Tag Archives: Inks Lake State Park

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

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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!

Cycling and Sailing – A couple of exclamation points for 2010

As 2010 rolled to an end, Christmas was barreling towards us. Out of the blue, I was contacted by a person I had never heard of, who wanted to give us a boat for our grandchildren. 

4 year old Anna takes Grand Dad sailing

Anna - Age 4 and yes, she has the tiller and I am very proud of her growing skills.

Steven - Age 2... I told him to watch for pirates to keep him comfortable on his first sailing experience

He had run across my blog post a few months back which recounted introducing our grand-daughter and grandson to sailing on my little Sunfish.  It turned out that he had an old Minifish, a smaller version of the Sunfish, sitting unused.  He wanted to see if it would be used here. What a generous offer!

Peggy and I took him up on his extraordinary offer and picked the boat up at his hanger at a small airport near Kingsland (about 15 miles from our place). While there we admired his rare Piper J-4 Cub and even rarer Air-Cam… gotta go fly with Jim some time; I miss flying.

Once back at our place, Santa’s elves (me) went to work cleaning the boat up and rounding up a good daggerboard and rudder for the Minifish.  A few days later, on Christmas morning, our grand-daughter Anna (4) came groggily into our living room to verify that Santa had found and enjoyed the cookies she and Peggy had made and left out for him, and to see what he may have dropped off for her.  She was looking around blinking and seemed to not notice the boat, with its Tequila Sunrise-themed sail up and sitting on the patio.  My suspicion was and is that she is so accustomed to seeing colorful Sunfish here and there at our home that this one, looking so much like a full-sized Sunfish, was most likely an indigenous boat, not something unusual.    Once her Dad (Brad… our younger son), my mother, Peggy and I all expressed curiosity, she focused on it with cautious interest and was headed out the door to check it out in the 22 degree weather.  We got her stopped and wrapped up in a blanket, then took her out and explained that it is for her and Cousin Steven (age 2) to sail when they are here in the summers. 

I was unsure that she had really understood, until we did a video conference (how did we survive when one went by Studebaker to get face time with one’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins?) with Steven, Russell (his dad) and Lisa (his mom.)  Anna informed Steven that Santa had bought a Minifish “for her to teach you to sail on with me.”  After all the Christmas presents had been opened and marveled over, we got Anna bundled up and went out to the patio again, where she climbed into the boat, gripped the mainsheet and the tiller and started pretending to sail the boat… including getting her feet under the hiking strap and sheeting the sail in until it filled and the boat and dolly started to tremble a little.  Share this moment (video); it was the exclamation point for our Christmas day!

In the warm afterglow of the time with all of our family that still lives in America (Russell, Lisa and Steven live in the People’s Republic of California), I set about convincing my old high school classmate and current day frequent cycling partner, Gil Jones, that we should try to add an exclamation point to our year of cycling activity with a huge ride of unfathomable difficulty ( for a couple of 66 year olds who are still working on getting into really good cycling condition ) sufficient to worry our wives, amuse our children and cause our Big Spring High School Class of 1962 classmates  to shake their heads that we have still not grown up all that much.

The Texas Hill Country is rich with opportunities for such self-abuse, so I laid out a course which… if we could live through it and get it done in 8 or 9 hours… we could do in one day.  If we did only the outbound half of this ride, we could with confidence challenge any of our classmates to come ride it with us the next time.  Ohhhh we do feel most superior in our aged manliness!   

So on News Year’s Eve we set out on a ride from Lake Buchanan to Llano, thence out RR2323 to the southwest of Llano to the intersection with US Highway 87, about 8 or 9 miles north of Fredricksburg.  The distance is only 51.8 miles each way.  I have ridden longer rides this year and Gil has made rides of very close to that distance.  The distance was not the reason for taking this route.  I had ridden from Llano out almost to US87 back in the early Fall.  On that ride I turned off of RR2323 about 3-4 miles before US87 and went down a really beautiful county road (Cherry Springs Rd) to hit 87 a bit farther north.  That ride had been challenging, because there was a good bit of climbing before the turn-off onto Cherry Springs Rd.  I had driven the whole route to US87 on RR2323 and knew that the toughest climbs were beyond where I had turned off on my earlier ride.  I lured Gil into joining me in taking on not only those climbs, but doing it about 40 miles into a 50+ mile ride!  

