Day 31 – I Made it to Utopia!

Route 90

There's some green in that grass! This is along Route 90, between Uvalde and Sabinal.

23 April 2011. Utopia, Texas, that is. Today’s ride was the easiest in a couple weeks, it seems. It was warm and the humidity has increased as I’ve headed east and met air masses coming off the Gulf (I suppose that’s what’s going on), but the wind was gentle and for half of today’s 44 miles, there was a tailwind! Imagine that!

I left my motel in Uvalde (probably the worst motel I’ve stayed in on this trip) around 8 am and went to a nearby pancake house. The buffet was great, because I could eat quickly and go back for seconds to bulk up on those carbs and protein!

Leaving Uvalde

Leaving Uvalde--another Walmart town (the measure of a real urban mecca in these parts!).

Then back onto Route 90—my constant companion for days! It was all four-lane highway in this stretch, but with less of a shoulder that over the past several days. I was glad that it was a Saturday, with less truck traffic.

I have noticed a gradual greening of the landscape (even though they’re suffering from a severe drought here), and the trees are certainly getting bigger!

Crossing th Sabinal River

Crossing the Sabinal River just as I entered the town of Sabinal. Two unique features to the river: first, it has water; and second, it's lined with these spectacular cypress trees.

In Sabinal, I got off 90, bought and chugged down a quart of Gatoraide and bought a quart of chocolate milk to take with me. Across the street, I ordered what turned out to be a great chicken teriyaki sub (just the 6”) from Subway. All sorts of veggies in it (lettuce, spinach, green peppers, red onions, tomato…) and sauce in a small separate container so as not to make the bread soggy. Oh, and they have all sorts of roll options; I got one with parmesan cheese in it. (Those of you more familiar with Subway won’t find any of this new; for a sandwich on the road, it’s a great deal.)

Route 187

A winding section of Route 187 as I entered the Texas Hill Country. There are no shoulders here, but the traffic is very light. It made for an easy biking day.

Pivoting gate

I had never seen a gate that pivots like this one apparently does. I had to stop and take a photo--even though I wasn't that worn out that I needed the excuse!

The sub was all the better, because I ate it 15 miles up the road, along the Sabinal River, surrounded by towering cypress trees. Note that the Sabinal River actually flows—somewhat of a rarity for rivers in these parts!

Sabinal River crossing

Lunch stop--around 2 pm--at a second crossing of the Sabinal River (the first crossing on 187).

Subway chicken teryiaki

I may become a walking, biking advertisement for Subway--or maybe it's just that I was really hungry. It was great--as was the quart of chocolate milk!

I had no idea that there were bald cypress trees in central Texas (or am I still in West Texas?). I’ve crossed the Sabinal River three times—once on Route 90 and twice on 187—and seen the river lined with these massive trees. Now I’m sitting on the back porch at the Sabinal River Lodge in Utopia, gazing out at some more of these ancient cypress trees by the river.

Arriving in Utopia

Arriving in Utopia!

Sabinal River Lodge

Sabinal River Lodge. Great spot!

Rear of the Lodge

All of the rooms are on the upper floor--where we catch the nice breezes. This is a view from the rear. I wrote this blog sitting in a wicker chair up on the covered deck.

I was also just treated to a summer tanager—another of the brightly colored birds that frequent these parts. The summer tanager is nearly all red; the male I’ve been watching is flitting around in the mesquite trees a few tens of feet from the lodge.

An ancient bald cypress

This cypress, right down the hill from the lodge, has a massive truck. Could it be 1,000 years old?

The same tree from a distance

The same tree from further away.

I am shortly to walk or bike over to a café that I’m told is just down the road in the center of Utopia, That appetite that I had worried about seems to be here in full-force today! It’s a tiny town; I want to make sure I get there before they close up! (One thinks about these things when one is dependent on a bike to get around!)

Back from the café now. Great dinner (though no beer or wine—you can bring your own, but the nearest place to buy anything is 15 or 20 miles away). I had the rib-eye steak special with baked potato and salad, then topped the dinner off with a piece of pecan pie.

When I entered the café I saw the sign that it will be closed for Easter—tomorrow. This may be fairly bad news if the other couple cafés I would pass in the 63 miles between here and Kerrville are also closed for Easter! I bought a container of their oatmeal cookies before leaving that I’ll take with me.

Lost Maples Café

The Lost Maples Café, where I had a great dinner--but where I (unfortunately) won't be eating breakfast tomorrow.

Church in Utopia

A well-maintained church in the gentrified hamlet of Utopia.

As I was walking out of the café, I got into a great conversation with a couple from Hunt, Texas, which I’ll be passing through tomorrow (about 45 or 50 miles from here). They, first of all, apologized for his grandchildren, who were making a racket in the restaurant—I had kind-of tuned that out (I wish I could do the same with leaking toilets!), but then we got into conversation about bicycling, green building, and acute chemical sensitivity, which the woman suffers from.

Anyway, they tried to buy me a second piece of pie, but I was stuffed. They very much hope I’ll stop by on my ride tomorrow—which I’ll likely to, especially if I’m about to feint from hunger, or if I’m close to gagging on nuts and granola bars and that beef jerky I’ve been assiduously avoiding.

The lodge in last light

The lodge in the evening's last light.

Oh, and they also shared some information on the route I’ll take tomorrow. They’ve talked with other bicyclists pedaling the Southern Tier route who have called the climb north of Vanderpool the toughest of the entire route! I’m glad to have been told that; I’ll have to psyche myself up!

And I’m sure I’ll do better after a good night’s sleep.