Uncomfortable Trip to Comfort, TX
Uncomfortable trip to Comfort, TX. An easy 200 mile weekend under predicted sunny skies turned into a rainy test of will.
Bicycle Adventurers: Just Moneymaker Mike and me, Adam Shepard.
When: A summer solstice ride, June 20-21, 2015.
Accommodations: It was supposed to be a clear night under the stars of central Texas, but the rain poured and we ended up at a questionable Executive Inn in Comfort, TX. We had to wedge the door shut with a bike; it didn't latch. Dinner wasn't cooked over a fire but came in a paper Dairy Queen bag and we used our sleeping bags on top of the beds.
Distance: We rode 210 miles in two days.
Bonus for this adventure: High's Cafe in Comfort, TX and great scenery. Plus, nice roads with mostly light traffic.
[Note: This Google Map reflects the area of the ride, not the actual route.]
Mike and I started off before dawn with high hopes for a great trip under clear skies on our first bike overnight. Within fifteen miles of the start, the rain started coming down and we were wet all day. Plus, our progress was slowed by both our wet, blurred map, thanks to the leak in my handlebar bag, and the unexpected effort it took to power fifty-pound, loaded bikes on multiple washed-out, water crossings and paved roads that suddenly turned to muddied dirt. We were used to seventeen pound road bikes and riding 70 miles on a Sunday like it was nothing.
After a long morning of rain and iPhone navigation we finally rolled into Blanco, TX for lunch. A quick bite to eat turned into much lingering over barbecue and coffee. Reluctant to get back on the bikes in the threatening weather, we saddled up and muttered, "It shouldn't take long to get there, we're over half way." Ha! Ha!
As we pedaled on, the rain picked up and we came to the worst road of the trip. Just as the sky got darker we found ourselves on a road with no shoulder and our taillights had long since lost their charge. We slowly pushed on, wondering if the next car would side-swipe us. That's the last time I take the Strava heat map as my only source that a road is rideable.
When we finally turned off the death road, a quick stop at the last convenience store before Comfort was in order and candy bars and sodas hardly got us back on the bikes for the seven miles to the end.
We pressed on and every distance marker seemed to contradict the previous one: seven miles to Comfort, then it was thirteen … enough to drive you crazy. After a solid hour of effort, we reached the turnoff for the campground. Four miles down this country road, according to the web site, and we'd be "home." Well, off we went.
About mile three, Mike looked back at the rapidly approaching cloudburst bearing down on us. It didn't take but two minutes for us to be drenched, and we had just dried out. When we made it to the end of the pavement, there was the campground with no one in sight and only hand-painted, half-coherent signs about camping and fees. There were no other campers, anywhere.
We rode through the gates and the mud to the "primitive" camping area, basically a stand of trees next to a muddy creek with one picnic table and more cow patties than I could count.
Every surface was wet. Everything we owned was wet. And it was raining again. We didn't bring tents. Didn't the 20% chance of rain assure us a night under clear skies?
We both decided we couldn't do it and with 100 miles to ride tomorrow, we needed more rest than we could get out here. So, we got back on the bikes and headed into town.
Now Comfort, as lovely as it is, has two types of accommodations: fancy B & B's or one run-down motel dubbed the Executive Inn. We rallied and headed there. After securing our room, Mike offered to get Dairy Queen burgers. Meanwhile, I took a shower and after a few excruciating minutes under frigid water, Mike came back with supper. "There's no hot water" I told him. "Of course there's no hot water," came his resigned reply.
In the end we agreed, this run down, shoddily maintained, ramshackle dump seemed like a palace compared to the alternative of cow patty meadows. We both eagerly crawled into our respective sleeping bags, set on top of the beds to avoid the sheets, and went right to sleep.
The next morning, we adjusted our route for a more direct, less hilly ride home. A leisurely start saw us first securing provisions at the local Chevron before heading to High's Cafe. This was certainly a high point. Mike had blueberry pancakes and as for me, I devoured the two egg and bacon sandwich on rye with tomatoes and cheddar/jack.
We rolled out of Comfort, ready to tackle the day. Bad navigation put us on the not-so-uplifting Interstate and we back-tracked and sheepishly smiled at cars coming down the on-ramp. Our chosen road, once located, didn't do much for morale either, being a series of undulating rollers of varying pitch; enough to make legs ache even before arriving at the climb itself.
Of course, it rained again too. I just thought I'd mention that. The saving grace was almost zero car traffic, as the Interstate paralleled the road we travelled.
We made decent time as we rolled into Boerne, stopping only to grab a Coke and double check the route, and off we went again.
Travel time to New Braunfels was much slower. Between the rolling country road and the increased rain, we slowed down quite a bit. There were times we couldn't see, the road had become a small stream and we, salmon fighting the current.
I laugh now thinking about how I said of the day before, "Everything we had was wet." While that's true enough, really I should have said, "Everything was sort of damp." Because now, everything I owned was soaked, and I mean everything. It's lucky my phone survived. One stop, while attempting to find the correct turn, found me turning my handlebar bag over to dump out the water.
Pressing on, we rolled wearily into New Braunfels. We had decided earlier we would only stop for thirty minutes at the most because getting back on the bike was getting harder and harder.
We pedaled on, heading for San Marcos just twenty easy miles away. we made okay time but saddles sores, wet socks, and numb hands made each bump or rough chip seal road painful.
Elation rolled over us when we could see the sky line of Texas State in San Marcos. Now this was familiar territory: Sunday rides regularly went to San Marcos from Austin and we were practically home, albeit still thirty miles away. "But we did this all the time", I'd tell myself. "We'll be home in an hour and a half."
Yeah, not so much. We pressed on wondering why it was taking so long to cover these roads and why were we going so slow? When we got to Kyle (fifteen miles to go) we stopped for our last indulgence, a Dairy Queen ice cream. It was magnificent. We took our time and enjoyed every last bit, then pressed on.
When we rolled into Austin we came to where our paths diverged, and wouldn't you know it, the sky opened up and torrential rains came down, just as we were getting dry. Mike went his way and I went mine, both of us laughing at the rain like we hadn't had enough.
I rolled into my driveway and the open arms of my wife, glad to be home and glad we went. This was our first bike overnight and certainly not our last, but you can bet we'll be smarter about it next time.
Your favorite local bike shop?
2114 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Bike overnight tips and tricks?
I wish I'd brought a decent dry bag.
Buying meals is simpler than carrying a stove and food.
Mike is usually down for anything, he didn't take much convincing.
Must have gear, my Road Holland jerseys. They were comfortable even when wet, and looked great off the bike.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!