Tag Archives: austin

Day 3  – Austin

We spent the last two days traveling more than 1300 miles and today we are just going to relax a bit before making a long trip from Austin through our border crossing at Reynosa and ending in Tampico if everything goes well.  My body is aching in some really unusual ways for me and I am excited to see if a day of walking around a city will alleviate some of the soreness.
First off, I am beginning to believe that my best hope of being up early to travel might not be a reality ever on this trip because even on days off we still don’t get out until around 10 or 11 in the morning.  I always knew I was a bit of a late riser and more of a night owl but I figured Joe would keep me on pace with a 5 am wake up or something.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and our mutual allowance of “feet dragging” might just be a hurdle we will have to cover at some point.  Today though, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Since we rode in very late last night to our fiend’s house on the hill we didn’t realize the view that would be awaiting us in the morning.  I met Joe at the kitchen table and we marveled at the distant Austin skyline just beyond the pool and patio.  It was really incredible to hear about the recent expansion and new buildings popping up over the last 5-10 years.  Apparently Austin is the new hot tech home and people are flocking to the area in droves.  As we closed out our early morning conversation, Joe arranged for an Uber to take us into the city so we could let the bikes rest and we would be able to drink all we wanted without fear of riding “wobbly.”
Our first goal was to find a place to eat and with Joe being vegan, I figured it would be wise to let him pick lest I make a monumental error by taking him to a steakhouse.  We ended up at True Food where they say, “Eating well is always in season.”  I was just slightly apprehensive because I’ve never really eaten at a place designed around healthy options.  My worries were allayed quickly as we were handed truly solid drink menus to start our lunch off right.  I cannot remember exactly what I ordered or what Joe ordered but they were both really great drinks.  As I perused the menu I noticed at Grass-Fed Burger which seemed like the perfect mix of healthy to hearty that I love.  Ordered placed and my anticipation was piqued.  Joe opted to order a few different items including the Kale Guacamole which only seemed fitting as we were planning on heading to Mexico the following day.
One of the first things we noticed as we sat talking and people watching next to the large glass windows which let in tons of warm welcome sunlight, was just how attractive the people of this city are.  It is like watching an Abercrombie catalog walking around except everyone had really distinct looks.  We had various ethnicities and various cultures represented but beyond that people’s choice of dress and hairstyle and ink were all very unique.  Maybe instead of an Abercrombie catalog it would be more accurate to say the United Colors of Benneton catalog.  It was remarkable and I was all of a sudden very conscious of my “road” attire.  I decided after a few more strong drinks, I would probably lose any self-reflection anyway so I decided to proceed with abandon.
The food arrived and it was all really good.  It was filling and tasty and as unique as the countless waitresses streaming by to ask us what we thought of lunch.  Color me satisfied and if I was going to give out recommendations for Austin, True Food would be right on top.
This was Joe’s first time in Austin and I had spent a limited amount of time here a few years ago so we set out like a bunch of novices, trying to find the best bars to hang out in at 2pm on a Monday afternoon.  After another Uber ride we ventured into a bar called Lustre Pearl with an enormous moose head overlooking the bar.  One thing I can say about this bar is there is plenty to look at inside even with no other patrons present.  Also, you can generally get great service at Austin bars if you are wiling to drink at an illogically early hour on a Monday (pro tip).  We opted to take this moment to shoot our Austin Diary video with drinks in hand.
Once the business was done we called in our good friend from North Carolina who had moved to Austin just a year or so earlier, hoping he would be able to guide us as our senses were getting dulled by the glass.  When Greg arrived a few minutes later, we set off to find some other watering holes.  We were told by our Austin guide that tourists head out to Fifth Street but the locals are all about Rainey Street.  Apparently this entire street used to be old houses which were each bought and renovated in different styles.  Each provides a view of vintage Austin with a laid back vibe it would be easy to feel very comfortable in regardless of what you might be looking for.  It reminded me a bit of Halloween but instead of candy each house was offering a stocked menu of libations completely exclusive to their doorway.  If only it would have been free, I might have died there that day.  Be sure to check out Banger’s and Container for some “hit the spot” drinks and some cool atmosphere.
While we sat and discussed old days and home and the coming trip I was struck with just how lucky I was.  Maybe it was watching people just like me hustling to and from work meetings or picking up a quick bite before heading back to the office, but I realized it is Monday and I am embarking on a great journey.  I am drinking with friends in a brand new place on a weekday afternoon.  It took me a moment but I made sure to be grateful for this opportunity and to promise to make a point of sharing that gratitude with the people I was going to be surrounded with along the way.  In all of our lives we wash across people every day and often leave no mark or significant impression of any kind.  This can be strangers on the street or your taxi driver or any number of momentary collisions of two people in a universe of monotony.  Maybe it is our responsibility, all of our responsibility, to take time to find out about these brothers and sisters who slide in and out of our lives without notice.  Maybe it is on us to offer a smile, a handshake or a kind word to acknowledge we are all a lot closer than it may seem.  It is hard to think about but if I can just shift my mentality slightly to imagine the first hurdle of anonymity already crossed.  It reminded me of a sign I once saw over the door of a small town bar, “You are only a stranger here once.”  Why couldn’t I treat my life in a similar fashion?  We may not be friends forever, in fact we may never speak again but for today, I am going to do my best to see you.  I am going to do my best to recognize you.  I am going to do my best to leave a positive impression on you because that is what you have done for me.
Two more drinks quickly snapped me out of my hyper reflective fall down the rabbit hole but I did feel more resolved about my ultimate goal behind Be Gone For Good.  There are a billion options every day to do good in the world around us.  If I am going to be on the road and away from my family, it should be paramount on my priority list to do good.  Otherwise I am wasting precious time and resources to create vacant memories in the most selfish of ways.  It is my job to be an ambassador for good and I will not take that role lightly.
Or, I will wake up tomorrow and not remember any of these ramblings of a romantic drunkard as we careen towards the border.  Here is hoping for the former.

