Category Archives: Cycling – Ride Logs

Reports on the adventures and misadventures of a retired techie exploring the backroads of The Texas Hill Country on a Catrike Road (sorta like a Bicycle but weird looking and comfortable)

A Goal Checked Off for May and Lesson Confirmed in June

Having started 2013 with the goal of pushing my annual mileage up from 3,600 in 2012 to 4,250 in 2013 I have been off to a bad start.  I need to get in 350 miles/month to hit that goal, but have missed by quite a bit in the first four months.  Finally, in May I logged 357.03 miles!  Garmin thinks I burned about 24,236 calories doing that distance.  May’s good distance aside, I am now about 445 miles behind where I need to be.  Gotta step it up in June.

This morning, to that end, I joined a couple of fellow cycling geezers, John Chalmers and Don Senzig, for a ride from Lake Buchanan over to Cherokee, TX for a burger and some of Miss Sue’s Sweet Tea.  The route we chose is one I have not ridden in 6 or 7 months because it has several cattle guards and to keep from destroying another life-time gauranteed Catrike Frame, I slow to a crawl to cross each cattle guard then have to ride like hell to catch back up with anyone I am riding with.  That is usually exhausting.

We had planned to take the longer route through Llano, but John had been up much of the night dealing with a bout of Mal d’Gizzard and with the day promising to be really hot he did not feel (or look) like he would survuive a 67 mile route.  So we set out to ride the route depicted on the map below.

The 53 mile route from Buchanan to Cherokee and back

The 53 mile route from Buchanan to Cherokee and back

As we rolled out we agreed that I would cruise at my own speed which would put me well ahead of my companions by the time I turned off FM2241 onto CR216 with its cattleguards.  The idea was that my friends would catch up with me on the last 4-5 miles of CR216 since that is where all the teeth rattling obstacles are to be found.   

Knowing the day would be hot I resolved to be very diligent about hydration, electrolyte replacement and energy replacement.  Doing that really paid off.

I have tried numerous electrolyte replacement products over the last 8 years of cycling. Nothing I tried comes even close to Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolyte capsule product in preventing cramps and heat exhaustion in our Texas Summers.  A few minutes prior to rolling out I took two Endurolytes, with water, then a Hammer Perpetuem Solids “thing”.  My son Brad’s wife refers to them as “chalk chews”, but has also found that they work very well at replenishing the stuff our muscles burn to keep us pedaling. 

In the course of the ride and lunch I went through 5 liters of water and/or iced tea, 9 endurolytes and 6 Perpetuems, plus a hamburger.  That kept me going through 53 miles, though the temperature on the return ride was in the upper 90s, and I suspect 8-10 degrees higher down on the road surface where one rides a Catrike. Garmin shows 2,075 feet of total ascent just to “ring the bell” a little louder.  I had no cramping, averaged 13.1 mph for the whole ride and 13.7 for the second half of it, though we were into the wind on the return.  And… I stopped and waited for my riding friends several times because I was just riding strong, … well OK toasty strong, but still strong.  Oh … and the day before I had ridden the 33.3 mile Park Road 4 loop which has plenty of short but nasty climbs. 

There is no way in hell I could have pulled off today’s ride and come in feeling like I might want to ride tomorrow, without good, well balanced electrolyte replacement, hydration and energy supplimentation.  Even WITH those I weighed right at 5 pounds less after the ride than before it.  That loss is mostly water, so I have continued to hydrate this evening to be sure I am good to go on a short ride tomorrow.

I have heard people make statements about getting electrolytes by eating salty food.  That is foolish and not supported by what we know about our bodies.  A good electrolyte suppliment will have some sodium salt, but also salts of phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese as well as some other stuff that helps our bodies assimilate the salts.  Too much sodium chloride actually blocks the other electrolytes from getting through the cell walls.  Don’t bother to comment about how great you do with the salt from a bunch of On-the Border tostadas.  The simple, inarguable truth is that you would do even better with a balanced load of electrolytes.

Final numbers for the ride were: 

53 miles in 4hr 2min 2sec for an average speed of 13.1 mph.  3,347 caloriees, MaxHR 148, AvgHR 116, AvgRPM 80…  at age 69 on a damned tricycle

Get out, get off the couch, turn the TV off, go cycling in the country and see the beauty of nature up close.  Get your heart rate up every day and keep it up for as long as your doctor will tolerate.  My doc STILL just sits slack-jawed when he attempts to explain what he thinks enough exercise is, then asks what I have been doing.  He forgets between annual visits. 

I may well be, someday, bug-splatted by a Kenworth but I sure as heck do not intend to die a slow, degrading, expensive death lying in a pool of my own urine like so many seem determined to do.  Seriously, do you REALLY want to die of old age?  I choose to LIVE old age.

A special note of recognition for daughter-in-law, Jessica, who started riding a Catrike 700 in March and has already lost 12+ pounds and begun to pass her ice hockey playing cyclist husband Brad on downhills!  Way to go Jessica!

