Bike MS Ride the Rim 2013 Recap

This past weekend, on June 22nd, it was finally time for Bike MS Ride the Rim. My deepest thanks to all of my supporters who helped me raise a whopping $1,800 for the MS Society! If you are still interested in making a donation in support of my participation, you have until the end of July to head over to my fundraising page and do so. Together we’re making a difference for people living with Multiple Sclerosis.

The ride was out in Canyon, TX which is about an 8 hour drive from Austin. On Thursday, I gathered up all of our camping gear and my biking supplies and packed the car. My husband managed to come down with food poisoning the night before so I was basically on my own for all of the preparation. Don’t worry, he’s better now. At 6 am Friday I loaded the remaining items into the car, pushed my husband and dog into the car and hit the road. We had a thankfully uneventful drive and made a stop in Lubbock on our way to grab some beer from Wicked Beaver Brewing since we can’t get their beer in Austin.

Once we made it to Canyon I stopped at the Buffalo Sports Park on the campus of West Texas A&M University to pick up my packet. I was pleasantly surprised to be given a top fundraiser jersey!

When we first showed up at packet pickup, everything was still being setup.

When we first showed up at packet pickup, everything was still being setup.

After wandering around a bit, we came back to the packet pickup tent and there was a line.

After wandering around a bit, we came back to the packet pickup tent and there was a line and some friendly volunteers.

Top fundraiser jersey!

Top fundraiser jersey!

After packet pickup, we headed over to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park to setup our campsite. I’ll have more pictures to share from our camping trip once I get them off my other camera, but for now here are a few from my phone on our drive down into the canyon.

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At the top of the canyon, inside the state park.

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Looking out into the distance.

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The state park road down into the canyon.

After setting up our tent and grilling our dinner, we headed back into Canyon to stay at a hotel so that I could hopefully get a good night’s rest. I’m always a bit anxious before big rides, especially those that I’m somewhat uneasy about, so I had some trouble getting to sleep. My uneasiness had to do both with the ride in and out of the Palo Duro but also with the strong 22 mph winds that were forecasted. The winds were predicted to be out of the south and the route (official Bike MS map) was basically a large square. Next thing I knew it was 6 am and time to get up to head to the start line which was a very short ride from the hotel.

Good morning sun!

Good morning sun!

Waiting for the start!

Waiting for the start!

Others waiting for the start behind me.

Others waiting for the start behind me.

The ride kicked off a few minutes late with a woman who has MS doing a great job singing the national anthem and then a classic Mustang driven by a man recently diagnosed with MS led us out for the first mile or so of the route. I knew I wanted to try to jump in with some fast riders so I watched for them at the start and quickly caught up with them after passing the Valero team.

The Valero team.

The Valero team.

Fast riding group.

Fast riding group.

The wind was present but fairly light to start. From the start line to the turn headed west (about 10 miles) I was just flying. Of course, right after making that turn I was immediately dropped by the fast group. I rode along for a number of miles by myself, still making decent time since the wind was perpendicular to the direction I was traveling and not all that hard yet.

Two windmills!

Two windmills!

Somewhere around mile 20 another group of riders came by me with tie-dyed jerseys on. They were much closer to my speed and invited me in to ride with them. For the next 20 miles we hummed right along into Claude where the turn south was. At that point we’d been averaging about 19 mph. It was fun. In Claude we stopped at a rest stop.

Second group of riders

Second group of riders, team Pro Chem Sales.

The rest stop in Clyde.

The rest stop in Claude.

The rest stops had nice wooden bike stands to park our bikes in.

The rest stops had nice wooden bike stands to park our bikes in.

The turn to the south was met with a very stiff headwind. The Pro Chem Sales group I was with formed a single file line and drafted off of the lead rider, a gentleman training for an Ironman. He pulled us the whole way to the canyon. Talk about nice!

Riding single file into the wind.

Riding single file into the wind.

Rest stop, about 10 miles after making the turn south. My average speed at this point was 18 mph.

Rest stop, about 10 miles after making the turn south. My average speed at this point was 18 mph.

At every rest stop the volunteers were amazing. There were a ton of them and they would park your bike, get you water, ice, snacks, you name it!

At every rest stop the volunteers were amazing. There were a ton of them and they would park your bike, get you water, ice, snacks, you name it!

As we got closer to the rim of the canyon the vegetation changed. Instead of being completely flat with no trees, it started to have short little mesquite trees everywhere.

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Getting close!

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You can see the edge of the canyon along the horizon.

