Day 34 – “Gravel” Ani DiFranco

Navasota to Cleveland, TX

73 miles.

Total miles (by popular request). 1836

Today we enjoyed more farms, pastures, horses, and cattle.  Had a treat of seeing more Long horned cattle.

I have been fascinated with the terrain changes and the appearance and disappearance of plants, trees, cactus etc.  today was the first day that I did not see a prickly pear cactus. They have been a consistent companion since we passed through Arizona. A few stubborn ones clung on the last few days, but have now disappeared into the lush green trees and pastures. In a few months this area may not be as green or lush, but for now it is great.  The wildflowers have also started to disappear, we were not treated to the miles and miles of them today.

Most of the route today travels through the Sam Houston National forest.  Parts of it looked as if I was traveling in New Hampshire.

The only downside to the day was the limited shoulder of the road. At times it was less than 6 inches, at best it was 2 feet.  I have mentioned the challenge of the fast pace trucks in the past, but once again we experienced a few scary moments.  Logging trucks zipped by us, along with the usual tractor trailers, and one oversized load.   The trucks will often blow their horns to let us know they are approaching….which is somewhat unnecessary as we can hear them barreling down the road.  The notice of the horn would be great if there was somewhere we could go or move over to, but often we have to share the road.  And they do not move over (even when they can), nor do they lift their foot off of the accelerator.  I shuddered through a few close calls.

The shoulder today often had crevices and deep cracks up to two inches wide.  You can not move over or you could get sucked in, get a pinch flat or worse wipe out.  We also found that sections of the road had loose gravel which added to the excitement!  I will be happy to get home and drive on the NH roads!  Even a frost heave or two would be better than what we have encountered here in Texas.   I will say, though, that the roads in Texas have been very clean compared to NM and AZ.    Two more days and we are out of Texas!

I looked at the calendar today and we have 3 weeks left!  Crazy that we have more behind us, than we have in front of us!

 

 

Day 33 – “Cruise” Florida Georgia Line

La Grange to Navasota, TX

65 miles

The first part of our ride today took us through the small hamlets of Warrenton and Round Top (population 90).  In the early morning the few buildings that made up the town square were quiet, but very cute.   The town appeared to be suffering a bit of a hang over, having just completed a 10 day Annual Antique Show.  The two tiny burghs population erupts to over 100,000 as people travel from all over to attend the show.

The remants of the event resembled a large, miles long tent city.  The Main Street, empty pastures, event centers,  front yards, roadside buildings, barns and stables all had empty tents.  A few vendors could be seen breaking down and packing up, and a few permanent shops/stores advertised that they welcomed guests!

The views for the day were very scenic – but the first 26 miles were on a very narrow and busy country road.  Trucks zipped by us causing a slipstream, and you had to hold on when they rumbled by us!  It was a relief to get onto a new road.

We cruised through the day, even with a strong and persistent North crosswind.   Spring time in this part of Texas is absolutley breathtaking!  Fields continued to be filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush (the coral/orange flowers).  Cows grazed in green, green pastures and horses lined equestian farms and estates.   Many of the homes in this area were pretty spectacular.

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The only blight on the day was a minor mechanical problem that I encountered at mile 50.   We had stopped at small and very busy country store, and when I climbed back on  Sweet Ruby – something felt wrong.   Somehow, the post that held my seat on broke!   I pedaled the final 15 miles somewhat scooched to the front of my saddle, or shifted to my left side .  I was thankful there were not any significant hills or climbs, and stopped every 5 miles .

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We arrived in Navasota which is a small town about 20 minutes from College Station, TX – Home of Texas A & M.  We have a rest day which I will use to get a new saddle.  Which will need to be broken in !! UGH.. just did that with my other one.   And for those that are curious – breaking the seat in, also requires breaking in your bottom !

Day 32 – “La Grange”, “Legs” ZZ Top

Bastrop to La Grange, TX

41 miles

Shorter mileage day today meant we left a bit later than usual. Our start time was 9!  The mornings that we have a more relaxed start are a treat. Ate breakfast at the Hampton Inn which had a little bit of everything to choose from.  Very nice.

The first portion of our ride took us to Bastrop State Park where we weaved our way through the park roads for 12 miles. The roads were in pretty good shape with little or no traffic. During our map meeting, Carol told us there would be a few steep rollers – hmmm, I never like the sound of that.  A few were true rollers where you could head down at full force and find yourself up and around the other side. These are the kind of hills that you squeal “wheeeeeeee!” when riding.   And the other handful well, one had an 18% grade. And the word that I was screaming was not quite “wheeee”.   And, yes, I walked up that one.  When you are pedaling so hard with all of your might that you end up lifting the front wheel up off the ground, that is a good indication that it is time to get off the bike before you come to a complete standstill and fall over.   I do wear bike shoes that clip into the pedals, and you have to know when to unclip, or as I like to think of it-bail !  I have had one fall on this trip-a not very glamorous spill in the Mickey D’s parking lot in El Paso. I was nearly at a standstill and I unclipped my left foot, but had a brain fart and leaned right.   Plop. On the ground with my handlebars leaving a fine imprint on my angry ass.

