Saturday, March 24, 2012

Steam N Wheels

Steam-N-Wheels is the one race per year that Christine and I participate in. Located in Abilene some 90 miles up the road from San Angelo, it is a popular event for the San Angelo cyclists.
One person stated he counted 25 from San Angelo, I found a few.
 Bill and Debbie Yohman along with Velma Ogan.
 Brian Backlund
 Rick and Velma Ogan
 Janis and Gene Potter, Christine in background.
 Lucy Jochum once again showed up at the event and was caught primping for the ride.
 Line up time. It seemed like a smaller crowd this year. Weather was great, so attendance may have been influenced by transportation cost.
 Rick and Velma on their tandum. Incidently, they came in first place, tamdum category. Christine lined up, more about her later, and Brian Backlund. Brian did not place in his category as he hung back and rode with us.
 Head of the line up with all the fast hopefuls.
 Mike Blakeman held back and rode with us, too. He was a big help as we took turns in the lead.
 Kathy Walker all smiling and happy as well she should be. She came in second in her category.
Marlon Miller (facing camera) wearing his New York Yankees jersey. Marlon came in 49th overall if I remember correctly.
Tamra Roberts, hard to see as she is just in front of the man with the red K, came in first in her category. Devin (not shown) came in first in his category, and Bill Cullins (not shown) was second in his category. As there was not an official awards ceremony, the count of how many San Angeloans placed in the race is still slowly being reported.
 And we were off.
 The first part of the ride was every man for himself--it was a race afterall. Christine always has excess adrenaline on these rides and was way ahead of me. Usually in 20-30 miles she uses up her energy and I catch up and we ride together, or by reverse, I leave her behind. But in the meantime, I tucked in behind a large guy and drafted for a while. A little later, Eddie Trevino from San Angelo and I took turns at lead. We were doing quite well and making good time. Then I experienced another attack of cognitive dissonance. Down the road I spotted a familiar figure in the process of changing a tire--Christine! Now, Steam-N-Wheels is a race--every man for himself--right? She had dropped me and didn't look back. So I should just wave at her and keep going--right? Stop or keep going? Stop or keep going? It was a race--right?

You guessed it. A race is just one event. Leaving her to change her own flat could have a long term impact. So I stopped. 
 While changing Christine's flat, Mike Blakeman also stopped. We decided to form a team and take turns at the lead. Worked quite well.
 At rest stop # 2, Brian Backlund was waiting for us and started riding with us as well as taking his own turns at the front.
The course had plenty of rollers but straight stretches also make up a good deal of the route. 
 The field of wildflowers was expansive.
 More of the straight stretch. But trust me, there were plenty of rollers. The steepest was a 6% grade, so there was just the long haul versus teeth grinders.
 A patch of blue bonnets came upon me so fast that I almost did not react in time. I was not concentrating on scenery as this was supposed to be a race.
Close to the end of the ride the route was mostly level and the wind was finally to our backs.

As repeatedly mentioned, Steam-N-Wheels is a race--and a tour. I have mentioned what a few of the San Angeloans did in the race but have not revealed Christine's or my results. If they were going to be announced in the newspaper, the headlines would read:



Christine was first in her category. I was not in the top three.

Oh well. There is always next year. And I have a whole year to help Christine practice changing her own flats.

As for me, a race is a good way to identify one's weaknesses to work on, so I have a year to work on my

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Willow City Loop, First Leg

Willow City is a tiny community just outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. The Willow City Loop has been a part of the Wildflower Pedal Power organized ride, however, this year the event was cancelled. So a day trip was planned to ride the loop. It was chancy as it is still early in the spring, and in good years, April and May are the best times to view wildflowers. This time last year everything was brown from the drought. However, some glorious winter rains produced a good showing of some of the earliest wildflowers on our route.
It was overcast and chilly when Christine and I met with Wilbur Thomas at the "major" intersection in Willow City (make that read ONLY intersection in Willow City). As I took the picture, I noticed a small stand of yellow flowers behind them.
The focus of the day was on the wildflowers. The bicycles were just a means of getting to them. It doesn't mean we didn't have a good time riding, it was just that if anything caught our eye, we would stop, admire, and take pictures.
 And then I found these just across the street. Blue bonnets are the State flower of Texas.
We hadn't even started on the ride yet.
Willow City Loop is a small rural road some 13 miles from Highway 16 to Willow City. So to make the ride a "loop" we rode down FM 1223 to intersect with Highway 16.
Many of the fields had small purple flowers that looked as if a lavender fog hovered the field.
A variety of wildflowers lined the road.
After all, it was St. Patrick's day. What better symbol than a green attired man on a cycle (motor). Just to the left of this caricature was a saloon catering to the motorcycle crowd.
See something that interests you? Stop and take a picture. We were in no hurry and did not want to rush the ride and not enjoy all the beauty.
Highway 16 has its up and downs before the nice long decline.

Knob Hill?
Got to keep climbing in order to get to the downside.
Start of the nice decline. We will now go downhill for about 3 miles.
Nice rock sculpture.
Another batch of blue bonnets off to the side. Getting a little blurry as I continue to pick up speed. 
About the last shot I was brave enough to take on the downhill. Shortly after the curve was the steep decline. Christine hit over 41 miles per hour. I think I have mentioned I start braking in the mid-thirties.

Next, we start on the Willow City Loop road. 

Willow City Loop to THE HILL

At the bottom of the nice downhill is the turn off to get onto the Willow City Loop.
We didn't get very far before I had to stop and take some pictures.

We think this is a buttercup.
Crash? No, we found another nice spot. Have I mentioned we weren't in a hurry? This was a real stop and "smell the flowers" ride.
Wilbur, who is from Minnesota, quickly found out how some Texas cactus seeds are spread. He just barely got close to the cactus and some of the prickly, red seed pods attached themselves to his clothing.

Can you guess the direction of the prevailing wind?
Nature's recipe for nice flowers. Adequate rain, good soil, and natural fertilizer.

Time to move on, but I notice Wilbur and Christine looking at the stand of flowers coming up.

The sweet smell of blue bonnets. Better than Miller Time.
Even the white prickly poppies were beautiful.

Nice rollers on a very scenic road.
 The rock piles were just lined up in the pasture. Anyone in the market for red sandstone?
During rains this should be a pretty waterfall. The potholes still have water from the last rain.

Some more good rollers.
Even the yuccas were in bloom.
I thought this cow was standing in the blue bonnet patch to pose for passing tourists. However, as I rode on from taking her picture, I noticed she was guarding a small calf in the underbrush. I was glad I stayed my distance.
Wilbur passing another blue bonnet patch. It was a dream ride.
THE HILL loomed on the horizon.