Dropping down into the canyon was amazing. At one point, I hit a speed of 49 mph, the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike! I probably could have gone faster but I would occasionally tap my brakes because that was fast enough! When I was certain that I was steady, I grabbed some pictures. They definitely don’t do justice to the scenery or the steepness of the descent and ascent.

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Starting the descent!

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Wow, look at that view!

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Still near the top.

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Down, down, down…

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The route flattened for a bit before descending even further.

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Still pretty flat.

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About to go down again.

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Going down…

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At the bottom of the canyon was a bridge that went over a creek bed and flood plain.

Another rest stop was located at the bottom of the canyon filled with cheering volunteers.

Another rest stop was located at the bottom of the canyon staffed with cheering volunteers.

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At the bottom, some of the riders I was with regrouped.

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Starting the climb. We went up a bit then down again and then all the way up.

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A short flat before the climb.

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We went up next to some pretty cliffs.

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It looks way easier than it was.

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During the climb there were people at a picnic overlook peering down at us. You can just make them out on the cliff on the left.

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Through the rock cliffs. SAG vehicles were quite heavy through this part, bussing people who didn’t / couldn’t make the climb.

Somewhere around 2/3 of the way up the climb I paused to rest and took a picture of the canyon.

Somewhere around 2/3 of the way up the climb I paused to rest and took a picture of the canyon. Two different SAG vehicles came by to see if I wanted a ride. Of course not! I was going to finish what I started.

There was another rest stop at the top of the canyon. If you were only riding 60 miles, you were done at this stop and rode a SAG vehicle back to the finish line.

There was another rest stop at the top of the canyon. If you were only riding 60 miles, you were done at this stop and rode a SAG vehicle back to the finish line.

This stop had many awesome volunteers. Some people from the National Guard were decked out in camo and took our bikes and parked them. They got us drinks and chatted with all the cyclists.

This stop had many awesome volunteers. Some people from the National Guard were decked out in camo and took our bikes and parked them. They got us drinks and chatted with all the cyclists.

Once we made the turn west, the wind was mostly perpendicular but was much stronger than in the morning. At some points it seemed to swing into a headwind. The road was bumpy.

Once we made the turn west, the wind was mostly perpendicular but was much stronger than in the morning. At some points it seemed to swing into a headwind. The road was bumpy. Apparently my GoPro lens started to fog up. While I had started with a large group, at this point I was just with one woman named Shirley.

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I stopped at the rest stop in the tiny town of Wayside to mail some post cards the MS Society had ready for us.

So bumpy. So flat. So windy.

So bumpy. So flat. So windy. And a little two room school house.

Sing it with me now: I can see for miles and miles… I can see for miles and miles… I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles!

After a long ways with the side wind becoming more of a head wind, the road finally became smoother.

After a long ways with the side wind becoming more of a head wind, the road finally became smoother.

After what felt like forever, we finally saw our turn to the north in the distance. I was really worn out at this point.

After what felt like forever, we finally saw our turn to the north in the distance. I was really worn out at this point.

The next part of the route was on the I-27 frontage road. Not a car to be seen on the entire 10 ish miles on the frontage road. We were flying with a strong wind at our backs.

The next part of the route was on the I-27 frontage road. Not a car to be seen on the entire 10 ish miles on the frontage road. We were flying with a strong wind at our backs. You can see some small signs on the side of the road that volunteers had set up. One set of signs was about getting your kicks on route 66.

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Making the turn towards Canyon!

And the turn on to the West Texas A&M campus!

And the turn on to the West Texas A&M campus!

Finishing never felt so good!

Finishing never felt so good!

Shirley, the woman that I rode the majority of the ride with. It was nice to have company!

Shirley, the woman that I rode the majority of the ride with. It was nice to have company!

News crew at the finish.

News crew at the finish.

To sum up the ride, it was hard, definitely the hardest Bike MS I’ve done. Not because of the climb but because of the wind. I am so thankful to have had some people to draft off of for part of the ride. The ride was extremely well organized. It had 300 volunteers for 200 riders! The support was just amazing from the great volunteers at each rest stop to the people along I-27 making sure that all cyclists were traveling the frontage road safely. The ride is the smallest charity ride I’ve ever done. They are still working towards their goal of $135,000 to help people with MS in the panhandle. You can help them meet their goal. While I’ve surpassed my original goal and made it on to the top fundraiser list, I’d still really like to see the organization overall get to their goal.

If you’d like to see more photos, or the ones above in more detail, check out my flickr set.

