Surviving Spicewood Springs
After a work retreat Monday, A Dude Abikes was at the top of this serious hill between Mesa and Loop 360. I’ve always feared it, and yet since becoming serious about biking, I’ve wondered if I could bike up it. It’s not called the Hill Country for nothing. So after bragging to some co-workers that I was going to do it, I went ahead and just did it. Without stretching, warming up, wearing my stretchy jeans with a full back-pack. I admit it was a little insane but as Helen Keller said (who was a good and actual socialist, by the way): “Life is a grand adventure or nothing at all.”
I don’t have any witnesses, and Strava didn’t record it right, but I achieved my top speed to date: 47 miles per hour. The downhill was awesome, and one missed rock or a wrong move and I would have been a bloody mess on the ground requiring an ambulance ride. But I made it down without incident — just alot of adrenaline — and then stopped to look up. I hoped the woman in the car stopped at the light would look at me like in a movie and say, “What, are you going to bike THAT? Are you nuts?!” But she didn’t notice I existed. This is my Little Engine that Could moment and you’re ignoring me? What a bee…yootiful day for a bike ride!
But this is a hill that’s tough to walk up. For me on a bike, it’s a beast. The gradient at one point was 16.8%. I don’t know what that means in math words, but it’s super steep. So I took some deep breaths, girded my loins, and began my ascent in the lowest gear possible. Slowly. My heart immediately began pounding inside my chest, very angry with me. The legs were fighting but kept going. The road had a bike lane, but it narrowed. Cars whizzed by. Then the concrete blotches, like petrified slugs, appeared. I nearly weaved into the lane to avoid some. Up the road I inched, about 5 mph. So much for the 47 mph going down. Finally after what seemed like 10 minutes I got about halfway and my brain said “Stop! You might be dying! Dying. Bad. Gasp!”
So I did. I stopped and walked the rest of the way to the top, chest heaving, a bit disappointed and pride wounded, but also proud of myself for at least trying. But I was also humbled by the power of nature, gravity and optical illusion. It doesn’t look at that steep in the picture, but it sure as shoot is. The irony of the pretty countryside and the intense suffering at the same time along with random thoughts like, “Did I leave the stove on?” intrude. (Actually, sorry, that thought is from the trailer to the movie Deadpool, which I still haven’t seen. I’m pretty sure even superheroes couldn’t bike up this mini-mountain.) But I lived to ride another 19.6 miles on some errands and then home. Here’s the latest Strava app results from my 20-mile ride with The Hill from Hell!
One Page Salon at the North Door
The rest of this blog posting is about writing, not riding. So just roll with it, okay? Great, thanks. Anyway, last summer I attended a reading at Half Price Books by local authors on the theme of that REM song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).” One was local bon vivant, published author and screenwriter-ist, comedian, devoted father and husband, Mr. Sinus Theater alum and many more things I don’t know about him, Owen Egerton, reading from his book How Best to Avoid Dying. The way he described Austin with all its changes and people and places was simply riveting, brilliant, educational even, and funny.
A Dude happened to have seen him in a public service announcement for Please BE KIND to Bicyclists so asked if he thought a blog about biking would be interesting. He said he’d read it. So when Owen commented today that my previous posting, “Sunsets, Quakers and Yoginis (oh my!)” was “good stuff,” I had extra motivation to go to his event and thank him in person. So I’m “owin'” him alot of thanks!
One Page Salon is mostly local authors reading from works in progress and Owen making jokes, interviewing the authors, literary references and more. But it’s also a great place to talk to people who are writing, be it poetry, novels, memoir, non-fiction and more. A Dude is quite aware he has a lot to learn about writing. Like riding a bike, there’s more to it than just sitting, pedaling and steering: it’s an art form that takes, skill, persistence, guts and more other stuff I can’t think of the words for right now. But seriously, there were some really interesting folks there.
There was a retired lawyer named Rob working on various projects, from writing, to music and improv. A young man who had recovered from cancer and was grappling with how to get his story into play form. A lovely copy editor from Peru who has published a novel and is working on her second, and her writer-to-be husband. A woman who writes poetry and has a kick-starter campaign to publish a book of haiku and photography in Austin. A man from Kansas who has a short story in a national ‘best of’ anthology. A super nice guy who is a headhunter by day and a sound effects man at night. An Irishman writing non-fiction about planned obsolescence. And more. All nice and unpretentious people who were generous with their time and advice. They, the crowd, and the event felt very Austin to me. A Dude only had to bike a mile so it was easier to get to than it has been before.
But the best surprise was Bill Poss (aka Passalacqua). He’s a singer, songwriter who I knew from a while back who moved back to Illinois some years ago but happened to be in town. He read from his memoir in progress and also sang a song. He has one of those voices that makes you think of the great social justice and folk song heroes like Phil Ochs, Woody Guthry and Pete Seeger — a bit gritty, even raspy at times, but confident, that pulls you in and tells a story you want to hear. I was happy to have brought my reading glasses because his one page reading was too small, so I loaned him mine. Some people are just good at telling stories, and Bill’s been doing that for years in music, even traveling around the US in a biofuel-powered bus. But this was his first reading, which reminds me that you can always start something new.
So I’m grateful to Owen, Bill and the others for the opportunity to dip my toe into more literate waters for one night and soak up the creative juices with my baguette of a brain. I signed up for the lottery to pick a random reader at future monthly events, so who knows? Maybe A Dude Abikes will be reading at One Page Salon someday soon. Maybe someday this blog will evolve into something else like a book, or part of a memoir. That makes millions. Or maybe just be something that inspires others, both on and off the bike.
As usual, telling my story takes a long time to tell, so I’ll sign off for now. Rest assured I’ll keep on riding most days (I’m still averaging above 100 miles per week), writing when I can. You just keep on reading, liking, commenting, following and sharing. A Dude Abikes appreciates it. Whether you ride a bike, write a poem, or do something else that’s awesome, whatever gets you going, just get out there and as Frank Sinatra sang:
“Do do that voodoo that you do so well.”
Half-way to My AIDS Ride Goal
I’m over 50% of the way to raising $500 for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS on April 30th, just 60 days away. To learn how to contribute, go to the website and search for me by participant. If you don’t know A Dude Abikes personally, please email the address on the About page.
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