Bastrop State Park had a fire in 2011 that devastated half of the park.  It is amazing to me the damage that can be done with one cigarette!  There are signs of life again in the damaged area – the renewal from a burn can be beneficial- so I try to think about the positive.

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Found a fun sign to take a pic with

 

 

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The wildflowers were brilliant today – one more pic of them –

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Holy Moly!  As I write this, a crazy storm is battering us!  Rain, wind, lightening – beating against the window, causing the lights to flicker, and the cable to go out for a bit!  My room overlooks the pool, and the tables and chairs have been blown over.  I am thankful that it arrived tonight and not while we were on the road.  Local news station says there was hail reported -none here.  In between I was able to watch the RedSox/Rangers game on ESPN.

Tomorrow is 70 miles to Navasota!

 

Day 31- “Let it Rain” David Naill

Austin to Bastrop, TX

57 miles

Brrrrr. The temp read 55 for most of the day, but it felt much colder then that as the rain kept coming down pretty much all day.

We took a circuitous route out of Austin that felt more like clues for a scavenger hunt then a cue sheet of riding instructions. The longest stretch of road was 5.9 miles.  For me, the constant need to navigate actually passes the time more quickly. Although the first 15 miles seemed to take forever.  We went through high end and working class neighborhoods, and eventually found ourselves on country roads again as we headed toward Bastrop.

it was so raw out that we did not stop for sightseeing or lunch. Several people stopped in at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop.

Arrived at the hotel early (for me) and was able to get laundry done and warm up. Staying at Hampton Inn tonight and it feels like a Ritz Carlton!   Ahhhhh

Near the end of the ride we saw more wildflowers and passed fields of blue bonnets. My hands were freezing so I did not get any blue bonnet pics. Sorry

but I did get pics of how wet and dirty of a day it was!   Hoping my shoes dry!

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Day 30 – “The Hills are Alive” Sound of Music

Fredericksburg to Austin, TX

78 miles of hills, hills, hills. Did I mention the hills?

Enjoyed a wonderful rest day in Fredericksburg.   Thank you to Sheryl J for traveling to Texas for a great visit.  The best part of rest day was enjoying a pitcher of Mango Margarita’s and enjoying the day!

Leaving Fredericksburg, we were told that we would have more of the same leaving Hill Country.. and that would be hills.   At some point, I will admit, that I thought we would be beyond them – but that did not happen today.   The day was chilly and overcast – and I could not get warm all day . Brrr.   At dinner tonight, I was told that we climbed a total of 4500 feet – that’s a lot of continuous ups and downs!    As I looked around the dinner table, everyone looked exhausted — we were not expecting such a tough day.

It was tough, but very enjoyable.   Early on we were treated to miles and miles of springtime wildflowers all starting to bloom!   Blankets of Texas Blue Bonnets lined the  roadside.  The colors were so vibrant – even in the gray overcast sky – I can only imagine how robust they look with a sliver of bright sun.  Mixed among the blue bonnets were several other wildflowers – yellows, whites, corals, pink!   I was struck by the contrast of the spring wildflowers, and the prickly pear cactus that continues to dot the landscape.   For some reason  all  I could think about as I looked at the prickly pear and wildflower mix was that even in nature opposites attract!

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We continued to roll by many ranches- The ranches often have elaborate gates that mark their  entrances.  I thought of my Dad quite a bit today, as these gates are often crafted out of wrought iron.  Many have ornate ornamental iron work, and others are more functional.

Saw our first Longhorn cattle today!  I found one that was ready for a photo op!

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And finally, a shout out to my nephews who love waffles!  Here in Texas, we get Texas shaped waffles for breakfast

 

Day 28 – “Take me to the River” Talking Heads

Vanderpool to Fredericksburg, TX

80 miles

Last night we stayed at a cute place, Fox Fire Cabins — the group was spread out in many cabins and houses on the property. We were the only guests there.  The property ran along a river – and was very quiet and remote  (hmmm, much like many of the other place we have been through!)     The day started with a 1.25 mile 8% climb out of Vanderpool at mile 2.  Nothing like waking up your legs by getting right into a climb.   The weather forecast overcast with a 30% chance of showers.  The air was heavy with moisture, but it never did rain — which I am grateful about.   The last few days we have had overcast weather, which makes me happy, as it keeps the sun from toasting you all day.  The sun did appear later in the afternoon, but by then we were almost finished.

