Texas Hill Country

Text: Troy Hendrick • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

All the people who told us that Texas is long, straight, and boring probably either think the world is flat, or they've never seen Hill Country.

If waltzing a tall, steep-forked KTM Adventure enduro through huge canyon sweepers and over some of the best up and down action this side of the Pecos is long, straight, and boring, then I'll happily agree with them.

Christian is on an MZ Baghira and we're riding east from western Texas on I-10. We struggle against the wind and dust of the Chihuahuan desert for miles and miles like Coronado losing faith in finding Eldorado. I'm leaning hard just to keep the bike straight through the constant gusting. On either side of us, as far we can see, vast rows of enormous propellers catch the wind and harness its power for an energy plant far away. In this context, Don Quixote's paranoia is beginning to make more sense.
But the best diamonds are always found in the rough. Turning south on Highway 277 and then southwest on Highway 55, we're off the superslab, the desert is behind us, and we're riding through sparsely populated plots of land where iron gates signify ranch entrances. I'm wondering what people do to pass the time around here, and Christian suggests that honeymoon activities might be popular. That would explain the large families, I guess. At a gas refill, Christian verifies our directions with a local cowboy.

"If we keep riding past these farming lands, will we get into the Hill Country soon?" he asks.

"Ranching," comes the reply.

"Excuse me?"

"Ranching," repeats the cowboy. "They're ranchers, not farmers."

In Texas, it's darn near blasphemy to confuse this particular vocabulary. There is a pride in this way of life that's older than the Republic of Texas itself. I remember my father, who spent his formative years in this part of Texas, telling me my great uncle used to feel sorry for people who didn't get to live 'life on the range.' And he told me my great aunt used to come outside each morning to shoot rattlesnakes off the porch - for fun. When I relate this story to Christian, his eyes widen, he looks frantically around the ground at his feet, and hops on his MZ faster than Speedy Gonzales chasing cheese.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2002 back issue.