Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fort Davis to Balmorhea Scenery

 Mountain Sheep
Mountain sheep formerly lived in the mountain ranges around Fort Davis but the native populations were wiped out in 1959. Hence, we were quite excited to see this herd on a mountain ridge.
The ones pictured are most likely the Aoudad or Barbary sheep which are from North Africa. These sheep have recently been introduced into protected areas similar to their native African range. Small, wild populations can be occasionally spotted.
 These two sheep almost blend in with their environment. Note that the barbed wire fence is a "normal" fence rather than the high, game ranch fence. The Aoudads are well-adapted to the dry areas in which they live. They rarely need water...which is a good thing in West Texas. Although the area had just had some good showers, rain is the exception rather than the rule. The sheep appear to get sufficient water from the green and succulent vegetation on which they feed.
 The following series of pictures were shot between Fort Davis and Balmorhea. Just relax and enjoy the scenery as much as we did.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fort Davis Cyclefest

 Fort Davis Cyclefest
Fort Davis, Texas
September 21, 2013
 It rained again this year but was only cloudy on Saturday. However, I didn't want to go to the staging area at the Prude Ranch and park and walk around in the mud. So Christine and I started from the Limpia Hotel where we were staying. Not too far out of town the scenery begins. Ergo, the 75 mile Fort Davis Scenic Loop.
 Not quite at the foothills yet but the beginning of rolling hills "threats".
 But first, a long stretch of highway. This stretch of road is about 10 miles and is another example of a "false flat." The 10 miles consists of 1 to 2% grade and 1,000 feet of elevation.
 Rollers begin after the 10 miles, and the scenery continues.
 Even several years after the wildfires, the evidence is apparent.  
 In the distance one can watch Saw Tooth mountain get closer and closer.
 Right around the corner is a picnic area that serves as an unofficial rest stop. The picnic area is about 45 miles into the ride and Bear Mountain becomes seriously steep right at the stop.
 Fast forward to the top of Bear Mountain--Brian and Rick were awaiting my arrival. (See the previous post for the videos of going up Bear Mountain. Needless to say I was pulling on the handlebars too much to take still pictures on the way up.)

A side note: As I was going up the hill, a rider pulled up beside me and said, "Do you know what the snail riding on the turtle said?...Whee!!" Then he said, "I feel like the snail." Maybe he did, but he was passing me!
 Christine relaxing at Rest Stop 3. Yes, her smile tells off on her "I have a secret," but I will wait until she edits this to see if she reveals her secret or not. (Editor's note: I'm not ashamed to admit that I "sagged" up. My knees aren't as they used to be and it takes too long to walk up so many inclines.)
 After the punishing climb, Mother Nature soothes some of the pain by a show of beauty.

 Rick and Brian after the good Bear Mountain downhill.

 In between Bear Mountain and Fisher "Hill" there is a long stretch of mesa-like terrain.
 Yep, I have another non-secret: I sagged up two more really difficult climbs.
 Just before Fisher Hill, Christine spotted a tarantula on the road. She stopped and encouraged him to get off the road or be squashed. Christine took the picture as I well remember as a kid being told that tarantulas could jump six feet and attack you. Probably to keep us kids from playing with worked then and still does now.
 Going up Fisher Hill. As explained in the previous post, this was the only flat spot in the climb so I stopped and took a video as well as some still shots. I picked the flat spot as I well remember my first year on this ride. As I slowed to 4 mph or less, I would stop and rest. Well, trying to get started again on an uphill with weak legs is quite interesting and scary. Later, I wrote a Beginner's Page about how to go up a hill without rolling backwards.
 The Fisher Hill climb started way back down yonder. And this was just the start of the climb.
 After every climb, there is a downhill (most times). This is the bottom of Fisher Hill while I was going slowly enough to chance a photo. Hopefully next year I will be able to video the downhill. It was also on Fisher Hill several years ago that I had to choose between death and my chocolate chip cookie. 
 Christine just enjoying the scenery.
 Rest Stop 5 is the last one before Prude Ranch and the end of the ride. The Boy Scouts manned every one of the rest stops for the ride. Thank you, Ft. Davis BSA troop.
 The entrance to the McDonald Observatory not only signals that one is getting close to the end, it marks the beginning of a very "interesting" downhill ride.
 The McDonald Observatory boasts the highest point of Texas highways at 6,791 feet. We are looking at it at about 5,280 feet elevation. 
 Just past McDonald Observatory are some serious steep S curves.
 Centrifugal force can play into the turns unless one is careful. Didn't bother me as I was braking down the hill. As such, Christine, Rick, and Brian are way, way ahead of me. 
 Eventually one gets to the bottom and the ride becomes normal. 
 There is a pretty good stretch of level road before the next evil malady.
 Just as one thinks that the ride is all but finished, up pops "Heartbreak Hill", or "The Wall." From a distance (and camera angle), the wall always looks like a small roller. No sweat. But that darn hill is deceiving. Before you crest the hill, your Garmin is displaying 11%. Hence, Heartbreak Hill. After all the 70 miles of ups and downs, one has to endure another tough one.
 Prude Ranch. Finish line. For most may remember my mentioning that Christine and I started from out hotel in town. Another 10 miles to go. Christine was telling me to go on into town, get the car, and come back after her. I told her that the rest of the ride was going to be easy as it was downhill all the way to town. She argued that there were some uphills in between but continued to ride with me anyway. 
 Turns out Christine was correct. There were 5 hills that registered 5% or more (yes, she counted them and had me tell her the grade just to prove me wrong).
So, I took pictures only of the downhills. 

