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Costa Rica days 7 & 8: Arenal Volcano and back to San Jose

On Friday we explored the Arenal Volcano region after enjoying the Costa Rica typical breakfast at our resort. During breakfast, it started raining. We knew to expect rain so we had jackets, ponchos and umbrellas. We started off the rainy day by visiting La Fortuna waterfall, a private waterfall that has lovely walking trails, an overlook, and 500 well maintained steps down to the bottom of the waterfall. It was raining so my photos are limited, but I did get a short video at the bottom with my GoPro.

When we first started our waterfall visit, you could see it from the top despite the rain. It rained the whole time we climbed down the steps to the bottom, and most of the way back up. It was done raining by the time we got back up, but the waterfall view was then blocked by fog.

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Bottom of the La Fortuna waterfall

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There’s a waterfall back there somewhere

After the waterfall we headed to the Arenal Volcano National Park. As we parked, there was an Agouti in the parking lot – they kinda look like large guinea pigs.

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Then we walked down the gravel road to the Volcano overlook and during the walk saw tons of birds, including Toucans! It was quite exciting. We still need to figure out what some of these birds are, but one is definitely a Toucan.

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After the overlook walk, Carl and I headed out on the volcano hiking trails so that we could walk out on a section of rock created by a lava flow in 1992. We got a great view of Arenal lake and almost saw the top of the volcano.

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On our way back to the car we went by a GIGANTIC tree that is supposed to be over 200 years old. It’s so big I thought it should definitely be older than that.

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During our trip we saw numerous Brahman cows which must be well adapted to the climate given their prevalence. They are very wrinkly and kind of ugly though and I finally got a photo of them.

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For lunch we headed into La Fortuna and stopped at a little cafe that had good drink specials. After that we walked around the church and little town square.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Lava Lounge right off the town square.

The next morning we headed to breakfast and saw a two toed sloth just above the resort dining hall.

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We took a stroll around the resort grounds, checking out the pools and hot springs in daylight.

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Carl and I took an exciting zip line trip, photos and videos to come. It was just at the back of the resort where there is a valley and river and some really long zip lines.

After that we headed to San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica. We stopped at the little town of Zarcero which has a cute church that maintains an elaborate topiary garden on its grounds. We also had another typical Costa Rican meal for lunch there.

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After an adventure in finding our reserved hotel, realizing it had no AC, then finding a new hotel, and finally finding a gas station and returning our rental car, we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant and finished the night with some Christmas photos.

It was a lovely trip!

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Costa Rica days 5 & 6: Quepos to Jaco to Arenal Volcano

On Wednesday we packed up all of our stuff for our last ride down the crazy hill that our condo was located on and headed to the beach town of Jaco, about an hour drive north. During the trip we pulled over to take a look at Playa Hermosa, a black volcanic sand beach with huge waves.

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After checking into our condo we walked around Jaco for a bit, checked out the beach, and then had lunch at the Tacobar.

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The condo courtyard

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Playa Jaco

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Tacobar has swings you can sit on along the bar, and a salad bar for extra taco fixings

During a later afternoon walk, Carl and I finally saw some Macaws! There were 6 of them sitting in a tree near the beach until Carl got too close and scared them off. They sure do squawk a lot!

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We also found a microbrewery in Jaco called Puddle Fish. We later went to the attached restaurant, Side Street for dinner.

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On our way to dinner we went through the town park and took in the Christmas lights. Dinner at Side Street was good, but they were out of many menu items and almost all of their house brewed beer due to some holiday party they hosted the night before. Needless to say, Carl was disappointed.

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On Thursday we left Jaco after picking up some pastries from a local Panaderia and headed north again, this time towards La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. On our way we paused at the Crocodile bridge, a place where many crocodiles apparently hang out. This fearless white bird just stood in the middle of them until one came too close and it would flutter to a new spot about 10 feet away.crblogjacotoarenal-8

We stopped for a short nature walk at Carara National Park. Immediately after I stopped for this photo of me and an anteater statue Carl pointed out a live one! It took some patience to get a photo of him through the trees in the light, but eventually I did.

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Anteater! Furrier and cuter than I expected.

