Aaron Chamberlain is zigzagging through the Rosedale neighborhood, pedaling up one street and down the next like he’s looking for a lost puppy.
But Chamberlain hasn’t misplaced a pet — he’s on a mission to ride every street in Austin on his fixed-gear bicycle.
He ticks off roads in our 271.8-square-mile city methodically, and at one point jumps the curb and pedals across Ramsey Park. He coasts, admires an old car and chats while I tag along.
Chamberlain started his project on Nov. 27, 2018, inspired by long-distance runner Rickey Gates, who was running every street in San Francisco. (Read more about Gates’ journey at rickeygates.com/everysinglestreet.)
"I thought that was cool," Chamberlain says. "(Gates) was encouraging friends and readers to do the same thing in their city, town or ZIP code."
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Chamberlain isn’t a runner, but he does ride a bike from his home in the Mueller development to the Texas Monthly offices, where he is production director, so he put his own spin on the #everysinglestreet project.
"I started basing it off my commutes. I’d pick a different way into work each day. Then I’d outline an area and fill it in," he says.
On this humid fall day, with a strip of cardboard cut from a carton of H-E-B grapefruit-flavored sparkling water serving as a fender, he chugs south on Medical Parkway, cuts west on 40th Street and turns north at Shoalwood Avenue. When he hits 45th Street, he cuts over a block and heads south, like he’s sewing together blocks on a city-size quilt.
Before he heads out on a ride, he consults an online map, takes a screenshot of it, then prints it out, highlights the streets, and stuffs it in a pocket.
Chamberlain has logged almost 4,000 miles so far and estimates he’s covered about 70 percent of the city. (Check Chamberlain’s latest statistics on his Twitter feed.)
As he goes, he takes pictures of Volkswagen vans he spots — more than 40 so far. Today, he barely slows as he pedals past a shiny wrench lying along the curb. Nothing odd about that.
"I see a lot of power tools, drills mostly, in the road," he says. He pushes them to the side, out of harm’s way. "I think they fell off trucks."
Sometimes, he rises at 4 a.m., drives to an unfamiliar neighborhood, bikes for an hour or so, then drives home in time to help his kids, Santiago and Lucia, get ready for school. On weekends, he knocks out longer rides of up to four hours.
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"I like the idea of completing something," he says. "A few years ago, I was very interested in bike touring but didn’t have the time to do it between my job and family. This is kind of a way to do a bike tour, but it’s broken up into a lot of days and within my own city."
Instead of padded Lycra shorts and a technical jersey, he wears baggy shorts and a cotton T-shirt. The Garmin on his wrist is glued together, and he wears flat-soled sneakers.
He gets to see the city in a way few others, except perhaps a mail carrier, do. "Even a mailman only has his one route, though. I’ve seen every route," he says.
Chamberlain has pedaled through neighborhoods fancy and not. He’s spotted foxes and deer, possum and skunks. So far, nobody’s called the cops on him, although a security guard in Anderson Mill did ask him nicely what he was doing. The other day, Halloween figures propped up in a yard spooked him.
Sometimes, a friend joins him. He averages about 125 miles a week and skips highways, gated communities and private streets. Occasionally, he stops for a beer. He is co-founder of the Austin Beer Guide, after all.
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He hopes to finish in November, a year after he started. He has yet to ride streets east of Interstate 35 and south of Riverside Drive.
"I like going fast, but I’m not necessarily a fast rider," he says.
There is, though, at least one reason to finish on time. The longer it takes, the more subdivisions — with new streets — crop up. That’s just annoying, especially when they appear in parts of the city where he’s already ridden.
"Even in Mueller they’ve added a couple ofstreets since I’ve started," he says.