Gil rode his new Scattante 570 Prostate Crusher up-right bike.  I rode the 3-wheeled barco-lounger of a Catrike Road, on which I recently scared the whiz outta myself on a wild descent which has been memorialized on youtube.

An exclamation point for our cycling year

The route for our New Year's Eve ride.

Approximately 36 miles into the ride we arrived at the old Prairie Mountain School and Community Center waaaaayyyy out RR2323 and a few hundred feet higher than we started.  Peggy had apples, bananas, water and a skeptical look on her face (she knew what the next 14 miles looked like.)

Gil and I arrive at the Prairie Mountain School for a short stop

bison in a pasture across from the Paraie Mountain School in Llano County, TX

Pasture across the road from the Prairie Mountain School. Where is Kevin Costner when we need him?

 

At this point I explained to Gil what to expect in the next 14 miles.

We are gonna climb how much in the next 14 miles?

Gil and I right after I explained the next 14 miles to him.

We did survive the rest of the ride.  Near the top of the most demanding part of the climb our old classmate Eric Brewster came roaring down the road in his Mustang looking for us.  He had come out to our destination on his way from Kerrville to Waxahachie, visited with Peggy for a while (no doubt sharing some laughs at the expense of “His Honor” and Yours Truly).  Now, I must draw you a word picture of the climb he found me on.  He passed by Gil before realizing it was him, but stopped a couple hundred feet below the top of this hill (there was another one lurking over its crest!) when he saw the Catrike grinding up toward him.  He got out, put his little dog on a lead, crossed the road, walked down towards me 25 or 30 yards, then turned around and walked slowly back uphill along side of me.  We were going so slowly that his “shitzu” walked along right next to me so I could reach over and scratch her ears while pedaling yard-by-yard up that precipice!  After determining that I did not think I was actually quite at death’s door, Eric gathered up the dog and walked on up the hill ahead of me crossed the road (I was was still pedaling away in my lowest gear), then got in his car and zipped away waving and laughing his ass off.

As we neared our destination (or turn-around point) I caught up with Gil, and seeing his level of suffering, valiantly suggested that we need not be embarrassed to stop at US87 and let Peggy haul us back home.  Well…  Ok…  actually I think I said something like, “I think I am ready to tell Peggy to stick a fork in me ’cause I am done.”   I saw a wave of relief wash over Gil’s whole body.  I swear his toes grinned so big that it could be seen through his riding shoes.

Gil could still grin when we made it to US87 where Peggy waited with her SUV ready to haul our rode-out old bones home

Gil has done a post about this ride.  It is worth reading if only to realize just how much data can be electronically collected on a bike ride these days… and then presented in a humorous narrative about two old goats trying to pretend they are still young.  I recommend reading his post to get a Judicial Review of the proceedings (as he is an actual  judge, with robes and all!)

What a great way to spend the day!  What a great exclamation point to put at the end of 2010’s cycling endeavours! 

I hope all who read this can have this much fun in their lives and wish you one and all a Happy and Prosperous 2011.

Cycling – 35 mile ride with a new speed record

The video of The Descent of the Beast of Park Road 4  ( at a harrowing 46.9mph on a Catrike Road ) appears near the end of this post, can be accessed immediately at :

Strap in, take a dramamine and put on your crash helmet before watching it.
!

Today, John Chalmers, another local cycling geezer, and I rode over to Texas Park Road 4 and across it to The Beast of Park Road 4.  More about The Beast later. The round trip was 35 miles as shown on the graphic below.  And it has some interesting terrain, as shown on the elevation profile below.

Cycling - Texas Park Road 4 past Inks Lake State Park to The Beast of Parkroad 4, a serious hill to climb or descend.

Ride route from Golden Beach on Lake Buchanan to Texas Park Road 4 past Inks Lake State Park to The Beast of PR4 and back home.

John and I met up at Golden Beach Drive and RR261 and headed south to TX29.  Then east on TX29, eventually crossing Inks Lake about a mile below the dam on Lake Buchanan.  We continued east on TX29 to where PR4 comes in on the right.  PR 4 passes along the east side of Inks lake, usually within few hundred yards of this beautiful clear lake on the Colorado River. 

