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Hoosier Dams

Autumn is coming to Indiana and the first faint signs are starting to show.  Leaves are just beginning their explosion to color; breezes are blowing with a tendency towards crisp and afternoon warmth turns to evening cool and early morning chill.  The prefect time for a Century tour of Wabash County in the Dam 2 Dam Century Ride.

I so appreciate when the town is not only aware, but even participates in the event

I so appreciate when the town is not only aware, but even participates in the event

After most of the summer on my own personal adventure which is coming to a close, I was able to match my itinerary with this ride and complete state #10 in my quest to ride an event in all 50 states.  Convenience of scheduling, however, was not the only reason I chose this particular event.  I was much more influenced by the event’s web page, it’s route description, the fact it is, at the moment, a smaller and grassroots event, and finally, takes place in and around the hometown of a dear friend.

Wabash is the prototypical image of small town mid-America.   Tree-lined streets, blocks of victorian style homes, a church or

Wabash Judicial Center

Wabash Judicial Center

town-hall, I was never able to figure out which, whose bells ring out a most complex yet pleasing symphony each evening.  The surrounding county of endless farms, interrupted only by shady woodlands, the occasional swamp, and

Herrold On Hill B&B where I stayed.  FANTASTIC!

Herrold On Hill B&B where I stayed. FANTASTIC!

crossings over gently flowing rivers evokes a feeling of “hometown” no matter where you may hail from.  And I’m pretty sure the entire southern half of the county is designated state recreation area.  All this made riding the 104 miles nothing less than an extreme pleasure.

Beginning and ending in downtown Wabash, you are on your way no more than 2 miles before finding yourself traveling the wilds of rural county roads.  Over the next several hours you will pass through several small towns, over the Wabash and Eel Rivers, across Salamonie Dam…

Crossing Salamonie Dam

Crossing Salamonie Dam

past farms, and farms, and more farms.  There’s a lot of corn out there boys and girls.  And cows, some sheep, what I think is probably soy, a few Alpacas. Morning Farm Ok, so it’s farmland I think you get it, but I never tired of it.

The event includes a spaghetti dinner the evening before, lunch on the ride, seven rest stops (assuming you do the 104 mile course; but adequate stops no matter what distance you choose) stocked with food and drink, including free supplies of gatorade mix and all the 5-Hour Energy you can drink.  Did you

Stockdale Mill, where lunch was provided, along with near ride-ending chocolate chip cookies.  They were so good I almost didn't get back on my bike.

Stockdale Mill, where lunch was provided, along with near ride-ending chocolate chip cookies. They were so good I almost didn’t get back on my bike.

know that 5-Hour Energy is headquartered in Wabash?  I did not.  And post ride vittles as well.  Amazing support.   Here’s another tidbit of Wabash trivial.  According to a small plaque in the sidewalk, it was the first city in the world to be lit by electric streetlights.  Imagine that.

Before finishing you of course cross dam number two, the Mississinewa Dam creating the Mississinewa Lake.  I hear you struggling to pronounce that.  Don’t worry,  I was at it, out loud, over and over

First electrically lit city

First electrically lit city

Wait, didn't I already cross this dam?!?

Wait, didn’t I already cross this dam?!?

Lake Mississinewa, created by the dam.  Yep, it was still pretty chilly when I got here.

Lake Mississinewa, created by the dam. Yep, it was still pretty chilly when I got here.

again for the next 20 miles trying to figure it out.  Apparently what is not original in this county is dam architecture.  Hey, it’s the Army Corps of Engineers.  They don’t get hired for their creativity.

And what good would a rural ride be without a red barn AND a covered bridge?

The obligatory red barn...

The obligatory red barn…

...and covered bridge

…and covered bridge

Christine Flohr, Director of Tourism, and everyone involved in the planning and execution of Dam To Dam put on a first rate event.  Certainly one worth traveling to, even if i had not been on my way back through that part of the country.

