Friday, February 23, 2007

Bike Trip Update - Day 9 - San Marcos to Austin, TX

Another bike tour comes to an end. We are in Austin.

Today was cool, overcast, and humid, with a wind from the southeast, which was almost a tailwind. We had nice back roads past Kyle and through Mountain City (elevation 840. Please.) We stopped for breakfast here in scenic Buda.

The breakfast place didn't actually serve breakfast, so we had lunch.

I thought Buda was just a regular small town. But boy was I mistaken! When we got to the outside of town by the exit off I-35, there was a Cabelas! I asked Jim if he'd every been to Cabelas. He said no. I asked him if he'd ever been to the Bass Pro Shops in the Arundel Mills Mall. He said he'd been there. I explained that Bass Pro Shops is to Cabela's what Wal-Mart is to Neiman Marcus.

And this Cabela's did not disappoint. Look at the incredible variety of dead animal heads on the wall!

In the antelope room they had lots of antelope and deer...

Plus, I think just for Texas, a variety of swine like this Russian boar...

and local favorites, javalena.

They also have a former employee on display in his native habitat.

The arctic display had the biggest polar bear I've ever seen.

Along with moose and *two* grizzly bears.

In the Africa room, there is a pride of lions and an elephant like you would expect,

plus obscurities like this bongo!

That rhino is really going to be cool when they are extinct. I wonder if it still has the original horn?

Unfortunately this Cabela's does not have stuffed vultures and stuffed hyenas fighting over a stuffed, dismembered zebra carcass like some other Cabela's do, but we do have a crocodile lunging after some kind of antelope.

And extending the swine theme to a third continent, here's a wart hog frolicking with the cape buffalo.

Cabela's was too much. All that time we spent gawking around in there cost us. As soon as we set out, started raining and continued the whole rest of the way to Austin.

Here's the campsite at our very nice hostel.

And our scenic common area overlooking the lake.

This is quite the contrast to the lousy hostel in San Antonio. The lady who runs the Austin hostel says the San Antonio hostel got kicked out of Hosteling International for being so crappy. We reported that they still have the HI sign out. Austin is so nice.

Here's the route for today.

Here's the MotionBased link.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bike Trip Update - Day 8 - San Antonio to San Marcos, TX

Today was an easy 50 miles, on nice smooth back roads once we got out of strip mall hell leaving San Antonio. We took Nacadoches (sp?) Rd, which looked promising because it paralleled I-35, and it was great except in the suburban areas where it was congested and shoulderless.

It was 85 degrees out today, and brilliantly sunny, with a moderate tailwind. There were some hills at the start, including an 11% grade climbing out of a valley after New Braunfels. Jim is still riding a three-speed, except he won't use the small chainring because he would be cross-geared, so he wound up walking on the 11% grade.

The landscape here has a lot more trees than there used to be. It's mostly live oak and mesquite. There are still plenty of cacti. South of San Antonio it was cacti and scrubby bushes, but mostly open.

I had one big disappointment today. According to my maps, part of the route today was on Farm Road 1337. I kid you not. I was so excited because I was going to take a picture of myself next to the road sign and make it my Google Talk avatar. But I couldn't find any road signs when we were on FM 1337! Hax0rz must have stolen all the signs!

We had breakfast in north San Antonio, at a cafe with Jim's name on it.

Lunch was BBQ 30 miles later in New Braunfels. The Thursday lunch special was sausage. It was OK, but not great.

We got into San Marcos just after 3. San Marcos is a college town with a vibrant downtown centered on a classic Texas square with the courthouse in the middle. Unfortunately all the motels are alongside I-35 a mile from downtown. Tonight it's the Econolodge. $56. Including a totally gratuitous iron and ironing board. The wifi works, so it's better than the last motel. And the hostel didn't have wifi at all.

After we got cleaned up and rested, we walked up into town to find food. There were many choices, but we settled on this very nice tavern claiming to be an Irish pub with Texas grub. Those are all neon beer signs in the windows.

This turned out to be the BBQ Bonanza. This massive portion was $12.00. Jim had to help me finish it.

Here's the map for today's nice easy ride.

Here's the MotionBased link.

Bike Trip Update - Day 7 - Floresville to San Antonio, TX

Today was a short day, only 30 miles, so we would have time to explore San Antonio. We stayed in the hostel, and I had called ahead and learned that they close from 12 to 4, so if we want to get checked in and showered before we go hang out in San Antonio, we'd better hop to it and get cracking and hit the road no dawdling around.

You know what that means.

Here's Jim fixing his flat tire at 11:20, eight miles from the hostel.

We got there at 12:01, and annoyed the hostel lady who was late for lunch because of us.

Here is what you see when you roll up to the hostel. This is the Bullas Mansion. General Bullas ran the Indians out of Texas.

It's a fancy Bed and Breakfast. Oh, you want the hostel? That's the shed next door.

Here's our bunks.

As far as hostels go, it wasn't so great. It's not near anything, the common areas are minimal, and they lock everything up tight at 10:00 PM. There are cheap motels closer to downtown that would have been a better choice.

After we got showered, we set off on our mission of discovery of San Antonio.

First, there was lunch at Sam's Burger Joint, where the burgers are very large and the buns are branded with a branding iron like a cow.

Just up the street from Sam's is the Pearl Brewery. They have a big Pabst neon sign on the top of it.

(Quick aside: I saw a Lone Star beer truck the other day. It had this slogan on the side: "Lone Star - the National Beer of Texas". How true.)

We caught a bus downtown and wandered over to the Alamo!

We walked all over the Alamo. The Alamo does not in fact have a basement with stolen bicycles. What was once the chapel is rebuilt as a "Memorial to Texas Liberty". There are some walls remaining from the original mission compound.

