Bluebonnets on the Willow City Loop, Texas

Since 1901, Texans have called the bluebonnet their official state flower. And “Texas, Our Texas” became the state song in 1929. And its fitting they both coincide with each other because of a magical springtime event brightens up the knolls and countryside of Texas Hill Country.

One bright, warm, sunny Monday morning, I woke up early to go on a much needed solo ride to see the Texas Bluebonnets.

About the Texas Bluebonnets…

Bluebonnet is a name given to any number of species of the genus Lupinus. The beautiful blew flowers are predominantly found in southwestern United States. The shape of the petals on the flower resembles the bonnet worn by pioneer women to shield them from the sun.

On March 7, 1901, lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. However, lupinus texensis emerged as the favorite of most Texans. So, in 1971, the Texas Legislature made any similar species of Lupinus that could be found in Texas the state flower.
As an extension of Lady Bird Johnson‘s efforts at highway beautification in the United States Highway Beautification Act.   She encouraged the planting of these native plants along Texas highways after she left the White House.
Today, Bluebonnet blooms are now a common sight along Texas highways and roads in the springtime. They serve as a popular backdrop for family photographs.

Let’s go take photos of flowers…

Since Dan is not overly emphatic about stopping to take a photo of every little thing, he decided not to go.  Don’t get me wrong, he loves pretty flowers. However, he’s a guy. To him, flowers are what you give a girl to show you love her or you’re trying to make nice after pissing her off.

Anyway, he wanted to stay behind anyways to do some much needed maintenance done on Liberty. Days prior,  we had just returned from our month stay in the salty air of Galveston Island so it served both of our purposes that I go it alone this time.

So, I packed my gear for a long day ride including Awol, our mascot and my paper map clipped to my handlebars. I threw my leg over my Harley to ride my way up to the Willow City Loop from Castroville, TX. I meandered my way through Bandera, Kerrville and Fredericksburg.

 My fairytale ride…

I needed this ride. It was such a beautiful ‘soul’ day. I loved seeing the farmers and ranchers waving at me from their tractors as they were plowing their fields.  It meant spring was here.  Some of the fields were showing new corn plantings risen through the small mounded rows.  There were also patches of colorful wildflowers along side the road. I wished I could’ve stopped to take photos but there just wasn’t any safe place to pull off. I will just have to hold that amazing memory in my mind.
I made a pit stop in Bandera, the Cowboy Capitol of the World, to fuel my steel horse and get some vittles for myself.  I had lunch at Sid’s BBQ on RT 16 right on the main drag downtown near the shops and business district. 

 

Holy moly, talk about meat overload!  I’ve come to expect that in Texas but they sure like their meat and lots of it!  It was nice to sit out on the picnic table with the warm sun on my back taking up a chat with some of the locals.



There were a couple local businessmen dressed in their cowboy business attire of cowboy hats, clean-pressed jeans, shiny boots and shirt with bolo tie.

Coincidentally, there was a couple of RVers from Ohio who were also fine dining with me at a neighboring picnic table.  We exchanged travel cards, finished our lunches and we each went on our way.

Onto the Willow City Loop…

I followed RT 16 North all the way through Kerrville and Fredericksburg, which were quite busy as any small city is on a weekday and of course, tourist season here has already begun.  Once I got past Fredericksburg for about 10 miles, I turned right shortly after arriving in Eckert onto CR 1323.  There was a small sign pointing the way to the Willow City Loop.

As I rode into Willow City (watch out if you sneeze, you’ll miss it!), I turned left onto the Willow City Loop. There was a courtesy sign advising motorists and visitors to please not trespass onto private properties and livestock ranches.

But I did want to get a shot of this large prestigious looking cattle ranch gate of the Mark Harman Ranch.

I was so glad I chose to go on a Monday and not the weekend. I was advised by a couple locals that the weekends are way too populated with tourists (like me??).

Boots and Bluebonnets…

Once I found myself a safe spot to park alongside the road, I took my helmet off and removed my sunglasses to get a better picture.  Literally, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was getting to see in person what 99.9% of the world’s population won’t ever get to see!

However, my solace was short-lived. It didn’t take long for others to join me. The Bluebonnets stretched as long as I could see along the fence of this ranch.  THIS is what I had waited for; to see the Texas State Bluebonnets.