This is an event I can

More beautiful Wabash County

More beautiful Wabash County

easily recommend you go out of your way to ride. Super friendly star and volunteers whose dedication to making your ride the best experience possible is evident in everything they do.  It is a young event with 2015 as the 6th Annual, and really only the second year of marketing and advertising but as such they have outclassed many of the larger events I’ve ridden.  Wabash itself was a pleasure just to visit.  My stay at Herrold On Hill B&B was truly exceptional.  Sandy and Alan are the consummate hosts, the house itself is a spectacular vision of history, built in 1885, and the Breakfast part of B&B was as unique as it was delicious.  On top of all that, it’s a mere 3 blocks from the YMCA, the HQ and starting place for the ride. There are a few great places to stay in town and this is definitely one of them.

Wabash and the Dam To Dam Century Ride.  Two Mid-West treasures!

In Case You’re Missing It

There won’t be anything new here till after I ride the Dam To Dam Century in September.  That doesn’t, however, mean that I am not riding.  Tomorrow marks the beginning of week two of my  wondrous tour around the west, including plenty of riding done and yet to be done.  Come on over to my other site, Bike Life and journey with me on my Tour De Paul.  All the posts start with “Tour De Paul.”  It’s been incredible so far, but you’re not too late to catch up.  Awesome pics too!

A Few New Photos

A few late arrivals from the fine folks at Vermont Gran Fondo.  Still doesn’t do the ride justice.

Ascending Appalachian Gap  At this point things didn’t see too bad.  It’s the very top of Appalachian Gap.  Sure doesn’t look like 16% grade in this pic.

Here I’m really struggling at the top of Lincoln Gap.  I’d just gotten back on my bike after walking about 1/4 mile.  I don’t want to disparage, but notice the rider walking behind me.

Suffering up Lincoln Gap

Suffering up Lincoln Gap

And finally, turning in to the finish back at Middlebury College Snow Bowl.   I’m just as exhausted, but felt much more elated than I look.

Turn into the finish shoot

Turn into the finish shoot


Real Misery In The Green Mountains

I’m sorry Virginia, but the REAL Mountains Of Misery are in Vermont.  At least for the east coast that is.  Mountains Of Misery, that fantastic ride near the Shenandoah front range and Blacksburg is an amazingly beautiful and challenging ride with an excruciatingly difficult finish.  Vermont Gran Fondo is, quite simply, BRUTAL.

Let me admit that I came to the Vermont Gran Fondo a scant 5 days after riding 103 miles in the Ocean State Tour De Cure.  I was to learn that despite feeling great in between, 5 days is not enough time for my legs to fully recover and so I left the starting line with something less than a full tank.  This however is not reason enough to change my appraisal that VTGF was the hardest ride I’ve done.

Woodchuck Sign

Packet Pick-up at Woodchuck Cidery in Middlebury, VT

I  based myself in the town of Middlebury, VT another wonderful little New England   town with spired church, some great restaurants and the ever so famous Woodchuck Cidery where packet pick-up was held.

I have been blessed with really terrific weather for all of my state rides and this one was no exception.  It had poured down rain during the night but I awoke to a somewhat sunny sky, about 58 degrees at the start and forecast to reach 80 with plenty of sunshine and only a light breeze.  PERFECT.  It was chilly at the Middlebury College Snow

A Bit Chilly At The Start Of Vermont Gran Fondo

A Bit Chilly At The Start Of Vermont Gran Fondo

Bowl start, especially when the sun ducked behind the clearing clouds, and not much chance to “warm up” with 10 miles of downhill to start the ride.

Only a few minutes after hitting the valley my wind shell came off.  In retrospect I should have just sucked it up and been cold for the first little bit, but cold tends to by my Kryptonite and I avoid it as much as possible.  It was not a big deal to just stuff my shell in my pocket for the next 93 miles.

VTGF is also know as the LAMB ride because it is comprised, on the Gran (103 mile) route, of climbs over Lincoln, Appalachian, Middlebury and Brandon Gaps.  All respectable ascents in their own right, the combination of all four, along with a couple of other lesser but energy sapping climbs, is what makes this ride so difficult with 10,000+ feet of climb.  Lincoln Gap alone, advertised to have the steepest continuous mile in the US at 20%-24% grade, is a killer all on its own, but I’ll get to that later.  I wasn’t sure of which came first (you do not ride them in L. A. M. B. order) but I did know the first was near mile 20.  I settled in to a comfortable pace, enjoying the countryside views and preparing for the task ahead.   Riding Along