Mile 20-40 was really enjoyable.  We crisscrossed the Guadalupe river 11+ times.  We caught on quickly that the downhill meant we would be crossing the river, and shortly after we would wind around and climb back up.  A bit later we rolled along the river as it was to our right.  The area reminded me a bit of Weirs Beach area of NH – as it had lots of cabins, cottages and vacation resorts all along the river.  It looked like a great place  to spend a hot day.   Spring was also blooming all around us, as trees and flowers were springing to life.

We moved further along and officially entered Texas Hill Country.  Many miles of rolling hills and valleys passed before us.   The term “rollers’ is used to describe many of the hills  – the kind that you power down, so that your momentum carries you up to the top.  Many of them were rollers, but there were also a few steeper hills that still required us to pedal up!

The last 25 miles had us riding through unmarked country roads, that made you feel as though you were on private roads.  We pedaled through ranch after ranch after ranch, country road, after country road….  We saw several signs for Loose Livestock – and we did come upon a few stray cattle on our side of the fence!  They just looked at us with disinterest.   We passed quite a few calves, goats and a herding dog.

It was long, but an enjoyable ride.   New to the roadkill collection was an Armadillo!  I have not caught sight of any live ones, but will keep my eye  out.

Drove by a home that had it’s fence posts (on both sides of the road) decorated with boots – of all kinds.  Picture does not do it justices – but it was whimsical and fun.

My cycling buddy, Tanya met with another flat tire – so we did a quick change (we are getting good at this..) and off we went.   During our flat changing time out – every car (5)  that went by us, stopped to ask if we were okay or if we needed help.   I am impressed with the kindness of the the many people that we have met.

I had pictures on my cell phone, unfortunately, it has decided to stop working entirely. Have a replacement on the way (Shout out to Tim! Thanks for your help!!)

 

Enjoy a very relaxing rest day in Fredericksburg — great place to stroll around with lots of shops and restaurants. With Sheryl here – we did errands in the car!! What a treat.

Enjoyed a great lunch with a pitcher of Mango Margarita’s (not sure if they are on my riding diet.. we shall see tomorrow).  And dinner was great with Tanya and Sheryl.  Thank you Tanya and Ted!

 

Heading to Austin in the morning – 78 mile day!

 

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Day 27 – “That Power” Will.i.am

Camp Wood to Vanderpool, TX

38 miles

Today is day 6 out of a 7 day stretch. Today and tomorrow were expected to be tough. Today because we had a series of steep climbs, and tomorrow as it combines a longer climb and longer mileage.   Today’s ride was wet and foggy. First day that we had precipitation.  As we climbed higher we experienced a bit of foggy mist which reduced visibility to less than a quarter mile. This is a good news, bad news situation.  The good news is that we could not always see when the climb started, or how steep it may be.  The bad news is the random car traveling down the road could barely see us. I was following behind one of our riders, and could hardly see her blinkie light.

So, for those that assume Texas is flat, tis not so.   We are officially in Texas Hill Country.  We are moving away from the desert and only the prickly pear cactus remains.  The landscape has become more lush, trees are blooming, grass, and many more shrubs.  As mentioned yesterday, the humidity has also increased.

There have been quite a few deer sightings -both dead and alive.  Two small groups of deer ran across the road, and one group had several babies.  Unfortunately, there have also been dozens of dead deer on the side of the road. Looks like they do not pick them up if they are hit.  Yuck

Enjoying a bit of home for the next few days, as my friend Sheryl J has flown out to spend my off day with me.  She was able to find her way from Austin to Vanderpool,which is not even on the map!

Today was a hard day, but I do feel that I am getting stronger, and the climbs did not totally wipe me out.   Finally, I got a bit of “that power. “.

 

Day 25, 26 “Hold on Loosely” 38 Special

Day 25 – Del Rio (aka Hell Rio) to Bracketville. 43 miles

Day 26 – Brackettville to Camp Wood  49 miles

 

Quick blog post tonight as my Ipad charger has decided to not be compatible with my IPad.   Have just a little juice, but may be offline for a few days until my replacement charger is delivered in Fredericksburg.

The last two days have been considered “recovery days”. Which is kind of funny as we are still pedaling like crazy.   The chip seal pavement makes the ride seem so much more difficult than it is, because the surface is so rough that you are vibrating and rattling the entire way.  It forces you to try and hold on loosely to give your wrists a break, yet you can not hold into loosely as you can hit a bump and go awry.

The most fascinating moment came when we left Del Rio yesterday, it was if we went thru an invisible curtain that left the dry arid air behind us and within a few mils we were enveloped into the humidity.  I think I will need to adjust to that, I prefer the dry air to the humidity any day!

We pedaled past many ranches that were quite expansive.  Large head of Angus cattle grazed along side flocks of sheep and goats.  One ranch that was for sale had over 1600 acres.  Hard for me to imagine running that sort of operation.

