Today’s distance / ???????: 52 miles / 83km
Average speed / ????: 8.4mph / 13.6km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 08m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2705mi (plus 266mi) / 4354km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 190m
Descent / ??: 170m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N18.104.22.168, W099.54.14.3
I got away from the church just as the builders were arriving for work at 7:30am. Ate breakfast outside HEB – the big supermarket chain here in Texas. As usual, I had peanut butter, honey, and banana tortilla wraps. Great way to start the day.
I had a great smooth road and tailwind out of Hondo. Just as forecast.
By the way, to get these jumping shots, I set the camera up to take 10 consecutive shots automatically on a timer. I then run to a predetermined spot and jump like crazy. Yes, I did get some strange looks from passing cars.
As forecast also, the road surface decreased in quality into Uvlade County. Made up for in no small way by the amazing clouds.
The roads improved 15 miles later from the small town of Knippa, and I arrived in the bustling metropolis of Uvalde at 4pm.
At the local WalMart I stocked up on food and water. For the next 40 miles, there is nothing. Nada. I figured I would be able to make it to Bracketville by lunchtime tomorrow at the very latest a my current rate.
About 5 miles out of Uvalde I met John, Wade, Henry and Tom gallivanting on Wade’s new trail bike. You’ll see some of Wade’s skills on the bike in the next video update coming soon.
I set up camp next to Nueces River, and enjoyed the peace and tranquility.
Today’s distance / ???????: 55 miles / 88km
Average speed / ????: 9.1mph / 14.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 00m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2653mi (plus 266mi) / 4271km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 540m
Descent / ??: 730m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N22.214.171.124, W099.08.43.2
Great day despite the rough chipseal roads. Great hills. A chance to really stretch the legs.
The downhills would have been fantastic…had it not been for the road surface that defies all attempts at enjoyable skating – chipseal. But the wind did just as it was foretold. A light westerly in the morning, and then a nice northerly to blow me all the way from Bandera south to Hondo.
In Hondo I met up with US90, the highway that will lead me to Del Rio. Wide shoulders, smooth riding surfaces, and flat terrain await.
Thank you to First Baptist Church for letting me stay in their under-construction fellowship hall for the night. A warm spot to lay my head is always appreciated!
I’m in the clear. I now have enough time to stay in the US in order to complete the journey to Los Angeles. Popped over the border at Eagle Pass, into Mexico at Piedras Negras today. And then popped back into the US. Hey presto, another 90 days.
Rob Inglish, the guy who I have been staying with for the last three days was a legend and drove me all the way down to the border from Boerne, Texas. That’s a 2 and a hald hour drive. “I’ve never been down to that border before, and I’d like to get some vanilla…” he reasoned. A fantastic opportunity for me, and many many thanks to Rob for helping out in this way.
We left Boerne at noon, just after seeing Rob’s wife and kids off. Liesl, Madeline and Cade were headed for Dallas for the weekend to visit friends. Rob wasn’t going. “As soon as I get near Dallas, I start to tense up,” he said. The Inglish family had lived in Dallas for some time before moving to Boerne, a small town of 10,000 people, and they seem to appreciate the slower pace of life and more rural surroundings. Rob and Liesl are both into eundurance racing such as Ironman events and triathlons. They are both very successful at what they do, Rob even having trained in Belgium as a cyclist.
But anyway, we arrived at the border at 3pm, and proceeded to park the car and wander across the border. There is no check at the US side of immigration. Noone seems to care if you leave the US. We walked the 500m across the bridge that spans the Rio Grande, the river that separates the US and Mexico. I was expecting a bigger river. It’s not as grand as the name suggests. No wonder so many illegal immigrants get across it each year into the US.
Entry into Mexico was interesting. No passport checks. Wander in and noone would ever know you entered. I wanted a stamp in my passport however, and had to ask for one. The official was perplexed and had to call his superior to find out if it was indeed OK to give me a stamp.
We wandered around the immediate vicinity of the border, in all the overpriced tourist markets. Rob found his vanilla, and we spent not much more time in the country.
The small taste of Mexico I did get however, has left me interested in traveling there a little more. It has that familiar and comforting lack of regulations that so many less developed nations have. The western world is so full of regulations and rules that as a traveler I feel trapped. Mexico has an exciting free feel to it. Not to mention the colour and vibrancy of the place.
