Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Apr 29 (Day 119) - 4 years without a cigarette, Austin arrival, Grasshopper sparrow

First, thank you to everyone who has written to Best Western. They told me they have received lots of notes thanking them for their support of Biking for Birds. If you have not yet do so, please feel free to drop them a note and let them know that you're glad they are involved with the adventure. Please consider the brand in your future travel plans!

OK, let's get started! I smoked my last cigarette exactly 4 years ago. After 11 years of moderate to heavy smoking, I quit cold turkey on April 29, 2010. I have not had a single puff since that day, and only very rarely have I even thought about smoking. I mention this for several reasons. First, it is an accomplishment of which I am very proud. Second, this trip would certainly not be possible if I was smoking a pack a day like I was at the height of my smoking career. Third, I know that quitting smoking is generally a very difficult thing to do, and I want people to know that it is possible; You just need to want to do it badly enough. It also takes some help from those around you, and Sonia (my girlfriend) was incredibly supportive right from the time the decision was made to quit. I like to think that the same mental fortitude that helped me overcome smoking can now be used to overcome the heat, hills, and wind that is waiting for me just outside Austin.

I arrived in Austin relatively early this afternoon. This is because I got a very early start to try to lay down some miles before the forecasted wind picked up. I started riding in the dark at 5:30am. It was cool and there was zero wind. It was nice and quiet on the rural roads, and I was able to hear 2 Grasshopper sparrows (#335) calling just at dawn. I was able to cover 45 miles by 8:45am when the wind really got going. The weather folks forecasted a northwest wind, but it was more like true north. This did not bother me at all since it was a crosswind instead of a partial headwind. There were rolling hills all day. These provided some good practice for the climb onto the Edwards Plateau, or "Hill Country", that will happen later this week. The bird life will make a dramatic change in the next few days. I should start to add many desert species in addition to the 2 main Hill Country specialty birds, Golden-cheeked warbler and Black-capped vireo.

79 miles today

Grasshopper sparrow from my stock. 
Taken on a very cloudy day in 
Massachusetts 2 years ago.

Topographic map of Texas showing Edwards Plateau
as raised area just west of center

Schematic of Edwards Plateau (Hill Country)

Black-capped vireo range map

Golden-cheeked warbler range map

Today taught me a valuable lesson: beat the Texas heat by getting an early start. I am going to start my rides in the dark for the better part of the next two weeks. I-10 has a very nice, wide shoulder that gives traffic plenty of clearance space. I normally ride at around 14 MPH, and the sun comes up at 6:45 or so. If I start my rides at 5:30am, I can knock out close to 25-30 miles before the sun even gets a foothold around 7:30. Generally, the real heat starts around 10:30, so the more riding I can do before this the better. I will also sweat much less. This will help me greatly in the very important task of water management. 

Right now my plan is to have the bike sorted out tomorrow. I am also going to hit REI to get an additional hydration system, and the post office to mail a few items. The winds tomorrow are also going to be from the north (no help to me), but they are going to start swinging around to blow from the south the day after. This is when I will leave town and head northwest to the plateau. The south wind should give me a nice push as I start the climb.


  1. Dorian, I agree with others that keeping your camera or replacing with a smaller one is important. Not as much for your audience but for your own benefit since photography is such an important part of your life and identity. Your non-smoking body should be able to handle it now that u r in such great shape. Congrats on quitting (smoking, not photography!)

  2. If you ditch the SLR, at least carry a decent point-and-shoot with a digi-noc adapter -- Dave S.