Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Beginning

 Christine's new bike.
For those with a discerning eye, yes, we have crossed the line. New adventures in the wilderness. New trips into pastures. New, fearless treks on super chunky chip seal.
Roy's new bike.
Note, not once have I called the bikes Mountain Bikes. That is because mine is more of a Hill Bike, and can't even make it up some of the hills, much less any mountains.
No snickering from anyone from San Angelo. This was our first outing. You have to start somewhere. For those not from San Angelo, Strawberry Trail is a short, flat, winding course for kids and the cautious. I think I saw some training wheel ruts, but I have to admit, once I got over 4 mph, some of those curves were challenging.  
 Christine negotiating a turn on Strawberry Trail. (Editor's note: The uber-caution was precipitated by the falls on each the two previous mtb rides...otherwise I'm pretty much fearless.)
 With our feet now wet, we ventured off onto a nature trail that led to a bird watching station.
 When you peep through the fence, this is what you see. But if you ride back there, you scare all the birds away. Sort of defeats the purpose of going to the bird watching sanctuary.
 Back in civilization, Christine decided she was just going to stick to the paved areas. She was going to take it easy on our first outing despite the fact it is hard to take it easy in 54 degree weather with the wind NNW at 22 mph and occasional, interesting gusts of wind. She was trying out some of her new cold weather gear and it worked. (Now I think I hear snickering from other parts of the country such as Edie from Massachusetts or Wilbur from Minnesota  To them, 54 is a balmy afternoon. Not sure if they have wind up there, haven't heard them complain about the wind but have heard mention of snow drifts.) 
 I, being more adventuresome, decided to get off the paved road as I was now on an off-road hill bike. Winding Snake Trail was a little lot more challenging than Strawberry Trail. As the sign says, Winding Snake would just zig and zag for a longer time than Strawberry.  
The silly snake they named this after liked to zig and zag up and down hills.
 Forgot to mention. Rapidly way back on Strawberry Trail, I found you could not just ride along and take a picture of the scenery or surroundings such as you can on a road bike. On a "mountain bike," one is using the upper, lower, middle part of the body and hopefully have the brain engaged. So, the pictures posted are for the most part taken from a stopped position. If I recall this terrain correctly, I did not stop to take a nice picture. I stopped because my "mountain bike" couldn't make it up this hill.
 Huh? I was finally on some relatively flat terrain but the sun was in my eyes. I decided to "slow down" as I did not know the trail well enough to go "fast." I was blinded so I stopped--and in the sun--it appeared my trail just disappeared. How could the trail just end? As my eves adjusted, some tumble weeds had blown into the trail blocking it. I did a cyclocross maneuver and continued on my way.  
 It was way down the path when it dawned on me. Why didn't I move the tumble weeds? Another biker moving much faster than I was could round the corner for a big surprise. Could be an oweee.   
 Slowly I came out of the wilderness and almost back into civilization.
 I said slowly.
 Ta Dah. Civilization AKA Burkett Trail. Has a water fountain and rest room facility. A jumping off point for mountain bikers who know what they are doing--and can do it.
 Me? It was time to start heading back to the staging area. I took this trail. (Forgot its name). Christine, who met me at Burkett Trail, decided to continue on the paved areas and would meet me back at the parking lot.
 Going back was not all downhill and smooth trails.
 The obligatory fall.
All of our mountain bike friends tell their war stories of falling, bruising, bleeding, and landing in cactus/thorns. So now I have mine. One can see that the trail is on a slight decline with a curve. I was going pretty fast, probably 6 mph, and hit the sand on the outer part of the rut. Front wheel went out from under me and plunk! When I hit the ground, I slid backwards a little, just enough to slide into a cactus thorn.

Although I did not bleed or bruise, I now have my war story. And I hope that it is my worst one in all of the upcoming adventures on a real mountain bike.
All's well that ends well. And my end didn't have any remaining thorns that needed to be removed.

Post script: On the return route, Christine became adventurous and took a short cut back to the parking lot using Tasajillo Flats. She negotiated it quite well and may even join me on the next ride as I seek out flatter trails, fewer rocks, fewer hills, less steep inclines/declines, fewer thorns, fewer cacti, fewer tumble weeds, fewer tight curves, and less sand. And a spa at the end of the trail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Springtown Spin

Springtown Spin
Springtown, Texas
We had never been to the Springtown Spin, and as of a matter of fact, had never heard of Springtown before. But we had a free weekend between local events and headed out for a new adventure. Turns out, Springtown is just 16 miles northeast of Weatherford (Peach Pedal). The ride at Weatherford was south of Interstate 20. The ride at Springtown was north of Interstate 20. So? We assumed that the terrain would be similar--somewhat level ride, some nice rolling hills with a few 8% grades thrown in. Well, the short story is the terrain North of the Interstate is hill after hill after...
 Although it was toward the end of October, the weather was still nice, and over 200 riders lined up for the start.
 As I was taking this picture, I heard a clatter behind me. I looked around and...well, I will let Christine tell you in her own words. ("All I'm going to admit to is that the incident was one of those beginner errors which has happened to 'all of us.' Knowing this didn't make the fall less humiliating. And the ride hadn't even begun! I unclipped my left foot but mysteriouly my weight shifted to the right. My elbow and knee are nearly healed.")
 I like farm/ranch scenery, and I found this scene rather humanistic. I call this shot the Cow Chow Line. (Enlarge)
 Immediately into the ride, the rollers started rolling.
 Inclines never seem dramatic in a camera shot. But my bike is so sensitive that it thinks going up a handicap ramp is Pikes Peak, Colorado.
 Of course you have to get off a hill sometime, it just seems you pedal for a mile getting to the top and roll down for a quarter mile.
 So that I will not over exaggerate, there were some flat parts to the ride.
 Rural road (one lane)
 Road leading through a tunnel.
 Christine loves downhills. She can coast faster than I can pedal down a hill.
 Repeatedly, on this ride just as soon as you roll down a hill, you look up and see another one coming up.
 I don't know. It was just a statue in the middle of a field and I thought it was neat. Surely there is a story behind it.
 This ride reminded us of Munster. Sixty miles similar to our local Burma Road.
 Even Munster and Burma Road have their "downside".
And then the long stretch back into town.
End of story? No. There was a BBQ lunch waiting for us at the end of the ride. It tasted so great. But, they had started feeding the short rides at 11 a.m. We got our sandwich at 2 p.m. Note to ride organizers. Don't put all your sandwiches out at one time.

As I mentioned, they tasted so great. I ate the very same things that Chris did, but by the time we freshened up and changed clothes, Christine was having stomach aches. It became worse and worse. Her stomach bloated like Jabba the Hut and although she has a high pain threshold, she hurt.
By the time we got to San Angelo, it was emergency room time. We spent most of our Saturday night in the ER while Christine was treated for food poisoning.
What a memorable weekend. An embarrasing fall with cuts and abrasions, sixty miles of hill after hill, food poisoning, and a sleepless night. Can't wait for next year's Springtown Spin.