Monday, January 17, 2005

Amazing Days in Austin

Well today I am actually half way across - I'm at the
1500 mile mark after cycling 110 miles yesterday to
reach Austin.

And things get better and better; I'm having an
absolutely amazing time. I think I'll just type up a
few days worth of the journal I've been keeping again:

Sunday 16th January, Austin Texas

(today rode 112 miles! 12mph average, 33.4 max)

What a day. I'm very happy to have made it in one
piece. It froze again in the night, but was warm
enough in tent. Had breakfast in the club house for
warmth. Packing up th efrozen tent my fingers got so
cold it hurt. Set off at 7 but it was far too cold, so
I stopped for a coffee and a very filling egg and
potato taco. So it was 7.30 when I hit the road.

The first hour or so were magical! There was a lot of
frost on the ground and the rising sun acros the
rolling fields, lighting the trees along the rivers
was breathtaking. However the rest of the day's ride
was really unpleasant - headwind a lot of the way.
Really busy roads (Sunday traffic) and I didn't have a
shoulder all day. I'm going to develop very good
muscles on one side of my neck from looking over my
left shoulder every 10 seconds! Most people don't know
how to overtake a bike here - they don't really slow
down, and usually they'll only pull out an extra foot
or so - rarely will they go fully into the other lane.
Some people do, but it's the ones that don't who leave
the lasting impression. And the majority of people
drive these huge pickups, which are much worse than
cars when they go by your left elbow.

I stopped in Blanco at the supermarket. Outside an
elderly Jewish couple got chatting to me about my trip
- they were really interested. Just as they were
leaving the guy put his hand firmly on my arm and said
a prayer of safety for me. It was really moving. It
almost brings a tear to my eye now thinking about it.
I don't know what it is about this trip - the
exhaustion, the stress of the traffic, the time, the
place, the thinking - but my emotions are much closer
to the surface.

I'd intended to stay with some friends of April and
Charles' who have the Dancing Waters Inn at Wimberly
( - but I'd not been
able to get through to them on the phone. I considered
camping in the town any way, but I'd only done 70
miles and I didn't fancy having that horrible road to
start out on again the next day, so I decided to keep
going. It was a cool town - very pretty and artsy.
Bought a Mexican pastry and carried along - intending
to find a place to pitch a tent or stay in Buda, from
where I could cycle the last 20 miles to Austin the
next day. And when I got to Buda, although tired, I
still had some energy left so I decided to put on my
lights and continue!

The roads were much quieter, it was almost pleasant.
The temperature was cool - 54 degrees F - it had been
sunny but cool all day (north wind). Half way there I
realised I'd mis-read the map and it was only 15
miles, not 20 - a pleasant surpriese. Just before
Austin I hit 100 miles for the 1st time! Riding in
Austin in the dark wasn't pleasant - there were some
bike lanes, but it was too dark to see potholes and
glass etc. But it was nicer than a lot of stuff I'd
ridden that day.

I'd marked on a free map of Austin where I thought the
hostel was (I'd looked it up on the internet a few
days a go) and I managed to navigate my way there
successfully. But when I got to Riverside I checked my
Adventure Cycling Association map to get the house
number, and discovered it was Lakeshore I was supposed
to be on, and it wasn't any where to be seen on my

I got so down. I figured I must have just got confused
with the names of the streets - I've been searching
for Riversides, Lakeshores, Lakesides etc. in other
towns and cities. Luckily a friendly-looking guy came
out of the gas station next to me for a cigarette, and
I asked him, and he gave me directions - it was only a
few blocks away! I was SO unbelievably happy when I
got there. The temperature was down to about 40
degrees F and my fingers and toes were numb again.

Checked in ($20) with a friendly young American woman
called Blossom, or some similar hippy-offspring name.
There's quite a few Brits here - 1st I've met, apart
from Charles (who's an honorary American I guess).
Also an Aussie, a German, and quite a few Americans
from NY and Tennessee. Had a cup-a-soup and loads of
bread - they get leftovers free from a supermarket.
It's a really nice Youth Hostel - much more like the
European ones than the one in Phoenix, but more
chilled than the Europena ones - free coffee, TV room,
etc. Chatted to a nice playwright (playwrite?) from NY
- she's moving here. Her blog's at if you're interested. Her
and an older guy (travelling from NY snow down to
Mexican sun) both said they were really inspired by
what I told them of my trip, and now want to get bikes
and do similar things!

