I graduated high school early and came down to Austin Texas to train. I lived in a small apartment with my friend, Dennis Scott, from Kansas City, and worked at Conan’s Pizza on 29th. That was over 30 years ago. There was then a big time lapse of coming to Austin. I did all my spring training in San Diego and the racing scene in Texas was sort of flat for a long time, so there wasn’t much of a reason to come down.
That was until 8 years ago, when in Kansas, we had real sucky February weather. There had been a ton of snow on the ground for over a week, so I decided to pack up and drive down to Texas to do the Walberg Road Race and Pace Bend. Catherine, Trudi, and Bromont came with me and we stayed in the La Quinta in Georgetown for $30 a night, including breakfast. I thought, man, for just $200 a week, you could hang here in the spring and train. I did pretty good there, finishing 3rd in Walberg and winning Pace Bend.
The next season, I called Barry Lee, the cycling czar of Austin, about coming down. He was promoting Pace Bend. He was super accommodating, saying he could set me up with housing at the Hotel San Jose for the week. I’d heard about the hotel and was super excited about staying there. But, Barry kept saying that he had some awesome host housing and kept saying I should really stay there. I told him that I wasn’t big on host housing, especially in the winter. I was worried, like all athletes, of getting sick from a kid at the house, or something else. I told Barry that the Hotel San Jose would be better, but Barry wouldn’t let it drop. Finally, I thought, Barry must be steering me right, so I said I’d stay at the host housing.
So, a group of us drove down to Austin and invaded Ann Riopel’s home. It nearly was an invasion. I don’t exactly remember how many guys came down with me, but I know it was at least 3 or 4 riders, plus Bromont and Trudi. That really seems like an eternity ago, but if I think of it just a little different, it seems like last year. Anyway, it was the start of a great friendship.
In the meantime, my good friend’s from Topeka, George and Diane McDiarmid, moved down to Austin from Topeka. Eventually, two of their children followed them and now all are “Texans”. So, I have two great places to stay and train here.
I’ve started coming down to Austin just about anytime I have any excuse at all. I don’t’ really need an excuse, it has an attraction of its own. The town has chanced dramatically over the 30 years. I t has grown like crazy. Still is. The traffic is the main negative, but if you’re riding a bike, that is something you can deal with. The training is pretty great. I normally ride west, which is the hilly side.
I kind of hate leaving Austin today, heading north. I am driving back up to Richardson to do a little tree trimming before heading home. I really need to buckle down and figure out a schedule for the next two months. It is starting to get down to crunch time for cyclo-x and I’m not sure where exactly I’m at.