Category Archives: Cycling – Route Descriptions

Descriptions of good cycling ride routes

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.

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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.

..

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.  
 ……
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.

…….. 

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.

 …….

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.

 …….

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.

 …….

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.

 ……..

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.

 ……. 

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.

 …….

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.

 …….

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.

 …

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.

 …..

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

 …..

 

 …..

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.

 ….

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.

Cycling – 101.5 miles! … No! … 101.5 Hilly Miles!

 Waiting for the day’s ride to start, a Sunrise fit for the adventure
 
Last Saturday (22 Oct, 2011) Gil Jones and I cycled from my home on the west shore of Lake Buchanan, TX to Junction, TX.  Gil and I cycle to many nice little towns in central Texas.  Junction just happens to also be 101.5 miles away, if one takes the scenic route.  I may mention that 101.5 thing again somewhere.
Lake Buchanan to Junction Scenic Route, cycling, Texas Hill Country, Catrike, Scattante 570

The route - click on the image for a larger version.

Our route would start on the western shore of Lake Buchanan, then go west on FM261 and FM2241 to TX29 on the east edge of Llano, then down TX29 to TX16 where we would go south to Fm152 at the northeast corner of the Llano Courthouse square.  At that point we would be 17-1/2 miles into the ride. Then we would head west on Fm152 for 18 miles to the little town of Castell, where we often ride from/to on the famous Tour de Longneques.  Then we would continue west another 10 or so miles to the intersection with US87 and then north into Mason for lunch at the Willow Creek Cafe.  We would leave Mason heading southwest on FM1871 through unending climbs and descents, one beautiful crossing of the Llano River, and yet more climbs and descents before reaching  FM385.  At FM385 our route would take us north, almost immediately coming to another Llano River crossing, Yates Crossing.  There we would stop and soak up the place while recharging our energy reserves for a few minutes, then face a tough climb up the north side of the river followed by a turn onto FM3480. On 3480 we would immediately confront a short but thoroughly gutwrenching climb and then a slow climb until we hit US377 and could go left to Junction (or to the right back to Mason, if we were daft).  Going left for about 12 miles on US377 we would hit US83 on the northern outskirts of Junction and proceed south to cross under I-10 and carry right on down the main drag of Junction to a city park, with which a couple of friends and I have some history dating back to 1962. 

The Elevation Profile for this ride is enough to get my attention.

Cycling, lake Buchanan to Junction Texas via the scenic route, elevation profile

The route clearly provides plenty of exciting descents and challenging ascents. Our starting point, Lake Buchanan, is at the left end of this chart.

Junction’s elevation ends up a bit over 700 feet higher than where we started, but one makes that much climb several times in the course of going there via the route we chose.

We did it.  We feel good about having done it.

cycling, Texas Hill Country, Lake Buchanan, Llano, Castell, Mason, Junction

At 7:40am, Saturday morning, Gil and I are ready to roll out from Lake Buchanan, bound for Junction, TX - 101.5 miles away

Gil has posted a very good report on our adventure and I commend it to your attention.  What I have tried to do is create a crude sort of pictorial report with minimal palavering from this point on.  As always, in these posts, to see a larger picture, click on the image.

This was an incredible experience.

 .

 .

Arriving at Castell!  36 miles behind us!

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Castell TX, Llano County, Castell General Store

Entering Castell, TX

 

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Castell TX, Llano County, Castell General Store

Victor says "You are doing what!"

 
 
Turn right at US87 10 miles later
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Castell TX, Llano County, Castell General Store

We turn right then cross the Llano River about a mile north

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Castell TX, Mason TX, Castell General Store

Yup, hang a right!Crossing the US87 Bridge across the Llano River

 Lunch was at Mason’s Willow Creek Cafe

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Mason TX, Willow Creek Cafe, Junction TX

Gil mugs at Peggy through the window upon arrival

 A BLT sandwich and gallon or two of iced tea does wonders!
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Mason TX, Willow Creek Cafe, FM1871, US87, Junction TX

We head north on US 87, getting really hungry

 Time to roll out of Mason
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Mason TX, Willow Creek Cafe, FM1871, Junction TX

Tanks full - ready for FM1871 ( wanna bet on that?)!

