Days 11 and 12 - Lost Maples to Garner Park via Utopia

When I woke up, Thomas surprised me with his suggestion: he offered to speak with his friend, Chris, who lived near Garner State Park, to request him to host me. Thomas had already told me about Chris's wolves. I really wanted to meet the wolves. And so I agreed. So did Chris!

There were two routes to get there: one through a town called Leakey and the other through Utopia. Yes, Utopia! Obviously, I chose to go through the latter. Pete and Ray had suggested Leakey (perhaps for the scenic beauty along that route). But I wanted to be able to say that I have been to Utopia.

Here's what the ride looked like:

Sabinal River 

Some creek I crossed before entering Utopia

A sign about 200m from this point read : "Welcome to Utopia. It's a Paradise. Let's Keep It Nice." I stood out as an outsider. Nobody seemed approachable enough to talk to. I just rode through the town, sat in the Lost Maples Cafe, observed the local people, their enthusiasm for the local team called Buffs or Buffalos, and moved on. 

Buttermilk Pie at the Lost Maples Cafe. It was just sugar. Didn't taste of buttermilk at all. 

Caught this beautiful sunset right before a long downhill cruise. Unforgettable. 

On my way to Chris's place, I had mentally prepared myself not to feel scared of the wolves. I tried to think about the time spent with Surco (Long story short: I used to be phobic of dogs until I became friends with a dog, Surco, while working on a farm in Spain.)

Remember I told you how Texans have these grandiose parcels of land? I always wanted to enter one of those. When I finally arrived at about 7 pm, it turned out that Chris's home was not just a building but a few acres of land. He lived there with his wife, two wolves and some poultry. They moved to Texas only about a year ago.

Chris let me in, but we first had to get the wolves to feel comfortable in my presence. So we all went for a short walk. One of the wolves, Wolford, kept barking at me. I was just a wee bit scared. Chris explained that the wolves feel obligated to protect him, but seeing us walk together, they would gradually start feeling comfortable. He also forewarned me that they take quite a while to do that. He also anticipated that they would feel scared of Brownie when they would be able to see it the next morning. (It was parked in the dark.) He assured me that they would not harm me and urged me not to be guided by the demonisation of wolves in literature and cinema. He was right- it was the wolves that were more scared of me than vice versa. He even takes the wolves to a school to teach kids about animal behaviour.

Wolford, Chris and Laila. Unfortunately, I could not win their trust. They were scared of me till we said goodbye. Wolford kept barking at Brownie.

Anyway, we tried to let them be and started sharing our lives. Chris used to be a cop in Alaska. If you know Into the Wild, you would know Christopher McCandless. Chris was a cop when McCandless was found dead in the Magic Bus. He told me about his encounters with Grizzly bears- the largest one that he had to face stood 12 feet tall! It was the first time that I got to listen to a policeman's stories at length. He also shared with me the time that he spent while living on a boat and in the cabins that he built for himself there. I wished that the Force had existed in Alaska too.

Chris loves science and animals. The next day he showed me his workshop. He is constantly building something or the other, including bicycles. He won a competition recently in Dallas for building these studly speakers.

He does not even have a college degree in science!

He also showed these fossils of a Mastodon that he stumbled upon.

Do you see the clock in the picture? Chris made that. He showed me several of his creations.

We were watching something on the Sci channel. There happened to be three scientists of Indian origin on the show. Chris commented, "You Indians are too smart!"

Later that day, his daughter and grandchildren dropped by. His 12-year-old grandson, Ben, saw my bucket panniers and asked me, "Boy, aren't you carrying a lot of water?!" Thomas was right when he said that people would think I carry water in them.

We all watched the movie Noah. They went to get some pizzas. Meanwhile, Chris decided to take a look at my bike to make sure it did not require any repairs. He taught me how to "center" the brakes. He gifted me his chain-changing tool and a master link for the chain. He also suggested that I take the kickstand off. I agreed (But I now regret that. Sometimes when I have to take a leak on a highway and there is nothing to park Brownie against, I desperately miss the kickstand.) When it was time for them to leave, Ben said that he was hoping to become a Marine and that he would visit me in India if he managed to do that.

Later that night, when I told Chris that I was hoping to find conclusive answers at the end of my journey, he laughed, "The more you know, the more you wander." He did compliment me, however, for having the courage to go into the unknown. He said he would not talk me out of undertaking the grand journey through latin america but he would ask me to think twice before entering Honduras.

While saying goodbye the next day, he reminded me of what we had discussed earlier, "Fear is a sign of intelligence. You don't have to be tough; you have to be smart."

I set off for my next stop- Uvalde.


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