||[Apr. 26th, 2010|07:30 pm]
Today I drove down to San Marcos to talk with a class about The Speed of Dark. Their professor had come to my Book People event and talked to me, then invited me a little later. I hadn't been to that campus since I was in graduate school, when my studying-buddy and I drove there from San Antonio--we were looking at research projects. (Note to anyone thinking of a similar visit to another institution: read the papers of the prof you're going to talk to before you go!! C- and I had an ego-busting experience.) Anyway, what was Southwest Texas State College is now Texas State University, and the campus is even prettier than it was then (more crowded, but they've done a great job making little green places all over and putting in more native plants. A whole bed of the native yellow Texas columbine, for instance.)
The class was delightful--I had a great time--but although I'd made it through Austin on I-35 coming down with only a few minutes of Parking Lot Syndrome, I didn't want to repeat it--I had decided to take some back roads NW out of San Marcos towards US 281 and hope for good wildflowers and scenery. No map, just navigating by sun and the feel of the land, to see if I could still do that.
From San Marcos I went to Wimberly--very touristy though pretty--and there discovered a road I hadn't been on since I was 17, when my mother and I were driving around Texas looking at colleges (my mind was made up, but it was a good excuse for a trip up this way.) Part of that road is on a high, narrow watershed ridge with incredible views to both sides (but eyes on the road is good, too, as it occasinally dives off the nose of the ridge and then climbs another.)
The "River Road" out of Wimberly is gorgeous road, much like the one that used to run alongside all Hill Country rivers...big cypresses alongside a clear-running river, part shallows, part deeper, the peculiar jade-green color in the deeps that these rivers show. Rocks, cypresses, water...rocky bluffs in places. The road itself is very narrow, with sudden turns, dips, rises and some one-lane bridges over side streams. It finally dead-ends at a T with Wayside (or something like that) and I took a left. Wayside starts as a straighter, leveler, 2 lane road...and then narrows bit by bit, losing its nice new surface...and its shoulders...until it's a typical old-style Hill Country ranch road, the edges of the asphalt ripped unevenly by flash floods. The narrowest part led down, and then with a twist steeply down, and faced me with a "one lane bridge" that was a fairly high dam-like structure with several inches of water running over it. This required a pause for contemplation. There were tracks coming out on my side--about the width apart and tread width of my car. The water was perfectly clear, making the depth assessment easy (about 4 inches.) The dam arced across in a graceful curve; the top was properly "roughed" to give tires a grip provided the water wasn't too deep. In the middle of the arc was the actual bridge section, with a powerful whirlpool leading into it. The dropoff on the downstream side was near-vertical and a good six to eight feet to the water below. My mother and I, every time we came up to the this area, drove across low-water crossings as long as the water wasn't too deep--and I've done it since, including driving on a rock-bottom river. So the calculations on "Is it safe?" were familiar, though I hadn't yet done a low-water crossing in this car.
And yes, I went into it, and obviously am here to tell the tale. No problems at all. The best technique for these, especially when there's significant current, is to ease the car into the water and let it crawl across in low. You don't want to build a bigger bow wave than you have to and you don't want to overrun your bow wave, because then the effective water depth is that much deeper.
The road continues narrow, twisty, up-and-down-y and interesting, and then I reached TX 32. By my reckoning, that should take me reasonably straight (who wants dead straight? Not me) to US 281, somewhere south of Blanco, but not far south. And so it proved. From there to Blanco, through Johnson City to Marble Falls to Burnet...then back east, and then northeast on another country road I know, and then onto the road home, was easy. All familiar roads. Gorgeous wildflowers throughout, interesting livestock (llamas here, sheep there, longhorns here, Beefmasters there), scenery...and much more relaxing than I-35.
Back home, I pulled the start of the next concoction out of the refrigerator, put it on the stove, and started adding things. Beef, Ro-tel, onions, garlic, yellow roasted peppers, olives, barley, etc. Suppertime now.