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2013 Real Ale Ride and other stuff

Last Saturday (May 18 2013) about 1,500 of my closest friends and no tellin’  who else joined me for The Annual Blanco Festival of Manly Suffering, AKA The Real Ale Ride.  Three of the group I normally ride with were to participate this year.  Doug Miller – age 71, John Chalmers – age 69 and myself also age 69 met up at the Real Ale Brewery as the sun was rising.  A few minutes after we had “commenced to be fixin’ to git ready” to go abuse ourselves in public, Doug introduced one of his neighbors who has been riding with him some (Sally, but I have forgotten her last name).  Doug was gonna ride the 80 mile route, Sally was doing the 30 mile route and John and I were doing the 65 miler. The map below shows all the various routes that were being ridden.

2013 Real Ale Ride - Route Map

2013 Real Ale Ride – Route Map

To clarify how to read the map… we all started in Blanco at the Real Ale brewery, shown in the upper right corner of the map, and rode down the route shown in pink (the 15 mile route) to the point that the 30 mile route, shown in yellow, took off to the south.  At that point the 80, 65, 50 and 30 mile riders took the yellow route southwest towards Kendalia.  At the point that the green route heads south and the yellow route turns back north the 80, 65 and 50 milers continued towards Kendalia on the green route.  At Kendalia the 80 and 65 milers turned west on the 65 mile route, shown in red, while the 50 mile riders went south then looped back to Kendalia and back, eventually, to Blanco.   Upon arriving at Sisterdale, the 80 mile riders headed off further west then north to loop up through Luckenbach, while the 65 milers headed north toward The Horrible Hill, then on north until turning east toward Blanco on FM1888 and then being rejoined by the 80 miler riders.  The 65 mile route involves approximately 4,000 feet of climbing, which is why it merits the Manly Suffering descriptive.  The 80 mile route climbs a little more, with one truly hellish ascent past the bat preserve at the Old No 9 railroad tunnel.  Only Doug was up to that one this year!  Not bad for a 71 year old guy!  The graph below shows the elevation profile for the 65 mile route.

Not only does one climb, over and over, many of those climbs are spretty you betcha steep!

Not only does one climb, over and over, the climbs are pretty you betcha steep!

I realize that for non-cyclists most of this detail is boring, but for cyclists, understanding the route, including its challenges is very important.  So, couch potatoes please bear with us.  Maybe just reading it will raise your heart rate above the level of “the undead” as you slump on the couch watching American Idol in a semi-daze or nodding off as drool runs down your chin as you try to watch Dancing With the Goat Herd, or whatever.  The version of the map below shows elevations at various points along the route as well as locations of various bike wrecks and my two blowouts.  My three chain jambs are not noted, nor is the location at which one cyclist dismounted and waded off into the bar ditch for a “nature break” and found a rattlesnake instead (and got a helicopter ride).

2013_Real_Ale_Ride_Map1-not

Things seemed better organized than on my two previous years of participation. They got the 80 milers going within a couple of minutes of the scheduled 8am time.  John and I rolled out five minutes later as they released our 65 miler group.  We had agreed that we would each ride our own pace and join up at the various rest stops.  As soon as I got out onto US281 headed south, downhill, towards downtown Blanco, I eased over into the turning lane and kicked my speed up to 25-30 mph so I could get past the other 65 mile riders. On the Catrike I know I am quick downhill and will be slower on the climbs.  I also know that by the time we have ridden 4-5 miles the group will be spread out, reducing the risks of riding shoulder-to-pedal amongst the prostate-crushers (my term for an upright bike) while they weave around shoulder-to-shoulder around me. 

As I neared the turn-off which we would take to get from US281 over to Blanco CR 102 I realized that I had failed to start my timer/calorie counter/heart rate monitor/…  so I did it then, about 1.5 miles and 6 minutes or so into the ride.  As a result the calorie data is off a little as is the average speed.  I have manually corrected the distance and time.

Crossing the Blanco River on Blanc0 CR102 at about 1,305 feet, we began the climb to the southwest to cross at least two ridgelines and get over to Kendalia.  Only 2-3 miles out that segment I came over a small hill and there, about 50 yards ahead… IN THE ROAD…, lay a guy that looked to be about my size.  He was lying in the northbound lane with his head toward the ditch and his feet near the centerline.  A crowd stood around him.  A couple of bikes in a pile in the ditch suggested that two riders had gotten together and this guy had gone down hard.  I could see a ride medical vehicle approaching so I just went on past. 

About three miles farther out there is a nasty hard right turn that is on a concrete low water crossing which is almost as slippery when covered with dust as when wet.  It was dry, but as I started a short descent towards it I saw several riders accelerating from behind me and was able to signal them that this is a really bad turn and they backed off.  Good move.  As we started into the turn itself we saw several bikes, including a tandem that had gone off the outside of the turn and crashed in a group.  At least one rider was down and the others were pretty bloodied up.  They had plenty of help so I kept going.  Another couple of miles out I crossed the ridgeline and could see down into the Guadalupe River Valley which lies below and to the south of Kendalia.  Not long after that came the first rest stop/aid station on the 80/65/50/30 mile routes.

I stopped at that point to wait for John, who I had not seen since passing him just outside the brewery.  I was a little concerned because, between the rider down in the road and the big crash I had done the chain-suck (twice) and had lost about 15 minutes repairing it and some of the resulting damage to the rear deraileur. 

