I’ve lived in Austin for about four months now but it only takes about four hours to realize that this city has the worst public transportation system in America. The city is growing at a rapid pace and for some reason the local government has been slacking on beefing up the public transit here which, in turn, leads to more congested streets and unhappy people. Over the past twenty years this city has doubled in size and over the next twenty years it is expected to double again and it wasn’t until recently that they figured out that they should probably do something so people can get around easier. But, until they get their act together I realized I needed a much quicker way to get around. So, I began saving my money for a new bicycle.
Many of you who have followed my blog may be wondering why I don’t just use my bike from last summer that I rode across the country with. And the simple answer to that is it means too much to me to be used for commuting. I would be way to devastated if it were to get stolen so, until I eventually settle down, I will just leave that bike at my parents house back in Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t hard to find a bike shop in this city. With about 2 million people and about half of them riding bikes there tends to be bike shops everywhere you look. There’s even one here that is owned by Lance Armstrong! I originally planned on avoiding purchasing a bike from Lance’s shop due to his recent scandal with steroid use but after going to several bike shops I found that pretty much all of them only sell fixed gear bikes. This would be fine if I was planning on only cruising around downtown but after biking across the country I have become more of an adventure cyclist so I needed something that I could take out on a 50 or 100 mile ride; I needed a road bike. This quickly limited the bike shops that I could go to and wouldn’t you know it, I found the best deal at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop (Lance Armstrong’s bike shop). For only 700 bucks I got Trek’s entry level road bike along with a free fitting. The total came to around $850 after buying pedals and taxes.
Despite purchasing it from someone who is now pretty much universally hated by the cycling community, I felt great about my new bike, it came in white, my favorite color, and is really light and really fast.
Shortly after purchasing it I got a text from my friend Erica asking me to join her at Tom’s Coffee Shop down on South Congress, only about a mile and a half away. Typically I would have to take a bus which, if I was lucky, I could find one leaving now. My other option would be to just walk there and it would take me about a half hour either way. But, I had a bike now! I told her I would be there in less than ten minutes and zipped through the busy streets of downtown to the shop. I already knew that I am going to love having a bike in this city.
About a half hour later I received a text from my friend Christine informing me about a social ride meetup in the park downtown. Once again I zipped through the busy streets until I made it to the meet up and to my surprise the park was packed with cyclists of all kinds.
Thinking this was going to be a fairly serious group of cyclists I came decked out in my Bike & Build gear consisting of a cycling jersey and a set of bibs (those tight shorts cyclists wear). But, I should of known that this was Austin and in Austin you don”t have your normal cyclists. It was pretty much a park filled with hippies. Hardly anyone had helmets and mostly everyone was wearing just normal clothes. Not to mention the amount of marijuana and alcohol being passed around. Now Austin is a pretty Liberal city to begin but I was pretty surprised to see how open everyone was with their smoking. Joints and pipes being passed around like it was no big deal.
We finally set out, a half hour late, and made our way onto a bike path which led us out of the city. After going maybe 4 miles we stopped again at another park as a pit stop. Since this was my first social ride I didn’t really know where we were or where we were going. I looked around and noticed people cracking opening more beers and smoking more weed. I turned to Christine, “what did people start to mildly sober up that they need to drink and smoke more?” It was kind of hilarious to see such a ridiculous group of cyclists take over the streets of Austin. There were about 150 of us so we pretty much filled up the entire lane of wherever we were going. I thought cars would be upset by the large number of cyclists rolling through the streets but to my pleasant surprise they were waving and cheering us on as we passed by.
After about another 2 miles we stopped again at the halfway point where there was a vendor setting pulled pork sandwiches and once again people cracking more beers and lighting more joints. God forbid if people biked sober. I bought a sandwich and conversed with some of the other cyclists.
We made our way back to downtown and the ride ended on 6th Street which is the street in Austin that is completely loaded with bars. While the hippies went on their way to do more drinking, Christine and I made our way home.
By the end of the day I was extremely pleased to by a cyclist again. I think maybe next time I’ll find a more serious group to go on a ride with but I know I will definitely still do social rides with the hippies. I had a great time meeting some of the weird locals of Austin.