It wasn't exactly a traffic jam. But we encountered our first fellow cycle tourers on our morning ride out of Johnson City. For about 16 miles we followed the Adventure Cycling Route for traveling across country along the southern tier. So it wasn't surprising to meet others on that stretch. We always enjoy stopping to talk to other touring cyclists, and our first exchange was with a young man cycling solo from New Orleans to San Diego. It was his first long distance trip, and he seemed to have it pretty well figured out. The next one was a woman fully loaded who didn't stop on a long downhill – we wouldn't haven't either.
Finally we had a long chat with another couple headed for the Hill Country. They gave us helpful advice about an upcoming stream crossing followed by steep hills. I still managed to soak one foot in the splash, but it was still better to be prepared. It was at the top of a super steep climb that we met a local cyclist. It turns out he's done the Great Divide and other amazing cycling challenges. He was doing repeats on the hill known as “the wall” but he was very complimentary about my making it up fully loaded.
The remainder of the day's ride completed our travels through the Hill Country. But not before challenging us with some hair raising dips and climbs with no shoulder and city traffic rushing by as we entered the outskirts of Austin. Despite being mid-afternoon, there was no lack of cars and an occasional pickup truck intent on intimidating us as he thundered by in close proximity.
We had our first Warm Showers stay that evening and were well taken care of by Don and charmed by his young children. It's always a joy and a privilege to be hosted by other cyclists. This trip doesn't have many opportunities for such home stays, so we especially appreciated the hospitality.
Morning took us right into the fray of the real rush hour commute in Austin, triggering not so distant memories of our own work life. But rather than dashing off to jobs (lucky us!), we cycled along the ubiquitous and well designed bike lanes of Austin to reach a MetroRapid bus. Boarding at the originating station gave us plenty of time to load our bikes on the rack in front and haul our gear onto the bus. For the next hour and a half, we let the bus driver deal with city traffic and deliver us to the far northern side of the city. This was Rich's solution to crossing a big metropolitan area, and we agreed that it was well worth our $3.50 combined fare to save us 25 miles of cycling hassle.
Coming out the other side of Austin, it was clear that we had left all the hills behind. With barely undulating terrain, and only a cross wind to contend with, we made rapid progress heading NE out of Austin. It was no coincidence that Rich's mood was boyant as we left the big city behind and entered the countryside once more.
With the sun streaming down, the afternoon's heat grew as did our thirst and weariness. With little break in the journey besides refreshment stops, we were both relieved to complete our 58 miles for the day. The Rainbow Courts Motel Rich had targeted in Rockdale turned out to be a real gem. Almost hidden from view at the road, we entered a flowery lane and passed into a beautiful campus with pretty motel units and cabins. In the center was a green populated by Adirondack chairs and several friendly cats. I knew immediately where I would spend the remainder the afternoon. And soon all thoughts of a bustling commute through the city were easily forgotten.