Got chatting to a couple of English girls and American
guys - we got Kill Bill volumes one and two on video
and had some illicit glasses of wine. Watched the
films in reverse order - apparently Quentin Tarantino
said to do it that way. It was cool - all the American
bits are shot in areas where I've been - the church
bit is set just outside El Paso which is where I was
the day after I got hit by that car. And I think the
bit with Bill's brother in his trailer in the hills is
in the desert around there too - if you've seen the
film I've cycled through lots of that sort of

I was really tired, and I'd already seen both films,
so half way through the 2nd video (after she kills
cottonmouth) I went to bed at about 3.

I've got a really painfull little left toe - maybe
it's because my feet have been numb for five hours
every day! 12 hours of cycling today, 110 miles!

Monday 17th January, Austin Texas

Had such a comfortable and warm night in the youth
hostel! Woke at 8.30 and had a huge breakfast of
muisli (my usual half packet, half pound portion) plus
a free peanut butter roll. Chatted to the German girl
again - she's just finished a 2 month internship doing
aerospace work here. Walked into downtown along the
lake (actually a river) - a couple of v. pleasant
miles. It's Martin Luther King Day today, so I headed
to the Capital building to see if the march was still
there, but they'd already moved on. So I had a quick
look around then headed down 7th to where the march
was headed. Noticed they had an Andy Goldsworthy
exhibition on at the art gallery here! Sadly it's
closed today, but I might hang around a bit later
tomorrow and see it. 7th st was interesting - away
from Downtown for a couple of miles. Passed the
Salvation Army place and soup kitchen - loads of
homeless people - bot not at all threatening. The MLK
celebration is amazing. It's in a park in the sunshine
with bands playing all day. I got a free massage, had
a coffee and great home-made cookie, and have spent
the last couple of hours sitting here surrounded by
happy, chilled out people - hippyish folk dancing,
cute kids running around, families sitting and
chatting. Been writing journal for today and
yesterday. The last woman that was performing was
amazing - Ruby something. She just got a standing
ovation. She did a whole mix of stuff - gospel,
reggaie, country, blues. But in one song she was
talking about bloody Sunday in the 60s and everyone
singing through their fear as they crossed the bridge
towards the State Troopers. It was really moving, so
so intense, that time tears did actually come to my

Man. Music, equality, free speech.

Later that day:

Hung around listening to the music until it finished
at two. Started walking the couple of miles back to
downtown, and a woman getting into her car asked where
I was headed and gave me a lift! Absolutely amazing!
People are so kind and trusting! I'm now in a Jewish
Deli with a coffee updating this for a while, then
I'll take a wander around 6th, maybe go to a museum or
head up to Texas Uni, then later on grab some food and
hit the bars for the music. Austin is such a cool
place, really easy to walk around, very beautiful - a
strange mix of postmodern skyscrapers and pretty
beautiful historic low buildings. And it's sunny and
warm in the middle of winter! I think I'm in love!

well I could write more, but I'm going to head out and
enjoy Austin some more. But I'm having and absolutely
amazing time, meeting so many kind, interesting
wonderful people. The weather's continued to be great,
even if it is baltic getting ready in the morning,
with a little more wind than I'd like. But it's so
much better than back home!

Occassionally as I cycle in the headwinds on the
nastier roads I look forward to coming home, but other
times when the sun's out, the road's good, or I've
experienced yet another act of amazing kindness or
friendliness I feel I could do this forever.

I've calculated the times and distances and I can just
make it to the coast of Florida if I really ride hard
(90 mile days), and will just have time perhaps to
spend a day in New Orleans. I've heard very mixed
reports about it from different people, but I'm keen
to see it for myself, especially if April's
goddaughter gets in touch.

It's funny in America. People are very nervous of the
next place along - it's happened everywhere - "don't
drink the water in New Mexico" (it was fine) "watch
out for the dodgy areas of El Paso" (no problems at
all) "Careful in New Orleans, it's really rough"
(well, we'll see, I must admit to being a little
nervous of it).

So cheers y'all. Thanks very much to everyone that's
been emailing, it's great to hear from you, and glad
you've been enjoying my photos.

Lots of love & happiness,


(PS - sorry about the dodgy formatting - blogger logged me out when I tried to post, but luckily I'd saved a copy in my email account)

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