But Mexico will have to wait for another day…first, I had to get back into the US. This was relatively painless however, the immigration officials more interested in my story than anything else. I was able to show them my website, assuring them that I wasn’t just trying to dodge the system and work in the US. They did however want to search my pack. Pulled everything out. Put it all back in again. I was out and back onto US soil by 5pm.
Then we drove all the way back to Boerne. 2.5 hours back. Again, Rob Inglish, what a legend. Thank you so much. Great fun.
So now it’s all go. I have an unconfirmed speaking engagement in Hemet, California, booked for the 28th of March, so I have 6 weeks to cover about 1,400 miles. Easy.
I was fully intending to leave on Thursday (yesterday). Then reason kicked in. The last three days were very tough. The first three full days of proper hills. Why not rest while I’m ahead, let the body adjust to the extra load (I’m carrying an extra 2 litres of water with me now) of the pack and the hills.
So that was Thursday. Emailing, web stuff…now it is Friday, and I was intending to leave today also. But it was raining lightly in the morning, with severe storms forecast for later in the day and for tomorrow (Saturday the 16th).
Then, Rob, who along with his wife Liesl works from home, suggested that I stay and leave Sunday. Why? “I have never been to the Mexican border,” Rob began. “How about I take you down to the border so you can sort out your visa stuff, and then start fresh on Sunday.”
You see, as New Zealand citizen, I am allowed in the US for 90 days on what is called the Visa Waiver System. I arrive in the US and I get a stamp for 90 days in the country. That 90 days is up on the 23rd of February. The original plan was to skate to Del Rio, walk over the border to Mexico, then walk back to the US and have myself a fresh 90 days in the country. Technically, there is no regulation that would prevent me from doing this.
Now since it it going to be terrible weather on Saturday anyway, “you may as well get all that stuff taken care of tomorrow,” Rod reasoned. Better than having to sit in my tent for a day while the thunderstorms rage tomorrow.
Done. So the plan is to head down to a less-traveled border crossing tomorrow and get things sorted.
Please do pray for this process however. It is not a guaranteed thing. I am hoping that the fact that I have a confirmed flight leaving from Los Angeles on the 14th of April, masses of news media following my journey, a clear and chronicled account of my movements here in the US so far, and a decent story will convince the US Immigration officials that I am not trying to dodge the system and work in the US.
So, on that note, please note the following updates on the website:
Today’s distance / ???????: 44 miles / 72km
Average speed / ????: 7.3mph / 11.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 10m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2599mi (plus 266mi) / 4182km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 700m
Descent / ??: 570m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N126.96.36.199, W098.44.04.3
To stay in the Blanco State Recreation Area Campground overnight, you have to pay US$21. That includes tents. I didn’t know that last night…but the staff were stoked to have me staying there. “We have the odd cyclist here and there staying, but never a skateboarder before!” So they let me stay for free. Thanks guys!
I followed US Highway 281 all the way from Blanco to Spring Branch on very wide shoulders. A welcome relief from yesterday’s narrow back road. The road surface was very rough new chipseal from Blanco to the Blanco County line. From the county line to Spring Branch, it was silky asphalt.
From Spring Branch I connected with Texas highway 46. Nice wide shoulders but horribly rough chipseal. Pushing up hills and inching slowly down them on the other side was not fun on the horrid stuff. It adds so much resistance to the pushing, and going downhill on rough chipseal vibrates the board so much that it is dangerous to get any decent speed up. Very mentally draining.
I was ecstatic to arrive in Blanco at 5:15pm. I had to make it to Blanco to visit the local UPS Store. Travel Hammock has hooked me up with an ultralight travel hammock made from lightweight parachute material that I will have as a backup for the big hills ahead of me in New Mexico and Arizona. The hammock will be attached to two lightweight graphite golf club shafts and I will be able to use it as an emergency parachute on the long steep downhills. Kind of like this: The ‘Parachute’ in action in the Swiss Alps
(Photo taken in the Swiss Alps, earlier in the journey)
I had gotten rid of the set up in Germany, because from there it was all flat through Europe, and it has been all flat riding so far in the US, except for these last few days in the Texas Hill Country.
