A couple of weeks ago Margaret and I became responsible for a new lil life. If you’re family or friends, you may have noticed that Little E hasn’t gotten much play online and there’s some pretty good reasons for it… and it’s not because he’s not adorable. While the last two weeks have been mostly filled with our obsession over Little E’s eating, sleeping, and pooping we’ve also been having a conversation about just how much of E’s life we put online. It’s mostly because we (um, maybe mostly Kevin) are afraid of selling his digital soul down the river. Let me explain.
Continue reading Eat, Sleep, Poop, Facebook
What’s missing? The CenturyLink C2000T! (Pictured: CenturyLink Optical Network Terminator (ONT) [left], CyberPower Battery UPS [center], Netgear Nighthawk R7000 [right])
My home recently got upgraded with CenturyLink’s gigabit fiber service, which is pretty damn great. As part of the installation, they run fiber optic cable into your home which terminates at a Optical Network Terminator (ONT), which is essentially a Fiber-to-Ethernet modem. By default, CenturyLink will also install their own wireless router in your home because (a) most people need a wireless router and (b) they can make you pay $8/month for the device (or $100 once to buy it from them).
I’m interested in neither of those options, so I learned how to remove the needless extra device from the mix. I’m happy with this setup because it saves me a watt or two of power at the wall plug, and it removes one more thing that could fail/need to be rebooted.
Here’s how I removed the CentryLink C2000T from my home networking setup…
Continue reading Bypassing needless CenturyLink Wireless Router on Gigabit Fiber
Last year I set about replacing my well-traveled Kona Sutra. Having decided to sell off our extra vehicles (we went from 2 cars and a motorcycle down to a single car), M and figured that we should celebrate with new bicycles.
Continue reading Seven Cycles Bicycle Build
I wanted to give my utmost thanks to all of you who have road along with me every day for the last month. Being able to share this journey with you has made it feel a lot less like I was out here on my own. I’ve greatly appreciated your comments, txts, emails, phone calls, prayers, well wishes, etc. You helped to make this worth the doing.
To all the folks I’ve met along the way: a special thanks for all of the warm places to stay, the meals, and the company. You made me so very welcome in your homes – you made the trip something truly special!
To my wife: you are simply the best! I know you’re probably never going to encourage me to do something like this again – but your encouragement, love, and constant unwavering support reminded me every day why I asked you to spend the rest of our lives together. I love you.
To all of my friends, family, hosts, random folks in coffee shops, drivers who honked, waved or just flashed a smile of encouragement, and all of you other virtual tourists – thank you from the bottom of my heart for riding along with me.
A hodgepodge of thoughts about the whole trip – mostly a collection of answers to questions I got from a lot of people about the trip and other random thoughts that didn’t fit anywhere else. Let me know if you have other questions in the comments. :)
Would I do it again?
If you asked me if I would do another bike trip like this again I would say “yes, but not alone”. That sums up how I feel about the last month. It was fun. It was a challenge. I’m very glad I did it, too. Part of the ‘adventure’ was in doing this alone – it gave me the freedom to go at my own pace, make my own decisions about where to stay, which risks to take, etc. But it’s the sort of experience that greatly benefits from company. The times that were the least enjoyable were those where I was at my loneliest.
Some random stats
- 1699.2 miles traveled over 28 days
- 195 hours 09 minutes spent riding
- 67,410 feet climbed
- 20-25 lbs of weight lost off my body
- 3 days were spent off of the bike as rest days
- 7 consecutive days on the bike (max)
- 70.75 miles/day not including the days off
- 8.72 mph averaged across all days
- 12 nights spent with warm shower hosts
- 9 nights at hotels
- 5 nights camping
- 1 night with family
- 0 nights without WiFi – this country is wired!
- 2 nights without the ability to make a cell phone call (AT&T, you are surprisingly awesome)
- 2 nights without data coverage on the cell phone
- 0 bike related injuries
- 0 flat tires
- 0 pain killers
My gear and bike were awesome.
I am very pleased with how I packed for this trip (my full packing list can be found here). There are only a couple of ‘stuff’ related things I would have changed – mostly what I would have left behind. But I definitely had everything that I needed and wanted to make the trip comfortable. I really had zero problems when it came to stuff.
