Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brackettville (Ft. Clark Springs) to Camp Wood, TX (49 mi) Tues. 3/30/10

We started out the day with sunshine and a mild wind.  The road is still taking its toll on bodies and bikes, however.  As we were rolling down the road, suddenly my rear view mirror, mounted on the top of my handlebar, flopped over and looked like a child's loose tooth!  After trying to fix it, I just put it in my bike bag.  Alayne loaned me her extra sunglasses mirror.

The flowers continued to cover fields, and the ride was filled with wonderful scents.  The birds were chirping, and there were fields filled with goats, sheep and cows.  There were also the ever-present Turkey Buzzards.  We usually see them soaring above us on the updrafts, look quite beautiful.  They are large birds, but really ugly up close!  There were many deer carcasses on the side of the road, and these bold birds feeding on a deer barely moved as we rumbled by.  I even stopped to take photos of them working on a deer, with about 20 perched in a tree above me.  (see below)

At mile 45, we rode across a high bridge across the Nueces River.  It is a newer bridge, with easy access to the water.  Mike, Alayne and I rode into a camp site to get a closer look.  It is a warm day, but we declined to wade into the river to cool off like some of the other riders did.  We were close to our destination, and after taking a few photos, we rode the rest of the way in.

The side of my foot where I had my surgery back when, has become quite aggravated with all the vibration caused by the road surface.  With my sore right knee and now my left foot, I am seriously considering taking a day break tomorrow.  We are headed for some steep hills (this is called "Hill Country") and I do not want to seriously damage either.

Our ride tomorrow is 39 miles...a sure sign of serious climbing, as in 10% grade.  And of course those chip/seal surface the entire way.

I will wait until tomorrow to decide.  We will not have Internet tomorrow in Vanderpool, so the update for tomorrow will be delayed until we get to Kerrville, TX on Thursday, April 1.

Del Rio to Brackettville, TX (43 miles) Monday, 3/29/10

In a vivid dream last night, I dreamed that I woke up an hour late. I woke up in time, but being the being late part was more of a premonition. The last thing I do is pump up my tires, and I discovered my back tire was flat! The valve stem had developed a leak! My Armadillo tires are practically guaranteed against 99% of the things on the road that would puncture a normal tire, so the Kevlar was intact. By the time it was repaired, the rest of the group had left, so we started out at the back of the pack today.

Of course, you can never tell what pitfalls there are on the road. Twelve miles out there was a WALMART!! Half the group stopped to shop, knowing that Linda and Carol, who were grocery shopping for us, would be there to haul their purchases to our next night stop. I think we were all sore from yesterday’s century ride, but we only had 42 miles to ride today.

Thinking it would be a breeze, we soon realized that the chip/seal surface was going to be especially rough for the next 30 miles! The road was only a 2-lane with lots of traffic, and Carol’s reminder to “STAY ON THE SHOULDER,” and “SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!” we bounced our way toward Fort Clark.

We saw so many border patrol in their trucks!  We could not go very far without seeing one!  Our route has followed the Mexican/American border the entire route so far.

For those who don't know what chip seal is---it is really nasty material Texas uses for their roads.  It is cheap and easy to lay.  Essentially, it is made up of very large hunks of gravel pushed into tar, but only far enough so that it sticks.  It makes a very, very rough surface.  One feels like a jello jiggler after a day of riding on it.  The good news is that you can hear traffic coming up behind you from a very far distance.

Then there was the wind.  Lynn rolled in one day and said she needed poligrip on her behind just to say in the saddle--boy, did she hit the nail on the head.  Even an easy day of riding is difficult with chip seal and wind. Both really create hard work--more effort for less result.

It wasn't long before the hills began on the route.  Fortunately the hills weren’t too steep, but it really slowed us down in addition to all that chip/seal. We occasionally passed an entrance to a ranch, but the ranch houses are out of sight. Properties around here can be as large as ten to twenty sections in size. (One section is one square mile). The names can be creative, such as “BIG BUCK$ RANCH” with a dollar sign for the “S.”

Another was, “OI Ranch.” :) 

Many of us stopped in Brackettville for lunch at “Julie’s Restaurant.” 
(We loved the sign on their napkin holder…they knew there was a "u" in there some place!) 

Karen Cooper came in, sporting a new hairdo, created by her helmet! 

Sue Hersman stopped to talk to a girl at another table. The girl was in her early 30’s, a secondary teacher, who was riding self-contained, by herself, to study the organic farming around the country.

She has been riding in a circle route around the country, from farm to farm from August through June! She made the mistake of ordering the portabella burger, thinking it would be a big portabella mushroom in a bun, but, she did not take into account that we were in TEXAS! So being a vegetarian, all she could do was laugh! She ended up giving her lunch away to a group of men with cowboy hats, paid for it, and left to find another place to eat!  (Good luck with that, dear, this is Texas!)

