It was the first real loaded test for the bike and to say I was prepared was a understatement. In the weeks leading up to the ride I had mostly been training for a Marathon that I decided not to do and put in a whopping 38 miles on the bike over the course of 3 rides, but none the less the opportunity for adventure presented itself and I was chomping at the bit for the wheels to start rolling.
The route would take us from Austin, TX to Palmetto State Park some 70 miles away, instead of taking all 48 lbs of gear I managed to drop the fancy camera, laptop, chargers, and some other pieces to get the load down to a manageable 33 lbs. With the Roller Coaster of weather central Texas has had meant that the morning temps would be in the low 30’s, daytime temps in the high 60-70’s, and the camping overnight reaching a chilling 28 F degrees; a great way test out how a Colorado summer will feel like.
I would like to say things went perfectly smooth, but moments after rolling out I noticed this homemade bicycle under the stress of added touring weight, and one over enthusiastic rider rode abnormally off; simply put it wobbled at super slow speeds. Months of effort spent building, planning, & dreaming of a loaded tour moment seemed like they would vibrate and fold in the first quarter mile, but I was too afraid to admit my failure so I kept to myself and simply noted to my cycling companions that “I notice a slight lateral flex that hadn’t been there before” and we rode one. My fear was if I can notice this wobble at really slow speeds how is it going to behave dive bombing down the tallest peaks of the continental divide at 50mph; surely I would fly off the side of a cliff.
As we rolled on I quieted my thoughts and actually started to notice the bike rode quiet nice and really the flex was only noticed either when I was pedaling out of the saddle or when attempting to mimic hipster fixed gear cyclist waiting for a red lights to go green. It also helped that I was distracted by the aching in my quads from what could only be described as doing 1000’s of leg presses for the course of 8+ hours.
We made our way out of Austin to the flat plains east of I-35 to be welcomed by nature; nature in these parts is a succession of houses with no fences and eager to meet you dogs. Of our 15 or so encounters only a couple pups dared to leave their yards and greet us for a 20-30 yard chase down the Farm to Market roads. As in any good test run we managed to cross miles of asphalt, concrete, chip seal, and even 20 miles of bone rattling unpaved dirt; happy to report nothing vibrated loose and the panniers stayed nice and tight, oddly my headlamp did manage to turn itself on.
The best part about doing an out and back weekend on this route is you get to stop through Lockhart, TX; twice! Other than Lockhart having a beautiful town square centered around their Courthouse they also have some of the finest BBQ in Texas, BBQ Capitol of the world or so they claim. On the way down to Palmetto we stopped in at Smitty’s for some of the largest Pork Ribs I have seen and on the return route back north visited Blacks for some superb brisket and well deserved banana pudding; next time through town I hear I need to visit Chisholm BBQ for their chopped beef sandwich.
The wind picked up between Lockhart and Luling, but luckily what turned out to be a head wind on the first day was a welcome tail wind on the second day. Before hitting the campground we arrived at what has to be the largest non-truck stop gas station in Texas, Buc-ee’s, everything IS bigger in Texas and not to go into too much detail but if you value your privacy when nature calls on the road this is the place for you. We picked up provisions for the night and where I would prefer a refreshing Shiner Black Bohemian Lager we settled on a case of Lone Star beers in a can so that way we could avoid the ridicule of the state park rangers if we were caught.
With less then 5 miles to go the road gods shined upon us and gave us one of the smoothest roads and widest shoulders you could get; seriously cyclist road heaven. Only to be matched by the beautiful rolling tree covered path with scenic views entrance into the park; oh and a couple more friendly dogs.