Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where's the Scenery?

Something I've been confounded by since my move to Austin is my difficulty finding beautiful rides that aren't terrifying passes of car-death.  As I am nominally a bike blogger, I also read bike blogs and it strikes me how many pictures there always seem to be of beautiful bike paths, fire roads, or small, two lane rural roads with no cars on them.  Maybe it's a bit of a timing choice on the part of the photographers of New England and the Pacific Northwest, but I'd really love to know where I can find places like that here in Austin.

When I initially started riding bikes, I lived in the Silicon Valley/Peninsula area of the San Fransisco Bay Area, which as scenery goes, is quite hard to beat.  From there I went home to the Dallas area, but my family is actually from the very edge of the Metroplex, and a 5 minute ride in the right direction surrounded me with rolling green fields of grazing cattle, open vistas of prairies and lakes, for as many miles as I cared to ride.

Yet since I've moved to Austin, I seem to have altogether stopped distance riding and I think part of it may be the roads considered to be "Good cycling" around here strike me as 6 lane speedways of noise and scary intersections of death.  The biggest example that comes to mine is Capitol of Texas Highway (also known as Loop 360), one of the most popular road cycling roads in the area.  This loop goes through the hills on the western edge of Austin and is nothing but soaring vistas, bridges over the Colorado River sparkling in the sunlight, edged cliffs, and steep hills.  Also, cars.  Lots of them.  Going in excess of 70 mph, depending on how closely they adhere to the speed limit.  At various points you're expected to cross freeway-style exits.  Then there's Parmer road, which leads northwest out of town.  6 lanes, 60 mph speed limit.  One thing that also strikes me about these roads is the proliferation of the "improved shoulder".  These roads don't have bike lanes, they have a lane-wide shoulder that is amazing to ride.....provided someone isn't currently parked there, or using it as a turn lane.

The kind of roads I want to spend my time on are two-lane country roads that take me through the countryside, with relatively little traffic.  Dirt fire-roads that lead me to a river and paths free of cars following babbling brooks (okay, Shoal Creek Trail totally accomplishes this).

A sign of how much I've given up sport cycling is I'm still in the process of selling my road bike, as I haven't put a mile on it in over 6 months.  The Surly does everything I could want my bike to do, and the day I find it impossible to take a touring bike on a long ride is probably the day I should sell it.  I just need somewhere to ride it that FEELS like a "tour."

So tell me - where's my scenic country bike ride?

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you about Austin, but I know what you mean about finding a place to ride. I gave up trying to ride out of the city - now I take my folding bike, put it in my trunk, and drive to the trails. I can get a good full day of riding in and not see a single car...until it's time to head back home.