Jon's Texan Odyssey - by Jonathan Appleby
Jon’s Texan Odyssey
By Jonathan Appleby
I woke to an overcast sky, eager to take on the road after 4 days of planes, hotels and business lunches. I had booked a Trek Madone from Austin Bike Sport, but figuring the replacement cost would be less if it were to go missing down town I ended up taking a Specialized Allez. I bought a map from the nearest service station and headed out West, towards the Hill Country, only to realise after about 30 minutes that I was actually going East! With the bearings reset, I found the road I needed and set about leaving Austin in my wake. The roads were easier to cycle on than I had feared. I’d been getting about on foot for the previous few days and the thought of sharing a 6 lane highway with massive SUV’s had become quite daunting. Thankfully the drivers were courteous, probably due in no small part to being just down the road from a fairly well known cycling celebrity! More importantly, being Texas, the roads were as wide as the M11 corridor with a “hard shoulder” that seemed to have been put there just for cycling. It was quite bizarre, I saw at least 50 other cyclist, all trundling along the edge of a road about the same size as an English motorway.
My target for the day was a cyclist’s bed and breakfast, as recommended to me by the bike shop and as advertised on the internet as “Mt Gainor Inn”. Once off the busy highways, cycling was a dream. Through the heat haze I thought for a minute I was drafting behind Big Trev, but it turned out to be a Texan Longhorn, who was in no rush to get out of the way.
I was completely unprepared for the heat. I had spoken to the bike shop before packing and they mentioned that here had been a frost that night, so I packed some leggings and overshoes. What I didn’t pack was a spare water bottle, the temperature was probably up to 30OC. Thus, with salt crusted round my eyes, I was delighted to come across the Inn sooner than I was expecting. However, my relief was quickly dissipated by the unwelcoming padlocked gate. I saw somebody on the landing of the B&B and called out, only to be told “sorry we’re not taking the bicycles today”. I’d stocked up on super sized doughnuts and water at a service station previously, but this was not what I wanted to hear. Where was I going to find a motel out here? I backtracked to a service station where I was told of a basic motel called the Outpost just 5 miles away. Advertised as having “in door toilets with hot and cold running water”, I didn’t get my hopes up, but it was fine and I spent a nice afternoon eating pizza and reading in the sunshine.
Day 2 came. With my jet lag still not completely gone I was up early and on the road, being a Sunday it was much quieter than the previous day. I shot down a billiard table smooth road with a stiff breeze at my back and picked up some 25 miles before 8am. Today was going to be a big day for me. After much thought the previous evening I’d elected to try to complete a loop on the country roads before heading back to Austin. It was thus a bit of an eye-opener when I swung round into the wind and realised exactly why I’d be piling up hills in a big gear. I hunched down into the wind and got on with business. Immediately I noticed how cold the wind was compared to the previous day, my hand were actually getting quite painful and I had no gloves other than my standard mitts. Well, that’s not exactly true, I had a nice thick pair of gloves, but they were back at the hotel in Austin! I’d left the motel that morning with no breakfast (other than one last doughnut) so was quite relieved to get back to my familiar service station for a coffee and, you guessed it, more cakes. By now, it was getting distinctly chilly so I was soon back in the saddle. I knew I needed to take a left across the 4 lane road I was cycling on so was pleased to see that the junction sat at the bottom of the hill. I gunned it and swung across the numerous lanes of traffic and was homeward bound on the same familiar road that I had ridden out on the previous day. In the distance I saw another cyclist, despite feeling tired I had to take him on, after all I was nearly home now.
Half an hour later, with my legs thinking they’d had a lovely day out, my head was troubled by the sight of a 100ft high dam across the Colorado river. Funny I thought, they’ve done well to build that over night. I hung a right and pulled out my map. No Dam. I looked up the street name on the map index. Grid ref A32. A32, A32, o dear, it’s on the other side of the map. A32 turned out to be in the very top corner of the wrong side of the map. I’d been going in the wrong direction for over an hour. Fortunately height was on my side, but none the less I had distinctly heavy legs and eyes like a bloodhound when I reached the bike shop. I’d been in the saddle for about 7 hours, but with no milometer, I can’t officially claim my first 100miler.
I was right to have thought that the weather had changed. The next day, it was an amazing -4degC, with freezing rain, I’d missed the weather front by about 12 hrs.