Austin to Middlegate - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 14, 2014

Austin to Middlegate

The Pony Express lasted only a few years but it has great romantic significance
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Bonjour, les enfants de la patrie ! Le jour de gloire est arrivé. Nous allons tous lever un verre ce soir. Sauf les pêcheurs, qui vont lever un ver.

THE DAY of glory has arrived. It's France's national day, something tourists call Bastille Day but which at home in France is simply le Quatorze Juillet. And as if that weren't enough, there's a Frenchman in yellow in the Tour de France.

Heading through the hills, destination Middlegate
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It's, er, very dry round here
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Actually, that's worrying. Not that he's in yellow but who he is. His name is Tony Gallopin. I remember cheering his father, Alain. It's a sign you're old when you cheer your old heroes' sons - and you're close to the glue factory when even the sons have stopped racing, like Axel Merckx.

Well, enough of this. The old geezer got through the day well enough and marvelled at the new shoe tree outside Middlegate (the original fell victim to vandals) and then turned left into Middlegate itself.

The new shoe tree near Middlegate. Different tree but are they different shoes?
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Don't be fooled by maps, those of Adventure Cycling or anyone else: Middlegate is not a hamlet, let alone a village or a town. It is a ramshackle bar, delightfully eccentric with the ceiling covered by signed dollars and part of one wall gummed with police badges from across the nation. Scattered about are wood cabins, old cars, a horse-drawn buggy which has long been without a horse, a phonebox with no phone, and a tank of petrol with instructions to serve yourself. A patch of intermittent grass serves as a free campground and, beyond that, a couple of bidon outhouses which I never investigated, largely because a man in a cowboy hat stood beside them grunting and stamping his foot.

It is, in other words, delightful.

I don't suppose my pictures of Middlegate are different from anybody else's, but nevertheless...
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It was also windy. Black clouds chased us across the plain, the sort that look like a devil's downpour but never fell wet. Instead, the gloom paused a ball's throw from our campground and exacted its toll in a violent wind that blew a truck into the sand further down the road. I remembered Arlington, weeks ago now, a lifetime ago now, when the wind threw my bike against the tent and demolished it. Then we sought shelter in a garage. If the same happened tonight, at least we'd shelter in a bar. There are worse fates.

Middlegate's bar and restaurant; in fact, that's about all there is to Middlegate
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I watched the wind shake the tent, grateful I had pitched the streamlined end into the assault. I don't think Hilleberg ever said what torment their tents will stand but I placed my confidence in the Swedish and the tent stayed firm.

The wind blew but the welcome was warm
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This morning, a happy encounter in that café at Austin where we met Steve, of the friend who'd ridden the Tour de France. A smiling woman approached us and, in a clear London accent, asked if those were our bikes outside. And so it was that we met Cathy MacTaggart, whose husband's adventures I've followed for some years. Jim was on his bike, toiling up the climb we had wound down the previous night. Cathy had hitched up with two Americans alternately riding and cycling, so that they always had room for a bike on the back of their van.

"It's the altitude," Cathy explained wistfully. "The air is just so thin. I swear I walked the last four miles of a hill yesterday. I'm all right to about 40 miles and then..."

Two Big Macs crossing America, their journal is called. I'll be following it to see how the rest of their four-month ride evolves. Wish them well.

Beware cows lifting their tales. (Note for townies: cows have copious bladders)
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The old fades away slowly in the Middlegate dust
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Today's ride: 112 km (70 miles)
Total: 5,546 km (3,444 miles)

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