Then we hit that first BIG climb out of Mason on Fm1871
cycling, catrike, scattante 570, Lake Buchanan, Mason TX, Junction TX, FM1871

60 miles out, the climbin' gets serious

It was tough
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Lake Buchanan, Mason TX, FM1871, Junction TX

The first big climb out of Mason

And there were lots of climbs, most were straight into the wind!
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Lake Buchanan, Mason TX, FM1871, Junction TX

Gil drafts the trike into a headwind

They seemed never-ending!
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Lake Buchanan, Mason TX, FM1871, Junction TX

Finally we went down and crossed the Llano,... and then up again

But there was hope for a cooling downhill ahead!
Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Lake Buchanan, Mason TX, FM1871, Junction TX

Woo-hoo! Gil and I descend at 30-35mph!

 The Llano River really was a pretty sight.

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Mason TX, FM1871, Llano River, Junction TX

This is a beautiful crossing where FM1871 crosses the Llano River.

We zipped across way too fast to soak up the sights here! 

Cycling, Catrike, Scattante 570, Mason TX, FM1871, Llano River, Junction TX
Then we start a 2 mile avg 4% grade grind
 
A humdinger of a climb it was.
Finally finished THAT climb!  FM1871 Mason County

Finally finished THAT climb!, but there are more

Along the way we passed a small herd of Longhorns.  Peggy got some pictures.  The drought this year has been very hard on these animals.  Look how skinny that cow with the calf is.

cycling, FM1871, longhorns, Don Bynum, Gil Jones Lake Buchanan to Junction

Thin Longhorn cow shows ribs while she keeps an eye on us

We go on and on, up and down, and then… finally we come to FM385 and hook a righty toward Yates Crossing!

FM385, Junction TX, Llano River, Yates Crossing, Catrike, Gil Jones, Don Bynum

Turning north on FM385 we came to Yates Crossing.

 Gil and I stopped at the top of the hill, overlooking Yates Crossing, and read a historical marker.  Yates Crossing was used by the Indians and later by the cattle drives heading north and needing to cross the Llano River.  I don’t know why Captain Call did not bring the herd from Lonesome Dove here to cross at this nice concrete low water bridge.  That kid would not have been eaten up by those water mocasins!

 

Gil and I just stopped to read the historical marker above the crossing

Then we rode down to soak up the sights, smells and sounds of the living Llano River as it winds its way across Texas’ semi-arid western Hill Country. 

Yates Crossing, looking upstream on the Llano

 

Gil is perplexed by the lack of a Verizon signal, 3G or otherwise. I snarf a Roctane gel.

Refreshed and ready to carry on our Quixotic adventure we had to make the steep climb out of the river bottom, then right at the top of that take a left on FM3480. 

The bug is on the gut-wrenching climb. Tough.

There we did a small climb then zipped down into Red Creek and got slammed with an absolutely gut-wrenching climb out of that creek bottom.  This climb, while short, exceeds a 20% grade momentarily and is well up in the high teens for about 50 yards or so.  At 86 miles into the ride, this climb was hard on us.

 

awful climb

Awful climb on FM3480

Once up that crushing climb, we had a gentle, 2-5% climb for a few miles over to the intersection with US377.  There we had to decide whether to carry on the 11-12 miles to Junction to the left or ride 25-30 miles back up to Mason.

Not being daft, we turned left toward Junction!

 

From here, it was only 9-10 miles to the intersection of US377 with US83 on the north edge of Junction.  From there, we just cruised on into Junction!

Cruisin' on into Junction... at about 99 miles at this point

 

Tired, hurting a little, and most triumphant! 

A short distance farther downhill through downtown Junction and we arrived at the Junction City Park.