You can see my Garmin route here, but I ended up riding for almost 6.5 hours (not including stops), averaging 15.8 mph, climbing 2,8oo ft and burning 4,600 calories. What a ride!

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I’m a top fundraiser on the event home page!

I even made a local news story! I’m in the photo that goes with the story, coming across the finish line and if you watch the video to the end you’ll see a glimpse of me and Carl!

Relaxing in the shade with our dog Molly at the finish.

And the finish line photo!

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GoPro Hero3 bicycle handlebar mount review

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to try multiple bicycle handlebar mounts for my GoPro Hero3. Not that I wanted this opportunity, but it turns out that most  mounts don’t work that well.

The run down

First I tried the official GoPro handlebar mount:

Official GoPro handlebar/seatpost pole mount

It was easy enough to mount on the bike, but to get the finger screws to stay tight while riding so that the camera would stay upright, I had to break out a screw driver to tighten down the screws. The mount also did not allow for any amount of side to side swivel, the camera could only be mounted straight ahead.

I used it to mount the camera so that I could take some video on my mountain bike and then rode with it on my road bike twice. On that second road bike ride, the mount snapped and I ended up returning it.

Next I ordered the Pedco UltraClamp Assembly for Cameras, Scopes and Binoculars.

The Pedco handlebar mount

This mount was very easy to install and allowed the camera to swivel which I found very important. It requires the tripod mount for the GoPro in order to attach it to the camera. However, it was very large and the camera sat very high above the handlebars which I wasn’t too crazy about. On my first ride out with it on my road bike, the set screw that keeps one of the swivels in place kept unscrewing. There was no way to keep it tightened other than by hand screwing it and I was not capable of tightening it enough. I ended up returning it.

Then I tried out the Arkon handlebar mount.

ARKON CMP227 Motorcycle and Bicycle Handle Bar Mount for Cameras with 1/4 20 Screw Thread

It seemed like a decent mount. Much more compact than the last two and still allowed me to swivel the camera side to side, which I liked. It also requires the GoPro tripod mount. However, it just is barely too small to fit around the handlebar on my road bike. It does fit the mountain bike handlebars so I held on to this mount since it was rather inexpensive. I have yet to try it out. I’ll update this post once I take it for a spin on my mountain bike.

Finally, I’ve been using the Charger City Strap on Camera Mount:

ChargerCity Strap on 360 degrees Swivel Adjustment Compact Camera Tripod Mount for ATV Motorcycle Bicycle Bike Handle Bar with Tripod 1/4 20 Screw Thread (Compatible with any Shape Bar range from .75 inches to 1.50 inches)

This mount is nice because the strap mechanism can fit around many different parts of the bike. It’s rubberized so it doesn’t damage the finish and also stays in place for the most part unless you are doing a lot of bouncing on a terrible dirt road. I’m not sure that I would try it on my mountain bike because I don’t think it would stay in place. The two different swivel points provide for a wide range of camera positioning options but it is impossible to actually swivel the camera while riding, at least for me. I have to stop and loosen the upper screw in order to reposition the camera, but it’s better than nothing. This mount also has to be used with the GoPro tripod mount. I first had trouble with getting the tripod screw on tight enough so that when I loosened the upper mount screw, I was really just loosening the tripod screw. Now that I figured that part out, this mount has worked well on four rides for me. Hopefully it’s a keeper.

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Last 2013 Bike MS training update: East and South Austin

This past Saturday I got to plan another completely new training route. I knew that I needed to be downtown at a boat dock by 1 pm to get on a work-sponsored Lake Austin cruise and that I wanted to leave from home. After consulting both the Campo regional bike map and the bicycle friendly roads feature on Google maps, I ended up planning an 85 mile route east and south of Austin. Overall it was a nice route, although rather flat and not terribly scenic. I was grateful to end up getting sucked into a group of Austin Flyers (a cycling club) about 15 miles from my destination because there were some tricky turns I probably would have missed on my own and they provided a good draft. The weather was unbelievably humid, like riding in a sauna for the entire morning.

Next weekend I will ride the Bike MS event Ride the Rim out in Canyon, TX. The ride is a 105 mile loop around the Palo Duro Canyon and I expect it to be awesome. I choose to fundraise for these events in honor of the many people in my life that I know that have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation and to help the MS Society support those living with MS as well as fund valuable research so that someday (soon I hope) a cure is found. I will reward your donation with an awesome recap of my Bike MS adventure!

My ride on Saturday morning started at 6:40 am. It was cloudy and super humid.

