Saturday, March 27, 2010

Susan Peak

Saturday March 27, 2010
Walling Pecan to end of Susan Peak and Back

Six dedicated San Angelo Bicycling Assn. members participated in what turned out to be an overall training ride. Actually, there were eight. Christine Buckstead turned around after about 25 minutes as she had some auditions to judge at ASU. The eighth and probably most appreciated was David Durbin. He came out to SAG and brought bananas, oranges, and Gatorade for the weary. The six who will be applauded include Anda Greeney, Ty Johnson, Christine & Roy Jones, Velma & Rick Ogan.

Early line up. Roy Jones, Christine Jones, Velma Ogan, and Anda Greeney.

Of the many reasons for the kudos, the forecast was a 25 MPH wind and as we later found out, with gusts of 31. That was what the Weather Channel said. Many times I think the gusts were more than 31.

The first leg of the ride was great. The 25 MPH pushed us along at a nice clip. The next leg, into the hills, slowed some of us down even with the help of the wind. Therefore, the trip out to the end of Susan Peak was a training ride of hill climbing.

As I was doing my best to keep Velma in sight--unsuccessfully most of the time--I was not taking pictures of the ride. Anda was not in sight after the first hill. David was dutifully waiting at the top of ever major hill offering us liquids or treats. Near the end of Susan Peak, I thought to pass the camera off to David, and he was kind enough to take some action shots. 

At the turn around point, Ty who had started a little late, caught up to us and joined the group. 
Turn around point rest stop--courtesy of David. Enjoying his hospitality: Roy, Ty, Anda, Christine J., and Velma.

Then the fun began. Remember the saying "for every downhill there is an uphill?" The return route was almost as bad as going out. And remember the wind? For the next 18.89643724 miles, the 25 gusting to 31 wind was either in our face or a forward, angled cross wind. So began the rest of the training ride. Wind resistance and hill climbing. At the beginning of the return trip, I accepted Velma's assistance and drafted.
Thank you Velma, but the hosting was too short. As we were going down a little decline, my front wheel shimmied dangerously. I almost lost control. It stopped for about 5 seconds and then shimmied again. I just knew I had a flat. I stopped and checked my tires. They were fine. David stopped for me but I didn't have to SAG yet. Christine stopped to see what was going on. The only thing we could figure out is that a cross wind gust hit me and put my bike into an unstable condition. I was happy not to have had a flat, but by this time Velma was a small dot on the horizon, and that is the way she stayed until we got out of the hills. Then she just took off.

Speaking of taking off, Anda and Ty were leading us by decameters.
Anda and Ty taking turns at pulling.

Anda and Ty taking one of the turns that went from cross wind to in your face.

Velma. Same curve. I would have been happy to pull 100 yards or so IF SHE WOULD HAVE WAITED FOR ME!!
Chris. You can see on her face the Computrainer mantra; relax, keep those rpms up, light pedals, focus. 
Roy. And on my face, a complete blank.

Would you believe we still had to pedal down parts of this?
And speaking of pedaling, on a slight decline of 1 or 2%, I stopped pedaling. The wind slowly but surely stopped me cold. That was part of the reason we had to pedal down even steeper declines. 

Remember, I had mentioned that Rick Ogan was on this ride also. He had completed his previous engagement, changed, rode from his house, and met up with the group. He kept going until he reached Christine and me just past Rocking Chair Ranch . He had come to pull us to the finish line.

But first we had to stop and watch the turtles sunning themselves at Lipan Creek.

And we had to watch the cows watching us.

Time to head out again.

Christine's 15 seconds of glory and fame leading Rick and me. Then we got behind Rick like little ducklings behind their mother and arrived with everyone patiently waiting for us. Thank you Rick. It would have seemed much longer had you not pulled us in.

Happiness is the completion of a hard training ride.

Celebrating victory over the elements.

Thank you David Durbin for riding SAG for us.
Last but not least. Christine showing off her new equipment. After almost 10,000 miles of cross-chaining, her chain, chain rings, and cogs said enough is enough.

