Sunday, April 25, 2010

Colorado River Bikefest

Ballinger, Texas April 24, 2010
The wind resistance training season is rapidly coming to a close. In June, all we can think about is the over 100 degree weather and we forget about the wind around that time.  To capitalize on the training opportunity, nine from San Angelo traveled to Ballinger to seize the moment. (Of course, I'm being completely ironic.)
Velma Ogan and Christine Jones

Rick Ogan

Liz Rappe

Marlon Miller

Brian Backlund (seated)
Not shown-Roy Jones, Chad Freeze, and Willie Longoria.
Besides the opportunity for wind resistance training, most were able to continue to utilize the chilly weather gear. At start time, the temperature was mid-50's, and the wind was WSW at 22 with gusts of 30.

Some time back I wrote about the wind, and how it feels as if it is in your face for three different directions (ref. Beginners Page #13). Only the "back" 160 degrees would provide some push. I also expressed doubts about 150 of those 160 degrees, at least from my perspective. Once again my observations seemed to be fairly accurate. I was able to get in resistance training in a 350 degree arc. It was my lucky day.

Christine and I had signed up for the 100K route--normally 62 miles, but last year it was 69.82. I understand it was 65.37 this year. Either they shortened the route or some of the road just blew away. Anyway, Christine and I decided that since we had never ridden the 60K route, it would be an experience and new adventure to take that course. (And less "training" time).

By the time we arrived at the first rest stop, our decision to take the shorter route was validated. The wind had been a crosswind off our right shoulder limiting our group's ground speed to 16 plus mph. Turning into the wind at this point provided about an 8 mile "training" adventure, whereas going on down the road and turning into the wind provided the 100K group a 13 mile "training" session. Most of the feedback I have received from the other group indicated they enjoyed about as much as they could stand. 
I had yelled for everyone to turn around and say cheese. One can't tell but the wind was coming down that road so fast and hard that my words were blown to East Texas. Willie Longoria is finally shown on the far right. He blocked the wind for me at least for three miles but I couldn't talk him into taking the shorter route to continue running interference for me. I was destined to get the full work out even though we talked Rick and Velma into taking the scenic route with us. I gallantly stayed back with Christine and Liz which freed up Rick and Velma to get a full work out on their own--way up front.

Chad, Brian, and Marlon had passed me some miles back, so I assumed they were going for the 100K. And Willie left us at the rest stop to continue on the longer route. Later, I found out that Brian decided to go the 60K and finished ahead of the crowd. 

All of the details are not available yet, but Marlon was buzzed by a truck on highway 83 which caused him to go down. His first report related that he sustained a sprained wrist and road rash. Chad mentioned that after the first rest stop, the drivers of vehicles were less friendly than those closer to town. They failed miserably to show the usual West Texas hospitality.

Going down the FM 1929 wind tunnel, I was able to test another wind velosity theorem. One's speed on a bicycle is cut down by one half the wind speed. Say a cyclist's speed is 16 mph. If he heads into a 20 mph head wind, his average speed is cut by 10 mph, and he will find that he averaged 6 mph. Now that theory is pretty accurate. One can increase the Watts and increase the speed for a while, but he eventually will revert to the recommended higher rpms rather than try to power through the wind.  

The problem with the above theory is that if it is a constant, why was I even bothering with resistance training? So I did the logical scientific thing. Took a break.
Theory? "We don't need no stinkin' theory." We just ride for fun.

Last rest stop. Velma, a rider from Abliene, Christine, and an unknown rider. The gentleman in the baseball cap was our SAG driver. He was friendly and helpful in many ways. Really took care of his riders.

Velma, Christine, Rick, Liz. No rush. Enjoy.

Why the smiles? Now we were going to "train" with the wind to our backs--and it was all downhill from this point. The guy taking the picture was a local who had just reassured us that it was fact.

After a pleasant time going down FM 381 with the wind at our back, we turned on to highway 67. After a very short distance, we did the opposite of a normal ride. You know how the event directors want you to go on the access road to be away from most of the traffic? And you know how when no one is watching you go to the highway because generally the shoulder is smoother? Reverse all that. The shoulder of highway 67 put me in danger of chipping my teeth. Trying to talk just made me sound as if I had castanets in my mouth. My words were just clack, clack, clack. So we moved over to the access road. Believe it or not, the access chip seal was better than the highway washboard. The SAG driver thought we were lost but we stopped to let him know that we were sane. It also gave some of our body parts time to recover.

Christine and Liz on the unscheduled stop.

Our SAG gentleman patiently told us what access road to take at the appropriate time to get to the finish line in the event director's planned route. At the authorized finish line volunteers were taking names to verify all participants returned safely.

Christine at the last, last rest stop. It was all over but for the after action conversations.

