Texas Hill Country 2006: Hilly, Windy, Hot & Wormy

Some random observations from the little burg of Fredericksburg, during our participation in the 2006 edition of the Easter Hill Country Bicycle Tour, hosted this year by the Lubbock Bicycle Club…

  • There must be some kind of city ordinance in this German community that prohibits the spelling of the word “house” in any fashion other than “haus.” The Pool Haus. The Guest Haus. The Haus of Kraut. (OK, I made that one up.)
  • Willie Nelson singing a Beatles song is just wrong. And I don’t care how cowgirl-foofy the dress shop, they shouldn’t be providing him an outlet for such “music.”
  • You never know what you’re going to encounter on a back country Texas road (in case you’re wondering, the bike is ten feet long):
Photo - Rat snake in Gillespie County
  • Spring has not been kind to Texas wildflowers, which were a no-show around Fredericksburg and Kerrville. What we lacked in floral scenery we more than made up in sweat and worms. This was the hottest weekend of the year, with temps hitting the low 90s on Saturday, during our longest ride of the tour (around 50 miles). Strong winds were a mixed curse; they did seem to mitigate the heat somewhat, but made us work the bike that much harder. But the worst part of the weekend was the worms.Well, technically, they aren’t worms…they’re caterpillars, commonly known as “oak leaf rollers.” For a brief time in the spring of most years, these icky creatures descend by the millions from the foliage of live oaks and other similar trees, dangling by a slender thread that might be 30 or 40 feet long. I snapped a photo to give you an idea; see below. These things are about six inches long and as big around as a bratwurst and deliver a nasty bite that can easily become infected. OK, I lied about all of that. They’re only about an inch long or less and don’t bite. But they do have a tendency to sway with the breeze and land on your clothes, your hair, your car, your bike, your dog and anything else that you’d normally wish to be caterpillar-free. They’re messy and yucky and we hates ’em. And they were out in full force this weekend. (One night during dinner at a cozy little Italian restaurant in F’burg [Pasta Bella, if you must know] I glanced over at a rather large fellow sitting at the next table, and was mesmerized by the sight of one of the caterpillars making its way up his neck, heading for his ear. He never made it, but the whole scene was quite entertaining.)
Photo - Oak Leaf Roller caterpillar
  • We did a bit of shopping in F’burg. Here’s a word to the wise: don’t go there looking for a grapefruit knife. But we did score some appetizing foodstuffs, and I found some things that seem to be perfect for Blogathon 2006 contest prizes (and, yes, they’re what you think they are):
Photo - Fire Ant Eggs
  • Unlike 90% of the people who travel from Midland to the Hill Country, we drive I-10, coming and going. We’re not interested in doing much other than getting there, and getting back. We make two stops going (the first at the Town & Country in Iraan for driving victuals — Cheetos and Diet Dr. Peppers; the next at the rest stop outside of Sonora). On the return trip, we hit the same rest stop, and then stop in Ozona for either a snack or a coke or both. But that’s neither here nor there. What I really want to do is make a totally objective but unquantified observation. Over the past xx years of traveling the interstate, it’s been my belief that the most common out-of-state license plates belonged to either California or Florida. This year, there was a noticeable difference. By far the most prevalent non-Texas license plates I saw were from Mexico, primarily the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.
  • The other thing I saw this weekend was way too many older-than-middle-aged guys riding Harleys. That’s not overly annoying; we’d rather share the road with motorcycles than cars, as they have almost as much to lose by tangling with a bicycle as the bicycle itself. No, the annoying thing is the apparent contractual obligation that requires that every visible piece of clothing worn by those riders must sport the Harley-Davidson logo. Guys, here’s a fashion tip: the Harley skull-cap doesn’t make you look dangerous, except perhaps to that platter of schnitzel at der Auslander (where, by the way, the Kinkster himself was pressing the flesh on Friday night).

All in all, it was a good long weekend, even without the wildflowers and even with the worms. But it was also good to get back to the wide open spaces of west Texas, where the wind is supposed to blow.

Photo - Wind Farm between Iraan and McCamey, Texas

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  1. I believe that we ate at Pasta Bella the last time we were in F’burg. And I think that driving the Big Lake to Ozona route to link up to I-10 is the better option, just my opinion. Plus we like to stop in Ozona and eat chili dogs on the courthouse square under the watchful eye of Davy Crockett, well his statue anyway.

  2. What a big snake but then we don’t have snakes over here except in the zoo! I’m also grateful we don’t have poisonous spiders but that’s a whole nother topic!
    Glad you had a good Easter!

  3. Wallace, like I said, almost no one I know takes the same route as us. I just like driving between Rankin and Iraan.
    Rachel, while that was a pretty big snake, he (she?) wasn’t poisonous. They’re quite helpful in keeping the rodent population under control so most people go out of their way not to hurt or kill them. Unfortunately, we do have our share of venomous snakes (AND spiders…which are even worse, in my opinion!), but they’re not an everyday sighting in Midland, so you don’t have to worry about coming here. 😉

  4. Hokulea, I’m guessing that after living in Hawaii, the flowers in the Ozarks are going to be a bit disappointing even in the best of years! 😉 But I suppose that a lack of rain and maybe some late freezes combined to make 2006 a lackluster year for wildflowers throughout the south and southwest.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Um, I’m just wondering what kind of man makes his wife get off the bike and cross the snake’s path in order to take a picture? Or did it happen the other way around? Either way, I wouldn’t want a 10 foot snake between me and my only mode of transportation! 😉
    Too bad about the worms and paucity of wild flowers. But I’m glad you all had a safe and fun ride.
    Welcome back!

  6. Hey, it was her camera!
    Besides, I was actually closer to the snake than she was. In fact, I neglected to mention that she was going to get a close-up but as I reached down to pick it up, it decided it had enjoyed our company all it could stand and slithered back into the underbrush.
    You also have to remember that she’s hunted rattlesnakes before.

  7. Which one do I like best? The Snake is impressive. The Worm is actually intriguing with the visibility of the thread! The Fire Ant Eggs bring a smile. The Wind Generators are peaceful but lonesome.
    Great pics, Eric. Glad you had a good trip.

  8. Phyllis, I’m so glad you noticed that thread! You have no idea how many pixels I burned through trying to get a good shot of those dangling critters blowing in the wind! But, you’ve always had a good eye… 😉
    Looking forward to trying some Fire Ant Eggs.
    Gwynne, you’re sounding a bit cocky, aren’t you? Didn’t you notice the bit about “contest prizes”? Better start studying up on your album covers and drum solos. 😉

  9. Rachel, how is it that NZ has no poisonous things while Australia harbors nearly every poisonous creature known to man?? Maybe this could be one of Eric’s quiz questions…or something along these lines…maybe audio clips of non-poisonous things from NZ. 8-}

  10. Actually, we have two poisonous spiders (come to think of it, but we hardly ever see them) – One is a katipo (which hides in amongst long grass on the beach (I wonder though if they really exist as I have never ever seen one!) and the white tip (which someone coming over from Aussie brought – this I’ve seen).
    You really can’t count Daddy long legs because the only place where they can get a human is between the fingers (according to Animal planet – or something like that).
    We don’t have the poisonous spiders because we started off with none and our border controls are tight (with the exception of the white tip spider). We once had a snake try to sneak in but it was captured (probably sent to the zoo or deported)!
    What can I say, We Kiwi’s are very possessive of our poison free environment!

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