Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pineywoods Purgatory

Lufkin Texas
October 3, 2009

“Top Tier,” as Pineywoods Purgatory has been called, and it earned the accolade. The ride is set in the deep Pineywoods area of East Texas and is one of the more scenic rides. It’s a stark contrast from the ride in the basin and range scenery of the Davis Mountains--not to mention Mesquite Lane along Walling Pecan.

The ride had a choice of 25, 52, 72 or 102 miles. The 25 would have given the rider only a taste of the hills and beautiful scenery. The brochure best described the other rides. The “52 shows off lush forest and rural communities that dot the area. 72-most popular ride! Provides a scenic view of three counties including an iron bridge crossing! Recommended for the experienced cyclist. 102--wonderfully hilly ride that winds through many small hamlets with names like Sweet Union and Atoy--plus a finish you’ll never forget. Should be attempted by experienced cyclist only.”

We can attest to the description of the 72 mile route. The hills were long inclines versus the short steep hills of Burma Rd. For those who have participated in the Tour de Gap, the long hill on Highway 277 best fits the hills of the Pineywoods Purgatory. A side note: for a long time I thought there was a hill called Purgatory and we wondered what part of the route it was. As we were lined up for the start, I asked a local person the location of Purgatory Hill and he said, “All of them”. It was only then that the website words,“You'll understand the name 'Purgatory' as you're caught between the heaven of the East Texas countryside and the 'hell' of having one more hill to climb!” started to make sense. And it psychologically helped on the ride as you were mentally prepared to take in stride that fact as you were enjoying a downhill ride only to look up to see another long steep hill looming ahead. You were ready to accept it as it was just part of the ride--one hill after another.

Friday night had a low of 56, and at the start it was still a chilly 62 degrees so Christine wore her arm and leg warmers.
She didn’t take them off until Rest Stop 3 and then stuffed them into one of my jersey pockets. A volunteer watched and said, “I saw that, she added some rocks”. She didn’t need to do that, some of the hills were enough to slow me down, but I am getting ahead of my story.

One event director told me there were 674 registered riders—the Lufkin newspaper said 750—so between 650 and 750 riders lined up for this year’s ride.

At 8:00 o’clock, the mayor signaled the mass start by firing a pistol (said his shotgun was broken). From the start line to about 4 miles out of town it was generally downhill. Hey, this is not going to be a tough ride, and then….

The long steep hills began.
As we turned off the major road, there were enough flat stretches to catch your breath, so the whole ride wasn’t a purgatory. And the tall pines lining the road and as far as the eye could see of the countryside was awesome to a mesquite country resident.

After about 10 miles of the “flat” stretch, we turned onto the lane leading to the iron bridge. The “road” was great for sightseeing, terrible for bike riding. It was an old logging road with patches, potholes, uneven paving, and mostly one lane.
But it was a canyon carved out of the pine tree forest.
It was like a narrow trail carved out of a thick forest and was completely shaded as the sun was blocked from the road. As you came upon the bridge, a volunteer was there telling everyone to ride in the middle of the bridge. It was an iron structure but the floor was old wood.

If you tried to ride where the vehicle tires would go, you would lodge one of your tires in the cracks between the planks or lose control because of the narrow strips. The middle had planks running perpendicular to your tires so all you had to worry about was staying straight in the narrow path between the boards for the tires. A little way up the road was the same kind of old bridge, but since we were all experienced bridge crossers, no volunteer was at that one.

It just had a painted yellow arrow suggesting that we all stay in the middle rather that using the planks for vehicles. Chris said the second one had a big hole in the tracks, I don’t know as I was just trying to stay within the boundaries and not crash.
Really pretty scenery.

If I ever write another "lessons learned," remind me to add “Mind your own business!” I came upon a guy who was spinning like crazy and bouncing up and down on his saddle. As I pulled up next to him I said,” I think you are in too low of a gear.” He said, “You think so?” I said, “Yes, you are bouncing.” He said, “But I was enjoying it.” Ooops. I pedaled fast and hard to get away from my gaffe. Remind me just mind my own business.

At the end of the scenic lane, we turned onto Highway 69. Now we had hills and traffic to worry about.

Hwy 69 was no slouch when it came to long steep hills, but we are proud to announce that Christine did not push her bike up any hill this year!! Some can not say that.

After what seemed like about 15 miles, we finally turned off of Hwy 69 onto some other back roads meandering toward town. Still some fun times.

One more hill to climb.

Pineywoods Purgatory has the reputation of being the best fed ride in Texas, and they were almost right. One could not complain about the variety of goodies at each rest stop or the choice of drinks or the number of porta-potties.

They even had popsicles similar to the De Leon ride at one of the rest stops.

Victim of Purgatory Hills?

Speaking of food, Pineywoods Purgatory has a Friday night carbo load (spaghetti) meal at the Civic Center for only $5.00 and then has a free after-ride fajita lunch with all the trimmings, condiments, and side dishes for all the riders. They boast that they continue serving until the last rider is in.

Pineywoods Purgatory is one of those rides that you put on your wish list to do before you hang up your cleats. The drawback is that it is some 378 miles from San Angelo, so you have to take a day of vacation to get there and back. But the scenery you will see will make it worth it and provide you with treasured memories.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog post! We hope you will come back again this year, and join us for Lufkin's Bistro the evening of October 6th.