Friday, February 29, 2008

Houston Traffic

I overslept by an hour, which isn’t entirely surprising given the previous day I had.

The wind also wasn’t exactly gracious in defeat from the prior day as it shifted to the east to try and bitch slap me again. I expected to have a south wind so I just shook my head and began to pedal right into the wind again.

The day was mostly overcast and cool, but humid. I began sweating seconds into the ride. I was fortunate in the morning as the road I had intended to ride on was in the process of being turned into an Interstate. That being the case, most of the new frontage roads were already complete, in perfect shape and had very little traffic.

By 1:00 the wind got the road in on the conspiracy against me as the road condition deteriorated significantly. It is never really a pleasant ride on rough road. It does a number on my body, not to mention my bike. Further, there was a stretch of highway with no real shoulder and a 4-inch drop to whatever shoulder there was. The shoulder wasn’t rideable and staying in one of the lanes of traffic was suicide. I won the first few rounds of Russian roulette, but decided to quit before my luck ran out. I got on the shoulder and bumped along at 5 MPH for half a mile until I saw a frontage road. I had to walk across a ditch to get to it, but the riding was much better as I crossed the Colorado River.

I realized that I still hadn’t seen a Texas Longhorn. Also, I hadn’t seen a single Texas Speed bump, a.k.a., armadillo. I had already given up on the rattlesnakes.

I was getting pretty good at planning my arrival in large cities at rush hour. In this instance I even managed to do so on a Friday no less. Traffic getting into Houston was just brutal. Traffic was bad enough throughout the day, but near the city even worse. I have to admit; it is pretty intense riding when having to play an aggressive form of defense. It may sound odd, but I have to watch myself, yet assert my right of way in traffic.

At 5:45 I was just outside the Houston City limit. I was in the very well developed area of numerous office parks. As the light was fading, I figured I would stay at the very next hotel that I happened across. Before long I found a Super 8, stopped and pulled out my laptop to check my map. I located the area in which I actually wanted to stay in relation to where I was and figured I could make it in half an hour and decided to go for it.

I was riding along potholed roads like an NFL running back. Sometimes I was juking left and right through the potholes and traffic. Others I was riding the equivalent of smashmouth football, straight up the middle. I just needed to make time before it got totally dark.

It turned out to be my lucky day as I came across a bike path that ran through Houston. It was almost as if they expected me to be late. The path ran west/east along a small park and brae (river). I wasn’t making very good time as the path crossed a few roads and I had to wait for cars to pass, but I was out of traffic and making my way across town. Just off the bike path, I found, surprise, surprise, a bike shop. I figured I had pushed my luck far enough, so I bought a small light for the back of my bike. I also checked out my chain, which was going to need to be replaced very shortly as it was quickly nearing the end of its useful life. I threw some air in my tires, asked for directions and was on my way.

Eventually I found the area of hotels I had been looking for. Unbeknownst to me there was a rodeo and massive barbeque cook off being held in the area. Not only that, but the following day was a marathon and parade in Houston. Needless to say, I checked several hotels, all of which were full. I found an Econolodge that had a smoking room for $100 a night. A hundred bucks for an Econolodge and a smoking room nonetheless? I don’t think so. I am a value investor.

I had enough and was ready to pony up whatever one of the business hotels was going to charge me. As a last ditch effort I cashed in some of my hotel points and finally settled in to a hotel by 8:00.

A college buddy of mine lives in Houston so I gave him a call to perhaps meet up for a drink, but he was actually on his way back from New York. I just grabbed some dinner in the form of the largest meatball hero I had ever seen and called it a night.

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