Saturday, March 30, 2013

Allen Lane

 Saturday, March 30, 2013
Six riders from San Angelo decided to tackle Allen Lane near Christoval Saturday morning. Allen Lane is one of the three popular roads for those wishing to practice hill climbs.
From left, Christine Jones, Liz Rappe, Wilbur Thomas, Loyd Evans, and Brian Backlund. As one may recall, on the previous weekend, Christine, Loyd, and Brian all placed in their categories at Abilene's Steam N Wheels.
As some of us were training to go to Liberty Hill's Spokes N Spurs next weekend, we felt a practice hill climb ride was in order.
 Turning off of Highway 277 onto Allen Lane, the road immediately starts the first incline. Up to the curve in the road, there is a steady climb of 3-4-5%. After the turn, the road goes up again and culminates at a 14% grade.
(Editorial note: It's spring in most of Texas. I like the little wild red bud tree.)
 For the next 7 miles, there is a steady series of rollers.
 By the Garmin read out, I counted 7 hills that were over 12%. Maybe we should call Allen Lane Seven Sisters (another popular hill climb route is called Seven Sisters).  
 However, this particular road would have to be called the Clan because besides the 7 steep grades, I counted 16 hills over 5% and a multitude of "blips".
 I was caught breaking my "forced" New Year's resolution--no photos from behind the pack. Christine would complain of my photos, but as I have explained numerous times, what choice do I have since I am always bringing up the rear of the group?
 At the turn-around point, I was able to take an acceptable photo.
 One of the ranchers on Allen Lane is not known for his hospitality, rather his hostility especially toward bikers. He has repeatedly pulled up beside us and let us know that he is not responsible if he hits one of us. The last time we saw him, he was showing us his 45 pistol as he thought one of us was a bear. Really now, a bear with blinking tail lights and yellow reflectors. Strange bears we have in Texas.
 It was fun getting to the turn-around point but the hill to get us out of the valley is another one of those 14% grades. Good work out hill.
 Going out Allen Lane is one climb after another. Going back, it is mostly downhill. It takes half as long to return as it does to go out. There are still plenty of hills on the way back, so one is assured a good workout coming and going.
 After Allen Lane, we travelled to a residential area. At this gateway entrance was a flower bed of the most bluebonnets we saw on the whole ride.   
 These were wildflowers along side of the road. They are "Texas tough" since it has been a while since they have had rain.
But we could not get enough of the bluebonnets. The weather forecasts hint of rain, so maybe we will be able to see fields of flowers before spring is over.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Steam N Wheels

 Steam N Wheels
March 23, 2013
Abilene, Texas
Gene Potter, Current San Angelo Bicycling Association President.
I knew I had better run around and take as many pictures of San Angelo riders as I could, because just as soon as the ride started, I knew I wouldn't see them again until the finish line. 
 Karen Frembgen, San Angelo Veterinarian and frequent rider.
Loyd Evans, frequent group rider. 
Brian Backlund whom I think everyone knows.
Eddie Trevino, frequent group rider.
Mike Blakeman rides as frequently as his schedule will allow (working and pursuing a Master's Degree). 
Rick and Velma Ogan. If there is a ride, they are there.
Jerry Middleton whom I frequently tease about the grade of hills. (He has his own Garmin, just refuses to put the grade in any of his windows).
Mike--no worries--along with Cindy Middleton. We are hoping her back gets better so she can join us on rides once more.
Start time. Two hundred twenty five of us lined up for various distances. Those who chose to enter the race were to go 48 miles. Some of us who just were there for a good time rode the 32 miles. They had a twelve miler for beginners and families.
It was a damp, chilly morning. At first, it was punishment to try to draft off of anyone as the rear wheel would throw dirty water in your face.
Along the road I would spot something that looked as if someone had emptied his cooler. Finally it dawned on me that it was patches of hail that dropped along with the morning rain. 
Rest stop #1. I had already dropped behind the 48 mile crowd and was being joined by the 32 mile riders. Not that it was a tough ride, I just wondered why the rest stop was "25 miles" out. I was finally convinced by everyone that we were just at the 13 mile mark. 
At the rest stop, I met up with Mel Register from San Angelo. Mel had just started riding with our groups so I was happy to see him on the tour. We decided to ride together and just enjoy the ride.
The 32 mile route does not have any tough steep grades. Rather, there were several long inclines, the steepest of which my Garmin said was 5%.
Rest stop #2 (#3 for the 48 milers) seemed to come quickly upon the heels of the first rest stop. I think having Mel to talk with made the ride seem shorter. At the rest stop were the "lead" tandem riders with whom Rick and Velma were vieing.
Rick and Velma rolled into the rest stop while the other tandem riders were still there. I went over to encourage them to hurry before the other riders took off--as soon as I shot their picture of course.
While Rick and Velma were chasing the two riders, Mel and I continued on our lonely journey. We had the road to ourselves. 
Soon we came upon the Abilene airport control tower. That meant we had only 2-3 miles to go.
As the ride was soon to be over, I looked around in order to take a nice scenery picture of our ride. All I could find was the routine West Texas scene of scorched pastures (not withstanding the morning rain which certainly was not enough to end our drought), leafless mesquite trees. and cactus. For those who live in areas with a lot of pretty trees, hug one for us.
 By the time I got to the finish line, Rick and Velma had finished and had time to change clothes. Velma is giving a hint as to how they did. First place, tandem. They overtook the couple and beat them by an official 1 minute and 42 seconds. Congratulations!!
 Brian and Eddie finished their rides. Both had great averages.
 Jerry had finished and changed clothes by the time other 48 milers came in. Karen finished 4th in her category and Gene finished 2nd in his.
 Loyd finished and we asked him how he did. "Aw, I don't know. They wanted me to go over to the timing booth, but I didn't want to."
 Christine finished her ride. Was she glad it was over? Look closely at her smile.
 Unlike Loyd, we were curious as to how Christine did. First place in her catergory. (She is so humble, I will beat her to the punch line--she didn't have that much competition in her category--nuff said.)

