Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colorado River Bikefest

Colorado River Bikefest
34th Annual, Ballinger, Texas
April 25, 2009

The Colorado River Bikefest, sponsored by the Ballinger Noon Lions Club, is unique in organized tour rides. Instead of focusing on hills, more of which I am sure they could have found, they focused on letting people ride for fun. I imagine most years the ride is a fast, fun ride, but this year, read below.

On Highway 83, there were some rolling hills but no third chain ring grind; instead, they provided us with a 23 mile an hour wind in our face to make us think we were grinding up some tough hills. To place things in perspective (I will attempt to inform rather than whine), each 5 mile per hour wind is equal to a 1% grade. So, a 23 mile per hour wind is equal to a little over 4% grade. Now, make that for 25 miles until the route turns into a cross wind and you have the Highway 83 part of the ride. Twenty five miles of a 4% grade of hill…and we do it for fun and recreation.

I felt a little whine creep into some of the above, so backing up a bit--the ride was to start at 8:30 from the Courthouse. That gave us theoretically plenty of time to get up, drive to Ballinger, and prepare for the line-up. Even so, it still seemed early. We were in good company; Brenda and Chuck White were already there when we arrived. Shortly thereafter David Durbin arrived--which I am so glad he did when I get back to my ride-story. Gene Potter was present and ready to ride, I think two other bikers from San Angelo were with him, and I saw Dan and Leann Waldron at the sidelines. Later on, a man on a recumbent told me that Doctor Charlesworth was riding also. I didn’t get a count of riders but it was respectable.
Chuck and Brenda First and Second Place on 30K

There were three main rides available: a 30K, 60K, and 100K. All started on Highway 83--straight into the wind. For the most part the road surfaces were decent. The traffic was surprisingly accommodating to us. I mentioned that I was glad David was on the ride as he provided the lion’s share of drafting. For most of the ride up 83, a group of five of us was in a draft line, with three of us taking turns at the lead. However, as mentioned, we left David at point longer than anyone else. And when he would drop us on some hill, he would patiently wait at the top for us to catch up. The field of riders kept getting smaller as the ride went on. Some turned at the 30K turn, a larger group turned at the 60K, and a few of us die-hards kept going.
A BIG Thanks to David for letting us draft on him

As mentioned, the ride from Ballinger headed out Highway 83 and goes past Paint Rock. I had never been to Paint Rock before so that was new and it was tempting to turn off where it advertised the Indian paintings but that will have to be a separate trip. At 765 we finally turned out of the wind into a cross wind that hit us in the left shoulder. If anyone was hoping for a let up, they were sorely disappointed, and the highway sign said Eola 13 miles. I had read about a cross wind technique of leaning into the wind to assist in keeping upright but this was the first time I remember practicing it. It felt weird leaning the bike but it did seem to help control the bike. At Eola, we turned with the wind at our backs—about time. From Eola through Lowake to Rowena was smooth sailing. Perhaps one of the most torturous parts of the ride was going through Lowake around lunch time and smelling those steaks frying. A little past Lowake Inn, there was a rest stop but the oranges and bananas didn’t stave off the steak craving. Leaving Rowena there were a few hundred yards of head wind that just beat some of us up. Finally, we thankfully turned north to Ballinger with the wind to our backs. Good way to end the ride. Did I mention that the 100K (which usually means 62 miles) turned out to be over 69 miles. Now that was meant to be information and not another whine. I have been on 110K rides that ranged from 60 miles to the 69 at Ballinger. If it is in the ballpark…what the hey.

I would bet that without a high wind, the Ballinger ride would be a fast, enjoyable workout. I will have to try it again next year to find out if the assumption is correct. Everything is a warm-up for HHH, as they say, so the Ballinger ride is only 30 some-odd miles short of the big one.
Until the Next Time

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pedal Power Wildflower

Pedal Power Wildflower
Stonewall, Texas
April 4, 2009
By Roy and Christine Jones

We had heard about Power Pedal Wildflower for the last two years from David and Donna. Donna had once stated that it was among her favorite rides. And what a ride! Add a little more rain in the early spring and Pedal Power could easily become one of our favorite rides. There were very few wildflowers this year. The weather was great in comparison to the last two years. We had a 61 degree start with a SSW wind at about 12 miles per hour as compared with the previous week’s start from Stonewall LBJ 100 by Christy Compeau with 39 degrees and a 40 mile an hour wind. Christy said they never had the wind to their back. Eat your heart out Christy; the wind was to our back as we started out and stayed that way for about 30 miles, or half our distance. Wind was in our face on the return, but, in a sense, the wind was the least of our problems as we hit THE HILL on Willow City Loop. (Click on pictures to enlarge)

But first: Pedal Power is the first weekend in April each year and attracts about 750riders. It is a short distance from San Antonio/Austin, but if anyone from San Angelo has the time to going up on Friday to tour the area it is well worth the trip. We toured Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, Stonewall, LBJ State Park and National Park, and Christine finally was able to tour the Sauer-Beckman Farm. The farm is a living history farm as if in the early 1900’s. Park interpreters wear period clothing, do the farm and household chores as they were done at that time, and also conduct tours for the visitors. We watched as they turned clabber milk into cheese, fed their cows and pigs, and children were able to go into the chicken coop and get an egg from the nest.

