Elevation: 780 ft.
Distance: 52.0 mi.
Odometer: 3,674.2 mi.
Woke up and quietly packed up my panniers. Another morning like any other. But since I was finishing the ride today, I was fluttery inside and there was an extra spring in my step. I kept clapping my hands and grinning. I wanted to do a haka, but at 6:00 AM, I don't think the folks in the next room would've appreciated it.
Right away there was lots of traffic, more than I've dealt with in a long time. Enough to make me uncomfortable. With time, it slowly went away, I guess as rush hour came to a close. Just north of Leander, I took a turn onto a wonderful road called Ronald Reagan Blvd. A lot like 360, only less traffic, better pavement, and slightly less hills. It's kind of out of the way, but I might remember it for training rides later on. Saw a lot of other cyclists who already had the same idea. Got me through Leander and most of Cedar Park safely, quietly, and pleasantly.
Took my lone rest stop only about a dozen miles from Athan's. Gave him a call to let him know where I was and when I expected to finish. He was planning on waiting at the bottom of Spicewood Springs, my last big hill of the summer, holding a boombox blasting "Thunderstruck." Awesome.
Kept heading south until I got onto Spicewood Springs Road, a very quiet and pretty little road, though hilly. Overall, I picked a great route into Austin as far as bike friendliness goes. Hardly dealt with traffic all day. Wound my way through the wooded hills on Spicewood Springs Road, crossing a few streams along the way. I knew that meant I was at a low point, and that I'd have to climb out of later. I went up a good hill, then a right turn, and there it was. Holy crap. It was like looking at a wall made of asphalt. I stopped for a second, took a gulp of water, and stared at it. I wasn't even sure if it was physically possible for me to pedal this huge, heavy Freebird up something like that. But the least I could do was find out.
I shifted down to my lowest possible gear, gritted my teeth, and took it on. On my way up, I was glad my knee was working again and I could muscle up a hill like I used to. I kept my teeth bared and tried breathing through them. I was huffing and puffing hard enough that froth was coming out between my teeth. I looked like a rabies patient. Tried to focus on breathing and keeping my feet moving with an even rhythm. I felt like if I broke my rhythm once, I wouldn't be able to keep going. Only a quarter of a mile later, I was up the hill. But no matter what the distance, getting a 90-pound bike up a 25% grade is an accomplishment. Steepest hill of the summer by far. The second steepest hill was only a 16% grade.
Cruised the rest of Spicewood Springs after it flattened out on top. Realized I'd missed Athan on that hill. Once I got a half-mile from his apartment, I gave him a call. He'd been at the bottom of Spicewood Springs, but at the entry from some other road. I slowly cruised the familiar last half-mile to Athan's and couldn't keep a grin from spreading across my face. Felt good to see Austin and feel home again. Got to Athan's, unclipped, and hung out for just a minute before Athan pulled up and climbed out of the car with a boombox blasting "Thunderstruck." I grinned again. I was home. I was done.
from Pedal for Potatoes