The route headed almost due east from my house and then turned south on Springdale road, crossing under route 290.

The route headed almost due east from my house and then turned south on Springdale road, crossing under route 290.

Next up was crossing route 183. Luckily it was very early so there was little traffic.

Next up was crossing route 183. Luckily it was very early so there was little traffic.

Crossing MLK. I had to stop at quite a few lights before I made it south of the river and finally got out on open road.

Crossing MLK. I had to stop at quite a few lights before I made it south of the river and finally got out on open road. See the follow cyclist across the intersection?

I thought Springdale road had a bike lane for it's entire length but I was definitely wrong. It did eventually have a bike lane, but for much of the distance I just took the right lane since there were two lanes and minimal traffic.

I thought Springdale road had a bike lane for its entire length but I was definitely wrong. It did eventually have a bike lane, but for much of the distance I just took the right lane since there were two lanes and minimal traffic.

I made a right turn onto 5th Street before crossing the river. This is the Meals on Wheels headquarters.

I made a right turn onto 5th Street before crossing the river. This is the Meals on Wheels headquarters.

Just about to cross the river on Pleasant Valley, you can see the river on the right.

Just about to cross the river on Pleasant Valley, you can see the river on the right.

Tall sunflowers!

Tall sunflowers!

Burleson road by the airport has a nice wide bike lane PLUS a sidewalk / bike path to the right. And very little traffic on a Saturday morning.

Burleson road by the airport has a nice wide bike lane PLUS a sidewalk / bike path to the right. And very little traffic on a Saturday morning.

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Entrance to the Circuit of the Americas race track.

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Chickens! What, you can’t see them? They’re in the grass.

First rest stop, when I hit route 21.

First rest stop, when I hit route 21.

Route 21 had a very nice wide shoulder.

Route 21 had a very nice wide shoulder. And a little town called Mustang Ridge.

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Some sort of refinery out in the countryside.

For about a quarter mile I ended up having to ride on the shoulder of the frontage road for route 130. It was pretty empty of cars, but when I planned the route the maps seemed to show I would be able to connect my route without doing this. They were wrong.

For about a quarter mile I ended up having to ride on the shoulder of the frontage road for route 130. It was pretty empty of cars, but when I planned the route the maps seemed to show I would be able to connect my route without doing this. They were wrong.

Rolling hills.

Rolling hills.

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Donkeys!

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A little bit of blue sky breaking through.

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A small lake off to the right. I sure could see forever on some parts of this ride.

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Flat, with no trees.

Small neighborhood like area way out in the country. A couple of the driveways had stone lions on pillars guarding their entrances.

Small neighborhood like area way out in the country. A couple of the driveways had stone lions on pillars guarding their entrances.

Second rest stop - pretty much nothing else around.

Second rest stop – pretty much nothing else around, and this was obviously new.

More big sky country.

More big sky country.

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Creedmoor. A common cycling destination for cyclists leaving from south or central Austin.

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Just on the other side of Creedmoor, I ran into an Austin Flyers group ride.

After initially passing them, they then passed me and I was sucked into the group. It was nice to have the draft after being on my bike 70 miles already. They also were going the exact same route back to Austin that I planned and helped me with some tricky turns.

After initially passing them, they then passed me and I was sucked into the group. It was nice to have the draft after being on my bike 70 miles already. They also were going the exact same route back to Austin that I planned and helped me with some tricky turns.

 

South Congress - so close to the finish!

South Congress – so close to the finish!

New bikeway on Barton Springs by the Palmer Events Center.

New bikeway on Barton Springs by the Palmer Events Center.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge under Mopac.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge under Mopac.

New bike lane on Lake Austin Boulevard.

New bike lane on Lake Austin Boulevard.

And that was it! After 85 miles (garmin details) I pulled up at the Marina, put my bike in my husband’s car, changed and got on the boat for our work outing. My husband and I ended up riding on a smaller boat owned by one of the partners. It was my first time out on Lake Austin on a boat.

The Loop 360 Pennybacker bridge, viewed from a boat!

The Loop 360 Pennybacker bridge, viewed from a boat!

 

 

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Time to freeze some figs

Our monster fig tree has ripened its first wave of figs. It seems to have been a short wave this time, but it has at least one more wave to go so there will be no shortage of figs.

In addition to giving away figs and eating them as many ways as I can think of (yogurt parfait, flatbread pizza, salad, plain, roasted with goat cheese…) I also went ahead and froze some. Mostly because I recall the deliciousness of a fig cake I made with frozen figs this past winter and I want to repeat the recipe.