I’ve said before I’m not as fearful of downhill speed as most others, or perhaps as much as I should be, so starting in the first wave of riders and barreling down the mountain as fast as I dared on the still wet roads put me near the very front of the pack by the bottom.  I didn’t expect to stay there so it was no surprise when riders began passing me, and passing me, and passing me.  I thought more than once that either these folk are in incredibly good condition or they were riding awfully fast at this point, having 10,000 feet to climb ahead of them.  I was averaging 18-19 mph here and being passed by everyone, and I mean EVERYONE.  I worked quite hard to keep my ego in check, let them all go and stay relaxed at my own pace.

A right turn through the town of Bristol,  stop at the first rest stop to top off my fluids, quick photo op

Thanks to the rain, the streams were roaring, vice babbling.

Thanks to the rain, the streams were roaring, vice babbling.

and the terrain began to rise toward what I thought was Lincoln Gap, the first big climb.  The grade remained pretty gentle, only once reaching anything near double digits.  Maybe this was all going to be over-hyped after all.  And then, I saw the little green sign.

“Strava Start.”   I knew all of the gap climbs were competitive and therefore timed segments.  Not competitive for me, but there is a King/Queen Of the Mountain challenge for each of the climbs and those segment winners are determined by downloading your GPS data to the Strava website.  So, apparently that little 5 mile climb we just went over was…………..nothing of importance.  And it quickly became apparent why.  THIS climb was not so gentle. Oh sure, it started out that way, but got steeper and steeper as we went.  And it got steeper and steeper all the way to the top, maxing out at 16% for much of the last half mile.  This is where, sometime in that climb, I learned that 5 days is not enough recovery time between 100 mile rides.  I was only at mile 30 and my legs were already telling me they were not so happy.  Uh oh.  It’s also where I learned that I’d just climbed Appalachian Gap, not Lincoln.  Well, that was nice to know too.

That road below doesn’t look NEARLY as steep from here as it was coming up!

And now it was HOT!  Even here at the top it was well into the 80’s.  Luckily, after some food and water, I had the downhill to cool off, and it was quite the downhill.  Very shortly after starting down, and it was nearly as steep down the other side, I glanced down at my GPS to see 58 mph.  Whoa!!!  That blows away my previous top speed of 47 mph.  Unfortunately, I came around a bend and nearly melted my rims trying to brake hard enough to stop from rear ending the car in front of me, not going anywhere near 58 mph.  Uh, I think the speed limit here was 40 mph.  It was a frustrating mile and a half riding and releasing my brakes to keep them from overheating and keep me from hitting that car.  So much so that I did something a little crazy, sweeping to the opposite lane of traffic (I could see far down the road that it was clear of oncoming traffic) and sprinted past them on the inside of a hairpin turn (mile 35.3 on my gps track).  Ok, it was foolish, but it was also a bikeload of fun and quite satisfying.  I don’t think they were too happy.

Next came Lincoln Gap.  Oh my &%)#@%^& GOD!!!!  That little green “Strava” Sign came quickly and then it got really stinkin’ steep really stinkin’ fast.  Thankfully this entire climb is under heavy tree cover keeping the temps down, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from having to, without shame, walk for a bit.  It no kidding easily hits 24% grade.  I ended up walking in two sections for a total of probably 1/2 mile.   The first was only a hundred yards or two.  I got back on and rode a few hundred yards and then walked again, this time for longer.  It was INCREDIBLY STEEP.  At one point I was lucky enough to see Lea Davison, one of our US Olympians from the 2012 London games climb on past me, breathing hard, but looking unbelievably strong. I think I developed an instantaneous crush.  Not much surprise she took QOM for that climb.  A quarter mile or so from the top I was finally able to get back on the bike and ride to the top, praying to any sort of deity or alien life form that the remaining two climbs were nowhere near this hard.

Green Vermont

I was assured not, by previous riders, and after a long rest and refuel I mounted back up for the descent.  Just a short way down and around a sharp curve there was a rider down receiving medical attention.  It was probably 15% downgrade here and I can only imagine what trouble he’d gotten into.  He clearly did not take heed of the sign at the top of sharp curves, wet surfaces and impending gravel.  He was in good hands so I did not stop.  Only another 1/4 mile down the road it turned to gravel, which completely ruins any chance of a high speed descent and FUN.  Boooooo!  In fact a majority portion of the next 10 miles was unpaved surface, although well graded and compacted and very rideable.  Not at high speed, but rideable all the same.