The view upstream from the overlook at The Devil's Sinkhole on Inks Lake

The view downstream into the Devil's Sinkhole cove on Inks Lake. Can't see right down into the deepest part without standing on top a fence on top a cliff, so y'all come canoe up into it and see it for yourselves.

At one point the road climbs to about a hundred feet above the lake and there is an overlook at a spot known as The Devil’s Sinkhole, a deep cove buried below pink granite cliffs.  The Devil’s Sinkhole is a favorite of fishermen, canoers and kayakers who know this small, but really special, lake.  

 About a mile after the Devil’s Sinkhole is the turnoff into Inks Lake State Park.  The park has lots of camping space, but at many times of the year spaces are all reserved a year in advance.  The parks people used to take reservations farther out. It became a problem that people made reservations for Thanksgiving, New Years, Spring Break, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day every year 5 years out.  That tells you what a cool place this is at which to spend time. 

About 6 miles farther along comes a fork in the road.  Seems like I had to read something about that in Cookie Mcalister’s Senior American Lit class.  Carl Sandburg or Robert Frost… maybe.  Long time ago.    Well, this fork in the road is one of those choices.   Take the fork that goes off to the right and you are on a Farm to Market road that goes over to Kingsland(it does not appear on the map above, but is right at the base of The Beast; you will see it) and comes out right in front of Spykes BBQ  on RR1431 (could be good reason to take that fork as their brisket is excellent.)   The other choice is to stay on Park Road 4, which veers off to the left and up a damned cliff!  Cyclist, meet The Beast of Park Road 4.  

The Beast is a hellish 300+foot climb to a stunning turnout at a scenic overlook.

Cycling Texas Hill Country Inks Lake State Park, Longhorn Caverns State Park and Park Road 4

Great view for those who survive cycling up The Beast of Park Road 4.

I made most of this climb in 1×2, but for part of it I dropped down to 1X1 because my heartrate was climbing through 155.  At age 66, that is a serious climb.  Then we rode back… but well, it is not quite that simple. 

The flip side of that hellish climb is an exciting descent, down a curvy hillside road which has some undulating waves in it about where one sets up for the sharpest turn on the descent.   John rode down ahead of me with a camera I had brought along and set up to capture the last bit of the descent, much as Gil Jones did last Friday, when I made a run down a steep hill on Burnet County Road 334.  The hill on CR334 is like a Sunday picnic compared to the experience I had descending The Beast.  John called me when he was ready (what did we do before cell phones???).  I rolled out heading down the hill.  In the video you will see John’s view first.  This shows me rounding a pretty exciting bend at something over 45 mph and accelerating down the hill toward him, then zipping past… then there is a little bit of the “watch how fast that big old guy shrinks to a dot in the distance” footage.  

Next you will see the clip from my on-board camera.  That was a hairy ride.   I met a guy going up the hill on a racy looking motorcycle and am sure he was very surprised to see a 3-wheeled rolling barco-lounger with a pretty good sized guy hanging onto it for dear life as it came down the hill faster than the motorcycle was going up the hill.  Approaching that last right turn there were 2-3 slight humps in the road (like waves on the water but a bunch harder) and it felt like the Catrike was going airborne off each one. These happened while I was trying to stay in my lane and get set up to survive that rapidly approaching turn.  It was at that point that I very gently braked out of an intense urge toward self-preservation.  My guess is that this took a couple of MPH off my top speed.  I cannot imagine what I would have experienced with even a couple of MPH more going into that turn.

To watch the video, I suggest running it, and if your internet connection is bogging down, causing pauses in the video, let it go all the way through, then immediatly hit the replay button on the video.  It should play straight through then, sharing the full effect of this bit of Bucket List Insanity.  Sadly, your daring cyclist got nervous and braked a little when flying over those humps, so I will need to think about trying again when I have been drinking or something.    

After coasting for about a half mile the GPS was still showing around 35 (!!!), I then  braked and pulled over to wait for John to catch up.  That was fun.  Six Flags has nothing that provides this sort of rush.

