When they say in the fancy ads that we happy tax payers forked over a few million for, that Texas is like a whole other country, they’re only half right. It’s actually like five or six whole other countries. This weekend me and the skinny kid expatriated ourselves to Sonora, which is pretty firmly in the sub country we refer to as west texas. I’ve always loved this part of the state because there’s very few people, very few towns, the speed limit is 80 on the interstate and you really start to get the idea of what they mean by Texas being big. It’s a drive, a stretch of country, that’ll put you in your place in the universe. Small, wee and insignificant.

Anyhow our purpose was, much like the rest of this spring’s travelings, a bike race. The final race of the TMBRA series held at the X-bar ranch, a working cattle ranch that also has some cabins and some bike trails. The race was sponsored by the Sutton County Steak House. This fine purveyor of all things beef was running a special when we showed up for dinner on Saturday – $10.99 Steak Bits and Baked Potato. The waitress tried to plug it as ‘all the cutting work is done for you.’ Right. I’m still not sure what cut the ‘bit’ is and I didn’t want to find out. I opted for the deluxe burger with out really consulting the details of the menu. Ten minutes later the waitress sets a coronary-seizure-on-a-plate down in front of me. Bun + 1/3 lb patty + cheese + mushrooms+ grilled onions + thick slice of grilled ham + another 1/3lb patty + more cheese + bun. Only in West Texas. Oh yeah, it came with a baked potato. It’s not often I meet a burger I can’t take down but this one soundly defeated me.

So, like I said the whole reason we went out there was the race. The final in the series of which I’ve done three of the seven (hence the reason I have no standing what-so-ever in the points system). But this trail was built for me. Long flats, short technical climbs, manageable ledges and cows. Ok, the cows weren’t really my favorite part but they made it interesting. About mile eight after a fabulous start that left me in third and mild screwup on a climb that left me in ninth I was holding strong on fifth place, my best placing in this series to date. I crest a ridge to a gorgeous view and cows, two of them – moma cow and ed (the baby cow). Now we’d been warned that this was a working ranch and that there might be livestock on the trail, but I didn’t really take them seriously.

Cows are big. Like frickin huge. Ed was tiny by cow standards and he could have crushed me without thinking twice. And when when you’re chasing them down a trail on a very lightweight bike, the prospect of a 1200lb steak suddenly merging into your lane makes it clear that the powers-on-high are not only working some serious karmic payback for the animal-hater burger you consumed the previous evening, but are also once again using the flora and fauna of west Texas to impress upon you the insignificance of your person.

I finished the race without getting squished, held my place in pack, got a ribbon and only had one more encounter with the livestock when I whipped around a corner and came face-to face with Ed the baby-cow. He moved, but he left me a gift on the trail which managed to splatter itself nicely on my frame and my person.

Did I mention there were no hot showers out there ?

Good times (see the photos here).