Last week, Amber and I met up with Walt Tashnick at Third Base to watch Talladega Nights. Walt is a rare breed: an OWANA and DANA member. Over [more than] a couple of beers we got to talking about my trip to Montreal a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been interested in buying bikes for Amber and I ever since returning from Montreal and experiencing a world-class bicycle sharing system called Bixi. The unisex design of the Bixi bike is apparently quite unique and not something available directly to consumers. I wanted something similar: a cruiser with gears, to be used for recreation rather than as a serious mode of transportation.
Walt is an avid cyclist and generously invited us on a ride, wisely suggesting we should try his bikes to get a sense for what geometry works, or wouldn’t work best. He promised we wouldn’t get too bored and that we should plan to stop for breakfast along the way – a well timed statement to keep my short attention span at ease :-). It would be a casual ride where we could trade stories or inquiries about the properties and land surrounding the trail.
We arrived at Walt’s condo on Castle Hill and 12th at 8:30am, just as he was unloading the bikes from the garage. To put a finer point on our experience level: Amber hadn’t ridden a bike in 15 years. She had never ridden a bike with gears! I on the other hand grew up riding Haros with pegs and gyros, when standing on the handlebars or doing tailwhips in some random parking lot was serious kid business. Then I got my license and forgot about that ‘kid’ stuff.
Onward to Pease Park where we hopped on to the Shoal Creek trail. We rode up to 3rd Street and continued to the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail. As we rode past the Four Seasons and approached the Boat House I made a point to stop and share the unfortunate fact that the Austin Rowing Club has never paid the city a dime for the use of that facility, yet the Texas Rowing Center which is located down the river generates $750,000 per year for the city as a concessionaire.
We continued on past Milago enjoying the presence of other Austinites on the trail. The crowd begins to really thin out as you’re heading east under I-35. We continued on this part of the trail that I had never really explored. I’m glad I finally did. The trail east of I-35 is arguably the most serene park in all of Austin. Stunning.
Along this part of the ride we stopped to take notice of the “For The Love Of Christi” memorial. Walt shared his story about losing his wife, Marcia G. Tashnick, to cancer. This is a subject that has recently been significant to other friends of ours and worth noting here.
We decided to grab breakfast at Cafe Mundi and circled back via Robert Martinez through the Holly district. Cafe Mundi is one of those places I just don’t think about very often when wanting a good breakfast. I’m glad Walt suggested it. Amber and I suggested a couple of other coffee shops we enjoy and Walt’s response to those places was funnily “too antiseptic”. He had a point. Cafe Mundi was zen on a Sunday morning.
The ride back was exhausting, particularly after a large waffle breakfast, but there were some interesting moments along the way. We took a more direct route back to Walt’s place, going down Congress through the front lawn of the Capitol to Guadalupe to 12th. While we had primarily focused on trails on the first leg of our trip, it was neat to do a little “city” riding. Keeping an alert eye on traffic while bicycling down a busy road will certainly get your senses piqued. It made us realize the luxury (although some might call it a necessity) that a bike lane provides, not only for motorists, but for bicyclists as well.
I ended up making the same cavalier decisions while riding my bike that I usually curse other cyclists for. Go figure, but the forthcoming “3 foot rule” should keep cyclists safer.
By the time we made it back to our vehicle, Amber and I were tired, but content. We had gotten to see downtown Austin (and some surrounding areas) from a slightly different perspective, while enjoying good company. Looking forward to more rides like this!