Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fort Davis Day Three: The Tough Ride

Sunday, September 20, we woke up refreshed and off the hook. All we had to do today was spectate. [Editor’s note: Roy is making up words again.(Sigh.)] When we left Rick the previous evening, his bike was almost in a usable state minus front brakes.

There are two races held on Sunday called the Mount Locke hill climb. The 1.5 mile hill climb started at the Observatory Visitor Center and the 7 mile hill climb started at the solar panels.

Rick had chosen to ride the 7 mile hill climb. Unbeknownst to us at the time was that Hector Acton and James Forbes were going to race also.

We left the hotel early enough to be able to catch Rick before he had to line up. He still had some work to do but seemed in good spirits as always.

Wishing Rick luck, we rushed off to find a parking place before the races began. We parked at the visitors' center, as we had been previously advised that parking at the top was limited and no traffic was allowed during the race. What wasn’t really planned out was if the 1.5 mile race was to START from the visitors' center, guess how far we were to WALK up that steep hill. We didn't need a sign to tell us it was going to be interesting.

(Reverse shot after we got up there)

With grim determination, we started walking. As fortune would have it, Jean Junker and his wife Linda from Midland were driving up the hill and stopped to ask us if we wanted a ride. YES! THANKS! Turned out that Jean is active in the Permian Basin Bicycle Association and operates Syntergy Systems, the company that powers the club website. We were very grateful to them as that walk would have been a toughie.

Since we had been given a ride, we had time at the top to look around and take some pictures. Spectators waiting for the racers to start coming up.
Structure at the parking lot.

Some riders could be seen starting the hill.

Scenery from the top

Both hill climbs were to start a 9 a.m., and it is logical to assume that the 1.5 mile racers would have completed before the 7 milers made it up to the finish line. That logic will be contested as will be seen later.

A short time after 9:00 I saw a biker round the corner and head toward the finish line. It was such a short time that I thought it was a person who was just riding up to watch. However, it was Brian Schwartz who completed the 1.5 mile climb in 8:12. That comes out to an 11 MPH average up that hill. Amazing.

The 1.5 mile climb starts out steep and ends with a 17% grade. It is tough to walk much less to get a bike to roll up hill. This is how rough it is.

A lot of bikers had to traverse at this point to make it up.

According to MapMyRide, the 7 mile climb starts out at a 5% grade and continues to increase. After about 5.5 miles, there is a short respite of level-ish road around the Visitors' Center and then it connects with the 1.5 mile road which as mentioned has grades up to 17%.

San Angelo had three riders for the 7 mile race up the hill. James Forbes and Hector Acton must have worked as a team coming up the hill as they finished within 6 seconds of each other. James ForbesHector Acton
My calculations indicate that they averaged 10.9 MPH.

Rick said he played it cautious and didn’t ever get out of his saddle.

I calculated Rick as 9.5 MPH. Remember on the Saturday ride when I was bragging about going 5 MPH? And that was probably an 8% grade.

Rick now knows what to expect and is looking forward to trying it again next year (Velma does know; doesn’t she Rick?) And I bet he comes out of the saddle next year. I hope to be at the top cheering him on. I don’t want to quote him but in one conversation he said that looking back on the ride, if he had done a few things differently he could have cut a significant number of minutes off his time. I didn’t see anything wrong with his, James's, or Hector’s times at all. I am in awe of all of them.

Accomplishment is sweet.

San Angelo Trio in completion hats.

The racer that I relate to is Ed Todd. Ed is of my generation and is a columnist/reporter for the "Midland Reporter-Telegram." Ed raced the 1.5 mile climb, and his motto was: complete under my own power—-time is immaterial. Interestingly, Ed wrote about other riders in his column, but didn’t mention his own accomplishment.

We thought the races were over so Christine and I started downhill.Stopped on a bike resting by a rail, there was Ed. I asked what he was doing. He said he was part of the race and just resting. He looked down and said, "Next year I am going to have a three chain ring bike." He was riding a two chain ring bike!! Remember, he is of my generation and we don’t do that. I am looking for the fourth chain ring. After a brief chat, Ed mounted and headed toward the finish line about 40 yards away. Now his name may be the last place on the 1.5 mile race results, but he has first place in spunk and determination in my book.

A few yards after leaving Ed, Jean and Linda Junker were going back downhill and offered us another ride. Chris had already started complaining that it was harder on the knees to walk downhill than up, and once again we were very appreciative. We had a nice chat about some mutual acquaintances in the Midland/Odessa area, and of course, everyone knows Ed.

Before we were given a ride down, some bikers started the downhill thrill ride and really flew past. Rick said he passed us as we were talking to Ed and was amazed that we didn’t hear him screaming as he didn’t have a front brake. He had two options; hang on or drag his feet. He chose the hang on.

Heading back to Fort Davis weaving in and out of bikers going back to the 7 mile start, we spotted James and Hector on the way down. They looked as if they were having a lot of fun rolling down the hills. JamesHector
I am not sure about them, but Rick said he hit about 40 going down. With one brake? That is brave.

And speaking of brave--Ed made it!!

Some hindsight in the story. Later I was talking to Jean Junker about how I admired Ed and his determination. Jean said he thought Ed was competing for the Lantern Rouge Award. The short story is that each year Jean presents an award to the last place rider of the race from their club. The certificate reads in part: “The Lantern Rouge Award is presented to the rider with the most perseverance. The cyclist completed the Mt. Locke Mountain Climb in Ft. Davis, Texas at the annual Cyclefest event. The climb to Mt. Locke is one of the most difficult climbs in the Southwest with grades of up to 17%. Congratulations on your achievement!” I think Ed won this year.


  1. Roy & Christine,

    Thank you for posting these photos and commentary of the climb. The cyclefest was the best ride that I can remember. I'm thrilled to have a photo of me during and after the climb!
    Thank you,

  2. Roy and Christine,

    Thank you for such a wonderful account of the events and for the pictures, it is nice to re live the beautiful ride and the suffering (not so much).

    Hopefully we will have more people from San Angelo next year.


  3. Thanks. Hopefully the article will interest more people in attending next year. We are looking forward to next year's event and seeing you climb the hill again. Roy and Christine.