Monday, March 22, 2010


A few cyclists from San Angelo and we were scheduled to go to Abilene Saturday March 20, to participate in the Steam-N-Wheels bicycle race/tour. The ever changable Texas weather modified the event director's and our plans somewhat. A cold front moved in early Saturday morning. The high that day was to be 36 degrees with winds out of the north at 23-36. The Weather Channel reported light snow. The event was cancelled. Hopefully the event will be re-scheduled on a weekend when we do not have another ride lined up.

I know we will not receive sympathy or pity from Steve or Mama Nikki from Vancouver, or Trudi from Calgary, nor Jill from Juneau. But in Texas 36 degrees F. with 23 mph winds is COLD. We do not have Parka cycling jackets, thermal tights, or battery warmed booties.

Soon all this will pass, and I will be complaining about 100+ degree weather, but our Texas events are not cancelled due to heat.

Hope to report on Steam-N-Wheels soon.

Post script: The event has been cancelled this year. The next Steam-N-Wheels is scheduled for Saturday, March 19, 2011.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seven Sisters

Nine riders showed up for a Saturday ride. Brian Backlund, Christine Buckstead, Ty Johnson,  Christine Jones, Roy Jones, Marlon Miller, Rick Ogan,Velma Ogan, and Marshall Yale took off from Mary E. Lee Park (The Beach) to travel the route we call the seven sisters. The 10 mile stretch of FM 2335 from Knickerbocker to the intersection of Highway 277 gets its name from seven major hills in between the two locations. It had been a month since we had ridden this one of our many favorite routes around here.

Marshall, Rick, Velma, and Christine J. "The Beach" in the background.

The weather seemed to apologize for the tempest winds earlier in the week. The temperature was mid-to-upper 70's and the wind was not to get over 10 miles per hour. There were no problems, no flats, no mechanical problems, nor mishaps that would result in a beginners' page. It was a nice, pleasant, social ride.

Brian setting the tone of the ride. Relax, have a good time.

Getting to Knickerbocker is a lot of fun. Mostly the terrain is flat until you start up the hill to the Windy Ridge Ranch. There is a fair amount of climbing and generally we stop to catch our breath and re-group before riding on to the Knickerbocker community.

Velma zooming up the hill.

Christine and Ty almost to the top. Other riders in the background.

Marlon applying the power.

Roy trying to look cool and unperturbed (don't look at the shoulders Randy).
Christine J. cresting the hill. You really have to zoom in tightly to see her smile.
Many thanks to Rick who raced up the hill to get action shots. 

Some may have noticed that there was not a picture of Marshall on the hill. Marshall had ridden with us on one of our Monday rides and he did really well. Early on in the ride I was a little worried about him as I was not sure how he would do on a projected 38 mile ride. But on the flat parts I could see him in my rear view mirror hanging in. When Rick started to take off to get up the hill to take shots, Marshall took off with him. That was just hint as to what he could do. Silly me for worrying about him, someone worry about me. 

Although there was a picture of Velma going up the hill, I had to wait until the pictures were downloaded before I could witness the event. Back at the beach I had told Velma to lead off. She did. I didn't see her again until the Knickerbocker rest stop/re-group area.
Knickerbocker stop. This is what I like about our rides. Stopping? No, the social aspects and conversations as we re-group.

Ty decided to take a picture so I could be in it--center stage. (Ty, the pic you took of your finger over the lens opening is in the out-take section).
The first Sister. In the pictures they never look like much; they are just the kind that are long enough to wear you down.
I wanted a perspective shot so I tried to hurry and take a picture of Rick and Marlon going over the crest. If you want to see them, you will have to click on the picture and use the zoom to see the two little specks in the middle of the right side of the road.

Group patiently waiting for all of us to catch up. Based upon Marshall's performance on the first leg, at Knickerbocker we gave him instructions as to where we would next stop and re-group. And he took off.
Velma, Rick, and Marshall. I asked Marshall if he had been waiting long enough for his muscles to get cold. He politely said, "No," but I didn't believe him.
Brian--I made it this far but I'm not budging. I am saving my legs for tomorrow's time trial.
We gave Marshall the directions for our next leg of the journey and let him fly. The rest of us were out for a Sunday stroll on a Saturday afternoon.
The wind picked up a bit and was in our face so even a loose paceline helped.
Marlon deciding to pass me while I was armed with a camera.
Ride was over, end of a perfect ride, time to pack away our toys.
And then, up rode two riders. Dan's first words, "Are we late again?"