John and I then rode back to where we had started.  The ride was 35 miles with total ascents of 1,975 feet. My Maximum Heart Rate was 157 with an average of 127 and I burned 1,873 calories.   That should have me about ready for a Turkey overdose Thursday. 

Y’all have a great Thanksgiving and come ride with me sometime.  Not every ride is aimed at the Bucket List Looney rider There are so many great rides out in Llano and Burnet counties, long and short.  A few have only modest hills to excite or intimidate when going up… or down. 

Don Bynum

Cycling – Ride Report Llano, TX CR312 – 13.6 mi.

 

Wildflowers on Cycling trip in Llano County TX

We were setting out to find Texas Bluebonnets (and to test ourselves)

OK, now lets sort out the reasons why a 66-year-old man would ever do the ride I am about to describe. 

First among those reasons is that my new acquaintance, William, who I met on the Lone Grove – CR216 – TX16 N CR226 ride, suggested it and said he and his wife like that ride.  Now I “knew a girl could do it”, so surely I could (plenty of men have died of that thought). 

Second, even though Peggy and I drove the route in the truck a week earlier, I was taken with the beauty of the scenery and the evidence that the wildflowers would be in full bloom by Easter weekend (which distracted me from noticing just how steep and long that climb was gonna be). 

Cycling in Texas on the hunt for wildflowers

Ready to leave in quest of manliness and wildflowers on Llano CR 312

Third, add the fact that our younger son and his daughter were coming to see us and he was bringing his bike and he wanted “A Good Hill Country Ride.”  Fourth, that, naturally, kicked in my slow-learner status where my ability to still compete with either of our sons where cycling is concerned.  I had three really dumb excuses to try this ride.   And one good one (to go for a ride with Brad).

The ride was a short 13.6 miles, round trip, and including a 20 minute collapsing-and-apple-eating session at the top of the big climb, it took 1 hr 37 min.  My spiffy Polar Watch/Heart Rate Monitor recorded a calorie burn of 1080 with a max heart rate of 172 (beats per minute) and an average of 118.  

Bluebonnets on Llano, TX CR 312

Cycling Llano CR312 immediately became rewarding

We started in the parking lot at Llano High School.   After the short sprint south on TX 16 to CR312, we turned off and started the really pretty ride out to the Riley Mountains.  We pedaled away at 8-12 mph with lots of gentle climbs and a few descents, great scenery, a couple of low water crossings and plenty of cattle guards.    We were off on our quest for bluebonnets and other cool wildflowers.  

Cycling on llano CR 312

I think Elsie was not too sure about my trike's intentions

Peggy, my mother and Brad’s daughter saw us off, then drove part of the way out CR312 before turning back to go have fun in one of the nice local parks along the Llano River.  Brad and I were quickly rewarded in our wildflower hunt. 

Approximately 5 miles into the ride we started the big climb of this route.  And it went up and up and … well you get the picture.  Think back to that picture at the beginning of this post.  Note that on the Catrike, my head is still well above my pedals when sitting on relatively level ground.  One rides such a machine in a “laid back” position.  On this climb my feet were at least a foot above my head for quite a while.  I think my back must have been almost horizontal.  It was really steep.  It was steeper than the climb on Park Road 4.  It was steeper than the climb on the Willow City Loop.

My advice is that if you are over 50, drive to the top, leave your vehicle to be driven down by someone else to meet you at TX 16 where Llano County Road begins, and have a magnificent ride down the road…  

But of course most of the males reading this will immediately feel compelled to do the climb to prove their most manly status.  Us guys all seem to suffer from testosterone poisoning where these matters come into play.  Ladies, be sure your guy’s life insurance is paid up.  Few policies actually have an exclusion for cycling while testosterone crazed.  Besides men, if a 66-year-old geezer can do it, you sure as hell can!  Right?  And I must say I enjoyed it, except for that part where I was grinding up that hill with my heart rate in the 165-172 range and saw some joker in a hooded black robe standing there with a scythe quietly watching me go past.  I hope a rattlesnake bit him!  

