I was in Austin, Texas all week last week, there to learn some basics of computer programs used in the digital humanities. I was anxious before I left, worried that I’m an old dog that can’t learn new tricks. I’m an impatient bird, and when things get frustrating, I have a tendency to give up. Computers are frustrating; could I hack it, so to speak?
I could, and I did, and I had an amazing week, the most focused and interesting week of learning in memory. I didn’t want to leave, even though by the end of it I wanted nothing more than to be at home. It was hard work, 9-5 in classes, and before and after tending to one or another of my three other jobs at the moment. I didn’t think I’d find time to get in a bike ride, but Austin has a bike share system, and it seemed a shame to pass it up. I choked down a quick lunch on Wednesday and had exactly 40 minutes to get to a bike, ride around, and get back to class.
It was a hot day, though an Austinite told me the next day that we were having very temperate weather. Apparently 95 degrees is cool around these parts. Not to me, and it took about three minutes of pedaling that heavy three-geared bike share bike up MLK toward the overpass at I35 to know that my thirty minutes of riding would be just enough. I rode in the squeezed bike lane with speeding cars before hopping on the sidewalk until I could take the first right on Comal Street and exhale. My chest was pounding with the exertion and the heat, and I was soaked in sweat. Welcome to Texas! I tooled around the neighborhood looking for my friend R.’s house so I could send her a selfie, and I saw so many signs of a changing neighborhood–the construction, the For Sale signs, the occasional ultra modern design amidst the older homes. I found my friend’s place, thought to myself yes, of course she lived at a place with a backyard like this, and then rushed back, just three minutes late for class and the feeling that my short bike ride had sucked the life out of me. No more rides on this trip.
But I did take one, picked up a bike to make the short trip back from queso to the hotel a little bit shorter. Once I was pedaling I didn’t want to stop–bikes are like that when the sun’s going down and there’s a good lane–so I kept pedaling to see where the lane would end. It went all the way to the river, thank the bike goddesses, but I took a turn on I think Third Street, just to see where that went. It landed right at this wall of construction. Surprise, surprise, another city building another set of condos in the downtown district. Everybody’s using the same book, I suppose.
I took a left to see if I could find water, and then I did. Folks were streaming toward the Congress Street Bridge, so I dropped the bike and headed that way. We waited for bats. I have a bat phobia. I wore my bike helmet. I left early. And then I picked up one more bike and pedaled away from the lights and the crowds in a slightly cooler evening and was grateful, as always, for another bike ride that took me places I’d never have seen otherwise.