Cycling – A flatlander meets the Texas Hill Country in late July

The following was submitted by my friend Eric Brewster

The Road To Hell


Dante Aligheri Had It Easy


I succumbed to a blog by an old high school friend, Gil Jones, who gave a great description of a little town in Llano County called Castell. My best friend, Don Bynum, had taken a trike ride there earlier and highly recommended the ride, so feeling confident after a 27 mile bike ride the day before with my Tri Athlete daughter (on the Houston flatlands…!) I arrogantly announced my intentions to do the ride from the Llano County courthouse to the village of Castell, known for its famed Rooster of Castell, a paltry distance of only 19 miles. I arrived at the Llano County courthouse at 9:15 in the morning and began to ready myself for the quaint and leisurely ride into the Llano Countryside. I confidently, finger by finger, carefully donned my biking gloves with a steely eyed concentration (Don said it reminded him of the Kid Shaleen scene in Cat Ballou, when Lee Marvin was dressing for the big shootout….) and confidently mounted my two-wheeled steed, ready to show the local yahoos what real bike riding was all about….and done on two wheels, not the trike contraption that my friend Don rides.

Ready to go for a ride from llano to Castell

Eric does his Kid Shaleen pre-ride ceremony

Sun EZ-Sport and Catrike Road ready for the ride to Castell, TX

Eric and Don ready (at last!) to head west for Castell

Irene Brewster and Ann Bynum agree on their bets

We hit the road and went past the Llano Golf course…it was verdant and green as there had been some rain in the hill country a week before, so it was an unusually attractive beginning. We hit the first hill and I confidently began gearing down as I usually do and made it over, then experienced a rip-roaring ride in 3rd and 8th gear down the other side, through the dip over the stream and then up another hill. I immediately started gearing down again in a process that occurred at least 50 times before we eventually got to Castell. My muscles began searing and I cursed every crank of the pedals with a vengeance, vowing to never ride my bike again except on flat, beachfront roads. We stopped about a mile from Castell and Don had to endure approximately five minutes of foul language emanating from my mouth regarding the Ride Into Hell that I had just endured. The very word “Hill” in the phrase Hill Country of Texas made me regurgitate just thinking about another damnedable hill that I would have to struggle over. The entire time my best friend was displaying grins and smirks as he cruised over the terrain with a great deal of panache. I briefly hated every fiber in his being for encouraging me to make the Trip To Hell.

One of many small hills to be climbed (and moaned about)

Don asks Eric if he needs to stop for a rest or if all the moaning is just for dramatic effect.

A short break by the roadside (roasting while we sit)

Eric and Don cruise into Castell

We arrived at the Castell General Store where Don’s mother and my mother had gone ahead and were sitting in the air conditioning having a hamburger and a beer…or two….possibly three. I had to sit in the shade for a bit, knees shaking noticeably, while  Don tried to persuade me to do a dip in the river….which was the last thing on my mind as every muscle in my body was screaming. I was saved as I had no swim suit or river shoes, but I agreed to walk with Don and Peggy to the water’s edge.

The Siren of the Llano calls to us to come emerse ourselves in her cool embrace!

Eric finds bliss in the Llano

Now….remember, I grew up on the banks of the Guadalupe River in the shade of the giant cypress trees, so seeing a river with no trees on it was foreign to me. What I did see was one of the most striking and beautiful rivers in Texas, the Llano. It was abundant with worn smooth granite boulders everywhere and the most absolute crystal clear water I’ve ever seen. It was so inviting that I just strode into the stream, clothes and good running shoes still on, and lay myself down in an area of the most refreshing clean, clear water I’d ever been in….with the water rushing, gushing and cascading all over my tired body. We both just lay there in the river for a good ten minutes, taking it all in and cooling down. My muscles began to relax and it was one of my most memorable moments…..not a cypress tree in sight, but it was glorious!

Our friend Gil Jones is an avid kayaker on the Llano River and now I’m ready to join in myself. We finally lifted ourselves out of the refreshing rushing water (I briefly imagined myself in a Coors beer commercial….) and walked back to the General Store where our burgers and beers were waiting. I am thankful to both of my old fiends for suggesting this place….I will return….after I’ve made many more rides getting myself more prepared and with a much more humble attitude. 

Editor’s note:  To be fair, it was a fairly hot ride, but the hills are not even up to the “one puke” level of difficulty.  There are just a lot of little ones. The ride took 2 hrs 4 min and I burned 1115 calories with an average heart rate of only 107.  Eric was at a huge disadvantage in that he is currently giving me a 60 pound advantage not counting the extra 4 or 5 pounds that his bike weighs compared to my Catrike.  So he did well and, if he keeps it up, he will have a lot less to haul up those hells, oops er… I mean hills. 


13 responses to “Cycling – A flatlander meets the Texas Hill Country in late July

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  3. Sounds like lots of fun. I just got through floating down the Illinois River and it was wonderful. I don’t think I could ride like you guys do and am envious. Keep it up!

  4. Oh my word! Eric, you’re a hoot. I’m thinking I’m quite lucky that I had a court docket that day. As it turned out, the case (which was set for an all day pretrial) settled. But I’m getting ready to take on the Llano-Castell challenge!

  5. Enjoyed the “comradeship” shown in this competition.

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  8. Great story: I enjoyed reading it, especially as another flatlander who has ridden a bicycle in the Texas Hill Country lately [Little switzerland, among others].
    Happy and safe bicycling,

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