Sunday, October 18, 2009
Mineral Wells, Texas
October 17, 2009
On the third weekend each October, Mineral Wells Kiwanis Club hosts the Kiwanis Crazy Kicker. Previously we had only driven through Mineral Wells en route to other locations, so we knew little if nothing about the city, the ride, or surrounding attractions. Those were good enough reasons to choose Crazy Kicker, but on checking the websites, Crazy Kicker had good reviews for it to be just their 6th annual ride. And all of the reviewers went on and on about a Cherry Pie Hill as if that alone would qualify the ride as a good one. So, we chose to go and see what all the fuss was about.
We left early enough Friday to arrive and play tourist before the Saturday ride. This huge, looming, old hotel had caught Chris’s eye as we drove through town several years ago so we had to get a closer look. Similar to the Cactus Hotel, it was a main attraction in its day, and folks who came up from more humid climes would “take the waters” from the mineral wells.
Possum Kingdom Lake was a mere 33 miles away so we had to visit while in the area. Some of the route to Possum Kingdom Lake was part of the bike ride route, so we could recon that also. Highway 337 to Graford was awesome. There were at least 4-5 hills that were impressive in a vehicle so we could only imagine what they were going to be like on a bike. After Graford on toward the Lake, the terrain leveled out a bit with just rolling hills, so we figured that it was going to be just a tough first leg, a few rolling hills, then on to the Cherry Pie Hill, and back into town. That is how you psych yourself into facing a “challenge” ride, because I had already studied the reviews and a GPS read out of the ride and knew that it wasn’t going to be a piece of cherry pie, or all of the reviewers were flatlanders and to them a speed bump was a big climb. Possum Kingdom Lake
If you squint your eyes, a crane was flying just over the water.
Mineral Wells is a small town; just fewer than 17,000, so early registration packet pick up was to be at Nancy’s Italian Restaurant where you could pick up the packet and “carb up" at the same time. But they offered a special on chicken fried steak. No fair.
Crazy Kicker offers rides of 100, 100K, 50, 37, 22, or 10 miles. We chose the 100K which generally means 62 miles; but they advertised it as 65; and, of course, at the end our odometers showed 67—so we chose the whatever-is-less-than-a-100-miles.
The forecast for Saturday was a downer for a fair weather wimp. The 8 a.m. temp was to be 53 and increasing two degrees each hour until a high of 70 degrees late afternoon. Now anything below 60 is roasting chestnuts in the fireplace for me so 53 called for a ski mask, snow gloves, parka, thermal long johns, and ski boots. I had none of those things. So our cold weather gear was two jerseys with a biking jacket, arm warmers, leg warmers, biking gloves with fleece mittens over those. Chris also had some running tights so we were ready to go out and make snow angels. I felt a little too wimpy until I got to the staging area and saw men and women dressed similarly. There were also he-men and he-women with no extra clothing at all! (Chris later said she saw her breath on the first hills so maybe it hadn’t hit the 50’s yet—not sure.)
Three hundred four registered riders lined up to start the ride. The group was small enough to have a mass start without too much of a jumbled mess.
The first four or so miles had dream asphalt roads and shoulders. Then we turned onto Highway 337 toward Graford as mentioned earlier. First small hill out of town.
Since we had driven this portion of the route, we knew that the hills were more dramatic than the above and eventually ended, so I wanted to get a picture of one of the better hills.
This is a reverse view taken Friday as we were going to Possum Kingdom Lake.
If I ever do another lessons learned article, remind me to add “Don’t stop to take a picture on a steep downhill with crazy kickers whizzing past you at 40 plus miles an hour and some just learning to control their bikes and others haven’t mastered the art yet”. The only way I survived was that a SAG truck pulled behind me, and most bikers didn’t want to slam into a parked truck. I am glad we don’t have to take an IQ test to participate in a bike tour. (Most of the other pictures of the tour were taken while riding as will be obvious—at least my downhill pictures).
