Sunday, May 12, 2013

Texas Hill Country

I got into Austin late in the day on Saturday, after having dealt with almost three solid days of rain and ~40f temperatures.  That night I linked up with an old motorcycle friend who's got an ST1300, and even a garage to go with it.

While he and I did have motorcycle shenanigans planned, it would have to wait for a bit.  The next day, Sunday, I went to meet up with another old friend of mine.  This friend doesn't have a motorcycle of their own, but they DO have boobs, and those are almost as good!

She and I have know each other for almost ten years at this point as pen pals, but due to various complicating factors in our lives at the few times that we've been in the same state, we've never gotten to spend much time together in person.  That finally got to change this week though, and we moved stuff around on the bike to accommodate her as a passenger.  This was tricky; two-up camping on a mid-size touring bike such as this requires some delicate arrangements to fit all the stuff needed.

Who would have thought that all that time playing Tetris would eventually come in useful?
My friend was given camera duty, and we headed off into the Hill Country west of Austin for some adventures.

It didn't take her long to figure out that my rear-view mirrors were excellent for self portraiture.

We stopped for the night at the Hi-Line Lake Resort, on the shore of Lake Buchanan.

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Or more accurately, what used to be the shore of Lake Buchanan.  Central Texas has been under a quite severe drought for the past several years, and by now the water levels have dropped so low that it's not fair to call it a lake anymore.

It's a shame; it's a pretty area, and the RV resort area was nice, but completely empty.  Aside from some full-time RVers, we were the only people in the whole resort.  The upside was that many of the RVers had dogs I could play with.  :D

Whosa widdle wiener dog?!  Who's got silly widdle legs?!

The lake drying up has effectively killed the entire industry and economy for this area that was largely built on the lake, and lake related activities.  Even the resort we stayed in was up for sale; the area is seeing hard times and there's talk of the water never returning to prior levels.  It would take many months of biblical rains to even make a dent in bringing the lake back; it seems so unlikely that there's been talk of people homesteading on the newly exposed lakebed.

The resort was nice, in spite of the economic situation.  The cabins were clean and pleasant with lots of light, extremely quiet and the view was pretty, even with the shallow muddy water quite a distance away.

It's a pretty remote area, at least half an hours ride into the nearest town of any mentionable size, so we'd swung by a grocery store on our way out.  Pushing a very loaded bike around the parking lot is an exercise in delicacy and balance, which aren't usually things I'm much good at.

Dinner that nice was cooked on the grill while watching the sun set.

Oh my god shut up, I am not OCD in the slightest.

We spent two nights at the lake resort; mostly enjoying the peace and quiet.  On Monday we went for some rides around to the other side of the lake, before the weather turned on us and sent us scampering back to avoid the worst of the rain.  I don't have an issue with rain (obviously), but to be able to fit all of our gear on the bike we'd had to leave the rain gear behind.

After our two nights at the resort we packed up the bike again, and headed further south-west into the hillier and more remote areas of the state.

Springing for cabins for the whole week wasn't in either of our budgets, but we found another nice resort that let us pitch a tent in one of their RV spaces for $15/night.  Paying to camp somewhere still makes my brain kind of twitchy and confused, but they did have free wi-fi and hot showers.  The wi-fi was critical for me, and the showers mattered muchly to her.  So it all worked out.

The campground also came equipped with a cat; from asking around most people called the cat Chrissy, but I just referred to her as slut-kitty.  The was very sweet and affectionate . . . as long as we had food in the vicinity.

It took us most of the day to get from Lake Buchanan down to the Hill Country near Medina, partly because I had to stop in Fredricksburg to print out and sign some documents related to my job.  But on a side note, Fredricksburg has a REALLY nice library.

It's in a former courthouse that was built in the late 1800s, and it's a beautiful building.  Inside, it feels like librarys should feel; it's all wood and stone, it's warm colors, functional furniture, maps and globes abound.  A number of years ago, the library in my home town in the Chicago suburbs was renovated into an ultra-modern glass and stainless steel monstrosity that feels nothing like a library should, so I really appreciated this place being appropriately . . . bookish.

We got to the campsites too late to go riding for the evening, so we took a little bit of a wander around the area.  This place was dry but didn't seem to have been hit quite as badly by the drought, things were still green and there was water in the creeks.

The next day dawned with again uncooperative weather.  It wasn't raining, but the sky was threatening and the humidity was near 95%.  We decided to chance it, and got on the bike to head west.

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This area of Texas is home to some roads that have a minor amount of fame amoung motorcycle riders; known as the "Three Twisted Sisters"; Rt 335, 366 and 337 are arguably the best sportbike roads in the whole state. They're twisty, tight and gnarled with often extreme amounts of elevation change in very short distances. Even if you're not into knee-down shenanigans, it's a beautiful ride for any sort of bike.

The roads are fun and the area is beautiful, but you have to really stay on your toes out here.  This is an extremely rural area; if something goes wrong, help is long way away.  There are billboards that keep tally of the number of motorcyclists killed in this area, and occasionally along the roadway there are memorials to people who've gone into corners too hot and never came out.

The roads are quite fun, but unforgiving.  There's rarely much in the way of run-off areas; as Arlo Guthrie put it, "On one side of the mountain road, there was mountain!  And on the other side there was nuthin, just a cliff and some air".

Running too tight in these corners can be even worse than running wide.

Many of the road hazards can also move around and moo, such as this unprocessed hamburger.
 The weather was sketchy, overcast for most of the day and occasionally drizzling.  The saving grace is that it was still warm enough to keep us comfortable, even if we did get damp.

Some of the overlooks and rest stops offer impressive views.

And stopping for gas/food gave me a chance to make a new friend!  Hi buddy!

The square plate is how you know it's fancy!
In between taking pictures of the road, my friend amused herself by seeing how silly she can look in a helmet.

We had planned to spend at least three nights camping out here, but Texas spring weather cut our plans short.  Thursday dawned rainy and cool, with reports of strong thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes moving in the next day.  We didn't feel like chancing that, so we packed up our things and headed back to Austin, mostly dodgeing the heaving rain but getting sprinkled on fairly regularly.  By the time we got back we were both pretty wet, but we'd had a fun week together and it was sad to say goodby.

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