 I don't know. I just liked the tree.
 And the road continued to be downhill all the way back into town.
 Fort Davis is just at the edge of town so we were home free.
Back at the Limpia Hotel and the rocking chairs on the porch. Christine was enjoying the relaxation so much that I had to take a picture. However, she resisted due to "helmet hair". I took her picture anyway and the above is our compromise. Crop out the hair and leave in the rocking chair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fort Davis Cyclefest Bear Mountain (Video Presentation)

Fort Davis Cyclefest
Fort Davis, Texas
September 21, 2013
The Fort Davis Cyclefest features a 75 mile scenic loop over the Davis Mountains. There are three major hills ranging from 1-3 miles of climb and one "heartbreak" (11%) hill after one thinks he is finished with the hills on the route.
Earlier this year I received a new "toy" from my boys: a GoPro Hero 3 video camera. Fort Davis was my big chance to show shots heretofore not available using my point and shoot camera. I could show climbs and downhills and document people passing me left and right as if I were standing still.
However, the road vibration kept making the camera lean to the side. I would straighten it up on my handlebar and shortly it would lean again. On one of the adjustments, the camera came right off in my hand. One of the camera mounts broke, so I was lucky that it didn't fly off down some canyon instead of in my hand.
As such, I got only some moving shots of Bear Mountain and one shot of Fisher Hill after stopping to shoot. Since the action was short, I thought I would show a few of the videos: an addition to my usual format. 
A word of lamentation and frustration. Cameras, whether still or video, do NOT capture the true incline or decline of a hill. The surface always looks flat or like rollers, so you probably wonder what all the whining is about. Trust me, the hills are steep, or better yet, join me (pass me) next year on the third weekend of September. 
Bear Mountain: beginning the climb.
(I think the guy heard me coming, and there was no way he was going to let an old man pass him).
Bear Mountain: midway.
Bear Mountain seems to just go on and on...and it does.
Bear Mountain. Last two minutes of the climb.
Brian passed me. He is the tiny dot way up ahead. He was SPINNING. Then Rick passed me. We slogged up the mountain and were greeted by Rest Stop 3.
Bear Mountain: downhill.
Generally, I do not get to take pictures of downhill rides as it is too dangerous to let loose of the handlebar to shoot. Going down Bear Mountain is not as exciting as Fisher Hill or the S curves after the McDonald Observatory. However, my camera mount broke after Bear so you will have to wait until next year to see those downhills.
Fisher Hill Start.
As mentioned, my camera mount had broken, so I found a spot that almost leveled out to stop and take a shot of the scene. Fisher Hill is a "short" (1 1/2 mile) but scenic climb that ranged from 7-11% incline.
The normal blow by blow with still pictures will be published shortly. Thanks.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hotter'n Hell Hundred

 Hotter'n Hell Hundred
Wichita Falls, Texas
August 24, 3013
(THE ride of the year.)
 Over 13,000 of us lined up eagerly awaiting the start of the ride.
 But first, the start line photo ops. Christine Jones, Dorothy Landon, and Liz Rappe.
 Liz and her friends, along with Dorothy and me in the background.
 Roy and Christine.
 With the barriers rolled away our distant group was allowed to roll off.
 Nearing the official start line is Pyro Pete. Pyro is also at Hell's Gate, the go or no go point of the 100 miles.
 My shot of the start line.
 A commercial photo of the start line (forgot to whom give credit). To be among so many riders with common interests is one of the big draws-for me-to keep coming back. 
 As we start to leave town, Christine assumes her ride position in relation to myself--out in front. (And she stayed that way for the whole distance.)

 Not far into the ride, we came upon our first accident. Note the person to the right of Christine. He had stopped and looked as if he were texting the report of the accident. Brian said when he came by, there were so many gawkers that they had to walk past the scene.
 My gawking only spotted the bicycle between the two vehicles. Never saw the rider(s).
 Who said the terrain was flat? I will have to confess that the steepest hill was 6%. So Jerry, make plans for next year.
 Most of the ride was gentle rolling hills.

 One of the many great rest stops. I think this one was at mile 30.
 I am not sure what mile this was but it was getting very warm and I noticed the bikers' shadows getting shorter, so the sun was climbing pretty high.
 One of the highlights of the ride--going through Shepard Air Force Base.
 The little trainer is a stark contrast to the big planes
 such as this one or the massive B-59 above.
 Air Force Bases get to display planes that have either been stationed at the base or flown out of the base. This jet represents one of the planes at Shepard AFB.
 Another "treat" of going through the base is coming up.
 Airmen line up for blocks cheering the riders as they go through the "gauntlet". It is amazing how they can maintain their enthusiasm standing out in the hot sun, but they are inspiring.
 Starting to re-enter Wichita Falls.
 Talk about bad luck. Not more than a mile from the finish line we came upon another accident. The rider kneeling in the road was holding his shoulder and really groaning in pain. The lady on the pavement was having a hard time getting the bike off of her. I wished both of them well.
 This is the corner leading into the finish line. Brian said he and his group rounded this corner at 25 mph. The announcer alerted everyone that a group was coming in "hot". Me, my top speed was 23.6 mph rolling down some hill. Even so, according to the official results, I was #3 in my age group. (No, don't look up the age, just take my word for it).
Finish line. Christine just kept going as she knew exactly which tent she was headed for--the beer tent. Her favorite recovery drink. The excitement, the mass gathering of bicyclers, the vendors, the friendships, smooth roads keep us returning year after year.