Southern Walnut Creek Trail

AUSTIN, TEXAS

I began the day at Bicycle World in Austin. Here is one thing to know when visiting Austin: There is no such thing as a free lunch and there is no such thing as free parking. Well, maybe that’s two things.

Inside Mellow Johnny’s

I found a parking lot next to Bicycle World with very imposing signs – “We Tow. We have cameras.” I didn’t park there. Not even sure what kind of lot it was. It may have been for a hamburger place. But it wasn’t friendly.

Ridden by Lance Armstrong in 2001

Instead Schlotsky’s Deli is right across the street. Imposing signs there too – “Parking for Customers Only.” But I went in, enjoyed a sandwich and a drink, then ran across the street to Bicycle World where I checked in for tomorrow’s Atlas Ride. I noticed they had a sign for bicycle rentals and thought maybe I should have gone there. Or maybe next time.

“The Look” – Notice the Juan Pelota Cafe cap. Pelota is Spanish for ball; Juan sounds like One

After checking in and going back to the Schlotsky’s parking lot, where my rental car had not been towed or booted, I drove over to Mellow Johnny’s. There is a parking lot for Mellow Johnny’s. But a couple years ago, the city noticed somehow MJ’s customers were allowed to shop without paying the city. So they put an end to that. This is Austin.

Imposing sign – You Must Pay to Shop here. I went to the pay kiosk, registered my car. Parking was $2 for one hour; $9 for two hours. I wonder what what happen if after 59 minutes, or 60, one would go back and pay for a second hour of parking. This city needs some grown ups in charge.

Southern Walnut Creek

I went in and re-introduced myself to Peter Finklea, the rentals manager at MJ’s. This was the third or fourth time I rented here. Peter is a very nice guy and I have really enjoyed renting bikes here in the past. This one was a last-minute decision.

I had budgeted $50 /day for a quality bike rental. I thought I would ride some on Thursday when I arrived, plus Friday, and of course, the Atlas ride on Saturday and something, somewhere on Sunday.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Never one to get anxious, I think I was being affected by the concussion I sustained in Ohio. The thought of tearing down my bike, delicately packing it, then flying with it was weighing on my mind. And there is the cost component. The “full fare” airlines charge $150 to check your bike as luggage. In a bike crate or bag. Each way. So flying my preferred airline, American Airlines, was basically out of the question from the start. I booked on Southwest Airlines because their bike fee was friendlier – $75 each way.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Without considering the hassle of tearing down the bike, rebuilding it at the destination, and worrying about whether it will make it undamaged, just the cost factor meant a 3-day rental was the same price as taking my bike. Then will I want my bike? For 100 miles, the answer is probably yes. For extreme climbing, the answer is definitely yes. But for 50 miles without a significant climb, it really didn’t matter. So I went online and found my size and reserved at Mellow Johnny’s.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Peter knows what he’s doing. He did a quick but thorough bike fit – as much as one can do for someone about to go out the door on a rental bike. He adjusted the seat, twice. The stem and handlebars were OK. He affixed the computer mount that I just bought and I asked him for a recommendation of a ride.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Unlike past years where it was OK to leave the car in the MJ’s parking lot and go ride, I had to be gone by 12:53 p.m. Peter offered up “hilly and long” to the west and “shorter and flatter” to the east. With the temperature pushing 100 degrees, I opted for shorter, and flatter.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Although Peter pulled out a map, he talked about the Southern Walnut Creek Trail and I realized that I had ridden it before. And it would be perfect. After figuring out it didn’t start at “Go-Valley” Park (but Govalle), I drove out to the park.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

The Southern Walnut Creek Path is relatively new. It is a 10’ (3 meters) wide concrete trail. And I saw virtually no one other than a family walking their dogs at the beginning. Peter had said the trail was 10 miles and I had remembered a plateau after eight miles or so and then a descent across a road. I had decided that I would ride to the plateau but not the descent. I was afraid of going too far and I didn’t want to ride the descent knowing I’d have to turn around and come back up.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Strange it seems. I love to ride and I can go 100 miles or more with no problems. But with knee surgery and a long recovery in February, I was just starting to get outside on the bike. The trip to Ohio was to get in some long miles but that didn’t work out. Actually, I got some of the miles I wanted but was planning another long ride on my day home. That ended with the concussion.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Now I worried about getting light headed. Running out of water. Or simply going too far for too long in this heat. So twenty miles would be enough.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

At the plateau it was windy. Here the trail left nature behind and passed a trailer park that seemed to go on for a mile. My memory from a couple years ago worked fine. I came to the road where the trail turned down and decided to go back. I knew I would get 20 miles just out and back and decided to explore some of the spurs.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Or I explored one. At least. There was a half mile trail to the Austin Tennis Center. I arrived and saw all these empty courts. No one was playing. It was 2:00 p.m. on a Friday and it was 100 degrees. Couldn’t blame them. (Or maybe it wasn’t open weekdays until the evening.)

Southern Walnut Creek Trail – Hot and WIndy

Getting back to the car, I was hot and thirsty. I had used my one water bottle and did the only thing I knew to do over the next three days or so. Find an In-N-Out Burger. Although this would be simply for replenishment (milkshake) as I was headed farther north for the night.

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