87. DAYS 36-42. YES ALL THIS HAPPENED IN TEXAS HILL COUNTRY!
38 Miles. Cowboy boot fences.
Weather: Cool and foggy. We started to climb the third and final monster hill almost immediately. After successfully sweating our way up to the top, only needing a couple of 20 second rest breaks, the worst (all be it oddly enjoyable) was out of the way and the remainder of the day would be an undulating breeze. Yes you heard correctly (and I never thought I’d be saying this but…) I’ve enjoyed cycling the Texas hills! In fact Texas hill country was becoming one of our favourite places, it was pretty. Lush green hills, quaint country towns and architecturally interesting houses all felt familiar. This part of the world reminded us of home.
On the outskirts of Hunt, we ate a late lunch at Bridget’s Basket before attempting the climb up to the hilltop home of our Warm Showers experience No.6. Our hosts: the most positively energised and enthusiastic couple that we’d ever met, had built the most amazing home and converted part of their large garage and roof space above, into a cozy annex they called the Casita. This would be our comfortable home for the night.
29-30/Mar. Days 37 & 38 Hunt - Fredericksburg TX
47 Miles and free tastings.
Had we been transported back into the English countryside? L and I both thought so! We were surrounded by green hilly fields, big trees and Stone Henge… Actually it turned out to be Stone Henge No.2, not quite as big as the original. We were still in Texas.
A string of good luck on the Warm Showers front meant that for the second night in a row, L and I found ourselves sleeping in our very own apartment. Warm Showers host No.7 had taken us in very last minute and for this we were very grateful. Our hosts were veteran bicycle tourers, they’d done over 60 trips and so when it came to touring, they knew their stuff. This summer they’d be riding in Ireland. www.john-mcmanus-new.blogspot.com
The decision to accept the offer of staying two nights so we could stop to explore Fredericksburg, was partly down to windy weather but also because of our interest in the quirky town. On top of that, L and I realised we hadn’t had a full day off since Phoenix, Arizona! So much for five days on two days off! Our legs were probably due a rest.
Fredericksburg was busy, touristy but fun. Plus we’d learnt from the wine tasting regions in Australia, that where tourists flock you’ll find outlets offering various free tastings, something the pair of us enjoy making the most of. Although we failed to find any free wine tastings in Fredericksburg (the cellar doors charged us a nominal fee), Rustlin’ Rob’s Texas gourmet foods heaved with samples of jam, chutney, relish and flavoured peanut butter and the chocolate shop also offered up a couple of complimentary liqueur delights. Although a limit of two per person resulted in us coming away with a few bars of flavoured chocolate to top up our cocoa intake.
31/Mar. Day 39. Fredericksburg - Johnson City TX
40 Miles. Make yourself at home.
Three days ago we met Dave. He’d wound down his car window as he passed us on what we’d refer to as a ‘country lane’, I’ve heard some American’s refer to this type of road as a ‘farm to market’. I like this phrase but it sounds strange. Dave wanted to tell us that we’d be welcome to stay in his home if we were passing by his town. We chatted for 5 minutes before going our separate ways. As it turned out, we would be passing Johnson City and so accepted Dave’s generous offer.
Despite arriving at Dave’s peacefully secluded timber home, we wouldn’t meet Dave again. He was away, a minor detail which didn’t deter his offer for us to stay. Instead he told us where to find the key, and how we should make ourselves at home eating what we liked from the fridge. I can’t imagine this ever happening back home in the UK.
01/Apr. Day 40. Johnson City - Rolling Wood, Austin TX
44 Miles. Through water.
I hadn’t imagined we’d be attempting a water crossing on a tandem but that’s what happened when the pair of us hurtled down a hill after completely misjudging the depth marker at the river crossing in front of us. In that split second decision, what we thought looked like a few centimetres, actually turned out to be a handful of inches. My feet instinctively left the pedals, L’s unfortunately did not! Luckily our panniers were waterproof. We squelched on until the sun had worked its magic on our footwear.
Small country roads turned into busier roads and as we got closer to Austin, the increased traffic and the lack of a shoulder to ride on made things stressful. I could see the chaos behind us in my tiny circular handle bar mirror but could do nothing other than relay the information to L, who’d sometimes reacted differently to how I would have, if I’d been the one steering. I believe this is called backseat driving. Anyway, we battled on, arriving late at WarmShowers No.8.
