waverly next morning. I camp at roadside just before the Cagle Recreation Area. After a couple of hours with Candan at the Waverly House cafe, I keep riding to reach Coldspring for the day and enter Double Lake park: cold showers.

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The area around here is known as the “Big Thicket”, a once dense forest, now a place with tree farms. Following the route I pass through small communities with no service, Dolen, Romayor, Rye, Votaw, Thicket and Honey Island. Tailwind pushes me into Silsbee and I meet another eastbound cyclist at the Red Cloud RV park. We plug in the Christmas lights at the picnic area to celebrate Thanksgiving.

36 days, 1994 miles.

st5View the full route

Date Destination Miles Duration
2014-11-21 Beuscher Park 55 05:30
2014-11-22 Oak Motel, La Grange, TX 27 02:35
2014-11-23 Yegua Creek Park, Somerville, TX 50 04:48
2014-11-24 Roadside, FM 1375, TX 68 06:11
2014-11-25 Double Lake Rec Area, Coldspring, TX 43 04:21
2014-11-26 Red Cloud RV Park, Silsbee, TX 83 06:44