Goats are the reason that a championship mountain bike race is now held annually near Glen Rose, Texas. Well, goats and my father, Mack Hargrave, a longtime resident of Lake Highlands who now splits his time between our neighborhood and 130 acres of land in southwest Texas.


My dad loves being outdoors. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. When I was a child, we would spend weekends at his hunting lease or out on the lake. Family vacations involved tent camping or a wilderness lodge with no heat or indoor plumbing. Before rock climbing involved all the equipment it does now, we climbed using a regular rope tied to our waist. 


My mother hated it. We kids loved it. We had the coolest dad. He will turn 66 in October, and still hasn’t stopped moving. And he’s still pretty cool.


“He’s been through hunting, fishing, golf, tennis, handball, racquetball and rock climbing,” my mother, Anne Hargrave, will tell you. “Whatever hobby he takes up usually includes the whole family — whether we want to participate or not.”


She’s only half-joking. Still, I don’t think any of us had any idea what was coming when my parents purchased acreage outside of Glen Rose in 2000. They named the place Solavaca Ranch, and added goats in order to qualify for the agricultural tax exemption.   


That’s when it got interesting.


You see, goats, while not the most intelligent animals, do have an amazing gift for finding holes in fences. After untold hours of walking the fence line in areas unreachable by truck, my dad decided that the answer was a mountain bike.  


My mother gave him a $120 Schwinn for Christmas 2006. My father soon discovered, however, that mountain biking wasn’t as it easy as it seems.


“In January 2007,” he says, “when the weather warmed, I mounted that bike and took it for a test run around the grove of trees and back — about a quarter mile. My legs were burning, and my rear end had already started to go numb. I got the heck off that thing.


“But I am a smart guy, and I knew I had seen other people do this, so I decided I would stick with it for a month and see if it got better. And it finally did.” 


Still, the brush and trees meant that my father had to do some clearing before a bicycle could make its way around the 130 acres. That was the beginning of a mountain bike trail that now runs more than eight miles long.  It was cleared feet at a time using a chain saw, ax, pick, shovel, string trimmer and the fierce determination for which my dad is known.  


Over time, and with many riders giving their input, the trail has become long enough and tough enough to challenge the most experienced riders Texas has to offer.  


My dad now rides the Solavaca trail once or twice a day, five days a week, when the weather allows. It was this conditioning that brought him a second place finish in his category and age group at November’s Solavaca race.


But he believes the best is still ahead.  


In April 2010, mountain bikers from across the state will converge on Solavaca for the Cat Claw Classic, a race which will help determine the state champion of mountain bike XC racing. This is the third mountain bike race to be held at Solavaca, which has hosted part of the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association (DORBA) fall race series for the past two years. 


My dad thrives on the riders and families who come to ride and camp at Solavaca. He loves to share the trails with people. And, for the rest of the family, mountain bikes have become a “must have” item. My sister, Melissa, and her family now live in Missouri, while my husband and I have settled down in Lake Highlands with our two children. The whole family pitches in come race time, when volunteers are used to man the gate and direct parking. If you’d like to race or if you’d just like to watch the fun, join us at Solavaca Ranch on April 24-25. Or load up your bikes and family for a weekend and come enjoy the ride. Find directions and more at solavaca.com.


Farrel Chapman