Friday, February 27, 2009

A Birthday Permanent ( or a Permanent Birthday ? )

Jim Kraychy reports on joining Val and Robin Phelps on the Kickapoo Joy Juice permanent in Texas ...

I recently had an opportunity to visit Texas and ride with fellow RMCC club members Val and Robin Phelps, along with a group of their friends from Lone Star Randonneurs ( LSR ) in the Dallas – Fort Worth ( DFW ) area. Last Saturday was Val’s birthday so he got to pick the route. Val chose his favorite ride: a 200 km permanent called “Kickapoo Joy Juice” established by George Evans who joined us on the ride.

For those of you who have not visited the state, Texas is HUGE, big enough that there is a tremendous variety in terrain and vegetation. My very limited first impressions came from traveling through the Panhandle on I-40 through Amarillo some years ago, and more recently in the Stephenville area which is about 80 miles or so South West of DFW.

The Amarillo area looks like Colorado along our Front Range East of I-25, relatively flat ( to us ) and few trees. Stephenville is more wooded, by shorter mostly oak ( I think ) trees, but still relatively open ranch land. What I saw North East and South East of DFW ranged from heavily wooded areas with rolling hills to flatter plowed farm fields, pleasantly changing my impressions a bit.

The Kickapoo route is an out and back, meandering South from Canton, Texas ( East of Dallas along I-30 ), through Athens to the turn around at Palestine, mostly on back roads. These roads were the best part of the route for me. Picture, if you will, a narrow country lane, almost driveway size in width, with enough tall deciduous trees on both sides with enough branches overhanging the pavement so you could easily imagine you are riding through a tunnel. It was like that for mile after mile after winding mile. Further South, closer to Palestine, the oaks were replaced by huge pine trees, mostly with 5 to 6 inch needles, and the soil became more sandy in composition, and the hills became steeper and longer than earlier in the ride.

This route was absolutely loaded to the max with “small” rollers. I couldn’t believe Val before the ride when he told me to expect 8000 feet of climbing in 125 miles ( in Texas ?? ). These hills are really short ( a few hundred feet to maybe a few hundred yards or so long ) and small ( a few hundred feet max ). But there are hundreds of them !

This type of terrain seems to me more difficult to ride than longer climbs like we have in Colorado. In the mountains on long climbs you can settle into a rhythm best suited for you on both the climbs and then the descents. On those short Texas hills there is not enough time to find that rhythm before you reach the top and have to shift to descending mode. Much easier however to use your momentum for the next hill.

After the ride I checked the GPS device I brought along. It had recorded over 10,000 feet – no joke – so that confirms the huge number Val told me ! The elevation profile looked like continuous teeth on the gnarliest bucking saw ( a little old time lumberjack lingo there ) you ever will see. Nothing I have ridden in Colorado compares to this rolling topography.

Visually, the whole ride was a real treat. Some green grass in places, bright yellow flowers the size of tulips or irises were in full bloom, and singing birds made it feel like spring ! Very nice on the eyes after the gloomy days of winter around Denver.

We had mostly overcast skies, with a short section of very light rain for an hour or so early on. Just enough to wet the pavement but not enough for much of a rooster tail. Although the high temperature was somewhere below 50 degrees, the drizzle was actually pleasant compared to Colorado rain up at elevation where hypothermia is a major concern even in the summer. And it was clean in comparison to here at this time of year ( February – mag chloride and sand – yuk ). The wind was a bit stiff out of the North so we had a nice push on the way to Palestine. Of course we paid for it on the return leg but all the trees and hills broke up the wind, so the conditions weren’t demoralizing.

Same as around the Stephenville / Glen Rose area, animals ( mostly horses and cows ) we saw would, more often than not, stare at cyclists as we rode by. Some would run the other direction, some would race along with us to the limit of their pasture, being cheered on by riders on their iron horses. I can only guess that the livestock doesn’t see many people out riding bicycles around there.

Loose dogs were plentiful, more per capita than evident in Colorado. Most all that ran out to “greet” us responded well to a loud, firm “NO”. I think it helped that they heard it from several riders. ( We also had an encounter with a Texas cat the following day but that is a tale for the next ride report ).