After a 4-5 minute wait John came rolling in looking a bit tired.  He normally leads me much of the way on our longer rides, so to see him dragging was just not normal.  We stayed at the rest area for another 4-5 minutes to let John cool off and recover a little, then headed on towards Kendalia.  As before I rode at my own pace and quickly left John behind (really unusual.)

At Kendalia we turned west towards Sisterdale and a couple of miles out I came upon Doug with a ride mechanic stopped repairing a blowout on Doug’s rear wheel.  Doug waved and said to keep going, so I did.  That Kendalia to Sisterdale segment goes up and down like a roller coaster at Six Flags.  Relatively steep climbs involving a gain of 150 to 250 feet happen over and over.  And so do descents, but the descents last a few seconds at speeds topping 40mph.  The descents are exciting and the climbs are exhausting.  On one descent I topped 42 mph.  Later, I thought how glad I was that it was not at THAT moment that my rear tire blew off the rim.  

Once in Kendalia I got more water, took some supplements, and got a mechanic to file off a burr that had been put on the cage of the rear deraileur when the front did its great “chain-suck” north of Kendalia.  Shifting had required lots of nursing to avoid lock-ups in the rear (not a happy thing to have happen).  Sometime during all this Doug came through and I missed him.  About 15 mintes after I arrived, John rolled in, looking even more whacked than at Kendalia, so we just took a nice long rest with lots of water and electrolytes.  After John had rested and cooled we rolled out north from Sisterdale, heading for the dreaded Horrible Hill.  I took it easy, keeping John in sight in my mirrors for a couple of miles then slowly pulled away.  At the base of The Horrible Hill I pulled off to wait for him.  He came grinding in shortly, not looking like he was having as much fun as usual.  We took another short break then headed up the hill.  This hill is not the steepest climb made that day, by far.  It is however 3 miles of unrelenting climb during which the road climbs 454 feet, with about half that amount in the last mile.  I was pretty happy to see that I was climbing at 4.5 mph, up from about 4 last year and that I did it with my heart rate staying in the middle 130s as it had at the slower pace a year earlier.  Progress!  About 2/3 of the way up I glanced at a mirror to see where John was and saw him carrying his bike off the road and over toward a shady tree (fortunately that tree did not have a snake hanging out under it.)  I knew he would go over and cool off then resume the climb, so I continued and crested at 1,946ft above sea level.  That was 454 feet above the start of that final climb and nearly 700 feet above the elevation at Sisterdale.  OUCH!

I knew there was a rest area in about 2 miles, so I thought I should get on into it and ask that they radio for somebody out on the course to check on John.  Nice thought.  Just as I started to pick up speed my rear tire blew off the rim and the tube blew with a bang like a 12 gauge shotgun going off.  I was up to about 15 mph and on a gentle descent on a tadpole trike with no rear tire to act as a rudder to keep me straight.  Braking was gonna be a hoot since those are on the two front wheels and could cause a sudden turn and flip me. Working the brakes VERY gently and adjusting them to steer, I managed to get the bugger stopped in about 100 yards.    A few minutes later here came John.  I waved him to go on to the rest stop.

As I was replacing the tire and tube a ride mechanic materialized and helped complete the task.  He suggested inflating to a lower pressure ( the tires are rated to 145psi and I had taken it to 140 that morning).  So we took it to 115, and I thanked him and started off again for the rest stop.  About a mile later “BANG!”  another blow-off on the rear, this time on a steeper descent and at about 20mph.  That got hairy, but years of racing Laser class sailboats and flying airplanes in instrument conditions have wired me to deal with moments of sheer terror very calmly and then wet my pants, if necessary, afterwards.  It took about 200 yards of delicate braking, weight shifting, speaking in tongues and deep breathing to get stopped this time.  I was sitting trying to figure out what the hell to do when the mechanic showed back up.  When the mechanic came into the rest stop and I did not show up within 3-4 minutes John had asked him to go check, knowing that since it was mostly downhill I would normally been flying down the hills fast enough to already be there.

The mechanic checked the rim, remounted the tire, put in a new tube and inflated to 110 this time, but suggested maybe I should be cautious with it.  I rode into the rest stop and soon after I got there John rolled out then 3-4 minutes later I took off after him.  It took me about 4 miles to catch him.  He was beat and asked if I would call Peggy, who we knew was somewhere nearby, to come pick him up.  John headed on while I got Peggy on the phone. She headed west on FM1888 from Blanco to meet us on our way in.  I quickly caught up with John and passed him as I went on to Rest Stop 8.  I knew John was VERY used up because I had caught him so easily both times AND kept my descents below 20mph while doing it.  That was frustrating because the fastest descent of the ride was between those two rest stops.  I know I could have gotten over 50mph had I not been concerned about having ANOTHER Schwalbe Durano tire blow off the rim.  I had resolved to get a different tire of a different brand immediately.   Too many Schwalbe problems have plagued me since upgrading to my current trike with its tiny (16 inch) front wheels and giant skinny 700c rear wheel. 

