Austin and Beyond

I (Darren) am back! I took a bit of a hiatus from the written updates for whatever reason and I do apologize. Rather than backtrack and give you all my personal updates from the last couple of weeks, I’ll speak of our time off in Austin, Texas. We arrived in Austin on Thursday, January 30th. Our ride into Austin was intense to say the least. We endured killer headwinds and actually ended up on a four mile stretch of highway on 290 West. There was only one lane on 290 for most of the four mile stretch because of road construction. Therefore we were forced to ride along big rigs and speeding cars which wasn’t much fun. We focused on hugging the curb and we eventually made it safely off the highway. After another 30 minutes or so Taylor and I made it to the Austin Bicycle Sports Shop where we intended on leaving our bikes for the weekend to get serviced. After unloading our bikes we set up shop in the corner of the store. My friend Erik from Connecticut was flying down on Thursday and almost arrived to the Austin airport right as we had made our way into the bike shop. Our timing couldn’t have worked out any better. Erik’s cousin – Sally, picked him up at the airport and then the two of them came straight to the bike shop to pick up Taylor and I. They made it to the bike shop around 6:00pm, we loaded up Sally’s trunk with all of our gear and we were off to Mike’s apartment.


Mike is Sally’s friend and he offered to take Taylor and I in for the night. On the way to Mike’s apartment we discussed our game plan for the evening. Taylor and I were both hoping for an early night to bed; the ride into Austin wiped us out but we actually ended up going out for sushi and then going to the opening of some new bar in downtown Austin. Thankfully, Mike had work relatively early on Friday morning which I was able to use as an excuse to not stay out too late. After freshening up at Mike’s place we made our way to a sushi restaurant for dinner. We ate like kings compared to the normal garbage that we usually consume. I was a bit under dressed at both the restaurant and the bar but I had no option. I didn’t bring nice clothes to go out in…ooops. Personally, I could care less about clothes so I went out sporting basketball shorts, a t-shirt and a headband. I got quite a few looks from people. The looks ranged from, “omg is he seriously wearing that out to a bar?” to “omg is he seriously wearing shorts in this weather? He must be freezing. Cool headband though.” I ordered my drink and found a spot in the bar where there weren’t too many people and without even thinking I began one of my several stretching routines while sipping on my adult beverage. Again, people thought I was crazy…”who is this guy? And why is he stretching in a bar?” I gave no explanations to anyone, I just smiled, nodded and eventually they let me be. We didn’t stay too long at the bar. I think we were there for only an hour or so which was exactly what I was hoping for. We were back at Mike’s apartment around midnight; we hung out for a bit, shared a few stories and then hit the sack.

Well hello!

Well hello!

For your information, Taylor and I had originally spoken about how Austin would be a well deserved and much needed 3.5 days filled with nothing but rest and recovery. I had my doubts about how much rest I would get. I knew it would be difficult given the fact that my friend Erik was in the city. Oh, and let’s not forget about my two college buddies (Thornell and Chessie) who were living in Austin. I ended up seeing them for a large part of both Friday and Saturday night. Taylor on the other hand did quite a nice job sticking to the game plan and recovering. I wish I could say the same.

Friday morning, I woke up around 6:45am. I caked on a few layers of Icy hot and gave the legs a good rub down. I probably worked on my legs for close to an hour. Mike was shocked to see me awake so early considering we were on “vacation.” Mike headed out to work around 8:00am and Erik made his way over to the apartment around 9:30am after dropping off his cousin at work.  Erik and I went to grab doughnuts in the morning at Howdy’s Doughnuts; a fantastic little shop where the doughnuts were baked fresh daily. I recommend it to anyone traveling through Austin. Really tasty doughnuts! They were absolutely fantastic! 3 chocolate glazed doughnuts with nuts, 3 blueberry cake doughnuts, 2 honey glazed doughnuts, 2 regular chocolate glazed doughnuts and 2 raised sugar doughnuts. They even threw in 10 doughnut holes just for the heck of it.

