Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fort Davis Day Two: The Long Ride

Friday night was a restless sleep for me. At about 2:30 a.m., I awoke and had Rick Ogan’s bike on my mind and worrying whether the person from Midland would get to the Prude Ranch in time for the bike to be fixed so that Rick could ride--The Long Ride. The long ride is a 76 mile scenic loop over the Davis Mountains leaving from Prude Ranch on highway 18, through Fort Davis on highway17, turning on Farm Market 166 until it loops around and intersects with 18 again. For a good look at the route and elevation, go to
As mentioned, I had awakened at 2:30. As mentioned in the Day One article, Fort Davis is a quaint town. So? The Limpia Hotel is across the street from the Court House. The Court House has a large clock in the dome and it gongs the hour in a quaint way.
So I heard three gongs, then I heard four gongs; I missed five, so I must have dozed, and the alarm went off at 5:30. And the day’s activities began.

Start time was at 8 a.m. from the Prude Ranch, but we left a little early to pick up our T-shirts which were not available the previous afternoon, and we wanted to see if Rick’s bike was fixed. No. And Rick was “patiently” waiting in the registration area. It was too close to start time even if the person showed up while we were talking to Rick for him to be able to start with the main line up. Rick was still optimistic and said he would just start the ride late. I told him we would see him at Rest Stop Three and left to line up.

Rick accompanied us to the start line as he volunteered to take our picture.

I took a picture of the bikeless rider who at the time was still able to joke around.
Early in the morning the temperature was a chilly 53 so I donned arm warmers and Chris wore arm and leg warmers. The previous year the volunteers at Rest Stop One took excess clothing back to the Ranch if one would put his items in a marked bag. So this year I carried a mesh bag with a suitcase tag in which to place our warmers as our jersey pockets were stuffed to the brim with provisions to last all day.

By 8 the sun had started to rise so the temperature was probably all the way up to 58. .
The coldest part of the ride is between Prude Ranch and Fort Davis. Going down Limpia Canyon the sun isn’t high enough to provide any warming effect, so one is in the “shade” all the way. However, as advertised, it's a scenic ride. From Prude Ranch you start going through canyons and then past the Fort Davis State Park. Just as you enter town, off to the right is the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Five miles down and only 71 more to go.

Riding through Fort Davis was a small reminiscence of Wichita Falls with the local population out cheering the bikers as they passed. Some you could tell were left-behind spouses as they would be standing in the street with a camera. Locals were more sedate and would have a comfortable location in front of a favorite store.

Just out of town we turned right onto highway 166. The road is one of those false flats. It looks level but if you have studied the topography, for about 20 miles from Ft. Davis, the road gains about 1,000 feet elevation. The pastures are flat and hills are still in the distance.

At about 12 miles was Rest Stop 1. We took off our arm and leg warmers and put them in the mesh bag. Unbeknownst to us, the sponsors had provided plastic bags and magic markers for people who weren’t aware that they could deposit excess clothing or equipment. It was still a little chilly and Chris was reluctant to part with her warm clothing. Our pockets were still full and we have small saddle bags, unlike the “suitcase” that Rick has on his bike.

Continuing on down the road was like an easy Sunday ride. The road was still on the slight incline and the smaller hills were still off in the distance, although occasionally one could glimpse the upcoming excitement of the mountains.
Chris was not up to her usual adrenaline rush and would lag behind, which gave me ample time to stop and take pictures and get a “front” shot instead of my usual shot from behind.

And she was out of sorts. We both were still in a funk about yesterday's accident. In case you can’t read the lips, they were saying “Don’t take any more pictures of me!!”
At mile 19 Chris stated, “I am warning you that my legs are feeling funny.” What a time to bonk or cramp. Fifty seven more miles to go!! Can one hang in there for that long, especially with some good climbs ahead? I was afraid her first ever SAG was near. However, within a couple of miles, Rest Stop 2 came into view. We stopped, and while in a line, Chris actually apologized for biting my head off for taking her picture. (Thought about deleting the horrible picture of her—but nah).

David Ham was at Rest Stop 2 being the tourist host and telling people about the rest stop being at the Old Barrel Springs Stage Coach Stand. “The spring was up in the white rocks behind that sign. Also in these hills was the home of Captain Gillette—one of the area's old time Texas Rangers.” During a lull in his speech, I asked him if his person got there in time for Rick to fix his bike and make the ride. His face fell, and he said no, the guy picked up the parts from the store but never showed up. One of his parents was sick so David was afraid that the person had to stay in town to take care of the parent. He said that he had apologized to Rick, but that was the last person scheduled to join them over the weekend.

Man, to be so high (5,800 feet at the time), I felt low. Rick would miss the scenic loop ride; I had a grouchy wife still moaning instead of her usual pleasant self, and my legs were asking if we were there yet. The best thing was that I knew that the next 30 or so miles had some really great scenery. As I had told Chris after her apology, "It's not a race; let’s take it easy and just enjoy the ride".

David went back to his being host and was telling some people that the next rest stop would be at Bear Mountain--but there was a 9 mile downhill from there.

Leaving rest stop two there was another downhillish ride for about 10 miles. Even though it looks downhillish on a map, it is like Rick and Chris’s Friday ride. On the map it was downhill but in real life, there are a lot of ups.

