When Dan Melkonian fixed my cranky rear derailleur, he fixed it good. That was many thousands of miles ago in Trout Lake, Washington. Ever since Dan the Derailleur Whisperer did his thing, my finicky rear der has worked perfectly. Of course miles are miles and riding is riding and abuse is abuse so finally, today, somewhere between Del Rio and Camp Wood, my overworked, underpaid, undermaintained, and under-loved rear derailleur began to skip.
First it skipped a little, then it skipped a lot, then it skipped like a smooth stone coursing its way across a smooth pond thrown by a pro. “Oh well,” I thought. “I guess the next time I come to a bike shop I will get it readjusted.”
One thing I pride myself on when it comes to strange noises from down below is never looking to see what might be causing the noise since there is never anything I can do to fix it anyway. However, this time the skipping was so violent and odd and sudden and continual that eventually I looked.
Imagine my shock when I saw a huge ball of twine wrapped around the derailleur and cassette. It appears that my Boy Scout knot hadn’t held and the twine fell down into the wheel, from whence it decided to never again come out. Luckily that morning I had lubed the chain, so now everything was coated with fresh black muck which quickly transferred onto my hand, my forehead, my nose, my clothing, and my bike frame.
Black is the new black.
After wrestling with the twine and the gunk for half an hour I got it all untangled, and after going through half a box of wet wipes I was now somewhat clean again. Best of all, the derailleur was working perfectly. It takes more than a ball of twine to upset the magic of the Dan the Derailleur Whisperer.
From Del Rio it was gradually uphill for 32 miles to Brackettville along busy US Highway 90. Big trucks is fun!! At Brackettville I veered off to Camp Wood, another 50 miles away, but not before sharing my second breakfast with a kitty. The riding was beautiful and completely quiet; I didn’t see a dozen cars in the 30 miles from there to Highway 55. The area is teeming with wildlife. Armadillos, raptors including crested caracara, and a variety of songbirds and sparrows lined the roads.
This part of Texas, as well as every other, is horribly overgrazed by cattle and goats. The ranchers who claim to be stewards of the land are belied by the dirt and horrible condition of their pastures which are mostly cactus, mesquite, and other indicators badly disturbed land. The best steward of the land is the Texas Department of Transportation, because all they do to their right of way is mow it. Without grazing, you can see tall stands going on for miles and miles of bluestem and other healthy prairie grasses. It is easy to see how mismanaged the ranchland is by simply comparing it with the right of way.
This part of Texas is also high-fenced, which is what ranchers do when they have lots of game animals for the city folks to come in and slaughter on the weekend. The effect is strange, as with high fences on either side of the road you feel like the creature that is being fenced in is you. It is hunting season in Texas, which means that every convenience store sports half a dozen men wearing camo clothing and looking like they are very tough and dangerous.
They don’t look quite as tough when you see them driving around the ranch in their high/seater cars, being squired by a ranchhand, where they have a 10-foot view in the air of everything around them, able to shoot at will. No, they don’t look very tough then. What they look like are chubby little boys on a cheap amusement park ride, which I suppose is what they are, minus the cheap. I wonder why they still call it hunting instead of what it really is, which is animal shooting.
You can also tell it is deer season because the highway is littered with empty bags of “deer corn.” Giant 50-pound bags, empty, litter the roadway across the entire state. This is probably also part of the land stewardship, helping the plastic to grow, nurturing it so that it remains for future generations to enjoy.
It wasn’t windy, and even though it started off in the low 30s by midday it got up to the 50s, which was very pleasant. I was prepared for a lot of bitter up-and-down smack in the middle of the hill country, but all I got were gentle rollers and a lot of tailwind.
By Camp Wood I was too tired to camp so I bought some groceries and got a $50 room at the local motel. Tomorrow is going to be another 80-miler, shooting for Kerrville and going through the decidedly hilly area of Leakey and Hunt. From there it’s 107 miles to Austin and then only a couple of days to Houston.
See how easy that was?
If only I were already there.