Rojo was insistent on joining me in my sleeping bag. I’m a sucker and couldn’t counter his advances. Sleeping on a concrete floor is much more tolerable when you have a pooch companion and Ratatat. Tommy and his wife stopped by in the morning and offered to take me out for breakfast. He also gave me a bitchin’ new cycling jersey with his landscaping company’s logo. It was unbelievably generous and I’m excited to break up the monotony of my old cycling get-up. Tommy noticed in one of my earlier posts that I had taken a picture of a billboard promoting Beaver Nuggets. It turns out there’s a massive convenience store called Buc-ee’s only a few miles up the road. Naturally, we had to stop and introduce me to the wonder and sheer gigantic edifice that is Buc-ee’s. It’s like the Death Star of convenience stores. One can very easily get lost in the cavalcades of sugar coated goodness, but we had a mission. Nuggets. I didn’t know what to expect. If the time I spent trying to fathom what a beaver nugget actually was on my bicycle was instead used for something productive, I bet I could have developed the prototype of my latest invention: a toilet that plays show tunes while you pee, so you don’t have to embarrassingly aim for the side of the bowl in order to avoid that crude sound while at a stranger’s house. It’s a work in progress. Anyway beaver nuggets are essentially corn puffs but coated in sugar and molasses. Not really what I was thinking, but simply divine nevertheless.
After breakfast, we drove to the town of Gruene to check out the Gruene Hall which is famous for being the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas. I really want to try line dancing in Texas, but I’m worried I’ll make some smart aleck remark about how it’s for rubes and end up getting my ass kicked. I’ll just observe from a distance and make snide remarks to myself out of the earshot of anyone bigger than me.
I parted ways with Tommy and his wife soon after. It still boggles my mind just how generous and selfless every single person I’ve met on this trip is. Whether they realize it or not. It was an absolute privilege getting to know them. I’m enthusiastic about paying forward all the incredibly altruistic things that have been done for me. I hope I am doing that at the moment.
Here I finally am. The capital of Texas. The capital of all things weird. The capital of music. The capital of CAPS LOCK. I stopped on a bridge to acknowledge the fact that I have arrived to a city I used to fantasize about in 9th grade social studies class. 15 year old Tom knew that there was something different about Austin. Something weird. Something he knew he had to be a part of. On this bridge, a woman approached me and we began to discuss bicycle touring. She is the first person on this planet I have met who has taken the same trip that I have except in the opposite direction. I knew her for about five minutes, but I really knew her long before that. We shared a bond, a joining force that is incomparable to most. People walked, ran, cycled past us as we stood there in awe of each other. She is now in her 60s. I asked her how difficult it was to assimilate back into normal society. “What is normal? Do what you do.” I can’t stop. I fear the desire to retain normalcy. I’ve lost touch with social norms. They appear abnormal to me now. Austin is abnormal. In this city I feel normal.
People high fived me in the street. People waved, people laughed. There is energy to this town that the rest of Texas lacks. People are free to be who they want to be. Girls refuse to shave their legs. Boys wear ironic sweatshirts. People with the same genitalia hold hands and are free of scrutiny. A scruffy man plays a guitar on the sidewalk. Our eyes lock and we know we’re both on the same path. People politely demand attention here.
Amy is my conduit for Austin. Not knowing her is a detrimental crime. She teaches at a school for the blind and is showing me the way. I accompanied her to the Spider House Ballroom for an evening of folk music. The stage was surrounded by red velvet curtains while cherub statues guided you to a comfortable seat in a manner I would describe as whimsically. It was a place you go to cry about a past love, while a new one asks you why you’re crying. Craft beer, self-expression, and eccentricity are finally the status quo. Folk me, I’m in folking Austin talking folk music with a couple of folks. Hillie Lyman, the feature act and friend of Amy’s performed a cover of Nirvana’s Come as You Are which left me lost in a trance surpassing the walls of the ballroom. It deconstructed and rebuilt my psyche in three minutes. Hillie’s voice and Kurt’s words lit fire to my conscious mind and exhausted the flames with buckets of vibrant paint. My brain transformed into a Jackson Pollock exhibit while I nursed a beer and marveled at everyone in the room’s ability to appear so nonchalant while earthquakes of impactful music filled the atmosphere. I can count the hours I’ve been in this town on one hand and the other hand is grabbing another chance to meet someone new. I never want to leave.
The dream I had in Carlsbad became a reality when she contacted me. Her name is Selene. We’re going to get lostinAustin tomorrow. Hearts will throb til’ their breaking point.
Total Ascent: 1742 ft.