The next part of our trip was quite an adventure. We were using a combination of offline Google maps and Maps.Me for GPS navigation and both sent us on a very rough back road towards Arenal Volcano. We got some lovely views up in the mountains.

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The road turned to gravel at some point, and had some very steep inclines. Eventually, not too far past the photo below, we came to a section that our rental car absolutely could not make it up due to the incline and ruts in the road. We had to turn around and head back to a more established route, no thanks to Google or Maps.Me.

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After driving most of the daylight away we finally arrived at the Arenal Paraiso Resort & Spa just in time to watch the sunset. We kept our fingers crossed that the top of the volcano would show itself, but the cloud cover would not go away. Our cabin did have a nice little porch with a view of the volcano. The resort has hot springs on site so we made sure to take advantage of that amenity in the evening.

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Costa Rica days 3 & 4: Day trips around Quepos

On Monday we headed south from Quepos to Dominical and Uvita to check out the beaches. We first stopped at Dominical, navigating the extremely rough dirt road to check out the beach where the river Rio Baru meets the ocean. It had good surfing waves.

We then drove down to Uvita to visit Ballena Marine National Park and walked along the expansive beach to Isla Ballena, a small little sand bar type island only accessible during low tide. During low tide when the sandbar and connecting sand bridge is visible, it’s shaped like a whale’s tail – hence the word Ballena! Well, they also say that whales migrate past this beach in the winter, so maybe that’s also a contributing factor.

After taking a dip in the calm waters sheltered by the sandbar, we made the long walk back to the car, during which we spotted many sanddollars on the beach. Afterwards we went to Dominical for lunch, stopping at the rather disappointing Patron’s Bar and Grill.

We then drove back south to take a quick stroll at Playa Hermosa before returning to view the sunset from our porch once again.

We dined at Emilio’s Cafe which had delicious food, good service and a live jazz band. We topped the night off with some awkward family photos on the porch.

On Tuesday we drove north to Rainmaker, a rainforest conservation project. We took the self guided river walk and suspension bridge canopy tour. The tour was more strenuous than it sounded, but we saw many waterfalls, little pools you can swim in, and the suspension bridges were pretty awesome. After climbing many stairs on the tour, we enjoyed local craft beer Perro Vida, brewed on site. It was quite good. A hummingbird visited us while we were hanging out.

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We then headed back down south to Playa Espadilla, which is the beach just outside Manuel Antonio Park. We had lunch at Marlin Grill, another disappointing lunch spot but at least that had a view of the beach. After lunch we headed to the beach for some lounging under a beach umbrella and strolling down the beach.

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The tide was coming in right before sunset, so we packed up and headed back to El Avion for a drink at the bar while viewing a particularly lovely sunset. For dinner we went to the Marina and tried Z Gastropoda, where the food was good, souls vide chicken was on the menu, and my kale salad was missing kale.

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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica days 1 & 2

Early Saturday morning we boarded our flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica. After an hour delay, we were on our way. After arriving in San Jose, we picked up our luggage and rental car and hit the road to Quepos. After some exciting driving getting out of San Jose, we were on the toll road for a while before stopping for lunch at a roadside stand selling authentic Costa Rica food – we all had rice & black beans, plantains, and either meat or fried cheese.

Upon arriving in Quepos we met the manager of the AirBnB property I booked and took a truly terrifying drive up a steep and curvy hillside to our house with an awesome view.

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Rental house up a steep hill

 

We settled in, hit up a local supermarket, and then had birthday dinner for Mom at La Luna at GAIA Hotel & Reserve. The food was good and I imagine that the view would have been good if it weren’t dark outside.

Sunday we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park for hiking, beach time, and to meet the monkeys. The hiking trails were well maintained with a ton of steps. We saw a ton of wildlife at the park: white faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, three toed sloths (including a mamma with a baby), leaf cutter ants, iguanas and other lizards, coatimundi, and agouti. The white faced monkeys were particularly numerous and excited about people, we definitely saw people feed them when they shouldn’t!

Beach at Manuel Antonio Park

Beach at Manuel Antonio park

Viewing the fish trap built by natives a long time ago to catch fish at low tide

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Squirrel monkey

Coatimundi (similar to a raccoon)

Iguana

Leaf cutter ants

We stopped for lunch at El Avion and enjoyed a great view and good food next to an old airplane converted into a bar.

