Days 94-96: Kickin’ it in Austin Texas

Dy 94 (2016-11-28): ~40 miles from San Marcos to Austin, Tx. Many country highways with varied traffic. City riding in Austin.
 
I crawl out of my Harry Potter room, careful not to bang my head or crack my shins in the enclosed space. Matt takes me to breakfast where we talk more about his hostel project and all of our ideas, then rides with me to the edge of town.I continue on, fighting a headwind coming from the NNW. I am heading mainly NNE today, so the 20mph winds not only slow me down and tire me out but also push me all over the road. It is unpleasant riding through otherwise decent country, and a flat does not add to the fun. I pull out a very large piece of glass and continue on, only to discover another tiny hole causing a slow leak a few miles later. Rather than patch another hole I opt for my spare tube and continue fighting the wind.
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A washed out bridge just outside of San Marcos, hinting at the damage I will see as I continue towards eastern Texas and Louisiana.

Coming into Austin I ride through a typical suburban shell but find a bike lane for much of the way along Congress street, which I ride directly up to the state capitol building. Along the way I spy way more bike lanes than Seattle’s downtown – it’s always so clear to me as I travel how poor biking in Seattle is, despite its reputation, when I visit other downtowns and the work they are doing. Eventually I ride to my host’s apartment just north of the University of Texas. I meet Daniel, an Urban Planning graduate student. Nerd time!
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South Congress St. has a typical poor bike lane, but it is better than nothing. That’s downtown Austin in the distance.

Daniel and I hit it off, connecting over bike touring and urban planning nerdom. We decide to enjoy the warm, sunny weather by riding to Barton Springs, another natural-spring pool just like Balmorhea, except right in Austin. We jump in and swim around a while in the cool, but not cold, fresh water. Our conversation about Austin, Seattle, and transportation continues as we sit on the grass drying off and I am glad to be able to have these intellectual conversations. The ride back is just as fast-paced and adrenaline filled as the ride down, with us tearing through the city at 20mh most of the time. If you’ve never ridden a bike like this, it’s sweet. Sorry drivers, 20mph through the city on a bike is actually a blast, even with traffic, unlike in a car. sucks to suck.
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Barton Springs. The water is not nearly as warm as Balmorhea, though the day is warmer. Without my glasses on I mistake a floating decoy for a real duck as I squirt water at it, imagining it brave to not have moved when I dived in so close. Talk about feeling stupid!

We stop for some mediocre BBQ and I make a note to figure out where to get better food while I am here. There are tons of options – Austin is known for BBQ and tacos, especially out of food trucks and long-running, highly popular establishments. It is also a hotbed for live music and shows – tonight we are going to a comedy show down the street. I know I have only been here for a few hours, but so far I love Austin!
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Daniel and I swing down to a nearby cafe/bar/performance venue to watch some local comedians. Huge range here, from quite poor to pretty funny.


Day 95 (2016-11-29): Food, Exploration, & Bike Co-op

That time you realize you accidentally mailed your route maps home…oops! Oh well, I can find the route and make up where I need to, it’s just a bit more of a hassle.

Riding around the nearby Hyde Park neighborhood I see a mix of old housing, from Victorian to tiny ranch style, and am still amazed out how different some parts of Texas are from the usual stereotypes. Unfortunately, I hear the “worst” is still to come. We shall see. I pedal on to Tyson’s Tacos for lunch on recommendation rom some folks I met at Big Bend and, although I flinch at the initial $10 for three tacos, my trust in stranger’s recommendations is rewarded with three fairly large tacos, Spanish rice, refried beans, and a bunch of onions and cilantro. I enjoy the “Tuti’s Perfect 10” pork the most but the “Pant’s on Fire” seared duck and “Burned End” steak tacos are also very good. All this food is making me miss Marination & Cafe Quilombo in Seattle! Also, I cannot imagine how anyone in this town could be vegetarian.

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Tacos!

I continue pedaling around, making my way through northeastern Austin and finding some sort of new, techy development with tissue-box condos and fancy buildings. There are a ton of white people out running, walking, and idly lounging around a beautiful lake amid a very green park. I always wonder why so many people are not at work – surely they’re not all bike touring too! I head south along nice gravel trails into East Austin, a drastic change in economic status and racial makeup from the northern and northeast neighborhoods. I explore a small library ranch and discover an excellent graphic novel about childhood, friendship, and race relations in depression-era Mississippi. It’s simply titled Bayou, and I recommend it as a good quick read. But yeah, every big city, especially growing ones, seems to be the same – tech & gentrification, plus a surprising amount of segregation. So much for progress…

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A very peaceful park in an equally “nice” neighborhood with new developments. Later, Daniel tells me this use to be the airport – it is being redeveloped now but not especially well, he thinks.

I find myself at the Yellow Bike Project, a nifty co-op providing open shop, selling bikes, and generally being awesome. I fix up my bike and buy a new saddle to try – hopefully my butt will thank me soon. I begin riding back towards Daniel’s house and stop at Astor’s a Ethiopian restaurant. FINALLY! I have been craving Ethiopian since mid September. I order a massive vegetarian sample plate and put quite a bit down before boxing the rest up and brining it back for Daniel.

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ETHIOPIAN! So happy. Also, so full!


 

Day 96 (2016-11-30): Friend Reunion, BBQ, and a Healthy Dinner

Not much to say about today – I hung out in the morning until I met up with Rebecca, a friend from college, and her boyfriend Brady for Lunch. We ate at La Barbeque, one of the most popular places for BBQ in Austin. It’s a food truck and not nearly as famous as Franklin’s, but it also did not have a multi-hour wait. Fair trade-off, if you ask me. The brisket is very good but nothing out-of-this-world. Hype man, hype.
After lunch we walk around along the river in East Austin, just talking and catching up. They cannot stay long and soon drop me off at Daniel’s and I continue walking as I go to the Central Market, an HEB specially-branded store to be very uppity and expensive. Also, extremely inefficient and difficult to navigate. Probably one of the worst grocery stores I have ever shopped at, in fact. Nevertheless, I find my healthy ingredients, only slightly overpriced, and make a Indian-ish style meal for dinner. Daniel is pumped – living alone, he rarely makes anything too involved and he is happy to eat something so healthy! We chat a bunch more and eventually call it a night. Although he was busy with school and work I really enjoyed the time we did get to spend together talking about all the nerdy things!
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My host Daniel and I.

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