Sunday, November 29, 2009

Group Ride

November 28, 2009

I learned another lesson not long ago; don’t call a ride two hours before the start time. ‘Nuff said. So on Wednesday, a Saturday ride was called giving people time to re-arrange their lives for a nice get together. The ride was to start at TxDOT at 1:30 p.m. The time was the start of the high for the day—74, I think, and the wind was to be a constant SSW 15. The route serendipitously was into the wind on the first half and theoretically a tailwind on the return.

Ten of us showed up at TxDOT: Rick, Velma, Donna, David, Ty, Christine B., Christine J., Roy, Mike, and Doug.

The planned route was to be from TxDOT, Ben Ficklin, Country Club Rd, S. Concho Dr., Mary E. Lee Park-Spillway Rd, and return. The distance was about 30 miles.

The pace setters mainly were David, Velma, and Mike and the group stayed fairly together,

although it was hard to find a slip stream behind anyone as the wind was angled most of the time with little stretches of in-the-face breeze. By the time we reached Country Club Rd, up rolled Dan and LeAnn on their tandem.

Now I thought our pace setters were doing a great job, so how did Dan and LeAnn catch us? Both are in great shape and, as later in the ride I found out, Dan and his daughter Jillian were among the 37,000 runners who ran in the Dallas Turkey Trot. Now what I didn’t know until way later was that the reason Dan and LeAnn caught up to us so quickly was that LeAnn had been sandbagging and didn’t run in the Turkey Trot. She caught up to us while Dan just steered. Note the sly grin on Dan’s face. And we all thought he was pedaling as hard as he could.

About 10 miles into the ride, S. Concho Dr. intersects with Knickerbocker. We crossed Knickerbocker into Mary E. Lee Park and as soon as everyone had safely crossed the highway, we started on the “routine” Monday evening group route. Familiar territory is comforting and there was a lot less traffic. As we arrived at the Spillway/Knickerbocker intersection, Mike and Doug turned right onto Knickerbocker, and we thought they assumed we were going to the village of Knickerbocker next. Ty took out after them to let them know that we were looping back and back tracking our route to TxDOT. We took on off as we knew that Ty could catch them, return, and over-take us.

Some time back, I had said that the return trip was to be wind at the back. This being Texas, we encountered the 360 degree wind that Texas is so famous for. Most of the return trip I was still looking for someone to draft off of but was unsuccessful.

The worst part of the trip however was the S. Concho Rd.. The road has many pot holes, broken pavement, and a bumpy surface.

When we finally got to the newly paved portion of Country Club Rd, it was like water skiing on a glassy lake—smooth gliding.

The ride ended at TxDOT and from all accounts, we had a good time. Hopefully we will have a fairly mild winter to keep the group rides going.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fredericksburg Fall Foliage Frolic

Saturday November 7, 2009
Fredericksburg, Texas

"Laid back" sums up the ride. For example, the ride was to start at 8:30 a.m. from the Lady Bird Johnson Park. Last year people were milling around and then one by one, sometimes two, occasionally a group of riders who were together would just wander off down the road. Christine and I, being well trained tour cyclers, waited and waited and waited for someone to “officially” start the ride. Silence. Eventually we meandered off also as the crowd was thinning. Someone must have expressed his confusion because this year it was announced that the start time was between 8:30-9:30 a.m.--take off when you are ready.
We met cyclers already leaving as we rolled into LBJ Park (I just had to get that in, Donna—private joke) around 8:00 a.m., and as we were leaving on/about 8:30, we met people still coming in with their bikes on their cars. The beauty of it was that they could register,pick up their packets, have a cup of coffee and sweet roll, off load their bikes, take off, and still be within the official start time.

The laid back attitude of the ride probably reflects the theme and temperament of the sponsoring Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club. Their website states “The Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club came into existence because it was felt that a bicycle club was needed in the San Antonio area that had more emphasis on all levels of riding ability."

"Our rides are moderate, ranging in the 10 to 14 mph average. Most of our rides are leader led, and we try to leave no one behind. We are a very social club, and we have several picnics, parties and overnight events throughout the year. We also have weekend outings and tours.”

The morning was overcast and quite chilly.

The forecasted breeze of 5 MPH at the start decided that wouldn’t be exciting so it doubled itself. As such, the ride dress was quite varied. Some in routine summer shorts and short sleeve jerseys. Some with arm warmers and/or leg warmers. Lots with long sleeve jerseys, and a few with jackets. The weather was due to get to 77 (it didn’t at least while we were on the route) but eventually it warmed enough so the layers would come off at different times.

Upon exiting Lady Bird Johnson Park, we turned right onto Highway 16. For the most part it was fairly level and not too heavily traveled by motorist.

Shortly (6-7 miles) we turned on to the start of a series of narrow lanes. The first turn-off was Morris Ranch Road.

The fall foliage frolic ideally is during the turning of the leaves around the country side. While maybe not spectacular, there were quite a few pretty scenes.

Going down Morris Ranch Road, the scenery became prettier and along with the scenery came the hills.

There were rest stops about every 12-15 miles. Well stocked but I couldn’t get enough of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They had a good variety of goodies as well as the routine liquids, but I can’t pass up a PB&J sandwich, so I pigged out on them. I really couldn’t speak for Christine, but if I wanted to quickly locate the PB&J stash, I would just look for her around the tables.

Rest Stop 1 was at mile 12 and the first decision point of the ride. Turn right for the short ride (29 miles) or go straight for the medium (50 miles) or long (60). The medium/long routes took off down a road called White Oak Road. Unfortunately, the road was accurate because a blight had come through and killed a lot of the oak trees.

About 7-8 miles after Rest Stop 1, the medium riders could turn right, and the long route kept going on FM 783. Medium riders missed this.

Eventually FM 783 intersected with Highway 290. There was a sign that announced Rest Stop 2 was just three miles away. As I was looking to the right, there were some exotic animals in a pasture. I was pointing at them so Christine could take a look when it dawned on me I was missing out on some photo ops. By the time I got situated I just had time to take a picture of either some bison or beefalo.
Highway 290 had some interesting hills before we got to Harper, Texas.

Rest Stop 2 (at mile 32) was located at Harper City Park.

After leaving Rest Stop 2, we traveled about half way through Harper and intersected with FM 2093 which would lead us back to Highway 16 and Lady Bird Johnson Park. FM 2093 had some interesting scenery.

About this time I learned another lesson. You can't leave your camera on during the whole ride. At first I thought I was being innovative. On a routine ride, I will come upon something interesting, grab my camera, turn it on, try to focus and miss the shot because I was so slow. So, riding with the camera already on would solve half the problem, right? Not quite, I still had an aggravating amount of "out-takes" at the end of the ride. And, my battery indicator was blinking red on me. We had about 20 miles left to go and no camera.

There was another lesson learned but I have spared you most of it. Background: when I take a shot of something it looks as if it is three miles away and people in front of me look like ants. So the solution is to zoom. So, Mr. Brilliant not only rode with his camera on, it was always in a zoom setting. Have you ever taken a moving side shot of something with the zoom setting? Don't. Fuzzy isn't cool.

What was surprising was the lack of monster hills. I had in my mind that the Fredericksburg area was full of long steep mountains. There were plenty of hills and rollers but no torturous long steep hills ala Ft. Davis. The hardest hills were probably of the Burma Road King of the Mountain #1. Certainly not KOM #2.

At the end of the ride was a spaghetti lunch. The battery had "re-charged" just enough for one more shot. I told Christine to pose and caught her in a "you've got to be kidding me" look. It is really hard and unrewarding to be a free lance photographer.