Reached Fredericksburg today. The roads were fairly busy all of today, with two lanes all the way. Light headwinds throughout the day. Despite being in hill country, it wasn’t really much hillier than before, but my guess is the US highways have taken gentle grades. Left Burnet at sunrise and headed south on the road to Marble Falls. It seemed like there was more downhill than up and I made good time. Stopped briefly to raise my seat but otherwise through the main roads to Marble Falls. At 14 miles, crossed a bridge across the Colorado River. Not that Colorado River, but a bit larger nevertheless. Climbed up the hills on the other side and stopped for brief bite to eat.
I could tell it was more climbing as went on to Round Mountain. A bunch of the traffic turned off at 19 miles to Austin so it wasn’t as busy. Round Mountain has population 111 but had a big sign promoting their business center and truck stop. Good place for breakfast where I was asked for the first time if I wanted “sweet” tea or “unsweet” tea. Also choice of grits or hash browns. I’m in the south now. Last 12 miles from Round Mountain to Johnson City were mostly flat, though I had headwinds again.
At 37 miles turned west at Johnson City. This is the area where Lyndon B Johnson grew up and there were numerous signs for LBJ items including his ranch and the post office where he mailed his first letter. Apparently, the town was named Johnson City in 1879, thus predating the former president. From here onto US 290 and across some gentle hills. Seemed like I still had some light headwinds. At 47 miles a brief stop in Hye and then past the LBJ park and then to Stonewall, the small town closest to the Johnson Ranch. It was rush hour at the cafe, but they made a good burger. Stopped to read the newspaper before cycling the last bits into Fredericksburg. I saw a few cars with bikes on top as I neared and actually saw cyclists out riding as I came into town. Surprising to me that I hadn’t seen any cyclists before in Dallas or until I got close to Fredericksburg.
Plan is to stay here for the week and do (unloaded) rides with Texas Hell Week. I’m looking forward to cycling with more cyclists out here.
A third day of headwinds. Still about 10-15mph but fairly consistent, particularly in the afternoon. Good weather is frequently accompanied with high pressure and also winds from the south. Locals would like some more rain, though my headwinds are also an indication of good weather for now. I am now in the official “hill country” region though the road still has roughly the same amount of gradual descents and climbs.
Left Hamilton before sunrise again. Nice shoulders on 281 and calm roads as I headed southbound. I had eaten two yogurts since I wasn’t sure when the next breakfast stop might be. The road wound up and down and through some gentle hills. Still calm as far as winds go. After 16 miles I came to Evart, population 393 and intersection with US 84. I got some breakfast food at the grocery store and left town on a gradual climb up a hill. More gentle hills to climb over and then several miles of more flat along the Lapasas river into Adamsville. There was one store in town and its name was “The Store”. Friendly folks here and also a friendly cat. They told me I was now officially in the Hill Country region.
There were some hills, though nothing out of the ordinary climbing up and over Lapasas. With a population of 7000 people this was big town with major intersection of several roads. Also a good place for an early lunch. Leaving Lapasas, US281 continued to have two lanes each way and not much shoulder. Also unfortunately the first 14 miles was a rough chip seal. The hills didn’t seem very steep but I was going pretty slow. Also seemed like the wind was picking up. Finally at mile 60, the road became smooth again and tended more downhill. It was nice to get into Burnet. While it was only 2pm, I had traveled half the distance to Fredericksburg and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow.
The couple running the motel was from Gujarat state in India, same as the last three nights of motels. They told me they didn’t have wireless internet – so I’m quickly borrowing an unprotected “linksys” connection that seems to be around. 68 miles today.
Today a slower ride through some beautiful country. Despite the title above, I don’t think I am in Hill Country yet. There were some gradual grades up and down as I crossed through the country. However, I expect it to get hillier further south. Some light headwinds and carrying my gear meant I was cycling pretty slow today.
