I had no business cycling this 50-mile route. I was a little out of shape, unfamiliar with the hilly terrain, alone, and over three hours away from home. Oh, and I had everything I needed—an assortment of snacks, water, a charger—except for a flat kit. I had become arrogant about not getting flats because my solid, ridiculously heavy 1978 Schwinn Volare had never let me down, not even when I did the 100-mile Shiner G.A.S.P., until this day. I got not one but two flats 33 miles into the ride on the windy, mountainous roads between Leakey and Vanderpool—a playground for motorcyclists, hardcore cyclists, and outdoorsy tourists making the most of the glorious weather. Having rolled over some jagged rocks at the bottom of a steep hill, my tires immediately hissed like deflating balloons.
I barely had a signal, but I managed to message my husband: “I got a flat but don’t worry. Going to find a ride.” Of course, he freaked out—but I got lucky.
Using my Returned Peace Corps Volunteer sensibility, I stayed cool and thumbed a ride from a family who was driving out of the exotic ranch right next to me. They had just finished “working the dogs” with the livestock and had all the time in the world to load my bike on the back of their truck and drive me twenty miles back to Utopia. We chatted about how nobody had been quarantining during COVID (“We’re not uptight like Austin. We were having cookouts the whole time!”) and how crowded the gas station was with bikers this blessed day. I regret not getting their address so I could’ve mailed them some gift cards for their generosity.
The episode reminded me of the time I got lost in Philadelphia in the middle of the night while on my way to Connecticut for a summer internship in 2005. Some teens helped me get where I needed to go by having me tail them as they zipped through the streets in their lowrider, ignoring all stop signs. That same summer I had car issues in New Haven and some dudes at a gas station helped me add coolant to my leaky engine, which helped me get back to Hartford. I know you have to be cautious when it comes to strangers, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing people are good and will help a solo traveler.
Anyway, the Utopia loop was wild and challenging. Its monster hills will have your forearms hurting from breaking through all of the blind curves—and you may even have to walk your bike as you catch your breath. It’s my gorgeous Moby Dick that hasn’t seen the last of me.
While You’re There
Order the special of the day from Lost Maples Café in Utopia. The fried fish and sides did not disappoint. On my way out of town, I went through Castroville and stopped by Steinbach Hus Park to take in a 400-year-old Alsatian home. While there, I also had a terrible (yet amusing) experience at Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, which turned out to be a total buzzkill. A surly server greeted me by saying she needed to go to the bathroom and asked her colleague to help me as she unclogged the toilet, resulting in me waiting for about 10 minutes as I tried to catch the attention of her hard-of-hearing colleague who missed the directive. I kid you not. But the lemon bars were great, so maybe stop at your own risk.
Three For the Road
I recently discovered a new-ish project called Bike Story Night while getting exceptional service from Cycleast, which might be my favorite bike shop in Austin. Bike Story Night is now accepting submissions for an upcoming event in late June.
Wondering what the story is with my red Helvetica hat? I purchased it from Milltag and it’s super comfortable and washable!
Maybe I’m late to the party but I just discovered Honey Stinger snacks and… holy shit! Why didn’t anyone tell me before? Come and sponsor me, Honey Stinger! You, me, and $500; let’s do this thing!
Stay tuned for next month’s issue on my ride from Burnet to Marble Falls. Or maybe I’ll write about a Slow AF Bike Ride I might organize. What say you? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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