One stop and a a trip around Lake Dunmore brought us to the town of Forest Dale and the start of the climb up Brandon Gap.  This ended up being very similar to the climb up Appalachian Gap in distance, grade and difficulty.  It took a near constant mantra of, “I’ve got this” and “You are stronger than this mountain” to get me through the ascent and by the time I got to the top I was gassed.  But I made it.  I dumped half a bottle of water on my head, ate some, drank a lot and got out of the sun for a bit before…….yes…..screaming down the other side as fast as I could go, cooling off and loving the speed.  Finally a big descent where I didn’t touch my brakes once.  It’s like a Bikegasm for me. 🙂

By now I know I have but to suffer through 15 miles and one more tough climb to the finish and by all accounts, the easiest of the four.  The wind was out of the north by this point so the ride back up towards Middlebury Gap, while cooling, was noticeably more difficult.  Then the final turn to the west and after a few miles of flat and gentle grade up, the last two miles of climb began.  True to word-of-mouth, while not an easy climb, it was certainly the easiest of the four, which considering it was miles 101-103 meant my legs felt it just as much as the other three.  And yes, it was consistently into double digit grades the last mile.  Vermont has a knack for keeping the worst for last when it comes to road climbs.

I cannot overstate my feeling of relief and then accomplishment as I passed the the little green “Strava End” sign and the road changed from up to down for the last few tenths to the finish at the Snow Bowl.  Not only was I done with this ride but I’d completed four different 100+ mile rides in a five week span.  That’s no Tour De France but an accomplishment of which I’m proud.  In great need of a rest break, but still proud.

Me At Otter Creek Falls

I celebrated that night with a filet and lobster dinner back in Middlebury.  Vermont Gran Fondo is more than worthy of a bucket list ride.  I certainly intend to explore more of the Green Mountain state.  While there, high on my list is another attempt at Lincoln Gap, with legs well rested, just to see if I can.

Ocean State Tour De Cure

When first I conceived of this whole 50 Rides thing, one of my basic tenets was to avoid the larger, well known sponsored rides.  Not a hard and fast rule, but a plan from which to deviate, and not because I have anything against them, but because I figure that they have plenty of support.  However, when it came to Rhode Island, there is only ONE ride of sufficient length which remains entirely within the state borders, which is one of my hard and fast rules, so, the Ocean State Tour De Cure it was.  Makes the decision pretty easy.

The ride Start/Finish was on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in South Kingston.  Tucked out of the way and removed from the far more touristy areas of RI, it made for a perfect venue.  Easy to get to and plenty of parking.  I stayed at The Stagecoach House Inn, a cozy little inn about 15 minutes west, in the tiny town of Wyoming.  After arriving in the early afternoon and checking in, I headed over to the campus to check out the layout and logistics for the next morning.  There was no packet pick-up the day before; a planning factor I tend to dislike as that disrupts my pre-ride routine.  Then I took the rest of the afternoon and early evening to explore Newport, a fantastic and beautifully historic city.  If ever in this part of the country most definitely spend a day or two.  I had no idea that RI, and particularly Newport is one of the most affluent communities in the country.  Just drive around the southern portion of the city.  The mansions are spectacular.

But anyway, on to the ride.  I must say, summer weather in New England is so much more pleasant than the un-godly heat and humidity of northern Virginia.  Particularly for riding.  In fact, it was cold (for me) at the 0700 ride start, at 48 degrees.  Brrrrr.  It did warm up nicely throughout the day, topping out in the mid 70’s and with plenty of sunshine and very little wind, it was a perfect day for riding.I was somewhat surprised at the small crowd gather for the start.  I don’t think there were 200 of us there.  I expected under the TDC banner, there would be many hundreds more.

