Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

Monthly Archives: February 2014

“Biking in Texas? Why?”

The title of this post is the most common response when I tell people we’re taking a two-week vacation in Texas. Anouk and I struggle to find vacation destinations that feature both good birding and biking. Texas promises to be a new experience. I’m going to bike solo from the north west to the south east for ten days, then meet up with Anouk for a few days of birding, then fly back from Houston.

The route

This is the intended route. Reality will be quite different.

This is the intended route. Reality will be quite different.

It starts in El Paso. Sing it with me:

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa’s cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl. 

At the end, the protagonist turns into a murderer and is shot, dying in the arms of his love (an illegal immigrant). I’m married to a lovely Dutch woman, so this won’t happen to me. (The Pyrenean tour’s theme was Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé’s Barcelona, which is a bit more of an upper and frankly a better ear worm.)

From there it continues along the border with Mexico, following the Rio Grande.  I’m expecting huge empty stretches of ranches and deserts, with small towns in between. I’ll camp, but I’m not afraid to cheat and take a hotel here or there.

The equipment

Here’s what I’ve packed:

  • camping gear: tent, mat, sleeping bag. No stove or pots.
  • the Surly LHT. I like my bike, but I know it can be replaced. I made that clear to it when the index shifting failed near hilly Renfrew. In the Rockies I met Ryan, who has an image of his Raleigh Sojourn tattooed on his arm. That’s not me.
  • the iPhone: partly because of the shitty selection of paper maps, I’m going to use Galileo’s offline maps. We’ll see how this goes.
  • the usual stuff; clothes, tools etc.

I’ve packed way too much. This always happens…

I’m sure there’s a balance between too heavy and forgetting something crucial, but I have yet to find it.

The worries

All bike tours come with problems. In BC it was being distracted by stunning scenery. Jim and I struggled with forcing poutine and great beer down on La Tour de la Nouvelle France. And the Loire Valley? Hard to find fresh croissants on Monday mornings. Progress was slow in Holland because of the koffie en gebak. These things happen, but you get through.

My early concerns for this trip are:

  • huge stretches with no facilities,. In BC there were a couple of days of 80km, here much of it is 100km+ without water. There may be some wild camping, which is new to me.
  • I have just 10 days to cover 1300km if I’m to meet Anouk on time in McAllen. I’m incredibly out of shape, I’ve covered just 500km in 2014. I haven’t been on my touring bike for 4 months. I am physically not prepared.
  • I’ve flown with my bike maybe a dozen times. I always worry the bike won’t arrive or will be severely damaged. This time I’m testing United Airlines.

Things like fast highways (80mph!), getting lost or running out of food don’t worry me much. I can fix flats, true a wheel or fix a chain if I need to.

More to come?

Maybe I’ll blog more about this, I’m terrible at that. I leave tomorrow.