Texas Courthouse Tour Part 2
This is part 2 of Dana Woods Texas Courthouse tour
In 2006 we only had time to make one 4 day trip and one overnight trip. The four-day trip took us to 11 counties south of San Antonio and all the way to the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, county seat of Maverick County in mid-July. I even managed to find a boat ramp that I backed our Wing down and touched the water with the back wheel just to say we had “been in the river”. Eagle Pass is a nice border town but it was only 104 degrees that day and Kelly still tells me she does not have fond memories of that town because of the heat and has no desire to visit again. A September overnight trip was to southern Oklahoma and we were able to photograph the Cooke County courthouse in Gainesville on our way back home. The count at the end of 2006 was 156 with 98 to go.
Kelly was now starting to recover a little from Courthouse Fever and said it was time to ride elsewhere for a change. I had passed through Yellowstone National Park twice before on hunting trips north of there and vowed to ride Yellowstone at some point. Kelly had never been, so we planned a trip to Yellowstone and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We left Texas on I-35 north of Dallas but had already been to all of those counties. So might as well start adding more states to the list as we had never been north of Oklahoma. (In addition to traveling Texas we had already been over a lot of Arkansas as it’s not far from our home in East Texas and we had traveled to North Carolina on our honeymoon in 2002. We had gotten married on the bike and 2 days later had ridden to Wilmington, NC on an Iron Butt run of 1110 miles in 18 ½ hours.) On the return trip home from Yellowstone, we entered Texas at the northwest corner of the Panhandle and toured all the counties on the western edge of the Panhandle that we had not been to. We then turned east and traveled to the counties bordering Oklahoma along the Red River. This was our only courthouse ride for 2007 but it netted 16 more making the total come to 172, with 82 to go. It also meant we had been to every county along the New Mexico state line. The dots on our map were really starting to connect now. As we made trips that didn’t correspond with the routes I had planned, I rearranged the remaining routes to connect as many dots as I could in one general area.
In March of 2008 we decided on a trip to the heart of Texas. Earlier we had agreed to make the last county on our quest be the geographic center of Texas as a symbolic gesture. The geographic center of the state is near Brady, county seat of McCulloch County. However, in the late 1800’s the geographic center was thought to be in Mills County east of the county seat of Goldthwaite. The people of Mills County even designated an old Live Oak tree to be the exact spot. Since our focus was the pre-1900’s courthouses, we designated Mills County as our last one and always purposely bypassed Mills County. So our only Texas trip in 2008 circled Mills County and added 9 more to the list. Up to 181 and 73 to go, was the end in sight? Could we see the light at the end of the tunnel? When summer rolled around my nephew and his wife wanted us to ride with them to West Virginia. We had ridden with them before and had a ball laughing at Wesley and Vickie’s stories and antics so the courthouses would have to wait a while longer as we added more states to the Wing and headed northeast with them.
By now any courthouse trip we made was a day’s ride from home and 2009 was a very busy year for us with family and work. We only managed one trip, it was with Wesley and Vicky to the Texas Hill Country but we already had all those counties on our list. This was the only year that no counties were added. In the last two years the list had increased by only 9 counties. Were we losing interest? Would we finish or was this the end with 71% accomplished? When one sets a goal there are always low points in the quest for that goal. This was our low point.
Kelly had been hinting about riding to Alaska one day but I had resisted as I was afraid the roads may not be fit for a Goldwing. But in March of 2009 we flew to Alaska for the Iditarod dog race and stayed with friends from Mississippi that have a cabin one mile from the start of the Iditarod in Willow, AK. I had read in Wing World of a couple that had ridden to Alaska and explained the road conditions. The Alaska Highway is paved, but there is always ongoing road construction. So at the end of June, 2010 off we go to Alaska. But true to Kelly’s plan we would pass through counties that we had not seen before. On the first day of our 32 day Alaska trip we traveled US 287 to Sherman County in Stratford on the Oklahoma line and added 9 more counties, bringing the total to 190. This was only 630 miles in Texas and on our return trip we passed only through counties that we had visited. However the entire trip to Alaska and back was 10,933 miles. Note to anyone that has never ridden to Alaska: if you ever have a chance to ride there, add it to your bucket list and go. Words cannot explain the adventure it truly is.
In October, we planned a trip to the Big Bend area of Texas with my brother, Wayne and my cousin Stuart, with their wives and another rider, Dave. My brother had only started riding two years earlier at age 68 and Dave had just started riding one month earlier just so he could go on this trip with all of us. This would be our first courthouse trip that included other riders. They all volunteered to take our pictures with both of us on the bike. But we stayed true to Rule 1 that one of us would be in the picture. We were saving the very last courthouse picture for both of us to be in it. The trip went off without a hitch and we agreed we would plan another one next year since we all had so much fun and enjoyment. Ten more counties were added during this ride bringing the total for 2010 to 19 and bringing the entire total to 200. We were only 54 counties away from our goal. Things were looking up now.
Stuart planned the 2011 trip to see Palo Dura Canyon south of Canyon, county seat of Randall County. Dave was unable to go this time but Wesley and Vickie rode along. I had asked Stuart to make our route pass through 5 counties that we needed to add to our list. I also asked that we spend one night at the Turkey Hotel in Turkey Texas, birthplace of Bob Wills, known as the King of Western Swing, and home to the Bob Wills Day festival each April. If you want to have a one night adventure, plan a night at the Turkey Hotel. Hint: if your companions are not real keen to a near camping experience don’t spend the night but do stay for dinner. Breakfast and dinner are some of the best in Texas. The guys had a grand time that night but the ladies didn’t see it the same way we did. Let’s just say that night will remain in our memories longer than any of the other nights on that trip. This would be our only courthouse trip in 2011. The total now was 205. Our long summer trip was to the northeast US and eastern Canada.