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”

I do love October

As long as you can sneak in between the little cold fronts that start whipping down this way, October in Central Texas is a month during which you can do just about anything outdoors you think you’re big enough to do.  Well, maybe not a lot of swimming. Like yard work (yuk!), motorcycling, fishing, running, and today it was perfect for a bike ride on a new route. Continue reading “I do love October”

Thanks, Lady Bird

On the way to church it hit me:  I could take Jennifer to Austin to her “girl party” and take the bike down to the trails along Lady Bird Lake a/k/a Town Lake and Zilker Park. So I raced home from church (gotta admit I ducked right after communion), jumped into my riding togs, attached the bike rack to the trusty Chevy Avalanche and strapped on the Peugeot Triathlon steed for yet another 2-wheeled adventure. “Lady Bird” refers, of course, to Lady Bird Johnson.

I parked at the West Riverside Drive lot near the Zachary Scott Theater and jumped onto the trail. It is mostly fine gravel and not at all “squirrelly” under the narrow road tires. Still, I would have preferred a mountain bike for its wider tire and surer footing.

A beautiful feature of the trail is the sylvan canopy protecting most of it

In places the trail has concrete sections and bridges over gulleys, and in several places crosses Barton Creek. In fact, at one point I got disoriented due to having set my GPS to show the track as “up” instead of North being “up” and was going West when I should have been going East. Fortunately I had marked my starting point on the Garmin Oregon GPS — a habit from hiking.

I was excited to get on this trail. It was there, in part, when I last lived in Austin (circa 1975) but has since been extensively developed. There were quite a few people out walking, running, sweating, huffing and puffing, and riding quite a variety of bikes. I need to have a “warning device” next time though, as it is necessary to let people know you are coming as you overtake a runner or walker. At least you should, although I did not hear anyone else doing it. There were mothers with jogging strollers and fathers with their little sons on tiny bicycles.

Downtown Austin from Lady Bird Lake trail
Paddlers on Barton Creek along Lady Bird trail

The scenery varies from glimpses of downtown Austin to watery vistas along the creek. I pedaled all the way to just below Barton Springs Pool where the freeloaders were enjoying the cold (a constant 68 degrees) water where it exits the pool.  

I think I would enjoy kayaking here as well, as these people obviously were. For part of the ride I ventured out into Zilker Park along its roadway in order to get a bit more of a workout, and to see if possibly the radio controlled airplanes still flew in the park. I had taken my children there in the early 70’s and saw some marvelous craft that would later inspire me to try my hand at RC flying — loved it, but alas, one can have only so many hobbies.

As exercise the outing was marginal but it was a truly enchanting time. The mileage was a mere 4.91 miles, good for 671 calories burned from a heart rate avg/max of 121/148.

So thanks Lady Bird,  for being the inspiration and motivation for this wonderful place.

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).

Take a friend to work

No kidding. It’s a great idea. I took a friend to work today, spent almost 1-3/4 hours of quality time with just the two of us.  Went to Burnet together and the drive, just at good daylight was beautiful. The temperature was already 76 degrees. As we took the “back way” up Mormon Mill Road the lazy rays of sun were beginning to paint the hills among the streamers painted by the hazy humidity laid into the valleys.

Deer were moving and it was just cool enough to ignore the drought that it seems to be engulfing us yet again. In the open air the tweeting and chirping of birds could be heard. Dove were cooing in the distance.  Open air? Wait, how could that be?

Continue reading “Take a friend to work”

The wheel was truly an amazing invention

“Duh” says everyone. “What’s the big deal? Everyone knows that.”  But do we “intuit” it?  Look around you at all the wheels in your life. Car, baby carriage, gears in your watch (yes, grandchildren, there were and are watches with gears and levers that go tick-tock), and on and on. It is unclear which culture actually invented the wheel but there is evidence of wheeled vehicles dating from the 4th millennium BC. There is “the” wheel and then there are devices with multiple wheels.  So? “Where is he going with this,” you ask.

Take, for example, a second wheel in line with the first, add a wheel with sprockets in between the two wheels on the ground, and a way to turn that sprocketed wheel, then add another sprocketed wheel to the second wheel on the ground and a way to connect them (a chain should do) and you have … a bicycle. Now add one or more additional sprockets to the driven sprockets and a handful to the rear one and you have … a multi-speed bicycle!  And with such a contraption it was that four of us set off this morning down a wonderful lane known locally as Mormon Mill Road for an early morning ride. It was fairly short, but yet the longest ride yet on my newly acquired wheeled and sprocketed device.

Peugeot Triathlon 12 speed

It’s a Peugeot Triathlon (similar to this one, I think) donated to my exercise program by my friend Don who has better sense than to place his posterior on those skinny little seats. However, with my recent addition of Pearl Izumi riding shorts (you know, those really “defining” leg-huggers) with copious quantities of foam padding, it’s doable. Thanks, Don!

My friend Keith connected me with Guy about a ride Saturday morning. Should I worry? You see, Keith is a tri-athlete and I had to wonder if he was sand-bagging me into a ride way over my head. The longest I had ridden was seven miles and Mormon Mill Road — the route — goes to Burnet. That’s 13 miles. And back is 26. Turns out that Guy is a weekend rider and with his two friends, Lexey and Sherry, away we went.

Lexey, Sherry center-rear, Guy

It was important for me to get in some miles because Don — one and the same — has myself and Eric (another Big Spring High classmate) slotted for a Llano to Castell ride soon. That’s 19 miles … with hills. The Mormon Mill Road would be good training as it too has hills.  It was a plus that these new-found riding companions were amiable and fun to be with.

It turns out that one of the group had to be elsewhere sooner than anticipated (read: shorter than 26 miles round trip) and we ended up making only 14 total miles …

Profile of the ride

… including the hills, of course. That’s the round trip you see.  And on the topo it looks like this:

Mormon Mill Track

It’s a great place to ride, not too much traffic, surface is decent, and the scenery is tremendous. I was pleased with the results of the ride as I still had plenty of steam left when we got back. I feel that I could have done the total trip to Burnet and back just fine and thus can now look forward to the Llano-Castell trek with something short of fear and trepidation!  I have to keep telling myself that I’m no longer 34 … a harsh reality indeed.

Although a short ride, it was a decent workout nonetheless. My Garmin Forerunner 305 combined with the Sporttracks software accumulates a lot of data and produces a nice report for analytical purposes. Here is a PDF file of the report: bicycle-mormon-mill-sportrack. Interesting for data-nerds. I confess.  Heartrate avg/max was 124/167, Speed avg/max 9.8/24.2.  I can assure you that 24mph on those skinny tires will take some getting used to!  Calories burned:  771 which was all the justification I need in order to stop by Atwoods for one of Mrs. Sivells wonderful apricot “fried” (baked) pies!

Bottom line? I’m hooked on the cycling as much as I’ve gotten hooked on the running. I hope I can continue to run also, but with everyone around me having “knee stories” it does make me cautious — well, maybe a little cautious.

See, I told you that the wheel was a marvelous invention!

I would be remiss if I did not mention Mormon Mill proper. It is an historical site of a Mormon Colony founded in the mid-1800’s. As a youngster visiting my grandparents in Marble Falls I often swam in the mill pond.  It is all in private hands now and not open to the public, which is a shame. The last time I saw the pond was while performing a wedding ceremony there — that was fun!  The web has a lot of information about Mormon Mill, including an article here.