On December 20th, 2015 I left Cibolo, TX and made my way to Rohn’s house (a friend of a friend of a friend) who lives near San Antonio.
When I showed up at his door, we hung out by his pool-converted-into-a-fish-pond and talked about life, death, birds and cats.
Then I took a nap to give my concussed brain a rest.
That night we spent some time with Jocelyn (she’s the friend of a friend who found me Rohn to stay with) and her family.
Then we hit the town on bicycle, to see the beautiful lights along the San Antonio River Walk, and narrowly avoid running over oblivious pedestrians as they stared at their phones (or the beautiful scenery around them).
The next day I had to decide whether I was letting Addison drive me over the border in Laredo, or whether I would just cycle the whole thing.
On one hand I didn’t really want to cross the border alone with a big pile of gear and then ride the semi-truck infested toll-road from Laredo to Monterrey, with naught but cactuses and muffler exhaust for company for 3-4 days…
But on the other hand, I didn’t want Addison to have to bring our car through the border and then have to drive back from Monterrey alone.
What if the Narcos got him??
After meditating with Rohn and his tiny cat…
I packed up and we headed downtown to a coffeeshop.
During coffee and breakfast, Rohn told me about the video project he wants to embark on (I’m hoping he’ll set up his own Patreon account so I can support him!) about the history of San Antonio beginning 20,000 years ago.
I bid Rohn adieu…
…and pointed my bicycle in a southerly direction (I hear that’s where Brazil is!).
For some time I was trapped on the river walk because after I had gotten myself deep into the heart of the city and the river walk, stairs appeared in all directions and I couldn’t find a way out.
A kindly young lady (who worked for the park) gave me directions, and I told her and a mom and her son what I was doing and they all gaped appreciatively. If there’s any reward for what I’m doing, at least seeing people’s expressions when they find out where I’m headed is rewarding enough! 😀
By the end of the day I found myself on I-35 Frontage Road, watching the sun begin to set. I knew I should find a place to sleep, but I was really enjoying riding and wanted to keep going!
(coincidentally, it was the shortest day of the year, so it definitely felt like daylight had run out too quickly!)
Just then I noticed a man in a black leather jacket standing on the side of the highway with his motorcycle. I smiled and waved, at which he began to yell and wave his arms and run towards me.
It turns out his motorcycle had run out of fuel and he needed to use a phone to call his girlfriend.
Once he’d made the call and I told him what I was up to, he shook his head in disbelief but then said, “I want to come with you!”
“You can!” I laughed. “I’d love some company getting over the border.”
“Yeah, but I’d be riding that,” he pointed at his motorcycle.
I nodded. “You’d be going quite a bit faster than me, that’s for sure.”
When he asked where I was sleeping that night and I said, “I don’t know yet”, he told me the road I was headed to next didn’t have much of anything on it.
So after saying good bye to him, I turned back to the last town I’d seen and rolled up to the first church I could find…
‘La Iglesia de los Hechos’.
I knocked on some doors but no one came out.
I called the number on their sign and a woman answered.
“Hola,” she said.
“Hola,” I replied. “Habla ingles?”
“No… Pero hay una mujer aqui que habla ingles. Solo un minuto…”
After a second, another woman picked up the phone.
“Hello?” She had a thick Spanish accent.
“Hi!” I said cheerfully. “My name is Jahnavi and I am on a bicycle tour right now. I’m riding from Austin to Brazil and I am outside of your church right now. I was wondering if I could set up my tent next to the church to sleep tonight. I don’t need anything else, just want to have a safe place to sleep.”
I could tell she was still trying to grasp what I was saying to her when she said, “You… want to sleep at the church?”
“Just outside, in the grass,” I said.
“The house where we have guests is full. A family from Mexico is living there. They have nowhere to go.”
“I don’t need a house, I have a tent.”
Finally she called the Pastor, who was inside the church at the time.
He came out to meet me and stared at me and my bicycle.
