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.

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate your photos and well written ride report! I rode the 63, and although I am a very fit cyclist from Houston (formerly San Diego, a time in life when these hills would have seemed easy!) the wind and steep "shorties" gave me quite a workout!

    Congrats on your ride.