Deep In the Heart
Sue and Leo have a tradition with their friends of watching the Tour de France together every Sunday morning during the tour. It involves a huge, decadent breakfast. I was invited. Oh, I'm going.
Sadly, I can't remember the names of any of Sue and Leo's friends, but they were all exceedingly amiable folks and glad to have me there. The hosts in particular were interested in my "Bikes, Blues, and Barbecues" book, having done some adventuring before and also having had a book published! They said they'd get in touch with their publisher on my behalf. If that actually works, that'd be awesome!
Oh yeah, breakfast tacos, cinnamon rolls, fresh cherries, powerberries, coffee cake, awesome chocolate tarts. I ate breakfast like a king.
After the Tour party, I went down to Bicycle Sport Shop to get some work done on Valeria. The dynamo/electric system hadn't been working again, and has generally been one headache after another. And the USB recharge port never worked well even when it was working. It required you to be going fast to do anything at all, faster than I'm going 80% of the time, and doesn't even do much when it does work. I wanted it all stripped, dynamo hub included. That meant a complete wheel build.
The fact that Bicycle Sport Shop was willing to do this kind of project all in one day, especially a Sunday, is already notable. Of course, I had to call in ahead to schedule this; there's no way they could do that day-of on a weekend with no previous notice. Since I was on a tour and let them know ahead of time, they were willing to help me out.
What truly impressed me was the communication. Only a day after I called, the mechanic that would personally build my wheel called to ask about a few details: whether I had machined walls or not, what color spokes I wanted, and so on. Stuff that didn't matter that much, but since a tour was involved, they wanted to make sure everything was ready to go so I could get on with my tour in a timely fashion. And they wanted to make sure I got everything just the way I wanted. What a novel idea! Not everyone does this...
An hour or two later, Valeria had a new front hub and no longer had a frustratingly ineffective set of electronic parts. She was lighter, simpler, more durable, and had less rolling resistance. Improvements all the way around.
My parents, down from the Dallas area to visit, picked me up from the bike shop and I got to dig through the goodies they'd brought down, including a new saddle and tubes for Valeria. Seven weeks into the tour, I finally have Valeria the way I'd originally intended. Took a few hundred extra dollars, on top of the bike that cost a "surprise!" extra $3,000 at the register after coming in five weeks late and with seven different things wrong. I know I've been over that more than once, but I'm still upset about that.
Spending the next few days with my folks, hopping town-to-town in Hill Country, it was awesome. Good real food three times a day, including some of the best I know in Central Texas (can you say "stuffed avocado?!?"). An afternoon floating the crystal-clear San Marcos River. Visiting my two favorite pubs of all time. Walking into historic Gruene Hall, the quintessential Texas dance hall. Schlitterbahn!
But possibly my favorite part was riding down River Road on the Guadalupe. I've ridden many, many hours at this point, and one of the very best hours was that 20 km stretch of twisted road. Off the top of my head, the only thing that even competes in terms of "best place to ride" is the Tetons, and even that wasn't as good of a ride, just more eye-catching scenery.
Hill Country rivers have their own beautiful scenery. It doesn't hit you all at once. And the more you take your time and notice the details, the more you fall in love. I love the way the river is in no hurry to curl its way through the canyon it cuts between the hills. I love the way the dry, fanned-out, gnarled, ancient live oaks start to give way to the taller, thicker cypress trees as you get closer to the river bank. I love the way the cypress trees almost sit in the water and let their tangled roots curl into the edge, like a swimmer dipping their foot in to test the temperature. I love the way the landscape changes colors with the seasons, green and yellow in the summer, red and orange in the fall, brown and gray in the winter, and every imaginable color when the wildflowers bloom in the spring.
Riding through Central Texas didn't remind me how much I love Hill Country. I never forgot. I love this place. I want to live here. I want to die here. I want to be laid to rest here.
I've had a lot of time to think about what comes after this tour, and I've come up with a few different answers. But I think no matter what, it'll take place in Hill Country.
Don't move here.
And mom and dad, it was great to spend some time with y'all. Happy birthday mom!