Charley’s ride across America 19. Hill country, challenges, and cowshit


Day 36 mar 4.  40 miles 5:00 include chain repair, lots uphill. 75 degrees. Bike fix in Fredericksburg at end

Day 37 mar 5  38 miles 5:00 hills, headwinds, hot, but gorgeous. Ens in Ingram TX

Total miles 1553

Dear friends and family,

On the second half of this journey now:

I was wondering what the Texas Hill Country would be like and now I know.

Here’s how it is from my point of view:

If I get to the top of a hill, I look down the road and if I can see the road in the distance feel good about future. As I come over the summit I often find that to get back to the same level I need to drop way down to the creek crossing first, then up the steep other side. I can’t let the bike just roar downhill to develop momentum because often there is a cattle crossing at the creek before coming up. I don’t want to cross this going thirty, so stay under control, which means no momentum for the other side. In the valley there is no wind, just a lot of work to climb. As soon as I get near the summit I then feel the headwind keeping me from developing any momentum going forward, till I summit and start the same thing all over for the next five hours. As I type “ five hours” I think it’s amazing that heart keeps pumping, legs keep pushing and bike moves forward. I couldn’t quite imagine this before I started this journey.

In Austin I had a new chain and brake pads installed. Yesterday, as I was cranking up my longest hill in the middle of nowhere, the chain snapped and fell off the bike. I rolled it off the road into the grass, but with the tilt and the wind I couldn’t stand it up, so I laid it sideways on the panniers in a position to reach the sprockets and allow the pedals to turn to try the chain. Then I sat myself down in the weeds next to it and had a moment. Maybe five. I was hot, tired, and now frustrated. The good news is I knew I had spare master links and the right tools. 

On that road a car would normally pass about  each half hour. I saw a pickup truck go speeding by as I eyed the empty bed. The next car was a small white sedan that did a U-turn and pulled over next to me in the weeds.

I could feel the gush of cool air when she wound down her window.

“ Are you in trouble?” Asked the wife in the passenger seat. 

“Maybe” was my reply, as I hadn’t gathered up the chain yet to see if it was indeed fixable.

Both husband and wife got out of the car to chat. I gave them the brief version of my trip, let them know that I should be fine, but needed to collect myself.

They seemed to snap me out of my stupor and they watched as I figured out the chain threading and snapped on the master link. They offered their extra water, about a half pint. I let them know I still had about a liter left, so all was good.

They then took off looking for open wine tastings at the Hill Country wineries. I finished the hill climb.

It’s lovely how people stop to offer help or say hello.

I’ve had those back a couple of states, I had the guy give me the  ice water, and when I had my first back tire flat two guys stopped within a few minutes offering tools and help. 

And, when I wheeled into Fredericksburg, kind of frustrated as now my brakes were causing squeaks and drag, Andy at his bike shop took me right in, sold me a new back tire, a triple thick tube, and fixed the brakes correctly. He said he opened his shop after bicycling round the world (!), received so much kindness along the way, so took care of tourers in this life. Amazing, this whole new world of kindness with bikers!

I spent last evening in Fredericksburg. This is a German village of now about 10,000 people who originally even spoke their own language called Texas-German. They were a rare Union city in the middle of Texas during the civil war. Today it is a vibrant upscale tourist mecca. I walked around to see the old German architecture, listen to many of the live bands and of course, eat German food. It was excellent and the people watching was great fun.

The riding the last couple of days takes me through ranch land and today the country road actually went through the middle of the Morris ranch. Cattle guards kept the cattle and horses and donkeys and camels from leaving. A new thing to dodge now are cow patties. 

The smell of them in the heat reminded me of a cowshit story.

Around 1980 I was getting certified to be a cross country instructor. The certifying organization was out of Vermont and sent their expert to test us on our ski and teaching techniques. She, the expert, was a very attractive woman about my age, expert skier, loved being outdoors and was testing us. I felt attracted to her so as the two day testing went on, found myself drawn physically closer to her. But each time I got very close I thought I smelled cowshit. 

The next day, as I once again made sure I was close enough to be noticed, I smelled it again. What in the…?

Finally I got up the nerve to try my best pickup line I could muster. “ Why do you smell like cowshit”

I’ve never tried that one before, so maybe I was onto something, let’s see.

She explained that she grew up on a dairy farm and missed home when she was on the road, so she smeared some cowshit on her skiing glove so she could smell home every day and not miss it so much.

Who would have known?

I’m re-reading Ryan Holiday’s book THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY. It’s got me thinking about dealing with the obstacles I’ve got on this trip. 


I’m definitely not taking in enough calories as I continue to drop pounds. I need to be more careful getting enough food as I ride, because I’m not hungry due to the heat, but I need to be disciplined about eating regularly. Not a problem I had before the 5-7 hours per day of riding.


My new back tire and special tube should help with fewer flats and less resistance ( holds more air so less friction)

I also met a rider on his Sunday ride who offered to help in any way he could he has a business about 3 miles from my hotel. I’m buying him breakfast in exchange for him mailing a ten pound package of excess stuff out so less weight.

I am truly enjoying riding through Texas so far. Good roads, few wild dogs, wild country with lots more animals than people. I guess I complain a lot about hills and wind and heat, but that’s what is there to deal with to enjoy hour after hour of gorgeous scenery. The personal challenge is there too.

Once again, I enjoy your comments.

Sending love,


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