“Como se llama?” I asked after telling him that I just needed a spot to set up my tent.
“Salvador [and then a long string of names I can’t remember] Pastor.”
We shook hands.
He showed me into a building that was under construction. There was plaster dust and boards everywhere, but it had a door that locked, and windows that opened.
I was thrilled.
“Muchas gracias!” I told him. “Es perfecto!”
Salavador Pastor looked at me then with what seemed to be a mix of horror and pity. The fact that I was traveling alone and was so thrilled to be pitching my tent in his empty construction area, seemed to baffle him.
When he left me there, I found a room without boards and tools in it and set my tent up there.
I also plugged in my devices to charge along the wall, before heading over to a Subway that was around the corner.
Vegetables are hard to come by on bicycle tours, so even though they were Subway vegetables on a foot-long sub, I was delighted. They were colorful and crunchy, and I even got to have some guacamole on my sandwich.
While I was eating, I noticed a brand new pick-up truck pull in. It was done up to the nines: lifted, shiny rims, guard-rail, etc.
I thought, Wow, that is such a big, fancy truck… If I was a native person who hadn’t seen cars before, I would assume that some kind of god would step out of it.
When the door opened, a small, portly man in baggy clothes plopped out. He looked haggard and stooped, and his health appeared to be anything but good. He spat out a watery glob as he headed into Subway with his two overweight children.
I stared at him and then at his his truck.
For a moment I had this feeling that the truck had stolen his soul… He must work so hard to maintain that truck and keep up with payments, I thought. What if he chose to just invest all that time and money into healthy food, exercising and taking a vacation out in nature once in a while?
I pondered this as I headed back to my empty building.
I didn’t sleep so well, because apparently, in this tiny Texas town, it is a ritual to hit the gas when you’re driving through a certain intersection, spin out your wheels, and gun it all the way to the highway… only between 2-4 AM.
Around 4:30 AM I drifted to sleep.
At about 8:30 AM, Salvador Pastor opened the door to the building and called in.
“H-hi…! Hello!” I responded blearily.
“Are you okay?” he yelled.
“Yes, yes! I’ll stop by the church when I’m up,” I told him.
“I just wanted to know you’re okay,” he said, and then shut the door.
After I had been up for a while, a Mexican man appeared at the door.
“Hola, buenos dias,” he said.
We were able to communicate by gesturing wildly and inserting random english or spanish words into sentences.
His wife had come by when I had been at Subway, to invite me to sleep in their house and eat dinner with them, but I wasn’t there.
He wanted me to come to the house and drink coffee, use the bathroom, and stay for another day if I wanted to.
I did use the bathroom and drink coffee with him. He showed me pictures of his four sons, all strapping young men who depicted themselves shirtless and flexing, lifting weights or posing in a backwards baseball cap.
He was so sweet and kind, that I wanted to give him our album (The Love Sprockets: Nobody Wants to Die) and my contact, and to figure out how in the heck to say ‘tent’ in spanish.
(google translate was telling the man that I had slept inside my ‘cottage’ that night, so it was cool)
I called my friend Negro/Felipe who speaks fluent spanish and asked him to be our translator via speaker phone.
I brought the album to the man and held the phone up, feeling relieved as Negro babbled in spanish to him and helped me explain what I was doing and what the album was.
It was Dec. 22nd. The sun was warm and pleasant as I continued riding south around 11 am.
Addison was coming to get me from Austin that day, and I wanted to ride as far as I could before he caught up with me.
I listened to music and to my spanish lesson, pedaling along cheerfully. I stopped in the shade of a bank to eat food and greet the people who pulled into the parking lot to do their banking.
I rode on mostly back roads, listening to birds and bugs and rattling along on the uneven pavement.
By 5:30 pm I had managed to go almost 40 miles and I was ready to stop. I knew Addison was close by, so I pulled into a gas station and waited.
I felt so happy.
Next stop? Laredo and the border…