Friday, March 19, 2010

One of the Joys of Retirement

The last two days have been awesome, weatherwise, here in south Texas. If I were still working, I'd be sitting in my office daydreaming wistfully as I stared out the window at the perfectly clear blue skies and fretting about being stuck indoors when the temperatures and humidity were as good as they get in south Texas.

But I'm not still working, I'm retired! Hooray for me!

Yesterday I rode the Beemer over to Mike's house, waiting conveniently for all those poor working slobs to get to where they were going before I ventured out on the roadways around 10:00 or so. On the way, I stopped at the auto parts store to buy 4 quarts of Castrol GTX 20w-50 oil for the Beemer. I'd purchased an oil filter last week at the BMW dealer's when I drove Mike over there to pick up his GSA, which was having warranty work done.

We did a leisurely oil change on my Beemer in Mike's well-equipped shop then headed out to run a couple of errands and get a late lunch.

Seemed a shame to pull into the garage at the end of the day, but....it's going to be gorgeous again on Friday!

So, sitting at my computer last night, I planned a day ride that would include someplace for lunch, a place, any place, but one that I'd not been to before. Let's see, there's a place in Yoakum that I read about and had added to my dream list (http://agmom98-5.blogspot.com/2009/08/dream-list.html) of lunch ride destinations. Nah...the roads to get there are uninspiring. How about someplace southwest, down near Wharton or El Campo? There are a couple of interesting and nice (for south Texas) backroads to get there. Digging a little, I found a couple of possibilities that sit right on the courthouse square in Wharton, the Tree Frog Cafe (http://www.treefrogcoffees.com/cafe.htm) and Pat-A-Cake (http://www.patacakewharton.com/). I didn't know anything about these except what appears at their websites, so thought I'd check them out in person, stop and eat at the one that looked the most promisinig. Only one way to find out!

My early morning run confirmed that today would be an outstanding day for riding! My friend Mike met me at 11:00 AM and off we headed, south on 288 to FM-1462 and west then south on 36 to West Columbia.

One of my all-time favorite roads down this way is FM-1301 heading toward Wharton. Once it gets west of West Columbia it is enchanting! Curvy, wooded, nothing for miles but the occasional open pasture filled with bred cattle. Not those cattle-equivalent of mutts, all brown and white, but large herds of purebred cattle breeds: Brangus, Charolais, Limousin, St. Gertrudis, Longhorn. As we rode along, I suspected that some of the top specimens from these ranches were possibly being exhibited and shown at the Houston Livestock show, currently going on at Reliant Park in Houston.

On the left side of the road, in a pasture all by herself, I spied a heifer and her baby calf. This calf was tiny, with her coat still glistening from afterbirth. She (or he) was adorable, all wobbly-legged. The mom was reclining very near by, no doubt taking a little rest after her labors.

Not far down the road, we approached Wharton, where I wanted to check out those two cafe possibilities on the courthouse square. It was a typical Texas square with one-way streets circling the courthouse. I spotted one of the cafes on one corner and continued around the square until I spotted the other one, 3/4 of the way around. Both were open for business, but whether they were any good is unknown, since my riding partner was beginning to get impatient and, at a red light, hollered over to me, "When are we going to eat?" I thought I'd made it clear to him before we headed out that I wanted to scope out these two places, and would use Hinze's BBQ on 59 as the backup plan if neither of the downtown Wharton cafe's looked suitable. Apparently he missed that part of the discussion beforehand, so I aborted the plan to investigate and turned left at the light and headed toward 59. I will come back by myself to check these two places out. I'm always on the lookout for interesting, small-town cafes.

Hinze's was crowded, but it was near the end of their lunch rush so things moved along quickly. It's a typical Texas-style BBQ house: Walk up to the counter, place your order, pay, and go find a table to wait for your number to be called. I ordered a combination meat/sausage sandwich, blackeyed pea salad, and iced tea. The giant cupcakes sitting on the counter under a clear pie cover were calling my name, so I bought one of those, too!

The sandwich was huge, way more than I could eat, nothing remarkable, but the blackeyed pea salad was to die for! As best as I could tell, it was made with dill pickle relish and small bits of green chili pepper. Sort of a pea variant to cucumber salad. Superb and perfect with the BBQ sandwich.

Heading back toward Pearland, we took 59 north to 762, which offers some nice 90-degree sweepers, to 1462 to 288 and back home.

Four hours later and I'm still full of BBQ!

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