Last year I froze some figs whole and some chopped up and mixed with a light coating of sugar. After baking with both kinds over the winter, I prefer the already chopped method so that’s what I did again. When chopping them, I cut off the skin where it’s completely green and pare down some of the white flesh parts because they can be somewhat bitter. I toss them in a bowl with a dusting of granulated sugar, spoon them into freezer bags and use a straw to suck out the excess air. Pretty easy and then they’re ready to freeze!

Chopped figs in a bowl.

Chopped figs in a bowl.

Figs mixed with sugar.

Figs mixed with sugar.

Figs ready for the freezer.

Figs ready for the freezer.

 

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Bike MS Training Update: Austin to Giddings

Last Saturday evening we had a baby shower in Houston to attend so I got creative with my bike training plan. I decided to plan a route from my house out to Giddings, TX where my husband would meet me with our car. We would then head to Houston to try out a new brewery. It was, yet again, an adventurous ride. Luckily I enjoy adventures!

I’m only one training weekend away from the Bike MS event Ride the Rim that I will participate in out in Canyon, TX on June 22nd. The ride is a 105 mile loop around the Palo Duro Canyon and I expect it to be awesome. I choose to fundraise for these events in honor of the many people in my life that I know that have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation and to help the MS Society support those living with MS as well as fund valuable research so that someday (soon I hope) a cure is found. I will reward your donation with an awesome recap of my Bike MS adventure!

I started planning my Austin to Giddings ride using the Campo regional bike map that provides useful information about country roads in central Texas that are good for cycling. I used Garmin Connect to map my route and then uploaded that route to my Garmin 310. This was my first time using the Garmin 310 as a navigational device and it rocked. I left home around 6:40 am on Saturday to begin my adventure. The Garmin showed me a very basic view of the route on the screen, without nearby roads or road names. Despite being such a basic view, it was very easy to determine where I needed to turn. I could also flip back and forth between the route view and the statistics view which shows me speed, distance, temperature, average speed, etc. Everything started out smoothly on roads I’ve ridden many times before…

The sun was rising as I left, heading out Braker Lane to Dessau.

The sun was rising as I left, heading out Braker Lane to Dessau.

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Passed by Barr Mansion, a popular wedding venue in northeast Austin.

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Cameron road takes many turns but the traffic was light and weather pleasant (at least at 7 am)

Along New Sweden Church Road there is an old cemetery with a covered pavilion.

Along New Sweden Church Road there is an old cemetery with a covered pavilion.

The New Sweden Church is always a recognizable landmark.

The New Sweden Church is always a recognizable landmark.

The two room school house out on Manda Carlson Road has recently been repainted.

The two room school house out on Manda Carlson Road has recently been repainted.

 

Apparently a solar farm is going to be built on Manda Carlson Road. There were multiple signs.

Apparently a solar farm is going to be built on Manda Carlson Road. There were multiple signs.

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I passed up some gigantic fields of sunflowers and failed to get a photo. Instead, I took a picture of these sunflowers along the roadside. 

My first planned rest stop in Coupland, about 28 miles into the ride. I had to make sure to plan the route to go buy places I could buy water. The road into Coupland had a bit more traffic than I would have liked, but at least it was early.

My first planned rest stop in Coupland, about 28 miles into the ride. I had to make sure to plan the route to go by places I could buy water. The road into Coupland had a bit more traffic than I would have liked, but at least it was early.

And then the ride stopped being so smooth. What do you mean a dirt road? It wasn’t marked as dirt on the map! (I stopped to check for sure)

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My first dirt road wasn’t so bad. Fairly compacted and I was on it for a pretty short distance.

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Not too many turns later I ended up on a red-colored dirt road which was more like sand and gravel combined. It was awful. Again, not marked on the map as being a dirt road. Unfortunately the paved road just ended and I had no where to turn to avoid it. It dramatically reduced my speed.

Finally off of the dirt for a bit, I pulled over by this church to have a quick snack.

Finally off of the dirt for a bit, I pulled over by this church to have a quick snack. Riding on dirt takes a lot out of you.

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I was really out in the country at this point and really glad to be back on paved roads. There was no traffic, lots of pretty scenery, a number of deer, rabbits and jack rabbits. 

At some point I thought I got a picture of a deer crossing the road in front of me, but apparently I was too far away for the GoPro to really show the deer.

See? Pretty wildflower scenery!

