Musings of Captain Justice a/k/a Gil Jones

Why do you do what you do?

English: A blackbuck antelope, photographed at...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m talking about both vocationally and recreationally. Or regarding your family, your god, your friends or in relationship to any other phase of your life. Why do you do, what you do? Have you ever really thought about it or are you on auto-pilot-robot mode?

I will talk about my own circumstances with just work and play. It frankly is much simpler with work. In my work as a state district judge the answer came easily from the time I first considered running for office, but it was not such a simple exercise in my earlier lives (private practice, public accounting as a CPA, US Navy). The answer now in my “day job” as a judge is simply that I have for most of my adult life thought I was on earth to do “something” and eventually came to the simple thought to leave the world better than I found it. Serving as a judge, especially a trial court judge, allows me to perform a public service, within my chosen profession, and actually get paid for it!

Why I do in recreation what I do is more complex — perhaps complicated in part by having more than a couple of hobbies and endeavors that I enjoy. For purposes of this analysis I think the cycling is the hardest to explain. Put the question in the context of today’s 40 mile ride and the question becomes more difficult.

At about the 32 mile point we were on the Old Spicewood Rd (Old Blanco Rd if you are coming from Spicewood) after we had already grunted and groaned up a lot of hills already we came out of a creek bottom (from which the terrain always goes up in every direction) and around a curve to be faced with a veeerrrryyyy long hill. And steep as well. The day was already near the high temperature for the day.  A couple of the riders, including myself, were sucking on our water bottles … a lot. Legs were feeling fatigue and the nagging question was “how much farther?”

The day had not been without its rewards. (HINT: click thumbnails for larger pictures)


Field full of blackbuck antelope

Over half-way into the ride, after we had turned off of RR962

Closeup of the antelope

and headed North on the Old Spicewood Road we passed a ranch with not just a couple of antelope, but easily 50 or more Blackbuck antelope. At least that is what our nature expert Jay said they were, and I am inclined to believe her.

Almost every ride brings with it a view of animals, native or otherwise, a flower or plant not observed up close before, a babbling brook fashioning a new route through the terrain, or perhaps a red-tailed hawk cruising the skies on the invisible highway of air currents.

At times we are lucky to make these observations when our heads are down “white-lining” in a sweaty, heart-thumping stare at our own front wheel. Or perhaps with eyes locked on the inches-away rear wheel of a riding partner while enjoying the free ride of drafting and hoping the leader doesn’t step up the pace even more.

 Then comes the reward. The top of the hill. A challenge mastered and rewarded with a view of the countryside. A person can drive out to a place like this and stop on the hilltop to enjoy the view … but how often do we do that? There is something about being astride a bicycle, or a motorcycle, or even in a convertible automobile that makes us stop and look where when ensconced with the steel and glass cage of the conventional vehicle we drive through the countryside with blinders.

Part of the reward comes with the camaraderie of having bested the terrain with friends. Cycling alone has its rewards (and potential dangers, as our friend Harold recently encountered) but the friends you make and the new ones you meet out on the road are a special part of the cycling experience. This bond gets stronger with every hill climbed, every curve negotiated, and every lie told about it after the fact   🙂

On this particular day we began the trek at Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood and the anticipated reward at the end of the 40 mile loop would often dull the pain in the leg and lungs.  Our route took us the back way into Marble Falls via Burnet CR404 and RR2147 East. Even with the area drought our countryside is beautiful. Sure, it’s better with lush, green grass along the roadside and trees in full canopies of deep greens. I suppose our memories of how it normally looks fills in the blanks where the leaves have dropped prematurely due to lack of water and sprays a mental green across the grasses in the bar ditch.

On this occasion Doug would frequently set the pace with his new rear cassette sporting a lower low gear and a higher top gear. Climbing hills his legs would spin at a feverish cadence not previously seen in him. On this section we entered some downhill that can be exciting, and that is rough enough to cause unwanted excitement! With the sun still low behind us the temperature was pleasant.

 This part of the route is a favorite place to ride, first crossing on the old iron bridge and then through the creek. I had hoped to see more water in the creek bottom at the low-water crossing but it was not to be. In the thin, rocky soils of Burnet County water runs off quickly even when the ground desperately needs to soak up the rain and slowly release it back into the creekways after the trees have first slaked their thirst.

Our route took us to CR401, then crossing TX71 (always a fun dash between competing streams of vehicles) to CR403 and up the Old Marble Falls Highway to RR962 near Round Mountain.

 After a short break for snacks and a bit of adjustment on a derailleur we turned East on RR962. 962 has gently rolling hills which was a relief after the steady climb from the low point on CR404. That’s the trouble with enjoying the ride through creek bottoms (and I always love having a quick gander at some water, maybe some wildlife):  every direction from there is uphill. Once on the Old Spicewood Road we enjoyed several miles of essentially flat (that’s a relative term, you know) terrain where we saw those antelope and a herd (group? remuda?) of donkeys where I doubled back and caught these shots of Doug and Jay.

That did not last as can been seen from the hill photos above.

