This was my “Arroyos of Austin” ride.  Six days of exploration and camping in Austin, Texas.  We found it all, just not enough of all.

Riding in the Austin area was not at all what I expected.  My primary memory of the riding here will be of brand new housing developments boxed in highways north and south, and east and west.  And because each housing development is different, they don’t have roads that connect them.  So, to get from place to place you can’t go through side streets; you ride on the highways.

Austin is yet another city that’s expanding much quicker than its planning and infrastructure.

Leaving the Sewer - photo - Rob Vandermark

Ride Overview

  • Purpose:  Threefold:  1) Ride somewhere warm for the holiday.  2) Direct flight of less than five hours.  3) Camping.
  • Time-frame:  Six days and five nights.  Tuesday, December 23 early morning through Sunday evening, December 28, 2014.
  • Total Riding Distance:  ~130 miles.
  • Location:  Austin, Texas.  Base camp was in McKinney State Park.
  • Elevation:  Base-camp was about 600 feet.  The highest point was just over 601 feet.  Humor.
  • Ride Type:  Tent camping with a combination of open fire prepared packed in meals and store bought food.
  • Terrain:  Very mixed.  More road than dirt.  More highway than side-street.
  • Climate:
    • Daytime Temperature:  Varied quite a bit from a high of 71 to a low of 35 during the days.
    • Evening Temperature:  Varied from a low of 29 to a high of 42.
    • Weather:  The first four days were sunny.  The last two days were rainy in the mornings until about noon.

Highlight of the trip:  Exploring areas for which water was the connecting element.  This consisted of two primary types:

  1. Natural Arroyos:  some of the coolest riding was along riverbeds in arroyos.  These are a lot different from the arroyos in Arizona and Colorado.  Austin arroyos felt like I was in the Boston area – if we had arroyos.
  2. Urban Flood Management Structures:  They have some cool concrete structures for managing massive and immediate water table changes.  I didn’t expect this; I’d like to explore these some more.  Very interesting oversized dystopian style.

Most challenging aspects of the trip:

There wasn’t much to complain about.  The most challenging part of the trip may have been choosing between making food over an open fire of eating at one of a thousand Mexican restaurants.

The only other aspect for which I wasn’t 100% prepared was the weather patterns.  We were sleeping in a summer tent in subfreezing temperatures at night.  And if it was above freezing it decided to rain at night.  Not challenging but not expected.

For more information about this specific trip, check out these posts:

Wildlife Encounter Expectations & Management

For this region of the country, research indicated – and people told me directly – to expect the following:

Alligators:  Alligators tend to feast on animals they can swallow in one bite.  They tend to avoid people and won’t attack unless they feel threatened.  Adult alligators are solitary so you have to be looking out for them.

  • Techniques for surviving alligator interaction:  Stay out of their way.  Don’t cross water where there are alligators.  If you keep your distance they won’t be able to catch you; the move slowly but can lunge quite quickly.  Distance is your friend.
  • Tools I carry on the bike:
    • Bear spray.  I don’t have any idea if this would work on Alligators.  I hope to never find out.
    • Two knives.  I don’t expect these will be very useful but it’s better than nothing.
    • First aid kit.  This is probably useless but better than nothing.

Cougars:  Don’t mess with them; you will lose.  An average adult make is 7.9 feet long from nose to tail and weigh about 170 lbs.  They’re not interested in messing with you; they prefer to avoid people.  They don’t see people as food so they’ll only attack if they feel threatened.  They are mostly nocturnal.  Chances of attack are highest in the spring and summer – when juvenile cougars first leave their mothers and search for new territory.  They like rocky areas with ledges so avoid those.  Stay out of their way.  Don’t go near cubs.

  • Techniques for surviving a mountain lion interaction:  Make a lot of noise.  Appear threatening.  Make yourself as large as possible.  Use your bike to aid this.  Keep moving; standing still or playing dead makes you look vulnerable like prey.  If you get attacked do not huncker down; you will be killed.  Go on the offensive; find a big stick, a large rock, anything to get aggressive with; the cougar may back off if it’s confused or wounded.
  • Items I carry for these encounters:
    • Whistle.  To make sure they know I’m around.  I don’t want to surprise a cougar.
    • Bear spray.  This supposedly works well on cougars.
    • Two knives.  I don’t expect these will be very useful but it’s better than nothing.
    • First aid kit.  This is probably useless but better than nothing.

