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Ride & Drive

April 19, 2006

For the most part, my weekends are uneventful.  Usually, they involve mountain biking, errand running, maybe some sort of yard work.  Every now and then I head out to write, stay in to read, or install something into a wall.  If I’m lucky, I see a movie.

This past weekend, though, was one for the books…

The Setup

This past weekend, as you know, was Easter Weekend.  As such, I had Good Friday off from work.  Jamie, for whatever reason, got both Thursday and Friday off.  Taking advantage of her long weekend, she left for Houston on Thursday afternoon, taking the dachshunds with her.

The plan was for me to follow on Saturday with Sam and Smith, and then stay Sunday for Easter.  It was decided that I should only stay one night because, well, eight dogs in one house is a lot.  And besides, this way I would have Good Friday to myself to do as I pleased.


I woke up around eight, feeling awful.  My throat hurt in the way it does when I’ve had too much Diet Coke, I have a slight headache, my neck hurts.  I think "maybe I won’t go mountain biking today".  I mean, I felt like crap, which meant I would probably ride like crap.  And, it being Good Friday, I assumed the trails would be packed.

For whatever reason – probably my stubborness, which I’m learning to turn against myself – I decided to go anyway.  So I loaded the bike, had myself a Larabar (the Pecan Pie is actually quite tasty), and set off.

What followed can only be described as the single best mountain biking experience of my life.

Things began looking up when I arrived and found the parking lot all but empty.  They got better when I got on my bike, rode around a bit, and realized that I wasn’t getting tired.  I was riding fast, I was riding well, and when I got to the point where I normally pull over, panting and reaching for my water bottle, I rode right past.

I got up the Hill of Despair twice (I only mastered it for the first time a few weeks ago), made the long climb south of Walnut Creek three or four times, and almost got up Powerline Hill.

I should note that I have never come close to getting up Powerline Hill.  And by close, I mean within a hundred yards.  It is steep, it is long, it is rock-strewn, and crossed by small ledges.  On every previous attempt, I’ve either run out of steam or out of balance.  This time, I didn’t.  I neared the top, my heart pounding, my legs pumping.  I was twenty feet from the top when I hit a ledge.  My bike jumped and my right foot kicked off the pedal.  After that it was all over, and I had to walk the rest of the way.  But coming as close as I did was still a major accomplishment for me.

After mountain biking, I had lunch with my friend Steve, who was in town for a wedding, and then set out on my true mission for the day, which was to head down to San Antonio and check out the Mini dealership (as there is not one in Austin).

The drive down was the kind of soul-beating, nerve-wracking experience one can always expect from I-35, the kind of experience that can tempt even enthusiasts like me to swear off on driving.  Several times on the drive, had someone been with me in the car, they would heard me say "$&*#*ing 35!" or, upon approaching San Antonio and becoming ensnared in rush hour, "#*$*@ing San Antonio!"

At last I reached the Mini dealership which, by the way, is about as easy to get to as the Holy Grail.  There, I pretty much confirmed my choice that my next car would be a Mini (more about that in some other post), and found myself reconsidering several choices.  For example, I’ve always been a big fan of the Mini’s massive central speedometer, but after driving with it, I believe I’ll opt for the Chrono Pack instead, and relocate the speedo to the steering column.

After a few parting words with the Mini guys, I got back in the Mazda and headed north on 281.  I’d already determined to avoid I-35 and make my way back to Austin on backroads through the Hill Country.  281 to 165 to 290.

Before I got underway, however, I stopped at a gas station in northern San Antonio.  It was my intention to grab a drink for the return trip.  I did so, went back to my car, turned the key, and…nothing.  It wouldn’t start.  It started at Walnut Creek.  It started at Exxon.  It started at the Mini dealership only minutes earlier.  So why…?

So I head back inside.  Thankfully, the station has jumper cables, and an employeed by the name of Jimmy who is more than willing to help me jump the car.  Lenny may have been a more fitting name.  A comedy of errors ensued as he drove his Geo Metro around front and pulled alongside the Mazda.  This included a) seeing the engine in a Geo Metro, b) the jumper cables catching on fire, c) the Mazda actually starting.

Thanking God and Benjamin Franklin, I get back in the Mazda and head home.  The drive through the Hill Country is amazing.  It is the antithesis of I-35.  Gorgeous scenery, nice, twisting roads, light traffic.  I end up getting home in less time than it took me to get to San Antonio.

That night, though I intended to write, I was just too tired.  The mountain biking caught up with me, I suppose.  Instead, I indulged in a computer game, watched a movie, and fell asleep.


Saturday morning I got up and, lacking cereal, drove to Rudy’s for breakfast tacos.  Note that I drove there and back without incident.  This will be important later.

Once home, I packed up, loaded the car, and left.  Sam and Smith lounged in the backseat.  Traffic was pretty thick on 71, but I’d seen worse.   

After making good time and getting to La Grange around 11:00, I pulled off the highway.  I’d run out of Diet Dr. Pepper, and needed a replacement beverage.  So, as per usual, I stopped at a gas station (this one also happens to sell delicious kolaches) and got a drink.  Then I returned to the car, got in, and…

Yep.  It wouldn’t start.  So I go back into the store and ask about jumper cables.  I get a blank stare and a "no".  So I start asking customers.  But everyone seems to be in a rush.  That, and, well, I’m a pretty intimidating figure.

After attempting to get help for fifteen minutes, I give up.  The dogs are overheating in the car, and I have to make them my priority.  Jamie’s dad is on his way from Houston to help me jump the Mazda.  Had I been by myself, I would have walked the quarter mile to Wal-Mart, bought a battery and a wrench kit, and swapped out the old battery there in the parking lot.  But with the dogs…

Instead I went back inside, bought some bottles of water, grabbed a cup, and took the dogs around the corner.  We sat in the shade.  After they had some water, Smith laid down and fell asleep.  Sam stayed up and alert the whole time.

About an hour after calling Jamie, I get a call from her dad.  He’s a half hour away.  But then, five minutes later, he calls back.

He has a flat tire.

At this point, I’m laughing.

By the time he gets there, it is approaching 3:00.  I’ve been stranded for four hours.  We jump the car, and it starts right up.  Sam and Smith hop back in, and once the A/C is blowing cold(ish), the lay down and pass out.

From that point on, the rest of the weekend was pretty much normal.  I got to Houston fine.  We went out to dinner on Saturday, brunch on Sunday, installed a new battery somewhere in between, and on Sunday afternoon I made the drive back to Austin without incident.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2006 4:59 pm

    What a great example of “you win some, you lose some.”

    Congratulations on getting up the “Hill of Despair”…..TWICE. Just think if you would have gone up Powerline Hill fresh.

    When times get tough for me, I just close my eyes and sing Celine Dion songs. It always soothes me!

  2. April 19, 2006 7:24 pm

    You got that idea from Tim, didn’t you? Come on, you can admit it…

  3. April 20, 2006 10:26 am

    But my heart will go on……..

  4. April 20, 2006 2:25 pm

    themoral of the story is that your mountain bike is more reliable than yor car. Perhaps you should cycle to San Antonio and to Houston next time.

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