Well, me and my velocipede have set out on our long, slow crawl across the west. I’ve made it to Llano, Texas. If you were to consult Mapquest, you’d see that Llano, Texas, is not very far away from Austin at all. See, it’s like this:

I stuck around to shoot that biker rally, and left Austin Sunday morning. I went out to my friend Melissa’s ranch, on 1323 near Sandy (in the middle of the hill country), and had possibly the best going-away party ever. I can’t really go into it here, but suffice to say it was illegal, immoral, and absolutely great! Thanks Melissa, Fuzzy, and Evelyn! Anyway, so there I was at the ranch, and I still had a bit of work to do on my bike before I could leave, so everybody went back to Austin and left me there about ten on Monday. I futzed around, ate some freezer waffles that were at least as old as God, and finally got on the road about noon on Monday.

About one o’clock on Monday I sprung a bungee cord and had to go back. I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to bring my sleeping bag on this trip. Not a major problem — I’ve done big trips without a sleeping bag before. I repacked and reoriented and was just about to leave when it started raining.

It rained all night.

Tuesday it rained all day.

Wednesday it rained all day and now the creek was so high I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to. I ate rice and pancakes and watched the damnable endless Reagan funeral on TV. There were no books in the cabin, except two Patricia Cornwell mysteries that I finished on Tuesday, a field guide to reptiles, and a field guide to mushrooms. I sat on the porch and watched the deer and turkeys go by.

Today I woke up and the weather was perfect. I got everything together, cleaned up the house, and finally left for real this time. It took me an hour just to get down the damn gravel road and cross all the creeks, but then I was out on 1323 and it was smooth sailing. I cruised past all the cattle ranches and into Gillespie County, where I made my first important discovery of this trip:

Wet sheep smell far, far worse than wet cows.

Jesus. A mile of sheep ranches and I couldn’t roll my windows up or turn on the air conditioning or even speed up to get out of it. An unforgettable odor, and this is coming from someone who just spent a weekend at a biker rally. Gaagh! It sort of reminded me of canned sardines, though I can’t say why.

Then it was over and back on to the beautiful day. I cruised off 1323 and onto Highway 16, where I am right now. If anyone else ever wants to ride a bike across Texas, Highway 16 is -perfect.- Great shoulder, gently rolling hills, a bit of traffic but not too much. No sheep ranches. Perfect.

So now, five days into my big trip, and I’m only 73 miles away from Austin. Well, that’s bicycles for you. I’m staying on 16 North, to Wichita Falls at least. This road is perfect for bicycles, and I’ll ride it until it stops. I rode 40 miles today, averaging about 16 miles an hour (but that’s because I’m pushing myself), and I’ll try to do at least that many more before night falls.