I had fun taking photos today. The day started out by passing the “Dam Store.” I had to have a photo. When Kelsey and Audrey were little we took them to Grand Coulee Dam. They must have been about 9 and 12 years old. When we pulled in to town, I said, “look, there’s the Dam Visitor’s Center.” I laughed because of course I never spoke like that in front of them. After that it was “the Dam grocery store, the Dam gas station, the Dam cafe,” and on-and-on it went. I laughed every time, they were a bit subdued about the whole thing. Audrey and Kelsey remember that to this day. The photo I took this morning is priceless. It reminds me of those times. The photo of the truck with the smoker out in front of the cow catcher takes BBQ to a completely new level.
Today found us in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. We had to go over three very large hills, the were very challenging. After the first hill, I wasn’t sure if I could make it over the next two. Your mind likes to play with you and plant little seeds of doubt. I did make it over the next two, they were difficult but the trick is to keep pedaling. That sounds stupid, but that’s how it works.The feeling of accomplishment at the end of a day like today is wonderful. For those of you familiar with Seattle hills, each one of these is like cycling from the Nickerson Street Tavern to the top of Queen Ann Hill three times. There where rollers for several miles and a descent after each hill. So it was like doing the Queen Ann climb about nine times, with a nice challenging interlude between each set of three climbs. I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m really not exaggerating. Welcome to the Texas Hill Country.
After the first hill I reached a stretch of rollers that went for three or four miles. Towards the end of the rollers a County Sheriff drove past me going the other way. I heard him slow down and I figured that was not good. I was the only thing on the road. I heard him turn around and head back my way and I knew he was coming after me, I just couldn’t figure out why. He pulled over about 100 yards in front of me, got out of his rig, and stood with hands on hips waiting for me. I pulled up and said “good afternoon Sheriff.” He looked at me and said, “are you all right?” I breathed a sigh of relief, I wasn’t going to get a ride in his vehicle - although that might have been preferred to the next two hills I hadn’t yet discovered. He told me “people in these parts have a tendency to not mind their own business. A car passed you going up the hill and called dispatch saying ‘there’s an old man on the road that looks like he’s struggling and probably shouldn’t be out there.’” That made me smile. I told him I was struggling, but that was because the damn hill was so steep. (Maybe that Dam hill, either way.) We had a good laugh. That’s when I learned about the next two hills. He described them to me in lurid detail. I told him where I was going to be at the end of the day and he asked me if I had a tent. He obviously didn’t think I was going to make it. (That was amusing too.) Before he left me and drove off, I explained to him that there were three of my party behind me on the route, and the motorist must have been referring to one of them. I don’t think he believed me because he got in his rig and drove off without investigating any further. I was a bit downcast. His driving away made me the old man by default.
In this part of the country people drive fast and they don’t slow down for animals in the road, there is a lot of road kill along side the road. A lot. Every truck out here has a “cow catcher” on the front. You even see cars with cow catchers. I saw four cars today with cow catchers. I try and make an effort to wave at people whenever it’s safe to take a hand off the handle bars. Most people wave back. Everyone is very friendly. A car pulled over to chat with one of our company. He told her that he was planning to do this ride tomorrow on his road bike. He told her he could not believe we were out her doing these hills on fully loaded touring bikes. I can’t believe it either really.
Three hills that will test you. Tomorrow is the half-way mark.