As a matter of fact, one of the ups was the hill that the first time we rode the Cyclefest I had a very hard time getting up. Chris had beaten me up the hill and had stopped to take pictures. I had my head down just churning away trying to get up the hill. Too late, I heard her yell “Roy, stop!” I plowed into her and fell over (that ever happen to you Brenda?). Anyway, I still have the scars from that “downhill” ride.

Getting closer to the start of Bear Mountain. Mt. Livermore is in this range. One of its craigs is 8,206 feet, just 83 feet lower than El Capitan.

After the first hard climb, there is a picnic area that I have dubbed Rest Stop 2 ½. We and a bunch of people stopped there to rest, catch our breath, and tell war stories. A local was at the stop and pointed out that the hill to our left was really Bear Mountain,
but the Bear Mountain rest stop was about 1 ½ miles UP. When I say up, I mean up as from the unofficial rest stop to the top has about a 1,000 foot elevation gain in the mile and a half.

At “Rest Stop 2 ½" there were two pickups, and the drivers were offering to SAG people to the rest stop at the top of the mountain. A lot of people took them up on the offer.
Chris rolled into the stop and I told her of the SAG offer if she wanted to ride up. To her credit, she gave me a loud, indignant “NO!” One of the SAG drivers gave her a thumb up and said “Atta girl”.

Scenery between "rest stop 2 1/2" and stop 3 at the top of Bear Mountain.

I rarely have anything to brag about, so please indulge me. The first year climbing Bear Mountain, when we would get down to below 4 miles per hour, we would stop, rest, and then go again. The second year, I made it up all the way at about 4 MPH. This year, I made it up at 5 MPH. OK, some of the steeper areas I dipped below 4, but the average is what counts, right?

Remember David's saying that there was a nine mile downhill after Bear Mountain? Well, I clocked six miles and then found myself pedaling uphill like mad. Now if the next three miles were downhill, I didn’t notice, because David said NINE--what happened?

Sometime after Bear Mountain, 166 intersects with 118, the road curves and starts up Fisher Hill. Series of shots getting closer to another climb part of the ride.

Look at it this way. You can enjoy the scenery much more if you just take a stroll along the lane.Rest Stop 3: Bear Mountain scenery
Start of downhill from Bear Mountain. Doesn't look like much, but it's better than going uphill.

One would be much better off “resting” on that six/nine mile respite after Bear Mountain, because suddenly you are going up Fisher Hill. HILL? If that is a hill, I will eat my helmet. It is one of those inclines that if you look up, you don’t see the extended hill, you see sky. You have to bend your head down to see the “hill”. I have renamed Fisher Hill to Walker Hill. A few people walked up Bear Mountain but a LOT of people walked up Fisher Hill. Another stroll along the lane.

The difficulty of "Walker" Hill reminded seemed that about half the riders turned around at Rest Stop 2, as that out-and-back made up the 55 mile route. In increasing frequency thereafter, you would see more and more people in the SAG vehicles. And at Rest Stop 3 (Bear Mountain) and Rest Stop 4 (Fisher Hill), people dropped like flies. Now the problem with that is that if you are “off the back” anyway, and the other "off the back" people with you are sagging in, it makes you even more off the back. Instead of in the middle of the pack, by Fisher Hill, we were almost the last ones on the ride. No big deal really. Remember the happy go lucky attitude at Rest Stop 2, let’s take it easy and enjoy the ride. And, we were about to meet the goal of our every ride; complete the ride under your own power.

Fisher (Walker) Hill; Rest Stop 4.

Start of downhill from Fisher Hill.

Between Fisher Hill and Rest Stop 5 is what they call the “high meadows”. It is a stretch of rollers for about 10 miles. There are enough ups and downs to keep it interesting and the scenery is still great.

You know when you are getting close to Rest Stop 5.

Rest Stop 5 is almost anti-climatic. There was a climb to get to the stop but not the drama of the last two stops. From Rest Stop 5 to Prude Ranch is Chris’s dream ride--10 miles of extreme descent. The road has a lot of hair pin turns that are needed if you were going the other direction--up. But down lets you practice your fast speed turns. Once we left the rest stop, I did not see Chris again until we hit the “WALL”. On the way down is a hill that is called Heartbreak Hill. It is called "the wall" because as you are going downhill, you round a curve and look up and to see what looks like a wall straight in front of you. Just when you thought there were no more climbs. It can catch you off guard and you could stall out if your shift-gears reaction time was not fast enough.

Only pictures after RS 5. I was too busy just hanging on to the bike. I was glad that I was clipped on to the pedals so that I wouldn't be blown off the bike.Close to the end:

Civilization :

At the end of the ride, there were no bands playing, water sprays, crowds milling around, pictures being taken—if you want all that, go to HHH. What the Cyclefest offers is great scenery and a real challenge of a ride. Fort Davis Cyclefest should be on everyone’s bucket list if he enjoys cyling.

Fort Davis Day Two: The Long Ride was over.

A post script. We went to the State Park to see if Rick’s tent was still there or had he left already. When we got there, he was busy installing new handlebars!!! He had gone over to Midland (three hours each way) and got the bare minimum of things in order to repair his bike enough to ride. He had his heart set on riding the Mount Locke Hill Climb on Sunday and was determined not to let anything deter that ride.

So please visit again, because Rick’s determination made possible Fort Davis Day Three: The Tough Ride.

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