DirrrtySouthBySouthWest: Bicycle from Houston to Austin

March 15, 2010

On Saturday, March 13, 2010, James and I set out to ride our bikes from Houston to Austin. We had little or no training for this event, and almost no preparation. In fact, we had only decided to do the ride for the opening of the SXSW music festival a few days before. Google Maps has recently added a “bicycle” option for their direction/location service, so we decided to use it to plan the route, rather than invest all the time driving and checking road conditions and safety…

Saturday, March 13-5:00am

My alarm rings. I was so exhausted the night before from driving out to visit my family that I had neglected to pack a bag. I called James. He wasn’t even awake yet. He groggily tells me that we start at seven.

6:00am

I am now out of bed, groggily throwing things onto the floor that I *might* need. I settle on a pair of pedros tire levers, crank bros multitool, Inhabitant cycling jacket (from my trip to Tokyo), three Larabars, a tube of camelback sportsdrink tablets, my wallet, my phone, a toy film Camera I bought in Japan, and my Ricoh CX2 camera in the side holster. I still can’t find my Tarckbike.com Jersey. We still haven’t gotten around to making Highflange.com ones.

7:00am

I’m about to head out the door, when James lets me know that he’s picking me up so we can start near Pauline’s House. I’m relieved. Apparently google maps hadn’t figured out a way that was actually safe for us to get outside of downtown, where I live.

8:00am

We’re ready to go! For the rest of the day, time passes like a blur.  I try not to look at my watch. It’s going to be a long day, and it’s going to hurt…a lot. The photos taken should provide a recap on events as they unfolded.

A pair of brave adventurers embarking on their journey to the capitol

A pair of brave adventurers embarking on their journey to the capitol

As we hit the road, the rolling along I-90 was smooth. We passed a number of club riders on their Saturday morning rides out on the wide and smooth roads of Brookshire. The weather was good, but a bit cold. The wind chilled our legs and fingers as it blew by us.

On the road: Note the wide shoulder to keep away from traffic

On the road: Note the wide shoulder to keep away from traffic

As we drew further and further away from Houston, we noticed something: the drivers were more cautious and kind to a pair of cyclists on the road. Houston is noted as being a very dangerous city to ride in. Austin, however, is a bicycling capitol of the country. You can literally watch the animosity and aggression of Houstonians fade as you ride towards hill country.

What happened next proved to us that Google Maps still needs a bit of work on their “bicycling” segment. Our excellent directions lead us literally right up into a creek. We documented the failure, and realized that, at that point we had no other choice than to brave the drivers along the side of the highway shoulder. In Houston, I should add, this would be suicide. You’d be either shot at (I should add that I have experienced the sound of gunshots from my bicycle a few times downtown) rammed by a pickup truck or have food thrown at you out of the side of a window. If a Houstonian doesn’t ride a bicycle themselves, you, to them, are about as welcome in their city as Osama Bin Laden.

Google Maps Fail: Leading us straight into a dead end

Google Maps Fail: Leading us straight into a dead end: UNAMUSED.

James decides to hop the barrier and ride the highway (I-10) shoulder

James decides to hop the barrier and ride the highway (I-10) shoulder

I begrudgingly oblige to ride on the freeway. We have no choice. There is a creek that we cannot cross.

I begrudgingly oblige to ride on the freeway. We have no choice. There is a creek that we cannot cross.

So, James gets the bright idea to ride on the highway. I’m looking around wondering if maybe somehow I could swim with my bike through snake infested waters. It seemed like a better option…

Hey this isn't so bad...

Hey this isn't so bad...

I have to say I managed to live riding on I-10. This is us exiting, but you can clearly see how wide the shoulder is. I was impressed by the lack of backside attacks by soda cans or twinkies.

AND...James gets a flat

AND...James gets a flat

Then I hear something all cyclists dread. *HISSSSSSSSSSS* “Dude I think I just flatted”

I manage to pull the offender out of the tire: What looks like a Raccoon tooth. By the way the total roadkill count for the day was 34.

Watch James snap a SOMA steel reinforced tire lever

Watch James snap a SOMA steel reinforced tire lever

As James inserts his tire lever, it snaps in two. So much for SOMA’s “steel reinforced” levers. I pull out a pair of fugly pedros levers I had borrowed (he left them at my house. That’s borrowing right?) from Mike. These things never fail. Seriously. They don’t look delicate, or elegant but Pedros levers WORK EVERY TIME. If you are touring go grab yourself a pair. I may have been a total square with my overpacked backpack on, but I had plenty of food, sports drink, and endurolytes tablets to keep us rolling.

Along the way, we started to notice a few cyclists wearing numbers. Had we accidentally rolled into some sort of cycling race?

They gave us free snacks.

They gave us free snacks.

Apparently there was a charity ride we bumped into. They let us grab a few snacks and we hit the road again with a lot of pain in our legs…

Needing a break...badly.

Needing a break...badly.

dsxsw20

Hruska's Bakery right outside Smithville

Hruska's Bakery right outside Smithville

Another Stop...the pain is searing, the dehydration and sunburns setting in

Another Stop...the pain is searing, the dehydration and sunburns setting in

On the floor. When will this ride end. Austin is so close...

On the floor. When will this ride end. Austin is so close...

Burnt to a crisp

Burnt to a crisp

one side is really dark. The other side is not. The meat is falling off the bone any moment now...

one side is really dark. The other side is not. The meat is falling off the bone any moment now...

At this point the pain was intense. No more photos...

At this point the pain was intense. No more photos...

Luckily we made it right outside Austin, right near our hotel, burnt to a crisp when our support vehicle, chasing us with our respective lady supporters arrived with our bags, photo equipment and a change of clothes.

The resulting celebration was…well…sleepy.

Trying not to fall asleep

Trying not to fall asleep

DRINK DRINK DRINK!

DRINK DRINK DRINK!


2 Comments


  1. Looks like a blast!
    Downtown to Katy isn’t too hard… mostly washington, hop over to Memorial park, then make your way to Briar Forest. I imagine the “jump start” of not having the added 25-30mi was nice though.

    Re: Your little “creek” aka brazos river…. 2nd or 3rd pillar out, drop between the railroad ties… the concrete pillar has my name scratched into it.

    BTW, I’d love to see the full route you took.

  2. Greetings from the ATX.