Couple from Abilene talking with the San Angelo group. I didn't catch their names so I hope to see them on the Tour de Gap to find out who they are.
One more line up. Liz, friend from Abilene, Brian, Velma, Rick, and Christine. "Training" day over.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Burma Loop

The forecast for Saturday, April 19, was low 60's and thunderstorms, so we did the logical thing, and on Wednesday we called a Burma Loop ride for 12:30 p.m., Saturday. It rained Wednesday, Thursday, and into Friday. Friday afternoon we saw the sun for a short time, and then it hide behind clouds again. The forecast for Friday morning was rain from 3 a.m., Saturday, until past sundown.  By Friday evening, the rain was not to have started until 2 p.m., still interfering with the ride. Early Saturday morning the rain was pushed back to 3 p.m. By 11, the rain was pushed back to 4 p.m., and the ride was on. The above proves our adage: if you don't like the weather just wait around, and it will change.

Six riders took a chance on the weather and showed up: Brian Backlund, Christine Jones, Liz Rappe', Chad Freeze; not visible are Roy Jones and Rick Ogan.
Rick arriving after riding from his house.
Rick, arriving alone, threw off the routine of who was going to be the pace setter since Velma didn't show. A toss of the coin made me the pace setter, but since I am used to chasing, I had to think back to what Velma does. Oh yeah, point the bicycle down the road and ride as fast as you can. Easy to do on paper.

Chad was hot on my heels.

Brian picking up his pace.

Christine charging up the hill.

Rick and Liz enjoying the ride.
All too soon we were at the first re-group stop at the intersection of Arden Road and S. Burma Road. "Too soon" because as we turned right, we turned right into the wind. It was a very chilly 14 mph wind out of the north.
Although not shown, Rick was the only one in the group who didn't have on tights. I can guarantee the photographer was dressed warmly.

In past accounts of the Burma Loop rides, I have liked to emphasize the hills of the road since the route is popular because of the climb challenges. But this time, thanks to the rains we have been receiving, Burma Road was a show case of wild flowers. The hills took a back seat to one's attention. The flowers were in the spot light.

A  good thing about the ride that let us concentrate on the flowers was that there were no gravel trucks zooming past us. It was too wet and muddy at the quarry, so the drivers were off duty. The next few pictures are really San Angelo, and I can prove it.

The blue bonnet spreads in the pastures are San Angelo!! If in doubt, scroll back up and you can see our mesquite trees in the background. For any of the San Angelo riders going on Burma Road in the next few days or weeks, as you are going up the hill by the windmill before the rock quarry, look to the left out in the pasture. There is a good spread of blue bonnets along the road.

While Rick, Liz, and I were admiring the field of blue bonnets, the remainder of the group was waiting on top of the hill by the rock quarry. Nothing was blocking the wind up there.

But as most of the San Angelo riders know, the next part of the ride was the fun part. About three miles of downhill with little or no pedaling. At Carlsbad, the group split up as Rick had an appointment, Brian had to get ready to go to work, and Chad has a different route that he likes to take back to Arden Road. That left Christine, Liz, and me to enjoy Hwy 87 as the wind was to our backs and the shoulders were smoothish. And, since we were in no rush, we must have spent 20-30 minutes in the nice warm Grape Creek convenience store.

Liz still shopping. I had a picture of Christine but she was eating a nutrition bar and wouldn't let me use the picture.

As mentioned, we were in no rush, so I finally stopped to take a picture of the bison on the retaining wall across from the State Park entrance. I don't know how many times I have ridden past the wall and admired the ornaments but never stopped. 

Being in no rush had one drawback. Remember that the forecast had pushed the rain back to 4 p.m.? Liz and I were still on the road at that time and it started "spitting" on us. Thankfully it never turned into a shower, so we made it back fairly dry. 

Another good ride with good company came to a close.  

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pedal Power Wildflower

Pedal Power Wildflower
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Stonewall, Texas

Stonewall is a small community just outside of Fredericksburg in the middle of hill country. And they do not call it hill country for nothing. The ride is similar to Pineywoods Purgatory in that the "purgatory" was always one more hill to climb. But was it worth it. We had enough rain this year to entice the wildflowers out in all their splendor. Most of the photos do not capture the intense color of the flowers. You need to see them for yourself or buy a Texas Highways magazine.

We took the long way to Stonewall by going to Llano and then cutting over to Fredericksburg. From Brady to Stonewall was one field of wildflowers after another. For miles and miles the highway was lined on both sides with bluebonnets and some wildflowers we'd never seen before.



Getting to Stonewall was part of the fun. However, to make it a perfect event, quite a few cyclists from San Angelo converged on the little town to make it a great group ride. Attending were: David and Donna Durbin, Christine and Roy Jones, Dorothy Langdon, Rick and Velma Ogan, and Mark Seals. Liz Binder, area manager of Gold's Gym in Midland, came with Dorothy who happens to be the owner of Gold's Gym in Midland and San Angelo. Mark drove in very early in the morning so he missed much of the flower show. I am  not sure we convinced him to take the long way home to see the show on the way home. Even if he didn't, there were plenty of flowers on the bike routes.

