Well, sort of. The wildflowers in the Hill County of Texas are quite disappointing this year — at least so far. But the 2011 edition of the Hill Country Child Advocacy Center Pedal Power Wildflower Ride — that would be on bicycles — was most excellent. The number of riders was down for a variety of reasons, but as my first ride in the event it was great.
This was not exactly my first ride, as for many years I had organized the motorcycle escort group who would try to slow the vehicle traffic and look for stranded riders. The day would prove that those hills are easier done on the R1100RT BMW motorcycle with 90 horsepower! Mike Atkinson did a great job of getting riders and getting them organized — thanks Mike, and all of your motorcycle gang.
Start time was 9:00am and the riders for the 36 and 60 mile routes would be started first. The other route is 23 miles and at about 20 miles into the ride 23 miles was sounding pretty good. The air was just a touch cool but it only took about two miles of warmup to fix that. We actually started at 9:03 and pedaled away quite casually in the midst of the throng of riders. Don Bynum (who has a nice write-up on his blog, with a link to a ton of photos), Doug Miller and I started off together but Doug quickly cruised ahead. Up to the first rest stop I rode variously with Dave Rhodes, Steve Hurst, and briefly with Ralph Hendricks. Keith Conrad (who had forgotten his cycling shorts and had to first rendezvous with his wife to fetch the obligatory padded britches) was present momentarily and was then gone in a flash. He, Ralph and I were the Daybreak Rotary Club team, sans our fourth member, Mike Clark, who had opted to attend a wedding with a date. There were times I thought him to be a sage for that decision. Thus the Fabulous Four became the Three Muskateers (is there any other appellation for a trio of testosterone-laden guys)?
This ride starts at the pavilion on RR1 near the LBJ State Park. It was a brief ride to RM1623 where we turned North for a bit until heading West on RM2721 to face the first of many hills. Already the pack was spreading out as some riders blasted up that first challenge and some struggled even to make the hill. Don and I were somewhere in between. A few more hills finally gave way to a couple of nice downhill runs and I pulled away from Don. That is highly unusual because he usually makes mincemeat of the downhills with his 3-wheeled (therefore non-bicycle) with the barcalounger seat.
Don caught up with me at the first rest stop, where Doug Miller was already waiting and would head out before we did. Doug does not waste much time at the stops.
There are five rest stops supplied and manned by various businesses and are they a Godsend! I did not use their liquids as I had my own which was liberally dosed with Elete electrolyte drops but the bananas and oranges along with Fig Newtons were great.
After more miles of the twisting and turning (and climbing) route, including a sojourn through a narrow ranch road, we came to the start of the Willow City Loop. Another quick break and we were off again with a nice downhill to the junction of TX16. After a couple of hills the terrain beckoned us with a temptation we could not resist: miles of overall fast downhill! I hit my top speed of 39.3 mph on this stretch.
That run was nice but as (I’m sure) Sir Isaac Newton said, “what goes down must go up again.” Soon we turned at the Northern entrance to the Loop and the eventual climb out began to shove itself to the front of the back of my mind, and soon right into the conscious reality that THE hill would soon be in sight. Before then, we enjoyed a beautiful ride through what is in part a (sometimes) verdant canyon, occasionally opening up to display ranches on either side. It was cooler running alongside the creek bottoms even though they were all but dry.
Then, THE hill came into view.
I had pondered that hill for days, perhaps even weeks. Many times I had zipped right up the hill, on the Beemer. But now it would be all pedal power — my pedals and my power. Could I make it up the hill without walking? Time would soon tell — very soon.
There you have it. But the question remains: did Gil ride the hill without walking?
Once at the Willow City rest stop and a well-deserved rest, Don, Doug and I were all hooked up again and ready to tackle the remaining 20 miles. We were far from done with climbing and the wind became a factor every time we turned South but we hacked our way to the finish. Don went homeward right away and I headed for the hamburgers! Those gel energy shots just did not a lunch make!
The ride took 5 hrs 25 minutes, including 4:29:29 moving for a speed while moving of 13.4 mph. Total climb was 2878 feet and 3344 calories were harmed in the making of this event. My heart rate was a bit higher than usual, partly due to the terrain and partly due to the hotter weather (I think) at 139 bpm.