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e_moon60

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Monday [Apr. 26th, 2010|07:30 pm]
e_moon60
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[Current Mood |awake]

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.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mevennen
2010-04-27 08:49 am (UTC)
We have one ford near here - only a small one. They used to be more common. I also have to drive through water when the river comes through its banks, which it does several times a year: it floods down onto the water meadows, as intended, but it does make the road very wet.

I love your descriptions of the countryside.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-27 12:52 pm (UTC)
The spring after drought-breaking rains all winter makes this part of the land especially beautiful. Sheets of gold flowers, blue=and-gold mingled, patches of warm pink, stretches of white mixed with gold and blue and red, red/blue/yellow together...amazing after the scant flowerings of the drought year springs. I was not going to waste a chance to see it (and an excuse to get away from the Interstate.)

I wish humans weren't mucking it up--widening roads, building things that destroy views, etc.; I don't know why we insist on building UGLY buildings and putting them right in the most obvious place to be eyesores for decades--but even so the beauty's there. Limestone country, gray and white rock for the most part, from sturdy solid stone to loosely aggregated fossils and cobbles. Spring-fed creeks falling steeply off hills into these blue-green rivers. The former steep canyons and narrow valleys have been nearly all been dammed, but the Blanco River still has its river road (as does the upper Guadelupe.) The older ranch houses blend into the slopes, sometimes made of rock and sometimes of brick, usually one story and tucked under live oaks.
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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2010-04-27 11:24 am (UTC)
Its much more fun to take the road less travelled. Thanks to google I can actually see where you went (at least I think I can - http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=San+Marcos,+TX&daddr=River+Rd+to:29.967725,-98.19005+to:US-281+N+to:Burnet,+TX,+United+States&hl=en&geocode=FYv7xwEdbogp-ilZRkE0KqdchjEnMY5TbDM6Lw%3BFbmGyQEdwesm-g%3B%3BFWK8ywEdAGsi-g%3BFV5V1QEdeicl-imrLGwNIORahjFEf2TV8iFqew&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=2&sz=14&via=1,2,3&sll=29.962445,-98.166103&sspn=0.058224,0.069952&ie=UTF8&ll=29.952257,-98.066626&spn=0.05823,0.069952&t=h&z=14 - if the URL works) and it is certainly more fun than the Interstate.

Round here when I try the same thing I sometimes end up being stymied by abrupt changes of direction due to the mountainous terrain and a couple of times I've ended up a dead end because the road simply doesn't ascend at the end of the valley. Its very very irritating to have to backtrack 10 miles or more because there is no way through....
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-27 12:55 pm (UTC)
That's it, except I didn't turn onto 484 which is just a loop going to an old cluster of farms (and now a country market kind of thing.) I stayed on TX32.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-27 01:00 pm (UTC)
Looked at the line on the map and there are two differences. I stayed on Ranch Road 12 all the way through Wimberly and turned onto River Road directly from 12, downstream of where your map shows.

I'll have to try that cutoff someday. I was hoping to eat lunch in Wimberly, so that's why I went all the way in.

Interesting country on the topo map, isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2010-04-27 01:38 pm (UTC)

I'll have to try that cutoff someday. I was hoping to eat lunch in Wimberly, so that's why I went all the way in.


Heck I just dragged the blue line more or less into Wimberly and checked it was on River Road. I'm moderately impressed that it was as correct as you say.

One thing I've learned the hard way from Google here in France (and other map makers too) is that what they claim is a "road" may actually be a path/track/flight of steps or even a complete work of fiction. On the other hand as long as it isn't a work of fiction, it generally is a right of way so you have slightly more confidence when afoot to continue despite signs warning about "proprieté privé" and I've found a number of interesting running routes this way.

The really great thing about google's streetview is that in places where the google mobile has photographed you can actually see whether the map is accurate or not. This doesn't help in the countryside (no google cars have been there) but it's extremely handy in urban/suburban areas where maps may fail to show blocked roads.

Interesting country on the topo map, isn't it?
Fascinating, and a place I'd love to visit at some point (though so far ways to convince someone else to pay for me to visit any part of Texas are pretty much non-existent).
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-28 01:18 am (UTC)
You did brilliantly, actually--I'm sorry I seemed to be in nitpick mode...I just wanted to brag about having driven more of the River Road than was under the blue line.

I do vaguely remember that at some point the road that had been Wayside was marked as Mail Route, but once it had turned into a real country road, it wasn't actually marked that much at all.



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