Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What a Headache (Literally)!

After way too long of a day traveling, I have arrived at Dillon's in Austin!

After my last post where I was merely waiting for my flight to board, I had to wait a whole lot longer than planned. The plane had some sort of mechanical (which is always just the slightest bit worrisome), so we were late boarding. Then, once we finally boarded, we sat at the gate for another 20-30 minutes. We ended up taking off a full hour later than scheduled. Ordinarily, it wouldn't really be that big of a deal, just a pain. But, in this case, it meant I would for sure be navigating my way from the airport to Dillon's apartment mostly in the dark. Now, there's a challenge! Good thing I brought my Stella light, and good thing I am used to riding in the dark! This would be a little different as I would be on relatively unfamiliar territory (in most parts, COMPLETELY unfamiliar territory!).

The flight from Seattle to Austin is about 3 1/2 hours. For about 3 of those hours, I had an excruciating headache--one of those sinus headaches that makes you think your head is going to explode. I even asked the flight attendant for some aspirin and the guy in the aisle seat gave me some Advil. I took them both, but the headache didn't actually start to subside until we started descending. Looking back, the headache didn't start until we reached cruising altitude. When I fly home, I think I will take some preventative sinus decongestant. I do not want a repeat of that experience! By the time we landed, the headache was pretty much gone. That's good, because I had some work to do!

First thing I see as I reach baggage claim is the Chinese Shopping Bag on the carousel with white plastic straps all around it. It appears the zipper did not hold up to the less-than-gentle inspection. Fortunately, nothing was missing. I grab it and drag it over to the oversize baggage area to get Betsy (who I had seen come off the plane--now I know how the bag gets all those holes--glad I used lots of bubble wrap!). I didn't have to wait at all. She was sitting on the conveyor belt.

I got to work organizing the panniers first. I had to switch some things to balance the weight. Once the panniers were ready, I unpacked Betsy and set about freeing her from her bubble wrap cocoon. As I was methodically putting everything together, I noticed a gentleman watching. I said something like, "It's a process...". He said it looked like it required too much patience!

I, amazingly, got everything loaded up in about 45 minutes. I forgot that I had put my bike gloves (short finger) in one of the panniers instead of my handlebar bag. I didn't feel like digging them out, so I went gloveless (yes, it was plenty warm enough for that!). I also didn't take time to put the rear view mirror on either. In hindsight, that was not the best move, as it meant my hindsight was limited (HA!).

I turned on my Garmin, but it was having problems "acquiring Satellite". It still said I was at home. Fortunately, I had made a back-up plan of written directions based on a route recommended by the Bike Austin website. I headed out from the airport in the only way I could see to go. I was a little wobbly at first getting used to loaded Betsy again, but everything seemed to be working okay.

I followed the directions (this being the "safer" route given) and turned onto Bastrop Hwy. After a short distance, the directions said to turn left onto Ben White Blvd. Well, it was more like merging onto a road just slightly less busy than a freeway only with not much shoulder. In fact, the only shoulder I really had was a part of the road that was under construction. Then, to remain on Ben White, I had to cross a busy exit to another freeway. I did that, but then had no shoulder at all!

My "exit" from Ben White was supposed to be Montopolis. As I look ahead and see this Montopolis, I also see that it says "Exit Closed--U-turn to Detour" at some other street. WHAT???
Remember, this is darn near like a freeway! I come up to the "closed" exit and determine I'm going take it anyway. Whew! Now I have my own private road with zero cars (really, just a long exit ramp that takes me to Montopolis).

I continue following the directions as it gets darker and darker. The darkness requires me to slow down at each intersection until I can see what the name of the street is. Most of the left turns are too busy to cross to the left lane by the time I can tell it is where I need to turn, so I do the go-up-on-the-sidewalk-and-push-the-crosswalk-button plan. It works.

This route has me going on, seemingly, the hilliest streets of Austin! At one point, I have to do something I have NEVER had to do. I actually have to get off and push Betsy up this steep short hill! Maybe if I had been used to the load (or the load was better distributed) I would have been able to grind it out, but that wasn't the case, so I hopped off and pushed her up to the top. It was maybe 20 feet.

After several more rolling hills and some quiet back streets, I pop out onto S. Congress. I go across the Congress St. Bridge and, violá, I am in downtown Austin! This is vaguely familiar to me. I get to Red River and turn left (again being forced to do the crosswalk trick). As I am looking at the directions, I see they have me going off of Red River, but eventually returning to it. I decide enough of this circuitous route--I'm staying on Red River! I follow it for 30 blocks to 30th Ave, turn right, and pull into Dillon's apartment building parking area. I call him to let him know I'm here. He comes and helps me get everything up to his apartment. I made it! It took me an hour and 15 minutes from the airport. I'm pretty proud of myself since I did most of the navigating in the dark!

Here are just a few photos. Notice the baby cutlery (remember, I said they would feature prominently in the photos). The photo of Betsy is at the airport ready to go. The not-so-great photo is just a quick shot of downtown (in the dark).

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