Buck Macho checking in. You won’t find any pictures of me here, because one of the conditions of me bringing outsiders to Central Texas was no photographs of me on bike websites. I was there, though, and I’m probably in the best position to tell the story, since it’s obvious my guests– Jason, Ty and Jesse – have a hard time handling their liquor.
Jason, Ty and Jesse are members of “Chet Bearclaw’s Adventure Cycling Team”, and I’m a longtime friend of the team’s owner/founder, Chet Bearclaw. My friendship with Chet started in 1998, when he crash-landed his hot air balloon in a field of my ranch. He had intended to circumnavigate the globe, but that’s a story for another time.
From what I was told, the last time Jason, Ty and Jesse had ridden bikes together was on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the winter. Seemed like a dumb as dog shit idea to me, but to each their own. It’s not that I don’t like winter, but if I’m gonna be freezing my dick off, I’d rather be on a snowmobile going 75mph.
Chet’s team had expressed some interest in visiting Austin (first red flag about them, in my opinion), so Chet contacted me asking if I’d be able to show them around for a few days. I don’t care much for Austin (prefer guns and beer to art and liberals), but I told Chet to send them out anyways. What I didn’t tell Chet was that we wouldn’t be spending much time in Austin; I was going to show them the Texas Hill Country instead.
The boys flew into Austin International Airport, and we loaded their bikes into a ’97 F250 diesel (4×4 with a 5 speed manual transmission) before heading to Johnson City, the former home of Lyndon B. Johnson, a true red-blooded Texan who hated communism, the Vietcong, and illegal drugs. As a means of honor and respect to President Johnson, we’d brought a few beers along for the drive, which I had convinced them was legal in Texas.
The Texas Road Soda is an essential part of what makes Texas great, but the bleeding hearts can’t accept that, and they’ve made it illegal. If we can’t enjoy (responsibly, of course) a cold beer on the road, where is this great state headed?
Our ride started at a conservation area in Johnson City that a friend of mine manages. We finished whatever was left of our beer, and got to pedaling. The route headed south to Blanco, and after a few miles, the road turned to dirt. We spotted some Texas Longhorn cattle and blackbucks (a type of Antelope from India), which reminded me that I’d screwed up and didn’t bring my gun. Not that I was planning on shooting any game, but it wasn’t much like me to leave the house without a firearm.
Now, you may be thinking; “Maybe Buck Macho has gone soft, hanging out with liberals and not bringing a gun.” I could, under these circumstances, forgive you for your assumptions, but when we stopped so the boys could get some pictures, I found a Ruger .357 packed away in my bag.
Much to the surprise of my visitors, the drivers out in the country were courteous and friendly. I can’t say the same for the jackasses in Austin, but I’m sure they’ve got more important things on their minds. Like getting to Whole Foods before the parking lot fills up, or making sure their yoga outfit matches their iPhone case.
I was happy to see the boys appreciating the country and enjoying the open space, and glad to see a few old friends drive by us on the highway.
We got to Blanco and stopped at a liquor store for a resupply before heading to my friends spot, a cabin on the Blanco River called “The Dirt.” We spent the night on the river, drinking cold beverages, and eating venison burgers from an East Texas buck I blasted last season.
The boys were talking about something, but my mind was elsewhere. I couldn’t remember if I’d left my stove on or not. Here I was, listening to these fucking kids rambling about how great it was to be out in the country, while all I could think about was whether or not my house had burned to the ground. After a few more minutes of worrying, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it, so I might as well forget about it. A few more shots of the Knob Creek that Ty brought along helped ease my concerns, and within an hour, I didn’t really care if my house was gone.
It wasn’t long before Jesse and Ty were shithammered. They hadn’t drank that much; they’re just from California, and Californians hold their liquor about as well as a girl on prom night. It was kind of endearing, though – city kids out in the country, getting drunk on the Blanco River. Enjoying life. Enjoying Texas. Enjoying Freedom.
We woke up the next morning and drank some whiskey to straighten us out before Jesse cooked some breakfast tacos. Ty made us some fancy coffee, which was pretty good. I was half expecting them to mix it with soymilk, but was happy to see all three of them drink their coffee black. While I wasn’t terribly impressed with these kids yet, I had learned that they drank their whiskey straight and their coffee black, and that goes a long way with me.
Our next destination was a swimming hole downriver, which is partially owned by a friend of mine. The spot has a conservation easement, which means the land will never be developed or further subdivided, which is an increasingly rare occurrence in Central Texas.
I’m not going to tell the name of the swimming hole, because the spot has been seeing a lot of trespassers over the years. Dumbass city folk have posted directions on the Internet, and every year dozens of people go to jail for tying to swim there.