While I waited for John at Rest Stop 8, Doug rolled in from the 80 mile route.    Doug is consistently the fastest rider in our Hillybikers cycling group and rarely fades, but he was clearly cooked.  I called Peggy again, this time arranging for her to go to the rest stop to pick John up.  He was not wanting to ride further to meet her. 

Doug and I rode on to Rest Stop 9, seeing Peggy on her way out to pick John up, then being passed by them as they drove back into Blanco headed for the brewery and the post-ride goodies covered in our $60 registration fees.  Eventually Doug and I got in and then discovered that they had run completely out of beer and were not bringing more out of the innards to the brewery.  They were out of condiments to go with the BBQ sandwiches we had paid for and closed up the place that was handing out Italian Ices within minutes, though there were still people coming in off the road. 

This was all VERY disappointing.  The ride had been so well organized and supported and then they decided they had dispensed all the beer that they wanted to and closed down.  There was not enough food!   There was a great deal of bitterness expressed as more riders limped in off the road.  It is incomprehensible to me that after we paid a hefty entry fee and were issued tickets for two beers, one sandwich and one Italian ice as our reward for the effort of the ride (and it is really looked forward to), they just stopped serving stuff.  The Brewery MUST have had more beer inside. 

Darn it, the promotional t-shirt even says:

UP THE HILLS

Down The Beers

on the back!

Oh well.  Bicycle Sports Shop is a quality outfit, but they need to offer very public assurances that they have resolved ways to fix this with their partners if they want people paying to do this ride in the future.   Real Ale Brewery wounded some previously loyal customers in the area and it will be costly for them to get them back.  I was disappointed but a bunch of people clearly understood that they had been cheated out of something that they had paid for.  That is NOT good business; it smells more like how government behaves.

Sooooo.  The sad ending to an otherwise well run and really fun (including the manly suffering stuff)  aside, the ritual recitation of numbers from the ride follows:

Distance 65 miles, Average speed 12.0mph (European readers can translate to KG/fortnight if it pleases them).  Maximum Speed 42.1mph.  MaxHeart Rate 163 bpm.  Avg Heart Rate 130.  Average Cadence 77 rpm.  Calories Burned 4363. Water Consumed 7 liters (and I still ended up 6 pounds lighter the next morning as I was a bit dehydrated).  Oh, and the high temperature was around 91 degrees (30 something in Celsius).  Beers available at the end of The Real Ale Ride=0. 

Bummer.

For reference the ride reports on my two previous rides of this event can be seen at:

https://donbynum.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/cycling-2011-real-ale-ride-goin-up-and-down/ 

and

https://donbynum.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/2012-real-ale-ride/ 

now for “the other stuff”.

The 2013 Real Ale Ride brough my year to date riding to 1,221.8 miles which has burned approximately 76,765 calories.  I have so far not hit my monthly goal of 350 miles “very often” hence I am NOT at the 1,750 miles shat I should be at by the end of May.  Gotta get pedaling more often.

Get off your backside and do something vigorous!   You owe your kids and grandkids the effort. 

I am 69 years old, did this ride and absolutely approve this message.

Two days and two really fun rides

Wednesday afternoon, with the temperature about 70 degrees F ( I think it may be measured in furlongs in Europe) under clear blue skies, Peggy and I got out and did a 6 mile meander through several nearby neighborhoods. We went slow and enjoyed the sightseeing.  I love riding with Peggy.  It just makes me feel good.

Today (Thursday), I rode the 17-1/2 miles over to Llano to meet a friend I had not seen in 29 years. Mark Belcher and I worked at a small computer start-up back in 1984 and had not had any contact since until recently when I tracked me down via Linked-In on the internet. Mark was in the area for some vacation time with his sister and her family and suggested that we have lunch, so I agreed, picking… wait for it… yes! The Berry Street Bakery in Llano.

Mark Belcher and I had some laughs and a great lunch at The Berry Street Bakery in Llano.

Mark Belcher and I had some laughs and a great lunch at The Berry Street Bakery in Llano.

We spent two hours catching up on 29 years of our two lives and having a couple of serious laughs at the expense of a couple of previous coworkers.

Afterwards I rode back to Lake Buchanan, taking my time to enjoy the flurry of emerging wildflower activity brought on by a recent downpour. 

Tomorrow 3-4 of us cycling geezerfolk will ride over to Llano for lunch at… wait for it… YES!  The Berry Street Bakery! 

It is really nice to be getting out and riding after a very slow month of February.  I guess not that many 69 year guys fret over only riding 150 miles in a month. 

Life is pretty good.

I am beginning to hanker for a Cherokee Burger and some Miss Sue’s Sweet Tea so there is a 67 mile ride in my near future.  That will help!

So what happened to 2012 and how is 2013 going?

After creating posts regularly for two and a half years, I seemed to stall out somehow around mid-year of 2012.  I still cycled, I still sailed and I sure as heck survived so … well it is pretty simple.  I fell into the habit of just posting stuff on Facebook rather than going to the trouble of writing a blog post. 

