Thursday, January 14, 2016

Austin to Gay Hill, TX

January 4 - 9, 2016

Garmin Info with Maps

Thanks Walt for the hip place to stay
Cool car on the street in Austin
After a relaxing 5 nights staying with friends in Buda and Austin, I was ready to push on. A big, big thanks to Gary and Walt for taking such good care of me. It was so nice to spend 5 days free of having to figure everything out. I am also starting to feel more relaxed about the route from here to the end of my tour in Florida. There are so many towns going east I won't have to do any more big cycling days. That is a relief. I can do 50 or even 60 miles in a day but I would much rather ride 35-40, or even less. That's the mileage I'm most comfortable with.  I can take my time and enjoy the scenery, stop to chat or take photos knowing I'll make my destination early enough to take care of any maintenance issues without feeling rushed. 

Low flying plane riding passed the airport
I used Google, as usual, to plot a course out of Austin. My first stop was the post office to mail home items I no longer need. The biggest item was a pair of shoes I replaced with a new pair from REI. I mailed off about 4 lbs worth and then went to HEB, my newest favorite grocery store, and quickly purchased at least that much weight in food and water.  Congress Ave was a good street to take out of town and across the Colorado River. I have crossed the Colorado River many, many times on this tour. Today had a fairly strong side wind but the sunshine warmed me up quickly. The route Google maps plotted took me south of the airport on some goods roads that also included a good amount of climbing. From Burleson, I took a zig-zag route to hwy 71. 

Great Thai food with Buddhists

Thai Buddhist monastery
On Linden Ave in Del Valle, I came across an unusual sight. I was looking for a place to stop and make a snack - a table top of some kind. I pulled into a Buddhist monastery when I saw a picnic table. As I pulled in, a man came out to say everyone was busy inside with prayers. He didn't think anyone would mind me being there. Once prayers were over, a woman came out to invite me inside to eat with them. I was almost finished eating my sandwich and thanked her. After I put everything away I decided to go in and use the bathroom. Oh my, did they have an amazing spread of food set out. Next thing I know, I've got a plate and fork put in my hand and a chair is pulled up to the table for me. Everyone was Thai or Lao and the table was full of fantastic Thai dishes. Even though I really wasn't hungry, I ate and everything was soooo good. There were probably 15 people around the table and mostly women. One young woman explained that her mother had just died and they were wishing her a good journey to her next life. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. I'm sure the young woman was very sad but this wasn't a sad occasion. The food just kept coming my way and they all wanted to know what I was doing.  They had so much food left over I got a large bag to take with me. It was very heavy but I couldn't say 'no'. I thanked them for everything and couldn't believe my lucky timing. They asked me to invite other cyclists to stop by. The big meal of the day is always after noon-time prayers. With all the shopping I did this morning and now a big bag of Thai leftovers, I was carrying a much heavier load than usual. I didn't know where to put all the food and hung it from the head rest hanging off the side of the seat until I could go through it all later.

I found a Buddhist monastery where I met lovely people

Some of the food my new Buddhist friends packed for me

A beautiful day on the road

I continued turning on Pierce road where I met a young couple touring with 2 dogs. I pulled over to say hello and with my right wheel in the gravel, maybe a half inch lower than the road, promptly fell over. Now that is a first. I had so much weight on one side the trike tipped over. Wow! I wasn't hurt and the couple were quite stunned by the sight. I not only had a huge bag of Thai leftovers and groceries but my snack bag was completely full as well. I guess I found the weight limit for hanging bags off the side, huh? I still didn't know what to do with all the food and simply hung the bags from the other side.

Mark and Georgia cycling west with 2 dogs
Biscuit and Ladybug 

This couple, Mark and Georgia, are very friendly and on a year's tour to circumnavigate the US. They have a blog at: freedompedalers.comBiscuit and Ladybug are fairly big dogs which must be a lot to pull and take care of. The couple seemed to be having a great time. They warned me to avoid Bastrop State park. The hills are so steep they had to walk and were surprised Adventure Cycling would include such a tough section on the route. I don't have the Southern Tier maps but was planning on staying there tonight. They suggested staying on the hwy and camping at a KOA in town. It would be more expensive but would save myself a lot of time and pain. I thought that sounded like a good idea.