Another note about the 110 mile day, I mentioned previously that only 5 completed the ride that day, however a group of 5 went out early yesterday and finished the route where they had left off. They were only about 10 miles short.  These women are determined to ride every mile.

Tomorrow will be another challenging day, as we enter Texas Hill country and have several climbs.

I will be back as soon as I receive my charger!  And will add pics.   Darn, technology.

 

Day 24 – “Don’t let the sun go down on me” – Elton John

Sanderson to Del Rio, TX

110 miles

It’s simple.  A basic math problem really.  How many hours will it take to cover 110 miles?   If your average speed is 10mph then it will take 11 hours of cycling.  Add a stop or to and you are at 12-13 hours of riding.   If you are faster, then your hours in the saddle are reduced.   If you are slower, then , well, the numbers may prove that it is an impossible task to complete before the sun goes down.

We awoke well before dawn, and rolled out early as if we were thieves in the night.  A line of bikes with red blinkie lights trying to make our presence known, riding into the sunrise.   The initial pace was set, and it was fast – trying to make progress before the winds began to rise.

After the first SAG stop at mile 20 , the math re-calculation began.   I had started the day with the approach that I would like to completed the 110 miles, but that I was more focused on how many hours I wanted to ride – and that would determine how many miles I would ride.

The next 20 miles, changed all of that.  The math showed that the mph dropped significantly when dealing with a 25-30 mile head wind with gusts that nearly knocked you over.   The revised goal was make it to lunch at mile 59, and then determine next move based on time remaining.

We checked in with the SAG driver with 14 miles to get to lunch.  Took us 1 hour to go 4 miles. With 7 miles to go to lunch (at an estimated 90 minutes to get there), the SAG drove by to check on our progress.   We tapped our helmets and were picked up.  By that time we had been riding for 7.5 hours.  51 miles – 7.5 hours.  60 more miles to go – at least another 7.5 hours.    I have gutted it out several times over the last 3 weeks, but I saw no sense in riding for another 3-4 hours to try and pick up another 20 miles.  Tough decision, but for me, one that I feel good about.

When we arrived at lunch – there were 11 other riders awaiting our arrival. – We all packed it in and drove the next 60 miles in the van.  That left 14 riders on the road.  Long story short– only 5 riders made the entire 110 miles – and they are the strongest riders  – it took them 12 hours to get in -they arrived after 7:30 pm.  The remaining riders were picked up at various points – and a few had to be cajoled into the van, as it was dark, and it was not safe for them to continue.

The will and spirit of every woman on this trip is incredible.  Whether they did 30 miles today or the entire 110 – ever single one gave it their all.   A few of the riders had to abandon their goal to ride every final mile, and I know that it was a difficult decision.

There is another cross country group on the road with the us the last few days, Bubba’s Pampered Peddlars.   Bubba has operated the trip for several years, and told the group that this was the most difficult day that he has experienced.   The wind was relentless, and for 110 hilly miles – it made for an arduous journey.   Only the very strongest were able to complete it, and they had to dig deep

Tomorrow is another day.

 

 

Day 23 – “Train Kept A Rollin” Aerosmith

Marathon, Tx to Sanderson, TX

55 Miles

We left Marathon and headed to Sanderson, TX (Cactus Capital of Texas!) with the wind in our face, but a manageable 55 miles to get there.  We did not rush as we were told that Sanderson lacked, well,  lacked.    We snacked at mile 54 at a gas station /take out food – mmm yum.  I had an apple pie and a chocolate milk – the cooked food looked less appealing.

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Upon arrival at the Budget Inn, my room was not ready so I cleaned up my bike to prepare for tomorrow’s big ride.  When my room was finally ready, well…. I am not much on camping, but for a moment or two, I thought it may have been the better choice.

My room was the last to be assigned, and as I cleaned Sweet Ruby, I could see a lot of activity in the back of the motel – in a small section of 4 rooms.  3 of which are boarded up – and “my” room  was being worked on – someone was vacuuming, a tv was being hooked up to cable.  Sounds appealing….right?  Not.  The good news is that the room was clean, and portions of it were new – new mattress, clean, fresh smelling sheets.  That was the good news  – the rest, well – I will try and focus on the positive.  It is clear that we are in the middle of nowhere.  Miles, and miles and we see few houses, few imagecars, and very few businesses – or open businesses.

Nothing like experience – another flat for Tanya and we are becoming pretty good at the on the road tire change!

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Few terrain features that caught my attention today but one that did was this terrific Ranch gate.

A constant companion of ours since we left California, and very predominant since we have been traveling on Route 90 East are the freight trains.   Today I counted one that had over 100 cars of freight. We see several a day, and often hear the whistle in the middle of the night.

 

Tomorrow is a long one – 110 miles to Del Rio — A century plus a decade!

The forecast is calling for tough winds again.  We shall see what the day brings!