(67 x 3) + 74 = 83

If you don’t follow that math, it’s understandable. But if you take a geezer-squad of three guys 67 years young (two of them precisely that age) and one of 74 years, and put them on bicycles out to prove nothing, you get:  an 83 mile ride in the beautiful hill country of Texas.  Actually, Don Bynum (the effervescent organizer of epic rides and teller of tall tales) thinks he is in my Will and is trying to kill me, or, he is my training coach for the upcoming MS-150 ride (Houston to Austin) in mid-April. By the way, for anyone who might be reading this and is not familiar with the hill country here, check out the National Geographic “Road Trip”  Hill Country, Texas.” Continue reading “(67 x 3) + 74 = 83”

New ride distance for me, and new route – beautiful cycling weather

Working steadily toward my goal of riding 67 miles on my 67th birthday, Don and I had a great 44 mile ride today. It was a new area for me — West Lake Buchanan around the back way to Llano and back. Started off in 56 degree weather with my new cold weather duds from Performance Bicycle and was comfortable the whole way. Riding through the winter is now assured.  It was also a new distance for me as my prior longest trek had been 32 miles. Continue reading “New ride distance for me, and new route – beautiful cycling weather”

Castell in October — a bicycle odyssey for BBQ and beer

My good friend Don Bynum continues to organize bicycle rides that are hard to pass up.  One might think that if you had a 12 day layoff from workouts, you might, or might not, be up for a 36 miles ride … over hills.  Or, on the other hand, you might glibly minimize the situation then facing your 66 year old body.  Taking the latter approach, and with excitement as Ralph and Sherry picked me up early on Saturday morning (10/23) there was nothing that could hold me back.

About a dozen of us gathered at the Castell General Store and were greeted by the bard thereof, the famous (in his own mind) Randy Leifeste.  Check Don’s ride report for a starting group picture.  Don also has some sobering thoughts and suggestions at the end of his report about the exercise and health issues facing all of us.  My own starting photo was thus:

In front of the Castell General Store

Note the proper equipment is in place, I’m nattily attired, and obviously ready to go.  I’m on the trusty Peugeot Triathon bike, Osprey Raptor-14 hydration pack on my back with my Garmin Forerunner 305 sportwatch, and the Garmin Oregon GPS on the handlebars.  The Oregon is easier for getting a quick peek at the trip data or map.  Both the Forerunner and Oregon read my heart rate from the HR strap around my chest.  All of that results in a potpourri of statistics to later be recorded and analyzed in the SportTracks program.

The group was immediately strung out and I’m always impressed with this bunch of riders in the way they ride single-file. I see so many groups with riders two and three-abreast which is rude and dangerous. The round-trip route ending up back in Castell was chosen for very clever and quite obvious reasons:  that’s where the BBQ and beer would be at the end of the ride!  After all, this IS the Tour de Longneques — October edition.  Don’s wife Peggy was there driving SAG as usual along with his wonderful mother Ann.  I think Mrs. Bynum comes along simply to marvel at her plausibly foolish son and his classmate since not only is she Don’s mother, but was an English teacher when we were in high school and although (unfortunately) I did not have her as a teacher, I suspect I was a known quantity to her from “back then.”  The route lays mainly East-West (a fact which will later come to be important):

Bike route in Yellow, old kayak route in Blue

The temperature was about 74 degrees, a bit of cloud cover, a very light breeze, and just overall great conditions.  We did encounter a bit more traffic than usual — it’s almost deer season and those camps and deer blinds are being spruced up for the impending season.  It’s a good road, 152, with a decent surface although the rock-seal is sometimes rough. The ride to Llano was uneventful for me. In fact, it seemed easy. Overall it is downhill but only by about 250 feet total change in elevation.  The rhythm of the pedals going round and round was punctuated by the nylon shorts I had on top of my natty bicycling shorts.  Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, over and over again.  The cadence was steady and strong.  My Osprey pack with three liters of water gave me a steady and safe swallow of water and contained the goodies I would enjoy at the rest stop in Llano.