Camping at Bastrop RV Park

Sweet donkey

I continued on to Hwy 71 which is a busy road but also has a huge shoulder. This was really a beautiful day and much warmer than it has been in a while. I love warm weather and was soaking up all the sunshine.  Just as I came into Bastrop I saw a sign for camping and pulled in. The Bastrop RV park is very inviting with lots of green grass, a pond and sweet miniature horses and donkeys out grazing together.  RV parks don't always accept tents but this one does. I got a lovely spot out of the wind for $10. Beverly, who runs the park, is very sweet and enthusiastic about inviting ST cyclists to stay. The property looks like it was a ranch at one time. Beverly lives in a really beautiful and stately large home. Most of the RVers live full time and some of them also own the miniature horses grazing out by the pond. I quickly got set up and was looking forward to more of that scrumptious Thai food for dinner.

Miniature Horses at Bastrop RV Park
Miniature horses and donkeys around the pond.
After one of the best night's rest I've ever had camping, I got packed up. I managed to find a place in the bags for the rest of the left overs so I shouldn't be tipping over anymore, haha! The morning was, again, cold and there was a wind blowing. Luckily, the sun was up and warming the air. It's hard to get out of the tent to make breakfast when it is so cold. I set my tent facing the sun to dry off some of the condensation and I had to be careful the tent didn't blow away. 

Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf snack-yum!
Today's ride was all on Hwy 71 to La Grange. It was another beautiful day and warmed up enough I could take the plastic bags off my socks and cycling without a jacket, gloves or skull cap. This was one of my strangest days cycling anywhere. All day long drivers and passengers in trucks were flipping me off. All day! It certainly isn't the first time I've had rude fingers waved my direction but today, it must have happened 10 times. Hwy 71 has a huge shoulder and I am in no way a hindrance. Another trike could ride next to me in the shoulder and we would still be to the right of the rumble strip much less the road.  One driver passed me going up a hill and flipped me off until I couldn't see him any more. I couldn't hear what he was saying but it was obvious he was yelling at me in his cab; the whole way up the hill! When I got to La Grange a truck took the exit with me. His passenger flipped me off and then they got right back on the highway. These guys actually exited just so they could flip me off. It was all very weird and I have no idea what to say about it. Maybe flipping off cyclists is the thing to do in La Grange. 

I made the front page in La Grange, TX!
I stopped at a HEB to get groceries. While I was putting my groceries away a reporter for the local paper stopped me. He asked a couple of questions, snapped a pic with his phone and said his story of my trip would probably be in the paper. I gave Pancho my card and asked if he could send me a link to the story when it runs. This has actually happened many times while touring. Since my story isn't urgent news, you never know when it will run or if it will run. He wrote to me a few days later to send me the link. I made the top story on the front page!  Pancho had done some research checking out my Facebook profile and included the post about being flipped off coming into La Grange. Another nice momento.

Crossing a river on a beautiful day

Ranch gate

The next day it stormed with lots of rain and strong winds. I stayed put in La Grange working on my journal. I like my rest days and especially when I'm in an inexpensive and comfortable motel where I can relax and get some work done. My blog is something that needs time. Every entry takes me hours to do and it simply can't be rushed. The next day I got packed up for a ride to Carmine. I would be staying with Warm Shower's host Carol Montgomery on her ranch a few miles out of town. This was a beautiful ride through little historic towns of Warrenton and Round Top. The landscape was also changing as I started seeing majestic live oak trees. The terrain was soft rolling hills with a good climb into Round Top. This town hosts the biggest antique shows in the country twice a year. There are massive empty buildings that dealers rent and lots of signs for pop up RV parks. There are also many quaint and expensive looking B&B's. 

Antique Gas Station signs
Roadside art
Unpaved and muddy road to Carol's
Carmine landmark
I stopped in Carmine at a lovely city park to make my lunch. Wow it was a beautiful day. Then I continued on to Carol's ranch which isn't all that easy to find. I traveled on a few miles of unpaved roads and after yesterday's storm there were big puddles and lots of mud. Finally, I arrived at Carol's and she remembered me from 4 years ago when I last stayed on my moto-Myrtle tour through the area. She is a true Warm Showers legend and loves hosting. She estimates she has hosted more than 700 cyclists over the years. The second floor of her barn has been turned into a bunkhouse. It has many beds with linens, a full kitchen and bathroom. Funny enough, the bathroom doesn't have a shower but a large clawfoot tub with a handheld shower head. I love the bunkhouse. Carol's property is gorgeous and the view from the balcony is fantastic. She always makes a good dinner for her guests. If you arrive after dark, she will leave it for you in the bunkhouse kitchen. She also provides eggs and toast for breakfast which cyclist can make for themselves at their own time in the morning. Carol has a huge guestbook with pictures and comments of almost all of the cyclists who have stayed. Carol is 86 years old and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In the morning she went off to the gym to exercise.  Generous and inspiring lady!