About 1/3 of the way up the climb is a cattle guard.  I assume some early German immigrant rancher planned on raising mountain goats or maybe just had a twisted sense of humor.  Brad was ahead of me as we approached the cattle guard.  Being on a two-wheeler he needed some speed to get across without concerns that his front wheel might turn a little, stick in the guard, stop the front of the bike, and let the back of the bike pass right overhead with Brad still clipped into his pedals.  Sounds simple but… He is my son and is easily distracted…  when a deer hopped up off to his right and started nervously trotting ahead of him as if it wished to cross the road, he forgot to speed up until he was almost on the guard.  He then had to go all-out to accelerate up this precipice of a road to make it across the guard.  He made it but his legs were wiped out by the extra exertion.  

Brad stopped and watched me grind up the hill behind him and shake-up my innards on the cattle guard.  I then stopped.  We both, once our breathing slowed enough to speak coherently, expressed the belief that this was a tough climb, then we agreed on the correct and very specific Anglo-Saxon terminology for just how tough a climb it is.  My mother, the retired English teacher, would have been blushingly proud of the creative use of the language we achieved had we shared it with her.  

Somewhat recovered, we psyched ourselves up to complete the ride.  I just let off my brakes and started pedaling, since I was on a trike and still “clipped into” my pedals.  What impressed me was that Brad was on a 2-wheeler and had to turn crossways on the road (it was narrow), get moving, clip both feet into the pedals and still get turned back uphill before he rode off the cliff… and he did it!  It would have been at least comic, and more likely catastrophic, had I had to do that. 

Shortly there-after, Brad passed me.  When I finally topped the climb he was awaiting his poor olde father.  With my ears ringing and thoughts of that joker in his robe off down the hill, I had made that damned climb!  Brad then, in what I believe was a very manly act of kindness said, “Dad, you go ahead and ride the rest of the way.  I will wait here for you.” 

We both knew that we still had a couple of miles left on CR312 and that there were some ups and downs (though none like the one we had just done).  I think this was his way of letting me off the hook on riding the rest of the way while leaving me with some shred of delusion that I could do it and he couldn’t.  I had no such delusion.  I knew I could, knew he could and think he was afraid of having to call his mother and tell her to send the EMS to haul off my carcass.  I may have looked a little tired.  So I did not go the rest of the way to the end of CR312.

Cycling to the summit of Llano CR312

The view looking Northwest from the summit of Llano CR312

We dug out a couple of apples and ate them while soaking up the view from what may well be the top of Llano County.  As our heart rates dropped down into the normal range, we drank lots of water, took Endurolytes and restored some blood sugar with those apples. We discussed things that mattered to us and enjoyed those shared moments, both knowing we had just done something that few of our peers were likely to ever do. 

 After 20 minutes, or maybe a bit more, we started the return ride.  It was great!  We took it very easy down the big hill because the wildflowers seem to like the face of that hill above all others.  Just below that cattle guard that almost did Brad in, we stopped and took some pictures of the wildflowers on the northeast side of the road.  

The bluebonnets, paintbrushes, verbenas, and a bunch of other wildflowers seemed to have been painted across our favorite part of Texas.  We both acknowledged Ladybird Johnson’s contribution in encouraging the preservation of these beauties and the generous reseeding of them in rangeland and getting our highway department to seed them along right-of-ways across most of the state.  As full of ourselves as we felt for having climbed that hill, we both understood that our achievement in doing it was less than trivial when compared to that of Mrs. Johnson’s gift of wildflowers to all of us. 

Cycling Llano County TX Bluebonnets

A typical view as we descended from the summit on CR312Bluebonnets and paintbrushes were just great.

Bluebonnets and paint brushes Llano Cr 312

Bluebonnets and paintbrushes were just great.

 This was a great ride.  All my whining and moaning about the climb aside, I owe William a “thanks” for recommending it.  It really was a tough climb for a geezer…  and even for a much younger rider. 

Wildflowers Cycling Llano County Texas CR312

A patch of verbenas (I think) on the way back from the summit.

It was worth the pain of the climb. If you don’t think you are up to the climb, but can get a lift to the end of the road and then ride back, it is a really amazing wildflower ride.  I recommend it highly.  In fact, if you can get a lift for two, drop me an email and I will try to go with you. 

It is worth another ride. 

Cycling – Inks Lake State Park to Longhorn Caverns (The Beast of PR4)

Sometimes a man just has to see if he is truly “over the hill.”  That I am recounting this ride suggests that I may have had one of those moments.  I will save my conclusion for the end of this post. 

