The Actual Big Day

It rained. As soon as I bid goodbye to my friend, César, took a deep breath, and started pedalling, it started to rain. Such an auspicious start!

I forgot to record the exact point but it was, per chance, at a gas station somewhere on Slaughter Lane in Austin. A very apt name for the street to begin your dream journey on, isn't it?

It was at about 12:30pm. I should have started much earlier in the day.


I did not put on a raincoat or cover my stuff with a waterproof cover. Somehow that did not dampen my spirit. (I have become a little too patient. Need to be more human.)

Before I left Austin, the only training I had had was biking around Austin without my luggage. With all that luggage on my bike, I struggled. The bags in the front were imbalanced. So my handlebar wobbled. I had to cover a long distance in a short time. There was no choice but to pedal on.

I had decided not to cycle in the dark. So I did not buy expensive head and tail lights that would make car drivers go blind. But there I was cycling in insufficient light on the very first day. Brilliant planning, no?

See the overcast sky and insufficinet light?
Pedernales Falls State Park was my destination. It was already dark at about 7pm. I was still around 5 miles away. My navigator had asked me to take a right turn in 500 meters. I thought it had been 500 meters and I hit a right turn. I took it but immediately felt something was not right. It seemed like someone's private property to me. I had been warned that Texans do not think twice before shooting a stranger on private property. I took out my phone to check. I was right. I needed to turn back. But as I was turning back, a car turned up wanting to turn into the path I was blocking. I hurried. I did not want to piss a Texan off.

As I turned around ready to bike off, I mumbled an apology for blocking the way to the lady in the car. She asked me what I was doing there. I told her, "I am on a bike tour. I started today in Austin. I am heading to Pedernales State Park. I think I took a wrong turn." She looked at me. (Remember this moment! There was something about the way she looked at me.) Then she asked, "Where are you from?" I replied. Meanwhile, another car turned up behind hers. She had to clear the way for that car so she instructed me, "Don't go anywhere! I want to speak with you." I thought she's miffed. She took her car about 20 feet away. I could make out she was calling somebody. "Is she calling the police,"  I nervously wondered. I shat bricks in my pants. I remembered Ben's words of caution: "In small towns in Texas, the police will just frame random charges against brown or black strangers." A part of me wanted to run away. But running away would have aroused even more suspicion. Her call went on forever. Finally, she got out of the car, came up to me and said, "Hi, I was talking to my husband. We are cyclists. We would like to offer our place to you for tonight. It is too dark. One of the roads ahead is flooded. Pedernales is quite far."

That's where it all happened in the dark
I was dumbfounded. For a split second, irrational fears took over "What if she is a psycopath? Is she going to take me to a hillbilly? What if there are hillbillys where she lives? Am I about to be...???" I shut my mind up and accepted the offer. She asked me to follow her. It was a dirt road and it was completely dark (lit up only by the car's lights and my headlamp of 17 lumens). It wasn't private property after all. It was, however, lined with several private properties (that in Texas usually means large tracts of land) on both sides. She was patient enough to wait for me after every few meters as I caught up with her car exhaustedly riding my wobbly bike.

Those irrational fears were back again. Perhaps, because it was dark. I inhaled deeply and shut them up.

We finally arrived at her place and got a chance to introduce ourselves to each other. Her husband came out to greet us. She had been away to meet her son.

They're Kimberly and Ray.

Ray turned out to be quite an inspirational figure. He took up cycling at 49. He was determined to lose weight through physical exercise and managed to do that in one year. I am not sure how much he lost but he definitely looked a lot younger than 50 in the pics he showed to me. He now looks for road loops with elevations and plans to climb one million feet of elevation by bike this year. He even went on a 7-month long solo trip across the United States at the age of 52! (There's a facepalm for all those listicles that include a long, solo trip as one of the top 10 or 20 or 30 things to do in the 20s.) He even helped me enthusiastically to plan my routes online for the next 6 days. He gave me all kinds of advice, especially about how I could reduce my luggage, and gifted a pair of padded shorts!

Before all that, Kimberly offered Texan barbecue dinner with hot apple cider. At dinner, while all of us were having conversations about our lives, cycling, travelling, and religion, Kimberly said to me something that I will never forget. Remember, I told you how she looked at me while she was in the car? She told me that when she looked at me, she felt that the spirits asked her to protect me because my mom had asked them to. She asked me to let my mom know that she got her message. Ray instantly burst out laughing. Before I started travelling, I too would have laughed if somebody said something like that, but in that moment I could not.

I don't know what would have happened had I declined Kimberly's offer and carried on to Pedernales. Maybe I would have reached safe and sound, maybe not.
But I think I am going back to being  agnostic from atheist. I am definitely grateful to the International Telepathic Communication Network of Moms.

So, Ma, Kimberly got your message. Thanks for looking out for me from the other side of the world!

Kimberly and I before I set out for Blanco, TX (Wish Ray were in the picture too)

7 comments:

  1. Oh dear friend, this is soooooo inspiring. I'm really glad you finally started your blog. I wish you all the very best and many (many, many, many...) other stories like this one. Take care and enjoy your dream. Leandro.

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    1. Obrigado amigo! You're the inspiration!

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  2. Sweet! It was so delightful to meet you! Very con Dios :)

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    1. You too, Kimberly! Lots of love :)

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  3. Cooooooooooooooooooooooooool bro!! Dale caña!

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  4. International Telepathic Communication Network of Moms. Love it!

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