For a variety of reasons, I made no great new rides in 2012, but I rode my favorite routes around the Llano and Burnet County areas adding in adventures into San Saba, Blanco, Gillespie and Kendall Counties.  All of this took place on familiar routes.   After going to Shreveport for the Holiday in Dixie Regatta in early May, most of my sailing was of the much more important variety.  The high point was when our 6 year old granddaughter asked if she could sail the Minifish solo. 

The wind was light and I was so proud that I could have almost walked on water as Anna untied from the mooring bouy, then climbed on the boat and trimmed the sail just right,  as she got into deeper water she  lowered her daggerboard (without a word from anyone) and sailed all around the cove in front of our house for about an hour.  Peggy was on her Sunfish with Anna’s little sister, Chase, nearby.  I fired up the little Seadoo and followed Anna at a respectful distance, showing my confidence that she was perfectly able to handle the boat after a couple of years of sailing with me, Peggy and her dad, Brad, on the slightly larger Sunfish.

On the cycling front, I achieved my 3,600 mile goal for the year with a bit to spare at 3,644 miles.  Garmin thinks I burned a bit over 237,000 calories in the course of those rides.  In late September my trusty Catrike Road broke.  Though I rode it nowhere that my fellow (mostly) over 65 friends did not go on their up-right prostate crusher bikes, the frame on the Catrike just broke.  In classic great service, Catrike and the dealer I work with, Easy Street Recumbents, worked with me to ease the financial blow of replacing the mortally wounded Catrike Road with a much snazzier Catrike 700.  They did this though the trike was WAY out of warranty.  For that I am very thankful to be dealing with such committed capitalists who did things the way capitalism is supposed to work (and generally does so long as government keeps its corrupting snozz out of the way.) 

I was only off the trike for about two weeks while Catrike built me an almost University of Texas burnt metallic orange Catrike 700 rig, got it to Austin and then Easy Street Recumbents assembled it adding some upgraded components and a few goodies they moved over from the dearly departed Catrike Road.

Earlier in the year my old high school classmate and frequent cycling companion Gil Jones decided that there was wisdom in “The Catrike Way” and bought himself a shiny new Catrike Expedition to replace his 18 month old Scattante road bike.  At the same time his wife Jen decided she needed to get out with us as well and they got her a Catrike Trail.  Catrikes are proliferating in them thar hills… for good reason.  Though it takes more effort to drive them up hills, they give a great workout without the many repetitive motion injury issues of upright bikes with their up-the-chute seating, hunkered over riding position and tingling hands effects.   Added benefit… very few people have ever gone over the handlebars of a catrike, to smear their lipstick all over the chipseal pavement. The few who have done that on a Catrike seem almost as likely to require medical attention as those who did it from a two-wheeled machine, but the attention does not seem as likely to involve a helicopter ride.

In early July, our Son Russell, his wife Lisa and the Granddude (Steven) came for a week.  Lisa borrowed Peggy’s Catrike Trail and we logged about 80 miles in 5 rides.  She is hooked, but Russell is too cheap to let her get her own trike.  Gotta work on that.  

So that brings me to 2013.  Having put over 1,000 miles on the new Catrike in the last 2-1/2 months of 2012, I had quickly become comfortable with it.  The 700 does not corner as well as the road did, but suffers from less drag as speeds go up in a straight line.  My average speeds are now running 2+ mph faster on the 700 than I was able to do on the old Road on the same routes.  It is a little faster up hill and usually a lot quicker on the flats, then a little faster downhill.   In January I got in 322 miles in spite of some weather that was not cycling-friendly unless one enjoys cycling in one’s ski wear.  February was a bust with many distractions and I only got in 143 miles.  This has put me WAY behind my plan of doing 4250 miles this year (averaging 350/month).  It has also contributed to an 8 pound weight gain! 

Ah but it gets better.  In mid February our son Brad, his wife Jessica and the two grandchicks (Anna and Chase) came down and while they were here I took Jessica out for a short Catrike ride, with her on Peggy’s Catrike Trail, in the neighborhood on Saturday then took her for a 6+miler on Sunday morning.  She was hooked.  As her birthday was coming up, Peggy, my mother and I conspired to find a lightly used Catrike 700 as a birthday present, which Peggy and I picked up and delivered last Friday evening.  Today Jessica posted that she and Brad had logged a 12.5 mile initial ride (he rode his prostate crusher).

Maybe I will have the motivation to get back to blogging regularly.  As convenient as a quick post on Facebook is, I hate the overall banality of what I find on Facebook and enjoy reading blog posts, far more than Facebook posts, by friends, because they usually paint a richer, more interesting word picture… often with actual pictures and videos to boot.  I guess I should do unto others as I most enjoy them doing unto me.  So watch for more regular blog posts.   

When someone does something really irritating, don’t just smile to play with their head.  Grin… then they also have to wonder if you are grinning or actually baring your fangs and THAT really plays with their head.

Don

2012 Real Ale Ride

The 2012 Real Ale Ride is now in the history books (recorded with gallons of muscle burning lactic acid!) and as the pain fades it is becoming a legend that my grandchildren will tell their children around the campfire (providing heat from a ball of solar and wind powered magic plasma on the cold, still, nights on the plains).