A Charming Home In Westerly

Overall, this was a nice ride.  While there was nothing awe inspiring, the roads, for the most part were nice.  Several miles are along major and heavily trafficked roads, though there were ample shoulders or bike lanes throughout these sections.  Three areas stood far above the rest in terms of scenery.  The first, the town of Westerly is a charming New England town.

A Charming Home In Westerly

Shortly after passing though you reach the coast and the town of Watch Hill,  riding along the shore through Misquamicut Beach.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

This is the second of the really memorable sections of this ride, especially with the sun shining, the wind NOT blowing and the vivid blues of the sky and sea.


Marina near Watch Hill

Heading north again off the water will take you back up through the “hilly” parts.  Now look, it’s Rhode Island, so “hilly” is certainly a relative term, but you will be surprised, by the end of this route, how hard you’ve worked your legs up and over 4300 ft of climb.  With pleasant, but not especially attention grabbing scenery I was not paying close enough attention to the road and ended up missing the course markers painted on the road as I descended into the town of Wakefield.  When the road came to a “T” with no marks on the road I was a bit perturbed.  How far was I going to need to backtrack to find my way?  Turns out, about 2.5 miles.  Well I was definitely going to get 100 miles in on this ride, despite the “course” being a bit less than triple digits.

Finding my way again, I’d merely missed a turn which took us off the main road, but still through town, you head back down south to the water, the third of the notable parts of this tour and the southernmost point at Point Judith Light.

Pt Judith Light

I took a few minutes here for a little rest and to enjoy the scenery.  And of course, a photo op.  Three quarters of the ride done I had one more rest stop, just ahead to eat my last snacks and take on water for the final push.

From Point Judith you head north through Narragansett before eventually turning off the water and back to the forests and farmland.  While in itself this is not an overly taxing course, I tended to make it a challenge by riding a bit harder than I typically do.  Not overspent by the end I was certainly glad to cross the finish.  No matter what the course is like, riding 100+ miles is never easy.   After just over 6 hours on the bike I, and certainly my posterior, we happy to be done.

Misery Is In The Legs Of The Beholder

I first heard of Mountains Of Misery about 8 years ago, when I was living in Virginia Beach, and my first thought was, “who in their right mind would want to do that to themselves???”  That, of course, was well before my cycling became my passion………..or some might say obsession.  Then, when this 50 Rides thing came about it only made sense to check off my home state with one of the more difficult rides east of the Rockies.  Right?

Sunday morning dawned with spectacular sunshine, zero wind and………..Holy CRAP!  It’s 50 degrees!!!  You would think, especially after my Texas debacle, I’d stop relying on weather reports to determine my ride attire requirements.  Sometimes I’m not nearly as smart as your average bear.  I came prepared for the forecast low of 67 degrees, with merely thin arm warmers to get me through to the warmth of the day.  Not adequate for the temps at the start, particularly when you add in moving at 15 mph, in the shade.  Yes, 15 mph.

Virginia backroads

Virginia backroads

I take quite some time for my legs to warm up and stop feeling like blocks of concrete oatmeal. You riders know what I mean.  It took a good 40 minutes for me to actually begin to feel comfortably warm, both leg-wise and body temperature.

My strength as a rider lies in my endurance and ability to spin.  If I can spin my pedals, vice stomping/mashing on them, I can maintain decent speeds and be comfortable all day long.  Once it comes to requiring shear power, which for me is typically REALLY high winds or grades over 8-10%, my performance drops significantly.  Knowing this ride ends with a 6 mile climb, the last 2-3 of which average 10+% of grade, my plan for the day was Conserve, Conserve, Conserve.  I was going to need all my available leg strength to get through those last miles so I would intentionally under exert through all the other climbs of the day and not push too hard where there was flat terrain.  All the work I’d done over the winter and earlier in the spring has me very confident in my nutrition and hydration regimen.  One less thing to focus on or worry about allowing me to really focus on my riding effort for the day.

I stopped at rest stops 1, 3, 5, and 7 as planned.  The first was just a quick water top-off and snack.  In this regard I learned my lesson from Texas.  DON’T PASS UP WATER.  By mile 35 I was starting to get rather hungry, so I snarfed down a fair bit of food (1.5 P,B&J sandwich, a few slices of cheese, a pickle, some Sport Legs and a gel) at rest stop #3 (mile 44).