Sauer-Beckman Family Living Farm

As the area was settled by German immigrant farmers, there were quite a few old Lutheran Churches scattered about the region.

The State Park, similar to the San Angelo State Park, had Longhorn cattle and bison.

Pedal Power started at 9 am from the LBJ State Park. Registration was at the Visitor Center and breakfast was served at the dining facility which was across the street from the Start/Finish line.

The 60 and 36 mile riders lined up first and had a staggered group start so that everyone would not hit the first rest at the same time. Later, the 12 and 23 mile riders were started. There are two big advantages to one of the shorter routes. First, after the ride(s), the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center serves an outstanding spaghetti lunch so one gets back early enough to just eat at one’s leisure—plus the sodas are still cold. The other advantage involves food also which is important if one is watching the waist line. There are fewer rest stops on the shorter routes and therefore less opportunity to pig out and gain weight while on the ride. For example, the first rest stop had wrapped sausages, cheese, crackers, chips, bananas, three kinds of pickles, and four types of cookies. I just remember three of them, Oreo, chocolate chip, and sandy pecan. And the other rest stops did their best to make sure you don’t run out of energy foods and peanut butter nut energy bars. Without revealing too much of my intake versus calories burned, I think I was about 1,000 calories ahead when I sat down for the spaghetti lunch. But hey- Spoil me. I can burn calories on Burma Road if that’s my goal.
First Rest Stop

"Second Rest Stop"

"Third Rest Stop"

The ride ranged from looong rolling hills to “what in the heck was that?” hills. As stated earlier, there were few wild flowers. But the countryside was country. One lane paved paths through farm and ranch land for miles.

There were so many cattle guard crossings that my jaws were tired from clenching so that I wouldn’t chip a tooth bouncing on the crossings.

I saw two patches of blue bonnets. (Chris also saw two wine cups. Had there been rain we were assured entire fields would have been blanketed with color.) Both were on hills and very inconvenient to stop and take pictures. The first one was on SH 16 on a downhill that was worth the trip. It was long and fast. When I saw the patch of blue bonnets, I glanced down and was going 38 mph, so no way was I going to stop. The next batch was going up a hill—pay back time. When I saw the patch of blue bonnets, I glanced down and was hitting 3.9 mph. No way was I going to stop. It is just too hard to start back up again if you are struggling that much anyway.

Three point nine was not my record that day. Donna had told us about a hill that goes up and up and—and just when you think you have crested, you go around a bend and it goes up again. Well, two records for me. First I made it up the hill pedaling. Second, I hit a new low speed and stayed upright. Just as I was whizzing past a person walking up the hill, I glanced down and saw that I was going a big 2.9. I didn’t know you could stay upright going that slowly, but I did. As always, you take a picture to document the stupendous accomplishment and the picture makes it look like an ant hill. Well, on one of the pictures, those little ants were bicyclists going up the hill.

My Turn

Roy generally gets to write the first draft of an article, and then I translate it into English. But this time I want to talk also. The Sauer-Beckman Living Farm is worth the trip alone. I have been wanting to visit the farm for some time. I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and some of the sights, sounds, and smells brought back fond memories.

The area was settled in the 1800's by German farmers and thus there were a lot of Lutheran churches. One was close to the Sauer-Beckman farm and is shown in the picture below.

Another Lutheran church was at the first rest stop on the ride. Picture below.

There were wineries everywhere but we didn’t have the time to stop in and sample the fruit of the vine. All the more reason to return for another Pedal Power ride in the future.

The tour was another great ride. It’s amazing how you think of Texas as being flat until you buy a bicycle. Suddenly, there are hills everywhere.

Pedal Power had some tough hills for me as I am still not strong enough to make it up the steep, hard hills, but I was in the company of a lot younger biker-walkers.

But for every uphill there were some great downhills. Broadly speaking, the first half of the ride is going from the low elevation of the Pedernales River area to some pretty impressive hills and then back down (but not without some more ups) to the river.
Pedernales River

Two were memorable. The first one was on Highway 16--a long downhill. It started at about an elevation of 1823 and rolled down to 1254. I hit 45.1 mph and loved it. The other was just opposite. It was the hill that Roy spoke of pedaling 2.9 mph. Just as we crossed a creek bed, we looked up and saw the winding hill that seemed to go forever. About half way up, we could see bikers, but they looked like ants crawling up the hill.

The incline started at about 1176 feet and crested at 1672. Ha. There was a slightly level place in the road situated at a left bend, and as you could guess, it started going up again. When it crested at last we were at about 1741. The organizers had pity upon us and had a rest stop at the top of the climb. This was one stop nobody passed up.

One more picture--braking optional