“And many a boy would become a man before the land was green again.”
— Elmer Kelton, on the Texas drought of the early 1950s, The Time It Never Rained, 1973
AUSTIN, Texas — God knows that Texas needs the rain. In recent weeks, the state — particularly south and central Texas — has been emerging from the worst drought since the 1950s, the one Elmer Kelton wrote about in The Time It Never Rained.
But I do wish the rain had held off for a few more minutes on Wednesday evening at the Shady Oaks RV Resort about five miles west of Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country.
Mercifully, the rain held off during the day. But just as I was pitching my tent, before I had the rain fly in place, the sky opened up. I spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to set up the tent in a heavy downpour as the floor of the tent filled with water. When I finished, the inside of my REI Quarterdome T1 solo tent had a pool of water about an inch deep at one end where the muddy ground sloped downward.
If only I hadn’t stopped for a cookie dough Blizzard at the Dairy Queen in Blanco, if only I hadn’t stopped to chat with my riding compadres when I got into camp before pitching my tent, I might have gotten my tent up before the deluge.
I used my camp towel to sop up the standing water inside my tent, which, of course, made the towel next to useless when I finally got a chance to take a shower.
The heavy rain lasted all night, and whenever I awakend I tried without success to remember the words and music to the Jerry Jeff Walker song Hill Country Rain.
Except for the dampness left from the initial downpour, my tent was snug and dry.
That evening, we gathered for dinner — chili, burgers and pizza prepared by a cook employed by the RV park — under an open-air pavilion cum bar/kitchen and store. As we listened to the rain pelting down on the leaky corrugated plastic roof, we wondered if our tents would float away while we were gone.
The rain let up just before dawn as we gathered for breakfast and broke camp. But my tent, rain fly and bike cover had to be packed away wet and muddy. Derrik Maude, a rider from England, said the floor of his tent that night was like a water bed, with the water underneath the tent sloshing from one side to the other whenever he rolled over. I watched Kami Kitchen drain about a gallon of water from inside her tent as she was packing up to leave.
But, hey, Texas needs the rain and we shouldn’t complain. And the recent rains have moderated the temperatures. The month of August was the hottest ever recorded in Austin, where we arrived on Thursday for a couple of rest days. Austin had 16 days with temperatures at or above 100 degrees in June, 26 days in July, and 25 days in August.
I’d rather deal with a little rain than a parched landscape and temperatures over 100. We had our fill of that in California and Arizona.