And there is a big memorial obelisk with a barbie-doll crotch.

With the names of all the martyrs to liberty. Did you know James Brown was at the Alamo? HUNH!

I think there is an interesting lesson in the Alamo. A bunch of guys from rural America, places like Kentucky and Tennessee and Texas, figure they can go invading and push around the brown guys, and wind up getting massacred. Hmmmm. I'm surprised the Alamo is not more popular among our Middle Eastern friends.

After the Alamo visit, we went to the Riverwalk and pursued electrolyte replenishment therapy.

We did a couple more quests. First, there was Jim's mission, which to me was a blatant exercise in futility, but I have a great appreciation for futile quests. It seems he has this T-shirt that a former girlfriend gave him 15 years ago, and she got it in San Antonio. It's falling apart and he wants another one. She e-mailed him last week and said just exactly where the T-shirt shop was. Fifteen years ago. So we went on a 20 block walk to establish that the T-shirt shop is no longer there, and no stores currently there remember anything about a T-shirt shop.

Next was my quest. I left my bike flag in the motel in Floresville. I was not concerned. Jim pointed it out, and I said "Oh well. I don't think it was doing much anyway." Jim was very appalled and described how many times cars have been slamming on their brakes when they come over a hill and see me and suggested it would be a very good idea to find a new flag. No problem, the bike shop was about three blocks from Riverwalk, and I now have a new bright red flag.

Here is the route for today. We now have hills, but nothing bad. A good chunk of this was on Old Corpus Christi road, which is smooth, scenic, and traffic free. There might be a few loose dogs, though. Like one every house. Jim was ranting about how everybody has a fence around their house with a gate, which is always wide open, so the dogs can run and chase bikes.

Here's the MotionBased link.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bike Trip Update - Day 6 - Beeville to Floresville

It was a pretty easy day today. 60 miles with no headwinds. There was lots of bad pavement, which kept our speed down.

We're riding away from the coast, paralleling the abandoned railroad right of way of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad. I looked up on the net what right of way we were next to. The track is long gone, the only signs that trains ran there are the grading and wooden trestles over every stream. According to various web sites the SA&AP ceased to exist as an independent company in the 1890s, and was a puppet of the Southern Pacific until the 1930s, when the SP took overt control. It's not clear when the tracks were taken up, but it was a long time ago. The trestles look pretty rickety.

As you might expect, it was totally flat today.

We knocked off half the ride before stopping for a late breakfast/early lunch at Barth's. They have a buffet, and a devoted clientele of very old people who get there right when the doors open.

It was pretty good. They have fried chicken and ultra-tender pot roast.

Jim insisted that I get photographed in my normal state of repose.

I take little naps like this while he assembles all his gear and iPod thingies before setting off to ride.

15 miles later we came upon Shorty's Place, and since it was very early and we had little riding left, we stopped for a drink and a snack. The cute waitress took our picture with the cow.

Shorty's has deep-fried crawfish tails. Jim was aghast.

Here's the campsite for the night, at the RDOQ Roadside Inn Motel in Floresville. Their Internet access was sporadic, and I am behind on my blog updates as a result.

Dining options were few in Floresville, we had to settle for the slut. It was revolting.

But between the slut and the RDOQ, was a bar with pool, darts, sports on TV, and electrolyte therapy. I took care of those electrolytes real good. What was really great was out front:

That's six full-sized pickups in a row in the parking lot, and four of them have full brush guards.

Here's the map for the day, there's no MotionBased page because the battery was dead on the heart rate monitor for half the day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bike Trip Update - Day 5 - Port Aransas to Beeville, TX

Today our fortunes changed. The Evil Shark of Headwinds and Rough Pavement stayed behind in Port Aransas.

Today it was zipping along on wide glassy smooth shoulders with a strong wind at our back. Not that there were not some challenges. The past four days of rough pavement has put a pounding on our bikes and gear. I had one of my seat mounts come loose, and my Garmin eTrex turns itself off when left in its mount. It only works if I put it in my pocket. I think it has loose connection.

Jim has bigger troubles. His rear shifter fell apart in Aransas Pass. He is now riding a three speed. Good thing it's not hilly.

On the positive side of things, we are now in a more civilized area where not every restaurant is Mexican. For breakfast, I had grits and sausage and gravy over biscuits!

For lunch, we had a nice buffet. I had a whole plate piled high of nothing but puddings.

The Butter Churn was pretty cool. They let us bring our bikes inside.

They have this big mural on the wall in the park next door. This is in Sinton, TX. I think there should be a Truth in Mural law. If you are going to have a mural with the Confederate Flag, the Truth in Mural law requires there to be a bunch of guys in white robes standing around a lynching.

Further along the road in Skidmore, it was deja vu for Key West. We didn't eat at Dalia's, but I bet they have fresh eggs.

Our destination for today is Beeville. Beeville is a pretty cool town. It has a very picturesque downtown with lots of interesting buildings and a very cool courthouse, which looks like a beehive.

Here is our very posh campsite for the night. It is in the Red Dot of Quality, which is a very high quality Red Dot of Quality because it is newly renovated and has high speed wireless Internet.

We walked up the street to dinner at K-Bobs.

It was K-Bobs or the China Buffet. We chose K-Bobs because we thought it was more likely to have booze. We were disappointed. K-Bobs had lost its liquor license. We had an exceptionally ditzy waitress, who never brought us silverware (we stole some from another table) and she got my order wrong and brought me a baked potato with my slab instead of fried okra. I asked her if they lost their liquor licensed because she was selling beer to her underage friends. She denied responsibility.

Here is the map for today. 68 miles, still flat, winds from the souteast.

Here's the MotionBased link.