Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tour de Gap

Tour de Gap, Bufflao Gap, July 24, 2010
Ever had a lucky coincidence happen? Last week at the Tour de Paris, Paris, Texas, I saw a man coming out of the Love Civic Center wearing biking clothes, a cowboy hat, and boots. I was saying, man, I wish I had a picture of him. That is Texas Great! Fast forward to the next weekend and Christine and I went to Buffalo Gap to ride in the Tour de Gap. We were running a little behind and parking was getting limited. We saw a space and pulled beside another pickup. Standing by the passenger door was a man in biking clothes and cowboy boots. I asked him if he was at Tour de Paris last weekend and he said yes. I ask him if I could take his picture and he was gracious enough to pose.

Martin Robertson, Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex area.
We could never plan such a meeting and what are the odds of parking right by him? Strange things happen.

As we were off-loading our bikes and getting our gear together, Becky and Charlie Davis from Abilene came over to visit us. Becky has acquired a bike and is getting started adding a few miles more as she rides. She had thought about doing the 11 mile ride but is perhaps still a little intimidated with large groups. I know we were when we started, but now we get a high from large crowds such as the Wichita Falls ride with about 12,000 riders.
At the 52 mile line up was Christine, Velma, and Rick Ogan. In case one is wondering, yes Rick had his helmet with him.

A couple more from San Angelo at the 52 mile line up. Center in SABA jersey was Gene Potter and in front of him in a SABA jersey was Gary Walker. Elsewhere in the crowd was Scott White, Jerry Middleton and a couple more whose names I don't know.

Some 258 riders registered for the Tour de Gap race and tour. The 77 mile ride was a race and 52 down was a tour. We were on the tour which meant we could ride whatever speed we wanted, stop when we wanted, visit with people, and just have fun. I am not saying that hammering as hard as you can, feeling muscles burn, not stopping at a rest stop unless you desperately had to, and worrying about your position in the hot sun is not having fun, it is just that Christine and I have a different definition of fun.

Our definition of fun is more laid back and light-hearted such as these two gentlemen.

At 8 o'clock the racers took off and as their dust settled, the 52 milers started.

Right out of the city limits, we were introduced to the theme of the day. "Oh give me hills, lots of hill, underneath the sunny sky, don't go easy on me."

Velma and Rick rapidly pulling ahead. As a matter of fact, this is the last time I saw them until the finish line.

Rest stop two was our first stop. Gary stopped at this time also. I almost didn't recognize Martin Robertson coming around the corner without his boots and cowboy hat. Later in the ride we discussed his putting cleats on his boots. What we didn't discuss was the resultant tan he would have. All of us have three tone legs but with socks part of our discrepancies don't show, besides, I don't think boots would be very aerodynamic.

Going through an almost ghost town, we met one of the support ambulances. Note the cloud cover which kept us a little cool until it burned off about 10 a.m. However, it helped enough that I didn't see the frequent pick up of riders as during the previous weekend at Paris.

The point I was making earlier. If I were racing, no way could I stop and get the Longhorns to pose for me.

I think this was Rest Stop Four. A lady from Laughton, Oklahoma had joined up with us and was showing one of the popsicles the stop had. Mine was a lime one but I gobbled it down so fast that there wasn't time to take a picture of it.
Another good thing about touring is that you have time to have conversations. I told Christine to look at the bluegrass off to the side. She insisted it was just weeds. An active imagination is more fun.

One bad thing about not being as fast as a racer. It can get a little lonely in the backwoods.

To offset the loneliness, a rancher let one of his cows stand by the side of the road to cheer riders on as they passed.

Soon we were back into civilization on Highway 277.  As one could guess, wind powered generators are located on top of hills. We were to start on another hilly portion of the ride. Most of the rollers on 277 were the 4-6% grade category. Good workout hills.

Rolling down a long hill, I thought I would experiment. I had seen Rick and others take pictures of what was behind them. I have several interesting shots of the wild blue yonder and this one. Need more practice.
This was Rest Stop 5 at the intersection of 277 and FM 89 leading back to Buffalo Gap. Gary, left, had been riding with Christine and me for some miles. Gene, middle, we saw off and on. The man on the right is from San Angelo; it is my misfortune not to know his name.