I was a bit concerned all that might bother my tummy, especially since it was getting pretty warm, but I had no issues at all.  Rest stop 5 & 6 are the same spot, at the start and end of a 12 mile loop. John's Creek Mtn I grabbed another pickle (more for the taste than any fear of cramping), water and a gel at #5 and only stopped quickly as I came back by to slather on some more sunscreen. Another lesson learned from Texas.  You may be able to tell, this ride has been around a while and the support is excellent.  Well stocked rest stops with lots of variety and actually located where the course map says they will be.  THEY supplied the little extras that earn very high marks from riders like me, such as sunscreen, energy gel, electrolytes, etc.

This 12-mile loop through Clover Hollow may be the most scenic stretch I’ve experienced in any of these rides.  It starts following a narrow, shaded stream gully, just wide enough for the stream  Clover Hollow Bridgeand road, hills rising straight up on either side. After a few miles you come around a bend and it opens in to a most bucolic valley.  If you ever ride in the Blacksburg/Newport area be sure not to miss this gem.

Opening to Clover Hollow

Opening to Clover Hollow

93 miles and I wasn’t miserable yet.  In fact, I was feeling quite good.  Rest stop #7 was a quickie.  Just enough time to refill my water, suck down a gel, let my legs recover from the good climb of the last few miles and get psyched up for the final 8 miles.  Smiling at MOM  Now the test to see if my plan had worked.  From #7 it’s a nice little downhill for 2 miles and essentially all up from there, gently at first then steeper and steeper.  Through mile 98 I was encouraged, thinking to myself if the whole climb was like this there’s no problem.  Yep, that came to bite me.  No sooner had my Garmin clicked to 99.0 than the grade rose quickly to double digits……….and stayed there.

You would not think it possible to pedal less than 3 mph for 2.1 miles, up grades which reached at least 16%, without falling over but apparently it can be done.  As my legs strained harder my heart beat faster, and faster……..and faster.  It was finally my heart, pegged near 180 bpm, not my legs which brought me to stopping for a rest.  In fact, it brought me to stopping twice in those last two miles.  I’ll admit it, I was kinda miserable.  The second time fantastic volunteers, with my encouragement, doused my neck with ice water.  If it hadn’t been going at max rate my heart may have stopped right there, though after the initial shock it felt glorious.  No comparison however to the thrill and overwhelming relief a half mile later of crossing that finish line.

Lo and behold, I LOVE it when a plan comes together.  My legs got me through with flying colors and I suffer no disappointment in joining the many who needed a short break or two to conquer that climb up Doe Mountain/Bald Knob.  Mountains Of Misery should be on your biking bucket list.  It is 01.1 miles through beautiful farm country in southwestern Virginia.  With more than 10,000 ft of climbing it is truly a challenge; one worthy of your efforts.  Of course, that’s much easier to say now that I’ve crossed that finish line.

Two weeks to recover till I head off to Rhode Island.

Wild Flowers, Wildlife and Wind!

The wild flowers are in full bloom in central Texas this time of year, and quite the lovely sight.  A beautiful accompaniment for 100 miles of famous Lone Star State Hill Country in the Texas Gran Fondo.

Welcome Sign

Fredericksburg, TX was founded in the mid-1800’s by a community of Germans and that cultural background still strongly exists today.  The town is filled with Gast Haus’ and Biergarten’s, so where else would this fledgeling Gran Fondo commence and end but in the Markt Platz in the center of town.  It’s a quaint town and worth the hour drive from San Antonio or Austin, especially if you’re bringing your bike.  It’s also the birth place of one Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, our heroic leader of the War In The Pacific.   Nimitz copy

This was only the 2nd edition of the Texas Gran Fondo and as with most new events it has some maturing to do.  However, in terms of a fun and challenging course, this race is a winner.  Rolling  out of the start and for the first hour and a half, I was rather, “meh” about what little scenery I could see through the overcast and spritzzling that started shortly after we did.  That’s bike jargon for spritzing and drizzling.  Really, look it up.  It never actually rained, but there was precip for sure.  At this point I was just hoping I could get through this day without having to figure out how to survive softball-sized hail that the region had experienced the day before.  Ok, not too worried because the forecast was for mostly cloudy and some showers until later in the afternoon when they expected heavier thunderstorms.  This was important in my preparations as you will come to see.

