Heart of Texas 2022 Part 4: Finishing Straight

Cotulla TX – Irving TX
Sat April 30, 2022
(~648 miles)

Getting five consecutive hours of sleep on a rally is quite a luxury and it’s an rejuvenating one at that. Well-rested and ready to rock at 0-dark:30, I downed some room coffee and fig newtons, packed up the bike, and headed back down to the Flying J to officially end my rest bonus. I had to go back inside once more for the receipt and then submitted the XSLP1 rest bonus through the app. I texted Nancy as directed to remind her about changing my rest start time in the database, then scooted away into the night, heading north on I-35.

Hanging a left in Dilley onto TX 117, I high-tailed it west into the dark Texas countryside, LEDs ablaze to light my way. The highway veered north and crossed US 57 at Batesville. On the outskirts of Uvalde, I pulled into the driveway for Continental Tire’s Uvalde Proving Grounds, bonus TTU05. After a quick photo and a pee in the bushes, I was on my way again.

Continental Tire Proving Grounds sign

TTU05

White Knuckle Ranch sign

MXH06

I joined US 90 in still-sleeping Uvalde, which marked the westernmost point for my rally, and hauled it east for many miles on the fast empty two-laner. In Hondo, I hit TX 173 again, took it a mile north to TX 2676 and turned off onto some rough gravelly county roads. In a couple miles, I arrived at the White Knuckle Ranch ATV Park, bonus MXH06. Though there were some houses out here, it was a bit spooky with that middle-of-nowhere-whos-going-to-clobber-me-with-a-shovel feeling. White knuckles indeed!

Back on pavement on 2676, the Garmin XT tried to take me wandering off to the northeast somewhere, though I knew I was barely a mile from the fast US 90 just south, with my next bonus many miles to the east. Nope, uh-uh, not listening to you XT! I pulled a uey, cut down the barely paved county road 4516 in the general southerly direction, and immediately slowed as my lights revealed a herd of deer having their midnight snack. They moseyed on slowly and so did I, a bit more alert for critters now.

The road surface got worse, though I was still technically on what I’d classify as a road when I spotted a wild pig snuffling around on the side, not paying me any mind. Trusting myself to dead reckoning skills, I was back on firm and solid US 90 within minutes, zooming my way east again, toward San Antonio.

I eased onto quiet downtown streets off the freeway around 06:30, just before sunrise, and nabbed my next pitstop bonus PITS2, another abandoned Humble Oil station. I picked up I-10 to the east side of the city and got PITS1, a former gas station with a faded “Hi-Slope Ice” sign above the porte cochere. Apparently, neighborhood convenience stores were colloquially referred to as “ice houses” in these parts. I ran into another rider here, the first I’d seen since yesterday morning. I didn’t recognize him so just gave him a wave and went on with my business.

abandoned gas station in San Antonio

PITS2

old gas station with Hi-Slope Ice sign

PITS1

Alamo City Motorplex

RWS18

I-10 took me a bit further east to the suburb of Marion, where I found the Alamo City Motorplex, bonus RWS18, just off the interstate. I cut north from there on a combination of state and county roads through Marion proper, to pick up I-35 once more. The remainder of my route would follow the I-35 corridor back up to DFW, with zig-zags east and west for bonuses.

I took the 337 Loop in New Braunfels for a brief out-and-back to nab the KTN02 bonus at Hill Country Kart Club. This was a divided four-laner and you had to overshoot the bonus by a half mile or so in order to come back to the obscured entrance. All  a bit confusing when the GPS was announcing your arrival on your way by!

More I-35 north for several miles to San Marcos, where I made another short detour off the interstate to capture the Harris Hill Raceway sign, bonus RWS19. There were some big fields of early bluebonnets along here that were quite pretty, shimmering periwinkle under the morning sun, but no time for flower-sniffin now!

Hill Country Kart Club

KTN02

Harris Hill Raceway sign

RWS19

 

Next up was a short but sweet outing west, into the edge of Texas Hill Country. Exiting in Kyle, I followed FM 150 west through increasingly curvy and prettily wooded terrain, some 15 miles or so to the small community of Driftwood. There at the lonely crossroads sat an old Texaco station serving as bonus PITD3 – keeping stocked up on those fuel points!