Afterwards, Erik and I went to Whole Foods, stocked up on vegetables, fruits, nuts and some good cuts of sandwich meat. We went back to the apartment to meet up with Taylor and had a little breakfast. We put the groceries in the fridge and then Erik and I went to the University of Texas-Austin and walked around the campus for about 4 hours. I’m not going to lie, it was quite a bit hillier than I had anticipated. My legs were rather upset with me but they powered through as they always do. I thought it would be a good change of pace for my legs; in retrospect, it may have been better to have done what Taylor did and just sleep in for a majority of the day. I had a good time though. We walked most of the perimeter and then we zig-zagged our way through the heart of the campus. We probably saw close to 75% of the campus and the weather was beautiful which made it all the more enjoyable! I kept thinking to myself, “where the heck has this warm weather been the past 30 days?” The only nice day we had on the entire trip was this one freak day in Gainesville, FL. If I had to give you an average riding temperature, I’d say it’s been averaging 38-42 degrees the entire trip. I can remember several days where we took off in the morning and the temperatures were well below freezing. We have since learned to convince ourselves that 40 degrees is a “nice day” of cycling.

great view, post Austin

great view, post Austin

Anyways, Sally got off work around 3:00pm so Erik dropped me off at Mike’s apartment and Erik went to pick up Sally. Mike got home around 3:30pm and wanted to head to one of the local parks to kick the soccer ball around with a friend of his who was in town for the weekend. So, Taylor and I tagged along and got a little exercise in for the day. We probably hung out at the park for about 2 hours playing soccer. Erik and Sally ended up meeting us at the park around 5:30pm. We all made our way back to Mike’s apartment around 6:30pm to shower and pack up our things. Our time with Mike had come to an end and I’m sure he was relieved. Taylor and I did a number on his apartment. I must say he kept his bachelor pad pretty darn tidy and Taylor and I were able to turn it upside in just a matter of minutes. It’s not like we are slobs or anything but we probably have 130 lbs of gear between the two of us which makes it easy to make things messy. I must say that the apartment did look much better once we got all of our gear packed away and out his apartment. Shortly after we left you could hear Mike busting out the Lysol can and disinfecting his entire apartment. Thanks so much Mike for taking us in. It was great meeting you and we wish you the best! You’re the man!

Sally had arranged my next nights stay with her friend, Matt. He was one of the managers at Buffalo Billiards in downtown Austin and was studying film at U of Austin. Matt was a very cool guy. He was in the navy for four years, ran a club or two in San Diego and has since found his way to Austin within the last year or two. Matt’s roommates were out of town and they allowed me to crash in their room while they were gone. Thank you very much kind folk who I never had the opportunity to meet. I really do appreciate your generosity. Very very kind of you to let me stay in your room!

PS. Your dog slept alongside of me both nights. He was great company! I wish I could remember his name.

So, I moved into what would be my home for the next 2 days and got ready to go out. Sally, had mentioned the idea of a dance party and right when I hopped into the shower I realized how stiff I was from the walk around campus and from the 2 hours of soccer we played. I was stiffer than the dickens. I didn’t panic though. I had a plan. I went over my robot dance moves in front of the mirror for a solid 5 minutes to make sure II hadn’t lost my touch. The robot isn’t always something i bust out but since I very limited mobility, I figured I’d better do a run through to make sure I had all the moves still.  The moves were still there for sure, I hadn’t lost my touch. I even had a few two-step moves ready on standby in case of an emergency. Step the left, step the right, throw a couple well timed finger snaps in the mix and you are good to go. One thing was for certain though, there was going to be no “dropping it like its hot” or “getting low.” My legs were toast and needed some rest but they were going to have to wait another night. No rest just yet.

On this particular night I met the girl from my nightmares. Her name is Satan and she is from the DEEP DEEP SOUTH. She is the kind of girl that makes me not want to talk to girls. So, I’m outside with Chessie and Thornell and we are just hanging out in the back of the patio of this bar. So ya, these two girls come over to our little corner spot and the conversation goes as follows:

Thornell – “Hey, it’s a little chilly out tonight, huh? You guys staying warm?”

Witch – “Ummmmm, why are you talking to me?”

Thornell – “just a little conversation, no need to get hostile”

Witch – “Wait, are you like someone important or something?”

Meanwhile, I just threw up in my own mouth because this girl was horribly rude. Literally, she made me sick to my stomach. Who do you think you are semi-attractive girl with far too much makeup on and who wears leopard print pants? That’s a fashion no no and even I know that. More importantly, you are ruining my night you horrible person you. You are everything I dislike in a girl. Why did you have to come over to our corner. Major buzz kill! Get me out of here ASAP!

Thornell “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not, does it matter?”

Witch- “Well, you don’t look important. And like… why are you two friends staring at me? Did I like…scare them or something?”

Obviously I’m too polite to say what I was thinking, so I just stood there, I didn’t really know what to do. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the Devil in real life. I was stunned. What a monster!

Thankfully she and her friend left and i was able to enjoy the night again. I still can’t believe it. I’d take headwinds over this broad any day of the week. Horrifying!