Half the starting crowd for the 100 mile Gran Fondo.  The other half are in front of me.  It's a  small ride in its 2nd year.

Half the starting crowd for the 100 mile Gran Fondo. The other half are in front of me. It’s a small ride in its 2nd year.

Thankfully the temperature, near 65 degrees,  was warm enough that no additional layers were needed and my rain shell was stuffed comfortably into my pocket.  The only casualty of the elements was my ability to see through somewhat fogged and splattered glasses.  I DO NOT RIDE WITHOUT EYEWEAR.  I can see just fine.  It’s simply a safety issue and one on which I don’t believe any cyclist should compromise.  In all, though very humid, rather comfortable conditions to ride in.  It got down right gloomy for a bit and then the skies to the west, which we were directly headed, lightened.  Just a couple of miles before rest stop #1 and turning to the north, the spritzle had stopped.

I cleaned off my glasses, adjusted my saddle a bit, got some water and perhaps the tastiest rest stop snack I’ve had on any ride.  Even better than the tomato sandwiches in the Back Country Ride.  A sandwich thin with prosciuto and cheese.  I know, simple right?  But glory was that good.  It would be my choice at each stop.

I didn't know roosters were "exotic" but hey, I'm not from these parts.

I didn’t know roosters were “exotic” but hey, I”m not from these parts.

I was all stocked up, I could see again and we had turned off the highway we’d been on for 23 miles to more rural roads so I was happy and feeling good.  Now I suppose there’s no such thing as a windless day in Texas and there was wind on that first leg; a dead crosswind out of the south, but it wasn’t till we headed north that you could really tell how strong it was.  My average speed over the next 17 miles jumped up by 5 mph.  Unfortunately, what goes north must turn south at some point and when we did at mile 40 it was right in to 15-20 mph winds.  It is somewhat disheartening to suddenly go from easily maintaining speeds in the high 20’s to working your legs off to keep it over 11 mph.  Time to ease in to a rhythm and enjoy the scenery.  Much easier to do now that the sun had come out, we’d made our way to back country roads and the scenery slowly but surely worked it’s way in my beholder’s mind from “meh” to “beautiful” without really changing much at all.  It was right about here it struck me there’d been wild flowers along the roadside nearly all of the last 40 miles.  Nothing like proverbially stopping to smell the roses.

Wild Flowers copy

This southbound stint was a short one, but I knew there were longer bouts with the wind to come.  I was also starting to notice it was getting’ pretty steamy.  After 2 hours with it blazing down upon us I started thinking the rain shell which had yet to come out of my pocket would have been better replaced with some sunscreen.  Damn weather GUESSERS.  Remember how I said this was an event which needs some maturing?  Sunscreen at rest stops is one perk learned from experience.

TX Hill Country copy

At mile 50 came round two with the wind, and it made everything before seem trivial.  A four mile leg on Hwy 87, it runs through a valley, climbing nearly the entire way, and DEAD into the wind, which by now was easily gusting to 25-30 mph.  On any given day the climb, though lengthy is nothing major.  At most it topped out at 8% grade and that was only a very short piece.  It averaged around 3-4%, but in temps now reaching near 90 degrees and the unrelenting headwind, it was a long and BRUTAL 4 miles.  I was ecstatic to see the rest stop at the top.

Maturity lesson #2.  There are only a couple of “Unforgivable errors” in race support in my humble opinion and here was the grand poobah of them all.  NEVER run out of water at a rest stop.  For all you budding race organizers out there, have twice as much water as you think you need and then add 20%.  I luckily arrived while there was still some left and managed to fill both my bottles.  I also grabbed another of those amazing prosciuto sammies.  Not realizing they were that close to empty I drank half a bottle before getting back on my bike, only to find the jugs had run dry.  Off I went, mostly refreshed and not too concerned since, with another downwind leg ahead and figuring the next rest stop would be about 20 miles I didn’t foresee a big problem.  Much like the sunscreen, not much I could have done about it anyway.  I don’t recall passing a single convenience store or any sort of establishment to purchase refreshments along the entire 100 mile route, except in Fredericksburg itself.