Our basement bedroom was accessed via a metal staircase which spiralled into the warren of empty rooms below WarmShowers No.8’s house. Considering we were about to stay in the house of someone we’d only just met, I didn’t think it abnormal to have basement horror stories creeping into my thoughts but Michael’s kindness and generosity instantly pushed that aside. Before taking us on a night tour of the city to see Austin’s lights, Michael treated L and I to a meal out at a local restaurant where he recommended we try either Chicken fried Steak, or Chicken fried Chicken, both southern favourites and so we did. (If you want to know what either of these are, you’ll have to google because I’m still not sure I fully understand!)
The following morning after porridge and an informative weather update from Alexa, we followed Michael into Austin. The three of us cycled into the city via the hike and bike trail, negotiating joggers and prams whilst following the tree lined banks of the river before eventually going our separate ways on 3rd street, ‘downtown’.
02/Apr. Day 41. Hello Austin, TX
From one side of the city to the other & everything in between.
Austin city cycling was surprisingly sedate which was great because it allowed at least one of us to sit back and soak up our surroundings. That would be me. I spent most of our ride looking up and taking photos as we meandered in-between the skyscrapers. We were racking up confused looks from motorists, especially those behind who most likely couldn’t see that another human was in control of the bicycle on which I sat. My absence of route navigation resulted in L missing a few turns. I'm not overly fond of the grid system (too much waiting at traffic lights or ‘stop signs’) but I will admit that it makes mistakes super easy to correct.
Sitting outside with amazing views overlooking the river and the huge interesting bicycle sculpture to our left whilst the sun warmed our backs, was one reason we stayed at the waterside cafe for two hours. The other reason was that L and I were experienced in knowing how to prolong a stay at somewhere we liked. We staggered our order. At first we sipped coffee, then we ate a Texan version of ploughman’s cheeseboard and finally we savoured a tasting paddle of local beers. I got a chunk of blog writing done and the air of us had just had the most relaxing couple of hours enjoying our surroundings.
Before heading over to spend the evening at WarmShowers No.9, I babysat The Flying Fox and all our travelling possessions whist L hopped onto a guided tour of the Capital building (which claimed to be slightly taller than its famous twin in Washington D.C). Naturally L’s tour overran meaning I missed the next tour. Instead I opted for a brisk self guided one.
The awkward thing about bicycle touring is the stress of leaving your bike and belongings unattended, this mostly results in us doing things separately and stopping at eateries can be a challenge. The most ideal are those with large glass windows we can lean the Flying Fox up against and then go and sit ourselves in the booth behind the glass.
WarmShowers No.9 lived in brightly painted timber home surrounded by a perfectly maintained garden of colour. S & D were kind and keen for cocktails, neither L needed much convincing and so off we all went to their local where we tried the most amazing southern inspired Margaritas. (prickly pear - a type of cactus).
03/Apr. Day 42. Austin - Bastrop TX
38 Miles. Two old ladies.
Our cycle to Bastrop was going well until L became desperately in need of a toilet. Luckily for him we passed a church (open on this particular Monday for a mother and baby group) and they allowed him to use their bathroom. Two hours earlier L had catastrophically ripped his shorts from front to back. Nobody in the church commented on the state of L’s shorts, which by the end of the day would make it into the bin, but perhaps they were a little taken a back? L would return from his toilet break equally taken a back, exclaiming how I wouldn’t believe the joke he’d just been told by two innocent looking old ladies, inside the church.
“Two potatoes stand on the corner of the street. How can you tell which one is the prostitute? …The one with the sticker that says I-da-ho!”
We arrived in Bastrop a little apprehensive about the two huge dogs who were now following us up the long driveway to WarmShowers No.10’s lakeside house. In the last 30 minutes we’d had 7 dogs (not all at once) chase us and at one point this had resulted in a hilarious response from a passing motorist who got out of her car and ran after a couple whilst clapping and shouting at them to go home. It had worked. It turned out that we didn't need to worry about the two huge dogs at the house, they were used to bicycles because their owner rode a recumbent. James was WarmShowers host No.10. The three of us never met. He was away but allowed us to stay in his home. Southern hospitality was a genuine thing.
NEXT UP: THE LAST OF TANDEMING TEXAS BEFORE ENTERING LOUISIANA & THE DEEP SOUTH.
A little extra note: We are raising money for two great charities as we cycle home to the UK from Australia, across the landmass in the middle... AMERICA. If you'd like to sponsor us, that would be amazing, here is the link to our just giving page where you can also find out more about the charities: CALM and Alzheimer's Society. Thank you to all who have donated, it keeps us pedalling!