My bike now has a name.
Trusty Steed Elliot – t. s. elliot. Elliot or TSE for short. I got tired of my bike not having a name. It just felt wrong.
Amazingly – no flat tires!
I did not have a single flat tire on the trip. Not. One. No patches. No tubes. I didn’t even put air in my tires for the 1,700 mile journey! (That may have been a mistake – I was down to 60psi at the end whereas I like to roll at about 90psi.) How, you ask? Two things –
…and lots of time avoiding sharp objects on the road. But those tires are amazing – I rolled over thorns, glass, truck-tire wires, and even a bag of nails at one point. Yes, I was lucky. But those tires are worth their weight in gold.
Ooops, I broke something.
The only repairs I had to do on the road were to clothing – I had to sew up a tear on my bike shorts and a seam came loose on my bike jersey.
That green part should be attached to my bike. :-/
At the end of the trip, however I discovered that I had busted one of the braze-ons that attaches my rear rack to the frame. It was bound to happen eventually. I’m good about checking those bolts because I’ve expected them to fail since I bought the bike, but I never expected the braze-on to bust off before I snapped or bent that bolt! Good thing steel can be welded!
What I should have been left behind?
I would have left the Kindle, hand warmers, and shoulder straps for the bags behind. I barely used the Kindle given that I had the Surface and the smart phone with me. I never used the hand warmers or shoulder straps.
Stuff that I just didn’t use.
I also brought knee warmers and arm warmers that will be left behind next time. I usually wear the heck out of those, but I found that just long sleeve shirts work better for me than the arm warmers. And I prefer wearing running tights that cover my butt/thighs as well as my lower legs more than the half-length knee warmers.
Also, I consistently carried too much food with me. I should not have purchased two boxes of oatmeal at a time, for example. One would have been fine. Because of that I always had about 3-5 extra pounds on the bike that I could have spared.
Oh – and I carried too much fuel for my stove. I would have used it if I had camped more, or if nice people didn’t invite me out to dinner so often. J
Was the solar charger worth bringing?
I did actually use the solar charger, but not as much as I thought I would. It was the most useful on the days where I camped without power and needed to charge batteries for the GPS or the phone. If I would have camped more it would have been indispensable for my lifestyle.
The Microsoft Surface and the Nokia Lumia 920 were awesome.
I am so, so very glad I brought them both! Every picture on this trip was taken with my Lumia and they turned out great. The Surface was really nice to use to blog.
The USB port on it meant that I could get the pictures off my phone and also upload the GPS tracks from my Garmin Oregon. You just can’t do that with an Android or iPad tablet. Every blog post was composed offline in Microsoft Word 2013 and published directly from Word to my WordPress site which made it easy to blog while not online or over a crappy internet connection. Also, internet tethering the phone to the tablet made it such that I didn’t have a night without internet. The only thing that I didn’t like was that I’m a slower typist on the Surface TouchCover keyboard than normal… it can be maddening when the keyboard misses every 10th or so key press.
What would I change for next time?
Besides the things mentioned above, I would budget more time to stay in some of the cooler places. There were places I would have loved to spend extra time, but because of the way I broke up the trip it didn’t make sense to spend extra time in those places. Places like Silver Springs, NM, Marathon, TX or Comfort, TX are on my list of places to return to some day and really enjoy instead of breezing through.
I would take more rest days, and not do as much mileage as I did over the last week of the trip. I really did push it too far.
I would also try to plan in a way to camp more to save money. I spent a lot more money on hotels and eating out than I intended to.
What did I do in Austin?
Austin was great! I mostly recovered by sleeping a lot and eating BBQ every single day. I did a little bit of touristy stuff, like visit the state capitol, but mostly I just relaxed. Austin is a great bike city – I almost think it’s better than Seattle in that regard. Bikes and bikers are just everywhere. It was really easy to go out at night on bikes – I loved that! I really enjoyed the time Todd and I got to spend together – my liver, however, is now in serious need of a vacation.
This is Franklin. He makes the best BBQ on the planet.