Five of us from the Hillybikers Cycling Gang out here in Llano and Burnet Counties made the trek down to Blanco this year to join with about 1,400 other nutjobs on the ride starting from the Real Ale Brewery in Blanco.  Our gang rode the 65 mile route that a couple of us had ridden before.  I rode it last year along with a couple of recumbent riding friends and found them this year in the starting area.  They assured me that they were NOT riding the 65 mile route again this year.  I think they did the 50 miler.  I guess the pain had not faded adequately in their memories to take on the horrible hill (almost 3 miles at an average grade of 6%)  found northbound out of Sisterdale about halfway through the ride.  That comes after 15 miles or so of up/down with short (less than 1/4 mile) grades above 10% between Kendalia and Sisterdale. In total the ride was a bit under 66 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing (yup, four thousand, and my old legs, heart, lungs and pig-headedness beat the bugger!)

2012 Real Ale Ride - 65 Mile Route

The 65 Mile Route

   

So, clearly having a faulty memory, I moved on up to the large gathering of cyclists preparing to embarque on the 65 mile route.  There was a smaller group of fearsome road warriors just ahead of us in the starting area.  They were to do the 85 mile route which, in addition to adding 20 miles, replaced the “horrible hill” with one substantially worse, but rewarded folks with a visit to Luckenbach and maybe the chance to be hassled by Kinky Friedman while passing through.

I have uploaded a gallery of photos taken by my wife, Peggy, on the eastbound (FM1888) leg of the ride.  Those appear after my boring narrative.  I also shot video of the first leg of the ride, from the start at the Real Ale Brewery to the rest stop just before Kendalia.  I plan to put all the pictures (good and bad whether on this blog or not) and the videos on DVD and will make them available to riders who come out for the next legendary, in our own minds, and militantly-not-organized ( as opposed to disorganized ) Tour de Longneques ride from Castell to Llano to Castell followed by a curative soak in the rapids on the Llano River at Castell.  This all usually involves post-ride consumption of Lone Star Longnecks and brisket.  OK back to the Real Ale Ride.

In our group of 5 there is a wide range of cycling ability and mass to be hauled up hills.  Our two lightest members were sure to have more fun if they just ripped off at their own manic pace.  We all agreed that this was a good plan.  The other three of us mostly just rode our own pace and regrouped at each rest stop.  At 140 pounds soaking wet, 70 year old Doug Miller lit out and had completed the ride by 1:30pm and was on his fifth beer when the last of us rolled in ( we rolled out at about 8:10, so Doug was hauling!)   At about 170 pounds, 68 year old John Chalmers got in about 2:15pm.  At about 180 pounds, 75 year old Don Senzig made it by about 2:55pm.  Richard Golladay (age 65 and 185 pounds) and I (age 68 a few inches over 6′ and 220 pounds) arrived at 3:05.  Hummm? Weight may matter more than age!  By the way, none of us are obese.  I think I need to see if I can do a starving refugee imitation and still be able to ride at 190 pounds if I want to keep up with Doug and John.

OK, now the pictures!  Due to the mysteries of WordPress galleries, several pictures are duplicated… sorry.

 

I may add some short video clips in the next couple of days, so check back!

Cycling – 61 miles of Wildflowers on March 24, 2012

On Saturday 24 March, Don Senzig and I made a pilgrimage to enjoy the great wildflower show on some favorite back-country roads out west of Lake Buchanan in northeastern Llano County.  Don did it on his road bike and I rode my Catrike Road.  My Garmin Heart Rate Monitor/GPS thinks I burned just under 4,000 calories.  For folks not in as good a shape as the two of us (average age about 72!) you can drive this route in your car.  If you do choose to drive, for Pete’s sake roll down all the windows and enjoy the smells of spring as well as the sights.  Our route is shown on the map below.  Then there will just be lots of pictures and very few words after that.

2012 Wildflowers in Llano County west of lake buchanan seen on cycling ride

The route started and ended to the lower right end of the route. Went to CR216 then north and west to TX16. Then north to CR226 then north and east to the end of the paved road (San Saba County doesn't pave many roads). Then back down to TX 16 and north to Cherokee for a burger at the Cherokee Store. Then south on TX16 to Llano CR215 then east to FM2241 and back to the start. 61 miles of cycling heaven!

 While there are some pretty flowers on TX261 and FM2241 before you get to CR216, we knew the best was NOT on those roads.

Wildflowers

Llano CR216

After CR216 we went north on TX16 to CR226.  In the shot below we are about to turn off TX16 onto CR226.

Wildflowers in llano County 2012

Texas wildflowers in 2012

Llano CR226 was Very nice

Bluebonnets and Sables on Llano CR226

Don thinks these are Sables. I wonder if they like the taste of bluebonnets or maybe know how great they look lounging amongst them. CR226

No unicorns on CR226, but it looked sorta like there might be.

Llano CR226 wildflowers about and the low water crossings are running

One of many cooling splashes through crossings of tributaries of the Little Llano River - CR226

I promise that was NOT a Unicorn!  Late breaking news!  Don Senzig has advised me that the horned critters are scimitar oryx, not sable antelope.