Carol, the legendary Warm Showers hostess

Lots of deer in Carol's yard

Myrtle in the barn
Tour of the bunkhouse

Very foggy morning
The fog was so thick in the morning I waited until the sun could work it's magic before I felt safe to pedal on. Going out on the unpaved roads was slow going but soon I was on Sandtown Rd riding in gorgeous scenery on a beautiful day through the small town of Burton. Today I was going to another Warm Showers host and not very far. I met Steve and Gail 4 year's ago when I was also riding from Carol's house. Steve and some friends were finishing up a morning ride and invited me to have lunch with them. I thought we were going to a restaurant but he escorted me to the Gay Hill Cycling Clubhouse. This place is amazing! Steve and his wife have completely restored an old bungalow and it is primarily used by his cycling buddies, mostly from Houston. Every Saturday morning, they meet up for a ride. Steve never knows who will show. Sometimes there's a few and sometimes there's more than 20. They are all very professional people: doctors, lawyers and oil execs. He also has local people take care of the house to help get it ready every weekend. It is loaded with anything a cyclist could need. The fridge is stocked with food and beer. There's filtered water for drinking, complete laundry facilities, fully stocked bathroom with plush towels and even an outdoor shower with hot water. When I met Steve 4 year's ago, he invited me to stay at the clubhouse. There are 2 beautiful bedrooms. Everything about the house is beautiful. The first time I came, he and his buddy's went back to Houston and I stayed in the clubhouse enjoying every minute.  The next 2 days it rained and I stayed in this lovely home. It was a dream come true and maybe the most comfortable place I've ever stayed on tour. And this is the guest house. Steve and Gail stay in the main house on the large and lush property. 

Historic home on the road to Gay Hill
Gay Hill Cycling Clubhouse
Video tour of the Gay Hill Cycling Clubhouse

With Steve and Gail

I arrived on Friday afternoon just ahead of a big thunderstorm. Steve and Gail came up from Houston and made me a fantastic dinner with a very nice bottle of wine. The next day I stayed to meet all the cycling buddies. There had been a big rain storm all night and the winds were still blowing strong in the morning. No one was deterred and a half-dozen guys showed up to ride. One guy drove up in a Tesla. The headwinds while driving were so strong the batteries needed to be plugged in so he could make it home later. All the guys gave him a hard time which was pretty funny. I really enjoyed meeting everyone. I guy, got up very early to bake a loaf of artisan bread. Wow, was it good! Later in the day, Steve saw a touring cyclist ride passed and he chased him down. Charles, who is also riding east, stayed with me in the clubhouse and I think he was very happy to be in such a comfortable place. 

Cool outdoor shower that even has hot water

Gail and Steve seeing Charles off in the morning, bbbbrrrrr cold!
I love Warm Showers. Every experience is rich and very different. Steve is now on Warm Showers and just like staying with Carol, this is a not-to-be-missed stop. In the morning, Charles got going early. The sun was shining but the temps were very cold. I chatted with Steve and Gail finishing another cup of coffee to give temps a chance to rise above 35.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Del Rio to Austin

December 27 to January 3, 2016

Garmin Info with Maps

Old tires

We ended up staying a couple of extra days in Del Rio to wait out a terrible storm. There were actually flurries in Del Rio and, wow, was it cold. The locals said it had been more than 10 years since the last snow. The winds were also crazy strong blowing at least 30 mph. Funny enough, Maryann did see a touring cyclist ride by. The wind was at his back but there was so much debris blowing I wouldn't have felt safe. Maybe he was camping and the tent was blowing too hard to stay put? We didn't need to go and so we didn't go. 