We had stopped at a refreshment store and up drove Loyd. He had given in to wondering how he did. Third place in his category!! Way to go Loyd.
I can't wait until next year when hopefully my hip will just be a memory, and I can ride against the big boys. (If not with the big boys, maybe I can get them to increase my age category--).



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Barcelona, Spain: Second Day

Barcelona, Spain
View of the Castle Montjuic on Montjuic Hill overlooking the city. (Click to enlarge.) Originally the castle was just a watch tower on top of the hill used to identify approaching enemy ships. Over the years it has increased in size and has had many uses including a military prison and presently a museum about Spanish history. 
 The cruise was scheduled for two days at Barcelona. Many younger, more adventuresome passengers took advantage of the renowned night life. Since the pub and tapas cruising didn't get started until midnight we didn't participate. 
 While wondering what to do on day two, I went to the balcony. Close by was the cable car tower. "Let's go ride the cable car".
 It was a nice walk to the tower. However, upon arrival, we discovered that the tower close to the ship was the terminal tower--not the beginning.
 As the beginning of the cable ride was way up the hill, a taxi ride was now part of our adventure. The Noordam is in the background and we will see the pink building again later.
 Tickets for the ride were scheduled by group and time so we walked around the grounds. There were a lot of good bird's eye views.
 Lots of people appear to have chosen to go to the piers and just watch the boats go by.
 Take your pick. Swim in your hotel pool or go to the beach.
 The beach always seems to be crowded. If one remembers our bicycle ride close to the beach, it was crowded then also.
 Finally our time and group were next and we prepared to board. Barcelona has two cable cars. One goes to the Montjuic Castle and was built in 1929. The other starts from Montjuic Hill and was built in 1992. We took the 1992 one.
 Views from the car were as impressive as from the cable car entrance grounds.
 The end of one half of the ride was the tower we could see from the ship. The 360 degree observation tower provided an excellent panorama of the city--most of which I had already taken pictures of and displayed here and previously from the bicycle ride.
 I do not recall showing a picture of the town circle.
To the right of the tall building is the Columbus statue from a different angle. Even from this angle, he is still pointing the wrong direction.
 Montjuic Hill which we led off the story.
Necessary draw bridge to let the sail boats with their high masts in and out of the berthing places.
 Finally it was time to return to the entrance.
 Walking the grounds once more while awaiting a taxi, we came across a statue of a girl with grapes in her hands. I am sure it commemorates the wine industry, but at present it appears she is feeding the bird.
 Not really knowing the city, it was reassuring to peep through the fence and see our ship in the distance. We knew the taxi driver was heading the right direction.
And as we passed the pink building, we were further assured that we were going the correct direction. We wouldn't want to miss the boat as we had another bicycle tour lined up for the next day at Palma De Mallorca, Spain.