After returning to TX16 and riding about 6 miles north (mostly uphill) to Cherokee we enjoyed a burger and some of Miss Sue’s (the proprietress) sweet tea, then headed back south.  After going through Baby Head Pass the flowers started getting really thick again.

Bluebonnets in Llano County - March of 2012

TX16 Southbound. I am sorry about the hairy leg that keeps showing up, but riding the Catrike and shooting with the on-board camera makes it tough to avoid a little manly leg showing up from time to time.

I also show a few seconds of video as we cruised down TX16 (lots of welcome downhills).  Click here to view it.

TX16 Southbound.

 Eventually we reached the turnoff to Llano CR215, which climbs over two ridges then descends to intersect FM2241.

CR215 - Indian Paintbrushes coming up among the Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets - Texas Hill Country 2012

I feel sorry for people who cannot ride a bike (or Catrike) far enough to enjoy a ride like this.  I feel even sorrier for people too lazy to even get out in their car, roll down the windows and drive this route.  It is truly spectacular this year.  The Bluebonnets, Paint Brushes, Phlox, Wine Cups, and 6 or 7 varieties of yellow flowers are really making a show in 2012.

There are several other places to see the wildflowers online,

A cycling blog post with pictures on most of the route shown above , but two weeks earlier can be seen (click here) , or…

Pictures from a couple of weeks back on TX29 between Burnet and the Inks Lake Bridge  are also online (yup… click)

Really great wildflowers and floodwaters pictures taken on March 19 by Jim Baines.

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Cycling – Turning a Tadpole Trike into an Offroad Sandhog

Okay, this had the potential to be one of those “Hey honey, hold my beer and watch this!” moments that have provided amusement for the ladies in our lives.  This one involved a 14.5 mile round-trip ride from the Bluffton Post Office on FM2241 to RR261 to the east/south, to Shaw Island Road, to the end of Shaw Island and then across the dry lake bottom to the ruins of Old Bluffton. It is a Mountain Bike Ride due to the segments out and back on the lake bed which is very sandy in places.  
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This ride is not suitable for road bikes, motorcycles or cars/trucks (the latter being subject to some hefty fines if caught.)  While I describe it as a mountain bike route, it is not very technical… except for the deep, soft, sandy parts.

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A couple of cycling friends, John Chalmers and Don Senzig rode mountain bikes out from the end of Shaw Island Road, across the dry lake bottom to the remains of Old Bluffton a few weeks ago. They said it was a tough ride because of the stretches of deep granite sand and the eroded dirt path where the sand was not just a deep bike-eating morass.

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Since my faithful very low-slung steed, a Catrike Road, is just not gonna do that, I had to get creative to come up with a way to make that ride. We have Peggy’s first tadpole-style trike, a Sun EZ – Tad sitting on the carport collecting spider webs and bird droppings, so it became the basis of a solution to the challenge of being able to make the ride out to Old Bluffton’s ruins.

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First the front tires were removed and replaced by Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. These tires have a thick foam anti-puncture strip molded in, so that the indigenous curse of barefooted Texan Boys, the goat-head sticker (a seed of Satan himself, I am sure) would be frustrated in its collective effort to ruin cycling for everyone in the state. Then the rear tire was replaced by a standard Schwalbe Marathon which has a relatively thick tread and rigid sidewalls to give better push through the sandy stretches and provide fair puncture resistance.  I removed excess lights and made sure that shifting through the lower gears was going to work well and then called John up to see if he would be my guide for the intended expedition. Sounding somewhat bemused that I would even attempt to ride a low-slung tadpole-style trike in the sand he warned me we would be encountering, John agreed to “show me the way to Old Bluffton”, if not San Jose.

Starting from the Bluffton Post Office, the route map – shows the lake as it would look if full.
The route, shown on Google Earth, shows the last 1.4 miles on dry land not under 18 feet of water, and there is another 3/4 of a mile that we did not ride on out to the east.

The tires on the front are relatively low pressure rated and made my Catrike just plain scary to ride as the machine tended to rock and roll about “the roll axis”.  In cornering they made the Catrike exhibit the terrifying understeer of a 1955 Buick as they would deform so far that they looked like they might peel right off the rim. But this mission was not about speed, it was about not sinking up to my eyeballs in sand.  Still, the ride from the Bluffton Post Office where we started, across RR261 to Shaw Island Road and then down to where the pavement ended was a hand-full on that rig. Rather than the understeer that I had experienced with these tires on my Catrike, this beast had more oversteer that a 1955 Porsche, but retained all the body roll of the 1955 Buick. At around 15mph, I just stopped all pedaling out of a very heightened sense of self-preservation. And if the beast was still gaining speed I VERY carefully applied some brakes. And we made it down to the end of the pavement without the loss of any skin. Then it got very different… not the skin part, just the riding surface and terrain.

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Leaving the pavement involved dropping off the pavement down a roughly 20 foot-long incline which descended by about 8 feet, with gulches a foot or more deep eroded down through it, on which I barely kept the trike from rolling over. That was short but intense.

