Thanks for Riding!

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.


San Diego to Austin: Summing it up

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.

Franklin BBQ

This is Franklin. He makes the best BBQ on the planet.

Amazingly good. Worth the 2-3 hour wait.

Cheesy tourist picture.




Day 27: Take Me Home, Country Roads

Kerrville, TX to Driftwood, TX
Date: 01/28/2013
Distance traveled: 101.51 miles (1699.2 miles total)
GPS tracks:

“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.