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Journal Entry: 04.21.11–05.03.11

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04.21.11 Navasoto, TX Miles: 20 – I checked out of the Best Western Inn and into the Checkpoint Harley which took me through the towns of Anderson and finally Richards, TX.  I had heard about Checkpoint Harley from some other bicyclists and knew that they had camping and lodging available.  The route along State Hwy 90 and County road 149 was a relief from the ups and downs that I encountered from my start in Kyle, TX.  I completed the 20 miles to Richards, TX in a relatively short period of time.

About two miles away from Checkpoint Harley I met Doris who stopped her truck on the road to see if I was headed to Checkpoint Harley.  She explained that an emergency had taken place  at the ranch but offered to relieve me of some of the weight on my bicycle.  I gladly threw my trailer bag into the back of her truck and she departed swiftly.  Later I discovered that she had rescued some baby birds that had nested in their barn.

When I arrived at Checkpoint Harley Doris had already removed my heavy bag from her truck and taken it inside. A little bit later I met the team of Ernie and Doris (husband and wife) and discussed the camping rate which was $16.00 a night for camping and $30.00 for lodging.  I let them know that I intended to stay at the ranch for 9 days and Ernie was excited.  My first night was spent on the kitchen floor but the next morning it was announced that I should move to one of their lodges at the $16.00 rate.  I was surprised and extremely grateful.

My room is the white door on left. Center door is common kitchen.

The room has a bed, a heater, air conditioning, a sink, and a small refrigerator.  In the picture above you are unable to view the second room because the men’s outhouse is blocking it.  Between the two outhouses you can see a portion of the men and women’s separate showers.  The outhouses are clean and both connected to septic tanks that eliminates any noxious odors.  The kitchen area has a large refrigerator, stove/oven, sink, pots, pans, microwave, and utensils.  In short, it’s almost like home but surrounded with wide open spaces. And since it is a ranch you’ll notice that there are plenty of cattle.

“Checkpoint Harley provided me with learning opportunities!”
-James J. Pond

Ernie and Doris built there own field of dreams and people are indeed coming.  My bicycle journey had placed me smack dab in the middle of their dream.  I became visually stimulated by all of the life that surrounded me: hummingbirds, bluebirds, chickens, bulls, donkeys, geese, horses, cows, goats, guineas, bobcats, coyotes, and more.  On day two I wanted to work and learn more about this lifestyle!  Ernie and Doris took me under their wing and let me- a mere bicycling city slicker participate in their world.  I can assure you it wasn’t as easy as one might expect.

Ernie is now retired from the U.S. Army as a paramedic.  He served in Somalia and Desert Storm and although he can sometimes come across as hard around the edges, deep down inside he possess a soft heart.  Doris was born and raised in Germany and the two met while Ernie was stationed in Heidelberg.  The couple married and have no children except their pets and livestock.  When they showed me their wedding announcement and photographs it was obvious to me that they were still very much in love.

Ernie and Doris sharing a brief moment together.      Doris during her early childhood in Germany.

Doris manages well and works even harder. The morning starts early as she makes breakfast and lunch for Ernie.  Ernie makes a short commute to work and at the days end returns to the ranch and works some more.  While Ernie is at work Doris tends to the needs of the ranch often long into the night. Both are diligent in their efforts.

Ernie is well respected in his community. The first time I rode with him into town to pick up supplies his people skills became obvious.  Everyone greeted him with smiles and he always managed to get folks laughing.  We had traveled to the Navasota, TX. John Deere store to pick up a ton of feed for the cattle.  Ernie in his typical fashion approached the counter and told the young man behind the counter that the last time he had been in the store for feed two bags of feed had been replaced by two bags of concrete.  Ernie had caught the young man off guard and the store manager, along with others were beginning to gather around.  After an eruption of laughter the store manager reminded the young man (the owners son) that they did not sell concrete in the store.  The owners son replied “Oh great, I will never hear the end of this story from my dad”.

What did I do at Checkpoint Harley?  Well I helped move and store a ton of those bags of feed, stacked some bails of hey in the barn, bottle fed a longhorn calf, helped build a platform to store more hay, assisted with moving cattle, attended a cattle auction, and met two wonderful people on a ranch that I will never forget.  Ernie will be the first to say that I just got in the way (likely true) and he has tagged me an “Obama lover” (among other things) but most of all I have laughed with him and enjoyed exchanging verbal blows. Doris has taught me much about the hard work and long hours. She has read about Temple Grandin before the movie was ever produced. She respects the cattle and likewise, the cattle respect her.  She can move her cattle easily because of the respect she has shown the cattle.

011 018
Longhorn calf feeding.                                           Doris escorting Longhorn calf to barn.
Ernie takes his cattle to veterinarians for inoculations, tags, and fly relief.  He is permitted to complete the shots on his own and that saves his ranch a little extra money.  He grew up on a ranch and it is apparent that he is very knowledgeable at what he does.

016 045
Ernie prepares inoculation. He is fast + thorough.            It takes only seconds.
He may be old but he always cleans up his mess.                  Fresh tag inserted.
I learned that working on a ranch requires dedication and long hours of relatively hard work.  There is something to do every day.  The animals must be fed and taken care of especially during the drought conditions that have been self evident since I’ve been traveling these parts.  I sure hope that rain will come soon.

I will always remember when a bull and cow found their way out of the pen.  It was sort of scary because if they had run into the road an automobile may have collided with one of the animals.  Ernie had me running in one direction while he ran in another.  There was a moment when the bull approached me and wondering what I would do I looked up and Ernie was chatting with his friend.  He realized that that the situation was contained but I could see him grinning and I’d almost bet he was saying something like. “that city slicker doesn’t know that the bull and cow will always run to where the other cows are”.  That is what cattle do and that was a good learning experience.  It was an exciting time for this city slicker.

I have to say that Ernie and Doris made my stay here so enjoyable.  I love them both.  I have to post another picture of Doris, a peacock we found on a county road, and Ernie as he tags a cow. Or was that a bull?



Written by James J. Pond

May 3, 2011 at 6:41 AM

Posted in Journal Entry

2 Responses

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  1. Sounds like a great place to visit!


    May 3, 2011 at 12:17 PM

  2. […] River.  Readers who have been following my journey may recall my amazing 11 day stay at Checkpoint Harley in Richards, TX with Ernie and Doris, which really has been the highlight of my trip thus far.  There have been other random acts […]

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