There's nothing quite like a seventeen-mile bike ride to ensure a little father-daughter bonding—especially when said father and daughter are embarrassingly out of shape. It's not that Dad and I aren't extremely appreciative of all Mother Nature has blessed us with and fairly competent in natural surroundings, it's just that, truth be told, we're more at home in an air-conditioned habitat. Eager for a couple of days of role-playing—city folk pretending to be outdoors people—we planned an adventuresome agenda specifically targeted at Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway in the one-stoplight town of Quitaque (pronounced Kitty-kway).
As we rolled into the serene Panhandle hamlet (population: 509), which is about ten miles southwest of Turkey, we felt ourselves unwind. We made our way to the Quitaque Quail Lodge, an up-on-the-hill bed-and-breakfast, which was homey and comfortable (think quilts and overstuffed chairs). The beyond-gracious couple who run the B&B took wonderful care of us, even spoiling us with cups of pralines-and-cream ice cream.
The next morning, we rented a couple of bikes from the hardware store cum Huffy outfitter, and its $30 fee took care not only of the bike rental, but also included transport from downtown Quitaque to the westernmost entrance point to the park, in South Plains. The multi-use trail, 64.25 miles in length, was at one time a railroad, which was donated to the park in 1992 and later converted into a trailway that attracts hikers, bikers, and equestrians interested in exploring the varied terrain between South Plains to the west and Estelline to the east. Sixty-plus miles sounded a tad excessive for our out-of-practice-in-large-doses-of-exercise physiques, so we opted for a fifteen-plus mile excursion. According to numerous reading materials, the trek promised to be mostly downhill, and according to the young, college-age gentleman who met us that early Saturday morning with the bikes, our "downhill" adventure would take us approximately four hours.
I'll confess: During the first couple of miles, I did a bit of praying on behalf of my aching, newly-reacquainted-to-mass-exercise muscles, asking the Big Man to kick the downgrade portion of this trail into gear. But by mile three, even though the advertised downhill slope had yet to materialize—our bodies rode mostly flat, if not slightly uphill at times—I felt in a groove and was even enjoying myself. It's hard not to when the trail offers such a variety, with scenes ranging from level fields to rugged drops in the Caprock Escarpment. Near mile twelve we came across one of our favorite perks, the Clarity Tunnel, one of the last active rail tunnels in the state. Since it was midday, we didn't see any members of the Mexican free-tailed bat colony that reside in the tunnel (although the smell told us they were there).
The final five miles of our journey included an ample number of breaks, both to rest our weary legs and to rehydrate. (Water is a must, and we were grateful to have packed extra.) When we finally made it back to Quitaque, a couple hours later than expected, we were starved and headed for the Caprock Cafe. Calorie-heavy menu items such as double cheeseburgers and chicken-fried steak—although sufficiently out of sync with our new exercise regimen—sounded divine, and Dad and I inhaled lunch.
Recharged, we wished we hadn't made plans to spend the evening in Childress. We would have liked to have hung out, enjoying the peace and quiet, the slow life. Even a nap at the Quitaque Quail Lodge would have been nice. Next time we'll know better.