Day 177

Blanco, TX to Lost Maples, TX
10598 mi

Hill Country

Another cold, cloudy, windy morning. It’s right back into the hill country out of Blanco. I throw myself into the task. These hills are tough. They’re getting more barren now – more rock, more prickly pear, and fewer junipers and other scrubby trees.

Guadalupe Valley

Finally I start a series of dives into the Guadalupe River valley. When I reach the river I’m in farmland, and the banks are lined with a tall deciduous tree I don’t recognize. The trunks and roots stretching down into the river have a neat visual effect.

Hungrily I pedal over some stark, low hills toward I-10 and Comfort. I’ve been rolling that name around in my head for miles. It’s getting late, 10:30, and I’m hoping I can still find breakfast. I get lucky. The Double-D’s breakfast buffet is up until 11. I manage to put down 5 or 6 plates of food in my allotted time. Then I linger, enjoying the shelter from the cold and wind.

When I leave I realize I’m almost too stuffed to ride. Luckily I’m in for a nice break from the hills. I continue up the Guadalupe, rising ever so gently. In an hour I reach an ugly strip of town (Eckert?) along the river. Brazenly, I stop at a DQ and add a banana split to the mass of food in my belly. In this state of digestion hill climbing would be impossible, but my route kindly continues gently up the river. In fact it goes on and on this way, the river becoming a sort of tender companion. It’s extremely clear, sometimes wide and shallow, in spots narrow, deep, and mysterious. It nourishes small haciendas, resorts, and private ranches. The town of Hunt is just a store near an old mill. Here I make a wise purchase: a box of everlasting gobstoppers. I know the hills must resume at some point, and I don’t want to deal with them. The candy is intended for rewards to coax myself up any serious obstacles.

As the river continues the resorts get smaller along with it, and at last dry up. I’m back in an uninhabited land of hills. Grass, sage, rock, and cactus abound. The road continues to climb gently for a while. It isn’t until I turn south onto a smaller road that I hit tough climbs again. I find that the gobstoppers not only motivate me, but the flavors give the illusion of a big splash of juice in the mouth, and help stave off thirst. My stomach has settled down, and I begin to revel in my work.

Elk

I hear a noise by the road and am surprised to see a huge bull elk, winter coat hanging shaggy around his neck. His rack has too many points to count, at least eight apiece. He’s got some wire caught in his antlers and is moving slowly, dragging it along. I feel sad that I can’t help him. I go past, spotting his harem just down the road.

Lost Maples Descent

The country gets more and more twisted and wrinkled, until finally I plunge into a cold valley where the last maples live. I pull into the state park campground there, joining one other family. It’s getting dark and very cold. I pull the shower-before-bed trick again. On my way back to my site the family invites me over for fajitas. I put my gear away and return to meet Fernando, his wife Becky, and their two sons Chris and Emilio. I enjoy their company. We find constellations, discuss the hundred-year bright full moon, and tell campfire stories. When I go off to bed I take more warmth from them than I got from the shower.

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