LeAnn and Dan Waldron--finished a ride with their daughters and heading out for another ride.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pedal Thru the Pines

March 6, 2010
Bastrop, Texas

Our bike tour season has started, and to jump start the season, Pedal Thru the Pines at Bastrop, Texas is an excellent place to begin. Pedal Thru the Pines has all of our expectations of a good ride: scenery, plenty of hills, excellent support, and several choices of ride distances.

This year marked the 8th annual ride in support of the Family Crisis Center of Bastrop. As implied, the tour has plenty of volunteers; excellent support from the Police, Sheriff, and Fire Departments; and attentive ride marshals and SAG trucks.

Scenery: As the brochure states: “Cyclists will enjoy traversing the beautiful Loblolly Pines of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks and the surrounding country roads of Bastrop, Fayette, and Lee counties.”

Hills: The website best summed up the ride with: “Many riders find the route challenging because of the hills through the state parks. The route is through probably the most challenging part of the BP MS150 and the first 14 miles are very hilly. Riders have to climb two steep hills in the first 4 miles of the ride that many find challenging. For the next 10 miles there are several short, but steep hills that quite a few riders need to walk up. After the first rest stop in Buescher State Park, the ride is much easier, although on the two longer routes there is a hill about 2 miles after you leave Buescher. If you can't make it up a hill riding straight up, please pull to the right side of the road and walk up.”

Environment: Nature wanted to make sure we did not get heat exhaustion on our first organized ride of the year so, as Ty says, “It wasn’t cold, there was just an absent of heat.” And, to further assure we did not get heat exhaustion, nature provided a huge fan to provide ventilation.

At first I thought riders were lining up at the start line then noticed it was another type of line. See left side.

Pedal Thru the Pines organizers hold registration at 1,500 riders. It was close if not at capacity this year. Near 9 a.m., approximately 1,500 of us started the line up ritual.

The line up makes a "U" at the school house back to the road and extends left back a block or so.

Most organized tours have riders line up by distance. This year Pedal Thru the Pines asked riders to line up by expected riding speeds. I don’t think too many people noticed the change and lined up as they would have normally, i.e., by distance. Chris dragged me toward the first part of the crowd as she wanted to get in front of those who hit the steep hills, stall out, and fall in the road blocking other riders or stop right in front of you. So when I noticed the recommended speed of the section we lined up in, I didn’t point it out to her as it may have changed her ride strategy...which was: not to walk up the hills and to finish.

The organizers wanted an orderly start, and they did not want to block traffic too much, so they called for a staggered start. We were in the second wave of starters, and the first part of the ride going toward Bastrop State Park was downhill so Chris was still not aware that we were with the “fast” crowd.

We entered the State Park, and it was at first flat,

then we hit another downhill section. Remember, for every downhill there is an uphill. On the first steep hill, regardless of the organizer’s efforts to segregate the riders by speed (and presumed climbing ability), riders were falling over, pushing their bikes up the hill, and creating road hazards, as they would stop where ever they stalled. This went on through out Bastrop State Park.

Some of the Bastrop State Park scenery.
Entering Buescher State Park,

there was a nice turn, and then a turn into a downhill. At the end of the downhill, another turn and guess what? A lot of people didn’t have time to shift gears and we had another traffic jam of stalling, falling, pushing riders.

One of the small hills. Only a couple of walkers.
I tried to take a picture of the rider-less bikes, but truthfully I was afraid that I was going too slowly to control the bike and take a picture. I can only guess at the steepness of the hill. I had documented my speed going up the 14% grade on Allen Lane as 4.1 mph. As I was just barely passing some of the riders pushing their bikes up the hill, I glanced down and saw my speed at at little over 3 mph. Now, does it correlate that the hill must have been 15% or greater based upon my speed? I don’t know, and as yet, I can not find where someone has published the gradient of the State Park hills. So until then, some of them are 15% or more.