A few days ago, I set out to see if I could make the ride from Inks Lake State Park to Longhorn Caverns State Park via Texas Park Road 4.  I had recently driven the route and it was more than a little intimidating for a man who has, to the astonishment of many of his friends, survived long enough to be qualified for Medicare.  The length of the ride is not a problem as it is only a 12.9 mile round trip.  The road is nice and there is lots of nice scenery.  The problem is a, roughly, 500 foot climb in just under a mile.  That comes after about 4 miles of hilly terrain (a nice warm-up).  But… 500 feet in just under a mile is really steep.  So I just had to give it a try.    

The “day of reckoning” was mostly clear with temps in the low 60s and with brisk south winds so all that was about perfect.  With my trusty Catrike in the truck I headed off to the Inks Lake State Park entrance.  There, I paid the $5.00 (per person) entrance fee, unloaded, took a couple of Endurolyte Capsules, fired up the lights on the weird looking trike and set up the helmet cam on the front post way out on the front of the machine.      As I was preparing to leave on the ride a very nice couple in their 80s stopped to ask about the funny looking machine I was about to get down into.  They told me their Austin based son does a bit of cycling and reported that he even made a charity ride, a couple of times, that runs from Houston to Austin.  They had thought he had at least one of every sort of pedaled machine in the country, but they had never seen anything like the Catrike.  I offered to let them sit on it, but they were both concerned (as was I) that getting back up off it might ruin their day.  With that I wished them a great day and headed off as they grabbed a near-by ranger to point me out (I wonder if they suggested that I might be deranged or some communist infiltrator on a subversive machine).    

Getting out onto Park Road 4, I turned south toward Longhorn Caverns.  For a couple of miles the road winds around and over pink granite hills, often with the clear waters of Inks Lake visible just off to to the right of the road.  Since I was a little anxious about the looming climb, I carefully kept my heart rate in the 120-135 range during this section of the ride.  Soon after leaving Inks Lake Park a strange sight comes into view ahead and slightly to the left way up on top of a distant ridge…It is a replica of Falkenstien Castle in Germany, built on top of the ridgeline which is also home to Longhorn Caverns.  Check out their web site if you are planning a wedding, or other event, that you want to have in a spectacularly memorable location.     

Catrike Ride Inks Lake State Park to Longhorn Caverns State Park

Go Left to Test Your Mettle on The Beast of PR4

About 2 miles into the ride a gradual climb starts. I was gaining elevation very slowly, but steadily, as I approached the Y in the road where one could go right to Kingsland (4 or 5 miles) or left to start the serious climb.   The base of the climb, known ( to me ) as The Beast of PR4 (Park Road 4), can be seen through the trees to the left of center.   

Bearing left at the Y, staying on Park Road 4, I started gearing down as the climb rapidly turned steep.  My heart rate quickly picked up from 130 at the base to 160, so I went all the way down to the lowest gear on the Cat and backed off a little on my pedaling until I was able to stabilize in the 155 to 165 beat per minute range. 
Catrike climb The Beast of Texas PR4

The first turn of the climb on PR 4 - Very steep

 The pitch was not constant… some places were only “bloody steep” while other stretches were a good deal steeper than that.  My speed varied between 3 and 4 mph as I worked to maintain my heart rate in that 155 to 165 band at which I know I am safe at my age and over-all state of conditioning.   Kids, don’t try this “at home” without consulting your doctor first.  For 12 minutes, I ground away up the hill.  A couple of cars passed me on the narrow 2 lane road, both being very considerate of my safety in the way they did it.  Finally I arrived at the top of the really steep section of the climb and made the turnoff to the right into a scenic overlook area that may have been originally built by the CCC  or WPA to accommodate model A Fords needing to cool off the radiator (in truth I doubt that many Model A’s would have made the climb… period).    

Catrike view from the rest area at the top of The Beast of PR4

View north from the rest area

The view was a major “Wow!”.  One can see Lake Buchanan off in the distance to the north.  Inks Lake coming down from Buchanan to the headwaters of Lake LBJ is nestled in a narrow valley surrounded by granite hills , and Lake LBJ extends off into the distance to the southwest, with Packsaddle Mountain in the background.   