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Carl enjoying some seafood curry

After that we went on a bike canopy tour… which basically is a little carriage hanging from a cable amongst the trees and you use a throttle to go fast / slow down. The bike part is simply that there are bike pedals that you can put your feet on but don’t do anything. It was pretty fun to slowly move amongst the trees, even if only one of us saw a sloth. I did see a vulture with a red head.

We watched a lovely sunset from our porch and then eventually headed back down to Quepos for dinner at Runaway Grill in the marina area.

Our porch view

 

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2016 Bike MS: The Road Divided – ride recap

Well, the big day finally arrived! Last Friday we packed up all my bike stuff, and our dog, into our car and drove straight north on I-35 until we hit Norman, OK (just south of Oklahoma City). Thanks to almost 40 donors and a generous matching donation from my employer, I raised $2,900 for the MS Society! And, it’s not too late to donate if you’re interested. I really can’t thank everyone enough, many who have donated each of the 9 years that I’ve fundraising for the MS Society.

During our drive, we stopped in Fort Worth for lunch with a friend and then in Norman to see a cousin’s new baby. The weather forecast for Sunday was showing a strong chance of thunderstorms, so the ride organizer made the decision Friday afternoon to proactively cancel Sunday for safety reasons. It was quite disappointing, even more so when it didn’t rain at all on Sunday on the route. At least we got rained on during the drive back to Austin.

I rode 100.5 miles on Saturday, the first 70 miles were mostly north, so the strong wind out of the south was incredibly helpful. The 100 mile route went very close to the finish line in Guthrie, and then out northwest to a small town called Crescent. The portion of the ride that went out to Crescent and back was quite difficult… so crossing the finish line was quite the relief.

And now, for the barrage of photos:

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Waiting for the start, wearing last year’s top fundraiser jersey from the Bike MS Arkansas ride

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A view of the start – including the crazy blue bike thing…

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Riding through the Oklahoma University campus

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Oklahoma University castle type building

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Small church on campus

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Sun rising over the cemetery

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Long straight roads

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Some sheep along the side of the road… in a more developed area than you might expect

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We rode next to Tinker Air Force base, which was surrounded by defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman

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One of the entrances to the Air Force Base

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Arriving the “lunch” rest stop at mile 44, meeting Carl and Molly

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The rest stop was at a camp building

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There were inspirational signs placed along the route

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Bike path!

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About to cross highways and the Oklahoma River, which is a US Olympics training area

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Oklahoma River

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OKC skyline

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People marching for an unknown (to me) cause, wearing purple shirts

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Old house in downtown

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Another old house

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Approaching the Capitol building with an oil derrick in front of it

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Better view of the oil derrick

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Capitol building

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I saw SO MANY CHURCHES. It put Austin’s church density to shame. In one stretch of road about a mile long, I passed 7 churches!

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Nice smooth road – a welcome change from the mostly bumpy Oklahoma roads

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A little amusement park, gearing up for Halloween – you can sort of see the giant spider on the side of the roller coaster

 

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The views on the roads north of OKC were some of the nicest on the ride

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Pleasant Hill cemetery (with a backwards ‘N’?)

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Old stone house out in the country

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Entering “Historic Guthrie” – this was about 10 miles before I hit the actual downtown area

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Cows

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Second rest stop at mile 70 – just on the outskirts of Guthrie, and right before I started the hardest part of my ride. I was the first rider to hit this rest stop!

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From the rest stop in Guthrie I headed northwest, first crossing the Cimarron river which reminded me of the color of cinnamon

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See? Kinda reddish

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Looking the other direction

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A haunted house on the outskirts of town

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The dirt out here was really red

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Lots of inspirational signs on the 100 mile route

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Horses

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Out towards Crescent, the clouds were really ominous

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But luckily the storm stayed to the west

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I basically alternated between riding straight north and then straight west

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Very red dirt, very dark clouds

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I paused briefly at the rest stop in Crescent and talked to the friendly volunteers

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They had lined the road with signs

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Crescent is not very big…

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I came across these squiggly lines painted on the road from time to time, but have no idea what they mean

 

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Small town cemetery

 

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Red cliffs

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Where’s a good tailwind when you need it? Especially appropriate at this point since I was riding against a pretty heavy headwind for the last 15 miles.

