My wife and I recently “retired” to a ramshackle house of dubious structural character and even more dubious architectural character on Lake Buchanan about 70 miles northwest of Austin, TX.
I plan to use my spare time boring friends, and those who might become friends, with my ruminations on cycling, sailing and surviving in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
Cycling – For several years I have been cycling, both here and in the DFW area, to improve the odds of living long enough to run out of money. In deference to my ageing prostate I converted to a Sun EZ-Sport recumbent bike a few years back, having spent enough on “anatomically correct” bike seats over the previous 10 years to have bought a recumbent bike. Recumbents look weird, but man are they easy on one’s tender parts. In 4-1/2 years I have put over 2500 miles on my EZ-Sport, lost a bunch of weight, got my cholesterol, trigycerides, and blood sugar all within my doc’s targets and all without any drugs. This is like the ultimate Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit! A couple of years back we bought my wife a recumbent trike (2 wheels out front, one in the back… much more stable than the one out front, two in the back “tumbleweed simulators” we looked at). The result was that she actually began to join me on shorter rides. While that machine, a Sun EZ-Tad was good enough to get her going, it was just not good enough to get her out on 10+ mile rides on the, sometimes rough, county roads that I love to ride. So we upgraded her to a really top of the line Catrike Trail machine for Christmas ’09. Her Catrike so impressed me that I have acquired a similar, better fit for my 6’4″ frame, Catrike Road. More on the purchase of these machines later. Now I have my “young lady” along with me on some of my back-country jaunts and I really enjoy that.
There is little information available to let others discover, on a bike, the beautiful back roads on Llano, Burnet, Gillespie and Blanco Counties, so one thread of this blog will pertain to the rides I make. There will be a related category which does not have the detail and editorial meanderings of my personal experience, but provides a catalog of rides of different length and difficulty… addressing issues like how far it is between “facilities” for ladies, and for gentlemen of excessive sensibilities, places to get refills for water, places to just plain sit and look dumbstruck and/or places to find a good mid-ride lunch. I hope this information not only encourages others to come discover the beautiful Hill Country back roads from a “human powered vehicle”, but as I plan to post notices prior to some of my own rides, maybe to encourage some to come enjoy these rides with me.
Sailing – I love sailing, especially racing sailboats and even more especially I love racing single-handed sailboats such as the Sunfish or the Laser. As I am not a 150 pounder who looks like a 5 year old’s “stick man” drawings and as both of these classes of boat have attracted the very top sailors in Texas in the last few years, I don’t win many races and have not won a regatta in 20 years. But I have fun, sometimes scare the heck out of the “stick men” when the wind picks up a little, and don’t break the bank doing it! Small single-handed boats are cheaper to sail than a big boat and lack the hassles of finding and putting up with the bunch of folks to crew on a bigger boat. If you argue with your crew on a Sunfish or Laser, it is a personal problem for which professional help may be in order. The Sunfish is easy to throw in the bed of the pickup (yes officer… with a red flag on the aftmost components) and the bed cover closed so that duffel bags and parts do not blow out, so long as one remembers not to load them next to the open tailgate through which the last 8 feet of the boat and spars are dangling. For cruising, I like a lumbering Catalina 22 which can be kept on a trailer (avoiding $200/month slip fees) and which can be trailed behind most SUVs and pickups without causing the bumper to be pulled off or the transmission to resign. The Catalina 22 lumbers along, only imperiling any open libations or loose grandchildren if the wind is really kicking up. My goal is to provide some information about places to launch and sail on Lake Buchanan. Lakes LBJ and Travis are so overcrowded that my view is that there is no good place for sailing on them, though I really enjoy sailing with the Sunfishfolk at the Austin Yacht Club at their small boat regattas.
Surviving – eating, drinking local wines, finding places to spend a night out here, and such are pretty well covered, but I intend to provide links to sources for those and in some cases comment on personal experiences. Also in this category are a few things many know nothing of, though they live within less than two hours drive of Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake and the historic city of Llano. One such pearl of knowledge is about the upper reaches of Lake Buchanan (in 2009 there were no upper reaches as the lake was down 30 feet). Some have taken the Vanishing Texas River Cruise which goes part of the way up the river when the lake is full. If you lack your own powerboat, or just want to relax and let someone else do the driving, it is absolutely a great way to spend a summer evening! But… the size of the boat they operate prevents seeing some of the wildest, most unexpected, sights in The Hill Country way up the river. We have a Seadoo Sport Boat (jet boat, like some huge mutated Jet Ski from a ’60s vintage Japanese Horror Flick) which belches smoke, makes all sorts of irritating noise, but is absolutely the best way we have ever found to make the run all the way to the end of navigable river, just at the south end of Colorado Bend State Park. There are several waterfalls to enjoy, and in the spring the steep, high, walls of the river canyon are alive with the vibrant blue of Mountain laurel, the amazing pallet of colors involved in a large variety of cactus blooms, and the usual bluebonnet, paintbrush, and Yucca blooms in profusion. Least among these is the bluebonnet because the canyon walls are too steep for them, but there are a few blue bonnets. I will try to provide a sense of the experience of going “up the river” when the lake fills enough that a boat, not an ATV is the best transportation for that experience.