Flat-landers conquering the Hill Country

(update:  after an extensive email repartee, the Llano-Castell route has now been officially named  Tour de Longneques — in recognition of one of the prime goals thereof, Lone Star Longnecks!) (further update — GPX file of the route and of this ride).

The morning haze from the constant humidity and warm mornings was just breaking as we got underway from Llano. With a mere 44 miles on the Peugeot, 17 of it just yesterday, three “Boys from Big Spring” and three friends set off to Castell, the little hideaway on the Llano River. With the promise of 18.1 miles of hilly fun ahead, I had loaded the water bottle with Elete electrolyte drops and the Osprey Raptor 14 with about 1.5 liters of water. Serious, experienced riders will scoff at this adventure but for us rookies it promised to be a challenge.

The “Boys from Big Spring” include me, Don Bynum (check out his excellent addendum and more photos of the trek) and Eric Brewster, members of the Steers graduating class of 1962. Big Spring is, of course, in the middle of the very flat West Texas. We grew up as flat-landers.

Don is retired up on Lake Buchanan and enjoying cycling and sailing (and now, having been corrupted by me, kayaking), while Eric is an elementary school principal in Waxahachie. As Don has previously written, he and Eric have been riding some (and Don, a lot). They have even done this ride recently. Add Eric’s superintendent Tom, Don’s friend Doug and my friend David and we had a real entourage. Don’s wife Peggy and Jennifer would tag along as support vehicles.

We had quite a variety of bikes.  Don is on a 3-wheel recumbent, and Eric on a 2-wheel recumbent. Tom and Doug both had fairly new, modern machines while David and I were on fairly ancient, but capable equipment.

We met at the historic Llano Courthouse
Here I am, all nattily attired and ready to ride.

I stoked the fires with a short stack at Atwoods and then Jen and I headed for Llano. Getting there first, I had plenty of time to check out the bike and get all of my equipment ready. The courthouse grounds were beautiful in the early morning light.

Doug checks out the classic Peugeot Triathlon

Doug was just back from vacationing in Colorado and riding in cool mountain air. He looked to me to be an experienced rider and that turned out to be the case. He found these puny “hills” to be merely a bit of a warmup.

Peggy assist Don readying the Catrike

I had not previously seen the Catrike up close and personal. It’s quite a contraption. I have to admit being jealous of the 28 gears. It looked really good going up the hills as I struggled in the higher gear ratios. But hey, it’s exercise, not a race!

David, Don, Doug, Gil, Tom, Eric (L-R)

Don looks like he's asleep

We finally got gathered up with all the tires aired, water bottles ready, chase vehicles prepared, cell phones at the ready for possible 911 calls for this geezer-brigade of the three 66-year olds trying to re-capture their frittered-away youths. And thus we began to Pedal Into Perdition.

The route from Llano is Westerly on Hwy 152 along the Llano River. I’ve ridden that route many times with ease but today would be different because, you see, on those prior occasions the ride was astride my trusty Beemer, a BMW R1100RT touring motorcycle resplendent with the power of 90 horses pulling me along. A recreational cyclist in excellent shape can make about 1/2 horsepower, but not over a long period of time.

Typical view of the route

It’s the upstream direction, thus generally uphill (see the elevation profile below). It’s a beautiful road that everyone should experience sometime. It was already 83 degrees when we started off and climbed to over 100. Even in the throes of an incipient drought the countryside still bore a lot of green.

Doug and Tom on a downhill
Don flies by on the Catrike

We got spread out pretty quickly. Doug and Tom charged out right away while David and I hung back with Don and Eric around the middle. I liked being near Don with his tall flag wagging in the breeze.  We had a great ride. Hot and hilly.  Struggled on some of the steeper hills and wished we had started earlier, but overall it was a fun time. Did we flat-landers conquer the Hill Country? Hardly, but we’re working on it!

The dip at the end is worth the ride

Here is one reason for the ride! The water was surprisingly warm, I’d guess at least 80 degrees, but compared to the heat we had just escaped it was delightful! The stream flow was such that I had to find a rock to hang onto while minnows nibbled at my toes. We marveled at the beauty of the area as if we had never been there before. It’s always that way when I get outdoors.

