Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tour D'Italia

Italy, Texas
(In Texan talk: pronounced IT-lee)
June 16, 2012 

As with many of our tours, getting there is half the fun. We passed through Dublin, Texas, the original home of Dr Pepper bottling, started in 1891. Due to a lawsuit from the Dr Pepper corporation, Dublin had to stop bottling its original Dr Pepper.
Christine was driving and I asked if we were going to stop at Doc's for a Dr Pepper float. She said no, maybe on the way back. I whined enough that she turned around and headed to Doc's.
The clerk explained that they could no longer serve Dr Pepper floats, but they had come up with a new drink called Dublin Delight, so I had that float.

Don't tell the corporation, but the float was just as good as the original. 
Outside Doc's was the iconic sand sculpture, minus Dr Pepper.
The mural was allowed to remain the same even though it had the words "Dr Pepper" on it. 
And the original red brick road was still in front of the soda fountain and museum. In the 1930's, roads were laid with asphalt and aggregate, but some of the older cities retained some of their orginal roads to preserve their history.
Christine Jones fresh and ready to go Saturday morning.
We had stayed in Waxahachie as Italy has a grand population of 1993 and few motels. This is just a partial shot of the line up. Over 1,400 riders showed up almost doubling the population of the town. Yes, parking was very interesting. Get there early, or pretend that going from your parking place to the start line is your warm up for the ride.
The start of the ride travelled down Highway 34. Most of the riders quickly realized that the shoulder was much smoother than the highway. Note to TxDOT: Give us good, smooth shoulders and we will stop bugging you about using chip seal on the roads.
Italy is in the Blackland Prairie, and with the rain we have received this year most of the crops were doing well.
We had turned off Highway 34 onto Highway 55. The shoulder disappeared, but as one can tell the ruts were pretty smooth.
Italy was named after "sunny Italy," and the skies had finally cleared enough that it indeed was getting "sunny."  
A pretty house in Blooming Grove.
Some of the blooms in Blooming Grove.
This was rest stop # 2 where the 40 milers (Christine) parted from the 50/63 milers (me).
As we travelled on smaller highways, the roads became a little rougher but still not as bad as most of our local roads.
Rest stop #3 was a little before the split of the 50 milers and the 63 milers (me). All of the rest stops were well stocked with refreshments and volunteers. Various communities and organizations in the surrounding area helped out on Italy's 27th ride.  
Curve marking the place that the wind would finally be to our backs (at least for a little while--more on that later).
Rest stop #4 at little Irene, Texas. We were down to just 20 more miles.
I mentioned that the rest stops had friendly personnel. But I was more than suprized at one of the volunteers at this stop--Mark Robinson (Cowboy)--whom we generally meet as a participant on a ride rather than a volunteer. He said he was planning on attending the Tour de Gap in July, so we are looking forward to meeting up with him again.
One of the prominent buildings in Irene--their Post Office.
Some who know me have just been waiting for the other shoe to fall, so here it is. (Jerry, you can skip to the next section). Checking the ride website, the 63 mile route showed the maximum grade of any of the hills as 1%. The weather channel touted a 6 mph wind. We had found the ULTIMATE UPTOPIAN ride.
Uh, both websites were wrong. The 1%'ers turned out to be 5-8%. The wind was out of the south at 13 (when it was calm).
A person I rode with for a good stretch was riding this tour for the first time also and had looked at the same map. So it was a running joke of "Here comes another 1%er".
So if anyone, such as I, is looking for a "flat" ride, Andrews, Texas seems to be the only choice. The other tours have from "gentle rollers" to "What is this?" hills.
One of the gin and grain mills serving the farmers.
And across the road was a series of oil tanks. I saw few if any pump jacks so they must have been off in the hills as they weren't on the farms.
We were on Highway 22 by this time. Roads were smooth again. We also had a short respite from the 1%ers.
Rest stop #5 (Sandra's Stop). The 40 and 50 milers joined with the 63 milers for the return trip into Italy.
Christine had already been to this stop as she was well ahead of me at this point.
Another 1%er coming up. But as I recall, it was just 4-5%. It was no challenge for fresh legs that had gone only about 50 miles. Piece of cake. 
And the occasional hill was offset by pretty crepe myrtles.

As I recall, I took this picture just as we passed a sign that stated "Italy City Limits". It was not until one got over the little hump up ahead that the city water tower could be seen.
But as the sign foretold, the finish line was indeed coming up.
Christine was patiently waiting at the finish line. I donned my "I made it" pose, and then looked for the end of the ride refreshments.
Foot note to Edie: I would have made it through Hell's Gate on time at the 50 mile-and 60 mile-mark so I am still on track at this time.
Refreshments were plentiful. This was one of the few tours providing a rest stop with snow cones! at the finish. The building off to the left had hamburgers, hot dogs, or BBQ sandwiches. And even shower facilities. So it was an excellent end to an outstanding ride. When we return for a repeat ride, we will be mentally prepared for all of the 1% hills and just take them in stride.


  1. I'm annoyed that some big corporation is picking on a little town. I even boycotted Dr. Pepper. That lasted oh, a least a couple of hours.
    @Roy - Congrats on ride times! I'll be drafting off of you all day.
    @Christine - Are you wearing the Louis Garneau arm coolers?

  2. You bet I am, thanks to your recommendation. I've been wearing them since we began having 90 degree weather. Actually, when it's a little cool for my taste they add some warmth, too.