By David Ward — So, Texas is big. I had my first full realization of that five years ago. My daughter and her family had just recently moved to Fort Worth, and we decided to make the drive to see them. Being the ambitious people we are, and we decided to make a triangle of the trip, driving first to Fort Worth, then to Phoenix to visit another daughter and her family, and then back to Salt Lake. To be efficient with our time, we chose to drive the first leg to Fort Worth in one day.
So, we left about 1:30 a.m., drove to Denver where we stopped four hours to visit a couple of nieces, and then headed on to Fort Worth. About dusk, we crossed the border from New Mexico into Texas. Good, I thought. We are getting close. So on we drove . . . and drove . . . and drove. It felt like we were driving forever, and we finally pulled into Fort Worth about 3 a.m. That is when I realized how big Texas really was. It took almost all night, and we were only two-thirds of the way across the state.
Since then, we no longer drive to Fort Worth. We fly. That takes just over two hours. But one good thing about having made that drive. I took a bike along to park at her house for future visits. I now have a bike at her house as well as another at my daughter’s home in Phoenix. When you are a cycling junkie, you need your fix wherever you go.
Lest you think this article is about Texas and cycling, it is not. Rather, it is about having the freedom to ride, and to explore, wherever you may travel. With one daughter in Texas, two in Phoenix and one in Serbia (soon to be Rwanda), we tend to travel a lot. Since Phoenix and Fort Worth tend to be repeat destinations, I get a chance to re-ride routes I have found I enjoy, while still exploring new ones.
For example, I have now been to Fort Worth several times, including just this last week. I have an established route I enjoy that allows me to get in a 1-2 hour ride on less traveled, winding and rolling roads. I did that ride twice this last week. On other visits when I could fit in a longer ride, I have searched my way to Eagle Mountain Lake and Grapevine Lake, two destinations in different directions from my daughter’s home. And true to Texas tradition, much farther away than they appear on a map.
In Phoenix, I have found there is at least one fun place to ride, Usery Pass. I’m sure there are more, but they seem hard to find in this flat metro area of straight streets. Thankfully, Usery Pass is somewhat close to my daughters’ homes so I don’t have to drive to get there. If there is time for a longer ride, I can extend this route to a loop around Mount McDowell (more commonly know as Red Mountain).
As for my daughter in Serbia, she works in U.S. embassies around the world, and moves with her work every couple of years. I proposed leaving a bike with her, but storing it with sometimes limited space, and moving it every couple of years, becomes an issue. So, she was not too enthused about that idea. Still, when riding is reasonable, I am usually able, with her help, to find a mount. (See my article on riding in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia in the July, 2015 issue of Cycling Utah).
In this age of smart phones and map apps, exploration by bike is easy and interesting. I never worry about getting lost and not being able to find my way home without stopping to buy a street map. My maps app can instantly show me where I am, and map a ride, designed for a bicyclist, to my destination. And when on a bike, I can take short cuts, go the wrong way on one way roads (if not busy), and get through and to places I could never hope to maneuver in a car.
I love to explore on a bike. I can cover quite lot of ground, and yet at a speed and with an openness that allows me to soak my surroundings. I can pick a destination, and see what I can find along the way. Or, I can just wander. No matter the destination (or lack of one), every ride is a sensory experience of places, people and sights (usual and unusual). And having a bike at my two daughters’ homes has allowed me to better know their environs and community while continuing to satisfy my cycling addiction.