Sunday, April 18, 2010


Austin would be my last “get out of Dodge” trip of the 2009-2010 to evade winter in Chicago; Austin would be the opportunity to reconnect with my Aunt and two sets of friends whom I had not seen since the early 70’s; Austin would be the closest I’ll ever come to walking on Lance soil.

Austin would, of course, give me 4-500 miles of outdoor glorious rides in short pants, short sleeve jerseys, and short fingered gloves. Austin would give me several more notches in my UMCA Year-Rounder challenge goal.

Austin would be perfect.

Well, Austin earned a perfect 10 on the reconnect with friends and family score; it earned, at best, a 0.5 on riding. WUWT??

Easy Street Recumbents, Austin’s only recumbent dealer, is a short ride from my Aunt’s.; “kicked tires” with the good folks at the shop and scored an Austin Bicycle Map, then settled in for what would be the first of a gazillion hours of futile route planning.

Austin helped me appreciate the beauty of cities laid out on a grid pattern; Austin helped me fall in love again with all the other cities I’ve ridden in with great joy, especially Chicago, Tucson, and Eugene.

Austin is characterized by an endless configuration of bird’s nests bound by killer roads, as in take-your-life-in-your-hands roads. The Bike Route Map has green, blue, red, and grey roads. Green and blue roads are bike friendly; red is a warning to cyclists to ride with extreme caution due to high, fast traffic and poor shoulders; grey is the designation for “don’t ride here”, for I-35 and its act alikes.

What I quickly learned was that all green and blue roads dead end into red or grey roads and that the detail of the bike map is insufficient to guide an Austin newbie to an alternant. My Day 1 ride intended to carve out a route from my Aunt’s to Bee Caves where I wanted to start a 200k Permanent route later in the week. I never made it to Bee Caves; but I did find a plethora of 15% “bumps”, as they’re called in the South East; some take-your-breath away red roads; a leash-free zone for a whole community of happy dogs on Lake Austin; and Mellow Johnny’s, Lance’s bike shop, my favorite destination experience of my week. I would never ride the 200k Permanent.

Tuesday I explored the NW side of Austin, an Easter egg hunt to find a few green and blue ones. Getting from here to there, wherever there might be, seemed to be labor intensive.

Wednesday I discovered a route on line to the quaint, little, historic town of Bastrop about 45 miles from my Aunt’s. The first 15 miles were hair-raising getting through road construction and across a “red” bridge. Finally out in the open; finally able to stretch my legs; finally able to smile on my bike once again; finally hopeful I might get in one ride long enough (90 miles or more) to qualify as a ride for my UMCA Year-Rounder Challenge.

Thursday was Bikram Yoga and big rain so hovered over my computer route planning for my September Circle Tour of Lake Michigan.

Friday I would carve out a path to the Veloway, not sure exactly what it is, but the 5k route, maybe even track, would be where a Recumbent Rally would begin Saturday morning at 10:00. Given the snarl of bird’s nests and ride-stopping reds and greys, it seemed wise to carve the route on Friday before a “be there at 10” on Saturday.

Friday seemed to be the perfect opportunity to check out Shoal Creek Trail I’d heard so much about, a trail that parallels Shoal Creek Blvd, what might be the longest uninterrupted N-S green road in Austin. Besides, I was ready to find an alternative to Neuces and 29th to get to Lake Austin. Shoal Creek Trail was wonderful if you were a walker, runner, or riding a cross bike. I was not one of those. It was rugged sporting rushing streams, boulders, portages, and mud. None of these are friendly for a skinny-tired recumbent. Back to the streets. A high-maintenance Earl Gray + a generous steamed soy topper from Juan Pelota, the Cafe inside Mellow Johnny’s would comfort my route frustrations. Then onward to the Veloway.

YAY for the pedestrian/bike protected bridge across Lake Austin paralleling the grey colored 1st Street bridge. Once across I found myself, again, in birds’s nest soup dead-ending into reds and greys. Periodically I’d be delighted by colorful bike route signs that were even numbered and corresponded to numbered routes on my Bike Map. But they seemed only to be a tease as the signs would precipitously end and the Bike Map was insufficient in detail to guide the lost to be found. I gave up maybe 5 miles short of the Veloway returning via the sidewalk on grey South 1st Street passing a ghost bike monument for Krishna who lost her life on killer South 1st.

The effort it took to not even get to the Veloway discouraged any interest I had in joining fellow bent riders on Saturday.

Saturday I rode back to Greg’s house (all of 2 miles) to pick up my camera I’d left there the night before when we were reminiscing about a shared Christmas 45 years earlier when we were college students once and young. Greg, “What route do you use to go to Mellow Johnny’s from here?” And he told me how to take the alleys, deviations around construction fences, hidden foot bridges, and voila! Maybe another 2 miles, but oh the thrill of feeling like it might be possible to navigate this town by bike.

Take aways from Austin? There were many:
--Reconnecting with family and friends was priceless
--You need a car (or load your bike on the front of a bus) to get to the outskirts of town if you really want a training ride
--You need the attitude of an urban explorer to enjoy riding in Austin proper.
--Mellow Johnny’s is a really cool destination
--Austin gave me 180 miles, not 4-500.
--Hope the weather has improved in Chicago so I can amass the miles lost in Austin.

Link to Austin pictures is here