Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Biking the Grand Canyon Rim #1

Last year a welcome addition to the Grand Canyon National Park activities opened--Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals ( . Cycling enthusiasts no longer have to lug their own bike to the Park in order to enjoy the sights and participate in their favorite past time. The Park is bike friendly and has additional trails planned for the future. 

Although we rode in the middle of May, the weather was still quite chilly and had snowed just two days earlier. We bundled up and went to the Visitor's Center where Bright Angel bikes is located. We were fitted and briefed on safety (don't brake with the front wheel only and don't run off a cliff).

The Park's being bike friendly with pedestrian/bike trails is more than important as the Park has over a million vistitors a year and can get quite crowded.
No matter where one goes or what season the scenery was awesome to us flatlanders.
Currently there are three recommended routes, and we chose to ride from the Visitor's Center to Hermit's Rest and back. The published distance is 21 miles, the way we went (we got a little lost) was probably 25 miles.
Canyon vistas began immediately upon entering Hermit Road. 
The biking trail to Hermit Road was nice, scenic, level. Hermit Road began its first 1/2 mile with a 6% grade to get one warmed up. Hermit Road is restricted to shuttle busses and the vehicles of the handicapped only, so traffic is kept to a minimum. 
Being on a bike, we did not have to be at a shuttle stop to pause and enjoy the views.
The line in the background is Bright Angel Trailhead which leads 12 miles into the canyon to the Colorado River for serious hikers. 

Even a hazy day can not mask the canyon's beauty.

Being on a bike gave us the flexibility to stop wherever we wanted.
Even the dead trees are picturesque at the Grand Canyon.
The tiny part of the hiking trail in the distance is also the mule ride trail to Phantom Ranch which not only has twelve miles of precipitous switchbacks but also crosses the river on a suspension bridge.

 It is nearly impossible to take a bad picture at the Grand Canyon.
 Two happy bikers.

 Christine at one of the shuttle bus stops.
 What would you expect from someone who has sky-dived out of a perfectly good plane? I am about as close to the edge as I want.
 The Colorado River below stays at about a 44 degree temp. the year round.
 Rain clouds would roll across the canyon throughout the day.
 The white water of the Colorado River (rated 1 to 10) is quite deceiving at this distance. It is part of the rapids that give the rafting thrill-seekers their money's worth. This one is rated 8.

Still smiling as we are only about half way on our journey to Hermit's Rest.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Colorado River Bikefest

Ballinger, Texas
April 30, 2011
Compared to last year's temperature in the 60's and WSW 22 mph wind with gusts to 30, this year was a breeze. According to my Garmin, we started at 71 degrees. The wind started at 16 mph from the SSW. Piece of cake.
 I was able to find a few riders from San Angelo before they lined up at the start line.

Chad Freeze, ready for the 100K race.
Brian Bucklund
Douglas Hackelton
Christine and Liz were still prepping for the ride when I heard a loud BANG. The race and recreation riders started out and we were left to catch up.
Finally we got started and received some good natured kidding from the start officials that "They went that-a-way". 
Eventually Christine, Liz, and I started passing recreation riders. 
Liz gaining steam to charge one of the Hwy 83 rollers.
We finally caught up with the more serious riders. More about her later.
Hwy 83 ranged from gentle swells to
flat farm land. Christine, being from rich Illinois farm land, sometimes just shakes her head when she sees some of the light brown Texas soil. Nevertheless, we know how to grow cotton.
At the first rest stop, and decision point to go the 60K (36 miles) or 100K (62 miles), Christine and Liz struck up a conversation with Juanita (shown here) and talked her into joining us. She agreed, so we had a larger group riding into the wind. Makes drafting easier.
The convenience store in the past had doubled as the rest stop pit stop. Gene Potter from San Angelo (yellow HHH jersey) sadly informed me that the convenience store was closed. Ooops. Everyone has seen the flat open spaces we were riding so the absence of resting place was disconcerting. Oh well. On with the ride.
The bar ditch grass (all the dry, pale colored stuff) is an example of why over two million acres of Texas has burned recently. The grass and trees are so dry that they are better than kindling.
Liz, Christine, and Juanita trying to draft in a cross wind.
I glanced to the left and I thought "Little House on the Prairie."
Rest stop #2 and last one. Juanita is from Rising Star and rides mostly by herself as the community is rather small. However, our paths have crossed on previous organized tours, we just have not, until this ride, ridden with her. We hope to see her on some of the upcoming tours of the season. Liz was going to rest a bit in the back of the truck (it was a rest stop after all) but I caught heck when she saw the flash of the camera go off. I told her I couldn't see her in the truck so it wouldn't show up in the picture as I was focusing on Juanita, Stewart, the other gentleman, and Christine. I was correct until I downloaded the pictures.
Lowake Steak House may not look like much from the picture, but it is one of the most famous steak houses in Texas. In its heyday, small planes would land on a near-by landing strip to drop in and have a steak dinner. Within the past few years, the management has changed, but the last time we were there, the outstanding steaks hadn't changed.
After leaving the rest area, FINALLY the wind was to our backs, and it was smooth sailing. Except--note the truck coming our direction in the distance. When he passed us the wind gust from the speed of his big rig almost knocked us over.
As I passed Little Concho Creek, it reminded me of an old joke: a little Texas girl was traveling with her family in another state. As they crossed a bridge, the little girl excitedly exclaimed, "Mommy, that creek had water in it!"
Signs of a rider getting tired. Liz has been quite busy the past few months and has not been able to ride much with us. The wind and base miles were about to take their toll. And, to top it off, if one has ridden for several hours at a stretch, one can relate to this--as we were starting on the last leg the wind was supposed to be to our backs, the wind direction CHANGED into our faces again! Not good for the morale.
However, the adrenline came back into us all as we approached civilization. If there is a Walmart, you are in civilization

Most of our rivers still have water. The Colorado ("red color" in Spanish) River runs through Ballinger.

Remember the race/recreation ride? Shown here are the three first place finishers for the 100K. Chad Freeze (right) took second place. Chad is a local randonneur (long distance cycler). During last year's riding season, he logged over 9,000 miles.  
And the ladies show off their prizes. Liz, Juanita, and Christine.
Winners all.
Some of the San Angelo riders, Chad, Liz, Christine, and Roy.
 Ballinger was having its ethnic culture days.
 So they had a nice German band playing waltzes and polkas.
Good German food. I had a German sausage sandwich with saurkraut.
 The horses were a big hit with the children.

There were some period reenactors at the festival. Look carefully. See anything out of context? You might need to enlarge the photo.
Or anything out of context in this picture?
This one looks authentic...except for the camping chairs.
I call this one Statue of a Cyclist.
And Statue of a Horse and Rider. This statue of Charles Noyes, 21, is on the court house lawn. Charles died in 1917 when his horse fell while they were rounding up cattle on the Noyes's ranch.
 Happy, full, and tired, we had to leave to prepare for our next adventure of the day.
A night of dancing. To keep in the theme of cycling and multisports, it is our version of a duathlon. Cycle for X number of miles and then make as many laps aroung the dance floor as possible before curfew.
The end of a perfect day.