(a postscript) Getting outside and doing this with friends is something I’ve come to live for after years spent in offices and courtrooms. I once wrote a piece entitled “God rides a motorcycle” and it is now clear to me that he also rides a bicycle — but I’m sure it’s a 2-wheeler and not that 3-thingy-contraption.  It was interesting in church this morning that the sermon was on tending to your vineyard and appreciating your connection to God’s creation.  I felt quite “connected” yesterday!

Ready for the BBQ
You might be a redneck if ...

The “Big Spring Boys” finished with the dip and were ready for the next reason for the ride: the BBQ.  And since this is Castell, it’s a bit of redneck heaven. Note the “hog pen” sign just beyond the front of the rather “interesting” truck.  The BBQ is great at Randy Leifeste’s General Store and we all enjoyed it along with a couple of adult beverages that I saw crossing lips.

As always, there are the stats. Total mileage was 18.1, avg/top speed 9.7/25.7. Heart rate avg/max 140/164. A bit over 1000 calories burned. Activity documentation PDF for the Castell ride is in this file. It shows a bit less mileage because I forgot to start the Timer on the FR305. The Garmin Oregon showed 18.2 miles, 10mph avg speed, 1:52:09 total time. And the GPS profile is pretty interesting. It really shows the undulating progress in the overall steady climb. The elevation at the start is 1096 feet MSL and at the end is 1242. Not much, it seems. But the Garmin FR305 tracks total ascent (487 ft) and descent (322 ft).

Phone/gps tracking programs

Why you would even want to do this is the topic of an entirely different discussion. Basic privacy, Google data harvesting, conspiracy theories about black boxes and black helicopters are all fodder for enless debate.

This discussion is in the light of programs that are working on the BlackBerry 9530 Storm.

Tentative almost probable final verdict on the mapping programs.

Google mobile maps will be the most fun once they make it work with the Storm. Possibly easiest like for spouses to track while we’re out doing stupid stuff. More me than most of you a’la the Beemer.

Ipoki is cute, and the friend feature is nice as is the lifestream download with the ability to magically attach photos from Flickr. But the development of it seems to be kinda stuck. The number of subscriptions is not rising rapidly and I’m not seeing either additional features of fixes to a few bugs. Does work on the Storm. True realtime tracking.

GPSed has a lot of interesting features and now works on the Storm, just recently. It has the widest ability to share and also integrates the possibility of photos from Flickr or Picassa. Can create different tracks and save, share or upload them. Have to refresh to see track progress. On the device, there is a LOT more info for you including speed, heading, a preview of the track, etc. Instamapper also has data but GPSed displays it better. Shows # of satellites locked. Can share with several different services, for a particular track, either current or a closed one. Still has bugs, like sometimes entering a new track name an error is indicated of invalid character in the name, when there’s not. Sometimes start a track and it’s not actually created. Also, this morning to breakfast and back was over 13,000 miles. No, I don’t have a jet! I won’t be using this one until they clean it up.

GPS Tracker a/k/a Instamapper is a little more bare-bones in its approach, providing an easy share link (static, have to refresh) but also has realtime tracking as to Ipoki and GPSed. It’s probably the much easier for others to use. Includes a mobile page view so the spouse with web-enabled phone can track you with your gps-enabled phone and tracking software. True realtime tracking if viewer has your login info and is logged in. Also has an auto-start on boot function if you want to be able to always know it’s on. The device is shared, not individual tracks. Can post your map right on the Facebook page. Need toknow how to disconnect that when you don’t want ALL of your friends to follow you.

Instamapper also gives you a lot of control over the stored data and the ability to easily create a track log out of a portion of the data, then export it to several formats including Google Earth.

Conclusions

For allowing basic tracking of me by others, Instamapper is the choice.

To make a memorable track to share with others, add photos to, etc., it would be Ipoki or GPSed (once it works), but now it’s Ipoki for that.