Amazingly good. Worth the 2-3 hour wait.
Cheesy tourist picture.
Kerrville, TX to Driftwood, TX
Distance traveled: 101.51 miles (1699.2 miles total)
GPS tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/267838331
“love is the coal that makes this train roll” – The Black Keys, Everlasting Light
When I set out I did not intend for this to be my last day of riding. I didn’t intend to do over 100 miles. I didn’t intend to be arriving at The Salt Lick BBQ right as they were closing. What can I say? Mistakes were made.
The first mistake was leaving so late – I knew I needed more time but I just couldn’t drag myself out the door before 10am. Well, that’s really not the first mistake. The first mistake was packing so many miles into 3 days – I was so exhausted, my knees had started to complain a bit, but I was bound and determined to stick to my HANG OUT WITH TODD AND EAT BBQ TONIGHT NO MATTER WHAT schedule. I’m glad I did, but it was probably a mistake.
Like the previous few days, it was a blustery windy no fun to ride in the wrong direction sort of day. Overcast & cloudy. Damn that wind. I’m tired of complaining about it, but it was responsible for much of my less-than-joyous attitude at certain moments during the day.
Oh, but the roads in the morning were fun – back country road was the primary path for today and that made it more fun than it would otherwise be. Still, lots of up and down today like the previous days – 5,700 ft of climbing. After all, this is still hill country!
High’s Café in Comfort, TX
If you ever find yourself in Comfort, TX I recommend stopping and staying a while. I had lunch at an adorable little café with great food. I had a woman stop and talk to me about the trip which was super nice. I would love to go back.
Also, I had people stop their cars and ask if needed anything more than once – it’s so nice when that happens. I didn’t need anything, but it is nice to have folks out in there who are kind enough to stop their cars and ask when they see you standing by the side of the road.
Armadillo Farm? Yep. It used to be fashionable to have Armadillo baskets.
It was one hell of a slow slog of a bike ride until I got to Blanco, TX. Almost all the elevation had been packed into the first two-thirds of the trip and I was pretty spent. I stopped to let Todd know that I was running behind but I’d do my best to get to the Salt Lick before they close at 10pm. I was hoping to be there by 8pm, but it was just too slow going to make that time.
And then I went and got myself lost out in the dark on Texas back country roads. Now, “lost” isn’t the right term – with a cell phone and a GPS it’s hard to be truly “lost”. But the path I intended to take certainly was not going to work. This was the biggest mistake of the trip, and really it wasn’t that bad. Just frustrating to be delayed when you’re on a schedule.
The little mile-long blip heading north is where I should have been able to cut directly east toward Driftwood on Stone Ranch Road. Instead I had to do a pretty long loop south to get across that gap to Driftwood. It was a nice ride, just longer than originally planned.
This was the first time I had been off of the ACA’s very well mapped Southern Tier route on the trip (besides my side trip to Prescott, AZ). I was going to take a different way into Austin to get closer to Todd’s house and also go eat some killer BBQ along the way. I had looked at the route online beforehand, but didn’t pay attention to the details of the last 20 miles. I just let the Garmin GPS do the work for me which normally works well. This time, however, it took me out of the way to get to a road that was not passible via bike. It was a private road with an intimidating locked gate. Even if it wasn’t forbidden, you would need an ATV to go along this road… my overloaded beast of burden w/ moderately skinny tires couldn’t have done it! So I had to backtrack and figure out different way – which ended up adding an additional 8-10 miles to the trip!
I called Todd in despair – it just wasn’t going to work to meet up tonight. In talking to him, he convinced me that I should try and that if nothing else he’d get their early and get us take out. Alright – good plan. I’ll go bust out some miles…
And bust them out I did – like a muther frak’n ninja. I biked like I needed barbeque to live. To breath! This bike is powered by the mere thought of BBQ!
Some of the world’s best!
I rolled into the Salt Lick with a smile on my face and with a half-hour to spare! I’m gonna hang out with a great friend, I’m getting some of the world’s best ribs and brisket, and I’ve only got a short 25 mile ride into Austin in the morning. Life is good.
Todd’s ready to chow down!