Fort Clark, where we are staying, is a real Army fort, and we checked into rooms that were part of the fort’s barracks.

Fort Clark was established in 1852 and inactivated in 1946. It has an interesting history. It helped guard the border with Mexico, as well as rid the Indian menace from SW Texas. Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts were used from 1872-1914. From 1920-1941, the fort was home to a cavalry unit. During WW II more than 12,000 troops were stationed here, along with a German POW camp. Many famous officers served here, including George C. Marshall and George Patton.

There was a swimming pool that was created by damming up the flowing river.  It flows in one side and out the other!


Our dinner was in a large mess hall that echoed with our dinner conversation and laughter!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sanderson to Del Rio, TX (111 miles!) 3/28/10

I DID IT!  111 miles!!  Yahoo!!!  And our group scored a record for Woman Tours...95% of the riders completed the entire ride!  (Only 1 person started at the 20 mile mark but she finished the rest!)

This part of Hwy 90 is full of hills - Carol said "rolling hills" but that sounds too gentle.  I think if we were told at the map meeting the night before about all the long and steep hills that were to come, we probably would have been too overwhelmed to finish this century ride.  As it was, however, our group spent the day encouraging each other, and we all did it!

Both Linda and Carol warned us to keep eating something and drink a water bottle's worth every 10 miles.  We dutifully did so, and along with tail wind part of the was, I think that was why we all made it!

Since there was no place to stop for lunch between the start and finish today, Linda and Carol  prepared a nice roadside lunch for us near the town of Langtry, TX.  While we were there, a man came out of the nearby convenience store with "Gus," his Great Dane.  Gus is a gentle soul, and enjoyed all the attention.  He was also well behaved...when his owner saw Gus sauntering toward the lunch tables, all he had to do was call his name, and he turned around.  Good dog.

Eighteen miles out of Langtry, we came to the 273 foot bridge across the Pecos River.  This river divides the eastern part of Texas from the rough and desolate West.  
The roads today were 90% chip and seal, and these were especially bumpy.  I could not see anything in my bike-mounted rear view mirror...it was so jiggly!  We would try to call out to each other, and our voices would vibrate!  If there was any problem with socks, shoes, or seats, it sure showed up today.
Fortunately, my sore knee was not too bad, even with the distance.  But many had problems with foot blisters because of the vibrations!  Mine showed up on my 4th toe!
Because Linda and Carol did lunch for us on the road today, pizza was ordered for dinner.

The ride tomorrow is only 43 miles!  Seems so short compared to today!  It is supposed to be relatively flat (whatever that means)...maybe compared to today's hills.  It will be a nice recovery ride after a day of 111 miles in any case.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marathon to Sanderson, TX 54 miles 3/27/10

Our breakfast this morning at the Gage Hotel was in a room with a long, wooden table...like something you would see on "Bonanza!"  I hated to leave the Gage; it was such a beautiful place, decorated in Mexican, American Indian, and Old West styles.

Last evening I got some more biking technique advice from Linda Baldwin, our chef and bike ride leader.  She has a way of explaining things that really make a difference!

We only had 54 miles to go, and the terrain was a gradual downhill.  We started out with no wind, traveling due East.  We advised not to start until after 8 am since the sun would be in our eyes, as well as vehicle driver eyes.  As the sun rose, the wind came up and we were thrilled that it was mostly at our backs!  We were able to maintain 20-22 mph.  The SAG car appeared before we knew it.
When we stopped, we had company...a herd of a dozen buffalo, quietly grazing near the SAG car.  They did not seem too concerned about all the bicycles and people taking their photos.  Since there was a fence between us, this obviously was not a wild herd.

When we left, the road had some nice downhills, and in my effort to apply the advice that Linda suggested, I really started to hit my stride.  I was going 25-26 mph with seemingly little effort!  My knee was doing well, and I was using my upperleg muscles, my aero bars, and my largest gears.  Of course the tail wind helped, too!I arrived at the Outback Oasis Motel around 11:40 am - a record for me!

The owners are amateur herpetologists, and they have a room off the lobby with glass cages of many of the local snakes.  A few of the rattlers were coming out of their winter hibernation, and would become quite noisey whenever we stood in front of their cages.  Ruth, one of the owners, was happy to show them to us.  Her husband raises them in an area behind the motel.  (Right behind Mike's room, much to her dismay!)

Many of us arrived quite early into Sanderson, and 15 of us walked the few blocks to the town center, where there was a nice cafe.  Sanderson's population is 900, so if we were to walk another few blocks we would have been out of town!

After everyone came in so early there was time to play games, catch up on blogging and clean bike gears and chain.  We have our big 111-mile day tomorrow!  We are ordering pizza for tomorrow's dinner because not everyone will be riding in by our 7:00 pm dinner time!