Cycling from Lake Buchanan across the Texas Hill Country to Junction Texas via FM1871, Catrike, Scattante 570, Gil Jones, Don Bynum

We made it! Gil straightens his back and arms, while I keep my weight off my right knee. We were both fine by the next morning.

This is the park where in August of 1962 Bob Dawes, Eric Brewster and I parked my old Jaguar XK-140 and camped for the night on our way to a pre-college week in Garner State Park.  I believe we camped just a few feet from where the picture above was taken.  We had some memorably funny moments involving a hand-axe, a flashlight and some mischievous local teens, but I will leave that story for Bob or Eric to tell.  That was so long ago.

We loaded up the machines in the truck and went to the Valero Truckstop at US83 and I-10 and got showers there ($5 each nice facilities).  Then we went down to Lum’s BBQ and seriously pigged out before driving home. 

Lum's BBQ - On US83 south of I-10 about a mile - Go There!

This great adventure would have been very difficult without the help of my wife, Peggy, who drove along near us  carrying water, bananas, apples, spare energy gels, almonds, and her ever present camera. She made sure we would have help if we had a breakdown out in the boonies, and that was a great comfort and help on this adventure.

All told we rode 101.5 miles.  Garmin thinks I burned 7,005 calories and climbed something like 3,800-4,000 feet.  Not bad. 

 

Cycling – New friends met through the blog

A couple of weeks back, I received a comment on the blog from a woman in Wisconsin.  A google search about cycling in this area had led her to my humble blog.  She and her husband were coming to a family reunion in the our area in a few days and wanted to do some cycling while here.  Beth Peterson and her husband Pat are avid tandem bike riders and go to tandem rallies all over the country when they can get away.  The reunion they were coming for was going to be based at The Heart of Texas Resort, located on the upper reaches of Lake LBJ, just below the Inks Lake Dam and Fishery and about 1/2 mile from the Hoover Valley Store on Park Road 4.  I put out the word to The Hillybikers and we quickly pulled together a small group to do a 40+ mile tour around the area with Pat and Beth.

Cycling, Llano County, Burnet County, Park Road 4, Inks Lake, Llano Slab

Route for the October 14th ride with Pat and Beth Peterson from Wisconsin

On Friday, October 14th, we all met at The Hoover Valley Country Store on Park Road 4.  Park Road 4 is a serious favorite road for me.  It runs south from TX29 on the eastern slopes of the pink granite ridge that sits to the east of Inks Lake.  Going south in very hilly terrain PR4 skirts the lake, providing great views, a couple of which are “take my breath away” beautiful. Often, when riding early in the morning, we see  a lot of wild-life such as deer, turkeys, red-tail hawks, osprey, foxes, raccoons, and even the occasional skunk.   In the spring and fall, if there have been any rains, there are wildflowers that can be very showy.

Cycling, Gwen Peterson, Pat Peterson, John Chalmers, Doug Miller, Don Bynum, Inks Lake, Kingsland TX, Hoover Valley Store

Start at the Hoover Valley Store, head south on PR4/FM2342 to FM1431

From the store we headed south on PR4 to its intersection with FM2342.  We bore right onto Fm2342 and carried on to the southwest to FM1431, across 1431 from Spykes BBQ (worth a visit if you are in the area and need to treat a protein deficiency… very good BBQ).

We turned right onto FM1431 across from Spykes BBQ, wandered through part of Kingsland then joined River Oaks Drive and eventually left on Slab Road to the Llano Slab before heading on west to TX 71 where we turned around and headed back toward the slab.

But, it was early, so we had to fore-go a visit to Spykes.  We turned right (north on 1431) and crossed the Colorado River arm of Lake LBJ then about a half mile north we turned off into a maze of local surface streets that wandered through the “Llanorado” area of Kingsland until we came to RR2900.

There we crossed 2900 and joined up with River Oaks Drive, which rolls along beside the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ for a few miles.  Eventually we made it to Llano Slab Road (AKA FM3404) and turned west.  Just after joining 3404 we descended to the Llano River where the road crosses at a geologic formation known as The Llano Slab.