Left just a bit before sunrise. Quite a few trucks out on the road. Signs indicated oil drilling vehicles and one or two places had slurry dumps. The shoulder was wide and the grades were gentle so I was making good time. After 5 miles I came on junction of 67 and 67 business. From here some small hills to climb up and over. Winds were already coming up from the south. After 22 miles I crossed the Brazos River and not much further to Glen Cove for a breakfast stop. Also a good chance to switch from fleece to just my jersey.
Some gentle climbs coming out of town and then some more steep climbs over Chalk Mountain. Some nice views and photo at left was taken from a rest area close to the top. Down the other side and I left US 67 behind. Texas 220 was nice and smooth with a 3 foot shoulder. Some gentle ups and downs but nothing too severe. Through the last of the hills and then down into Nico. I was ready for lunch and there were several different choices. I was pleased to hear that patrons thought there would be fewer hills on way to Hamilton than how I had just come. The wind also seemed a bit lighter so I was making better time. At 71 miles on outskirts of town a motel beaconed with sign “free high speed internet”. Nevertheless, I wanted to at least get to center of town. Perhaps a mile past the center I found a different motel with matching sign. I am in the area with two Mexican restaurants and the county jail. Across the street is a business for preparing deer meat and down the road one can buy a hog trap for $450. I could definitely feel that today was a tougher ride than yesterday.
First day of cycling from Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW) back to Cleburne. Beautiful weather for an unloaded bicycle ride. Woke up early and loaded the bicycle in the minivan. A little over an hour and a half of driving and I was at the airport. As I unloaded the bike, the attendants looked on with curiosity. I said, “you don’t have many people here on bicycles?”. “No sir, I think you are the first”. Despite that claim, getting out of the Dallas Airport was very straightforward. First exit back on Rental Car Drive and then take the next road (Airport Road) to the left. Before I knew it I was cycling through Euless. As a whole, todays road conditions were a little easier than I expected. Not always a lot of shoulders, but traffic was fairly light and polite. Only one occasion where I thought, “you really need to learn how to drive around bicycles”.
From Euless, I took 157, also known as Industrial Avenue southbound. At 11 miles I crossed the Trinity River and continued southbound through Arlington. Some gentle grades across low hills. At 18 miles I reached I-20 and stopped for breakfast. From here I was a little confused as 157 was further west, but after a brief detour through some suburban neighborhoods I was back to Cooper Street. Cooper crossed US-287 and ended at business 287. Fun to be on this highway since my home in Fort Collins is only 0.3 miles from 287.
287 became Main Street in Mansfield and had cute old buildings, though didn’t look like much commerce. From here mostly followed smaller side roads including 917. A combination of 15mph headwinds and some hillier terrain made for slightly slower going. At Happy Hill another brief stop. I hadn’t seen many bicyclists and one of the locals asked how far I was riding. I said from “DFW to Cleburne” and he thought that was a pretty far distance. His furthest ride had been 14 miles. I took several different county roads and was back in Cleburne by 1:30pm. It was nice to have an unloaded ride and everything road pretty easily despite feeling a little more tired by hills and wind at the end.
A late lunch at the Chinese buffet where my fortune said “A routine task will turn into an enchanting adventure”. Hmm…I’m having enough fun having my adventure be an adventure – so not sure it is good to have adventuresome routine tasks as well :-). 56 miles cycled today.
An easy drive today to Cleburne, southwest of Fort Worth where I got a hotel reservation for two nights. I then called a friend a worked with in Dallas area to arrange to drop off some unneeded gear for a few weeks. I was surprised to have what I guess is almost half the weight of cycling gear being left behind. I’ll need to do some more careful looking to see if I really need to bring all that along. Tomorrow the plan is to drop the rental car off at DFW airport and then bicycle from the airport back to the same hotel, so even less loaded as a first day of cycling.
