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.


  1. I was at this ride. Great day. Not so great ride for me unfortunately. Had many technical problems. Good to read about others in this ride.

  2. I'm so glad to see that you're biking for a good cause, keep up the good work!

  3. I love biking on flat roads. The hills where I live in Arkansas are calf killers!