Once a teacher, always a teacher. Christine had just finished explaining a technique to assist if one has knee pain. Once a teacher, always a teacher--to my embarrassment--at a previous rest stop, a young man made a grammatical mistake and Christine made a point to go over to him and correct his English. Maybe I should sign her up for the races so she wouldn't have time to gab so much.

I like to think of this as my 7-11 shot. The incline in the distance registered 7% and it was about 11 o'clock.

Gary preparing to go down and then up. He said he wanted to gain as much speed as possible to assist on the uphill.

Christine leads on the downhill. She is hard to beat on a downhill, and she has no fear.

Tour de Gap is about over. This decline leads into the valley in which Buffalo Gap is located. The organizers must have wanted the ride to end on a pleasant note and let us end with a downhill.

A nicely kept ranch on the outskirts of Buffalo Gap.

Another indication of the mark of an end of an era. A windmill over on its side.

As our group crossed the finish line, Rick and Velma were there welcoming us. They had already eaten and watched part of the Tour de France time trials before we finished. I will check with them on our Monday group ride if they stopped to take pictures of the longhorns, stray cattle, "blue grass", and if Rick took pictures over his shoulder.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scenes of Alaska 2 of 2

Princess Lodge at Mount McKinley. This location is "only" 46 miles from our tallest mountain. We will be closing out the Alaska series with this post. It is hoped that some of the pictures convey the beauty of Alaska and the fun that can be had by touring this lovely state.

The shutters of this cabin demonstrate how to bear-proof your shelter. Long nails are driven through the wood to discourage bears from pushing in the doors or shutters.

Flowers in the wild.

Forget-Me-Nots. Alaska state flower.

Christine's family. Sister Lesley, brother Allen, sister-in-law Cindy, sister Sharon, brother-in-law Bob, and Christine enjoying each other's company. They were laughing so loudly-and much-that people would come out of their rooms to see what was going on. Not sure if the refreshments had anything to do with the gaiety.

One of the many huskies that serve as sled dogs for the Park Rangers. They are stronger than they look.
This one was not chosen to demonstrate the dog sledding so he was just taking it easy.

The Alaska cotton wood. Seeds were blowing in the wind throughout our inland stay. When we were on our biking tour, the guide told us to go ahead and breathe the seeds into our noses. The fluff would provide good insulation from the cold wind.
Trains still provide a lot of the transportation of goods in the state.

There is no story to this shot. I just thought it was pretty.

Scene while we were on a tour.

Mount McKinley

Ready for a raft trip. Allen, Cindy, Christine, and Roy.

Scene from the raft.

Eagle mates were near shore. One flew away right after this shot so it was my only one.

A lot of trees were felled by the river bank from beavers. This tree was one of their more ambitious undertakings.

Flowers outside of a shop in Talkeetna, a quaint little town where the river raft tour ended. We had time to walk around town, visit all the shops (yes, it was that small), and eat at a nice restrauant with outside tables. 
During the bus ride back to our lodge, Mount McKinley was visible again so the driver stopped for us to take some pictures. It is a big deal to see Mount McKinley as it is said that 70% of the visitors do not get to view the mountain due to constant cloud coverage. We were lucky; we were able to see the mountain at various times throughout our stay.

The flowers were reminescent of our Pedal Power Wildflower Ride with the bluebonnets so I had Christine  pose in the flowers--but without cycling kit this time.

Lupines and Shasta daisies. One can tell we were impressed with the flowers.

Flowers in a rock waterfall area.

Eventually we had to start on the return journey. On the train ride back to Anchorage, we passed through a town with which I think the whole world is now familar--Wasilla--where Sarah Palin was mayor.

Flowers outside a museum we visited in Anchorage.

Totem poles outside a state building.

Rainbow over Anchorage--from our hotel window.

The trip was rapidly coming to an end. Sunset taken from a restaurant near our hotel. 
It is fitting to end the Alaska series with a wave of the tail.