On the drive out I tuned in to KPFT, our Pacifica station. I normally listen to KUHF, the NPR affiliate, in the mornings, but it's all religious music before 8.00 on Sunday, and that doesn't really set the tone. KPFT is entertainingly amateurish and this morning they had forgotten that the clocks went forward so they were an hour behind on their announcements.
Once at Zube I gear up and hit the road. I'm planning to ride the new Hempstead loop, which doesn't go past any gas stations, so I'm packing a power bar and an extra water bottle. I filled both bottles at the drinking fountain in Zube, but subsequently discover that the water has an unpleasant tang to it.
Off we go, wearing my tights and arm warmers but no jacket. It's 52 degrees when I start and a beautiful morning. The ride is pretty uneventful - the roads are quiet, my legs feel ok, my chest is a little tight but not too bad - and since I'm not fighting to keep up with Paddy and Co. I can watch the scenery and look for birds.
It turns out there is a lot to look at. I see a red-winged blackbird within the first few miles, and a bit later I see a flock of large, yellow-breasted birds that I think are kingbirds. A small hawk swoops along a plowed field then perches on the fence as I go by. Later on a scissor-tailed flycatcher goes right over my head, a gorgeous sight.
The scenery is also prettier than I realised. Spring is in full flood now and everything is very green and lush. There's one stretch of road in particular that I had never paid attention to before, mainly because it was always shrouded in fog. Today it's very pretty, reminding me of Wiltshire (my childhood home) a little.
I stop to answer un besoin naturel and eat some of my power bar. A very small puppy appears out of a ruined barn. She's carrying her right front paw and looks very pathetic. I throw her some of the power bar and she loves it. Time to move on and of course the mutt follows me to the road. I tell her to go home and take off without looking back. Hopefully she belongs to the farmer and he's going to take her to the Vet tomorrow.
I'm soon at the junction with the road that runs into Hempstead. The new route takes a left here, missing out the Exxon. A short leg and then I turn off to the right on a small country road with a fair bit of topography. I'm feeling pretty good on the climbs, which aren't too strenuous to be honest. The route turns to go past Prairie View A&M and then we're back in the country. Somewhere along here a largish, reddish hawk is keeping pace with me on the right. He cuts over to the left and we ride along together a bit more. I don't get a good enough view of him to be able to identify him later but he made a good riding companion. Oddly enough, he doesn't scare off any of the numerous small birds flying around and roosting on the power lines.
I turn south, go under the freeway and soon pick up the boring route back to Zube. A tail wind helps and I make it back feeling pretty good. Maybe I'll make it to Austin after all.