Maryann replacing my rear tire
There were a few restaurants close by. Every morning we headed over the IHOP to get something off the senior menu. We could have cooked in the room but wanted to get out. The Motel 6 was very close to a big mall with a movie theater. On Christmas, we went to see the new Star Wars movie and that was a lot of fun. The restaurants around the motel weren't very good and our best meal was at a Chinese buffet. One night we tried a pizza buffet that was really terrible and another night we went to a mediocre Mexican place. Our 4th night in Del Rio saw us back at the Chinese buffet.  

Once I had my new tires, Maryann helped me put them on. It wasn't too hard just time consuming. I was able to reuse the left front and rear tubes since they didn't have any patches. The right front tube had 4 patches and I threw on a new one. Another reason we stayed an extra day was to get our trikes looked over. After my unfortunate mistake of locking up the gears going into too high a cog for the length of my chain, I wanted to make sure I hadn't caused any unforeseen damage.  Jesus at the bike shop was such a nice guy. He made sure our brakes and gears were adjusted perfectly. He worked on both trikes charging us only $8.  Once the trikes were looked over I felt confident about riding on. 

The truck tire patch held up just fine

I found a pencil bag to secure my Luci Lantern at Walmart - $.89
Getting to Del Rio is like coming out of the desert. From here on, towns are much closer together and there are real grocery stores. There was one thing I wasn't able to take care of and that was getting a prescription refilled because there isn't a Walgreens in Del Rio. With the Christmas holiday, getting the prescription transferred to CVS was going to be complicated. The CVS pharmacist said Walgreens is so busy this time of year it's hard to get them to answer the phone. Looking ahead, the next town with a Walgreens is Kerrville or about 6 days riding on the Southern Tier route. It would be close but I should be able to make it there before running out of my pills.

Ranch gate
We finally got back on the road Monday morning after stopping at an HEB market for ride snacks. Maryann was gone before I even finished shopping.  I had been talking to her about not waiting for me in the morning. I was thinking if she made her own breakfast she could start much earlier instead of always waiting for me. We'll see...  The ride on Hwy 90 was easy. There is some traffic but the shoulder is very wide. It's pretty amazing to see some of the wide loads that come down the highways. Sometimes there's a lead car but mostly a giant truck simply attaches a 'wide load' banner to display on the back. I try to stay on the right side of the shoulder and have been surprised on many occasions with loads so wide they cross well into the shoulder. Today's ride was easy and I arrived in the early afternoon at Fort Clark Springs. Maryann was already settled in a room. This is a big place with a rich history dating back to 1852 and the Mexican-American war. There is RV parking and a motel. The motel is in 2 buildings. Maryann and I had rooms in different buildings. Once I got settled I went over to Maryann's room to check it out. She had been looking at the map and noticed there was a Walgreen's in Uvalde where I could get my prescription filled. Uvalde is only a day's ride off the Southern Tier route and I thought that was a really good idea. I went back to my room and called in the prescription. I quickly got an email saying it had been filled. Later when Maryann and I rode into town for dinner she told me she wasn't going to ride with me to Uvalde and would continue solo on the Southern Tier to Camp Wood. I was surprised she hadn't talk to me about this earlier but I wasn't surprised she wanted to ride on solo. Maryann had purchased the maps for the bike route to Florida and had them delivered to a post office back in Marfa. When she didn't share them I figured she bought them to ride solo. We really haven't been riding together for many weeks now and I thought it was a good idea that if she really wanted to try riding solo she should get that opportunity. The next few day's ride into Austin would be very hilly but there are plenty of places to stay and get supplies. There are also many Warm Shower hosts along the way. Maryann could get in many more miles everyday riding on her own. I feel like Maryann has spent this whole tour waiting for me. She waited for me to get up in the morning and waited for me at the end of the day's ride, everyday. I imagine she was completely bored with waiting and totally understood that she wanted to ride on.  Being such a slow rider, it certainly isn't the first time I've encountered this dynamic. As hard as it is to wait, it's also uncomfortable being the slow person. I think we were both ready to ride at our own pace and our own time. We toasted our ride with a shot of whiskey before going to bed.

Windy ride to Brackettville

Extra wide load
Coming into Brackettville

In the morning, I looked out the door at 7:30 and Maryann was already gone. It was light out but the sun doesn't come up until after 8:00. I had a leisurely breakfast before starting back down Hwy 90. The day started chilly and windy. The shoulder was wide and the road surface was very rough. I had one bridge to cross where the shoulder narrowed that was somewhat uncomfortable because cars and trucks went by much too fast. But it was just one bridge. Then there was a border check-point. The guys were very nice and seem to get a kick out of questioning me. Once in Uvalde, my first stop was at the Walgreens where my prescription was waiting. Then I continued on to a cheap motel. 

