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Texas Cyclist
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Did anyone else on here do this ride?

Summary: My first organized bike ride (if it qualified as organized) of the season was a mere 79 miles, but wind and lack of support or a paceline made it tougher than any century I did last year.

Verbosity: Last Saturday, I rode the Tour of Navidad Valley. The bluebonnets were beautiful, but the wind was severe (on the local Austin BikeMoJo forums, several riders that had not done this tour were complaining about the wind, which was strong and "appeared to be a constant headwind" according to one post), and the ride was the most disorganized organized ride I have ever done. I opted for the 70 mile route; here's the complete journal entry (with even more excruciating detail than last year's logs, and now with ranting ;-) ). I arrived at the start point in High Hill late (it was just over an hour from Austin, and I had to wait about ten minutes for a train in Lagrange) -- in a fixed pre-ride mindset, I had wasted about 15 minutes early in the morning because I could not find the jersey I had taken out to wear that day, and rather than grab another jersey, I had to find it because I was already wearing my orange socks. The jersey had fallen underneath my desk when I went on-line to check the directions to the ride. I also only packed a single gel pack, figuring there would be gel, Clif bars or something to grab at rest stops. At least I had decided to wear my Camelbak®, and filled it prior to leaving the house. Anyway, I arrived just a couple of minutes after 8 am. When I first got out of my Cherokee, it was demanded that I move the car to the back field (obviously this delayed quite a few other riders -- the Church where we started wanted the parking lot vacant for a family reunion in the hall, but that meant that I had to carry my bike in my road shoes to pavement. It then took a while to register -- there were no more T-shirts, no goody bag had been offered, and the woman hesitated to give out numbers because she was out of pins. I should have probably just taken that as an indication to skip paying for the event, but I went ahead and paid. I gave her my form and check, and she took them, then counted out three numbers for the ladies that were approaching the table and started talking to them. I finally convinced her to give me a number -- it was number 245, and the numbering started at 100. I went and put on my shoes, walked my bike to pavement, and started before the three women I saw at the registration table, which meant I was the 142nd person to start. I was underway about 8:27. There was a major headwind out of the NW and a gradual uphill slope for the first twelve miles or so. I started counting people as I passed them. I passed nearly a hundred people (including some at the first and second rest stops, which I skipped) by the time I made it to IH-10, which was about 28 miles.

As we progressed south of IH-10, the route map merely had a jagged line, and there were no more arrows on the road. I generally opted to turn north and west at all five necessary decision points where the road tee'd, turned south (the only paved direction) when the road on which I was heading west turned into loose gravel that had been torn up for construction, and skipped the next opportunity to head west given that path was in the same condition. I turned west at the next opportunity, and after another south turn and then a west turn, I finally saw an arrow pointing south. Another 1/4 mile down, a bunch of riders were turning from a road that was just south of the one where I saw the route arrow. I was probably truer to the route then that group. I passed them, and eventually made it to the Schulenburg rest stop, consuming my one gel pack as I fought the wind and figuring I had not ventured too far off path. There were several people at the rest stop complaining about the lack of arrows on the route. I kept one foot in the clip and accepted a "Gatorade" from a volunteer. It was bad powdered lemonade. I had now passed 112 people (and I am certain quite a few others had already turned at the twenty-mile route turn before I made it to that point). I finished the cup and ventured on -- a few blocks west, I saw a couple of riders straight ahead and a sign pointed straight for the 40-mile route, and south for the 70. I stopped and made certain I understood the sign, as the road south was closed and guys were working on the railroad tracks and had the crossing totally torn up. I considered just doing the forty at that point (and wondered if the riders on the forty route straight ahead had originally considered the seventy, but did not want to fight the wind any more). My odometer read 39 miles, and we were about four miles directly south of the starting point, so it was tempting. But I carried the bike across, and soon saw another sign. I headed south to Morovia. On my way, I saw three riders with ride numbers headed the wrong direction. When I arrived at the Morovia rest stop, I first asked the official mileage point (my odometer was a 49 miles, and I had zeroed it probably about a half-mile into the ride). I was trying to figure out how many miles I had gone off course. I also needed to urinate and hoped to grab something to go -- Powerbar or Clif usually sponsor most rides, but there were no small packs of anything to go. Just "Gatorade" -- again it was a suspicious-tasting lemonade, whole apples (rough on my stomach during a ride -- I prefer oranges), whole bananas and part-chocolate store brand cream cookies (and I don't care for chocolate). I tried to peel a banana -- it was too green to peel. I looked for one that was riper, but there were not any. I did not see a porta-potty, so I inquired where the bathroom was -- there was not one. I was told that I was the first rider at that stop, other than three guys that were going the wrong direction -- I mentioned that I had seen them. So I ventured on.

