I seldom need an excuse to ride, but I don’t always have the time. When I had the chance to see my daughter Trang in Houston and take an extra day to go to the Hill Country of Texas, I took it. My ride would take me up through the coastal bend, a leg of superslab from Houston to San Antonio, a ride through the Hill Country, and last, a day through the Eagle Ford Shale area.
(Be sure to click on the map and the other photos. You will see a bigger version.)
Riding from my home in McAllen to Corpus Christi is not the fun part of any ride, but its unavoidable. I usually ride that section of flat scrub land fairly fast. Once in Corpus Christi, its over the harbor bridge, and the fun riding begins. There are a lot of wind farms on the Texas coast, and this one is near the town of Portland.
I’m not really a morning kind of guy, but the anticipation of a good ride means I’m usually up before the alarm goes off. I’d set my gear out in the living room the night before so as not to wake up my bride, but just as I was drinking the last of my coffee, she shuffled into the room to give me a sleepy kiss good bye. I was on the road by seven, so by the time I’d ridden through the wind farm, and continued up the coast a bit, I was thinking of lunch.
In the town of Seadrift is a ramshackle joint called Bubba’s Cajun Seafood. Most of the clientele are sports fishermen, but there is a smattering of locals there too. The place ain’t fancy, but it has waitresses who ask “Whatcha want, Honey?” And the seafood is great.
Seadrift isn’t much more than a wide spot in the road, but it has a moment in history. After the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese escaped the newly Communist country . Known as the Boat People, many had been fishermen and shrimpers back home and they took up residence along the Texas coast. In 1979, friction between the Vietnamese and long time shrimpers led to the torching of some homes and boats and the death of a local crabber.
Sated from my excellent lunch, I continued up the coast to Palacios, pronounced “Pull ah shus”. This is another shrimping town that also tries to bring in some sport fishers.
I’d planned on going to Galveston, but I saw I was running out of time if I was to meet Trang for dinner at a decent time, so I made a quick run past the nuclear generating plant at Bay City, then headed into Houston. I called her when I got in my room and that gave me a chance to get out of my riding clothes before she picked me up.
What did we have for dinner? Seafood, of course.
I still think she ate an extra one of the dozen oysters we ordered, but I was gallant and told her that the remaining large oyster on the tray was hers.
The next morning again saw me on the road early. I rode Interstate 10 from Houston to San Antonio. Not much to tell, except that I kept riding in and out of little rain showers – not enough to get me wet – just enough to annoy me.
But then it was US 90 into the Hill Country, that long ridge of wonderfulness in Central Texas. I was soon in Leakey (say Lay-kee), the little town that is the anchor of the Three Twisted Sisters. The Sisters is a ride of 90 or so miles that goes through some of the very rugged areas of the hill country. The route gets its name from the three ranch roads that are ridden in a loop. Nobody has dolled the place up for riders – this is the real deal, with lots of cattle guards to cross and some good sharp turns and deep whoop-de-doos. I can’t say its terribly difficult, but if you’re careless, you could get hurt (or worse) on the Sisters.
The weather had cleared nicely and the trip through the Sisters was a blast. Every now and then a group of riders would pass by in the other direction, but there was little other traffic except for the occasional pick up truck belonging to a local rancher.
Time for lunch at the Bent Rim Grill. While most of the crowd is made of up of cruiser and bagger riders, just about every kind of bike was there.
It was nice to linger awhile and talk to a pack of BMW riders from San Antonio, then back on the road for the short ride to Uvalde and a good night’s sleep.
I knew the third day’s ride would be shorter than the others, so I didn’t get up quite so early. Sleepy Uvalde was even sleepier on a Sunday morning, so I gassed up and headed south into the area of the Eagle Ford shale formation.
Like the Bakken formation in North Dakota, Eagle Ford is producing huge amounts of oil and gas using a process called hydraulic fracturing – fracking for short. The drilling activity has transformed the countryside. What was once land so worthless that buzzards had to pack a lunch to fly over it, the area is booming with wells.
To haul all the oil, as well as bring in water for fracking and to remove the waste water to disposal wells, takes a lot of heavy trucks. The roads in the area were never designed for such heavy use and they are taking a beating.
The last miles were easy, if dirty. There had been enough showers come through the area to leave the road wet. I don’t think my bike has ever been so dirty.
My bride had short ribs and potato salad ready for me. The ride was good – and it was good to be home too.
And I have no idea when I’ll wash that filthy Honda NT700 motorcycle parked in the back of the house.