Dawn provides the first morning dew on my tent of the tour, a welcome sign that the desert is behind us. Coffee. Tricked out oatmeal. Special shout goes out to Texas State Parks bathrooms. Really also all the friendly staff I meet. And the visitor center for being on point. I almost buy something beside the $10 campsite and $6 entrance fee. But nah.
We get one mile out and the fourth climb begins, it takes me 30 minutes to go one mile. This incline is ridiculous and ungodly. If I didn’t have all this other fucking stuff, I could jog faster up this hill. Fuck you Buddha, I’m clinging to my possessions. Also, apparently Forest Gump was smarter than me. Er, I.
Aye aye aye… I am pedaling in super slow motion on cameras that don’t exist. For the first time ever I am taking dictated notes of what I’m writing — right now, before i even write it. At 3 mph. Blogs and the interwebs refer to these last few hills as “Leg Breakers”. I’m calling them Grade A Beef. It is nothing like what I got in Japan.
We push the two or three miles up and out like 9 months and then lose the elevation throughout the rest of the day via the much more typical rolling hills. Some are still fairly steep; I love these and I’m feeling like I might be hitting tour strength. That fantastic point where it all starts to click. Also, oatmeal, peanut butter and ibuprofen this morning. The scenery is super and the feeling is fantastic and we follow along the Guadalupe River through some impressive country. It’s nice to have waterways back and I count 6 crossings of this one on the day. It’s also a good stretch for the motor bike people, and suddenly we’re not the only two wheeled traffic on the road. Tons of crotch rocket types whizzing around the rolling hills and curves. Plenty of typical Harley types with their old lady on the back thing happening. But also some “bikers” out on long travels. They’re the best. We wave to each other. At a little general store stop, I chat with a gentleman of this sort who’s on his way to Tucson for a wedding. I didn’t get his name but I’m calling him Al. I tell Al we’re headed to Florida, he says he was there three days ago. I tell him we were in Tucson two weeks ago. Al gives me some good info on the terrain ahead of us. We share some laughs. I like Al. On the surface one might not suspect it, but I find these kinda folks to be a lot like myself, I think maybe they’re a little lazier and we’re a little crazier.
The beautiful scenery continues, I don’t get many photos but the GoPro strapped on top of my helmet caught a lot of it, so stay tuned for that stuff, kiddies. Things are getting greener. And bluer. Suddenly, I’m in the line of fire! In two packs, a total of 36 mustangs (only one of which is pre-80’s) nearly get to get away with manslaughter — each of them goes vroom vroom as it swerves around me. These whatever-life-crisis, fossil-fueled nut bags are the worst. I can’t even call them crotch rockets because rockets are to cool for them. These people are just sitting there, supine, inside and on four wheels for no real good reason. They don’t even need to balance. Dumb assholes almost clip Damon. Fuck them.
Ten miles up and I spot another cyclist in front of us. With a trailer. Fully fully loaded. The next stop and we meet Chelsea, who is riding the same Southern Tier Route to Florida… with her dog Taj in the trailer!!! This is super exciting. We have not seen many other cyclists on entire cross country tours thus far, and this one has a pup. Taj is a super adorable three year old boy. He just chills in the trailer while she goes into the store to fill water. I get to Lee him company. He’s picky with his dog food, so I suggest giving him a hamburger. They are going to turn left at St Augustine and head up the coast to Maine. The trailer and dog are probably 60 pounds. 60 pounds that I’m not towing, so it’s super impressive what she’s doing. Definitely pedaling twice her own weight. The same dumb mustang assholes also almost clipped her. We chat for a bit more; Chelsea hits a farm cafe, we push on the town 10 more miles up. We’re riding further than her today and I imagine moving a bit faster. I wonder if we’ll see them again along the trail again.
Our destination for whatever break and meal we have with 27 miles left? Another sacred pilgrimage to Walmart of course. We go from Taj to Haj. This incarnation is definitely not as robust. But they do have rifles and shotguns prominently on display for sale. So there’s that. In real life I am never in a Walmart, in tour life I love this corporate tax-evading monolith of a modern day slave plantation because it provides Damon a nutritious vegan meal and both of us properly sized bike tubes. I also get to eat a deli chicken Caesar salad and a packaged banana nut muffin. I sip coffee from my thermos while sitting in one of the 50 or so plastic Adirondack chairs out front of this caloric Mecca. The sun is getting low and we don’t have time for two or three stops. Thanks Waltons, but please start paying your employees a livable wage and start selling USA made everything in your stores.
One more big climb and we are rolling through hills on our way into Fredericksburg; it takes us a little over two hours. Our host Brett is the proprietor of a bunch of things in town. The gentleman at the front desk of his hotel, Arturo, checks us into an exquisite patch of grass next to the guest house that’s next to the motel next to the hotel. It’s very Wes Anderson in Texas at this point. Call it Tex Anderson. There’s a little structure with a sink and shower next to the patch of grass in which I’m setting the tent up. Arturo shows us the toilets across the way and offers coffee and breakfast in the lobby tomorrow morning. This is awesome. I crush calories and hit the sleeping bag to rest the legs for another day of hills tomorrow.