Crossing a narrow bridge to Uvalde

Oversized? You don't say.

Border patrol psa

Border Patrol stop on the way to Uvalde

At the hotel I spent some time working on my blog and plotting a route into Austin. Being further east I had a few options to choose from. I could ride straight north and pick up the Southern Tier route or continue east on Hwy 90. What always determines my route are places to stay. My next day's ride would be fine in either direction but I was running into a problem finding a reasonable rate for New Year's eve. Looking at the map, there were places to stay in Hondo and then Bandera which had lots of motels. Luckily I called to find out if they were open and the rate. Bandera is a tourist town and was completely booked for New Year's eve. The guy I talked to suggested going to motels along I-10. I called a Motel 6 in Boerne and the rate was $115. Ouch! I think it's crazy to pay that kind of money for a low end room and I'd have to be around a lot of drunk people too. Bah! Then I tried Warm Shower hosts and was turned down 3 times. Hhhhmmm.... There's a triking friend I know from Facebook that has been following my journeys for many years and repeatedly invited me to stay when I get to Buda which is southeast of Austin. I wondered if it would be too much to ask him for a ride to his house. Since he rides a trike, I knew he would have a vehicle big enough. All I could do is ask. Gary was great about it and very generously came to my rescue without hesitation. I figured I could ride to Boerne on I-10 but he offered to pick me up from Hondo at the end of my next ride. Wow!!! This not only saved me another hotel expense but I would have a fun person to spend New Year's with.  Fantastic!!

Farm road out of Uvalde

In the morning, I started out to Hondo to meet up with Gary. I took a side road through farm and ranch land. It was a beautiful ride on a quiet road. I saw a strange sight when I passed a pile of dead pigs. There were probably 5-7 pigs and I couldn't understand what they were doing on the road. A mile further I saw a farmer working on some fencing and I stopped to chat after he gave me an enthusiastic hello.  He explained that ranchers lease out their land to hunters. They don't want the hunters to leave any kill on the property and so the hunters often leave the dead animals on the road. He said it happens quite frequently but the buzzards usually clean it up quickly. Very interesting!

Great scenic road out of Uvalde

Trikers stop to say 'hi'

Scene from the road.

As I was riding Gary and I texted our progress. He texted to let me know he was on his way and I texted back giving him ride updates. Hwy 90 continued to have a wide shoulder and the farther east I went the better the road surface became. Some people with trikes on a rack stopped to say hello which was fun. They are full-time RVing and were out for a day ride to enjoy a local path at a state park. The day was, again, windy but mostly in my favor. Just a few miles outside of Hondo Gary called to say he was in town. I gave him landmarks to look for and soon he pulled over to pick me up. We had been conversing over many years and it was great to finally meet him. We quickly got everything loaded and were on our way. He drove through San Antonio which I never expected to see on this trip. Gary really went out of his way to help me and I was super grateful. It took over an hour to get to his ranch in Buda. He designed and built his house and it is really beautiful. 

Just a few onion rings at Gristmill
Amazing bbq at Salt Lick in Driftwood

Cheers to you, Gary!

I spent three very fun days with Gary. He took me to a couple of fantastic restaurants including the very famous Salt Lick and the Gristmill. Both were amazing quintessential Texas experiences. The Salt Lick makes bbq to die for and they just kept refilling our plates with brisket, pork ribs and sausage. At the Gristmill, we ordered onion rings for the appetizer. The plate that arrived was piled so high it made me laugh. The area around the Gristmill is really cute and we walked around to explore. Gary showed me all around the area and it was fun to share New Year's with him.  After a fun-filled 3 days, Gary drove me into Austin where I had arranged to stay with another friend. My friend Walt wasn't around but he let me stay in a rental property right downtown. I met up with friends, Kathryn and Charlie, for dinner who I know from Portland. I also enjoyed the movie The Big Short and did a pilgrimage to REI and Whole Foods. Mostly I walked around town and enjoyed the funky vibe. 

Gary hamming it up
Gruene town
Austin Christmas decoration
The last week has been really great and just what I needed. Now it is time to get back on the road.

Mellow Johnny's bike shop