Darren wrote a pretty in depth analysis of his time in Austin. I was quite upset that I did not have the opportunity to meet this alleged “Satan.” Maybe it was for the best though. We’ve all met girls like that, Dare. But that isn’t a reason to keep you out the game! Don’t let a girl scare you from going out and having fun like normal people. I have faith that you’ll be back up on that horse in no time!
Austin for me was full of R&R. We were blessed with amazing hosts, which seems to be the norm for the trip. I think Darren and I bring good energy as a team. Fire and Ice. Thunder and Lightning. Ham and Cheese.
My mother arrived in Austin Saturday afternoon. After feasting on Blacks BBQ, I met up with her at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin and enjoyed a quick nap. After a post-nap bath (suggested by my mother, who it turns out just wanted to get rid of my snoring and continue sleeping), we went out searching for a nice dinner. “I want to do whatever you want to do!” Well mother, I would really like to eat some overpriced meals that consist of something other than peanut butter & bananas, microwavable goods, and cereal.
So we end up at III forks, which at first I thought was ill Forks, like forks that had come down with a flu. We had an obnoxious waiter that played hard to get. We enjoyed a massive meal of bread, salads, entrees, desserts, and wine. Glad I didn’t have to pick up that bill! We were out faster than you can say bread pudding!
The next day we picked up Darren and his host, Matt. We picked up our bikes from the bike shop, and then went to Matt’s bar to watch the first half of the Super Bowl. We ate there and then crashed at the hotel for the night. We woke up to swirling winds outside. I made sure to hide my phone from Darren when I checked the temperature for the day (34 degrees F). With the Dare Bear, you don’t want to allow the weather to get in his head or else the old bear will go quickly running to his bear cave to hibernate.
We made our way west out of the city on the Lance Armstrong Bike path. Before we knew it we were in the famed Texas Hill Country. The folks at the bike shop told us that all the pros come to Austin to train specifically because of these hills. I made sure not to tell this to Oso. Our ACA maps had us on this awesome back road that made you feel like you were one of the first people to ever come across that stretch of land. Massive climbs up these hills made for downhill speeds of 35 mph. I don’t know if you have ever gone faster than 30 mph on a bike, but you enter this zone where you feel like Sonic the Hedgehog on a turbo boost. It’s quite the rush.
The only thing that was tough was the weather was a BIT on the cold side. I was riding my high from the country, but Dare was riding the frostbite that was forming on his toes because he forgot to wear his wool socks on the outside of his riding shoes. Like we always do though, we pushed through. Darren went into warp speed for a while and I lost track of him. I was trailing and taking pictures. As I came across this winding downhill I saw a crossing in front of me where I would have to ride through a shallow creek. I saw Darren ahead, on the verge of a breakdown. He had taken his warp speed to uncontrollable levels and was unable to brake fast enough before crossing the creek. He had gotten his entire lower half soaked in icy water. The Bear was NOT a happy camper.
If you know one thing about Darren, you know that he HATES wet socks. If he had a choice between losing a finger or having wet socks, he would probably chose the former. We were in much better spirits when we finished the day at a Dairy Queen with a couple hot chocolates, an order of onion fries, some leftover sandwiches and a fruit smoothie (that was NOT made of real fruit).
Enjoy these photos and videos. I hope they paint an adequate picture of that days ride.
That night we stayed at a sweet hotel in Fredericksburg, TX, compliments of Mama Ross. I’m not sure how she pulled this off (well I am actually ENTIRELY sure), but she got us upgraded to this massive room with a kitchen, living room, pull out couch, and a side room with two queen beds. Once we got all settled in the room, Mom suggested that we throw in a load of laundry and then check out the jacuzi. We stunk, so the laundry was a good idea. And we were sore and cold, so the hot tub sounded enticing as well. When we were lagging however, Mom became pretty persistent with her suggestion to check out the spa facility. “We are gonna check it out, Ma,” I assured her. “But you should go, like now,” she replied, “just so that it doesn’t close before you have a chance to use it.” I was initially curious about this sense of urgency that she had. Dare and I eventually threw our clothes in, made our way to the hot tub, checked out the facilities, and came back about an hour and a half later. Mom was OUT like the clout. Straight passed out on the bed fully clothed on top of the comforter. She didn’t even have time to undue the sheets or anything. It all made sense—she was trying to get rid of us! She wanted some time away from her own baby boy. The same one who she had flown into Austin to make sure was still alive and well. I get it though. Don’t mess with a woman and her nap time. We can be a handful, I’m sure.
I lost track of Darren after the jacuzzi. I found him in the gym. Please watch this video and chuckle with me.
