Destination: Austin, Texas
While riding the bike and running path along the shores of Ladybird Lake, we came up on a runner with a T-shirt that read “Keep Austin Weird.” Depending on whom you ask, “weird” in the capital city can mean a wide range of things, but from what we witnessed, Austinites don’t have to worry; there’s plenty of “weird” left to last a good while. In so many ways Austin is a unique city, and one that will not easily be confused with the other major metropolises in the Lone Star state.
There were a variety of reasons that took Electric Bike Action to Austin as an e-bike destination, and many of those factors should make it equally attractive to you. First of all, Austin is a business hub for the high-tech industry. With so much business travel headed there, the cost of air travel is surprisingly reasonable. We were looking for a destination that was likely to have mild weather in the winter, and while central Texas isn’t as sure a bet for winter weather as Palm Springs or Las Vegas, it generally has mild winters. Certainly, we lucked out big with the blue skies and sun we encountered.
Most folks don’t know that Texas has an enormous amount of water, and from the beginning Austin has been all about the water. When Edwin Waller surveyed the area and drafted a plan for the new capital in 1839, he chose 640 acres that fronted the Colorado River between Shoal Creek and Waller Creek. The 14-block grid plan was divided by wide north-south Congress Avenue and running up from the river to Capital Square. The grid plan Waller designed and surveyed now forms the basis of downtown Austin.
Over the years Texas damned up parts of the Colorado River for flood control and to generate power. This action created lakes in and around Austin; the most prominent of which is Lady Bird Lake, named after the wife of former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. It isn’t the largest of the lakes, but since the suburbs sprawled south, Lady Bird Lake dissected the city, and the bridges across it lead to annoying traffic choke points that are partially responsible for the popularity of bicycles in the area. Austin had always been attractive to bicyclists, but now a bicycle can actually make better time into the city than cars by utilizing the pedestrian and cycling bridges that run alongside the parking lots the cars call bridges.
INSIDE ROCKET ELECTRICS
When owner Nicole Zinn and general manager John Dawson discovered electric bikes, they were certain that some entrepreneur in this eccentric and green city was already promoting them. But after researching the business, they discovered that nobody was plugged in yet. They created Rocket Electrics, a wonderful little e-bike-only shop in modern and airy space just yards from the Lady Bird Lake bike path. When the new Boardwalk Trail sections are opened, the shop will be in solid-gold bicycling real estate.
In addition to selling several popular brands, they staff a high-tech service shop and provide electric bicycle rentals and guided e-bike tours. You can rent bicycles by the day or for overnight, or multi-day rentals where you take the charger along with you. If you aren’t ready to be turned loose on your own, you can sign up for one of the three established tours. The quickest and most basic is the two-hour Lady Bird Lake tour that leaves every day at 11:30 a.m. Next on the list is the four-hour food tour that leaves the shop at 4 p.m. Yes, the tour does include some sampling along the way. Next up is a musician’s tour, which is led by a professional musician who leads a tour of the popular music spots found on the city’s world famous Sixth Avenue. The ride concludes with champagne and a live performance by your guide on the shores of the lake. Other custom options are possible, and number of businesses plan team-building events with Rocket. All of the guides are knowledgeable about the area, passionate about the Austin lifestyle, and excited about electric bicycles.
Nicole and John at Rocket encourage people to commute to work by electric bicycle. If you buy a commuter bike from Rocket, the staff will research all the possible routes from your house to your office, then someone from the staff will pre-ride all the possible options and pick the one that is the safest, most interesting and quickest way for you to get to work. The same staffer will meet you at your home and ride with you on your first day commuting to work. We call that customer service.
Reach Rocket at (512) 442-2453 or www.rocketelectrics.com.