3.25.2012

Austin and San Antonio - bike friendly Texas!

The longer we are in this great state, the more we are loving it!  We've been lucky enough to have a string of nearly perfect weather days, which certainly helps, and as we've traveled from Brenham to Austin to San Antonio where we've been this weekend we've ridden through some really beautiful country.  Rolling hills, open country, and lots of quiet (well-paved!) roads.  With more daylight we can take our time even on longer-mileage days.  We've really been taking it all in and enjoying the riding.

Plus the wildflowers!  It's really impossible to describe or capture in photos how incredible they've been... blues, oranges, yellows, pinks, purples surrounded by lush spring green...  and the fragrance!  Really incredible.

Roundin' up the herd out on the range
From Brenham on Thursday we rode a half day toward Austin but after lunch had to hop in the van to make an early afternoon school presentation at Kealing Middle School.  Austin has had a large and well-funded Safe Routes to School program for many years, rotating their promotional effort through six area schools.  The focus at Kealing has been on starting a bike club that rides after school and leading weekly bike trains of students to school in the morning.  We spoke to a few dozen students during their PE period, and answered lots of great questions from the students and teachers.  Kealing is a magnet school so a majority of students are bussed from a distance and don't have an option to walk or bike to school, but they all still claimed to have bikes and enjoy riding.  After school we stuck around to join the bike club on a short neighborhood ride led by an enthusiastic teacher and cyclist, Mr. Hendrex.  We were impressed that the infrastructure - bike lanes, signs, and trails - was definitely in place in East Austin and that the drivers were very considerate to our group taking up most of the road. Thanks to Doug Ballew and Kristi Stillwell for organizing our visit to Kealing!
RASR with Kealing students

A few stuck around to hear more

Bike club ride
From the ride we stopped in at the office of BikeTexas, the statewide advocacy group, to say hi and get some advice on how we can make our advocacy effort more productive.  We met Fernando, Mark, and Brenda who were manning the office while the rest of the BikeTexas staff was in Washington at the National Bike Summit.  They had lots of great advice and stories about all the work they've done here in Texas.
RASR, Mark, and Fernando at BikeTexas
Austin's reputation as a "bike-friendly" town definitely preceded our stopping there, so we had high expectations that the city definitely lived up to.  We rode across town in rush hour on a separated bikeway and then opted to take the river trail instead of staying on the busy roads.  Big mistake!  Riding the gravel trail at that time of day was like being in a video game - it was jammed with runners and walkers and dogs and strollers and a few other riders.  It was a relief to get back on the road with the more predictable bumper to bumper traffic.  Luckily more bike lanes led us smoothly to our destination - the home of my good friends Kristin and Ryan Chandler.
Oooo, bikeway!

So many modes of transportation coexisting - so beautiful
Kristin and Ryan treated us to some of the excellent and very alternative local culture.  Dinner and a few brews at gourmet vegetarian Bouldin Creek Cafe (sweet potato pecan tamales!), capped off with ice cream at Licks (beet-fresh mint flavor = delicious, who knew?) and a highly competitive game of mini-golf.  Though the stakes were high and Chelsea and I are both champion mini-golfers, Kristin and Ryan barely edged us out for the win. 
Kristin and twin at Licks

Slackjaw mini-golf
Our excellent night's sleep at the Chandler's was cut short by a pre-dawn wake up to join the Kealing students again nearby for a bike train to school.  As we rolled our bikes out of the garage in the dark, still bleary-eyed and chilly, I noticed that my back tire was flat.  Uh, oh - we only had 20 mins to get to our meeting point 3 miles away.  The team instantly snapped into get-it-done mode and despite the cold we had the tube changed in 5 minutes and were rolling again.  We made it to the bike train and were rewarded with a view of downtown Austin during a beautiful sunrise.
Bike train in the dark

New morning sun on downtown Austin
Second-breakfast has become an everyday event for us, so we headed back to the Chandlers after the bike train for another treat - breakfast tacos, fresh fruit, and homemade banana bread.  Though our Austin visit was short we had a terrific time and owe it to our gracious hosts!  Thanks Kristin and Ryan (and adorable puppy Cooper) for a very good time, delicious food and drinks, and refreshing night's sleep.

But alas, the open road was calling and we had 80 miles to cover to San Antonio...
Rolling away from the Texas capitol

Lovely live oaks

Lunch at our new fave pit stop - Taco Cabana

More wildflowers!
Another perfect day of riding led us to San Antonio.  Long-time family friend and avid cyclist Lowell Tacker met us on the outskirts of town to lead us in through rush hour.  We finished the day with a delicious veg-mex dinner at an old favorite restaurant, Adelante. 
RASR and Lowell
Arriving in San Antonio means many things for our team.  It's the former home of the Ward-Wallers, so it feels like we're stopping at home.  We're taking a whole weekend off here to see friends and family, tour some of the bike-friendly upgrades in the city, and give ourselves a true mid-trip break. Significantly, we've passed the 3000 mile mark on our trip, so we're officially over half-way to California - seven weeks in, only five to go.  At this point in the trip we function like a well-oiled machine and any day we ride less than a century feels easy.  The best part is, we still all get along! 

RASR representing at a Trek Bike Demo on Saturday

RASR on the Riverwalk

Refueling

Liberty, death, or safe routes

B-cycle - San Antonio's bike share
Another big thank you to Lowell and Amy Tacker for hosting us in San Antonio, letting us take over their house and backyard with our crazy day-off cleaning routine, and feeding us endlessly. 

Rested, reorganized, refueled and ready to head west!  One more week in Texas with only desert on the horizon.

3 comments:

  1. Great post! Looks like Keeling is a town we can learn from. Have a great time going west. Hope you can make McDonald's Observatory.
    -keith

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  2. It was great meeting you all. Thanks so much for coming to Austin and sharing your story with Kealing students. My only regret is that I didn't get to ride more with y'all. How was the ride to San Antonio? Congrats on making the half-way point. Wishing you fair skies and tailwinds for the remaining 2000 mi.! BTW, the Bike Club leader at Kealing Middle School is Mr. Hendrex.

    Happy trails,
    Doug Ballew

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  3. Great post! Totally agree - looks like Keeling is a town we can all learn from.
    Richard
    bikingadvice

    ReplyDelete