We have all had a rough year. A year ago yours truly had a Covid 19 diagnosis on my birthday. The silver lining for me was loss of appetite. Covid 19 re-wired my cravings, and I lost a lot of weight. Eating properly and drinking a LOT less beer has transformed my life and energy levels for the better. Thanks for that. However, many people have lost their lives and even more had outcomes making their recovery difficult or incomplete. We have a long road ahead, adjusting to a very well – engineered viral killer. For all of you, I just want to send out virtual hugs and sincere empathy.

It has been a minute plus about 13 years since we developed the website. Recently after having my own comments unfairly moderated on other platforms, I started looking for ways to upgrade, optimize or find a partner for this thing of ours. It occurred that I could simply add an Opinion category to our site and upgrade that with a comments section to be enabled or disabled by the user.

Ok I am half way there. Or so it seems. What we need now is a new partner – and a programmer who will be the next developer on the team here at and the sooner the better.

Randall Stephens, #AdBirds Founder


This year has been a lot of fun.  Since November of last year, I have been to Moab twice, ridden “The Whole Enchilada” or most of it. My friend Javi and I went to the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest in Feb.  That was so much fun, we are going back this year and will make a week of it in the Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park. My wife and I visited Pagosa Springs, Colorado a couple of times and decided to live there.  We bought land to build on and plan to buy a nearby house to live in, and rent out short-term when the new crib is completed.  All the above will take a year or so at best.  But time will pass and if we take the right steps, we can make it happen.  I’m sure of it.

As we make our plans for the future, daily activities keep us focused locally.  I decided to monetize the bike trailer by providing an outdoor advertising service, and perhaps hire a few cyclists who would pull them for our clients at AD&M Advertising.  So call me at 512.796.5339 to “Roll’em out”.  If you operate a charitable organization, I will even pull your sign for free between paid gigs.

sign service


Dear Tour Operator,

We invite you to become a sponsor with benefits at Texas Hill Country Bike Tours (a.k.a. “THCBikeTours” on facebook and twitter, or “THCBikeTours” on Tumblr). 

The year to come promises many great opportunities to share your stories and journeys with our readers as we ramp up the SM advertising. We will offer more of our favorite routes and destinations for adventure cyclists, trail bikepackers, and special feature opportunities.

Sponsor Benefits

   Sponsors are listed with logo and website link on our sponsor page.

Enjoy an unlimited number of 365-day online ads with all the benefits of an Unlimited  adbirds annual subscriber-advertiser.

Sponsor articles may be submitted once per quarter for publication on this blog.

All you need to do is set up an annual (12 month) Unlimited subscription with adbirds to receive your Sponsor benefits on Texas Hill Country Bike Tours.    Also welcome, are manufacturers of camping and cycling equipment, apparel, maps and associated items of interest to our demographic, the touring cyclist community, commuters, road and trail riders of every age.

Call me with any questions or proposals you may have for this publication.  My number is (512) 796-5339.

Ride Happy, Ride Free!


Texas Hill Country Bike Tours

Across Texas and Beyond!




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Lake Georgetown

The first bicycle I bought was a yellow Schwinn Varsity, back in the early 1970s.  It was my prized possession, and yet since my parents made me leave it at the weekend lake house to keep me off city streets and close to home during the school months – security was never a concern. Although I seldom rode the bicycle at night, I wouldn’t have seen many cars in the neighborhood after hours anyway – so a wheel driven, generator powered light was good enough.

Now that I’m living in the city, cycling 26 – 28 miles to work in the predawn hours, security and safety go hand in hand.  I want to be seen, and have tried to keep up with available lighting systems.  AJs Cyclery in NW Austin had just what I needed.  After using the Serfas True 500 headlight, I though why not up the ante and buy a Serfas 750 headlamp.  These are a great combination, and actually worth more than my commuter bike would be to anyone else, so a word to the wise; take the lights with you whenever you lock up the bike and leave it unattended.  People will steal your lights.  Sad but true.  I also believe in multiple lights front and rear to add steady and flashing lights seen from a mile away, even in daylight.

Serfas headlamps – safety in numbers,  Serfas True 500 and Serfas 750 lumen lights as shown.

Having one flashing and one steady headlamp is great in the city.  Cross traffic can sense your presence even before you arrive at an intersection because – at night, the drivers can see your flasher reflecting off street signs.



Tail lights should be in multiples of two or more, particularly if you have a commute of over an hour.



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 Introducing the ABUS BORDO Combo 90cm  – also available in keyed versions and in various sizes and colors.

The ABUS BORDO is very popular in the EU. and is available everywhere.