And it only got better. We got seated and ordered the “all you can eat” meal where they just keep bringing you meat after delicious meat. Piles of it. I changed into some respectable & clean cloths. I down some great beer and BBQ with Todd. I ate more than one person reasonably should be capable of eating. And when the bill comes and the manager has given me my meal for free! “Anyone who’s biked 100 miles to eat here earned a free meal!” Killer! And they gave us free desert. To top it off, since we got their so late, he let us just hang out and eat until well after they were closed… they literally turned off the lights as we were walking out the door. How awesome is that!?
All you can eat!!
During the meal Todd asked if I wanted to just ride back with him in his car. At first I said no – I’m a purist – I want to “ride to Austin”. But as the evening progressed & beer was consumed the weather started to become even fouler. The loud rain on the tin roof convinced me that I didn’t want to camp tonight. And the idea of hanging out with Todd more sounded much more awesome than a night alone in the rain in a tent.
It was a good decision. 1,699.2 miles to the outskirts of Austin is a damn respectable ride. No, I didn’t roll my wheels past the Austin City Limits sign, but I am at peace with that. My body was done. Yah, I could have done it but it would have been another windy gross day. It just wouldn’t have been fun. I decided to optimize for fun. I’ll remember the great evening out with Todd more than I would have remembered those last 30 miles that were not to be.
And so, I’m done. And I am so very happy to be done.
Camp Wood, TX to Kerrville, TX
Distance traveled: 89.91 miles (1597.69 miles total)
GPS tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/266899121
Up up and up.
On the way out of Camp Wood, this ‘ole boy hollers out at me, “You got some hills ahead!”
Yah, I know I said to myself. I’ve poured over the elevation profile. I’ve seen how hard this is going to be. But cartographers are lazy. The maps aren’t that detailed. And today I did a lot, a lot more elevation than I thought I would. I was thinking I’d do somewhere around 2,000-3,000ft of climbing. Boy was I wrong.
5,579 feet of climbing. Over 90 miles. I am spent.
Short notes from the day’s ride:
- The wind is still very windy. Luckily most of the day was cross and with the wind. Up in mountains it actually wasn’t too bad.
- I got chased by a dachshund on two wheels. The poor lil guy had his rear legs on rollers. He wasn’t very fast.
- I got up to 49mph!!!! These hills were steep!
- I climbed several hills at 2mph. These hills were steep!
- Lots of motorcycles out on these roads. Texas Highway 337 is one of the ‘three twisted sisters’ which are very popular motorcycle rides.
- Motorcycles = good food. I had a great burger at the motorcycle stop in Leakey, Texas. Best of the trip.
- Long, long day in the saddle – I was on the road for 12 hours. This was the first time where I stopped for both lunch and dinner while on the road.
- Riding at night was fun and peaceful as usual. I went 20-30 miles in the dark without a single car passing me on highway 39 into Kerrville. Got to enjoy the sounds of nature by myself out there – the birds, the bugs, the flowing water of the river I was following.
- Road conditions today were mixed. Luckily the worst roads were also the emptiest, so I could just ride right down the middle.
- There are some cool ranch houses out there – and some big ones, too! All lit up at night they look pretty cool.
Rollers & chip seal.
Leakey Eagles – sounds gross!
Great burger & lunch stop with the motorcycle crowd.
Hill country indeed.
Valleys & hills.
I really liked this ranch gate design.
I’ve seen lots of ‘no trespassing’ signs. This is the first time I’ve seen a security camera on a fence. Also, wouldn’t it be pretty easy to disable it?
Up I go!
Texas Hill Country Trail
Del Rio, TX to Camp Wood, TX
Distance traveled: 81.44 miles (1507.78 miles total)
GPS tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/266480083
“The rough surface causes noticeable increases in vibration and rolling resistance for bicyclists, and increased tire wear in all types of tires.” – Chip seal, Wikipedia
Not a pretty day.
