One of the delights of cycling in the country is being able to take a break at an old-fashioned general store.
Convenience stores at gas stations are plentiful, and cyclists use them a lot to take rest breaks, buy Gatorade and munchies, and take a nature break. A general store offers those services, (usually without gas) but also much more.
The “more” is the atmosphere.
The other day, I joined a 400-person group ride that offered distances up to 50 miles. The turnaround point for the 50-mile ride was Andice, Texas, a crossroads hamlet about 30 miles northwest of Austin. Those riders that made it all the way to Andice were treated to a break at the Andice General Store.
Biking has brought these old stores a new lease on life. Andice is on the route of several well-known rides in the area, and cyclists can be found in abundance on the weekends. To cater to their needs, the Andice General Store has made some alterations.
For example, the store no longer features two or three small aisles of groceries. Groceries line the walls. In the middle of the room, on a well-worn wood floor, are a few tables and chairs for people to sit and rest after a tough ride. The store also sells a pretty mean burger — another reason for the tables.
I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade, and took it to the counter.
“That’ll be $2.12,” said the lady. “I got the 12.” Wow.
She looked at the Gatorade. “That hasn’t been in there long enough to cool off,” she said. “Over there, take a cup and some ice. It’s free.”
“Over there” was the soda dispenser. Not only did it have Coke and the other usual soft drinks, but one of the spigots was plain water. I waited in line as several cyclists added ice to their water bottles and then refilled for the trip back.
I sat down with my Gatorade, and found myself across from two bikers who are favorites with everyone who sees them — Mike Gaudion and his poodle, Oleta. Oleta rides on a special platform on Mike’s bike. She’ll tolerate breaks like this one, but she really wants to get back out and hit the road.
While we sat there, some locals came in. Dressed like the farmers they were, they seemed out of place surrounded by lycra and spandex. We would have been the oddballs just a few years ago.
Outside and around back, the store has built a modern “two holer,” one side for men, one for women. Cyclists waited patiently in short lines. Nearby, more tables sit under a canopy so bikers can enjoy their break under the hot Texas sun.
It’s tempting to hang around at the store too long. Take care of business, get rehydrated, maybe a small bite to eat, and get back to the ride. But the general store harkens back to another time, and for a lot of riders, that slower, simpler time has its attractions. Mix that with cycler-oriented amenities, and these places are not just stops — but must stops.