The morning in Austin started out hot enough to make me vacate my tent by 9. To say it was hot is a massive understatement, hiding in the shade was the only thing keeping me from melting. There was a pool next to the site but it was fenced off and it was too much like hard work to climb it.
As a group, we sat around the picnic table and decided to plan out the next few days in advance. This was to try and find some Warm Showers and give them some advance notice. One of the few downsides to riding in a group is that people are less likely to put you up for the simple fact that it becomes too much of a burden. We finally had about three days planned out. Joe said the exact same thing I was thinking; this was the most planning I’d ever done this trip.
We left the fine resort of Austin around noon and had two options for our route today. Flatter and longer or shorter and steeper. We hit the fork in the road and decided that the slightly flatter route was more sensible. We scaled Mt Airy without too much hassle, and we all regather and regrouped at the summit to enjoy the downhill together.
The downhill was enjoyable and my weight helped me speed down it a lot faster than my stick-thin comrades. At the bottom of the descent things got interesting when the winds hit. I struggled in the ferocious headwind but saw a small car park to have a quick break and wait for the others to catch up. A lone car was in the dusty parking lot and before I could reach it a young boy came running up to me with an ice-cold water. I thanked him and his Dad and we chatted for a bit whilst the others caught up.
Once we regrouped we stayed together for the last 25 miles. The wind was now stronger than ever. It seemed like we were riding to our impending death as we came face to face with a wall of dust. We passed through it unscathed but the wind didn’t hold up. We were managing 5mph and that was a major struggle. It even got to the point where I was looking for other places to set up camp, but I knew Middlegate would be looming soon.
There is a famous shoe tree just outside of Middlegate that I was looking for. The shoe thing started a long time ago with a pair of trainers being thrown into the branches. Sheeple started following the trend, and continued to throw their stench ridden boots into the poor tree. Unfortunately, some arsehole cut the tree down last year and as a result we cycled right passed it without seeing it. Never-mind, we could see the little town of Middlegate now, and it looked like the scene of a Western movie – it was awesome.
Four guys on the bar balcony greeted us very warmly and it soon became apparent that everything revolved around the bar. Only 17 people lived in Middlegate and their power was from a new generator out in the back. Thanks to the American Navy the town had WiFi in exchange for letting them install a radio tower. They even had a swimming pool out in the back!
I treated the guys to log cabin so that we didn’t have to bother putting our tents up. The cabin was ideal for cyclists, just a double bed and a bunk bed. Being simple, it meant that it was only $25 for all of us! Joe and myself then went back to the bar where I treated Joe to a birthday burger. This crazy guy just turned 19. I could not have imagined riding across America at 18, my hat is well and truly tipped to him.
We bought a lot of beer for the evening (for those that were of legal age, obviously) and chilled out with some music courtesy of Joe on guitar and vocals. Kat and Tim turned into bed, and Joe, Han and myself decided it was the perfect time to go for a dip in the pool. The stars were out, the ambience was very peaceful and we had a great time relaxing and paddling around. That was until I got out and had the worst stomach cramps I ever experienced. Thankfully they passed within a few minutes of being hunched over about to vomit. A challenging day of riding, and a perfect evening. One of my favourite days of the tour so far!