Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pedal Through The Pines

Pedal Thru The Pines, Smithville, Texas. March 3, 2012.
Yes, the t-shirt says Bastrop, Texas, but the 2011 fires weakened the eco-system, and then a 4" rain early this year washed out some of the roads in Bastrop State Park. The organizers had to quickly change the start/finish line to Smithville 13 miles down the road from Bastrop.  
Traditionally, the ride starts just outside of the Bastrop State Park and continues through Buescher State Park. Both parks had great short hills ranging from 8 to 12% grade in the first 10 miles of the ride. One quickly found out if he were ready for the season or not. However, the fires and rain has just about shut Bastrop State Park down. On Friday afternoon, we were able to go only to a camping site within the park. All of the other roads were closed off to traffic as the fire affected 96% of the park. 
Labor Day, September 2011, a forest fire burned 34,000 acres, destroyed 1,600 homes, and killed two people. A local resident told us that the winds were 20-30 mph with gusts of 60 mph.
We had time to visit Smithville, a historic small city that boasts of being part of the movie sets of Hope Floats (Sandra Bullock), Tree of Life (Brad Pitt), Natural Selection (Racheal Harris), Doonby (John Schneider) and Bernie (Shirley MacLaine).
And to see pretty homes.
In 2006, as part of their Festival of Lights, Smithville cooked the world's largest ginger bread man and earned themselves a place in the Guinness World Records. Later, the mold was used to make an iron replica that proudly stands by the rail station. The ginger bread man weighs 1,308 lbs.

If anyone would like to be part of this great little community, this house is up for sale.
We scouted out the Vernon L. Richards Riverbend Park as this was to be the new start/finish line. The above oak is said to be a century old tree. 
As Bastrop State Park was all but closed, we entered Buescher State Park which connects with the other park. Rains did not wash out their roads so you can still drive through the park. 
Buescher did not escape the fire.
The road through Buescher provided thrills with its rolling hills and occasionally steep inclines.
One of the homes and vehicles destroyed.
The demolished home but seemingly untouched propane tank attest to the rapid spread of the fire from the winds. There would be parts of the area where only one side of the trees would be burned. Others showed just the very tops of the trees burned. Much of the lumber from the trees can be salvaged as just the bark and needles had burned as the fire was driven by the wind.
Saturday rolled around and bikers converged in the staging area.
The San Angelo group; Wilbur Thomas, Brian Backlund, and Christine Jones. Shuttering behind the shutter was your author. As might be perceived, it was 41!! degrees at the start. Wind was from the North at 17.
Some riders relied upon the forecast that predicted a high of 64. (That is still too chilly for me to be bare-legged).
At 9 a.m., they opened the gates and let us loose. Since we were by-passing the parks, the first four miles were relatively flat.
Then we came upon this hill. Even though it looks deceiving, I was too busy preparing myself mentally for the climb to take pictures. So this is how it looked Saturday afternoon after the ride. Tame! My Garmin registered 11% before we reached the top.
As looking up didn't seem dramatic, we drove to the top and took a picture of our decending. It still looks ho-hum, so you will just have to take my word for it. The downhill was part of the return route. Christine hit 43.9 mph. I think I have confessed over the years that I start braking in the mid to high 30's.
First rest stop. I was able to take a picture of my gloved finger and a few people.
At the rest stop, we waited for a long time for Christine. Finally I became concerned and called her cell phone. She hadn't wanted to stop and kept going. Thanks for telling us. So we took off still into the 17 mph wind. A side note and a short synopsis of the ride: as mentioned, the wind was 17 mph out of the north, so as we left the staging area we turned N onto FM 153, then N onto 2104, after another 11 miles, we turned N onto FM 2209, from there, we preceeded N on FM 448 for another 18 miles, then N onto FM 153 again for 26 miles. At one intersection we turned S for 3.2 miles. Now that was fun. Then we finished on highway 71 N.
Back to our ride. Christine was waiting for us at the second rest stop. Little cookie monster was in her hey-day. 
Rest stop #2 is at the small community of Serbin. Pictured is the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum housing some 3,000 artifacts and documents.
Red bud tree on the St. Paul Lutheran's grounds.
Brian, Wilbur, and Christine take a break at Serbin (meaning Wendish land). Note Christine's left hand. Cookie power!
St. Paul Lutheran Church built in 1871. Services are still held. The Wendish congregation became the earliest Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Texas.  
One can not discern, but the picture shows a series of rollers that were fun as none were extreme in grade.
Brian tucks in to roll down the incline.
Where there is a down, there is an up. Still in the gentle rollers.
Rest stop #3 is at the Zilss Memorial Hall (formerly Windchester, TX elementary school).
And it is a great rest stop indeed (note Christine's left hand).
Who says rural Texas does not have a sense of humor?
This picture of the creek is thrown in to brag that we have actually had some rain this year. After last year, water in a creek is a sight for sore eyes.
Brian continues to lead the way. More than lead, Brian let me draft almost the whole tour. Thanks much Brian, especially as mentioned we went 37 miles into the north wind and 3 miles of tail wind. : )
Finish line! Staff would cheer each rider as he crossed the finish line. All of the staff and volunteers were so friendly and upbeat. We appreciated your encouragement.
Christine rolls in to cross the finish line. I forgot to mention that she had already taken off one layer of clothing (and made me carry it) yet still looked dressed for a chilly ride.
Wilbur finishes. I think there were three recumbant bikes and I saw one tandum on the ride.
This is the same tree as the one in the first part of the story. The cars in the background show perspective as to how large the tree was.
Richards Riverbend Park is located on the Colorado River. Beside and behind the overlook one can see the debris from floods--and the overlook was about 10 feet above the present water level.
One can rent canoes or kayaks at various locations along the river.
We showed pictures of the devastion around the area. Now, we would like to accentuate the beauty.
Wild flowers are starting to bloom due to our recent rains.
The first blue bonnets (the state of Texas flower) of the year are pretty sparse but are a promise what is ahead.

If we are blessed with more rain we are looking forward to fields of glorious Texas wild flowers along our riding routes. Until then


  1. It's terribly unfortunate about the fires in Bastrop but Smithville looks quite delightful. So happy I didn't have to deal with that "wind chill factor" through nearly the entire ride. It also looks like you're going to have much better luck with getting shots of the wildflowers this year.

    Noticing Christine's fueling system, I wouldn't be surprised if some day, the Girl Scouts got wise and started selling Girl Scout POWER COOKIES at cycling events.

    1. Great idea, Edie. There will be power cookies at Hotter N Hell, too.

      And Roy says thanks for helping the MTB team.