On most hills, there is no need to use the parachute. They are often short enough to handle just with foot dragging (dragging one foot on the ground as a brake). However, on the really big passes of western China, I will have to make use of the parachute to save my shoes getting worn out. Being able to foot drag with both feet now, I can save the common issue of only one shoe being worn out faster than the other, but I would be in a bother if I was weeks away from a major town, and my shoes had holes in them.
So, I got to Boerne in time to pick up the hammock. Mission accomplished. I headed next to H.E.B., a large supermarket chain in Texas. Shopping done, I was just about to skate away from the shop entrance when a woman spoke up behind me. “So what’s your story?”
It was Liesl Inglish with her daughter Madeline. After a rather condensed version of the last 1.5 years of my life, Liesl asked where I would be sleeping tonight. “In my tent just out of town somewhere, I guess,” I replied.
It just so happens that Liesl had traveled in Europe when she was younger, and when she and her husband, Rob, renovated their house in Boerne, they put a guest flat above their garage, for the sole purpose of having people over to stay. “You are most welcome to stay at our house, if you like.”
This was of course a very welcome suggestion, and I wasted no time in accepting. I met Rob and son Cade when we got to the Inglish home, and was shown to a comfortable room where I would stay the night. Thank you so much Rob and Liesl!
Today’s distance / ???????: 34 miles / 55km
Average speed / ????: 7.7mph / 12.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 30m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2554mi (plus 266mi) / 4110km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 560m
Descent / ??: 525m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.05.20.9, W098.25.26.8
I had another radio interview with CallFM from Miami this morning. I was just packing up getting ready to start skating for the day when they called for an update on my progress. I visited their studio in Homestead earlier in the US leg of the journey.
For the next two hours I battles rough roads and annoyingly frequent traffic to the attractive town of Wimberly.
Here I spent the late morning updating the website at the public library. The weather was cloudy and dark when I entered the library, but by the time I had finished at 12:30pm, the clouds had parted and a beautiful blue sky day was left.
I stopped in at Mrs. Mac’s BBQ Restaurant for lunch, and the owner, Steve, after hearing about what I was doing, hooked me up with a free lunch. Thanks Steve!
The next 22 miles to Blanco were grueling. The uphills and rough roads were tough, but rewarding.
Taylor and Jacob stopped for a chat as I was taking a break on the side of the road.
The traffic was not so fun. The traffic was sparse, but no one expects to see a skateboarder in their lane when they come over a blind hill. There was of course no shoulder on the narrow Ranch Road 2325, and by the time I was about 2 miles out of Blanco, I had been called in by drivers to the local Sheriff’s office. Two officers drove out to find me, and found me they did, struggling along trying to stay as close to the side of the road as possible.
The officers were understanding, and I of all people did not want to be on that road. I skated the rest of the way to Blanco and gratefully set up camp in the Blanco State Recreation Campground for the night. The plan for tomorrow is to forget the nice peaceful back roads, and stay on the beaten track – the main highways with nice wide shoulders. Not my perfect choice, but at least I will have a higher chance of not being hit by traffic.
Today’s distance / ???????: 32 miles / 51km
Average speed / ????: 7.3mph / 11.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 22m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2519mi (plus 266mi) / 4055km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 410m
Descent / ??: 270m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.02.05.4, W097.56.22.7
Changed my wheels today.
I had thought that with 2,700 miles on the suckers, that they would be about half the size of the new ones with all the wear. They weren’t however. Only about 1mm or so less in diameter. I should have just kept the old ones on for the rest of the journey. I doubt that I’ll be changing the new ones out in any great hurry.
So I got away from Austin, leaving from the point I had stopped at on Friday – Epoch Coffee Shop on 53rd Street, Dawn kindly dropping me off there.
I made my way through the Austin downtown area.
Seeing the Fox 7 News station, I did a cold call, this ending up in a story shown later on that evening on the 5pm news:
So I ended up leaving Austin late at about 1pm. Despite the late start I made reasonably good progress in the afternoon despite headwinds, rough chipseal, and once again no shoulder and moderate traffic. Having to get off the road every time a car comes is a real pain…
I pushed on to past Kyle. Seeing no state or other public land, I had to jump a fence and camp under a tree near a cell tower on private property. Houses are sparse here in ‘hill country’, and trying to find a suitable place to camp is tough.
