Saturday, March 28, 2009

Steam-N-Wheels 2009

Starting Line Up

Steam N Wheels
March 21, 2009
Abilene, Texas
By Roy and Christine Jones

Steam N Wheels is an annual Race-Tour sponsored by the City of Abilene Recreation Division and the Abilene Bicycling Club. It features a kid ride, 21 mile, 32 mile, and a 48 mile race or tour route. Awards were given for the first three places in each division of the men’s, women’s, and tandem bike categories. The announcer stated that almost 250 riders were registered. The course was rolling hill country with some flat roads. Excellent traffic control support was provided by police and volunteers, and the rest stations were stocked with drinks, bananas, cookies and friendly volunteers.

Seven riders (whom I saw) from San Angelo showed up; David and Donna Durbin, Marlon Miller, Christy Compeau, Lucy Jochum, Roy and Christine Jones. Lucy had been grounded by her doctor for a while so she rode the 21 mile route--smart lady as the wind was 20 mph in your face for the first 25 miles of the 48 mile route. My (Roy’s) “grounding” by my doctor had just been lifted so I was going to test the waters. If the going was rough, I could make a turn and go the 32 mile route. Well, the going was rough but stubbornness over-rides brilliance and I made the turn to go 48 instead of the 32. The other San Angelo riders did not know my decision until the next rest stop. Why? They were so far ahead of me that I think I was even out of telephone range. But, as their routine, everyone patiently waited at each rest stop until I got there. They were definitely on tour mode as I slowed them down completely. As a matter of fact, If Christy Compeau hadn’t waited with the others for me; she would have placed in the top three of her category.

For David, Donna, and Christy, it seemed that it was, “Wind, what wind”? And Marlon, he left us at the starting point never to be seen again. But as I found out later in the ride, the wind was taking a toll on Christine. Probably about 20 miles into the ride, Karen Woodcox from Brownwood and I started taking turns drafting off each other, and that is how I at least made it. About 35 miles, I saw a familiar figure on a bike ahead of Karen and me, and I told her it looked as if we had caught up to my wife. Sure enough, Christine was plugging up a hill as we over-took her so we all drafted on each other until the last rest stop.

At the last rest stop, we finally turned with the wind. EVERYONE--but one--got his second wind and flew to the last turn into the park. As we left the last rest stop, Karen and I saw Christine and David disappearing over the horizon. Karen said, “Let’s go catch them.” I said, “YOU go catch them and tell them I will be along later.” And I was alone again but at least the wind was to my back. David held up at the turn to make sure none of us over-shot the turn. As such, you can not tell from the official race results what he really did. That goes for the entire group which waited on me throughout the ride. But really everyone seemed to have come to the ride for the enjoyment, not a trophy so all in all, it was an unforgettable experience in a lot of ways. As the event is within easy driving distance from San Angelo, it is hoped that next year a good turn out from San Angelo will occur and some of our riders will get the winners’ prize mugs.

Previous Week Celebration

Why David was so fast at Steam-N-Wheels (secret energy food)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pedal Through The Pines

Pedal Through The Pines
Bastrop, Texas
March 9, 2009
Christine Jones

It was a nice day to fly a kite—a huge kite. Instead, approximately 1,500 of us lined up to go 16, 27, 50, or 65 miles. There were over 1400 of us lined up for the two longer rides. Roy said that it took 9 minutes for all of us to clear the driveway. Roy, being grounded by his doctor for most of March, stood on the sidelines and counted (he was really bored out of his mind) about 350 riders as they passed by for the 16 and 27 mile rides.

I was lined up "close" to the front. Line-up stretched around a driveway and back to the high school parking lots.

I chose the 50-mile route this year out of deference to the wind. Good thing, too, because I’d forgotten that I hadn’t properly trained for the hills last year either. The wind was out of the south at 20-25 mph with impressive gusts every once in a while. I was hoping that the 50-mile would mostly be a cross wind, whereas the 65 would have at least 10 miles or so straight into the wind and some additional miles almost into the wind. Well, this is Texas and it is straight into your face for three out of the four directions.

This year marked the 7th annual ride in support of the Family Crisis Center of Bastrop. The tour has plenty of volunteers; excellent support from the Police, Sheriff, and Fire Departments; and attentive ride marshals and SAG trucks. Because of the recent wild fires near Bastrop, some of the Fire Department and emergency crews were still occupied with the remaining fires and clean up. It was estimated that 85% of the fire was out and posed no danger for the riders. There was caution that some smoke might be blown across the ride, but as Roy said, it was blowing past so fast you couldn’t get a whiff of it. Only on one part of the return ride on Highway 71 could you see burned houses, businesses, or pastures.

This ride is superb, although it may not be the best one on which to start out a season, especially if your training rides consisted of Middle Concho Park, Loop Group route, or the gentle incline of 277. The website best sums up the first part of the ride, “Many riders find the route challenging because of the hills through the state parks. The route is through probably the most challenging part of the BP MS150, and the first 14 miles are very hilly. Riders have to climb two steep hills in the first 4 miles of the ride that many find challenging. For the next 10 miles there are several short, but steep hills that quite a few riders need to walk up. After the first rest stop in Buescher State Park, the ride is much easier, although on the two longer routes there is a hill about 2 miles after you leave Buescher. If you can't make it up a hill riding straight up, please pull to the right side of the road and walk up.” The thrill of the downhill makes the agony of the uphill so worth it.

I confess to walking up some of the hills. But I was in good company as I have pictorial proof (see below). The most embarrassing event I saw (embarrassing to them) on the state park’s wicked hills was when two athletic, young girls riding side by side in the middle of the road simultaneously stalled. One fell to the left, one fell to the right. Bicycle jam.

One of the times that I had to walk up, the words of Stephanie Plum came to mind, “It wasn’t my fault!” A rider in front of me stalled out, the bike stopped, and there she stood. Of course I had to stop to avoid running into her. Momentum was shot. Oh well, there were plenty of other hills to challenge me. I have learned “excusitorial” rationalization and justification from the master but I will not mention his name. I did not count the number of people who fell on the HC hills as I was too busy just trying to keep myself upright. I also had to walk up the hill that was mentioned “about two miles after you leave Buescher.”

Two Miles After Buescher Hill

On the 50-mile route there were three rest stops. Each one was well-supplied with PB&J sandwiches, energy-type bars, bananas, oranges, water, Gatorade, bottled water, and ice. It was impressive that at each rest stop was a bicycle repairman. Everyone rests after 14 ½ miles at the first gigantic stop in the state park because most of that mileage was hills. People were laid out everywhere trying to recuperate.

At around mile 25 one comes to cute, little Winchester. I think the whole town comes out to help. They even supplied us with sunscreen. Most impressive.

The final rest stop is Alum Creek at 40 miles. Great, only four or five more big rollers till the finish.

One of the things I like about tours is that everyone has something in common, so there are no strangers. (One avid, local cyclist says we’re all insane.) The conversations that you get into at rest stops while standing in line for the port-o-potties or just riding along with another person are memorable. And on a tour, there is no competition. If you come in first, nice; if you come in last, so what, you made it! And if a person has a flat or some mechanical problem, someone or lots of people will stop and assist. The goal is the finish line, not who beats whom.