Catrike view to the southwest from PR4 rest area

To the southwest, across Kingsland and lake LBJ is Packsaddle Mountain

   Spending a minute admiring the scenery without getting off the Cat, I then headed back out onto Park Road 4 for the last little bit of the climb, spread out over almost a mile, to the Longhorn Caverns State Park.  There is no entry fee at that end, unless you want to catch a tour of the caverns while you are there.   

Upon arriving at Longhorn Caverns I checked my heart rate monitor and found that I had burned just under 800 calories so far in this ride.  Taking a 2 minute break, I took two more Enduroluyte Capsules and finished off a half liter bottle of water.    

Then, I called my buddy Eric to gloat a bit over my manly accomplishment before   

Falkenstien Catle seen from PR4 heading northwest

Falkenstien Castle seen shortly after leaving Longhorn Caverns

heading back out north on Park Road 4 for the return ride.  For the first 0.8 or so miles I was ripping along at 25 mph on the gentle descent towards upper end of The Beast.      

There is a song from my younger years about a couple of guys driving a truck load of chickens over Wolf Creek Pass (a pretty harrowing pass just east of Pagosa Springs Colorado) and rather suddenly that song popped into my head as the Cat began to accelerate downwards on the Back of The Beast!  Cycling the brakes I could get it down to close to 30 mph then let the brakes off to cool and would be back shooting through 35 heading for 40 VERY quickly.  I started smelling the brake pads as they heated up, provoking more thoughts of that song about those two guys with that load of cluckers as they shot down the hill towards Pagosa Springs.  The following video is of poor quality due to the camera getting confused about exposure and bouncing around a bunch, but still gives a good sense of the experience of going down The Beast of Park Road 4  like a bat out of hell.   

Let me be clear about this… Lance Armstrong may shoot down Alp D’Huez at 60 mph, but he is skilled at his craft and the bike he rides does not have his most tender parts down 5-6 inches off the pavement.  30 mph feels pretty fast to an old guy on a Catrike.  I hit 41.5 mph (reported by my GPS on the rerun of the descent to get the video now used in the post) and can proudly report that I did not “pass” anything in the process.   

View of Inks Lake from Texas Park Road 4 on Catrike Road

View of Inks Lake on the return ride to Inks Lake State Park

The rest of the ride back to Inks Lake State Park was relaxing, immersed in the beauty of the granite hills, native brush, various cacti and views of the blue waters of Inks Lake.  Arriving back at the park HQ, I found that I had ridden for 1 hour and 20 minutes including about 2 minutes at Longhorn Caverns recharging my electrolytes and fluids for the ride back and my courage for The Descent of The Beast .    The round trip is only 12.9 miles, but the climb of The Beast makes it a good workout.  I had burned 985 calories, of which nearly 800 had been on the outbound half of the ride.  The careen down The Beast and subsequent 4+ miles used very little energy but a good bit of adrenalin.    

This is a great ride if you are in shape to do it and not be crushed by the big climb.  There are facilities at both ends and at a convenience store about a half mile north of the base of The Beast.  I have heard reports that the cafe in that store makes really good hamburgers, but did not have any desire for anything that heavy during this ride.  I could not have made the climb on a two wheeler because I was going so slow that I would have fallen off.  If I had to stop part of the way up, I could not ever hope to get going upwards from a stop, as it is just too steep.  Young turks (and turkettes) could most likely do it, but at my age, no way I would even try.  But… the Catrike and I just geared down and chugged up with me adjusting my cadence to maintain my heart rate in a safe range.    

There are lots of young Bluebonnet plants along the sides of the road and by mid March they should be starting to bloom, making this ride even better.  I would enjoy doing this ride with some fellow Catrikers sometime soon.  If you would like to give it a try leave a comment on this blog with your email address and I will get back to you to plan a ride.   

So am I over the hill?  Not a chance.    Soon I will take a shot at the Willow Loop over in Gillespie County.  The climb there is much longer (it goes on for miles!), but not as steep.  There are 18 or 19 cattle guards and about a dozen rather chilly low water crossings.  The Willow Loop is one of the Hill Country’s best wild flower shows and wild horses couldn’t keep me away! 

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Don Bynum