This is one of a six-part series documenting my spring 2016 mini-tour from my house outside of Sanger, Texas to Wichita Falls, Texas. My route consisted mainly of gravel and dirt roads, and I covered about 130 miles over 2.5 days. Although this was a “credit card tour” which included meals and lodging purchased along the way, I did bring my coffee gear and had a roadside lunch on the second day. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, there were no towns or services along my route on the second day, and secondly, I’m a coffee snob. Documentation will be mainly in the form of photographs with a few captions or comments to relay something that might have caught my interest.
The series will be presented in six themes; (1) Flora and Fauna, (2) Roads and Rambles, (3) Little Texas Towns, (4) Classic Cars, (5) Lunch Outside, and (6) A Dog Agility Trial.
PART THREE OF SIX – LITTLE TEXAS TOWNS
This installment includes some of the things I saw in the small towns I visited. I built time into my schedule to allow for lingering and nosing around. I passed through Saint Jo, Nocona, and Henrietta. My route took me close to (but not through) a few others, and I rode through a few “named communities” so small I don’t think of them as towns. They are more like the four-way stop “named community” I live near called “Bolivar”. I finished my tour in Wichita Falls, but for the purposes of this post, it is considered a large town.
The photo above shows my bike outside a book/antique/coffee/tea party shop in the Saint Jo square. Based on looks alone, I didn’t fit-in well in this nicely decorated space with these refined ladies who are often hosting tea parties. Good manners prevailed, I suppose, because they couldn’t have been more welcoming and kind as I pulled up a wooden chair and sipped my post-lunch coffee on a fancy cloth covered table.
The sign you might see rolling into Saint Jo, Texas from the east. This was my lunch and coffee stop for the day. In addition, it turned out to be my opportunity to see the inside of a custom bootmaker’s shop.
I would have been content to simply take a quick peek inside to satisfy my curiosity. But it turned out to be a conversation that was more interesting than I would have guessed.
I learned that the owner has another shop (mainly for repair work) in Aubrey, Texas, which is just a few miles east (and across Lake Ray Roberts where I often camp) of where I live. These gentlemen were friendly and welcoming even though it was probably obvious that I was not their typical customer. I saw sample boots, scraps of leather, partially completed orders, foot tracings, and several 100-year old tools/machines. Boots start at $1500/pair, and he has a one-year backlog. I was surprised to learn that they also offer a bootmaking class, similar to some bicycle framebuilders. After two weeks (six twelve-hour days each week), the student goes home with a pair of boots he makes himself (with help from the master, of course). They tried to persuade me to take a class, and when I see these photos, I ponder that idea.
Speaking of boots, here is one of the first things you might see rolling into Nocona from the east. This building is abandoned now. Nocona moved their production to Fort Worth several years ago. Nocona, the town, has a rich history of producing a variety of leather products, including athletic equipment.
Nocona was my first day’s destination. I stayed at a sort of cross between a hotel and a BnB called Red River Station Inn. It was luxurious accommodations as compared to my more routine camping overnighters. The second floor balcony was pleasant lingering place and I made multiple visits to sit a spell (and take a few photos).
Nocona, like Saint Jo, is going through a sort of revitalization effort. They have invested in a certain area in the historic part of town, and created a pleasant place for big-city folk to come spend their money. Hotels, restaurants, antique shops, art galleries, etc.
After walking to the northern limits of the more obvious revitalization area, I came to the end of the block, and to an interesting structure. Was it a hotel, restaurant, or BnB? No, according to the long-haired gentleman with the cowboy hat, “This is my house. Come it and take a look!” So I saw the house, it’s covered porches, fountains, and first class BBQ area. I also enjoyed a tour of a couple of his next door businesses he was proud to describe, learned more details on the Clay Street revitalization and his part in it. Nocona wants to make it easy for you to spend money in their town.
Not a lot of early morning activity in little Texas towns.
There is a nice gallery on Clay Street, and this is the back (alley) view. My guess is that this is the living quarters of the artist.
Gravel road ride to Henrietta? Yes, but first coffee.
City park on the edge of Henrietta.
Clay County Courthouse.
Mural, little Texas town edition.
Chamber of Commerce.
Henrietta, at first glance, seems to have some revitalization potential, but it doesn’t seem to me that they have made the same effort as Nocona and Saint Jo. Or they haven’t been as successful. Too close to Wichita Falls? I’m not sure. I had mixed experiences in Henrietta. It was visually amusing, and they have a wonderful store called “The Pecan Shed” that was full of friendly staff and delicious food products. But I also had a weird, bad service experience at one of their restaurants.
The cool breeze blowing through the shade under the big trees on the Courthouse lawn was wonderfully refreshing after spending several hours out in the sun. Hopefully, these folks will see what they have here, become more accommodating to visitors, and enhance their community for the benefit of their citizens. Henrietta, Texas has potential.
Next up – “Classic Cars”…
Good, hand-made boots are a great thing to have.
Can’t wait to see the vintage cars post 🙂
Have a Happy Day, Chris!
I had tons of respect and admiration for these craftsmen. I can’t see myself investing that much in footwear, but part of me would like to contribute to enterprises like this.
Yes, cars…another display of craftsmanship. Coming up next.
Very nice! Thanks for sharing. Reminds me a lot of Mississippi town, Oxford.
I’ve been through Oxford a couple of times. But it was by car, so I probably missed all the good parts.
There’s something about pedaling through little towns that is very appealing. You might stop and chat with someone in their front yard, stop to take a drink and get invited inside for dessert, invited to camp in their fairgrounds and end up attending the local basketball game (this really happened to my husband and me), etc. Small town folk are very open to strangers and excited to show unique aspects of their town. Coming from reserved New England, I found pedaling from Georgia to New Mexico a very eye-opening, wonderful experience.
Since there is no question about my “introvertness”, it might surprise you to hear me say it. One of the best things about a solo bicycle tour is…encounters with people.
Annie, I’m hoping to read about your next bicycle tour soon!