Photo by Peggy Bynum catches me and Sherry Macfarlane just a few miles outside of Castell

Peggy Bynum did her usual “race ahead to a photo opportunity” routine to catch good photos of the riders. She manages to get some of everyone and is always there in case someone crashes:  either their bike or their body. Don’s ride report has a lot of good photos posted within it.

I made a mental note (one of a series) to get Mike McKenna (of MikesBikes) to do that conversion to put my shifters up on the handlebars. Every time I reached down to shift I would wobble a bit and each reach carries the possibility of getting my fingers into the spokes of the front wheel. Gotta get that done.

In front of Llano courthouse

I wound up in Llano in pretty good time (1:19:03) and not too beat — notwithstanding the helmet-hair (non-hair?) shown in this self-portrait (sure wish the DROID X had a front-facing camera — the only thing of which I’m jealous of the iPhone).  After a banana, some nuts, a few good swigs of water and brief enjoying of the band that was playing some nice country in the gazebo on the courthouse lawn, I was ready to go.  Sherry made fun of my pack with all of the stuff I was pulling from it.  A few riders had already taken off, and others were just arriving as I slipped my feet into the pedal baskets.  Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as the nylon shorts again counted out the cadence.  I rotated the crank pretty briskly all the way to the city park/fair grounds thinking I would overtake one of the clusters of riders, but they were nowhere in sight.

At about 5 miles out, after several short but steep climbs I was getting some leg fatigue and stopped for a couple of minutes but was able to strike out again at a decent clip. Another 3 miles and I needed a rest and then another 2 miles after that I was beginning to get cramps in the left leg. Over the next 4 miles my average speed was steadily dropping as I just did not have full power with the left leg.  At about 32 miles Peggy was sitting at a turnout and I seized the opportunity to get a ride the rest of the way.  I felt like I could struggle through it but decided that brains needed to trump testosterone!

The wind was predicted to be out of the SSE. Turns out that on the way back toward Castell — a predominantly East-to-West route — it was more like out of the SSW which put it  more into our faces. Everyone struggled with the wind which was both strong and gusty. One gust almost put me into the weeds off the edge of the road.  Added to the hills as shown in the elevation profile from the Garmin Oregon GPS device, the wind just added too much for me.

The group still let me have a beer and the always delicious BBQ!  That came after the ribbing and the pointer that I should have had Peggy drop me just outside of town, around the bend out of sight and then ride in  🙂

A fun day and thanks again to Don for trying to kill me!  And as always, the vital stats:

Total distance:  31.1 miles in 2:28 (time moving), total 2:48.
Moving average speed just under 13mph.
Heart rate avg/max:  130/160

I think that maximum heart rate is probably my target max for training purposes. For running, it’s 200. Interesting (at least to me).

The SportTracks program shows total 3:08 moving, but that includes the Llano stop which was recorded as a lap.  Here is the documentation output from SportTracks, which gives a huge amount of analytical power to what the Garmin Forerunner gathers:

SportTracks (via an optional plug-in) produces a really detailed summary plus details of the entire workout. On the left you see the overall summary plus the splits, and on the right you see the heart rate plotted with speed.  The last page, below right, has the elevation. Those three charts can be used to show what runs up the heart rate, how you are doing on climbs, and along with the split times and data, can tell you even more than I know how to interpret.

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).

Kayak paddling, a whole new meaning

In preparation for the June 6 Great Castell Kayak Race it seemed like a good idea to float it once to get the lay of the land … so to speak. So Robert Henley, his son Jared, and I embarked with Jennifer along to shuttle us. She opted not to paddle and would hang out in the camper and read while we paddled.

Into the Llano River we went where U.S.  87 crossed the river and immediately we were struck by the beauty of the largely pristine landscape. The river is wide there and it had a nice flow so we were pumped! We had dutifully checked the river gauges, both the one right there at the highway river crossing which showed a stage of about 1.2 feet, and the one at Llano which showed about 1.4 feet. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife article on Texas Rivers “…when the river is on a 1 to 2 foot rise, excellent conditions exist for recreational usage.” So we were good to go!

