Friday, March 14, 2003                       Seguin, TX to Temple, TX

I began the day with an omelette at a Kettle Restaurant in Seguin. I collected a few more counties southeast of San Antonio, then I headed for the hills. Texas Hill Country, that is.

I followed the loop road  around San Antonio to US 281. There I was involved in my second highway incident of the trip (the first being the high speed chase near Tupelo). I was stopped in a long line of cars at the intersection. As traffic moved up, I was able to steer into the right turn lane. A few hundred feet in front of me, a woman started pulling out of a shopping mall entrance. The car behind her slowly followed. When the woman saw that she was blocking the right turn lane, she decided to back up and get out of my way. Bad idea. At least, not checking her rear view mirror first was a bad idea. The car behind her honked, but it was too late. < Crunch!> Although the accident was minor and  not really my fault, I still felt a little guilty as I steered around her car when the light changed.

Somewhere on US 281, I pulled into another convenient picnic area and changed into my cycling clothes. I drove up to Burnet, 85 miles north of San Antonio, and parked on the square near the former courthouse. Since it was already mid-afternoon, I quickly unloaded, assembled my bike and got under way. As I rode to the southeastern edge of Burnet, I heard my chain scraping the derailleur. My first thought was that I must have bumped something in transit, so I tried to tweak it with the barrel adjusters. That didn't help a bit, so I stopped pedaling and looked down. Uh-oh. One of the chain links had split apart. Irritated, I turned around to ride back. Fortunately, I was only a couple of miles from the car. After all the anticipation and preparation, I was not happy to be ending this ride so quickly. About half a mile from the car, the chain finally snapped. " This is why I tour with mountain biking shoes instead of road shoes," I told myself as I walked it back to the square.

After stowing the bike in the back seat, I set out to find a bike shop. The Herman Brown Free Library was conveniently located across the street. The women there were very helpful, and the library had a good collection of area phone books. Naturally, Burnet was too small to have a bike shop, but Copperas Cove had two listings, and Killeen had several. Heck, I had a few new counties to visit up that way, anyway.

The first shop I went to in Copperas Cove was out of business, but the other one was open. I told the owner my problem, and another cyclist there started ridiculing me for aborting my ride and not fixing it myself. Since the chain was long overdue for replacement anyway (after 4500 miles!), I wasn't going to bother fixing it just a couple miles into my ride. It would have been different if I had been 20 miles from the car. Anyway, the shop owner  said he could take care of it, so I pulled out my bike, assembled it and brought it into the shop. He looked it over, then clamped it onto the work stand. It was all for naught because it turned out that he was out of 9-speed chains. I would have to go to a shop in Killeen instead. At least he gave me directions.

I got to Sun Country Bicycles  in Killeen an hour before they closed. Of course, they were busy working on other bikes, but they managed to squeeze me in (thanks, guys!). Half an hour later, after taking a perilous test ride on the busy four-lane in front of the shop, I was on my way. At least I had learned my lesson about letting chains go too long. Actually, I learned my lesson when I got back to Illinois and had to replace the cassette that had been worn by the old chain, a pricey mistake. I have since learned how to replace a  chain myself, and on a more timely basis.

It was clear from the dent in the wall of this convenience store in Killeen that a pick-up truck had pulled up a little too far, or maybe tried to back out with the shifter  in " drive." Oops!

Since I wanted to try that Burnet County ride again, I didn't want to drive too far before bedding down for the night. I checked into a Super 8 in Temple before dark (the only time on the whole trip that I stopped so early). Another guest there said that all the motels in Killeen were full because of the impending war in Iraq--the troops' deployment was delayed after they had already moved out of their apartments, so they had to stay in motels until they shipped out.

Artist of the Day: Nanci Griffith - Griffith was born in Seguin, where I started my day. She tells vivid stories in her songs, sometimes in a historical or nostalgic context. Her sound has gradually become less " country" over the years.  One Fair Summer Evening is an intimate live album that sums up her early recordings. Each  of her studio albums from 1988's Little Love Affairs  to 1995's Flyer has a unique feel, and all are excellent.

Honorable Mention: Darden Smith - Smith is a  singer-songwriter who blurs the lines between rock, country and folk. I have two of his albums from the early nineties, Trouble No More and Little Victories. I enjoy them so much that  I can't listen to one without following up with the other.

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