But thereafter we were rewarded with several nice downhilll runs, one of which produced about 35mph on the Garmin FR305. That is probably too fast on thin tires (23mm to be exact) but the adrenalin rush is part of it. Even Jay who doesn’t like speed made pretty short work of one of the downhills.

At Fall Creek Rd we made a left and yet another climb to what Mike denominated as “the notch at Jones Hump” where CR408 meets CR423. After one more grind up a steep but blessedly short slope it was all downhill from there … literally. The steepness of the drop to TX71 was almost startling. I used a lot of brake on those hills as the pavement was not totally smooth and the curves were not banked. Doug was nowhere to be seen as Mike, Jay and I topped the last crest and had the relieving view of Spicewood.

The views and visions (even the slightly hallucinogenic ones induced by sweat in the eyes and lactic acid in the legs) of our glorious countryside and the ability to draw in fresh air and hear little other than the sounds of nature and the gentle “whirring” sound of tires on tarmac is a fundamental lure of cycling.

Cycling also brings a feeling of freedom, power and control. The rider’s posterior is planted on the seat with the upper body leaned slightly forward, hands planted on the handlebars.  Feet are “clipped in” on the pedals gripping the cleats in the sole of the shoes which prior to the ride were slowly and carefully laced (or velcro’d) with the same deliberateness of the football player donning the pads, or the boxer lacing the gloves. The rider becomes one with the machine and is left to his own devices and body power to propel and guide it. The machine will respond to the slightest influences of the rider’s actions and movements, and the skills involved in that control are built over many miles and years. Thus the cycling sport presents the constant opportunity to excel, a challenge not ever to be fully met.

Back at Opie’s the carb replenishment was in full court press with (on my “plate”) chicken, brisket, pinto beans, and blackberry cobbler. It was nice to be finishing the ride there instead of having the 13 miles back to Marble Falls after the heavy meal as is our usual route to Opie’s.

Charitable opportunities are presented the cyclist to ride with groups in support of almost any favorite charity. The BP MS 150 that I rode this last April is a good example of that. Riding 170 miles over the course of two days with 13,000 riders is an incredible experience and one that every cyclist should do at least once. The satisfaction of supporting a worthy charity in a favorite activity with like-minded athletes is incredible.

Many cyclists are adrenalin junkies, doing whatever it takes to break out of whatever part of an otherwise mundane life they’re trapped in, but that too has dangers and downsides — take the case of the mountain biker that was clobbered by an antelope.

Part of the “why” of cycling has to do with the exercise, thus:

40.37 miles
1500 ft of climb (per
2597 calories burned
3:15 time moving
12.4 mph avg moving
Max speed 34.3 (much MUCH more was possible but my brain overrode the testosterone!)
My HR avg/max 134/160

and being a “number nut” the maps and stats are always of interest. A portion of my enjoyment of the sometimes endless cranking of the pedals is recording the salient details in a logging and analysis program, SportTracks and thereafter trying to figure out why the ride seemed harder that day, or why I had fleeting thoughts that I was emulating Lance Armstrong.  Thus the ability to “compete” against myself athletically while improving and maintaining health is certainly a large reason for my cycling. Getting a dose of legally induced endorphins is pretty cool too.

Those endorphins sprinkled across the broad spectrum of the experience is mind-cleansing and much cheaper than having a shrink on retainer. I never finish a ride that I don’t have a better view of the world and that says a lot because I maintain a pretty positive view of the world anyway.

I like mechanical stuff, a holdover from my childhood days when I took apart anything my parents did not carefully protect. Some of it actually went back together and worked. The modern day bicycle such as my Scattante R570 is a marvelous collection of gears, bearings, levers, cables, and then all the goodies with which it can be adorned which in my case includes lights, flashing lights, GPS, a place for my cell phone, and places for energy gels and other life-sustaining goodies.

I share reasons that others offer, such as

A Zen teacher once asked his students why they rode bicycles. One said he rode to carry potatoes. Another cycled to observe the world. A third said it cleared the mind, and a fourth said cycling put him in harmony with all sentient beings. The Zen master was pleased, but when the fifth replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle,” the teacher sat at the student’s feet and said, “I am your student.”

Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity while bicycling. And Ernest Hemingway said that, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

via Jill Janov, Why ride a bicycle? Ten reasons and counting, Velo News, 17 Jan 2005  ( accessed 17 Oct 2011)

But the main reason has to be the people involved in cycling. You may see them grimace, but you will not see frowns. You may see cyclists dread or even fear a tough route, but they will plow ahead relentlessly even if it takes them twice the expected amount of time. Only a scant few will approach a professional level of riding skill, but they all work toward steady improvement. After a ride that was “too hard” a cyclist doesn’t quit, but rather goes back to conquer it another day. In a group ride and a rider is struggling, someone in the group will drop back with that rider. When turning into the wind a strong rider will allow a weaker rider to draft, and will literally “pull” that rider along, and encouragement will be strong and constant. And at the end of the day the riders all slap one another on the back and then commence telling tall tales about their “great adventure.”

These are cyclists — fine people through and through with the best of personal qualities — and they are the main reason I do this.

Here is the route as downloaded from my Garmin Oregon:


Check out a slideshow of all of the pics: [portfolio_slideshow]

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