It’s a beautiful river Llano River Scenerywith many wide spots, sometimes narrowing down to as little as 30 feet wide. But for the main part it is a shallow and wide river, heavily punctuated with rocks and boulders of granite and dolomite. Did I mention rocks and boulders? Oh yes, plenty of those.

There are several more photos on Flickr if you want to browse a bit more.

There are rapids. Some of these were Class II, mostly Class I — assuming I understand the classification scheme. There were several with sharp drops of 2-4 feet, always punctuated with rocks.

There was one nice little rapid where I was able to pull up and get a little video. We had just taken a little break

Break timeThe movie is a bit shaky, but you can get the idea. This was a fairly simple one in spite of the rocks. Did I mention the river has a lot of rocks?

You can view it on my Flickr page.

The bridge to Castell is 12 miles. The TPWD site mentioned above indicates recreational quality flow if 1-2 feet of flood stage exists. We were looking at a stage about in the middle of that bracket so were anticipating no problem. Boy were we ever wrong!

First of all, as has now become clear to be a trend with me, we did too much fishing at first. Every fishy spot drew us in like a black hole draws in light! This put us behind the time curve and eventually we needed to make up some time. I would correct the TPWD assessment. The river better be a a 2 foot stage before getting on it for real fun. We would up paddling, and paddling, and …. Oh, and did I mention rocks?  There were some nice rapids that we ran right through. A couple of them caused the bow of my Manta Ray 12 to dip in but it plowed right on. There were many that we could pick a line through and shoot right on. But there was a LOT of paddling. And rocks, did I mention rocks?

Most of the rapids just did not have a clean line through them. We all hung up frequently on a rock, sometimes just for a moment and could “hump” the boat over and go, some that required a bit of dragging off the rocks, and then there was …

… the dump!  I got sideways on a couple of rocks with a low gunnel upstream and the kayak totally flipped. That was my first capsize in the ‘yak in about 30-40 miles of paddling it so far. There I am, standing in the rushing stream, fully dunked to the chest. Boat is upside down now and all my tethered stuff is “flapping in the breeze”  uh, that would be in the water. Luckily, I have everything tethered. Two fishing rigs, paddle, GPS, tackle box, anchor, various ditty bags, the FRS radio, etc.

Did I mention the boat is now upside down in the rushing current? Luckily I had my genuine Cabela’s felt-sole boots on because the current was trying to knock me down and carry the boat away. OK, now it’s time to turn this sucker right side up, so, grabbing the gunnel I lift to flip it back and … ugh, no way. On the stern is my plastic milk crate full of (tethered) stuff and it makes for quite a drag and shift of weight. After several fruitless attempts to flip it I finally went to the stern, lifted it over my head, and just rotated the kayak with little more than the bow in the water. Never mind it weighs 62 pounds empty — which it was not.

I finally got underway, minus the sunscreen, Jennifer’s fancy water bottle she had loaned me, and my favorite hat.  I don’t know when or why it departed as I never noticed it gone until I was again “in the saddle” and underway again. Refreshed after my quick baptism, I paddled hard to catch up to Robert and Jared. Now cruising along with a steady stroke, and glad to be in calm water for a short bit, about 1/4 mile from the scene of the crime I spotted something floating in the water and was relieved to find Jennifer’s special water bottle happily bobbing along.

In conclusion (yes, finally) we were on the water exactly seven hours — lot’s of stopping to fish and my tump did not help the time. Of the 12 miles, we paddled 11.8 of it!  Only a few of the rapids allowed us to just steer through and let the current carry us. It was a long day but everyone stuck with it (hell, there’s no way out once you start!) and even Jared who quit having fun about two hours into the trip made a real hand.

