Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grassroots work in Central Texas

Louisiana may have jello shots—but Wingate, TX, has a Goat Cook-Off, and y'all are invited
Welcome back to Texas! After last week's 70.3 fiasco it sure feels good to be back in friendly territory. I haven't been on a real road trip ("real" being defined as get in the Miata, drop the roof, and drive for 430 miles with the sun staring down on you) since last year's Collegiate Nationals, and I tell you one thing: I have been enjoying the living hell out of my past 36 hours or so on the road.
Bluebonnets, as seen from the Miata

The photo above was snapped while entering the hamlet of Wingate, a 200-soul settlement somewhere between Sweetwater and Brownwood. Winters (where the local high school's athletes are called the "Blizzards") is just down the highway. Man, you gotta love those names! I left the Hub City yesterday before noon to drive down to Bertram, a bit north of Austin, to spend the night at Mark and Ann's place, fine in-laws of Judy's and thus mine. Even though they were not around (unfortunately, I must add), they had opened the doors to their beautiful home on Oatmeal Creek for me to spend the night. The drive (334 miles to their place, to be exact) was unbelievably beautiful. It was one of those perfect days to drive the little roadster: temps in the mid to high 70s, no wind, and nothing but sunshine. I saw my first bluebonnets just outside of Santa Ana, and from there, it was just one flower field after the other.
Bluebonnets in Mark and Ann's backyard
I spent a quiet, happy late afternoon, evening, and night on Oatmeal Creek. Good memories welled up, even though the oak trees have been felled because of parasites—somehow they get sick too, and die. Still, sitting in the waning sunlight with Sugar, the lab, and one of the cats in my lap and a beer in my hand was just what I needed after the past few days of WTC crap. Oddly enough, my friend Sabine sent me the following quote from Dylan Thomas' Under The Milk Wood just this morning (or, better, late last night, while I was snoozing like a baby in the dead quiet of night):

"It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now."

How about this for a night out of town? Welcome to Oatmeal Creek
This morning I drove the final 90 miles or so to Smithville and the race site at Rocky Hill. My route led, of course, though Bastrop, which experienced one of the worst wildfires in Texas' history last year. Oh my, those blackened dead pine trees are so sad to look at, but what is even worse is seeing the foundations of burnt-down homes, just a few hundred feet from the highway! I had seen the effects of the Los Alamos fires in New Mexico last fall, but this felt worse because of the displaced human element.
A typical Texas "welcome" (BTW, those are Indian Paintbrush in the background
Once at Rocky Hill (where, incidentally, Judy and I had our big officiating breakthrough back in 1999 or so when we hand-scored 960 racers after the "fail-safe" computer system went on the fritz and the computer dude went AWOL—the race director gave us a $300 tip at the end of the day!) and met with Vance, the man behind the new Texas Mountain Bike High School League, and Mat, who hails from California where he established the first such HS league in the US about a decade ago.The HS kids and the parents that I talked to seemed all excited about this new way to burn off some testosterone—heck, it's a sport that doesn't involve just one ball like football, basketball, or beisbol! 
Wildflowers at Rocky Hill Ranch, just outside of Smithville, TX

Looks to me like acacia in full bloom
Babies are always cute—nopales
I walked the course, as I always do as a commissaire. To think that just two weeks ago I did the same for a UCI race in the tropical rainforest of Puerto Rico! And next week I'll be in Las Vegas for a triathlon in the desert. If you want to send me all of your savings right now, chances are I won't trade, unless you also throw in your sister, and even that depends. Seriously, I have one of the most gratifying lives of anybody I know, and I am glad c'est moi et pas tu.

So, with all that said, it's time to turn in and call it a night. Hope you enjoyed the pics, and tune back in after a day or two, just in case exciting things happen to this here German.


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