The Beginning of the End

Lake Somerville to Buescher State park
Post 32 in the story of a five-week bicycle ride from the East Coast of Florida to Austin, Texas.

After a long night of sleep in a designated camping area, I took a last look at the remaining water in Lake Somerville and headed west. I rode through Burton and Round Top in the morning. They’re both cute towns in the middle of German heritage/antique shop country. I rode through entire towns that had nothing but antique stores. You could buy Polish cabinets but you couldn’t buy American cheese. The towns were really texasy and touristy. I even saw a guy walking around in a dressy version of the regulation snap-button shirt who had spurs on his boots.

I think it was in Burton that I stopped at a gas station to buy a days worth of snacks and ate most of them in the parking lot. The shelves of the gas station were pretty bare, but I did manage to find some moon pies, some miniature donuts, a couple snickers bars and a bag of chips. I opened the chips in the parking lot, thinking I’d sit on the curb, eat chips and enjoy the pleasant morning.

A couple minutes later the chips were gone and my jaws were sore from vigorous chewing. I ate a couple donuts at a more leisurely pace while my jaw recovered and put the rest in my handlebar bag and mounted my steed.

A mile later, I dug into the handlebar bag and pulled out a donut. When I finished, I grabbed another. This continued until they were all gone. Then I ate both snickers bars and made a mental note to eat more and more often. I think I had burned through my fat reserves and now I was ravenous.

I headed for La Grange, where I could get a real lunch. Unfortunately, I turned on Business Route 71 instead of regular Route 71, and missed La Grange entirely. I was a couple miles past the town when I realized my mistake, but I didn’t want to turn around just to explore the town’s cheap food options. The next town was 20 miles away.

Fortunately, F H’s Brisket & Brew materialized in the middle of the Texas range. It’s about four miles outside La Grange and there is nothing nearby. But the parking lot was full and it looked good. I went in, waited inline behind some cowboys, guys in camouflage, and a large family, and then gave them money. In return, they gave me a paper plate with delicious beef brisket, baked beans and cole slaw. The food was good, but it felt like a brick in my stomach when I got back on my bicycle and started constantly pedaling up and down hills.

I met this guy, John Whitman, near Burton. He was planning a solo bicycle tour from the Gulf Coast to Canada on his folding bike. As ridiculous as it sounds to people who live amongst mountains, he came out to this area to get used to riding on hills.

On the way to Buescher State Park I saw some damage from last summer’s wildfires. I was nearing the heart of the Bastrop Fire. Tomorrow I’ll ride through it.

I pull into the campground at Buescher State Park, cycled down a one-lane road and found a nice place for my tent. It wouldn’t be dark for an hour. I pitched my tent quickly so I could explore a little before sunset. I was immediately aware that this was my last night of pitching my tent; The last night of the trip, or at least this part of the trip. I would be sleeping inside and on a couch tomorrow night. I was so comfortable with my routine of bike-touring. I dreaded the end. Soon I will have to figure out how to make money again. And where to live. And I will have to sleep in the same place every night. My brain was reeling for an escape plan and I considered leaving my bicycle in Austin so I could return after Christmas and ride to the West Coast.

Buescher State Park’s quiet campground was a good place to explore. It was mostly empty and had a nice lake where I watched some paddle boats floating around. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking on trails in the park. It feels good to walk after a long day sitting on a bicycle seat. Speaking of sitting, soon I will be riding around Austin in a car! I haven’t ridden in a car since Tallahassee.

I tried to squeeze every last drop out of my bicycle trip and I got annoyed at anything that took my time away from the present. At the beginning of the trip I felt like I had all the time in the world to meander across the South. Now, even a five-minute phone call to home felt like a waste of my precious time. After dinner I sat on a grassy hill and looked at the sky. My eyes were pointed toward the stars but I was seeing the last 1,200 miles of pedaling, people, landscapes, public restrooms, angry motorists, roadkill and freedom. I knew it wouldn’t feel right to stop in Austin. But, I was looking forward to hanging out in Austin with Lilli and after that going home to Fall City for Christmas.

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