As the website had stated, there was another hill about 2 miles after we had exited Buescher State Park, but I personally did not see anyone pushing his bike up that one. It just seemed like a long 6% grade.

Finally we turned onto a straight, flat section, and things picked up.

I was lucky enough to latch onto to a group of buddies who were together, and they didn’t mind my drafting on them.

Group who let me draft. Never found out where they were from, but THANKS.
We made good time (for me—18-20 MPH) for a pretty good distance, and then they decided to turn off at a rest stop. I unwisely decided to go on by myself. As Randy knows too well, if left on my own and with no one to push me, I will fall back into my comfort zone which is a mellow RPM, no effort gear ratio, and Sunday stroll mph. Oh well, it is a fun ride and not a enjoy.

Scenery was nice, but:
Enjoyment faded a little as we turned on a FM to head toward Serbin. Due to construction on the routine route, Serbin marked the turn around point of an out and back instead of the half way mark. As we turned onto about that 7 mile stretch toward Serbin, nature turned up the fan to almost full speed. My not sticking with the friendly group of riders again back-fired on me as I couldn’t find a person to draft on, so all I could do was enjoy the nice breeze.

As we got closer to Serbin, the more riders we met who were on the return trip.

Serbin has a small Wendish Heritage Museum, one of the oldest Lutheran Church Missouri Synod churches in Texas, a little Lutheran elementary school near the church, and an old cemetery. And some of the earliest spring flowers were starting to bloom. We spent a lot of time at Serbin enjoying the views and peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

Wendish Heritage Museum

Historic St. Paul Luthern Church, founded in 1854, under renovation.

"Modern" elementary school. The original is located by the Museum.

Old cemetary on the grounds. Spring flowers starting.

Heading back with the wind and going downhill, Christine left me in the dust. Later as we had turned off the Serbin road and headed toward Bastrop, the friendly group passed me again, so once more I latched on to them. By and by, we passed Christine and I wanted her to fall in behind me, but soon I noticed that she could not be seen. We sailed along happily until they hit the same rest stop that I once again unwisely chose to go on by myself.

Not too much farther I seemed to hit a wall. It was not the comfort zone style of riding, I just sort of bonked. The next rest stop was at about mile 52. I needed to rejuvenate, and I thought back to Randy's wanting to work on my endurance and agreed with him, so when we start back up with the CompuTrainer, if he wants to work on my endurance, I am putty. The rest stop was well stocked and had plenty of the small bottles of Pickle Juice. I inhaled the first one, and about that time the leader of the friendly group rolled in and headed straight for the pickle juice. He said he wasn’t going to stop until he saw the sign declaring Pickle Juice was available. He said his muscles were wanting to cramp. The PJ man said that there were a lot of cramps that day. Cramps weren’t my problem—energy was. So I ate three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two chocolate chip “energy” bars, two cookies, and had another pickle juice. Tip of the Day: don’t wash peanut butter and jelly sandwiches down with Pickle Juice. Sure, I know that it takes at least 30 minutes for the body to reap any benefit from food, but it doesn’t take the mind that long—especially if it is sweet.

Christine rolled in about my third PB&J sandwich. Usually, I like to take a picture of her with or without her permission as evidence of our enjoying a ride. Not that day. She, too, had hit the wall and her face showed the fatigue. Before the ride she had put on plenty of sun screen, and during the ride she had perspired, and it dried. The sun screen was caked on her face. She may not even let me retain the description, but if she does, that is why I don’t have a picture of her on this ride.

After reasonably recuperating at the last rest stop of the ride, we began the last leg. Good news/bad news for two tired riders. Highways 71 and 95 had excellent shoulders similar to Highway 277. Bad new, more long, rolling hills.

CompuTrainer time paid off even with our 52-mile bonk. Unlike many of our previous year’s rides, we passed the finish line, changed clothes, ate lunch from a vendor at the ride, AND watched people still staggering in off the ride. AND the parking lots were NOT completely empty. That gave us the energy shot we needed.

Spring is in the air, at least in central Texas.