One of our ambassadors, Adam Shepard has been riding bikes since the 1980s. While he is a Cat 4 racer, we can tell he knows riding is more than racing. He recently sent us this recap of a ride and we thought it so good that we wanted to share. It shows that you never know what you’re in for when you set out on a bike adventure. Enjoy.
In short – what I anticipated as an easy 200 mile weekend under supposed sunny skies turned into a rainy endurance test of will. But let’s get to the details.
“Moneymaker Mike,” my trusted companion and I started off from Austin before dawn with high hopes for a great trip to Comfort, a quaint little town in the heart of Texas.
Within 15 miles of the start, however the rain started coming down. We got wet and stayed wet for the rest of the day. Our progress was slowed by wet directions (my handlebar bag leaked) and the unexpected effort it took to push a 50 pound bike/load. We were used to 17 pound road bikes riding 70 miles on a Sunday like it was nothing.
There were multiple washed out low water crossings to navigate and paved roads that suddenly turned to dirt. I use this term loosely as the rain has muddied them somewhat.
After a long morning of rain and iPhone navigation we finally rolled into Blanco for lunch. A quick bite turned into a lingering hour and a half of bar-b-que and coffee. Reluctant to get back on the bikes in the threatening weather, we saddled up. We muttered, “It shouldn't take long to get there, we're over half way.” Ha ha! As we pedaled on the rain picked up and we came to the worst road of the trip, just as the sky got darker we found ourselves on a road with no shoulder and taillights that long since lost their charge. We slowly pushed on wondering if the next car would side swipe us. That’s the last time I take the Strava heat map as my only source that a road is rideable.
When we finally turned off the death road, we made a quick stop at the last convenience store before Comfort. A couple of candy bars and sodas were hardly enough to get us back on the bikes for the seven miles to the end. As we pressed on every distance marker seemed to contradict the previous one. Seven miles to Comfort, then it was 13. It made us nuts. After a good hour of effort we reached the turnoff for the camp ground. It was just four miles down a country road according to the web site - off we went. At about mile three, Mike looked back at the rapidly approaching cloudburst bearing down on us. It didn't take but two minutes for us to be drenched, and we had just dried out. When we made it to the end of the pavement, there was the campground and no one in sight. Only hand painted half coherent signs about camping and fees. The camping area was a stand of trees next to a muddy creek. A picnic table and more cow patties than we could count were the only amenities.
With a 20% chance of rain in the forecast, we were pretty confident we would not need tents so we didn’t bring them along. Bad decision. It was raining again.
Mike and I are pretty low maintenance but we decided we just couldn’t do it. With 100 miles to ride the next day, we needed more rest than seemed possible out there. We saddled up and headed into town.
Comfort, as lovely as it is has two types of accommodations, Fancy B&Bs or one run down motel dubbed the Executive Inn. We pooled resources and headed to the latter. After securing our room (via bike wedged against the door) Mike offered to get Dairy Queen burgers while I showered. After a few excruciating minutes under frigid water, I heard Mike come back with supper. Even with the cold water and fast food, we agreed that we were living in luxury compared to what could have been. We both eagerly crawled into our respective sleeping bags set on top of the beds and went right to sleep.
Day Two: The next morning we recalculated our route for a more direct, less hilly ride home. A leisurely start saw us first filling up on provisions at the local Chevron before heading to High's cafe. And this was certainly the “high” point of the trip. Mike had blueberry pancakes while I opted for the two egg and bacon sandwich on rye with tomatoes and cheddar-jack. It was sublime.
We lingered and then rolled out of Comfort ready to tackle the day. Of course the bad navigation put us on the interstate. We back tracked and sheepishly smiled at cars coming down the on ramp to make the right turn. The road ahead didn't do much for morale either. It was a series of undulating rollers of varying pitch, enough to make legs ache even before arriving at the climb itself. Of course, it rained again too. (I feel like it's just understood that the rain fell off an on all the time, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.) The saving grace was that car traffic was almost zero as the interstate paralleled our road. We made decent time as we rolled into Bourene, stopping only to grab a Coke and double check the route.
Off we went again...Travel time to New Braunfels was much slower. Between the rolling country road and the increased rain we had to slow down quite a bit. There were times when we couldn't see and times when the road became a stream replete with salmon.
By this time, we were no longer just wet. We – and everything we had with us – were soaked. It's lucky my phone survived. We had to stop more than once to secure the best dry bag out of what ever we could fashion. One stop to find the correct turn found me turning my handlebar bag over to dump out the water.
That's when I remembered the almost quarter pound magic bar I had purchased at High's. The graham cracker crust was damp but edible. The toasted coconut and thick chocolate layers were like spinach to Popeye. We were rejuvenated.
Pressing on we rolled wearily into New Braunfels, still 50 miles from home. Earlier, we had decided we would stop for 30 minutes at the most for some fast food or 7-eleven hot dogs. 30 minutes seemed like eons when we saw the paltry offering of the AM/PM. With a coke, water refills and some Sour Patch Kids we headed on until we found a cafe and had proper food. I charged my light while we ate tuna melts and roast beef sandwiches.
Getting back on the bike was getting harder and harder. We pedaled on heading for San Marcos, just 20 easy miles from salvation. We made pretty good time but saddles sores, wet socks and numb hands made each bump or rough chip seal road painful.
Elation rolled over us when we could see the sky line of Texas State in San Marcos – this was familiar territory. Sunday rides regularly went to San Marcos from Austin. We were practically home, albeit still thirty miles away. "But we do this all the time", I told myself, "We'll be back in an hour and a half." Yeah, not so much. We pressed on wondering why it was taking so long to cover these roads and why were we going so slow?
When we got to Kyle (15 miles to go) we stopped for our last indulgence, a DQ ice cream. It was magnificent. We took our time and enjoyed every last bite before pressing on. When we rolled into Austin and came to where we parted way, the sky opened up and torrential rains came down yet again. Both of us just laughed.
I rolled into my driveway and into the open arms of my wife, glad to be home and glad we went. This was our first bike packing trip and certainly not our last. But you can bet we'll be smarter about it next time.
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