See? Pretty wildflower scenery!

 

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Hello again gravel.

 

And then the OK gravel turned into the red sand / gravel combination. I was certain I would fall at some point but managed to stay upright.

And then the OK gravel turned into the nasty red sand / gravel combination again. I was certain I would fall at some point but managed to stay upright.

Ah, paved road again.

Ah, paved road again.

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I eventually came upon a huge mine near FM 696. The first part I saw was this giant pile of black earth (coal?).

Then I went through this tunnel. The road above the tunnel is for the heavy machinery to go back and forth to the mine.

Then I went through this tunnel. The road above the tunnel is for the heavy machinery to go back and forth to the mine.

In the tunnel!

In the tunnel!

On the other side of the tunnel I realized that there was an even bigger mine, probably a strip mine. You can just see the gigantic crane on the right side of this photo along the trees.

On the other side of the tunnel I realized that there was an even bigger mine, probably a strip mine. You can just see the gigantic crane on the right side of this photo along the trees.

And then I hit dirt road again. I was so angry at the dirt roads at this point. I couldn’t avoid it but made the vow to turn off at the first paved road I came to. I probably rode at least 12 miles worth of dirt road throughout the morning.

OMG! RED DIRT ROAD AGAIN!

OMG! RED DIRT ROAD AGAIN!

 

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I came to a split in the road where my Garmin told me to go on a dirt road again. I was trying hard not to believe it and in the course of circling back to look closely at the road sign, the bike and I tipped over on the gravel, ever so slowly. Thank goodness no one was there to see it and I only have multiple bruises to show for it. 

I consulted Google maps on my phone (thank goodness it worked) and determined that I could avoid this last section of dirt road by continuing on the paved road and then riding FM 696 a bit longer than I planned. FM 696 is busier than the other country roads but it was totally worth it to avoid the stupid dirt roads.

If you look very closely, you'll see a road runner running along the road on the right side.

If you look very closely, you’ll see a road runner running along the road on the right side.

My second rest stop was in a cute little country store / restaurant in Blue, Texas.

My second rest stop was in a cute little country store / restaurant in Blue, Texas.

 

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I kept seeing signs for a Christmas tree farm somewhere…

Somewhere along here I stopped at my 3rd rest stop and had to call my husband and reconfigure the rest of my route so that I would end my ride in time to make it to No Label Brewing in Katy for their open house. I apparently gave up on taking photos around that time. It was quite toasty.

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Lovely white fluffy clouds.

 

Finished! My helpful helper putting my bike on our new bike rack so we could continue on to No Label Brewing in Houston.

Finished! My helpful helper putting my bike on our new bike rack so we could continue on to No Label Brewing near Houston.

 

My actual route ended up being 10 miles less than I had planned due to the time I lost on the dirt roads and trying to re-work my route to avoid the dirt roads. All in all, it was a pretty good ride on nice roads (the paved ones) with pretty scenery. No large hills to speak of. It’s always nice to ride on new roads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bike MS training update: Self-inflicted drama

This past Saturday, June 1st, I rode the 9th annual Atlas Ride, which is the kickoff ride for the Texas 4000 ride from Austin to Anchorage. The Texas 4000 is the longest charity ride in the world. This year 69 University of Texas students will pedal 4,000 miles in 70 days from Austin to Anchorage following one of three routes – through the Rockies, the Ozarks, or the Sierras. The Ozarks route is new for 2013. The team’s mission is to fundraise, educate and bring hope to those with cancer. It seems like an experience of a lifetime and I’m always impressed by these dedicated young adults. This was my third year riding.

Don’t forget, I’m only two training weekends away from the Bike MS event Ride the Rim that I will participate in out in Canyon, TX on June 22nd. The ride is a 105 mile loop around the Palo Duro Canyon and I can’t wait to finally get to see that part of Texas. This is my 6th Bike MS event. I choose to fundraise for these events in honor of the many people in my life that I know that have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation and to help the MS Society support those living with MS as well as fund valuable research so that someday (soon I hope) a cure is found.

The Drama

As you probably guessed, I caused myself some relatively mild problems in the grand scheme of things this past weekend. The issue is that I couldn’t just have a single problem, apparently they have to come in sets of three. And to top it all off, my husband was out of town. Since the Atlas ride is a one way ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas, he would normally meet me at the winery where the ride ends and drive me home (awesome, right?). This year I made alternate plans to ride the bus back to Cedar Park and send my bike in the truck donated by UPS. I was nervous about the treatment my bike might receive, so I purchased some foam pipe insulation to protect my bike frame, cut it to size, and packed it in my bag to be transported to Lampasas. So far, so good.