ABUS BORDO comes with a dedicated holster which can be mounted to the frame or easily carried in a

backpack or handlebar bag.

bicycle lock, ABUS BORDO Combo

ABUS BORDO mounted atop the frame, as shown on the author’s commuter road bike.

It is easy to set the combination and release with a button.  This lock works like a folding ruler, taking up much less space than

a standard U-lock, yet it’s high quality steel construction makes it as tough as most u-locks.



 I bought this lock from The Peddler – one of many great bicycle shops in Austin, Texas.












Price:  MRSP $130.00  Weight:  Approx. 2.2lbs or 1 kg.


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Support your local bicycle shop!  Click here to list your bike for free or post an entire store inventory as an Unlimited subscriber for only $30 per month or $330.00 per year.  Unlimited ads run for 365 days, and you can support Meals on Wheels and More! when you sign up with the coupon:  meals






Are you ready to do a ride and camping trip in the Texas Hill Country during wildflower season?

Announcement – drum roll please…

Tour the Texas Hill Country with us (at your own risk) on a self – supported bicycle tour.  If we get 30 or more interested parties we will plan a sag or maybe even entertainment.  So far there is no charge, as in free as a bird!    See the full 405 mile route here or scroll down for segments.  Google Maps would not give a short URL for the complete route.  So I will update and add the segments below.

– Route has been pre-verified.  Simply pay your costs for campground entrance fee (about $5 per night or so) and be ready to roll at 8:00 a.m. daily.  We may change a couple of overnight locations adding a B&B or motel in kerrville / Ingram and Comfort so please bookmark this page, follow for updates.  Entertainment options will be listed as well.

– Contact and signup form to be linked here.

See proposed route and campgrounds below…



Day One:  Starts at  Avery Ranch Golf Club 10500 Avery Club Drive, Austin TX 78717  to 

Inks Lake State Park just West of the town of Burnet, TX.  approximately 55 miles.  No big climbs.

See map:

Day Two:  Inks Lake State Park to Enchanted Rock State Park, approximately 51 miles.

See map:

Day 3:  Enchanted Rock to Kerrville-Shreiner Park – Kerrville, TX – approximately 50.4 miles

Day 4: Kerrville-Schreiner Park to Lost Maples State Park  approximately 50.3 miles

Day 5: Lost Maples State Park to Flat Rock Ranch near Comfort, TX approximately 56 miles

Day 6: Comfort, TX to Blanco State Park – approximately 38 miles

Day 7:  Blanco State Park to Avery Ranch, NW Austin approximately  78 miles   OR;

Day 7 option: Blanco State Park to Austin’s downtown rail station (takes riders to Lakeline Station near Avery Ranch)

What to bring:

  Your happy self with a touring bicycle,  bright smile and outer layers up top (ok layers optional), camping gear as light as possible (they don’t call it Texas Hill Country for nothing).  We can pick you up at the airport in Austin or you can take public transportation most hours during the week to the Lakeline Transit Station nearby (see

  There’s lots to do in Austin too!   More links to come so watch for updates.  Please feel free to contact me or share this blog.

  Randall (512) 796-5339

  Ride happy 🙂


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My Surly Disk Trucker up in Colorado recently…

Cruising to work in the dark early morning hours is like sailing at night.  The road seems to be my exclusive domain most of the time, and I have often ridden Austin’s major streets for miles without being passed by a motor vehicle.  Deer are startled and run in front of my lights sometimes, ad the new Serfas True 500 seems as bright as many motorcycle headlamps.  I have a backup headlight, a trustworthy Planet Bike Blaze, loaded with recharged AA batteries.  When getting close to downtown I flip that one on flash mode and all the cross traffic – where it exists – get a head’s up because the lights reflect so well off street signs.  My backside is lit up even more, with a Planet Bike rear flasher, a Serfas USB charged Thunderbolt tail light, a Tail Fazer, and a unique Austin product, the Flashbak which I will talk about separately, in the best terms.

I have always believed you can not have too many lights, –  meaning “bright” lights, flashing on your rear when cycling at night.   At the very least,  one steady and two or three flashing. 

– Brightly.

Riding more and more, this summer found me not only bike commuting, sometimes two to three days a week.  I also use a modified Extrawheel bicycle trailer to promote local businesses or my website, known as adbirds.  One of my mini-goals is to bike commute five work days in a row; and although there are many demands for my time between office and home, I am planning to take the full-time business plunge in around 2 years.

