Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tour D'Italia

Italy, Texas
June 15, 2013
As we have mentioned before, part of the fun of organized rides is getting to the location and back. We made our annual stop at Doc's Dr. Pepper store in Dublin but this time I had a root beer float. It was great. Statue is Bill Kloster, long term manager of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant.
We are intrigued by the old ornate courthouses. The above is in Meridian, Texas. 
A little way down the road is the courthouse in Hillsboro, Texas.
Outside one corner of the Hillsboro courthouse is a statue honoring the Confederate soldiers from the area.
Long ago, filling stations had a reputation for fast personal service by service attendants. These folks are still waiting.
Not only would a service station go out of business, but the customers would just abandon you and everything else.
On a serious note, sunflower crops are abundant from Avalon, Texas, to farms around Italy, Texas. Among the uses of sunflowers is a source of high quality vegetable oil with the extracted meal utilized as a protein source in livestock feed.
"Detour, there's a muddy road ahead" proclaims a country western song that may have been so long ago that many have not heard the song. Besides a muddy road, this road has a bridge that has seen its last flood. 
Other bridges in Ellis County were damaged by a 2004 flood. I wish we had stopped in the next town and talked to locals about the bridge. I am sure there are some interesting stories that go along with the incident.
Besides the sunflower crops, the corn fields were mighty healthy. The stalks were way over my height. What was impressive also was that most of the fields that we saw were not irrigated! So that is where our rains have been going.
Saturday morning line up.
The event organizers anticipated over 1,200 riders.
There was one familiar face among the crowd.
There is a reason for showing the vast amount of riders which will be revealed later.
And off we go. Riders had the choice of 12, 30, 40, 50, or 63 miles. Christine and I were planning on the 50 mile ride.
Sunflower fields grace our ride. And a hint to anyone on the route: the shoulder was smooth and the road very much chip seal.
Upon turning off highway 34, we had no choice but the main road. The weather was nice with a hint of overcast which kept the temperature reasonable.
I wish the cattle were a little closer so one could see how fat and healthy they were.
It may be hard to discern, but we finally started into the "gently rolling hills". The upcoming hill was a 5% grade. I know because I heard some one behind me griping about the gentle hill and when I glanced at my Garmin, it was at 5%.
But really, who could gripe with the abundant, placid scenes?
This photo serves two purposes. One, another upcoming gently rolling hill, and two, my choice of the kit for the day. Her bicycle was also adorned with pink appointments.
Not that the hills were really tough, it is just that one tends to wear down with hill after hill. However, to every one's credit, no one started to SAG at this point. Later, yes, but I think I spotted the first person at about 40 miles. We weren't even at 20 yet.
We rolled through a little town called Blooming Grove, so I took a shot at their blooms.
Rest stop at the 20 mile mark. Both Christine and I had skipped the first stop, although I did not know she did until I rolled in and there she was waiting for me. Yes, right after the start she dropped me.
 Fresh from the rest stop, I was able to keep up with her--for a while.
 Remember, I said I had a reason for showing so many riders at the start line? Well, if I hadn't, one would get the impression I was the only rider on the 50 mile route. Yes, Christine (and others) had dropped me again.
Two welcome signs. Another rest stop and the sign that said Italy was only 23 miles away.
Navarro Mills was a pleasant rest stop nestled in a circle just off the highway. To the left is a nice lake which, if I am not mistaken, was the home of the 4.56 lb State Record White Crappie (fish). However, the most frequent comment I heard regarding the lake was "I would like to jump in." Our overcast was gone and the sun was starting to shine on sunny Italy.
 Along this stretch we seemed to be on a plateau, as we had mile after mile of relatively flat terrain.
Our last rest stop was at the crossroads where the 40, 50, and 63 mile riders joined for the final leg.
To be fair and balanced, I had to include a shot of a decline. Not all of the ride was uphill.
If one is ready for the ride to end, the Italy city limits sign should be encouraging. 
This is still within the city limits. They must have the "Field of Dreams" philosophy, extend your boundaries and they will come. 
Finish line. In front of the white truck is Christine patiently waiting for me. Part of my grousing comes from a comparison of last year's ride to this year. Last year I did the 63 mile ride and had a 2 1/2 mph higher average than this year. However, my spirits rose as we enjoyed a nice hamburger at the school cafeteria and then a nice shower in the school gym.