Mom and I went to dinner and the Bear stayed in the room and stretched and vigorously applied icy hot to his thighs, which at this point have outgrown the size of my waist. I had baked brie, a juicy steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a delicious local IPA. No complaints.
We passed out after dinner and I woke up for breakfast. Mom got really mad at me because I didn’t wake her up for the free continental breakfast. She just looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to risk waking her up and putting her in a bad mood for the day. Much to her chagrin, I told her how I feasted at breakfast… “Coffee, scrambled eggs, sausage, bagel and cream cheese, yogurt, newspaper…” She had me going up and down from the room for the next hour to refill her coffee. Fair punishment.
We picked up a couple Subway sandwiches for the road and we were off. We had an easy 35-40 mile day riding back roads into a town called Kerville. The ride started off with offensive headwinds. It was nice, however, because there was no traffic and we passed tons of ranches full of cattle, rams, goats, and other awesome animals. We climbed endless hills and took in some breathtaking sights. There were a few moments where all of the setbacks and bad weather that we had endured seemed all worth it. As if these brief moments of bliss made all of that suffering seem like a faint whisper in the wind. You feel weightless, like nothing else matters. I’ve come to see our trip a lot like life. It ain’t all sunshine and tailwinds. Most of the time you’re going to be battling something. You have no control over elements out of your control. All you can do is focus on things that you have a say in. When you come across adversity, it’s how you respond to it that will make you the man you’ll be in the future.
This, along with the ride out of Austin, was one of my favorite rides of the trip. The temperature simmered around 50, and for a moment there I thought I might be able to throw on a short sleeve t.
We got into Fred and Janice’s place in Kerrville around 5pm. We caught up for a while. Fred is a smart and worldly dude. He is a mechanical engineer who spent seven years in Indonesia teaching engineering and working on his own products. He speaks Indonesian and Spanish fluently. It was nice for the Bear and I to practice our Spanish with him. At dinner that night, we spoke for the majority of the time in Spanish. Fred has worked with companies like Shell, and now he is a bike enthusiast who is trying to develop a push-pull technology to install on bicycles.
Dare and I were off to bed, and had every intention of making it to Leakey, TX the next day (55-60 miles). That is, until I woke up with the comforter over my head and my teeth chattering. I could hear Aoelus, the Greek god of wind, inflicting his fury on the pleasant town of Kerrville all the way from Mount Olympus. He was slamming the windows open and closed with his fury. I took one step outside and the 20mph winds sent a wave of goosebumps through my entire body. It was 34, but 22 with the wind chill. I truly contemplated riding, but it just did not seem like a smart thing to do.
Fred pulled up the weather for the next day, and the high was 34. The HIGH. We had some place to stay in Leakey, but if we were unable to ride the next day we would be stuck in Leakey with a hole burning in our wallets. Now, Darren has coined me as “The Young Gun,” because I always have the “go now”/ “rise and grind” mentality. This dates back to my high school football days, where my defensive coordinator would need to calm me down by physically slapping some sense into me by way of my helmet. With a trip like this, I mentally psyche myself up the night before so that by the time I wake up I am crazy enough to mount a bike with 40 pounds of luggage and traverse westward with headwinds for 70 miles. The hardest thing for me has been to acknowledge that it isn’t a sprint, and there are some days that you just need to take a step back and weigh the situation.
Oso and I form the perfect team. The Young Gun provides the energy and the positive attitude, and the older, wiser Bear provides his elderly wisdom and practical decision-making skills. I would have biked that Wednesday–and it would have been dumb. We would have made it to Leakey and then woke up the next day to 20 degree weather and be stuck at some campsite or crummy motel for the day. Instead, Fred insisted we stay as long as we want. He even gave us full reign over the TV and his Netflix subscription. I took full advantage of that and over the next few days I watched the first season of New Girls (not embarrassed, great show).
Our first day off, we went into town and checked out the Guadalupe River and the public library while Fred got a haircut. We hung out with some geese on the river for all of ten minutes before we feared we would get frostbite and went running for warmth. I hung out at the house and journaled a lot, studied the weather like I had a midterm on it, and napped like a pro. Fred and Janice made a wonderful dinner that night, and we split a bottle of wine that Oso and I bought them as a thank you.