I offered my buddy my services last summer; told him I’d be happy to sit out there with a cooler of beer and .30-06, but he declined; seemed to think shooting at the trespassers wasn’t the best solution. I told him I wouldn’t actually be shooting them – just firing off a few rounds to help encourage them to leave.
My friend still declined.
Maybe I should have offered my services with a .22 rather than a 30-06? Perhaps he was worried about the noise a larger caliber rifle would make? I can’t blame him – sometimes gunfire is the last thing you want to hear when you’re enjoying a swimming hole.
I think I’ll talk to him about it again next time we see each other.
We swam around the canyon for a few hours before making our way to Guadalupe River State Park. We were low on whiskey and I was craving a fountain Dr. Pepper, so another convenience store run was in order before we headed through the park’s gate.
It was well after dark by the time we arrived at Guadalupe River, and the boys were happy to find the place empty. I didn’t expect these city kids to be so averse to crowds, but whenever we showed up somewhere that was empty, they were thrilled. Turns our one of them, Jason, is from Northern Michigan, which earned him some respect in my book. We got a campfire going, ate a bunch of food, and got good and drunk before passing out in our sleeping bags.
Ty and Jesse made us coffee in the morning, which went well with the oatmeal and what was left of our whiskey. Camp was packed up before spending sometime down at the river.
It’s been a while since I’d seen this stretch of the Guadalupe; Last time I was here, my buddies and I were floating the river, and we got good and drunk (I blame the heat and humidity). My friend Lance broke his leg on a rope swing, and that night we got into a fight with some drunk assholes from UT at a bar in New Braunfels. We convinced the cops it was their fault – I can’t remember if it actually was – and they got hauled off to the drunk tank.
The road to Bandera was long and terrible, mainly because we had to pass through a shithole of a town called Boerne, which wasn’t too bad a few years ago, but has recently taken a page from Austin’s playbook and decided to exchange their rolling ranchland for urban development. Aside from the obvious environmental impact, the houses all look like shit, and the traffic is a goddamn nightmare.
If there is anything worse than “master planned communities”, it’s the people that they attract. I can’t tell you how many women with bleached blonde hair and bolt-ons (let the record show that I’m not necessarily complaining about blondes or big racks) driving new Range Rover’s almost ran us off the road. The same goes for their husbands, who can often be found wearing expensive ties while driving Porsche convertibles with automatic transmissions.
I’m certainly no “environmentalist.” – at least in the modern sense of the word- but I do consider myself a conservationist, and it angers me to see beautiful, open space being developed into rows of soulless, 4,000 square foot “Tuscan Villas.”
Central Texas’ land and wildlife is on the losing end of a fight with urban sprawl that has only recently begun. I hope we can change directions before it’s too late.
We escaped Boerne without incident, and as the traffic subsided, so did my frustration.
I suppose the most you can do is live your life in accordance with your values and try not getting too upset about the shit you can’t control. Or maybe the answer is to burn it to the fucking ground. I’m not entirely sure.
We kept pedaling, and the boys got real riled up when we cruised past the “Hanging Tree Ranch.” They were convinced it was a sign of how racist Texans are, and I let them believe it for a while. I claimed ignorance, telling them we were in an area that was dangerous for outsiders (especially Californians), and that it would serve them well to pick up the pace. They did, and we covered the next 40 miles in less than 2 hours. Lord knows I drafted behind them the whole way, too.
The real story behind the Hanging Tree Ranch isn’t pretty, though. During the civil war, some Confederate bastards hung a bunch of innocent civilians before leaving Texas and escaping justice. I swear on the great state of Texas that those bastards wouldn’t have made it 15 steps out of Texas if that happened on my watch.
We stopped in Bandera, known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, and found ourselves some BBQ and Budweiser. Bandera, even after all these years, is still a pretty cool place. Nowadays, most of the cowboys and horses have been replaced by overweight dudes on Harleys, but hell, I’ll take Harley’s over Range Rovers and hedge-fund managers any day.
The Hill Country State Natural Area was only a 30 minute ride down the road, so we arrived with plenty of time to gather firewood and get our camp setup.
Now, according to the park, gathering firewood aint allowed, but I had found a whole mess of cedar that was recently cut, but hadn’t been cleared off the trails yet. The way I saw it, I was doing the park a favor by helping them clear the trails. Cedar is a real pain in the ass, and Texas’ state land is notoriously underfunded. So, in all fuckin’ honesty, you’re welcome.
It was just before sundown and we all decided on a quick cruise around the park. There was a low water crossing on the main road, and Ty thought it would be cool to get a picture of Jason and Jesse riding through it. They did ride through it, but Ty didn’t think it looked cool enough, so he asked them to do it again. Jesse made a comment about feeling like Derrick Zoolander before they sprinted down the hill towards the water crossing.