And then it’s Saturday morning. I head out to Cedar Park and get all my stuff ready for my ride. In the course of mounting my GoPro camera to my handlebars, I manage to drop the nut that attaches the camera to the tripod mount. The nice people next to my car help me find it. I get it put back where it belongs and try to tighten the screw. It will not tighten when the camera is in proper position. I later learn that the thumb screw somehow became tilted and is now useless. I can’t take my camera with me on one of the prettiest rides of the season. Strike #1. I’ll just have to take a handful of pictures with my camera. I head out on the ride.

At the start, ready to go. First the current Texas 4000 team rode out. Then alumni from previous years. Finally, the rest of us.

At the start, ready to go. First the current Texas 4000 team rode out. Then alumni from previous years. Finally, the rest of us.

The landscape really is gorgeous. The majority of the route heads north west with some tail wind. There’s a section on the 70 mile route that I was on that turns south east and hits a head wind. I don’t time my rest stops well and almost run out of water before making it to the next stop. The volunteers are super nice and so are the Texas 4000 riders. Twistleaf Yuccas are in bloom EVERYWHERE and they are lovely. I want one for my yard.

Imagine these plants in all of the fields. It was awesome. Image found on davesgarden.com

The rest stop I was anxiously waiting for was in Burnet. Probably one of the best rest stops I’ve seen on a charity ride – it was at a school stadium, had real restrooms, frozen fruit smoothies, watermelon and lots of other delicious snacks. I parked my bike against the fence like everyone else while I was hanging out and cooling down a bit from the hot ride. I start walking towards my bike. I hear a crash. MY BIKE BLEW OVER IN THE WIND! No one else’s bike did. Apparently it’s just that light. The pedal, brake lever, and shifter are nicked up. I am angry at the wind. Strike #2.

Pulling out of the rest stop, we’ve got the tailwind back thankfully. I’m making record time despite the head wind on the one section. Close to the end, I start to see people riding the 25 mile out and back route that leaves from the winery. I see one young woman followed by her silver-haired father who can’t stop grinning. He reminds me of my dad. In what feels like no time at all, I pull in at the Texas Legato Winery after completing my 70 mile ride averaging 17.8 mph.

The finish line!

The finish line!

I hang out in the tents and shove a baked potato into my mouth. I’m not usually excited about baked potatoes but this one with barbeque sauce, onion and cheese is delicious. Probably the 3,400 calories I burned made all food amazing at that point. I sign up for my bus ride, get the foam tubes installed on my bike frame and the bike loaded into the truck, find the place where you buy frozen “wine-a-ritas” and head to the bus to go home. It’s a school bus.

Two Texas 4000 riders congratulate each other at the finish.

Two Texas 4000 riders congratulate each other at the finish.

The tent. It has the food.

The tent. It has the food.

Bikes everywhere, the school bus and the UPS truck.

Bikes everywhere, the school bus and the UPS truck.

Saying goodbye to the party.

Saying goodbye to the party.

I get on the school bus, the last one in, and find someone nice enough to let me share a little bench seat with them for the next hour. We strike up a conversation and I learn the gentleman’s wife has had MS since 1994. He thanks me for riding Bike MS events. He’s done 12 Bike MS events himself. I thank him for riding. I learn that his wife is in a scooter chair these days. I can’t imagine what life must be like for them, despite my personal connections to the disease.

We make it back to Cedar Park. They’re unloading our bikes. I start rummaging through my bag for a little pouch containing my car key, driver’s license, credit card, cash, etc. I can’t find it. I empty the bag. It’s not there. STRIKE #3.

I go through my options of getting home in my head. Husband is out of town. Friends that are semi-nearby that could help me are out of town or busy that day. I do NOT want to ride home and then ride back. I ask the remaining cyclists if anyone can give me a ride. I get a ride from a gentleman with an old Jeep Wrangler. He puts my bike on the back of the Jeep and I am terrified it will fall off. During the drive I learn he is also a physicist like my husband and many of our friends. I make it home and my bike is still in one piece. Luckily we have a garage door keypad so I can get back in the house.

I call the winery and let them know what I’ve lost. About 30 minutes later they call me back and tell me my pouch was found. Whew! I put together my plan to get my car back. I could ride 17 miles to get it, but I’m tired, hot and there are many hills on that route. Instead I take the Capital MetroRail from my house up to the Lakeline station. From the Lakeline station, I ride 7 miles to my car, load my bike and drive home. The Lakeline station is quite nice if you’ve never been there.