But here’s the deal: this “race” is designed as a “survival style” event.  It’s a fund-raiser which, according to the organizers, is actively providing services for folks in our hill country who are undergoing chemo without insurance, family or financial support.  Paddling down the “survivor style race” might be considered a metaphor to the persons struggling with a much greater challenge. It also aligns with Livestrong attitude of survivorship and challenge and meets some otherwise unmet needs for survivors in our wonderful, rural Highland Lakes/Hill Country place.

The race is aligned with and benefits the Lance Armstrong Foundation “LIVESTRONG.” Some great info and photos from the 2008 event can be found here.

Here’s a great shot of the start last year — total of 110 paddlers:

Start of the 2008 Great Castell Kayak Race
Start of the 2008 Great Castell Kayak Race

Two weeks and the Caddo River in Arkansas!  Woo-hoo!

Pedal Power fundraiser for Hill Country Childrens Advocacy Center

This meets all categories: fun, hobbies and serious. A group is escorting the bicycle ride which is a fundraiser for the HCCAC. See http://hccac.org/howhelp/pedalpower/ for details. Jennifer and I, together with Ralph Mann and Mike Atkinson left Atwoods about 7:45AM after a delicious breakfast and had a “breezily fresh” morning ride to the starting point — the pavilion in the LBJ State Park near Stonewall, Texas.

We ended up riding a total of 178 miles portal to portal , a little over 100 of that being on the bicycles routes themselves. In addition to Mike and Ralph and ourselves, we had extra help from some San Antonio riders: John Long, Jerry Squier and Rob Naylor.  Everyone pitched in and did a great job.  We’re told the riders had lots of kudos for the SAG/support sweeps we made and we were able to call in help for a number of riders.

Here is the start pedalpowerstart

and here are some riders leaving the Willow City Loop to enter Texas 16 going North after which they will re-enter the Loop, headed for The Hill which is quite a surprise for the flatlanders who don’t realize where the Hill Country got its moniker. After THE Hill, then they know. Riders

Much of the route goes through some honest-to-goodness ranching country complete with livestock. One section in particular can be quite treacherous in wet weather due to what I think to be an odd habit for sheep and goats to poop in the pathway, as it were. Did you know that stuff is really slippery when wet?

Today the weather was great and we did not have to contend with the “stuff.” The goats were out though, and Jen got a shot of a couple of especially cute ones (her term).

Yield to goats

We were especially touched by the fact that HCCAC dedicated the first mile of the ride to our friend Vogey who passed away recently, and to a rider who was killed recently in a traffic accident.  Vogey — Robert Voglino — had assisted us in the escorting for many years and in 2007 organized the escorts when I was elsewhere.  I’ve written about Vogey elsewhere on this blog. There was a photo of each of these men in that first mile and a bulletin board presentation as well. Vogey

Ride in the Hill Country Memorial Day 2006

(this posting is copied from my old blog to preserve it as this was one of the last area rides with my good friend and touring companion, Robert Voglino. Some photo links need to be repaired.)

A nice local ride was had on Memorial Day 2006.  The group gathered at “TJ’s” at 8AM, just south of Marble Falls.  Jack, Greg, John, Norm, Blake, Mike and Gil left there about 8:15 for the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe for a great breakfast. Robert and son-in-law Anthony caught up with us in Blanco.

From there the nine of us, plus a 10th fellow who asked to tag along but soon broke off toward Boerne, went West on 1623 to 1888, West a couple of miles to CR104 (a/k/a Crabapple Road) to the Old Blanco Road, thence to RM473 and West to the Old San Antonio Highway, up to the “Old No. 9” railroad tunnel, East on Grapetown Rd. to 1676 and Luckenbach. After a stop to look around and have a refreshment and for the traditional photo-op under the Luckenbach Post Office sign, we left Luckenbach for Fredericksburg to 965 and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, then Llano, down 71 to 3404 across “The Slab” to 1431, Kingsland and home.

My total mileage was 185 per the GPS and the trip (Blanco_Crabapple.pdf) was really a shakedown for the new Garmin StreetPilot 2610 GPS.  It works well sitting on its RAM Mount from CycleGadgets.