Well, sure as a bear shits in the woods, Jason ate shit and tore his hands up pretty good, and fucked up his new iPhone, too. Ty felt terrible on account of making Jason do the stunt twice, and I thought it was funny as hell. Jason damn nearly bounced when he hit the ground, which is a sure sign of a good crash.
Look, it don’t matter how many times you fall off the horse, just as long as you get back on. I showed the boys the scar on my left ass cheek that I got back in 1999. I was dead drunk and fell off of my horse in front of a bunch of ladies in the parking lot of a bar in Johnson City. Truth be told, I had no business getting back on that horse, but I did it anyways, and that’s a lesson worth teaching.
We got back to camp, started a fire, and got good and drunk. Jesse got Jason’s hand bandaged up, and I fell asleep under the branches of a huge live oak. The lightning bugs were putting on a show, and the smell of cedar smoke made me as happy as pig in shit.
I woke up to the sound of a John Deere and a man saying something about needing to see us at the park office once we were up and moving. I put my hand on the handle of my knife – just in case shit went off the rails – but I realized the man probably meant no harm. Maybe he had been tipped off about our firewood gathering? I wasn’t sure, but we stopped by the park office on our way out.
Turns out Ty didn’t write our campsite number on the self-payment stub, and the park officials just wanted to make sure we were who we said we were. Turns out I knew the man on the John Deere, too.
The ride to Lost Maples State Natural was beautiful – empty roads and lots of trees. Problem was, we didn’t eat enough food, and Jesse’s rear tire was impaled by a piece of metal big enough to take down a whitetail from 40 yards. The delay in fixing his tire meant the nearest liquor store was closed, and by the time we made it to Lost Maples, Jason had nearly lost his goddamn mind on account of his hunger. He started asking everyone how much food they had left, and he planned on eating every bit of it that night (tomorrow’s breakfast and snacks included).
Fortunately, Ty talked some sense into him, and all Jason ate was a candy bar and some beef jerky to hold him over. We stuffed ourselves on the last of our dehydrated dinners, got good and drunk, and fell asleep to the sweet symphony of frogs and crickets.
Our final destination was the town of Hunt, but before we made our way there, we backtracked to the liquor store and got some pulled pork sandwiches to fuel up for the day.
There is a steep section of road just outside of Lost Maples. I remember it well.
When I was a kid, we went camping near the park, and my buddy Bobby Anderson dared me to ride my bike down the hill. It took me almost an hour to push my bike to the top, but only about 45 seconds to get speed wobbles partway down. I ditched the bike and slid about 40 yards (shirtless, mind you) before I came to a rest on the side of the road. The doctor said it was the worst road rash he’d ever seen, and Bobby Anderson said it was coolest thing he’d ever seen.
Well, 35 years later, the hill is still as goddamn steep as I remember it, and all of us had one hell of a time riding to the top. None of us walked our bikes, though, which tells me I’m a better cyclist now than I was when I was 8.
The ride to Hunt was nothing but hills and wildflowers – some of the best wildflowers I’ve ever seen in Texas, honestly. Central Texas has been in a pretty severe drought for the last decade, but it had been raining here almost constantly for a month leading up the boys’ visit. That, coupled with the incredible timing of sunshine and blue skies the week leading up to our ride, meant that nature was putting on a colorful show.
We pulled up to the Hunt Store around 3:45pm, filled up on water and Budweiser, and made our way to the final destination; a friend’s river house (more of a compound, really) just down the road. The place was built by on the Guadalupe River by my friend’s grandma as a spot for family gatherings, and between the main house, bunkrooms, and cabins, sleeps about 30 people. It also has a pool and a hot tub, which we put to use almost immediately.
As you can imagine, we spent the next few days eating, drinking, and soaking in the river. It’s a strange thing, trips like these: I can’t say that these boys would have been my first choice of people to grab a beer with, but I had come to like them. They were good kids, and we had a damn good time drinking and riding our bikes together.
I told them that if they ever found themselves in Central Texas, I’d take them out to hunt some feral pigs. Truth is, as nice as the boys were, I could tell they’re a bit soft around the edges, and I think getting them elbow deep in some pig guts would serve them well.
This is where the story would end, but a few days after the boys left, Central Texas was hit with massive amounts of rainfall, and the rivers we’d spent our time visiting hit historic flood levels. The Blanco River rose over 40 feet and peaked at nearly 200,000 cubic feet per second, killing at least 12 people and destroying much of the town of Wimberley. Guadalupe River State Park, where we spent our second night, was closed for over a month due to massive flood damage, and “The Dirt”, the cabin on the Blanco River, was almost flooded, despite being over 100 yards from the river’s bank.
Nature is ruthless and indifferent, and that’s something I know we humans won’t be able to change anytime soon.
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