Sunday, I drive the two and a half hour roundtrip to get my pouch from the winery. At least I have good company.

Molly dog is good company for the drive. We stopped and hiked a bit on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail.

Molly dog is good company for the drive. We stopped and hiked a bit on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail.

 

 

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Bike MS training update: Riding the Big Dam(n) Loop

Last weekend was Memorial day. I had plans to ride on Saturday, which were rained out, then to ride on Sunday, and it rained again, so luckily Monday was dry so I could get in my training ride (yay, three day weekend). Because the group ride I had originally planned to participate in was cancelled, I decided to head out on a relatively hilly route that the locals call the Dam Loop because it crosses over the Mansfield Dam. I had to add some miles to the normal loop to bring my total route up to 73 miles for the day. While riding my big dam loop I usually change it to big damn loop in my head. This day was no exception, since it started out windy from the beginning. Check out the photos below for the summary of my ride.

Why do I ride 73 miles on a super windy day? Well, I do love to ride, but right now I’m three training weekends away from the Bike MS event Ride the Rim that I will participate in out in Canyon, TX on June 22nd. The ride is a 105 mile loop around the Palo Duro Canyon and I can’t wait to finally get to see that part of Texas. This is my 6th Bike MS event. I choose to fundraise for these events in honor of the many people in my life that I know that have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation and to help the MS Society support those living with MS as well as fund valuable research so that someday (soon I hope) a cure is found.

First time riding on Lakeline Blvd - It was wide, relatively flat and low traffic early on Memorial day morning. Oh, and a nasty headwind bad enough to make me wonder if I would make the entire ride.

First time riding on Lakeline Blvd – It was wide, relatively flat and had low traffic early on Memorial day morning. Oh, and a nasty headwind bad enough to make me wonder if I would make the entire ride.

See the flag? Windy!

See the flag? Windy!

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Out in the ‘burbs, you see lots of wide boulevards, green grass and signs listing about 20 builders in the area. That’s the sign you see in this picture.

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After making the turn onto 620, I was surprised that it was windy, but not quite as terrible as I thought. The stretch of Lakeline that I pedaled ended up being the worst wind of the day. Here you can see a few food trailers on the right.

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Hippy Hollow! Windy Point! Such great views when you ride 620, I think you basically ride along the ridge that goes along the lake.

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You can almost see the lake on the right. Love the views out here.

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Now you can definitely see our poor, low Lake Travis.

Coming up to Mansfield Dam.

Coming up to Mansfield Dam.

Just about to cross the dam.

Just about to cross the dam.

kk

A tiny bit of blue sky!

Iguana gill... a tex mex restaurant with decent food and a great view, without the long waits of the Oasis.

Iguana gill… a tex mex restaurant with decent food and a great view, without the long waits of the Oasis.

dd

This picture is for my Dad – a golf course AND a water tower that looks like a golf ball on a tee!

Lakeway has these signs everywhere. Fancy.

Lakeway has these signs everywhere. Fancy.

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Some little flags on the corner in honor of Memorial Day.

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Bee Caves Parkway connects 620 to 2244 (Bee Caves Rd) and is nice and wide. Wide enough for bike lanes actually, but instead they just put up share the road and bikes may use full lane signs a few places along this short road.

Bee Caves road, recently repaved apparently.

Bee Caves road, recently repaved apparently. It’s a pretty hilly road, but many hills are rollers.

dd

The on ramp to loop 360.

360 has some great views and the cloud cover gave way to some blue skies.

360 has some great views and the cloud cover gave way to some blue skies.

ddd

I love looking at these small cliffs.

Coming up on the Pennybacker bridge. The approach from the south to this bridge is an awesomely fast downhill.

Coming up on the Pennybacker bridge. The approach from the south to this bridge is an awesomely fast downhill.

 

Crossing the bridge.

Crossing the bridge.

 

The turn off of 360 into the Arboretum is always disheartening after a long ride. That's a nasty little hill to climb!

The turn off of 360 into the Arboretum is always disheartening after a long ride. That’s a nasty little hill to climb!

 

Almost home... riding past Tacodeli is usually torture, but I often come back there for a special lunch treat after making it home.

Almost home… riding past Tacodeli is usually torture, but I often come back there for a special lunch treat after making it home.

Finally crossing Metric into my neighborhood!

Finally crossing Metric into my neighborhood!

 

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