Rattle Snakes:

  • Techniques for surviving rattle snake encounters:  Stay out of their way.  They’re not interested in messing with you.  You’ll be able to outride them so get going.  Keep them out of your tent and sleeping bag; they like warmth so keep the tent zipped up.
  • Items I carry for these encounters:  Snake bike kit.

Tarantulas:  I’ve encountered these before.  There’s not a lot to do about them.

  • Techniques for surviving tarantula encounters:  If you see one, stay out of its way.  If you don’t see it you’ll know.  Keep your tent zipped up.  Check your shoes for your tarantula friends before you put your toes in the morning shoes.
  • Items I carry for these encounters:  Snake bike kit.

Thoughts for the Next Adventure

Pack Saddle Bag Lighter:  I carry so much stuff that I have trouble getting a jacket and other spare clothes in the bag.  Most of these rides required a lot of clothing because the temperature would swing 30 degrees over an eight hour ride.

Ride More:  Start riding my bike more so that I can physically manage these tough rides better.  I had to cut all of the rides shorter than I planned.  My body has trouble riding 1o-hours a day for multiple days.

Stomach:  Improve some ongoing stomach issues I’m having when sleeping in a tent.  It’s inexplicable but having a huge impact on my sleep quality.  Visiting a doctor soon.

Some Ratings for This Trip

  • Overall – to what extent would I ride here again:  2.  It was an odd place for mixed terrain riding, and I knew it would be so I’m not surprised or disappointed.  Road riding is challenging and a bit dangerous.  Mountain biking is limited and spread out on small pockets.  Parts of the city were really nice – lots of places for food and some cool quirky shops.  Outside of town it’s all highways divided by subdivisions.
  • Ride Location: 3.  As attractions go, it’s a progressive liberal town but that’s about it.
  • Ride Difficulty: 3:  The terrain was either overly groomed, paved trails, or very primitive barely rideable.  The barely rideable sections were minimal – at least where we went.
  • Road Riding:  2:  Roads are in great shape because a lot of them are new.  Many of the roads are four to six lanes with bike lanes; cars driving 60 mph while you’re riding one foot from them in highway debris.  Not my kind of thing.  If it’s not highways you’re riding in city traffic.
  • Offroad Riding:  4.  Very easy offroad.  A cross bike would ride 99% of the trails.  A road bike could ride 75% of the trails very easily.  Regardless, I found the trails to be a lot of fun.  There just aren’t a lot of miles of trails.  There are definitely sections that are very shale-y and super technical but we didn’t do much of that.
  • Terrain:  3.  Very flat – yay.  Very groomed or paved – not so yay.
  • Towns:  7.  Cool town.  Good food.  Lots of vegetarian friendly places.  Some 24-hour restaurants.  Some good coffee.  Lots of bike shops.  Easy to get supplies for riding.
  • Accessibility from Boston:  4.  Direct flights are fairly easy to find.  About 4.5 hours.
  • Weather:  4.  Temperature ranged from 70 degrees one day to 29 degrees one evening.  Average temperature was around 45 degrees.  Colder than I expected.  About the same as Boston over the same time period.  And two days of rain out of six days.

That’s about it for the Arroyos of Austin.  I cannot wait for the next adventure!

Watch the Fence - photo - Rob Vandermark

 

6 Comments

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    […] This is the meal set up I used for the Austin trip.  For additional details about this trip, check out this project. […]

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    […] This is some of the equipment I used for the Austin trip.  For additional details about this trip, check out this project. […]

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    […] This is some of the camping equipment I used for the Austin trip.  For additional details about this trip, check out this project. […]

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    […] This is the bike setup I used for the Austin trip.  For additional details about this trip, check out this project. […]

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