Thoughts on yet another road trip

Okay – it’s Tuesday, and my head’s a little clearer, though I didn’t get all the sleep and recovery I needed, but here goes anyway.

I started road-tripping for bike races back in 1993, and I can remember my first one – a 3 hour jaunt from Bozeman to Missoula for the “Mud, Sweat, and Gears” mountain bike race. I remember that the race was, at the time, the toughest thing I’d done up to that point in my life, even harder than the XC running events I’d participated in throughout high school and college. Micah McKee traveled with me as my coach, and we bonded as buddies. I still miss him, and I try to google him every now and then. I think he’s in commercial real estate in Boulder, but I’m not sure. Rack him up as the first true cycling coach I ever had, and Micah, if you’re out there, thanks. You set me on this path, and I’d love to share some adventures with you sometime.

Anyway, the road. I’m pushing 40, my eyesight isn’t what it was, and responsibility, as much as I’ve tried to avoid it, continues to creep up on me, along with graying whiskers, tougher whiskers, and just the general fatigue that comes with age and that intensity that I give to my clients and classes throughout the week.

So, when a road trip to a race is required, there’s dread, there’s apprehension, there’s the determination to leave early, there’s the usual melee of bad drivers, gas and pit stops, crappy roads, and jaw-clenching speed and congestion.

And then you get to Austin…

Last week, I drove AROUND the damned I-35 fiasco that goes straight through the place, by taking 130, a new tollroad. It was great — until I got to the airport, when it kind of all started up again. You’d think that the state capital would get prime placing on road and infrastructure projects, but sometimes the anachronism that is that town just allows it to be overlooked. It’s almost like the politicians have their own area, and the townsfolk have another. Even the burbs aren’t included. Violet Crown, indeed.

This week though, you kinda had to go through Austin, via I-35 to get to San Antonio, where Ben and Katie were awaiting me at a hotel. So I get to the outer ring, no problem. The inner ring? Well…. Slow. To. A. Crawl. No radio stations that I can identify. Finally finding NPR. Setting sun… Getting caught in the canyon. Finally getting over the lake. Still crawling, until you get to the turnoff that goes to Johnson City, which I’m unfortunately not taking this time. Nuts.

Lessee, what else makes road trips so special, and why am I so much more disinclined to take them? Ah, road food. I know, I know, I should be making PB & J’s, drinking purified water, and generally listening to my iPod, all while driving the speed limit, but hey, where else am I going to get a chance to try one of those new “Fish & Chips” specials at Long John Silver’s?! I mean, the closest LJS on Lemmon Avenue just shut down, after decades of neglect from me and about 100,000 other vehicles per day (I moved to Dallas in 1980, only to visit the place for the first time in, oh, 2007… I can’t believe what I missed! Well, maybe I can).

So, you fill up on artery-clogging crap, sip a coma-inducing high fructose corn-syrup concoction, void your bladder, bemoan the general condition of your car, the headwinds, and the 2 more hours that you have to spend driving, this time in lower light conditions than your right eye will really allow, and turn over the ignition.

Approaching the destination, you end up calling Air Traffic Control (heretofore called “Ben”), and beg directions every 5 minutes. Panic slowly sets in, as blood sugar spikes, then craters, and the trans-fatty acids start raising your BP and blocking off the smallest of arteries, which happen to be either in your nether regions (numbness tomorrow), or your eyeballs, which sucks, because that right eye continues to blur out, and you glasses are, well, 250 miles over your left shoulder. Speaking of your left shoulder, oh man, is that puppy aching. Of course, it’s 5cm shorter now, and has been since ’06, and the shoulder strap of your beloved basic Subaru just happens to go right over that spot. Irritating. Should’ve had it shaved by Dr. Krishna. Well, whatever.

Inbound to my destination, I finally gain enough sense of place and location (have I lost that much of my innate sense, my 6th sense, that “Whipadilling” that I was so famous for when I was younger? Or is it just that I haven’t been to San Antonio since, oh, 1999?) to arrive at Ben and Katie’s dinner destination of choice, Johnny Carino’s. FINALLY, I can relax, and place myself in the savvier guiding skills of my client and erstwhile teammate, both of whom are friends from a good ways back.

We refuel, get back to the hotel, realize quickly that there’s no wifi in this modern establishment, have a look at our start dates for the TT, giggle ourselves silly watching something on TBS, and promptly fall asleep — exhausted, yet eager to push some air and resist some tarmac and leave some salt on the road for the next two days…. And then drive home, this time, hopefully, at a slightly more leisurely pace, on a less-traveled road.

Final notes: I love taking less-traveled roads… 281 runs parallel to I -35, and is much more enjoyable. 67 takes you to some good cycling destinations, and 177 is a great alternative for the late-season races near Brenham. 287 is a viable alternative going NW, and believe it or not, it goes all the way to the Canadian border in this broad, fish-hook loop. I have never found it’s origin, which is somewhere in Louisiana, I think.

The iPod Touch has got to be one of the smartest inventions ever. I downloaded a new Clive Cussler book, and listened to that on the way down, and back up, and I also rented “Iron Man”, a show I’d never seen before, and watched it on Saturday betwen races. Surely the iPhone G2 will have all that, and more, along with ample memory, so I won’t have to keep using two gadgets, or even 3 if you include my 705 from Garmin.

Road tripping is fun, but it’s still a stress that you want to minimize as much as possible. Plan your route, avoid stressful routes, drive the speed limit, start early, bring EVERYTHING you may need, and stop often.

Part 2 is forthcoming. Thanks for reading.


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