My current “office” is the flight-line at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where I work for an airline as an aircraft maintenance crew chief / mechanic.  My wife fears the bicycle commuting, especially in darkness as with the evening shift.  Since the drunks were very active when I got off work and rode home arriving around midnight; my wife couldn’t get to sleep and be rested for work, so I had to abandon bike commuting for a while.

This summer after waiting for the wheel of time and an elder employee to retire,  I could again become a “greenie” bike commuter on day shift.  So now I’m the resident bike geek / commuter, occasional bicycle tourist, and whatever else time allows between job, business and home responsibilities.

At Austin – Bergstrom International Airport my crew starts work at 06:30 and I leave the house at 03:30 for the two-hour commute.  Yes, we have a shower at work.  Austin also has a first-generation commuter train line with a station three miles from my home in far NW Austin.  On the commute home I ride about 5 miles to a station at 5th & Comal on Austin’s East side, and ride a train to the Lakeline commuter station.

In Austin, Texas our summer temps are around 100F and there’s a lot of climbing to get home.  The train is air conditioned, clean, and only $2.75 for a one way pass. Cycling saves me around $10 per day in fuel, and spares the rest of us around 20 lbs of airborne carbon.  I enjoy that aspect as much as the ride.

One might ask why I don’t ride the train to work.  The train doesn’t run all night, nor to the airport, and may not in my lifetime.  My home is about 350 feet higher than the airport, and though that gain is miniscule over a 28 mile route, every inch is felt in our 100 degree heat, so I have no regrets when riding the rails home at 3:30 PM in the Texas summer.

Getting to the airport has been fun, and fraught at times.  Once, my prime headlamp gave out on Speedway Blvd near the University of Texas, just as I caught a groove in the center of the street while preparing for a curve.  Luckily my muscles reacted correctly even though in my mind I was sure pain was about to begin.  The good folks at AJs Cyclery got me a warranty replacement for the headlamp so I’m real happy with Serfas and AJs.

There are even some street-walkers who proposition fat, middle-aged cyclists whizzing by at 20 MPH at 05:00.  Perhaps it’s because the state legislature was in session and lots of lobbyists are in town.  Perhaps because it’s getting close to sunup and a new shift of APD is coming on duty.

A serious problem isn’t something to joke about but at 05:00 I just laugh quietly, keep on pressing the pedals, and in time the wheels take me all the way.

Enjoy the ride!

Enjoy the ride!

Today I finally took the new touring bike someplace I haven’t ridden before,  so the vibe is good.   A decade ago, the State of Texas enabled new toll roads in HB3588, which has provisions for funding adjacent bike commuting pathways.  I dislike some provisions of HB3588, which directs funds to bicycle trails but also facilitates conversion of existing state highways and commuter roads into toll roads.

Today’s ride from my home in Avery Ranch started as a little spin after a dog walking warmup.   Up Parmer / Ronald Reagan Blvd.  about a mile, I turned left into Breakaway Park to get away from the noise.   Breakaway Park has a private runway with hangers and homes built for a small community of pilots, and has a nice quite residential road around the single runway surrounded by oaks and well – fed deer in many of the yards.
– Not many roses however.
After turns down Wildlife Run and Adventure Lane,  I found myself back at Brushy Creek Blvd. and decided to ride over to the new 183A Toll Road and check out the new bike path.   This pathway runs along the east side of 183A from Avery Rancy Blvd to FM1431 (known as Whitestone Blvd in Cedar Park).

It is a great way to cross town on a bicycle,  with minimal intersections or traffic.  Kudos to the State Legislature for this new bike path.   The path is currently interrupted only by work being done to a small bridge over Brushy Creek at the Brushy Creek Regional Trail intersection.    I asked a heavy equipment operator if I could cross the bridge, and he told me “one more week”.  I thanked him with a thumbs-up and rode back to Brushy Creek Blvd to reach Parmer and ride to the house.

Avery Ranch residents can now ride from home to the Natural Grocer in Cedar Park and back with only a couple of intersections to cross, depending on where they access the trail.    Now it’s time to get Cedar Park to paint bike lanes on Brushy Creek Blvd.  and a number of other streets,  or for a small grocer like Wheatsville or Natural Grocer to open up in Avery Ranch.  That would be great for us!


A long – awaited day came with the delivery of my new Surly Disk Trucker.   Having ridden the Salsa Vaya and taken a peek at two other bikes including the Marin Tour and a Novara Randonee the decision was clear for me.  Two main factors for me were top tube length and the stock Avid BB7 disk brakes on the Disk Trucker.  A Marin Tour can be easily adapted for disk brakes, but has a shorter top tube.  My torso and chest are long enough to make the case for the .