In this area the river flows directly on a bed of the pink granite bedrock for which the area is well-known.  Due to recent rains we were treated to the sights and sounds of the water swirling and undulating across the width of the slab (around 70 yards across at that point).   I did not get any pictures, but Beth was snapping furiously away as we pedaled our way across the low water bridge.  About 2/3 of the way across we stopped and let our visitors enjoy the sights and sounds.  Being from Wisconsin they are not strangers to running rivers, but I sensed that they somehow also picked up on the reverence and awe that most Texans feel for that particular river.  If Beth sends me any of those pictures I will post them in this report as an update.

Rolling on west from The Slab we joined Llano County Road 307.  We cruised through hilly green (thanks to recent rains!) ranch land and through “pecan bottoms.”  Pat and Beth saw large stands of mature pecan (pronounced “puhh-con” in the civilized world, never, ever say “pea-can”) trees and herds of grazing cattle, including a calf that stood in rapt attention as the tandem cranked past it… all the while Beth was balanced precariously on the back seat shooting pictures like crazy. The one moment she did not have the camera up and ready to shoot, a road runner dashed out into the road ahead of them and across and off into the nearby brush.

Eventually CR307 brought us to TX71 where we took a break and then returned to the east.  We crossed the slab again and climbed out FM3404 to the east until it intersected FM1431.  At that point we turned north on 1431 and headed up toward Lake Buchanan.  Along the way my wife, Peggy came across us and got out her camera and got some pictures of the group as we proceeded north toward FM261 (Lakeshore Dr) along the west shore of Lake Buchanan.

Fuxxys Corner, FM261, Lakeshore Drive, Lake Buchanan, Lake Buchanan - inks Lake Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Center, Devils Water Hole Hoover Valley Country Store

The last half of the loop

The ride north involves only one hill worthy of any notice, and not a really steep one, but it is about 3/4 of a mile long and will get your goat given the chance.

Cycling, Llano County, Doug Miller, John Chalmers, Pat and Beth Peterson

Doug Miller and John Chalmers lead the way as Pat and Beth have just crested the long climb on the way up to Fuzzy's Corner (Fm1431 and TX29)

Cycling, Tandem Bike, FM1431 and TX29, Fuzzy's Corner, Beth Peterson, Pat Peterson

Pat and Beth arrive at Fuzzy's Corner with Pack Saddle Mountain in the backround

After riding on to where FM1431 intersects FM261 we turned south, riding along the west shore of Lake Buchanan to TX 29.

Doug Miller, FM261, TX29 Lake Buchanan, Cycling, Llano County

Doug Miller leads the group up to the intersection of FM261 and TX29

John Chalmers and Pat and Beth, also approaching TX29 on FM261

Pat Peterson, Beth Peterson, Tandem Bike

I don't know how to describe those smiles in Wisconsinese, but in Texan we would say "they're smilin' like a jackass eatin' cactus!"

Lake Buchanan - Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce, Cycling, maps, Beth Peterson, Pat Peterson

The group stopped at the Buchanan-Inks Chamber office and Visitors Center so Pat and Beth could stock up on maps and area information

cycling, tandem bike, Pat Peterson, Beth Peterson, Inks Lake, Texas Park Road 4

With Inks Lake in the background Pat and Beth experience one of the MANY short, but steep climbs on Park Road 4

Devil's Water Hole, Inks Lake, Cycling, Pat Peterson, Beth Peterson

Pat and Beth, having lived through the climb to the overlook at The Devil's Water Hole, look like they may be having a good time.

Surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Texas Hill Country, Pat and Beth climb one last hill before we arrive back at The Hoover Valley Store.

Back at our starting point, we all, including my wife Peggy (she took all of these pictures and many more), descended on the cafe and had lunch while we seasoned the memories we had made during the morning’s 42-mile sharing of our love of cycling, and for us local rustics, our love of the special place in which we are lucky enough to live.  Beth and Pat, y’all come back any time you want!