Austin is a really great city. Debbie was raving about it when I got in yesteday afternoon (I'm writing this Sunday morning). She loves the cool neighborhoods, nightlife, music, and tons of good shops. While I was riding yesterday, she drove down early to get me some necessary bike parts. She got me two spare tires, a new disk brake rotor (The old one was warped from when my shirt hanging out to dry on the back of the bike got tangled in it). She also got me a new wind sock, because my Captain America red, white, and blue spinning one is falling apart. My new one is a big rainbow colored fish, which will look great on the end of the fishing pole. She said it took her way less time to find all this stuff than it would have in Baltimore.
Bryan, on the other hand, is very strange. It looks totally dilapidated. There is a main road with fast food restaraunts. Two blocks over is Main St., where our hotel was. There is a beautiful old library, but everything else is pretty much vacant, except for a few used furniture places, and Mexican restaraunts. But there are a couple nice places, a building with nice shops selling new stuff and a really great restaraunt, Square One, around the corner from the hotel, where we had an excellent dinner. Then there is the hotel, which is a cool old building, with antique furniture, but none of the other things you would expect in a hotel, like a bar or a restaraunt, or any hotel services. It's like the Motel 6 in an old building. Cool old historic hotels have to have a bar serving stiff cocktails, and steak dinners, in my opinion.
So I can't figure out Bryan. Maybe it's the bohemian fringe of College Station, where Texas A&M is, and it's in the process of gentrifying. Maybe they city government is really good at writing applications for historic preservation grants. They are rebuilding Main Street, and it looks like public money renovated our hotel.
Bryan is an old railroad town, and the trains still come through about once an hour, blowing their horns the whole time. It was named after William Jennings Bryan, the unsuccessful presidential candidate and demagogue. Maybe the town is cursed because of who it was named after. WJ Bryan was a lawyer and politician who pandered to the most ignorant elements of society. His biggest claim to fame apart from losing races for president was his successful prosecution of the Scopes Monkey Trial, where he convicted the Tennessee schoolteacher Scopes for teaching evolution, to the horror of educated people everywhere.
I rode over 100 miles yesterday. The last four days of riding have been 102, 97, 54, and 101 miles. I'm taking today off to explore Austin, and get ready for the vast emptiness of west Texas. I feel really good, despite the succession of very long days.
The weather was miserable, it was in the 50s, gray and overcast, with occasional light rain. The road was pretty flat, easy rolling terrain through ranch land mostly. I got off the highway onto a back road for about 50 miles, and I only got lost once. It's getting drier, the vegetation is scrub oak and prairie. Sometimes there are big clumps of prickly pear cactuses. There are lots of cattle and vultures. Towns are about 25 miles apart; food is not a problem.
First breakfast was the continental breakfast at the hotel. This got me to second breakfast, which was a hearty breakfast burrito at a motel restaraunt in Caldwell. The burrito fueled me for 50 miles, until I got to Elgin, where I rejoined the busy highway. In Elgin, there was a terrific BBQ joint, where I got a sausage wrap. This is not what you think, it's a sausage served on a piece of white bread. I was tempted to pig out here, but I knew to save myself for one of my favorite BBQ places, the F. Weigl Iron Works in Austin. I've only been to Austin once before, over 10 years ago, and I was really hoping this place was still around. It is completely unchanged. It was once a foundry, in the 1920s, that made ornamental iron decorations for fancy houses and office buildings. Now, it is a dive BBQ joint, heated by a wood stove, with tubs of Shiner Bock and Big Red red pop on ice. It has tons of historic crapola hanging on the walls from when it was an actual iron works.
I've been talking to Debra about going to the Iron Works for weeks. She thought I should buy her dinner, since she just bought me $200 of bike parts. She somehow just assumed it was a fancy place, and was annoyed that her dinner cost less than $10.
Here we are, enjoying dinner with our friend Jimmy the Brain, who lives in Austin.
After this, we went for a walk up and down 6th street, which is packed with college bars and nightclubs. I wish I was able to stay awake later than 9:00.
Here is the route from Bryan to Austin.