Austin at Last

Buescher State Park to Austin, Texas
Post 33 in the story of a five-week bicycle ride from the East Coast of Florida to Austin, Texas.

After one last oatmeal breakfast, I checked my map and set off for Austin. I couldn’t stop looking ahead on my map and wondering where I would go and where I would camp if I continued past Austin. I would be over 1000 feet in less two days if I keep going. I didn’t get close to that elevation in the last 1,100 miles. I started by riding from Buescher State Park toward Bastrop State Park. It was a nice ride on a deserted one-lane road through the parks – the State Parks are right next to each other.

Five miles from my campsite I came to land that had been thoroughly burned in the last wildfire season. It was heavily forested, and nothing was left expect a charred black trees that were still standing. The earth was scorched and weeds hadn’t begun to grow back.

I had to take a detour out of the park because one section of the road was still closed from the fires. The rangers said it’s too dangerous for travel because the charred trees can fall at anytime. Outside the park there used to be some houses in the forest. A few remain, but most were burned. In a couple spots, rows of metal mailboxes are the only sign of humans. Sometimes, you could see a concrete foundation or some pieces of metal that didn’t burn, but mostly it was just metal mailboxes and incinerated houses.

After seeing the charred remains of forest and houses, I started a fun descent to the highway. The road winded through three or four swoopy turns and lost a few hundred feet of elevation, but it was the longest descent of the entire trip.

I rode into Bastrop and pedaled up and down a couple of the main streets until I found the library but it was closed. I was hoping a computer in the library would tell me how to get to Lilli’s house.  I had her address, but no directions.

On the way out of town I went to a Super Donuts for a second breakfast – I was 35 miles from Austin and I felt like celebrating. Like any good American, I celebrate by eating, so I got coffee, a dozen glazed donuts and a couple breakfast tacos. There’s a lot of donut shops in the South. Super Donuts is a small Texas chain and they make some damn good glazed donuts. After six or seven of the sugary treats and a couple cups of black coffee I got back on the road for a sugar and caffeine propelled ride to Austin.

I don’t think I stopped between Bastrop and Austin, except for a break to read a love-letter I found on the side of the road. I started having moments where I smiled uncontrollably and could hardly stop giggling. The same thing happened at the beginning of the trip. Back in Florida, I was laughing because pedaling the Blue Bicycle and watching the country go by was all I had to do for the next month. Now I was laughing because I was actually going to make it. The first time this happened was when I left the main Adventure Cycling Route and set out toward Austin.

After crossing the Colorado River into East Austin, I saw Hispanic people for the first time since Florida. That could have something to do with anti-immigration laws in some parts of the South, but I’m not sure. Now all I had to do was navigate my 80 pounds of bike and gear through the city to my sister’s house.

I spent the next afternoon riding around downtown Austin and it was a blast. but now while I wasn’t sure where to go and my bike was loaded it wasn’t much fun. I bought a map and picked some streets that went toward Lilli’s house. Of course, they turned out to be some of the hilliest in town. Sometimes when the main roads doesn’t take a direct route, but a smaller road does, it’s because there’s a giant hill in the way. I took a break near my sister’s house and ate the last of the dozen second breakfast donuts and drank water and enjoyed the scenery in the park a little longer. But there was only one thing left for me to do – pedal down the road to my sister’s apartment.

Seeing familiar sights in Austin was strange. The whole way across the eastern half of the country every road, sign, sight and building was brand new to me. Seeing nothing that I recognized made it hard to tell if I was really getting anywhere. The whole thing could have been an elaborate hoax, because I had no idea what any of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana looked like anyway. Plus, they all looked pretty similar. Some prankster could have been changing the signs and leading me in a circle.

But now I knew I had really made it somewhere. In the distance I recognized a public swimming pool a few blocks from Lilli’s apartment that I swam in two summers ago and I burst out laughing. I really made it.

I couldn’t wait to see my sister and I was trying not to laugh as I went up to ring the doorbell. She wasn’t there, but she got back from the store with her boyfriend Sean a few minutes later. We hugged and laughed and I grabbed my bike and posed a few photos to make it look like I was still riding. We had plenty to talk about and I had almost a week to hang out in Austin before flying back to Fall City for Christmas.

That’s the end of the trip. I’ll post again in a week to talk about my stay in Austin and to wrap the trip up. And then I’ll figure out what’s next for this blog. It’s been more than six months since the trip and I have had plenty of adventures since then, though none of them compare to the bike tour. Thanks to everyone who made it this far in the blog. Sorry the posts have been so rare lately.

I felt like I really accomplished something by riding 1,200 miles across the South. But my new friends from Phoenix who stayed with me a month or so ago made it 2,600 miles to Illinois a couple days ago. Check out their blog here.

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