It was dark when I was setting up camp, and as I waved my headlamp across the grass where I was setting up, I saw little dots of reflected light in the grass. There were hundreds of the little ‘lights’. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that the reflections were off the eyes of hundreds of spiders, about the size of a 25 cent coin. I am not a fan of spiders by any means, but I had no choice but to pitch my tent amongst the friendly arachnids. Needless to say, I was happy to be inside a tent with ample insect netting…
It was supposed to be rest, but I spent most of the time on the internet sorting out onward travel issues and working on editing footage for Part III of the video updates. This time the footage is from the skate from Slidell, Louisiana, to Austin, Texas. A total of over 1000km, averaging about 60kms a day – well within my schedule of 1000 miles a month.
(click on the above image for video)
(video will open in a new window)
On another note, way back in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I was on the local news. Here is the footage:
(click on the above image for video)
(video will open in a new window)
There was an awful lot of fun had over the weekend also with Kelly and her flatmates Amy, Christy, Dawn, Ashley, and another house full of girls just down the street.
We asserted ourselves as real people, eating at a BBQ place, where real people eat meat. And so the US infatuation with beef continues…
And what evening could be complete without fire.
A massively big and large thankyou to the lovely ladies for the wonderful restful weekend, and for driving me all over town to find all the bits and pieces I needed for the ongoing journey.
Today’s distance / ???????: 45 miles / 57km
Average speed / ????: 8.4mph / 13.5km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 14m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2487mi (plus 266mi) / 4003km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 555m
Descent / ??: 570m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a
I began the day on the same hard-packed clay and gravel road that I had finished the day on yesterday.
This is Old Highway 20 that runs parallel with US290. I followed it all the way to Elgin. It changes from white clay to red dirt to old pavement.
It takes some extra concentration and more rapid pushes to keep on track, but it is a much preferable surface to rough chipseal, and I have always preferred a nice quiet gravel road…
US290 into Austin was a killer. Noisy with a strong side wind. The shoulder was smooth and ample however, and the hills were great, affording great views.
I am really enjoying the drier climate here now. Water becomes sacred, a valuable resource. As distances increase, I will have to carry much more of the life giving liquid.
I arrived in Austin much later than the 3pm that I had indicated to my host for the weekend, Kelly. Kelly is a friend of The Notorious R.O.B., a co-worker of mine when I worked in Switzerland. In any case, I arrived on the outskirts of Austin at 4:30pm. I was skating my way along US290 into the city, when a car screamed to a halt on the side of the road, and a woman jumped out, indicating that I should come over.
CC was her name, and she is a long distance hiker. She told me that she understood the needs of someone doing what I was doing, and offered any assistance she could. I didn’t have Kelly’s phone number on me, and needed to check on the internet. I arranged to meet CC at her place in Austin to check Kelly’s number. I ended up having a well needed shower at CC’s place, and with her help managed to get to Kelly’s place. Thank you CC!
In the evening I went to a birthday party of a friend of Kelly with Kelly’s housemate Dawn. The food was amazing – turkey legs the size of my forearm…
Today’s distance / ???????: 22.9 miles / 36.8km
Average speed / ????: 7.1mph / 11.4km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 13m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2452mi (plus 266mi) / 3946km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N188.8.131.52, w097.05.12.7
I was on a bit of a natural high for the first 1/2 hour of skating today. I soon dropped off it. A cold south wind was blowing, and I couldn’t find a spot to have breakfast. Any sheltered spot was not only out of the wind but also out of the sun. Finally found a spot that was out of most of the wind, and also caught some warm morning sun.
I stopped in at the library at Giddings, just intending on a short stop. The computers were good however, and I ended up spending a few hours updating the website.
So at 4:30pm I finally headed out on the road again. The tough, cold headwind that I had fought earlier in the morning had died away, and I enjoyed the short skate out of Giddings.
US290, the highway I have been following for the last couple of days, turned into my worst nightmare just out of town. No shoulders, high speed heavy traffic, rough chipseal. I had to walk for a mile or so until I found a side road. This side road deteriorated into a smooth dirt/clay road, and was actually much smoother skating than the main road.
It soon got dark, and I set up camp in the quiet woods along the side road. I was only woken once in the night. Packs of coyotes yapping and howling and scrapping near my campsite. The din was enough to deter me from getting up for my 2am pee.