Far and Wide – Austin, Texas

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Austin, Texas is known for a lot of things: live music, barbecue, and the Longhorns. We found all those things, but we also found a cycling rich town with a small, but quality trail network.

I can’t seem to forget a damn thing. There’s the random item or two that I’ll lapse on at the grocery store sometimes, but really that’s it. If I tell you I forgot something, I might be lying. My mind is a trap filled with smells, faces and unfinished birthday texts to friends. It’s sometimes an exhausting burden that, even as I get older, I can’t seem to shake free from.

It's an eclectic mix here; we hunted for treasure on SoCo, listened to the "next big thing" just down the street, and watched a local artist spray freely at the Graffiti Park.

I can trace the origins of this back to middle school. I have probably always had this skill somewhere within me, but it became fully unlocked around the same time I found bike—and, more importantly, the places the bicycle took me. Each time I pedaled away from home was a new adventure that I never wanted to end. So when it did end—for suppertime, homework, lawn mowing or darkness—I would replay the day over and over in my young head. Usually I did this with my Walkman [look it up] blasting in my ears, acting as the soundtrack to the beloved rerun while I spaced out, staring at my bedroom ceiling or a blank math worksheet. I appreciated this ability. It allowed me to get lost in something I enjoyed when I couldn’t actually be outside. It was a pacifier until the next time. It made me hungry for more, since the feelings were fresh.

Coffee is a religion in all good cycling towns, and Austin is no different. Our early mornings started at Jo's, but a second cup from Flat Track or Cenote really got the day moving.

I had two close friends that I rode with every day back then. We had different interests and talents both on and off the bike. I was the long-distance rider. I enjoyed racing and spending all day on the bike. My friends enjoyed the same, but favored being in the air more than on the ground. Our bike builds matched our riding preference. My tastes leaned towards the high post, titanium frame, racer-type build, while they had flat pedals, fat tires and bash guards. But these diverse builds never stopped us from riding together.

To this day, I am still friends with those two middle-school guys that that helped me discover riding. I loved exploring on my bike but I’m not sure how far it would have gone without those two sharing those afternoons after school and weekends with me.

As time goes on, I am continually struck by how integral those early years were for me. It helped me appreciate all two-wheeled disciplines and never discriminate on the trail.

The post coffee pedal through parks and neighborhood bike lanes took us to the maze of hobo trails in the Barton Greenbelt. Local knowledge told us that maps out here were useless, but the area is small enough to explore without real risk of getting lost in the wilderness. Tip: start at the Hill of Life.

Fast forward to present day: Personal distractions and responsibility have taken hold. Making the time to get out and enjoy my true love has become a special event—something I cherish and share with my closest friends. Similar to my riding companions, when I first started pedaling, my present-day riding partners are their own people with their own diverse outlooks and rich talents both on and off the bike. They tackle life and the trail in front of them differently.

There are no mountains here, but this is hill country and just outside Austin is Pace Bend Park where a multi use singletrack network cuts ribbons across the hilly terrain with punchy climbs and rocky descents.

Words by Morgan Meredith and photos by Adrian Marcoux.
Video by MindSpark Cinema.

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