Uneventful drive to Ardmore, Oklahoma today. Interesting how wireless internet has become prevalent in many of these roadside motels. A few years ago, I had a dialup prodigy account since they had dialups in many cities. Now much less need for that. Tomorrow will get to Dallas area and then sort through what things to bring to Texas Hell Week and which to leave behind.
I’ve gotten the last of the packing done. It will tightly fit into four panniers though it all seems pretty heavy. I think particularly the pannier and a half of bike related tools and parts. I’ll definitely want to check again in Texas how much to really bring. One exercise I spent some time doing was getting scans of important documents such as my passport or airline tickets. I printed out several of these scans and then put them under a lamination paper. The photo at left shows one of those documents, namely the “explore” section from the local newspaper. Each week the newspaper prints people visiting exotic locations with their copy of the newspaper. My exotic location at left is my bathroom, so not the one to send in yet.
By 4pm, I had gotten all my last minute packing done and departed Fort Collins – hopefully until December 28th or so. I drove down and had dinner with my parents before driving a short way down the road. I was feeling a bit sleepy so didn’t get further than Limon. Tomorrow will be a longer day of driving most of the way to Dallas. Nice to finally have the cycling portions of this vacation get closer.
Closed up things at work including turning in my laptop and clearing everything out of my cubicle and gym locker. We had a nice send-off lunch, thanks guys! My plan is to return on December 31st, so today was my almost last day of work this year.
I’ve gotten most things packed. It goes into three groups: things I’m using in Texas, things I don’t need in Texas but will in Amsterdam and some spare items to leave at my parents. For example, my camping gear is in the second category. All three groups are a little bigger than I’d like. However, it is tough to look at some of it and wonder if I’ll really need it or not. Am I better off with an extra spare tire or will the weight hurt me more them help. My plan is to take another good look at everything in Dallas before my flight and figure out the final things to bring then.
I picked up an interesting alcohol stove. Only 1oz. Not quite sure where I can pick up methylated spirits in Russia, but if so that would be a very lightweight alternative to the stove I would otherwise bring. There seem to be enough other places to get food along the way, so not sure I want to carry too much weight to cook things.
A day for errands and preparations. Completed and filed my taxes. Picked up a rental minivan for errands and driving to Dallas. Moved over several websites so my home DSL line can go off. Stopped in the post office, AAA and several stores to pick up little things here and there. Also stopped in to work briefly to clean up my cubicle.
I’ve been accumulating the possible gear on a futon in my living room. Wow! Rather daunting to see all this stuff, and how it might all fit in just four panniers. Trying to make sure I don’t bring too much stuff to carry across Asia – without forgetting some crucial things. Fortunately, I’ve got my Texas ride to help sort a few things out. After Texas Hell Week, I’ll put everything out in a motel room and see what I might really need. I’ve also see from the AAA maps and looking online that there should be enough motels between Dallas and Fredericksburg that I can leave the camping stuff in Dallas initially.
My last day of work today. A fairly quiet and uneventful day as I’ve worked to get most things handed off already. Hopefully not too many loose ends come up later. Still hard to realize that the work assignments that have been a large part of my life in past five years will now change to vacation cycling plans and then a new set of work thereafter. That is the type of stuff that typically sinks in over first days of cycling. I’ve enjoyed working with folks and my mind is still trying to solve todays problems.
I still have a list of organizing tasks, stopping by banks, post offices, sending off my taxes, etc. Perhaps the largest task on the next few days is to pack up my specific gear into panniers and also pack and clean a bit more on my duplex. I have most of the cycling items on the list and many in a pile along the hallway, just need to pick the specific items and pack them.
One exercise I’ve been doing the past few weeks is trying to tame the amount of mail, both physical and email that gets sent to me each day. For each message take a look and ask “now why did this get sent to me” and perhaps how I might get it off the list. I’ve gotten the major ground bills changed over. Switching from prodigy to google for email filtering has helped and I’ve been getting off some random lists here and there. Once I’m on the road it will be nice to get an email or two but don’t want to wade through hundreds of junk messages to see them…