Right after Graford rest stop at about 14 miles, we turned onto highway 4 and we crossed the Brazos River the first time.
After a short ride on Highway 180, we intersected with 919 which was a nice lane with rolling hills and some good scenery.
Then we turned again onto 3137. This part of the ride was torturous. The first clue: a sign placed by the Kiwanis that read “Hemorrhoid Lane Next 6 Miles”. When one knows that something is bad, one whines or makes light of it. Kiwanis tried to make light of it. A mile later there was a historical marker. I didn’t stop to read it since I already knew that it probably said “On this site, the local surgeons and proctologists signed an agreement to pay for half of the paving cost with the stipulation that the aggregate be larger than number 3 but smaller than a cobble stone.” And I can attest that the contract was fulfilled. Later there was another sign subtly commiserating with us that read “Feeling those good vibrations?” About the best thing you can say about this leg of the ride is that it crossed a portion of Lake Palo Pinto.
Finally, we turned back onto Highway 4 and, after a short way, we came to Lone Camp
with a much needed bottom rest area. A very short few miles after the rest stop, about mile 51, was the start of Cherry Pie Hill. Cherry Pie Hill is a winding road that starts at 600 foot elevation and tops out at 979. The first.21 miles ascends at 3.1 %.
I "allowed" Chris and some other riders get in front of me so that I could show depth and perspective.Without perspective, one could not tell this was a climb.
I think the red and brown colors during late fall looks like the top of a cherry pie, hence--
Side note--all Cherry Pie Hill pictures were on the 3 or 5% grade. At the 8.1%, all I concentrated on was pedaling.
For the next .34 mile it climbs at 8.1%. Chris and I had the flash back that we were back at Fort Davis’s Bear Mountain. (The difference is that Bear Mt. kept on going.)Then for the next .57 miles, the average grade is 5%. Just as you were past the hard part and picking up speed, there was an encouragement sign placed by the event organizers. (We could have used this at the 8.1% grade but the only sign I saw there was “Beware of the cactus”. I guess that meant that if you stall out and fall over; fall on the pavement and not onto the side of the road.)
After Cherry Pie Hill, the terrain leveled and was an easy ride to the last rest stop at the intersection of Highway 4 and 180.
I pulled up beside Chris and there was a big smile. (I wasn't ready for a smile so this is all I got).She was smiling and said, "I made it!". I said I know, I documented it all the way up. Her face lost the smile and she yelled "Did you take pictures of my behind!?" I said "No, I took pictures FROM behind and you were so far up that you looked like an ant going up the hill". (We have had similar "conversations" in the past.) But I was right as the climb pictures were allowed to stay (most of them).
The scenic ride continued on 180.
There were rolling hills but not as steep or as long as the ones leading from town on 337.
We crossed the Brazos River again but since it was highway 180, cars were hurtling past, so I didn't want to stop or take a picture while moving--I had used up my quota of dangerous stunts.
Happiness is finishing.
At the finish line, a volunteer passed out pins that said “I survived Cherry Pie Hill”. There was a small, local band playing and an event lunch of hamburgers or hot dogs. Got any chocolate?
Remember my whining about the chill and how I had to bundle up? Look at the guy in the center with the lime sleeveless jersey. That is how he was dressed at the start. I first saw him at rest stop one and he didn't seem a bit uncomfortable. I couldn't have done it. I didn't ask, he must have been from Minnesota. Maybe Wilbur knows him.
Volunteers throughout the ride asked for suggestions on how to improve the ride or stops. The stops had home made cookies so you can’t improve on perfection. Most of the comments I heard were “flatten the hills” or similar. Some compared the ride as comparable to or as hilly as Muenster, however, to our recollection, Muenster was 60 miles of Burma Road—many, many short steep hills that wore you down, and Crazy Kicker was long steep hills that wore you down. If you want hills, take your pick and you will not be disappointed in either ride.
at 4:02 PM