I left the house just before noon on Saturday. It’s late January going on early summer, but I still took my riding jacket (partly to appease the wife, but partly because there always seems to be a bunch of crap I need to take with me on a long ride).
The ride up I37 to Three Rivers was pretty smooth. You gotta hand it to Texans and our highways, either they’re pretty damn nice, or we’ve got workers out there making them even nicer. I pulled into this gas station off the highway and lit up a cigar. I bought a pack of Backwoods back in Mathis. They’re sort of like Black ‘N Milds for country folk.
I usually never stop at old gas stations when I’m on a roadtrip in the Highlander with the family, but I feel somehow like nobody is gonna mess with me when I’m by myself on my bike. I have no way of proving it or anything, it’s just something I tell myself.
I took a final puff from my cheap stogie and twisted the cherry off onto the pavement. I’m not a dick, so I walked over to the nearest trash can and tossed the butt into the trash can.
I fired up the bike and rode to the end of the parking lot. Where to go from here? It took me about an hour to get out to Three Rivers from the house and I don’t like to be gone too long. Lacey will probably always worry about me when I’m out. I understand that.
I didn’t wanna ride back the same way I came. Yes, 37 is a wet dream for a smooth ride, but I wanted something a little different. So I took the feeder road.
Almost immediately after heading this way, I see a street sign that says, “Rough Road.” Challenged accepted, I thought. It was definitely bumpier than 37. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
I stopped a few miles south outside Oakville. There’s a sign for an old restaurant that we had in Corpus back in the day. RedLine Burgers. There was one in Five Points back in the early ’90s where Popeye’s is now. You could get five burgers and five fries for $5. The first time I had seasoned fries were from RedLine.
It’s for sale, by the way. Maybe some entrepreneurial South Texan with some nostalgia for greasy but delicious burgers and fries will buy it up and give Whataburger a run for its money for a few years.
I took off on the feeder road for about 20 miles until I reached Swinney Switch. I have a ton of memories of that place, some painful. It’s not like I can take a super in-depth ride through that place, but I can get some pics and I’ll talk about it eventually. There are always a couple of bikes outside Horny’s Bar, and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or bad thing for me.
So I hung a right at the four-way stop there and rode toward the sprawling town of Dinero. It’s pretty much a two-lane road until make that left turn at the run-down former corner store. There’s not much of a shoulder either. Maybe two feet.
I mention the meager dimensions of the road to tell you about one of the very few times I made my grandpa mad. We were riding down that road (where we were going, I don’t know) and I was being such a smart ass. I don’t remember exactly what I said to him, but I remember what he said to me.
“Leslie, if you don’t settle down, I’m gonna pull this car over and give you a whippin’.” I hear it in my head today the exact same way I heard it then, some 27 years ago.
So he stops his Taurus in the lane on the road and gets out. He had to reach across my brother’s lap to get me (I was in the middle). But damn if he didn’t take me out of that car, drag me to the front of it, and whip my ass then and there. I doubt he even put on his hazards.
I miss grandpa Uppie dearly. He’s been gone nearly nine years to the day. One of the toughest men I ever met. A true cowboy.
Now I suppose the cynical side of me thinks Dinero got its name from someone with a sick sense of humor. Or maybe there’s a bunch of dinero buried somewhere out there and the person who buried it left the town’s name as the only clue.
There’s this corner store that might be the only building that isn’t a house in Dinero. Well, it was a corner store. Now it just needs a new owner/tenant. This place was closed down when I was a kid. Maybe it was never open. Maybe some shrewd businessman got Dinero tax credits to build it and never opened up shop. Maybe Dinero would be a different place if this place were open.
It’s for sale or rent, by the way.
I suppose I should mention the sign that’s posted at the corner. You can turn left, in direct defiance of the sign’s apparent wishes. In fact, there are houses out that way. A friend of my aunt used to live out that way. The Mongomerys had a pedal-powered black Pontiac Firebird that I’d ride in their driveway. I’d still do it, if I could fit.
I headed down the rode until I hung a left on FM534. That’s another area with other memories for another time. But I’ll leave you with a picture I took that reminded me to turn onto 534.
You know, I feel like I’m coming off as derisive of this area of South Texas. And in some ways, I do feel that way. It was a time in my life when my mom had remarried (suspiciously quickly after divorcing my dad). And she and her husband were drinking and fighting a lot.
But there’s something about the people I encountered when I rode through here today. Nearly every one of the drivers waved to me (I don’t even have people whom I’ve lived next to for eight years do that). When I got off my bike to take a photo of the Camp Zephyr sign, a couple of good ol’ boys pulled up next to me and asked me if I was OK. They wanted to make sure I had help in case I was broken down on the side of the road.
The brush country never felt like home to me. And I’ve ridden through it a few times. I never really felt a fond nostalgia for any of it. More like an affirmation that my memories are real because the places where I experienced them are still there.