The rest of the night was much better once Satan teleported herself back to the deep south. I had to wash this bad taste out of my mouth that Satan had left me with so I got some delicious tacos from a food truck and then we went downtown for a little while. It was a good time!  We ended our night back at Matt’s apartment but not before stopping and ordering $20 worth of tacos from the equivalent of a Taco Bell. Gross, I know!

Saturday morning, I woke up around 9:00am. My buddy Thornell had plans to take Taylor, Erik, Sally, Chessie and myself to get  BBQ around noon time. Thornell took us to Blacks BBQ in Lockhart, TX. He swore to me that it was the best BBQ in the entire state of Texas. I believe him. Hands down, it was the absolute best BBQ I’ve had. I ordered over 4lbs of sides and that doesn’t include the 4 lbs of meat that Matt and I split. I had mash potatoes, mac & cheese, sweet potatoes, biscuits, cole slaw and some sort of cobler. I don’t even know what I ate for meat. Thornell just split half of what he ordered and put it on my tray. It was some of my finest eating ever.

World famous Black BBQ, Lockhart, TX

World famous Black BBQ, Lockhart, TX

Blacks BBQ

Blacks BBQ

There happened to be a car show going on in downtown Lockhart and it was only a couple of blocks away from the BBQ joint. It worked out perfectly. We walked around for about an hour with completely swollen bellies. We saw some pretty rad cars and then made our way back to Austin. Saturday afternoon once we returned home we all rested a bit. I entered into a nasty food coma. I slept for a couple of hours and then before I knew it I was getting ready to go to a birthday party. My friend Thornell invited me to his girlfriend’s birthday party. I wasn’t crazy about going out but it was Erik’s last night in Texas and I figured I probably wouldn’t get to see Chessie or Thornell on Sunday. So ya, we went to a house party, ate some delicious food and desserts and then Thornell brought me downtown to meet up with Erik, Matt and Sally.

Oso admiring the gems.

Oso admiring the gems.

Car show, Lockhart, TX

Car show, Lockhart, TX

Thornell ended up staying with me for a while longer. Matt brought us to check out some live music down on 6th street. We all walked into the venue together, Matt, Erik and Sally went to the far back. Thornell and I were captivated by the band who was on stage. They started their set exactly when we walked through the door. We probably watched the first four songs and then realized that we had loss our friends so we went out back looking for them. We found them and  made our way over to some other section of the venue where they had some hip-hop playing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put my robot moves to use but my natural dance abilities came to surface despite my legs being filled with lactic acid. We danced our faces off for about 30 minutes straight and at that point I wanted to go back to check out the band again. By the time we made our way to the band they were on their last song. I was a bit bummed that I missed the rest of their set, but all and all it was a great time. We made our way back to Matt’s apartment but not before stopping by McDonalds to order another $20 dollars worth of garbage. We got home around 3:30am and I had to take Erik to the airport at 6:30am. I was able to piece together  that Sally wasn’t feeling up for a drive at the crack of dawn so I offered to take Erik to the airport. She took me up on my offer and she was able to rest a while longer. I’m glad I was able to help her out a bit. She had already done so much for me, it was the least I could do. Erik and I woke up early, I brought him to the airport, came right back home around 7:30am and made my way directly to my bed.

Taylor’s mom came to Matt’s apartment Sunday afternoon around 3:00pm and brought Matt and I to downtown Austin. I relocated to the hotel where Mama Ross was staying and we gave Matt a ride to work. He was without a car because he had left his car downtown the night before. Kudos to you Matt for being responsible and not drinking and driving! Before we dropped off Matt we all went to the bike shop together to pick up our bikes which were being serviced. We wanted to bring the bikes back to hotel so that we could wake up and get right on the road. We dropped off Matt at his bar and he invited us to to stop by to watch the Super bowl and to get a bite to eat. We watched the first half of the game at the bar and for the 2nd half of the game we went back to the hotel room. We all went to bed relatively early that night. It was practically the first night that I was home before 3:00am since we arrived in Austin. I took advantage and I went to bed around 10:00pm.

Mom visits Austin.

Mom visits Austin.

Darren hydrating with the biggest glass of water he could find. Getting ready for hill country.

Darren hydrating with the biggest glass of water he could find. Getting ready for hill country.

I should give one last genuine thank you to Sally. Thank you so much for helping out Taylor and I these past few days. It was a blast getting to know you and I can’t thank you enough for running us around all of Austin. I really do appreciate you coordinating all of my housing accommodations for my three nights in Austin. Hopefully, I can return the favor at some point later down the road. Thank you so much!

And leaving Austin, we entered the famous Texas Hill Country! Have some fun with these videos!


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