FM 967 took me back east to Buda, just south of Austin, where I hopped on the route 45 and 130 toll loops southeast of the city to visit Circuit of the Americas, bonus  SWA03. This is a big modern track complex that hosts the only Formula 1 and MotoGP races in the country.

old Texaco station in Driftwood TX

PITD3 in Driftwood

Circuit of the Americas

SWA03

Driveway Austin Motosports Park and Race School gate

MSA02

From there, I picked my way over to US 183 for a few miles, crossed the Colorado River and exited onto a very narrow and shady residential lane that climbed up the bluffs next to the river and dead-ended at a turnaround with a security gate and an ominous SUV blocking the entrance, engine running.

This apparently, is the Driveway Austin Motosports Park and Race School. There is no signage to that effect, and things felt just a bit hanky being down this dead end with an idling car and probably security cameras watching every move I made. However, I knew Paul wouldn’t send us here if it were trespassing, so I positioned my bike, got a photo of the gate for bonus MSA02, and set off once again, waving at another rider arriving just as I headed out.

Back out to 183 and I-35 north once again. I exited into the wayside community of Jarrell, where a quick little loop under the highway bagged me this colorful display of Americana at an old Mobil station on the access road, bonus PITJ1.

former Mobil station in Jarrell TX

PITJ1

Little River Dragway sign

DWL05

Next a diversion east to Holland, where I visited the Little River Dragway (DWL05) on TX 95. It’s the oldest continually operating IHRA sanctioned drag strip in TX and maybe the US (according to the rally book).

Route 95 brought me to the Highway 363 Loop bypassing Temple, rejoining I-35 just north of town. I got to settle down a bit in the saddle for the next 45 miles or so before tackling the bonus-rich Waco area. First up was a nice old Gulf station on a street corner right in the city, bonus PITW1.

old Gulf station

PITW1

Winding southwest through the city’s main boulevards, I arrived at the Heart O’ Texas Fair Complex. After a couple false starts, I found my way through the necessary parking lots and gates to pull up fairly close to the sculpture we needed to capture for bonus ATW01. A very appropriate bonus for this rally, and I spotted a couple other riders during my brief visit.

Heart of Texas 2022 Part 4: Finishing Straight

ATW01

Heart Of Texas Kart Track

KTW04

Following the roads along the west edge of town by Lake Waco, I made my way out to another go-kart track on the property of the Waco Regional Airport, the Heart Of Texas Kart Club, bonus KTW04. Another sketchy dirt driveway to get to the gate with the “Pit Pass” sign, careful turnaround, and off I go once again. I could hear the carts revving around the track during my stop time here.

archway for Bellmead Raceway

SWW32

Completing a western arc around Waco, I crossed I-35 north of town to US 84, turned down a side road, and pulled up near the arched entrance to the defunct Bellmead Raceway. The signs for the track were gone at this point, so I texted my scorer Nancy just to verify requirements, and then proceeded to get a shot of the empty archway for bonus SWW32.

Back out to the interstate and a couple miles north. Another quick exit onto the access road into the dicey gravel parking lot for Heart of Texas Speedway, where it looked like some cleaning and trash pickup was underway either following a race event last night, or else preparing for one tonight. There were several signs around, so for this was it was key to take a bit of time and look at the sample bonus photo to ensure you got the right angle for SWW33.

Heart Of Texas Speedway

SWW33

Now that I was through the Waco area, all I could do with the time left was vacuum up as many smaller bonuses as possible around DFW. I’d had an eye for a couple bigger bonuses out west in Stephenville and north of Fort Worth, but there wasn’t enough time and fuel points to make either one a feasible alternative at this point. I was still adding bonuses to my original plan, so that felt pretty good at least.

To confirm all this, I took my second meal bonus at this point, to regroup and make a final route plan for the ride in to the finish. I pulled off the Hillsboro exit and stopped into a McDonald’s to start my meal bonus clock in the app. It was still quite a pleasant day in the shade, so I ate at an outdoor table by my bike while I updated my claim form and planned for the final lap in.

 

meal bonus receipt

XEAT2

meal stop at McDonalds

With the PIT bonuses still within reach, I hoped to hit two groupings of smaller bonuses south of Dallas and Fort Worth respectively. There wasn’t much wiggle room and I’d be getting in without much time to spare, so traffic would be a concern. I had everything packed back up and ready to go by the time I clocked out of my meal break and submitted XEAT2, which should quadruple the rest points I’d secured the previous night.

