Monday, October 20, 2008

Kickapoo Cavern

After work on Friday I went to check out Bicycle Sport Shop's sale, but was unimpressed. There weren't many bicycles on sale, mostly components and parts. I had dinner at Chuy's and then went to Performance Bicycle and eventually decided on a new bike. It's not quite a full-on road bike, since it has flat bars instead of drop bars, but it's pretty close. It's definitely a lot lighter than my mountain bike, as was made quite obvious when I lifted up the mountain bike to hang it back on the hooks in the ceiling.
I woke up at 5:30 Saturday morning, but fortunately was able to get back to sleep for another hour. I left the house just past 8 and took highways out to Kickapoo Cavern State Park, which is still getting ready to open to the public. I got there in just 4 hours, sooner than I thought I would. I considered checking out the movie set down the road, most famous for John Wayne's Alamo, but it was $10.75 and two miles down a gravel road, so I just went to the park. When I got there the gate was locked and I had figured it would be open by the time I got there, so didn't ask for the combination. I tried to call them, but I didn't have any service. I considered jumping the gate and walking to try and find a ranger, but just sat on my bike, ate a PBJ and read some of the paper. About 12:30 a couple, coincidentally also from Austin, drove up for the tour. Unfortunately they didn't have the combination either and their phone didn't have service. While we were standing around waiting, chatting a bit, a game warden drove up, kind of wondering what we were doing there. He tried to help us, he thought he might have had the combination to one of the five locks on the gate, but didn't and he couldn't get a hold of anybody at the park. Finally, a little after 1, two rangers came down in a truck and opened the gate, just to have us go 100 feet to park in a small gravel parking area. Apparently it was only the three of us for the tour, since almost nobody (other than law enforcement) had even passed by the place. The five of us got into the truck, visited the nice new virtually unused facilities on the other side of the park, then came back to where we started and went down a four-wheel drive dirt trail back to the entrance to the cave we were going to tour. The ranger said they have 23 "caves" on the property, but most of them are really just sinkholes. We ducked through the gate to the cave, which is completely unlighted and has no pathways. When compared with the rangers' Maglites, it was obvious my 4D batteries were pretty dead, and with the other bright lights my headlamp was pretty useless. Immediately after entering we were smacked by the almost 90% humidity that made it feel hotter inside than it was outside. It only felt a little cooler at the very deepest part of the cave. Combined with the relatively strenuous tour, we were all sweating by the time we got out.
The first room was pretty large and we had to walk across a mountain of craggy breakdown. That part was pretty dry and didn't have many formations. At the end of that room were very large columns, one of which is supposed to be the largest in Texas. We climbed down the rubble and continued in a good-sized room with some formations on the walls. On our way back out we went into the "wishing well" room off to the side. The room went a pretty decent distance back and was covered in formations, including a lot of helictites. The ceiling was a lot lower, and there was evidence something like an earthquake had caused the floor to drop a few inches somewhere well back in time. It was quite unfortunate, but there was a considerable amount of graffiti, names scratched into the formations and written in soot on the walls and ceiling. It was really sad that people would do that to such a beautiful place. Just before we climbed back up the breakdown to get out I tried to take a long exposure shot of the largest column by "painting" it with light, but the camera moved and the picture came out blurry. When we got out, about 3, we all cooled off outside in the perfect weather.
When I left, I headed north for a slightly more scenic ride home. I was going to try and make it home without having to change my gear, but at 7 it was getting too dark and had to change into my clear glasses just a few miles from home in the parking lot of the Nutty Brown Cafe. It stayed warm enough that I didn't have to put my leather jacket back on.
I went out for a ride on the new bicycle about 10 Sunday and it was soon apparent that the front derailleur was out of adjustment, either from the ride home in the trunk of my car or when I put on the front light. I mainly used the large sprocket in front since it wasn't rubbing that way. I set out trying to stick to the street since the sidewalks that are in disrepair are murder on the skinny road tires, however it wasn't too long before my legs were getting tired and I was going so slowly I felt safer on the sidewalk. I went downtown to the UT campus, mainly to see the sculptures on loan from the Met, but also hoping to visit the Blanton, but it didn't open until 1pm. I guess some of the sculptures must be inside of buildings, because I only saw about 4 of the 20-some that are supposed to be on campus. After seeing the Mark di Suvero I rode to Texas Chili Parlor for Frito pie, some beer, football, and the newspaper. I rode over and took a quick swing through REI and BookPeople, then took a short lap on the hike-and-bike trail. That was probably a really bad idea as shortly after getting back onto Lamar I realized my back tire was flat. I put some air in it with my miniature pump and continued on, but very quickly it was flat again. When I stopped again to change the tube I realized the front tire was flat too. Since I only had one new tube, I changed the back tire, checking for any punctures, but just put some more air in the front tire hoping it would be enough to get me to the bike shop. The mechanic adjusted my derailleur and changed the front tube and pulled out a bunch of thorns, and didn't even charge me anything. I'll be going back sometime this week to look for more aggressive tires, and ultimately sticking to the streets more.

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