At least arrows marked critical turns after this point. The first was just south of Morovia when the route headed west for 3.5 miles on FM532 with a severe crosswind on a freshly paved road without center or shoulder stripes (and some fast-moving pickups and flatbeds), then another seven miles northwest directly into the wind. The wildflowers were beautiful. There were several patches that appeared to be stockponds, but were actually clusters of bluebonnets. I stopped to visit some trees, and hoped there would be water in Praha. All the way to Praha my average speed was diminishing as I fought the wind. I finally arrived in Praha with just a few ounces left in my Camelbak. The rest stop was located at an east turn, but just north of the stop was a beautiful church. More green bananas and bad cookies, but this time the "Gatorade" was actually a sports drink, and there was bottled water in a cooler. I talked to the rest stop volunteers, who mentioned that one of the ride organizers had seen a bunch of ripe bananas at the grocery store the earlier in the week, but when he went to buy bananas that morning, all that were available were green ones from a new shipment. I requested a second, then a third bottle of water to fill my Camelbak (I consumed a portion of the third bottle on the spot). This prompted the volunteers to mention that they were going to run out of water if there were many more cyclists. Then they told me that a dozen riders came through earlier, and there had not been anyone since. The riders arrived and left as a "group" (peloton). They had missed the two proceeding rest stops by going south between IH-10 and Shulenburg, and then connected to FM532 east of its official route portion. They arrived out of water, nearly dehydrated and complaining about the lack of signs. I piped in at that point, pulling out the route map that was given to us, "At least FM532 is marked; it would have been useful if these turns between I-10 and Schulenburg had road numbers." One volunteer quickly countered, "But they change at every intersection," failing to see why the numbers would have been useful. A car pulled out of the church parking lot; one of the volunteers looked at it and said, "Likely tourists from Houston -- a lot of people come to see the church." I specifically asked if it was a Catholic Church (it appeared to be so), and the guy stated "I don't know -- we're not Catholic, we're just retirees [note: given my wind fatigue and that I was still incredulous that the guy believed the fact that the road numbers changed obviated the need to mention them, I failed to notice the dichotomy] "that got a call this morning that they needed someone to staff the site." I noted that a map on the rest stop table said twelve miles to go (so I figured I would log about 75 miles), left the rest stop, visited what turned out to be St. Mary's Catholic Church of Praha, gave thanks and proceeded upon the route. After a few miles, it was time to fight my way north once again, and there were also several hills. Around 72 miles on my odometer, I was really wishing that I had packed a second gel pack or something. At 75 miles, without an end in sight, I was feeling empty-stomach nasea. Finally, after a slow mile, I saw the end point: St. Mary's Catholic Church in High Hill. My odometer read 79 miles when I finished, and while a few people remained, most of the post-ride events had been timed for the 20 and 40 mile routes. The band had left, but there were sausages and tortillas. Not my typical choice of post-ride food (a bit heavy for the craw), but I was hungry. As I ate, another rider arrived and greeted his wife and daughter. He mentioned he had wanted to quit, but he had never seen a sag wagon (nor had I), and had to continue. His odometer read 76 miles, and he had also seen the three "wrong-way" riders and no one else after Shulenburg. His daughter had done the 40-mile route, and said she met someone at a rest stop that had a flat and had to walk several miles to the stop. He had also done the ride in a previous year, and mentioned that it had the same disorganized start (apparently there had not been an official mass start or escort) that year. Then another rider arrived, and he had clocked 81 miles: he had heard the official route included the gravel road (one of the ride organizers mentioned that she had driven the "70-mile" route, and it was just over 75 miles).

Prior to returning to Austin, I visited the Church in High Hill, and discovered I had missed a couple of other painted churches (the first five listed) along the route. I may return on a non-windy day with my own map to do another bike tour of the area.
 
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