Friday evening, David, Donna, Dorothy, Liz, Christine, and I drove in to Fredericksburg to consume some good German food.
Dorothy and Liz     
David and Donna
The Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center, sponsors of the event, did another excellent job putting things together. To eliminate any bottle necks, the registration and packet pick up were at the Visitor's Center of the LBJ State Park, and breakfast and the start area were at the pavilion/dining hall. We all assembled at the dining hall for breakfast and social time.
Liz, Rick, Velma, Dorothy, Donna, David, and Christine. Mark had gone to get his bike.
It was reported that a little over 750 riders signed up. The start was staggered for traffic control and to keep from having too many people at a rest area at one time.
In the 60 mile line up, Donna, Velma, and Liz.

David & Mark, Dorothy & Donna in the background
The ride started off with gentle rolling hills to warm us up in the chilly 54 degree temperature.

Later we turned onto a one lane winding road.
First rest stop. Mark, David, Liz, Donna, Christine, and Dorothy.
San Angelo group. Mark, Donna, David, Rick, Velma, Christine, Dorothy, and Roy.
The next part of the ride was like gentle swells of the ocean (upper picture) and then into fertile farmland.
Rest stop at Willow City. Liz, Dorothy, Christine, (?), Velma and Rick.
The Willow City Loop was the start of the flower show, hills, and more hills. The Loop was only about 13 miles but it took us a long time to complete it as there were so many photo ops along the way. It was pedal-stop-pedal-stop for more pictures. The best shots were when we would stop. The bike enthusiasts such as Liz, Velma, Donna, and Rick would zoom ahead while Christine, Dorothy, and I would stop and smell the flowers...literally. The aroma of bluebonnests is indescribably sweet and light. David and Mark had decided to ride the 37 mile ride route, so we had already split up by the Willow City stop.
On this leg, we turned onto Highway 16 for a short distance. It has the hill that Christine loves. It's about a mile of steep decline, however, just before we got there she said she felt a steady bumping in the rear tire. We stopped, and there was a small snake in the back tire. We agreed that she should take the hill more slowly than her norm, and to her credit, she kept it down to 38 mph. At the next stop, we had the tire evaluated by our expert Rick who declared the tire to be shot. Rick, whose saddle bag is really a suitcase had a spare tire in his bag.
 You guessed it: Rick once again showing me how to change a tire. One of these days I might learn. Once back on the road really didn't last long. Too many photo ops.


Liz and Dorothy.

Donna, Liz, and Dorothy

Traffic was pretty dense on the Willow City Loop as it had such great scenery.

Christine enjoying the ride.

The two on horseback were able to maneuver better than the hundreds of cars, motorcycles, and cyclists.

Beautiful countryside.
OK. So it took us a long time to finish the ride but the scenery was too pretty to rush through it.
Dorothy was enjoying the scenery also.

Liz and Velma before the Wall.

Liz and Velma cresting the Wall. Photo by Rick. I was way back in the crowd somewhere.

Rick and Velma. Happiness is great scenery, a challenging ride, and a rest stop. We had just finished "The Wall" and were getting a well deserved rest. I must brag at this point. All year I had been telling people about my going up the "Wall" at 2.9 mph and staying upright. This year--thank you Randy--I went up it at 4 plus mph. Chris made it up without walking for the first time--thank you Randy.
Liz, Velma, and Dorothy on a break. Notice the guy on the far left.
Once again, Rick to the rescue. The guy in the previous picture couldn't get his bike to shift so Rick worked on his bike and got him back on the road.
Too soon we completed the Willow City Loop and per tradition took another break.
Dorothy and Donna at the rest stop.
Liz, Rick, Velma, Christine, Dorothy, and Donna.
As Rick Smith in the Standard Times said, Harrys' Saloon is how you know you are in Willow City. After leaving Willow City, the scenery did not stop.

Three of the crossings had water running over the highway. It looked pretty but the water was cold.
David met us at the last rest stop. He had already showered, eaten, and was waiting when we pulled in. Dorothy decided to ride back with him. We had completed 50 of the 60 miles--but the sponsors, knowing that everyone was dragging at this point, had one more stop before the finish.

Rick, David, and Liz.
For anyone who didn't believe me, this is a good shot of Rick's "suitcase".
Scenery continues.

Hill leading up to the last rest stop.
Rick and Chris pulling into the last stop.
And off we go on the last leg of the trip.
Liz and Donna heading out.
The ride was over but the activity continued. A spagetti dinner was waiting for us at the pavillon.
Stomachs full, we are all contented. But you know what happens when you stay up late, get up early, and then fill your stomach.
And he still had a long day ahead of him.
On the way home:
And the end of another perfect day.