April 5 – 14
Each day of the bike tour starts out the same, that is arise earlier than one might want to, begin to break down the sleeping bags and pads, get some breakfast, and pack everything up to get it on the luggage truck in time to leave camp around 8am. Joanna and I are often some of the last to leave, others being eager to get an early start, and today would be no exception, as we delivered our bags, two large rolling, one with the tent and gear and the other with the sleeping bags and pads, and one 26-inch bag apiece with all of our clothes and personal gear, right around 8:00 am.
Today’s ride would cover 55 miles and 3,300 feet of climbing, a preview of days to come where we would consistently climb over 2,000 feet a day. I’ve found from having participated in many tours, that the first day is problematic in that one tends to go out faster and stronger than is sensible and that it takes a day or so to revise the approach to where you let the day come to you instead of trying to conquer it as if you were riding in a stage of the Tour de France.
This would be the case today and we finished with a good average speed, but were pretty tired as we hit Blanco to stop in at Texas Cannon Brewing Company for a cold one, an Immortal 32 Bock for me and Panhandle American Wheat for Joanna, before heading the short distance to Blanco State Park for the night.
It doesn’t take long to establish a routine when setting up and breaking camp and although it was pretty warm and the skies were clear, we staked out the tent well, which was a good thing as a around 2:00 am a rollicking Texas thunder, lightning and heavy rainstorm hit camp keeping us awake for an hour or so.
Fortunately, by morning conditions had dried up enough for us to break camp with just a few wet items (footprint/ground cloth and tent bottom) that would dry out quickly at the end of the ride. As is often the case, even though the route we’d be riding was easier from a mileage and climbing standpoint, the hangover from riding too hard yesterday make for a long day in the saddle.
Coupled with high temperatures, we were glad to pull into camp at Oakwood RV Resort just outside of Fredericksburg, as we’d set up our tents next to a large, air-conditioned barn like structure that would be our gathering spot for the rest of day.
The one downside of the campground was its location at the intersection of two very busy roads, which would produce noise long into the night and in the early morning. Undaunted, we made it through the night and broke camp the next morning for the day of riding we’d been most anticipating and dreading, 66 miles with 3,100 predicted feet of climbing with a challenging ascent at mile 42.
We were lucky that the day started out cool and overcast as it would heat up later to the upper 80’s, making the end of the ride a struggle as it would combine with two other factors we’ll cover later. After a couple of initial climbs, we stopped atop a rise to admire a continuous line of stone fencing, large pieces of rock meticulously placed atop each other inside a wire enclosure. It stretched for what seemed like forever, speaking of the wealth that must lie in the many gated ranches we passed by each day.
We also got a glimpse at the few sparse patches of Bluebonnets we’d see, the lack of rain this spring limiting their growth. Later at a water stop, we had an opportunity to check out an old one room schoolhouse, one of a number we’d encounter during our days on the bikes.
Soon enough though, mile 42 appeared and we began 6-miles of climbing, some of it quite steep with pitches of 10-11 percent until finally topping out for lunch, leaving us with what we thought would be a gently rolling 13 miles to the finish. Boy, were we wrong.
Those gentle hills turned into abrupt climbs aggravated by 28-mph headwinds, thus robbing us of the ameliorating benefits of freewheeling downhills. This is one of those times when you just want to stop and get off the bike and be done but must keep pedaling. And so, we toughed it out and finally reached our home for the next two nights, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park.
Before heading over to the luggage truck to get our gear and set up camp, we stopped at the campground store for bottles of Powerade and a large popsicle, just what the doctor ordered at the end of a long hard day. Refreshed, we grabbed our bags and headed to the large tent camping area and tried to set up our tent in that brisk wind that had plagued us coming into camp.
This was exacerbated by brick hard ground which refused to anchor most of the stakes that would keep the tent from blowing into the next county, we abandoned the first site for one up against the fence surrounding the tent area (perhaps to keep us from disturbing the folks in the RVs?) where the ground was softer and just slightly out of the wind, blocked by the large and nicely appointed restroom/shower building.
Later we’d head to map talk and dinner in Mockingbird Hall, the large room that would host our meals and meetings for the balance of our two-night stay. We’d survived the day we’d been most anxious about, a hard one indeed and yet in hindsight, not the worst one we’ve had on a bike. I guess the lesson here is that we forget how much training and riding we have done and that in almost every case, we rise to the challenge before us. And that my friends is one of the reasons we spend so much time on those bikes.
Texas Cannon Brewing Company: https://www.texascannonbrewing.com/
Blanco State Park: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/blanco
Oakwood RV Resort: https://oakwoodrvresort.com/
Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park: https://twcjellystone.com/