Nov 23: Austin! End of the road (for now)Nov 23: Austin! End of the road (for now)
I made it! I'm safe and sound in Austin, Texas, my home for the winter.
[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on November 23, 2004]
I want to apologize for the somewhat negative tone of some of my recent messages. Between the pain in my joints and the weather and the differences of biking in Texas vs. in other states, at times I haven't been having as much fun as I'd like. Around Dinosaur Valley, I realized this was no good -- there's no point in making a trip like this if it's not fun! So I added an extra day to my itinerary in order to slow down and appreciate Texas more for what it is, rather than comparing it to, say, Wisconsin, which it isn't.
I also want to apologize for describing the hotel clerk with facial burn scars as looking like a Halloween mask. What I meant of course was that hers is the sort of face that Halloween mask makers use as models, on the theory that horrible tragedies produce faces that arouse horror, instead of, say, compassion. She was a perfectly pleasant person as far as I could tell.
Anyhow, Sunday and Monday I continued south and camped at Corps of Engineers campgrounds both nights (Belton Lake and Taylor Lake), sleeping under the picnic shelters because of the rain. I didn't have more mosquito trouble, but my perpetually wet laundry began to develop a certain personality. The high point of Sunday was passing through Crawford, Texas: "Home of the Pirates, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush." Oh, so they're pirates! That might explain a lot... I have this vision of W dressed in pirate garb, saying, "Avast there! Hand over yer booty ur prepare ta be barded! Are ye with us or against us? Arr! Bring it on, ye scurvy evildoers!" I didn't stop in the Bush-themed gift shop for fear I would suggest something like that out loud!
When I got to the Taylor Lake campground Monday night, I found the whole place underwater, but fortunately each site had a very generous concrete slab for a picnic area, more than three times the size of the ones I'd seen before, and fully roofed over. I was able to push the picnic table out of the way and pitch my tent on the concrete in order to keep the bugs and wind out while I slept. In the morning I found not only slugs and snails and daddy-long-legs on my tent, but also a newt. I had the hardest time convincing the newt that I didn't want to eat it, I just wanted it to get off the tent. It was touchingly committed to playing the victim.
The high point of my day today, aside from arriving at my destination, was hearing a radio ad for The Bar Stool Company that sounded just like Weird Al's ad for Spatula City: "A giant warehouse of bar stools for every occasion! Don't forget, they make great Christmas gifts! And what better way to say 'I love you' than with the gift of bar stools?"
The weather today was seriously wild. In the course of one day's ride, I encountered cold, fog, drizzle, light rain, heavy rain, driving rain, hail, funnel clouds, sunshine, and sauna-like humidity. I took shelter during the hail and tornado warning at an elementary school north of Taylor. I parked my bike under an awning and went in search of a restroom and found the school apparently deserted... turned out the students and teachers were doing their best tornado-drill huddling in the interior hallways, and they never knew I was there! Probably just as well.
My friends Rich and Gloria live in the northwest outskirts of Austin, so I haven't seen the town yet, but there will be plenty of time for that in the coming month! You'll be hearing from me even though I won't be traveling; I'll have some more photos ready to share in a few days.
Favorite north Texas quirk: Generous shoulders on the roads. I think north Texas got all of Missouri's shoulders. Seriously, some of them are 15 feet wide. But once I passed Taylor, no more shoulders. I'll do some serious road research before I head east.
Second favorite north Texas quirk: donut shops. There are more donut shops per capita in the Dallas - Fort Worth greater metro area than anyplace I've ever seen. Who eats all those donuts? It's as inexplicable as all the popcorn shops in Minneapolis... popcorn? They must be laundering money.
In any case... I'll be in touch! --Ben
To Temple / Belton Lake, TXTo Temple / Belton Lake, TX
The high point of today was passing through Crawford, Texas: "Home of the Pirates, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush." Oh, so they're pirates! That explains a lot. I have this vision of W dressed in pirate garb, saying, "Avast there! Hand over yer booty ur prepare ta be barded! Are ye with us or against us? Arr! Bring it on, ye scurvy evildoers!"
Anyhow, I made good progress today, and the only question was whether to make today or tomorrow the short day... after listening to the forecast -- rain and more rain -- I decided tomorrow should be the short day, so I pushed on to the southern part of Belton Lake, near Temple (and Belton). The rain started about an hour before I got to the lake and was really going at it as I bought my site, but when I got to the site I found a cozy shelter over the table, so I set up there. Doesn't sound like I'll have trouble with mosquitos this time!
To Granger Lake, TXTo Granger Lake, TX
I waited for dawn to wake me this morning, since I knew I had a short day of riding and my taillight is broken. The rain held off until about 10 or 11, and then it fell practically nonstop until I reached my campsite after 3.
The campground is completely flooded... what ground isn't underwater is thoroughly saturated. Fortunately each site has a big concrete slab with a picnic table and a generous shelter, more than twice as big as I've had at other campgrounds. I found a site where the table wasn't chained down and lifted the table out of the way so I could pitch my tent on the concrete. The concrete is damp, but at least it's not sopping!
Naturally the rain stopped once I had my tent up, but I trust it'll start again during the night. It feels good to be warm and dry, even if my clothes do smell. I'm going to wash all my clothes first thing when I get to the Bennetts'!
to Austinto Austin
Today I passed through practically every extreme of weather... flooding, fog, cold, heat, dry air, humidity, hail, high winds, driving rain, gentle rain, and sunshine. Through most of this I was in pretty heavy traffic with no shoulders.
At the end of it all I arrived in Jollyville, which as Marisa had warned me is a long way from Austin proper, and pretty firmly in suburbia. Rich and Gloria Bennett's house is inaccessible except by climbing a very steep hill, one way or the other; they directed me up the less steep way, which was still almost more than I could handle with the trailer. Their home is very nice and very spacious: they're trying to convince Matt to come for Christmas as well as Marisa.
The high point of my day, besides arriving at my destination, was hearing an ad on the radio for The Bar Stool Company that sounded almost exactly like Weird Al's ad for Spatula City! Don't forget, they make great Christmas gifts! And what better way to say "I love you" than with the gift of bar stools?