PITB2

From my break I headed east on TX 22 for several miles to the small crossroads community of Barry TX. According to Wikipedia, it is apparently a city, despite the population count being under 250 souls. Bonus PITB2 is another abandoned gas station right across the road from the small post office.

Wanting to avoid any delays in bigger towns, I purposefully had routed away from Corsicana to the east, and backtracked a couple miles to FM 55 north. I zig-zagged up to TX 287 by way of a couple more state highways, barely keeping up with some locals in cars that were clearly used to these roads and the speeds they could safely handle. I was finally starting to understand just how fast people were comfortable driving down here.

I bagged the big modern Texas Motorplex on the west side of Ennis, bonus MSE07, and then skirted around south of the city center to the Big O Speedway, bonus SWE12, east of I-45.

Texas Motorplex

MSE07

Big O Speedway

SWE12 – yup, it was good for me too

Xtreme Raceway Park

RWF10

The interstate took me north to Ferris TX, where I made another quick stop off the access road for Xtreme Raceway Park, bonus RWF10. Several vehicles passed by me at the entrance heading into this facility, so I assume there’ll be racing tonight!

I was getting pretty close to the outskirts of Dallas now. A couple more miles on 45, and then I cut the corner west and north through the suburb of Lancaster for another pitstop bonus: a teeny weeny former gas station that now apparently serves the community as the ‘Sno Palace’ sno cone stand, bonus PITL1.

 

Sno Palace

PITL1

At this point, my mind was simmering with calculations as I plugged various bonuses into my secondary GPS to see what I’d be able to manage before making the final dash for the finish. Stress level increased a bit after I merged onto I-20 and hit a traffic jam westbound. I used ramps and access roads where possible to keep moving forward, watching my ETA slowly tick forward to just a 10 minute cushion. I was on the brink of cutting to run for the finish when things finally began to move a bit once I got past the airport access routes.

Kennedale Speedway Park

SWK20

There was a cluster of three smaller bonuses in the Kennedale area, just southeast of the city, but now I was just focused on the closest pair of them. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in any more traffic on the way to the finish. Because of the order I had plugged them in my GPS, I passed right by bonus RWK13 to get to SWK20 at Kennedale Speedway Park. I made a big sloppy u-turn in the dicey gravel parking lot, then had to wait a few minutes for a couple big pickups with racing trailers to clear the turn into the parking lot, as they were blocking the sign I needed to shoot. Looks like Saturday really is race night around here!

I headed back north towards I-20, pulling over to the side with my flashers to park the bike and get the shot of Texas Raceway, RWK13 as a few more racing trailer rigs passed through en route to the Kennedale track. Looks like I’d squeaked in there just in time.

Texas Raceway

RWK13

OK, time to boogie! Just one final bonus to pick up on the way in, and it was going to be fairly close. I just hoped for no traffic issues, and pulled the bonus waypoint up in Google Maps to ensure a fast route. I had no time to feel bad about the third bonus a few miles south of here – it was simply time to cut and run.

I hit I-20 back east to route 408 to the Highway 12 loop. Took the route 180 exit in Grand Prairie for a short out-and-back to my final bonus DWG02 at Yello Belly Drag Strip.

Yello Belly Drag Strip

DWG02

It was now less than 10 miles to the finish and 40 minutes until DNF. I’d managed to gain back quite a bit of time and realized I could have easily grabbed that third bonus back in Kennedale. I thought briefly about heading up to the big Texas Motor Speedway bonus north of Ft. Worth, which would be pushing the time limit, but guessed (correctly) that I didn’t have enough fuel points to claim the entire bonus anyway. On top of that, Paul had given us warnings about a triathlon being held in the streets of Irving right around the hotel area today, and we’d received instructions on how to approach the hotel in such a way to avoid any road closures. I didn’t want to risk any snafus with that… time to pack it in.

I cruised Hwy 12 up to Northwest Highway, which is local stoplight traffic and found my way to Promenade and the back entrance to the Texican Court hotel lot, where a helpful rally volunteer checked me in to end my rally, just past 17:00. My Fred Lobster sticker was verified and I was given instructions on getting in to scoring, most of which I couldn’t hear or mentally process anyway. 🙂 I pulled into the lot, found a spot to park and put the kickstand down with great relief and satisfaction in a ride by-the-numbers.

checking in at the finish

photo credit: Richard Swim

 

 

map of my rally route day 2

My Day 2 rally route

 

map of final approach route to DFW and finish

My route coming in to DFW

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