Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cross Plains VFD Tour

Saturday June 13, 2009
Roy and Christine Jones

Cross Plains held its Second Annual Bicycle Tour Saturday, June 13, in conjunction with its Barbarian Festival held the second weekend each June. A little background, Robert E. Howard from Cross Plains wrote Conan the Barbarian in 1932. In 1982, it was made into a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was still trying to learn English (if you saw the movie that comment made sense). The film was a big hit in Europe and soon, European tourist started visiting Cross Plains asking where Howard’s home was. Cross Plains soon started a “Barbarian” museum, restored his home, and began the Barbarian Festival—still attended by European visitors.

The Cross Plains Volunteer Fire Department, in a quandary about would a sufficient number of bikers sign up, decided two weeks out to go with the ride. At the last minute, a burst of registration forms were received and the ride was on.
The ride choices were 12, 21, 50, 60, and 75. We chose the 50 mile ride as we wanted to get back to San Angelo in plenty of time to attend the SABA picnic.

The ride started at 8 A.M. Last year the ride didn’t start until 9 A.M. as that was the time for the Festival parade and we bikers were the lead out of the parade right behind the EMS vehicle. So behind the lights flashing and siren wailing we bikers rode through town with people clapping, kids waving, ----real celebrities. However, with such a late start in summer it got hot fast, so our after-action suggestion was to start earlier even if the riders missed out on the parade. I think this year I will suggest that we have a “parade practice run” next year with the EMS vehicle leading us off downtown with its lights flashing and siren wailing and the riders waving at the crowds. Everybody needs his 3 minutes of fame. Yes, that is about how long it takes to cross town even at a snail’s pace behind the lead vehicle.

The first part of the ride was mostly a slight decline with the wind at our backs-so you can already guess that we felt like one of the big boys as in some places the wind would push us from 20-26 miles per hour. However, as advertised, there were gently rolling hills and some flat stretches.

This part was when the wind was still to our backs. Then we turned as we got to the I-10 access road and went on an up-down ride from Admiral, TX to Putnam, TX. There were only two tough hills on the whole ride and the access road had one of them. Even with the rollers and steep hill, at the mile 30 rest stop we still had a respectable 16+ mph average going. Then we turned SW and for 20 miles guess which way the wind was blowing. Suddenly the gentle rolling hills seemed higher and steeper.

A little bit of a brag about the better half. I have mentioned at least two tough hills. Last year Christine had to walk her bike up both. This year, neither. I can vouch for it as I watched her from a respectable distance behind on both hills. Of course, I only stay behind in case she has a flat, mechanical problems, or in some other way needing rescue by the masculine half of the team. I vary the lag distance from 10 yards to a mile just to give her confidence in her biking ability. And if you believe that, let me tell you about the time Lance and I were neck to neck climbing up Pike’s Peak.

The roads were the smoothest that we have ridden except for HWY 277. It may not stay that way forever as they had cautioned us that there was some new pavement on the 75 mile route (meaning chip seal) and there were rows of gravel on the Cottonwood strip as if they were thinking of messing up that section. But, one can not say enough about the support, rest areas, and volunteers--and personal attention. The VFD organizers had heard that cyclists don't like to lay their bikes on the gravel, so they provided pieces of carpet at the rest stops for our bikes. All in all, Cross Plains is a great ride, gentle rolling hills, flat stretches, and only two tough hills—great support and friendly people. Only problem, there were only about five of us from San Angelo. It is a short two hour drive (if you are the passenger and sleep on the way) from San Angelo so hopefully more from our town will support a worthwhile organization of volunteers.

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