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We then proceeded east on a dirt pathway beaten (and softened up) by numerous idiots in 4×4 dually trucks seeking a place to get stuck. The many deep tracks suggested that a bunch of those duffuses had succeeded in their quest for hub-deep decomposed granite sand. We worked our way around those and through several long difficult patches of loose, very deep, sand.  At one point I came out of a 50 yard stretch of that stuff, with the trike geared down to its lowest gear and glanced at my heart rate monitor to see that I was at 145 beats per minute.

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On my Catrike out on paved roads, it takes climbing a 10% grade for a couple of minutes to get my heart rate that high.  This was tough. My thighs were screaming from the effort, though they handle 30-50 mile rides in the hills with little real discomfort and have made plenty of much longer rides with minimal suffering. This was really tough at times.

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At that point, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that John was a long way back, walking his mountain bike.

I stopped and took a picture back towards John Chalmers as he remounts after a soft/deep stretch.

I stopped, took a picture and rested while he caught up. He expressed some surprise at how easily I had made it through that segment. He noted that with three wheels I could power through the bad spots where the rear wheel would start digging sideways. In those cases he had to bail and walk it or take a tumble in the sand (and goat head stickers), while I just steered into the skid and maintained steady power (no matter how much it made my thighs burn). Since I did not worry about falling over, I could wear cleats and both push and pull on the pedals to keep the power to the rear wheel from surging and therefore digging in. Knowing what he faced, John had not worn shoes which allowed him to cleat in. We had found a surprising benefit to the trike.

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We eventually made it down to the area of the ruins. The area would be under about 18 feet of water if the lake were full.

Old Bluffton starts just ahead and to the right. There is more of it to the left and across the peninsula.

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Looking south towards the dam from the position of the previous picture, one looks across 5 miles of wide-open, beautiful, sailing water! And the lake is down 33 feet in this picture! Bloody big lake!

There is an old well, foundations of several buildings and lots of broken glass which was, except for a few broken beer bottles (no doubt delivered via dually duffuses),  very old glass from the looks of it.

Mountain Biking, Lake Buchanan, ruins of old Bluffton
John peers down into the old well shaft. Water is there maybe 10 feet below.
Mountain bike, Old Bluffton, Lake Buchanan

As taking ANYTHING from this site is a serious violation of the law, people gather the bits and pieces of glass and metal they find and place them on chunks of old foundations for others to see. This must drive the archeologists mad.

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I know that most people mean well. But archeologists want to find it undisturbed so they can see what is with it.... sigh.

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There is also the remains of the old cemetery. When the lake was being built, most of those buried there were disinterred and then reburied in the new cemetery on what is now FM2241, about a mile west of the Bluffton Store (which had also been relocated.) There are signs asking visitors to not drive through the old cemetery as archeologists have discovered that there are still some possible graves there… the Dually Dumb-Ass Society members clearly cannot read, since there were fresh ruts where some had been stuck deep and been dragged out.

John and I wandered around, each thinking our own thoughts about the people who lived and died here from the 1850s until around 1930. There was a ferry at one time for crossing the Colorado River at Bluffton on the way from Burnet to Llano. Later a bridge was built, but what ever may be left of it is still well below the surface of Lake Buchanan.  A couple of miles east there was once a salt seep which was VERY important to settlers.  Soldiers at the fort in Burnet were shown this by Comanches (they were not ALWAYS taking scalps.) Old Bluffton was supposedly sited to be near both the salt works and a stretch of the river which would accommodate a ferry boat.

After a while we climbed back aboard our trusty steeds and started pedaling back towards the Shaw Island area. We followed a different path back, hoping for a bit less deep stuff to deal with but both had to walk through one area.

The trike performed well and all went quickly until we arrived at the short steep wash out that connected the lake bottom to Shaw Island Road. When the lake is up, this is kept smooth and is a neighborhood launching ramp. I made it about 2/3 of the way up when, with my left front down in a deep wash the trike’s right wheel began to come off the ground. I stopped and carefully extracted myself from the trike while John chuckled about my near-rollover. I then dragged the darn thing up and onto the pavement.

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John and I stopped briefly once back on the pavement at the end of Shaw Island.

We stopped for a couple of minutes for me to make some adjustments to try to make riding the “dirt-trike” on pavement less “exciting” (it was better, but still nowhere near as stable and quick as the Catrike). Then we rode on back up to RR261 and on to our starting point at the current Bluffton Post Office.

It worked!  I had, with little effort, turned a tadpole trike into a pretty good way to go where mountain bikes often bog down.  John was impressed and said so, but I want to make it better yet. To make the EZ-Tad a better machine for this type of ride, I need to try putting a 20 inch BMX bike tire on the rear wheel and maybe on both fronts to keep from sinking into the deep and loose stuff, but the handling on the road may get even scarier with those changes. I guess it is inevitable that no one machine will perform well in sand and at high speed on pavement.  Still, I just must try to make it work even better!  More later as that develops.

The ride was, in total, 14.56 miles in length and took 2 hours and 9 minutes including the time we spent walking around looking at the ruins.  My heart rate Maxed at 153BPM with an average of 110 and I burned 896 calories (but it felt like more to my thighs during those stretches of soft/deep sand.