At mile 74 we made our last turn south with essentially the remainder of the route home into the wind.  Worse yet, it clouded up for all of about 5 minutes with nary a drop of cooling rain, the temperature reaching 95 degrees by my Garmin.  Oh yeah, I’m gonna be lobsterfied after this one.  And no other rest stop yet.   Riding TX Backroads I had precious little water left and a few daunting hills on what ended up a most awesome, back in the middle of nowhere, beautiful, if I weren’t rather concerned about dehydration and overheating, never mind extremely perturbed with the race director for not having more rest stops or even the ones they advertised, road.  I passed a couple of zombified riders, all of whom were also out of water, as I was now, also pissed off and also unsure if there was a rest stop coming up anywhere in the last 20 miles.

Finally, in the tiny little hamlet of Crabapple, which is to say, an old barn and a church, at mile 84 was the final rest stop.  Only 29 miles from the last one.  Let me tell you there were some rather unhappy riders there when I got there and I knew a few more not too far behind me.  Here they were not in danger of running out of water, or food for that matter and I hope the volunteers took comfort from our coming in grumbling, and at least on my part, leaving much happier.  I made sure to thank them profusely for volunteering, once I got about 2 liters of water back in me.

This is still early in the season for me for a ride of this length and despite my training all winter and coming in to this in the best riding shape of my life, after 85 miles the wind, heat and humidity had taken their toll and I was about spent.  I’d eaten well and hydrated well, considering the aforementioned issues but there’s no acclimatizing to heat and humidity unless you train in heat and humidity, which is only now beginning here in DC.  So not having much push left in my legs made the last two climbs more significant than their profiles would indicate and there was much rejoicing in my head when I crested the last and had but a few miles of relative flat to spin to the finish.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot “W” #2, the wild life.  Critters encountered:

  • A few cows.  By-the-way, large expanses of this route take you through unfenced range where you come across signs reading, “Loose Livestock.”  Not that a cow is necessarily something to be wary of, but it is unusual for us easterners to come across them with no fence between us.  And if I never cross another cattle guard again it’ll be too soon.  There must have been at least 57 of them.
     Hello Cows!

    Hello Cows!

  • Goats.  In fact, more goats than cows.
  • 2 Longhorns.  Just 2.  I wish I’d stopped to take a photo but I figured surely, in the heart of Texas there would be plenty to take photos of.  Uh, Nope!
  • A porcupine, although he was mostly squished. 😦
  • Two large serpents; like 6 ft large.  One was definitely poisonous, the other I’m not sure about.
  • A lizard
  • One really cool small bird that I have no idea about, and…
  • A wild turkey

Now that I haven’t collapsed in a shriveled heap, this really was a fun race.  It’s got some growing pains to go through and I hope they learn the lessons that I know all the riders will pass along and continue to grow.  This could become a marquis ride, with a really great course and a fantastic destination to visit.  Good Luck Texas Gran Fondo……  Yee Haw!!!

Texas GF

Duck Season; Wabbit Season; GRAN FONDO SEASON!!!

It’s time to get this show on the road!  Spring has sproinged; Spring

Eggs are hatching;  I bet you thought you were gonna see a cute little chick

Bunnies are hopping; Almost Hopping

Quacks are quacking (and practicing medicine);duck

Lambs are lambing; Baaaaaaaaaaaaaa

And bicycles are rolling!  Now this is a GRAND Fondo

It’s Gran Fondo and Century season once again and I’m getting an early start.  Well, sorta early.  I did pass up a few worthy April rides for some other priorities but now it’s time for me to get a ridin’!

In the next 38 days I will be riding two Gran Fondos (or is that Fondi?) and two Century rides. First up, this weekend, is Texas Gran Fondo around Fredericksburg, followed by Mountains Of Misery (VA), Ocean State Tour De Cure (RI) and Vermont Gran Fondo.  All this, assuming my legs don’t fall off.

I’ll throw in another pitch here for helping my train get out of the station, or reach the starting line, really.  If any of this might tickle your generosity bone, any help you may see fit to send my way is unquestionably and greatly appreciated.  It’s easy, here’s how (click on the image below):


Stay tuned for more……….  🙂