Texas Hill Country Report…

I’m back from an extended weekend of bicycling through the Texas Hill Country, specifically around Fredericksburg and Kerrville. We put 135 miles on the longbike in three days, not much in bike touring terms, but considering some of the terrain we encountered, we were happy with our accomplishments. I’ve decided that biking the Hill Country is harder than riding in the Colorado Rockies, despite the altitude and reputation of the latter. The climbs in the Rockies tend to be long but not that steep, whereas in the Hill Country you encounter one short, steep hill after another…and the downhills almost never provide the momentum to conquer the next uphill without effort. I wish we had one of those fancy cyclometers that tracks cumulative altitude gain.

Anyway, it was a good time, and we didn’t spend much of it contemplating anything particularly serious (other than occasionally wondering if any otherwise healthy individuals had ever just keeled over dead from exertion). We didn’t succumb to the tourist shopping traps, and spent time in only one clothing store where my mom was doing some looking (and buying).

This was one of F’burg’s oldest stores, built before it became a mecca for Austinites and San Antonians seeking refuge from the ratrace. It had evolved somewhat over the years, carrying a wider variety of goods, but down deep it was still a store for the, um, “older ladies” to shop. So, it struck me as quite amusing to hear the melodic strains of Born To Be Wild playing quietly through the store’s sound system while I sat and thumbed through an old copy of Newsweek magazine, thoughtfully left there for guys like me who are best at shopping by sitting and waiting.

The Newsweek wasn’t that old — December 2, 2002, to be exact*. It had an article about what Iraq might look like after the predicted war. Interesting stuff, when viewed backwards through the lens of reality. But what caught my eye was a sidebar about the construction boom in Baghdad. It seems that last December, the smart money viewed real estate as the safe investment in the event of war. As one Iraqi architect put it, “we’re not afraid of American bombs. No, the real fear is of the looting that will follow.” Whew…talk about prophetic.

It seems that the Iraqis had more faith in our ability (and morally-driven desire) to target only military targets than did many Americans (and French and Germans and Russians, etc.). They also had a better feel for the realities of life when the pressures created by decades of oppression are released through liberation.

Funny how much an American president and an Iraqi architect have in common.