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Back in Guthrie I got to take photos of some old buildings

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Including this bike shop which had a penny farthing out front!

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Downtown Guthrie

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The Oklahoma Territorial Museum

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Getting so close to the finish!

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The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

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The finish line finally in sight

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If you look closely you can see Carl and Molly behind the guy in the green shirt

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100.5 miles!

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Crossing the finish

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Posing with my favorite dog

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Final Bike MS Training weekend!

I’m getting close to my fundraising goal for Bike MS: The Road Divided! Can you help me meet my goal?

This is my 9th year riding in a Bike MS event and next weekend I’ll be riding 160 miles over two days at Bike MS: The Road Divided in Oklahoma. I fundraise because I believe that MS can be cured in my lifetime and I’ve known too many people affected by this disease.

For my last big training ride, I headed south to San Marcos so that we could visit the new location of Middleton Brewing. The weather was much hotter than my last few long rides, with high humidity. Hopefully next weekend in Oklahoma is much more pleasant! Saturday’s route totaled 86 miles and had a few detours, but was overall a nice ride.

In order to get to San Marcos at a reasonable time, I left home at 7 am, just as the sun was coming up and the full moon was going down.

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Good morning sun!

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This cemetery confuses me – it’s incredibly overgrown, but next to a well-tended cemetery. Both are within Austin city limits!

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Crossing the Lady Bird Lake damn

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My shadow, Lady Bird Lake, and the Austin skyline

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A firefighter training facility

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Church on the outskirts of Austin, and it’s accompanying cemetery

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There was an event at the Circuit of Americas and I was passed by many fancy cars when riding by the track, including 3 Corvettes in a row

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A little farm with handmade signs listing the price for goats, sheep, chickens…

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The same farm with some sort of little shade shelters in a field of wildflowers

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Small country road

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Lots of little purple wildflowers along the side of the road

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Fancy new school near Kyle

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Long flat road

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Small pond and lots of clouds

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For some reason I saw many donkeys on this ride. This the best donkey photo.

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And another donkey

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Rolling country road

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Railroad bridge, close to San Marcos

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Another railroad bridge, with a low water crossing and big stone supports

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After meeting my husband, we found a food truck lot, had a delicious lust at Wanderlust and then visited Middleton Brewing for a tasting and to pick up a bottle of their latest release. 

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Bike MS Training Sept 10 & 11: Riding out to the breweries

ONLY ONE MORE TRAINING WEEKEND LEFT! This is my 9th year riding in a Bike MS event and in just over a week and a half I’ll be riding 160 miles over two days at Bike MS: The Road Divided in Oklahoma. I fundraise because I believe that MS can be cured in my lifetime and I’ve known too many people affected by this disease. Will you join me in the fight against MS? I’m almost 50% to my fundraising goal and I would be honored by your support!

This past weekend I got to do another destination ride, where I left from my house and ended up at a place that serves alcohol. This time, I rode 80 miles to Jester King brewery and Last Stand brewing on Saturday where my husband met me with lunch. Jester King had a beer release we wanted to try, and Last Stand was hosting an Oktoberfest party. On Sunday, I rode 42 miles closer to home.

Saturday’s ride started off pretty cool for Texas in early September. As I rode north the clouds became pretty ominous. And then it started to get really windy. Next, it started raining big stinging rain drops, that might have been small pieces of hail. I had to pull over and seek cover next to a large stone sign for a few minutes until it slowed down enough to ride again.

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Very ominous looking sky

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Can you see the rainbow? It’s pretty light.

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Lots of greenery everywhere

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Small town church

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Cows walking through a field

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Big playground in north Austin

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View from Southwest Parkway

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BBQ ahead, in the little trailer you can hardly see by the red building

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Cool driveway entrance

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After arriving Jester King, I got to enjoy the newest release of La Vie en Rose. It was quite good.

On Sunday I rode some very familiar roads and therefore didn’t end up with many photos.

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You can kinda see the light purple wildflowers along the roadside

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Lots of hay bales

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Yellow AND purple wildflowers