Seventh out of Nine. That's what I got in the race in Comfort. I felt good. Early on I fought for third and was feeling strong. One and two are powerhouses and know the terrain, so I couldn't hold their wheels for long. The race was two big loops with the connector near the finish. Figure eight style. As I was coming into the transition I got a puncture on my rear tire. It would not plug up, I kept losing air, time, and places. Just before that happened I let a Bicycle Sport Shop rider pass, I was sitting in Fourth. Once it plugged up and held air I just concentrated on riding smooth and cleaning the Texas tech bits. I wasn't chasing but I made sure I didn't get caught by the last two either. Fun trails. Tons of Agarita and tall grass to scrape by through turns. Lots of ledgey sections to pop up and over or drop off of. Almost all open, but it was thankfully cool and cloudy.
I spent the night before continuing to meet the B. Sport crew and drinking a free keg of Agave Wheat, compliment of the Specialized Rep., Wiley.
Bumper sticker on pick-up on the way back read: "Vote Biblically". Not sure what that means.
Drove into yet another ranch pay-to-park-and-camp mountain bike race. The trails here are fast, loose and wide open. I can't imagine the summer sun at a race like this. Car camping, hanging out and drinking is just part of the bike culture down here. People just set out chairs, roll out coolers and shoot the shit. There is such a relaxed air about it all. The life is good mentality. It's like weekends really mean something to them.
I parked next to a middle aged man wearing overalls, no shirt, and an american flag visor. He proceeded to point out the good spots to set up a tent; offered a fire rake to clear the ground. Later on the character got even better. Black speedo while riding his bike (that's it) and all the camp setup that followed. His name is Gary. What a guy. Welcome to Texas.
Driving through Hill Country of Texas, going to these races, meeting these interesting people...as my sister expected, I really am falling in love with this area. It is all shades of faded greens and sandy greys, but it is scenic and rustic. What shelter is provided by the trees, the oaks, the juniper, the mesquite, is sanctum. Cattle and goats take to their shade. They break up the clean, sharp sun down here. And then there's the wind. Never a day without wind. It pulls the heat from the sun but takes you by surprise all the time. Gusts so quick you don't have a chance to weigh everything down.
I've met some really nice people as well. Nice....what an overused yet often pertinent word. A lot of them in such a small amount of time. Very approachable. I also think it's been my own attitude about being here as well. I've gone into these races, these trail parking lots, with an open mind and a willingness to connect and learn. My skills not only socially but also in simply networking (same thing?) have come a long way. But really, beyond my own growth, I think the culture and mentality here is different than what I am used to up North. Though I have only been here for a handful of weeks, I already get the sense of that great hypocrisy of the South. Many people can only see the traditional right side fundamentalist portion of the population, but there is a thriving progressive, easy going, welcoming portion as well. And both are blessed with Southern hospitality for the most part, so as long as one can bite their tongue and avoid political or religious conversation, a pleasant experience will be had.
So the weekend in Austin was a flash and yet another week is on its way out. NAHBS was downright incredible. Eye candy galore. I scoped out all the single-speeds and there was no shortage of them. Plenty of beautiful single-speed, rigid mountain bikes as well. The craftsmanship and ornateness of some bikes was simply stunning. Glad I went. Fellow PA boys at Dirt Rag have some good coverage.
On my drive into Austin I was blown away by how many people were out, running, riding, walking their dogs, and even paddle boarding on the lake. I drove in on one of the main drags, called Cesar Chavez that parallels the Greenway (I think that's what it's called...), a long park on the lakeside. It was perfect. It was a quick glimpse into how active and alive Austin is, and it was great first moment in the city.
After the show, I explored and visisted a cool local bike shop. I met their service manager while riding at Reveille Peak ranch (my new "local" trails) the weekend before. Great guy, who, with his wife, have introduced me to tons of local riders. I was trying to race for the shop team, but I missed my shot. Their roster is filled up just before I got to town. I didn't know that on Sunday though...
But, let me finish Saturday first. After the show and shop, I met up with my friend Brynn who I led trips with and knew from Penn State. Not the closest friend, but we were able to have a good time at lunch then some afternoon drinks. Her relatively recent boyfriend had a rugby game and our afternoon drinks were had at an irish pub full of the most macho and lude rugby players. It was quite the contrast to my morning at a bike show. They burst out into graphic songs about women, homosexuals, and sex. None of them were pleasant, to say the least. After this, I witnessed something I certainly wasn't prepared for: their tradition of sending new teammates running stark naked across the downtown Austin street, into a gay bar to take a shot, then back. This was at five in the afternoon. Apparently they've done this for five years now. Crazy.
All in all a good visit with Brynn, excusing the offensive rugby cro-magnon men.
Ok. Sunday. Stupidly I didn't just stay at Brynn's, but instead drove back to Marble Falls Saturday night. So on Sunday morning, I drove back into Austin and out the otherside to the first TMBRA race at Warda. I later learned this was the first ranch that purpose built mountain bike trails were built in Texas. Pretty cool. $5 land use fee at the gate. $35 entry fee since I was late. Not a cheap race. It was a fast and challenging race though, so I got my moneys worth. It reminded me of Fair Hill in Delaware. Twisty, sandy, singletrack. It didn't flow super well. I met more people, some kids from TX State most notably. Planning on riding with one or two of them this weekend. I also got to meet the team captain for the shop that I wanted to race for. Another nice guy that informed me of the situation. I was just too late. They might offer a kit at cost, but he was unsure of their expectations of me. We'll see. I feel that my 9th place finish in the Cat 1 SS race is respectable considering how little I've been riding as of late. Some pictures here.
This week? Most notably I ran over and killed a rather sizeable racoon last night, then surprised my co-workers by integrating it into the mock-class I taught today. It was brilliant! That sucker requires two shovels to pick up. He's a biggin'.
Looking forward. Reveille Ranch Saturday with new friends...maybe an old one. Relaxin' pool and/or lakeside Sunday. And I actually get to teach kids next week.