The next morning, it was twice as cold as the day before. Again, the Young Gun’s initial thought was that it was going to be a cold day on the road to Leakey. “Take a step back, Youngin,’ and weigh your options,” I thought. You see, I am learning! The high for the day was 34. Thirty. Four. It hovered around 20 degrees until around noon where it made it up to 25. With the wind it felt like 15 (according to weather.com). I decided that if we were going to take another day off, I would try and get some exercise in and keep the muscles warm. Also, I had cracked the screen to Oso’s computer the night before. I went to sit on the couch, and the computer was sitting on the cushion adjacent to my butt. Well when I sat down, the computer shot up like someone on a trampoline when you try and launch them. It landed in the worst way possible, of course. I looked at the cracked screen full of purple and black plasma pixely lines and it took a good three minutes to register what I had just done. Good job, Thor. Nice $250 mistake.
I biked into town in 23 degree weather to see if I could get the screen replaced. I showered right before I stepped out the door. On my ride in, I realized that there was something caught in my beard. I felt to see what it was and I discovered that the water pebbles in my beard had solidified into little “beardcicles.” I stopped and bought donuts to regain my composure. The nice Vietnamese lady behind the counter looked at me like I was from another planet. “She must not know that I am Thor from the planet Asgard,” I thought to myself. ” As she was staring at my thawing beard, she told me I was crazy for biking in this weather. She must have felt bad for me, because she gifted me six donut holes for free. THOR SCORE!
The repair shop said the part would be $70-80, and the labor would be over $100. At that point, might as well just buy a new one. Sigh. “You biking out there? Stay safe.” Good lookin’ out.
I went to Office Max and spoke with a nice young lady who told me they would pricematch any competitors price. We got to talking. Turns out, she was originally from Cali and a bad divorce brought her out to Texas. She had joined a rollerderby team though and found her passion in the Lone Star State. Get it girl!
Went to Walmart to see if I could get a lower price. I forgot my lock, so I just walked my bike in with me through the aisles and acted confidently. No one even batted an eye! I asked a guy in the computer section for some help and he looked at me like I had just asked him to donate his kidney to me. This guy looked like the offspring of Steve Buscemi and Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. He was wearing a “Legalize it” hoody and brought absolutely nothing to the table. I was so upset with the service that I biked all the way back to Office Max to make my purchase there from my new roller-derby friend. In retrospect, maybe that guy wasn’t an employee and had just printed his name on a Walmart nametag and decided to cruise the computer section.
I made it back to Fred’s place and delivered Oso his new toy. I showered and then lay in bed for a minute. Before I knew it, I was out. When I was biking, I don’t think I realized how cold it was. But the moment that I got back, it’s like my body became completely exhausted from being in “survival mode” for the past few hours. I was running on pure adrenaline, enough to get me through the arctic temperatures to the warm confines of Office Max. Your body can reach pretty incredible levels when it is trying to survive. Before I knew it, I was out for a few hours. Nap of a lifetime.
We had another great dinner that night where we all tried Fred’s wine that he had been fermenting in a Welch’s grapejuice bottle in his bathroom for the past week and a half. Typing it out, it sounds way grosser than it actually was. It was pleasant-ish. We were polite.
We woke up again this morning to yet another weather advisory. Schools were closed for the day because the roads had iced over. Temperatures were in the 20s again, and it was drizzling ice. YAY! Three days off in a row. An experience like this has taught the Young Gun a valuable lesson. You can’t battle the uncontrollable. You have to respect the conditions and be practical about when you ride.
I have held off mentioning our new friend Dan until this moment. Dan has been staying with us at Fred’s place since Wednesday. But yesterday is the first time we ever saw him. You see, for the first couple days, Dan was only a voice hidden behind a bedroom door. He had literally been bedridden for days. He biked in conditions similar to what we are experiencing now, and he came down with a fever sent straight from the devil himself. He’s been at Fred’s place for close to a week, and until yesterday all we knew of him were his coughs, sneezes, and grunts. He finally made his appearance this morning and we caught up for a minute. Poor dude was so sickly he looked like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. Turns out, he was from Hartford, CT–right from Oso’s neck of the woods. He has biked over 4,000 miles by himself from CT all the way down to the Keys in Florida, back up the western coast of Florida, and westward across the US to Texas. His blog is http://www.uncledansbikeride.com.
I would have never expected to take another three days off following our weekend off in Austin. It wasn’t our choice, but you have to embrace the unexpected. It’s in my nature to worry about things, that I find myself getting anxious about meeting our finish date in March. I’m learning to take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that we are going to figure it out. Shute, we always do. We may have to bike a little longer and a little harder. But as the days get longer, I’m confident that we’ll be able to do so. Western Texas, I hope you have some better weather in store for us.
A special thank you to Fred and Janice for taking us in these past few days and offering us shelter from this storm. People like you reinforce my optimism in the world. Same to Ernie and Dorris from Richards, TX who housed us for two days and asked nothing of us in return. Your humility keeps us pedaling towards our goal and keeps the fire in our blood pumping.