I have found some sort of fun on the bike every day of this trip. This trip in the entirety has been fun. Sometimes there’s one awesome downhill that makes it worthwhile, or the challenge of the hills ahead, the joy of cruising down wide open highway, acquiring what Andy calls ‘smug points’ of accomplishing something really challenging, and certainly the people I’ve met along the way. There is generally something that makes me glad I got on the bike. Yesterday that something was really, really hard to find.
The wind has whipped up out here on the open Texas road and the clouds have moved in. I’m riding on rough chip seal highway that just vibrates the living crap out of me and my trusty stead. The noise of the wind and the ratta-tat-tat rattling of the bike beneath me was just grating on my last nerve. The 10-20 mph headwind that I was against for the first 30 miles of the ride just sucked my energy and my soul. I was riding through a moist cloud for a good part of the morning which made everything damp. And I think my body is just tired and wore out from some consecutive hard days of riding.
Music normally helps, so I pulled out the speaker around mile 25. And it did help. So I jammed along, moving 5-8 miles an hour where I would normally be going 12-15. Lots of frequent stopping. Lots of cussing at the wind. Out loud. With vigor.
Texas Ranch Road 334 – empty back country rolling hills.
After Brackettville the clouds broke through and my direction of travel changed so that I was now dealing with a crosswind and only an occasional headwind. This is where I got onto Texas Ranch Road 334. I stopped for lunch and my mood started to improve. But I wasn’t quite ready to enjoy the ride just yet.
I finally gave in to the fact that today was just going to be a slog somewhere around mile 40… somehow giving up made the day go better at that point. It’s slow. It’s hard. So what? You’ll get there eventually. And eventually I did. I entertained myself by stopping to take pictures of ranch gates. I kinda find them interesting how each ranch has their own brand and logo. I wish I would have taken pictures of more as I crossed Arizona and New Mexico to compare. I started to notice the foliage change – all of a sudden there were more trees and green things that weren’t cactuses. And it’s not because I’m at higher elevation, it’s because this is just more fertile land with more water available.
More rolling hills ahead!
So I pushed on, riding only two hours in the dark. The moonrise was absolutely beautiful. The road was pretty empty still so I felt safe. When I got to Camp Wood, I went to the 3 Sister’s RV camp site, chatted with Nancy (caretaker) and had a beer. I set up my tent in their pavilion and did my best to ignore the gusting wind. I didn’t sleep great, but it was sleep. And now I’m onto another day like the last… here’s to keeping it positive. J
Below are some random ranch gate pictures…
Langtry, TX to Del Rio, TX
Distance traveled: 58.09 miles (1426.34 miles total)
GPS tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/266363392
After a blissful, but short, night of sleep behind the Langtry Community Center I got up early and had packed up the bike by 9am. I rolled the short distance over to Langtry’s biggest attraction – the Judge Roy Bean Visitor’s Center (and restroom for weary cyclists).
The bar, pool hall, and courtroom of Judge Roy Bean.
The judge was quite the character – he was known as “the law west of the Pecos” river. Before his time it was said that “West of the Pecos there is no law; West of El Paso there is no God.” He was obsessed with Lilly Langtry of Jersey Island for whom he named the town of Langtry, and his saloon (the Jersey Lilly). He also apparently just did his ‘judging’ by shooting from the hip, ignoring the actual law and just dispensing justice however he saw fit. He was larger than life and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, but it makes for good story telling.
I spent a fair bit of time at the visitor’s center – mostly because it was interesting, and partially to give my electronics a chance to charge since I’d been without power for a couple of days.
The wooden windmill in the cactus garden. The visitor center is also home to a very nice cactus garden which was fun to walk around.
When I finally did get on the bike, it was very slow going. Big headwinds. More rolling hills. By the time I had gone 30 miles I was already beat. I stopped for a very long lunch at J&J Holley’s Place in Comstock where I watched reruns of Rosanne with the owner, devoured a massive burger with fries, and did some blogging.
The Pecos River canyon.
I had planned to do a longer ride today, but I really just didn’t have long distance in me today – 60 miles was more than enough. When I rolled into Del Rio and saw that there was a hotel next to a Rudy’s BBQ I took that as my sign to call it quits for the day. It was time for my first BBQ of the trip. It was about time!
I had 3 sandwiches and I was still hungry! So good!