October 16 – Del Rio to Uvalde (73 miles)
In the morning, Joyce requested that we all meet at an IHOP (next to the motel) to discuss alternatives. She had found a new route that would enable us to continue cycling to Fredericksburg. The route bypassed flooded roads and eventually reconnected with the primary route. So much rain had fallen the past couple of days in the Texas Hill Country, the direction we were headed, that the ACA canceled a Texas Hill Country bike tour. Fredericksburg and the surrounding hill country had received several inches of rain, making many roads impassable. Doug, Travis, Gary, and Deb decided to rent a car and drive to Austin. Joyce and Klaus rented a car and carpooled to Uvalde, at which point they would continue riding with the group.
Tom, Joel, Wally, and I packed our bikes and began pedaling east to the Days Inn on Main Street in Uvalde, Texas. I was happy to be back on the saddle, riding as part of a group, albeit a smaller one. Everyone respected the others’ decisions. We were touring, not racing. Everyone had their reasons for being there, which were shared with the group the night before leaving San Diego. The bond grew stronger between the four of us who continued cycling. We left Del Rio about 10:30 a.m., several hours later than our usual start time. None of us knew what to expect. Busy roads? Flooded roads? Headwinds? We had a motel waiting for us in Uvalde, seventy-three miles to the east along Highway 90. That much we knew.
Cycling was especially challenging due to the cold and wet riding conditions. Traffic picked up the closer we got to San Antonio. I remember thinking, when I saw a sign for San Antonio, that I had made substantial progress crossing the state of Texas. A slight tailwind helped propel us forward.
Once again, I did not dress appropriately for the riding conditions. The moisture-wicking Smartwool sweater did not work as intended; it was designed to draw moisture to the fabric’s exterior, making it easier to evaporate. But because I wore rain gear, the sweat could not escape. My core body temperature dropped. The sweat poured from my body, trapped inside, and made for a very unpleasant ride. But by now, I was used to riding in the rain. I blocked out of my mind the nasty weather and focused on completing ten miles at a time. I thought back to the first week, riding through California, dreading the possibility of cycling in rain and cold. Those nasty conditions were my new reality, and there was nothing I could do about it except to keep pedaling.
Meeting other cyclists on the road turned out to be an almost daily occurrence. About halfway to Uvalde, I spotted a cyclist resting underneath a makeshift shelter across the median. Jordan had started riding from the Bronx in July, heading for his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico. He rode south to Florida, then turned west, picking up the Southern Tier route somewhere near St. Augustine. Years before, he had enlisted in the military and served a tour in Afghanistan. The thing that stood out most about Jordan was his choice of equipment. He wore cotton clothing and rode a fully loaded mountain bike fitted with canvas sacks attached to the front and rear racks. Although I questioned Jordan’s choice of equipment, he had made tremendous progress, so who was I to judge him?
October 17 – Uvalde to Lost Maples State Natural Area (60 miles)
I left Uvalde early to beat traffic and continued for about twenty miles on Highway 90 before turning north on Highway 127. Not a moment too soon, because traffic increased the closer I got to San Antonio. I felt safe riding on the road shoulders in Texas even though trucks and cars buzzed by, their number increasing exponentially the closer I got to a populated town. I used my rearview mirror continually, checking for vehicles, especially trucks that snuck up behind me without much notice. Vehicles rarely honked. Most of them swerved to the opposite lane and passed when it was safe to do so. Cars and trucks gave me the right of way. A Texas wave always followed.
It was hard to believe, but the weather got worse the further north I rode. We had been riding for one month the morning we left Uvalde. Every day was surprisingly different, each one posing new challenges, but the one pattern that was becoming constant was the rain. I saw high-water mark signs in several areas that were prone to flooding. I entered the small town of Utopia before making my way to our campsite. The rain and nasty weather did not make this place a utopia for me!
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