(click the thumbnails for a larger image)
There they are, finally. At 8:22 there were only three of us present and ready to go. I made my usual early appearance and was able to take my time getting ready. What to wear? Temps are going to vary but right now I’m cold. Yes, John, I know that I will warm up as I ride but right now I’m cold. Light, sleeveless windbreaker … no, go with the full windbreaker. I can always take it off.
A bit of pedaling around the Burnet Middle School parking lot now. Spin those legs. At least get the legs warmed up. The others are getting their bikes down, attaching front wheels and donning headgear. Spin those legs. Body coming up in temperature now. Golly, looks like a dozen of us. No, 13 it is. Spinning around the lot and finally everyone is mounted and away we go.
It’s a Saturday in the Highland Lakes and many of the usual suspects have gathered for yet another journey in nature, except this one may encompass more nature than we want. Winds are forecast. Strong winds. What now? We must be doing the “San Saba Loop” the direction I would call backwards, starting first up Burnet CR108, not up FM 963. I guess it’s called the San Saba Loop because it starts on the Old San Saba Highway which branches off of US 281. Turning out of the school parking lot the South wind is felt, and heard, for the first time.
I hate this part getting on 281, even for the couple of blocks it takes to get to 108. Check the mirror. Riders ahead are moving to the center left-turn lane, glance over the shoulder, it’s clear — moving over myself now. Left turn at the light which graciously turns green and no opposing traffic.
Spinning now and enjoying the euphoria of the outset of the ride. I feel as if I could ride 100 miles today. I rather enjoy the hum of the many sets of tires around me. A steady 18-20mph up the slight incline. Love that tailwind. Some riders dropping back a bit but most are staying in a fairly tight pack. It’s easy today with the tailwind boost. I hate those pit bulls that always yap at us on the right even if they are well-fenced. One day ….
Ten miles under the belt. That sure went by quickly. Love that slight downhill where the tailwind really picks up. Fun rolling over 30mph with minimal effort, even coasting a bit at 32. Mental tire check, yeah, all the rubber is good and the tire pressures were checked. There’s the turn onto CR103, where’s Richard and Nick — now Richard is saying Nick has a mechanical issue. Mike being pressed into mechanic service once again. OK, good chance to down a Honey Stinger although we’re only 16 miles into the ride that is calculated to be 52 miles total. Up 103 and a right onto FM1478, the pack makes the turn in an orderly manner. I’m once again amazed that we have no crashes.
Really nice tailwind now. It’s about 9-10 miles on into Lampasas I think. Really cranking now. Pedal cadence is a steady 90+ and the speed has not dropped below 25 for a while. CRAP! That gust almost put me over into John, exept it hit him also and we moved like a couple of chorus girls, first a dip to the left and then back to the right. Maybe we should slow it up a bit … naw, crank on. Heart rate climbing a bit with the fast pedal speed, and maybe in part just the adrenalin. 35mph now and generating some headwind even with the 20+ mph tailwind. Boy is this fun … but this is the first half of the trip. Once out of Lampasas we will be in the teeth of the gale. Better enjoy it now.
A stop in Lampasas at a convenience store. Refill the water bottle, get rid of some “other” water, eat a Clif’s Bar. 27.6 miles into the ride. Come on guys, let’s go. Legs are getting stiff. Yak, yak. Finally back underway with an immediate short climb just past the light … legs definitely stiffened up. Even Dave mentions it and I have a bunch of years on him. CR207 comes up quickly and I’m glad to be off of US 183. Holy smokes! That wind is far stronger than I thought and all I can see in the distance about two miles ahead is an ominous hill. Big ring down to the middle ring, downshift the rear cogs, again, double-shift front and rear to get on the little front ring and prepared for the hill. On that long hill now, thank goodness it’s not as steep as it at first appeared, but that wind. Oh, the wind. Downshift. Again. Again … not. I’m in low-low and struggling against the wind. Forget about the remaining distance.
Take it 10 miles at a time, or five if you have to, Jones. This is an opportunity to excel I shout to Dave as he coasts past me on the backside of the hill. Hill number one. The young pack led by triathlete Denise is about a half mile ahead, Dave and I are pretty well hooked together, the others are fading well behind. We’re strung out pretty good. Don Bynum often speaks of these outings to prove our manliness. To heck with that: I want my mommy!
There’s the front pack. Glad to wait while everyone catches up again. It’s a “no drop” ride and in this wind the varying riding skills are spreading us out a lot. Hills, dips, hills, a beautiful but dry creek crossing, some waits, and finally at CR202 everyone pulls up again. All 12 are there. Wait, we started with 13. Denise and Dave’s friend Chimaro is not there. No, I don’t really remember him being at the Lampasas store, do ya’ll? Go back? Go to the finish and sweep back in a vehicle? We’re about 15 miles from the finish. Agreed it’s quicker to finish and drive back.
CR202 to FM963 has to have some climb to it I think. Initial little climb, then a long, steep decline. Yep, now the climb begins. Occasional false flats greet me, but the readout of the FR305 says it’s still a 2% grade. Another steep coming, downshifting and groaning, part of it’s a 13% grade according to the Garmin. Mile after mile of climb and finally, what appears to be the crest … four miles into it.
The group is gathered up again at the FM963 turn. I’ve now been through 3-4 Honey Stingers, a full sleeve of Clif’s Shot Blox (tasty lime!), and one large Clif’s Bar. Energy level feels good. Legs, well, starting to know they are down there. We’re 42 miles into this beast and have hills and wind facing us yet. I’ve been on this part of 963 and the hills seem relentless every time. I know they’re not all that steep, just long.
I know I’m talking to myself now but I”m happy for the company. I’m entertaining myself by running over everything in my mind except this immediate, some would say crazy, endeavor. Keep those legs spinning, keep as much pressure off of them as possible. Do the hills, enjoy the downhill runs, grind up the next one. Is that the transfer station coming up? I see power poles and lines. That has to be bringing power to that Allied Waste transfer station. It’s gonna stink as I go by but I will love it. That’s where the hills end. Well, the ones that count anyway.
Yes! That’s it!
Here’s the crest at the transfer station … wind is full in my face, around 25mph. 3% decline and it’s still an effort to even maintain 15mph. Finally, this is the last hill and the turn into the back of the school grounds is in sight. I’m happy to trespass on this weekend day, not wanting to add even a tenth of a mile more. Rolling along the sidewalk next to the classroom wind, and through the vehicle barrier I’m euphoric. There’s the group. I go whizzing around them. “Let’s do it again” but the laughter almost drowns out the howling wind. No takers.
Put a fork in me. I”m done. (full video below)
About the wind. It was around 25mph during most of the ride. Here is a chart of tailwind/headwind. That’s the relative wind using weather stations from the surrounding area (click image to get full picture with scale):