Trials and tribulations over, Christine is already talking about going back next year, and I am talking about re-establishing my mph average. (Christine keeps telling me to be patient with my recovery, but I want it NOW!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tour De Burma

San Angelo, Texas
June 8, 2013
The big local bicycle event finally arrived at San Angelo. And there bright and early were Cheri and Connie handling last minute registration.
After I received my number and tee shirt, I started circulating to see who all I could find before the event. And I found Cindy and Jerry all cheerful and smiling.
Shown here is the youngest rider.
And shown here is the oldest rider.
Marlon and Tony (in Concho Bike Shop jerseys) were ready for the big 100K over Burma Road and Arden Road.
Joy is getting ready to lead the 5 mile riders on their journey.
Karen was set to do the 100K.
Brian chose the 40 mile ride. He had a goal of making it back in a little over 2 hours. His total time as I recall was 2:26. He must have spent too much time at the great rest stops.
Robbie chose the 24 mile route and Ricky and Liz were set on the 40 mile.
Gene Potter, Club President and Event Director, was ready to call us together.
Gene gave us a briefing of the routes, stops, and at least one pot hole to watch out for on the 100K.
Bikers on the ready.
And we were turned loose.
Liz with her permanent smile. Who could complain since the first mile was on a decline.
Then the road started on its slight incline toward the hills in the distance. Suddenly, I was being left behind.
Have you ever felt alone on a "group" ride? At least I could enjoy the road side's greening up after a few recent showers.
The Mexican Hat cone flowers have matured and lost their "brim".
I forgot to mention that I was going to ride the 40 mile route. So if any local recognizes the sign, they know I was off course. At the 40-mile turn off onto Burma Road, I decided to go straight and visit with Christine who was helping out with the 100K turn-around rest stop. I told the Burma Road personnel what I was doing so they wouldn't report a sun-crazed person riding the wrong way.
Since the 100K riders were still on Burma Road, the ride was just as lonely as a few miles back when I was all alone; but, Arden Road is a lot flatter than Burma so I wasn't complaining.
All kinds of excitement happen out in the country. Here a group of buzzards are feasting on road kill.
Nearing the 100K turn-around point, there are a series of hills that are a little challenging. This one as I recall was a measly 7%.
Up ahead was the tough hill especially after going over the Burma Road hills. I think this one registered 9% and it seems to go on for ever.
After cresting the hill, one spots the rest stop alert sign, and notes that it is at the bottom of the decline. So? That means you turn around and go back up a hill. The event director must have a sadistic side to him as that is the same thing that happens on Burma Road.
Shortly after my arriving at the "Christine's" rest stop, I spotted a rider coming over the hill. I thought the first of the 100K riders had arrived, but it turned out to be Liz. She was at the Burma Road rest stop and heard me say I was going to visit Christine. Unbeknownst to me, she decided to do the same thing. 
Not long after Liz arrived, the first real 100K riders started coming in. Pictured are the first two. I did not know either of them so they were out of town riders. Since I had not been at the rest stop that long, it dawned on me that they were at least 12 miles ahead of me. And we all started at the same time. Humbling. 
This is the second wave of riders. They too were out of town. The green kit has PBBA on it so he was from the Midland/Odessa area.  
The first female rider. She too was out of town as she was visiting here from Austin.
 Riders were still coming in as Liz and I decided it was time for us to start our journey back.
The good part about a hill. The other side goes down. As one can see the road off in the distance, we were about to start out 2-3 mile decent. 
 Last chance to take a picture before I start the 9% decline which makes it too dangerous to be taking pictures hurtling down a hill.
Remember the first incline? Going up slowed me down enough to take a picture of the last part of the downhill portion. 
 Winner of my best gate on the ride. There are several good ones but I liked this best.
 Personnel at the Burma/Arden Road rest stop were very kind and held our bikes so we would not have to place them on the rough shoulder. Thanks! And the cookies were good, too!
 Forgot to mention that Karen joined us on our way back. Karen is our "good luck charm". Every organized ride she has been on with us has either been raining, hail storm, cold, or cloudy. This day was only cloudy as it had rained the previous day.
 Finish line with Joy and Rick. If anyone wondered why there was no previous mention of Rick, it was because he was helping out with the event while recovering from shoulder surgery. Maybe he will be back on his bike by the Fort Davis Bikefest in September. Wishing him speedy recovery.
Velma has been busy lately nursing Rick back to health. If she will stay off the bike long enough, maybe I can keep her in sight on the next ride. Marlon (left of Velma) is recalling his adventures on the 100K ride. Just a small warm up for his next big ride which will be the "MS 100" two day tour in July. Good luck.
Thanks to Gene Potter, all the volunteers, and club board members for putting on a great ride.