In case you want one, any bike shop with a QBP account can order a Surly bicycle.  Although I took a look at a Disk Trucker downtown, my trusty nearby bike shop is also quite the competitor and will not lose a sale based on price.  One of my first rules is; take care of your local area bike shop for the best service.  You can’t go wrong buying locally.   Another guidepost for gear is; “buy the best you can afford”.  This has always worked for me.

The good proprietor at AJs Cyclery also did me a little better turn by matching the best bike price, and discounted accessories to beat the competition downtown.  That said, it was a matter of getting the bike order in along with the accessories I still needed to complete the touring bike.  These included the Garmin 500 and a Surly back Nice Rack as I already have the front rack as seen on my first blog entry.  You might remember how I loaded up the old Bridgestone RB2 and decided the whole idea warranted purchase of a real touring bike.

Delivery day came, and I took the virgin out for a ride as soon as possible.  The Disk Trucker shifts smoothly and takes long hills with speed I found difficult to keep with my road bike.  The Disk Trucker’s gearing has been well engineered to take the steepest climbs.  I love it!

When the time came to install the Surly Nice racks it was a matter of making good use of their instructions and a nice supply of stainless steel hardware.

While installing the Surly Nice racks on my Disk Trucker was rather easy,

I will agree with the Surly instructions regarding the front rack, as it is not a fast installation.
It takes a little while to select your angles and decide which of the hardware you want to use.  Once mated,  the bike and racks look like a perfect match.   Leaving room for the front wheel to come off required the addition of a spacer not accounted for in the parts provided, so I adapted by using several small stainless nuts and everything worked perfectly well.

Our home is 26 miles from my afternoon j-o-b at Austin’s airport, so I get to meet clients for the ad business in town around mid day before heading out to the “career”.  That means lunch at local spots like NeWorlDeli or runs to Costco for cheaper gas on the “meeting” days” when I don’t want to show up sweating in lycra or worse,  my camo-print mountain bike shorts.  However in Austin,  some clients just don’t mind or might show up to give business details wearing their own bicycle wear.  That’s what it’s like when you have the lowest-cost ad platform on the planet in one of the world’s coolest little cities.

The other day I found myself with an hour to spend before heading to the airport, and the lure of Ozone bicycles near my favorite Ruben sandwich was irresistible.  I took a few photos while looking for touring gear and bikes when at one side of the store sat a Surly Moonlander.      O  M  G   ~~:D"surly bicycle moonlander"

“Cool”; I said, and started checking it out.    While drooling isn’t seemly for a 51 year-old the Ozone guy completely understood, and I was offered to ride the bike with it’s huge SURLY “Big Fat Larry” tires.

Surly Moonlander front wheel and Big Fat Larry tire

The Moonlander is fun to look at, and more fun to ride than any rigid frame I’ve ever experienced.  It is easy to shift up and down,  with low-lows and high-high gearing that IS NOT slow on the road.  You would be amazed how fast one gets up to “traffic” speed on this bike.  Not that you would need a road.  The Big Fat Larry’s are so big and light, you feel like you landed on the moon, regardless of the rigid frame.   The wheels have holes to make them light, and feel soft to the touch, as they are made of unobtainium or something from the moon, I guess.

Surly Moonlander

Rigid fun, beyond comparison.

Downsides?  The price, at $2350 as tagged, might keep some away, but maybe they’ll sell enough Moonlanders that the price will have to drop when another framer decides to get into the ultra-fatty game.   I want one.  And if you want to be on remote trips, I would caution checking the cost of a few tubes and a spare tire in case you shred one of these behemoths on a broken moon-bottle at Padre Island National Seashore and find yourself 50 miles from civilization.

Upsides?  Simple, pure, FUN could be the alternate text for the Surly Moonlander.   This ride is a lot lighter than it looks, and is the kind of bike I would want to ride on a remote beach tour, or any similar place on the planet . . . . from San Fransisco, Corpus Christi, Los Angeles, Manhattan,  Miami, Chicago, or Dallas, … as in, from there to a weekend camping site.   Or from a camping site to the mountain top and back, in a cool way, with a big smile.

When folks see a Surly Moonlander, they will want to ride it, and ride it again, and be seen on it around town.  It is an attention-getter.   I thought; “What an ad prop.  Wear a costume and tow a sign”?  Hmmm

I would like to give a big thanks to the nice helpful folks at Austin’s OZONE Bikes for the test ride.   Now back to my touring – bike shopping.  The Surly Disk Trucker is looking good for a review, as well as the Salsa Vaya.


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