Stars and Spokes
Rest Day 3: Into the Deep South I go!
The last time we spoke, I was in Del Rio, Texas. Readying myself to finish Texas, which is pretty massive!
As part of this readying process, a number of my friends from my local run club (Clapham Pioneers) played a blinder. They had found a Del Rio bakery along my route, put a bunch of money 'behind the bar' (if that's the right term?!) and instructed me to head down and eat ALL the cake!
And so I headed down and filled a big box full of delicious baked products. I was like a kid in a sweet shop, except I was an adult in a cake shop. As per the picture below, I reckon I got myself enough....(Aldo owns the bakery, great guy!)
What you can also see in that picture is how horrendous my tan lines had become in western Texas! That half of the state is very exposed and hot, with strong winds - a combo that results in comedy tan lines.
I departed Del Rio with legs full of cake, ever eastwards. What came next was a totally unexpected revelation, eastern Texas was fantastic - completely different to what came before. The second part of the state sees far more precipitation coming up from the Gulf of Mexico, and is incredibly green as a result.
My remaining days in Texas comprised fantastic riding, initially through Texas Hill Country (which I'd never even heard of before) and then into increasingly sub tropical conditions as I progressed towards the Louisiana state line. The density of the forest I was passing through was incredibly high, and teeming with wildlife (think terrapins, white tailed deer and an array of birds of prey!). There was even a ranch full of zebras, welcome to Texas...
As I continued east, I did something I rarely do on a cycle tour. I headed into a city. Normally to be avoided, because they make for seriously slow progress on a bike (all that traffic, very stop/start). But I decided to make an exception for Austin, as I'd heard good things. What a great spot! A very young, active, liberal vibe - completely add odds with the more traditional feel of more rural Texas. Well worth a visit, great music scene too.
Beyond Austin, I started to feel increasing pain in my right ankle. After a few days of trying to 'ride it off' (never works!), it had swollen to the point that I was unable to get my cycling shoe on. Not ideal! I opted to take on the American medical system (which is mental, by the way...!). I popped into an Urgent Care Centre, got checked out by a doctor and given a load of anti-inflammatories and pain relief medication to eat. For which I was most grateful!
Such things routinely happen on multi day expeditions. You are pushing your body to the limit; on my ride I am cycling 9-10 hrs a day. That's quite a stress to put on the legs. The ankle situation meant I had to spend a few days cycling 200 KM daily with just one leg to push power through, this was clearly very inefficient and slowed progress. Good to get it sorted, one to get properly scanned once I'm back in the UK.
By the time I approached the Louisiana state line, I'd actually grown quite fond of Texas. Not western Texas, that's barren and hot; don't go there! Eastern Texas is a hidden gem, do go there!
Of note, I had a headwind throughout my entire 1600 KM transit across Texas, that was very, very tough.
Anyway, into the Deep South I went. Which meant genuinely flat terrain for the first time on my ride. All the hills are in the western half of my ride, good to get them out of the way early I reckon!
From the moment I arrived into the Deep South, it has rained. I mean really rained, huge thunderstorms with deafening thunder and blinding flashes of lightning. I have no option but to carry on riding in such conditions, it can be a little unnerving. Yesterday I was riding along in a big storm, lightning bolts were hitting the trees to the side of the road, the smell of burnt wood hung in the air as I pedalled along.
Food wise, restaurants in Louisiana basically trawl the local swamp, deep fry what they catch and serve it up. So far I've sampled 'gator, crawfish, shrimp and catfish. No swamp animal is safe in these parts!
On the subject of food. Throughout this trip I have been lucky enough to have numerous friends transfer me funds to 'get a meal on them' - incredibly generous. I'm getting through around 7,000 calories daily at the moment, and so eating a lot! A number of folk who read this blog have done this, too many to individually name - THANK YOU!!!
My rest day is being spent in Baton Rouge, it feels good to be able to rest my ankle properly. If only for a day, it will do it good. It's constantly painful, that's just how it will be until the end of the ride now. I just need to get on with it.
Looking ahead, I have a number of friends joining for sections of riding over the coming days. To enable this, I will be deviating from the route at times during my final week. I know lots of people track me via my gps tracker, please don't be concerned if you see me 'off track' - there is (some) method to this madness!
Looking ahead, my final week of cycling now lies ahead. I will continue through Louisiana, then Mississippi and Alabama, before entering into the Florida pan handle. It's been a tough and relentless ride, averaging 185 KM daily. It will be amazing to get it done, just need to battle through the ankle pain to the end.
My daughter is coming out in a few days time, to see me finish. Carrots don't get much bigger than that, can't let her down!
I will try and release one final progress blog once I'm into Florida, will likely be a shorter one based on time available.
Until then, wish me luck!