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Bicycle travelers discover Lone Star State

by Flip Putthoff | April 10, 2018 at 1:00 a.m.
Bike riders enjoy music and barbecue in Luckenbach, Texas during a Texas Hill Country cycling trip.

Lots of us have slid some quarters in a juke box to sing, "Let's go to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys."

Pedaling to Luckenbach was a highlight of a bicycling trip last month down yonder in Central Texas. The Texas Hill Country, this region is called. This is ranch country with wide open countryside west of Austin.

Our little Le Tour de Madison County bicycling group traveled by car to Fredericksburg, Texas to explore the hill country on our bikes over four days. Fredricksburg bills itself in part as a premier bicycling destination. To our delight, we discovered that central Texas is indeed road cycling paradise.

The trip's first ride was a nice loop that meandered north of town, then circled south to Luckenbach. Most of the route was on paved rural roads through the back country where you might ride for miles without seeing a car.

We rolled into Luckenbach on a hot Monday afternoon ready for a break. It felt grand to ride under warm sun and 85-degree heat after pedaling in Arkansas all winter. It's a tiny place, this Luckenbach, Texas, with a couple of homes, the post office building and a dance pavilion.

The post office building houses a great gift shop. In the back there's a bar and a food wagon that serves burgers, barbecue and cold beer. We sat down at one of the dozens of picnic tables laid out under big shade trees with our barbecued ribs and bottles of cold beer.

A couple of pickers were playing for the small but lively crowd of about 20 folks. The guitar player asked if we had any request and someone naturally hollered "Luckenbach, Texas."

"Do 'ya know how many times a day we have to play that song?" the guitar picker joked. "And besides, there isn't a song called Luckenbach, Texas. Who knows what the real title is?"

One of our group knew is was "Back to the Basics of Love," by Willie and Waylon. Then the duo launched into their fine version of that classic.

Riding back to Fredericksburg, we laughed at what our route map called hills. More like bumps if you ride much in the Ozarks. The Texas Hill Country got the last laugh on us over the next couple of days. We wheezed our way up some killer hills, but most of the miles are flat and on back country roads with near zero traffic and lovely scenery.

Our biking adventure got off to a jump start before we took our first ride. We were in a parking lot in downtown Fredericksburg, near the chamber of commerce. One of our group set her bike over in some grass and stepped right on a big mound of fire ants. Welcome to Texas.

I wondered why she was jumping up and down, stomping her feet. Practicing the Texas two-step, I guessed. That got rid of the fire ants, but not before they'd drawn blood.

The next day we got caught out in a steady downpour with about 10 miles left to ride. It was raining cats and prairie dogs and chilly, about 70 degrees. I thought it might be a mirage when a good old boy in a pickup stopped and offered us a lift back to town.

Our bikes fit snug in his truck bed and we piled into the cab, soaked to the bone. Our new friend cranked up the heat and we thanked him a thousand times.

Another great ride was through the LBJ ranch. It's now a national park 15 miles east of Fredericksburg. There's a nine-mile tour road through the ranch, similar to the tour road at Pea Ridge National Military Park.

We saw all the sights of the LBJ ranch on our bikes at a Texas mosey pace. The road winds to the late president's home. Next door to the medium-sized ranch home is a hangar that shelters Air Force One-Half, a small jet that LBJ used.

There's a visitor center with all kinds of hands-on exhibits. A fun one is a podium with the presidential seal and microphones where you can have your friends take your picture like you're the prez holding a press conference.

The tour road passes the family cemetery, shaded by big live oak trees. LBJ and Lady Bird are buried side by side in the small cemetery. For a guy who was president, his gravesite is simple with a modest headstone.

We highly recommend the Texas Hill Country for Northwest Arkansas riders looking to expand their cycling horizons. Fredericksburg is a great town, like a big Eureka Springs only with cactus.

Our best move was to stop by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. They have free printed maps of road cycling routes that take in a few miles or up to 70 miles. Each route is on an individual sheet that is easily carried on a bike. Maps are also available online.

The chamber folks bent over backwards to help us. Our hats are off to all the fine, friendly folk we met in the Lone Star State.

Now that I'm home after a fabulous bicycle trip, I'm inspired to write a song about Texas. Because there just aren't enough of them.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]

Sports on 04/10/2018

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