It was mere perfection; not one deadhead nor wilted flower to be seen.  It looked like a blue carpet of flowers. However, if you’re reading this and bees could kill you, perhaps this isn’t the place for you because there are a lot of them! Or, bring your EpiPen. Or, stay in your car. 

This notorious 486 acre Mark Harman Ranch was unique as each fence post hosted an upside down old cowboy or cowgirl boot.  It was pretty impressive.  I’m sure every boot had its own story of who wore them and where they came from.  It was great that we all took turns taking our photos next to the boots and the Bluebonnets.

After about 15 minutes of just taking a million photos, I rode not even 100 yards to stop and take this photo. I kind of wished I had one to leave my mark  however, I wasn’t giving up my $40 Harley Davidson blinged hat in my saddlebag.

After taking a few photos, it was time for me to get back on the road and move on down the road.  The best I could describe this road was storybook or fairytale.  Think back to your storybooks; illustrations of roads painted with perfectly green grass and flowers of all colors.  It felt like a magical place.  The flowers’ colors were so vivid and perfectly planted as in those stories.
Blue flowers were everywhere I looked. Some appeared as mass seas of blue in the far distance while the closer ones were like thick blue shag carpets. Occasionally, I’d see a few red and orange Texas Paintbrush to peppering the blues, like small boats on the big blue ocean.

I have to warn those who want to venture this way. Willow City Loop is not a fast road. And don’t even think about being mindless driving like you’re in New York city here. First, it’s a ranch road. Second, we have to be mindful of others who may be suddenly stopping or pedestrians crossing the road. And third, there are cattle guards that stretch from both sides of the road.

In fact, I barely even got out of second gear most times. Even if I could, I didn’t want to because there was so much to see around every twist and turn.

I also looking at the different ranch gates. Some were big iron-clad poles suspending ornamentation with the names of the family ranches overhead. While those were quite elaborate, there were others that were more humble and simple looking. But they all had one thing in common; wild Bluebonnets at their every entrance.

What was only a few-mile loop, I made into an all-day ride. Stopping every few hundred yards, I’d take it all in and of course, more photos.

 

I pulled off onto small hill that overlooked the valley below. It was a sea of Texas Bluebonnets.

I couldn’t help taking photos of some interesting native cactus’ alongside the road.

…and of course, some other native Texas wildflowers.

I also found perfectly-shaped White Poppies basking in the sunshine.

But still, the Bluebonnets stole the show!

 

After taking what seemed to be a zillion photos, I looked at my watch and realized I needed to make some headway to get back to Liberty. Since Hill Country is also known for big game animals, I needed to get moving.

Speaking of BIG critters animals…

I didn’t get a few hundred yards down the road and this happened.  This big heifer ran right in front of me. She bolted right across the road to the creek bed below.

I giggled to myself thinking, “whew, those large critters start tormenting motorists early.”  I must have spooked her with my engine.  I had forgotten that I was riding on ranch land.

After gathering my composure and making sure I got photo evidence for this story, I saddled up again to ride another few miles.  I noticed another motorcycle parked in a pull-off below. He was taking photos up in the air to the right.  As I neared him, I looked in the direction where he was pointing his camera and thought to myself, “WOW!”

I stopped myself, to take the same photos. They spires looked like stone castle turrets. It was something I didn’t expect to see in the Texas Hill Country.

Once I was finished, I neared the end of the loop back to Route 16.  I was thinking, “NOW I REALLY need to get moving!!”

But that was short-lived because I had to get a few last photos to finish my quest and proof that I was there.


 

 Finally, I turned left to head home back to Castroville on Route 16.  I left only footprints.  But I took with me this beautiful memory that will be etched in my mind forever.  I can now say, “I got to see the Texas Bluebonnets”.
I didn’t know who’s smile was bigger; mine or the sun’s that day.  It was just me, my bike, a crinkled up roadmap and the sun to steer by.

Another motorcycle ride in Texas…

One Reply to “Bluebonnets on the Willow City Loop, Texas”

  1. Thank you for sharing your beautiful bluebonnet trip. I've never actually seen bluebonnets. but through your pictures,
    I now have an appreciation for how lovely these seas of blue are.

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