30 April 2011 (posted the next evening). As I write this I’m in a place called The Bugle Boy in La Grange, Texas. It’s a “listening room” operated as a nonprofit organization. A wide range of musician’s play here; tonight is Woody Russell, a bluesman extraordinaire.
The place is run by Lane Gosnay, who is a good friend of Kim Miller and Alex Long. When I mentioned to Kim and Alex that my plan was to head to La Grange today, they immediately suggested that I should get to the Bugle Boy if at all possible. In fact, they called Lane to let her know that I’d be coming through town and see if she might have a place to put me up.
Lane called me (twice) this morning: first to describe what she could offer (a pull-out futon in the Green Room of The Bugle Boy). While very generous I knew that with the high humidity today I’d be incredibly sweaty—if I made it the 72 miles to La Grange—and would need a shower. I had pretty much decided to find a motel room when Lane called back to say that she’d spoken with a friend of hers, a local architect and bicyclist Brad Cutright, and that I could stay with him.
So I’m not only staying in Brad’s amazing, modern home, but he fed me a great dinner, provided a sampling of lesser-known Shiner beers, and brought me up to The Bugle Boy! I’m so fortunate in the people I’ve met on this trip!
To back up a bit—since I didn’t write a blog yesterday (Friday—my last day in Austin), let me review that day briefly. I was torn about staying a third full day and fourth night in Austin (at Peter and Karen Pfeiffer’s). I wanted to get back on the road, but I also wanted to stay for a retirement party that was being held for Mary McLeod, who is retiring after 20 years with the Austin Green Building Program. I’ve known Mary for a lot of those years, and I knew that I’d know a bunch of the guests.
The clincher in my decision to stay was getting taken out to The Broken Spoke Thursday night after our small gathering at the Pfeiffer’s (see previous blog). It was going to be a late night, and I knew that when I left Austin I’d want to get an early start, because I had a fair number of miles to cover. (Had I followed the Adventure Cycling route it would have been more like 87 miles, but I took a somewhat different route to La Grange.
So, I stuck around Austin on Friday. After a bit of route planning in the morning, I met Gayle Borst for lunch at the Magnolia Café, just a couple miles from the Pfeiffers’. I’ve also known Gayle for a long time, though not well. She’s been doing sustainable design in Austin for twenty-some years, and has her hands in nearly all of the sustainability initiatives in town, including her consulting company, Stewardship, Inc., and the nonprofit organization Design, Build, Live, of which she is executive director.
Gayle is one of our charter subscribers to Environmental Building News, having subscribed for twenty years now. It was great catching up with her initiatives and filling her in on some of the recent evolution of BuildingGreen. She reminded me how important it is that we’re not supported by product manufacturers—something I hear from many of our long-time subscribers.
From there, I just explored Austin a bit on my bike—mostly on the Lady Bird Trail. I crossed over Lady Bird Lake (a.k.a., Colorado River) on the pedestrian bridge under the Mopac Highway and took a leisurely ride back up to Barton Springs and back—enjoying a root beer float at the Springs. I wished I had brought my swim trunks so that I could have gone for a swim—though I hadn’t really intended to make it a long afternoon.
In my three days in Austin I’ve put about 50 miles on my bike just getting around town; it’s so nice not to have to drive!
I got back to the Pfeiffers’ in time to take a shower before riding over to Peter’s office to get a ride to Mary’s retirement party.
Among the folks I chatted with at Mary’s was Peter Ellis, who grew up in Putney (his sister, Chris, still lives there) and has worked for the Texas Parks Department for years; Laurence Doxsey, who ran the Austin Green Building Program back in the 90s and is now director of sustainability in San Antonio (now America’s seventh largest city and now doing more with sustainability than even Austin!); and Sue Barnett, who was also with the Austin Green Building Program for many years. I met lots of people I hadn’t known as well. In her remarks thanking people for coming, Mary gave a great shout-out to me, Nadav, and EBN for what we’ve been doing for so long—eliciting a very gratifying round of applause!
What a nice group. Doug Seiter, who was the founder of the program and also spoke at the event, said that in the 15 or so years he’s lived in Denver he just hasn’t found the same sort of community that exists in Austin. Doug had been at the Pfeiffers’ the previous night, so I didn’t chat with him as much last night.
Talking to Laurence Doxsey helped me think more about resilient design and passive survivability as a project I might take on during my sabbatical. He mentioned that Mike Myers, another Austin-based friend (but who was out-of-town and couldn’t make it), apparently has good connections with the insurance industry. I’m going to have to contact Mike and get his input.
After biking back to the Pfeiffers’ from Peter’s office (he had to stay a while to put together a contract), I did a little reading, then Peter got home and we talked for a couple hours. So much for an early night! It was close to 12:30 by the time I turned out the light!
So, I didn’t get off by 7 am, as I had originally hoped. But I packed up fairly quickly and was out by around 8 am. I biked about 45 minutes to the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (CMPBS), where Gail Vittori gave me a great tour (I think it’s been ten years since I was last there) and then we had breakfast. I was back on Farm Route 969—and into the headwind!—by about 10:30.
I had kind-of expected that after three relaxing days in Austin I’d be rarin’ to go, energized, and with new-found strength in my legs. Well…not quite. That headwind takes it out of me! I definitely made the right decision to take the main highway (71) from Bastrop (where 969 rejoins the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier route) instead of following what is doubtless a much more scenic route on the Southern Tier maps—but 10 or 12 miles longer. It took all my energy to get into La Grange as it was.
My biggest setback was stopping at a Quizznos Sub shop in Bastrop and being confronted with the frigid air conditioning. I was drenched with sweat and, for some reason, almost feinted as I was waiting in the long line to put in my order. I downed a Gatoraide in the line and another with my sandwich. But I had to sit down a couple times, as I was afraid I’d find myself sprawling on the floor.
When I next stopped for a cold refreshment at a Subway (in Smithville), I bought my soda and went outside and sat in a shady spot. It was hot, but there was a nice breeze. I did fine. Except that I had ordered a large drink, and it came in this huge plastic cup. I didn’t react quickly enough when I saw her grab the cup. Should have gotten the medium—which I think used paper! I lingered there over a phone conversation with Jerelyn for probably close to an hour, enjoying the rest—then biked the last dozen or so miles to Brad’s house.
So here I am at The Bugle Boy. If you’re ever in this area, check it out! They have concerts most Fridays and Saturdays and some other evenings.
Remarkably, in her opening remarks, Lane Gossnay recognized me as a special guest who had biked here from San Diego. She even plugged my blog (giving the Web address) and mentioned my work with green building! That led to an interesting conversation with someone during the intermission.
During the first half of the show this evening, I had a fantastic milkshake—the cure for a long day of biking—and I’m now enjoying a Shiner Bock (probably my favorite Texas beer). Quite a place. It has theater-style seating, each seat with a bottle or can holder! And the revenue helps support the nonprofit Bugle Boy Foundation—which makes the venue work.
I’ve been sitting in the back of the room, typing discretely, so don’t feel too badly about it. The music is great! Definitely a first for my blogging—to write with amazing music being performed a few tens of feet away. Thanks so much for the suggestion and connection, Kim and Alex!
But I am tired and ready for bed!
I’m also leaning toward heading down Houston in a couple days to wind down the biking phase of my sabbatical. I’m missing the Vermont spring–and there are so many other things I want to do during my eight months away from BuildingGreen!