Yay! We made it to Austin!
By the time we left Johnson City, 5 of our group had ridden ahead and were already in Austin, leaving 6 of us to make the ride today. We ate breakfast out, then hit the road together, expecting a day of hill climbing, a water crossing, and the steepest hill climb of the tour.
I failed to mention, yesterday, that my Garmin took a fall and the LCD screen failed, so today, I was without both the map to Austin and the ability to navigate with turn-by-turn instructions, due to no distance data, so I absolutely had to have a riding partner all day long, just to be able to find my way. Tom C volunteered, as Erwin, his normal riding partner, was up ahead in Austin. A powerful hill climber, in spite of the fact that he is pulling a Bob trailer, Tom had to wait for me after the uphills way longer than I had to wait for him after the downhills. Riding with a sissy girl must be a real drag. I felt sorry for him and especially for Ed and Ken, who have ridden with me so much. I’m sure I have held them all back.
An entire day of hills was a bit ridiculous. I actually looked forward to the water crossing and steep climb just to break things up. When we hit the entrance to Pedernales Falls State Park, the water crossing was not far away.
This particular section of road has constant water flow, so the road is mossy and slick, and riders in the past have fallen when they tried to ride across it. So Ed was first to cross, and he bravely rode across with no issues. Tom R walked, then Tom C walked, so I walked too and so did Neal. After the fact, I wondered if I should have been more daring, but I’ve already had 3 falls on this tour, so I stand by being conservative and walking. (More sissy girl.)
Once across the water, we were faced with a super steep grade, and it was a lot of work pushing our bikes up the hill to to a point where we could actually get back on and ride again. Ed was able to shift into his granny gear and ride up that hill–something that motivated me later when we hit that steep hill.
Up to the point where we were entering Austin, our ride was on scenic 2-lane country roads, with steady traffic in both directions, making it difficult for cars to pass us.
The route always aims to keep us off major roadways, so after the country roads, we rode through Barton Creek, a beautiful area of high end homes, and the last 1/4 mile of Barton Creek Boulevard is where our 18-19% grade awaited us. I was at the back of the group when I started the climb, and after the difficulty pushing my bike uphill after the water crossing, I was determined to ride the entire hill and not walk. Up ahead, I could see that Tom C and Ed were going to succeed in the climb, but Tom R was walking, possibly due to his bad knee. I killed myself to get up that hill. There is no way I could have pushed my bike up it. And climbing it wasn’t a matter of leg strength; it was more a matter of my heart exploding from sustained beating like a bunny rabbit. I can’t remember ever huffing and puffing as much as I did on that climb, the steep portion of which was probably only 1/8 mile. Later, when I met up with Neal at the hostel, he asked me, “You didn’t make it up that hill, did you?” Apparently, he ended up walking part of it, and was hoping I caved in and walked too. Nope.
Once in town, we ended up on bike paths that took us under freeways, through parks and a section of downtown, along the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake, and to our hostel, that surprisingly was on the Colorado River.
What a location! We are staying in a cramped 14 bed co-ed bunk room, but it is just a place to sleep. My top bunk looks pretty comfortable compared to sleeping on the ground, and there are real towels to dry off with after a shower, instead of our chamois-like pack towels. After a couple of nights of this, we might be missing our tents, but right now, this feels like luxury to me. I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest and sleeping in tomorrow.