Day 2 – Mobile, AL to Austin, TX

We arrived in Mobile late last night and strangely slept in a little late today. We got down to breakfast and scrounged through what was left of a pretty weak continental breakfast which wasn’t a big problem for me because I only, usually, have cereal and yogurt. For Joe, however, it is a first hurdle of trying to maintain a pretty strict vegan diet as we head through Central America. I am a bit nervous about what places like Guatemala hold in terms of meatless options while remaining glad that I have precious few dietary restrictions short of eyeballs, brains and most guts.

We are preparing for a long day from Mobile, AL through to Austin, TX at about 650 miles. On our way down the elevators in the morning I realized very quickly that I need to find a better way to carry my gear as I have two very heavy panniers, one in each hand, and a Mosko Moto Backcountry 40 pack on my back. In order to carry all this stuff I need to have my jacket on already which is starting to heat me up before we’ve even hit the sun. By the time we get down to the bikes in the courtyard of the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel I have already started sweating quite heavily which wouldn’t be a problem but it definitely makes for awkward casual conversation with the people gathered near the bikes who think you may pass out at any moment.

We met a brother and sister who had arrived in Mobile from Florida to welcome their sister’s new baby girl. They were quite overjoyed with the newest arrival to the family and I took the opportunity to practice my goal of reaching out more while on the road. The conversation felt free and easy with their interest in our travels bounding with the same sincerity as their own joy. I got to hand out my first stickers of the trip which felt really great and a little like a necessary hurdle to get over before we got into Mexico. I was glad to have tackled it early. The pair wished us luck and we boarded the bikes with a little extra lightness from the positivity of the morning.

The mileage today wasn’t particularly fun or interesting but I loved watching the surrounding landscape morph from the familiar tree lined highways to raised concrete bridges spanning for miles over the watery bayous of Southern Louisiana. It brought back memories of reading Ted Simon’s journey around the world in Jupiter’s Travels where he spoke of the major difference between traveling by plane to a destination and by roadway because you had the opportunity on the road to view all the nuance change and similarities of neighboring communities. It struck me as a similar difference between flicking on a light in your bathroom and immediately being granted light so quickly that the dark is no longer evident as opposed to watching the night slowly fade moment to moment as the light conquers it with the sun rise. I was hopeful to see the changes in population as we traveled through countries I’ve only ever read about before.

There was another realization that washed over me as we cruised across Interstate 10 hovering over the water and it had me a little concerned. In all the head turning and gawking I was doing, I noticed my eyes and mind were spending less and less time on the road immediately ahead. This just would not do traveling 70-80 mph but it would almost certainly be a problem when I got into Mexico where the rules of the road are a bit more lax. It was time for my to buckle down and recognize my first priority is to complete this trip safely because if I died on the road my wife would never let me do this again. This is the great paradox of travel. We want to see everything but you can’t possibly view it all. I have to be okay getting bits and pieces and knowing there will always be a reason to come back because I have either missed something or the inevitable change has made the old, new again. Each new mile makes my life more full exactly because of the fleeting nature of the experience.

Joe and I were still well within our cell signal so we decided to practice using the bluetooth headsets in our helmets while we could still have a back up. It was fun being able to push a button and immediately get into Joe’s head while it was a little unnerving when the reverse happened. For some reason my main fear was he would click in and I wouldn’t catch it until he had already heard me singing a few bars of Abba’s Take a Chance On Me. For those that might share a similar concern, the headsets do a pretty good job of making you aware of the changeover so you can compose yourself appropriately. We soon found ourselves punching the buttons for all manners of attractions we passed to let the other guy know before it was nothing but a glimmering mirage a mile behind us. One of Joe’s best was letting me know from behind that he had spotted an alligator swimming in the canal just below where we were riding. As I didn’t see it, probably because of previously mentioned singing fit, I choose to believe he was simply lying about it.

We pulled into Austin pretty late that night and I made a phone call to my buddy who was putting us up for the night to apologize for arriving not at 5 or 6 pm but closer to 10 or 11 because we cannot bring ourselves to keep a tight schedule on this trip so far. He guided me through his neighborhood in the high hills overlooking downtown Austin on what amounted to a much more exciting ride than it should have been. Being relatively new on a bike I didn’t consider just how troubling steep hills could be on travel while on a bike if you didn’t think about your path beforehand and decided to stop. After a couple of close calls where I almost turned around and dropped/fell off the side of the mountain we finally rolled into his courtyard driveway to complete a long second day of riding.

Joe dismounted and was ready to step inside quickly because he didn’t pack like it was the end of the world. I, on the other hand, took a few minutes longer because arranging 40 pounds of gear is seldom easy but it is hampered even further by having a tank bag and helmet to contend with as well. I eventually made it inside to be greeted with a warm kitchen and a cold beer to celebrate the end of our USA-only travel days. We quickly decided that with our late arrival and a big day of travel to get all the way to Tampico, it might be best to spend an extra day in Austin to recover. It will be nice to see some of the life we have been blistering past over the past couple of days. Plus who doesn’t love spending time in Austin?