August 7, 2022 on

Day 85 – Long, satisfying day

I left the last post in the Amtrak station in San Antonio at 5 am. After hitting the bathroom and filling my water bottles (no repeat of Lordsburg!), I headed out in the cool, dark morning on my way to Austin.

So, way back in Tucson when I was getting off the train and putting my bags on my bike, a man walked up and started asking about my trip – where I was and where I was going, etc., and that he had done some touring himself. I did a short summary and that I was going to be in Tucson for two days and then on to El Paso. He asked if I was going to San Antonio. “Yes, after El Paso.” “Do you need a place to stay?” “Well, yeah, I do. That’d be great!” He handed me his card and I gave him mine and I promised to text when I knew my schedule. I had done that a few days ago and Chili and his wife Peggy answered the text enthusiastically that they were looking forward to my visit and hearing all about my trip.

I had plotted my route to Dana’s cousin Claire in Austin and I was headed there first. When Chili and Peggy sent me their address, I saw that it was only a couple of blocks off of the route that Ride with GPS made for me to Austin. I texted Chili to say that I’d be passing by around 7:30 on Sunday and that if they were up for it, maybe they could join me for a cup of coffee. He was very game and asked me to text him when I got close.

San Antonio’s streets were very-early-Sunday-morning-quiet and I had all my lights on full. It was a pretty nice ride considering it started by going through a big spooky cemetery. Big. Spooky. Also flat. Very. Flat. It was 20 miles to the area where Chili and Peggy lived. It was so quiet that I called Dana on speakerphone and while we were chatting, I missed a cue and a turn. While off course, I passed a little Tex Mex breakfast restaurant and said to Dana that it looked like a great place to eat. We finished our chat, I got back on course and texted Chili about Melanie’s looking like a great spot and it was at 502 Main St. “In San Antonio?” “No, right here!” “Oh, that’s like 5 minutes away. I’ll be there in 10-15.” “Great! See you soon!”

I backtracked a few blocks to Melanie’s and ordered a cup of coffee which I promptly used to warm my freezing fingers. Of course, though I had full fingered gloves somewhere at the bottom of my clothes bag, I couldn’t be bothered to pull out everything else looking for them, so I continued on. After all, it was 50 degrees in San Antonio and that was the temp I started riding in for most of the last six weeks. 50 in San Antonio; a bit colder in the space between cities. I don’t know how cold, but only uncomfortably chilly, not freezing cold. At least that’s what my brain said. My fingers, however, were complaining loudly. It took two cups before I could feel them again, but by that time Chili had arrived sans Peggy and we both ordered breakfast. I had Huevos Nortenos — Huevos Rancheros with more stuff, including tacos, refried beans, and Chorizo. Yum.

While we ate, I asked Chili how he ended up here and what he did before he retired. “I flew high performance jets. That was when I was a young man. It’s a young man’s game. When you age out, they make you a commander. I was in Desert Storm…” as commander of a wing of aircraft, including B-52s et al. He was also stationed in Spain which was a staging area for the Iraq bombing campaigns. I was wowed and humbled.

After breakfast, Chili led me back to his house (very patiently pulling off the road and waiting while I caught up) and I met his wife Peggy. I learned more about them — that they often helped immigrants navigate the U.S. since Chili spoke fluent Spanish, and even housed them occasionally. I learned how they met and where they had been in the world and it felt so comfortable — like I had known them a long time even though I hadn’t. They offered me a shower and more coffee, and to join them at their UU church, but knowing I still had almost 65 miles to go to make it to Claire’s running on little sleep and the shortness of the days lately, I declined and said I needed to get on my way and that I’d see them again in a couple of days when I returned to San Antonio. Actually, they live in Schertz (pronounced like “Shirts”). We bid adieu and off I went to the El Camino Real and Austin.

It was a long day, but I was feeling good and the terrain was very gentle. A couple of miscues and I noticed that my mileage was going to be close to 90. “Well, why not make it your only fully loaded 100 mile ride ever?” I said to myself. I stopped at a convenience store and had a sandwich, some caffeine, and some sugar, and re-plotted my ride to swing wide through the Western suburbs of Austin. I would still be 4 or 5 miles short of a hundred, but I was pretty sure I could make them up just riding around the neighborhood. I texted Claire and gave her an update on my ETA. She had just picked up her parents Dave (Dana’s cousin) and Regina and that they were heading to dinner before going home. I’d try to meet them at restaurant, but that was not to be. I did, however, get my 100 miles in, the first and last for this trip barring some unforeseen event of flatness and need.

I’ve known Dave, Regina and Claire for 11 years now, seeing them at Dana’s yearly family reunions and on their visits to State College or ours to Huntingdon. It was great though, to be able to visit Claire here in her space, and Dave and Regina being here made it even better. After a short evening of catching up on everything and everyone, we were off to bed and a needed, long rest for me.

1 Comment

  1. Hendrika Spykerman

    congrats Paul on your 100 mile ride. I am in awe! Not easy with a loaded bike and age…
    enjoy, be well and safe travels

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