OK, a downside to the ride might have been the somewhat rough pavement in a few sections, but that is to be expected on such lightly traveled roads. What cars we saw gave all the riders plenty of space, even driving part way in the ditch to give us room. Drivers would wait patiently to pass until it was safe. I’ll take that courtesy as more than a fair trade for some rough chip seal and a few pot holes !

By far the best part of the ride was the people, both riders and people we met at the check points. Everyone we encountered was very friendly, and would go out of their way to talk with us, asking questions to satisfy their curiosity about us.

The Lone Star club has some of the most experienced riders I have ever met. Some have completed multiple Brevet series in one year ( “easy” to do in Texas since there are so many rides offered because of the mild weather spring, summer and fall – Brevet heaven ! ) and competed in the Race Across America, etc. These cyclists know how to ride ! LSR’s style of riding is different than what you might experience in Colorado. For the most part, Brevets are ridden in groups of various size. Riders stay together. Times are not important. Finishing the ride with the riders you started with, come what may, is paramount.

Constant chatter and joking in the group kept the mood light, even with the cloudy skies, drizzle and wind. Lots of ride stories, some old, many new were told. Laughter made the day and miles pass all too quickly. Sad that the ride had to end. After, we met for a recovery and celebratory Italian dinner, with even more conversation and hilarity.

Many thanks for a great ride to Val and Robin, Richard, Brenda, Vickie, and especially George ( for coming up with the route ) ! Rides like that I could do permanently ( sorry for the “pun” ). A wonderful break from winter in Colorado and a fun way to celebrate Val’s birthday.

If you are looking for a place to ride some Brevets outside Colorado, Texas is well worth considering. Don’t let my attempts at describing the terrain on one ride put you off ( see also Brent Myers’ recent ride report ). Val and Robin extend an open invitation to all RMCC members to ride with them.


PS. For those who know him, Val is just as incorrigible as ever, even more so now as he has new material and people to “work” with. “Say hello to everyone !” he asked.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dan and Mike Wander to Windsor

On Sunday, February 22, Bob Barday cajoled Dan Shields and Mike Fox into joining him on his R-12 ride, the Windsor Wanderer. Alas, Bob showed up in jeans, sans vélo, to wish the both of them well ... as he retired back to his sickbed, laid low by what appears to be an epidemic of chest cold and worse-than-that symptoms all around.

A mild, sunny day was forecast, but a bit of cloud cover put the kibosh on that. Cool temps alternated with frostier conditions as you dove into valleys and then climbed out of them. Here Mike (left) and Dan climb out of the South Platte Valley into warmer temps on their way to Hudson:

Mike sported true randonneuring gear, complete with a canvas handlebar bag. He used this bike on Paris-Brest-Paris 2003 ...

Some sun broke through between the pincer movement of high cloud from the Plains, and the Foothills lenticular "mountain shadow" cloud. Interesting to the meteoroligist, but maybe less so to the hapless randonneur. Here you see Longs and Meeker Peek in a sunnier moment above wheat stubble near Niwot:
All in all, an extended fun time was had by all!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

James Canyon Jaunt 200k Permanent

On a cheerful February 7th, Catherine and I rode the James Canyon Jaunt . It was my R-12 ride for the month. Above-average conditions for the season made the Lefthand Lark a lure, but they were forecasting snow on the Peak-to-Peak, so it was James Canyon instead.

A glass-smooth lake near Niwot showed off the snowy Front Range (thanks to Catherine for photos!) ...

... and the Boulder Flatirons beckoned!
After our stop at the Jamestown Mercantile contrôle for homemade brownies, we headed past Hygiene as contented cows and newborn calves lounged in the shadow of Longs Peak.

The hint of spring had brought out the Boulder County pelotons, making their jaunt to Carter Lake.
At the Masonville contrôle, we researched new secret questions for the information checkpoint. There were a lot to choose from!

At Sandy's in Loveland, there were randonneur dining skills to practice and hone. Fortunately they have a good selection of primo burritos.

The wind shifted to our backs just in time to head back south. Looking forward to the next ride!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Possums And “Q” - LSR 200K “Honey Do” Permanent

So Beth and I finally got to go visit Val and Robin in the Dallas area along with the Lone Star Randonneurs last month. This is the first time I have ever experienced a club that was founded as a “Rando” and not like RMCC which was started previous to brevets and permanents. But back to the riding, possums and “Q”. The Sunday ride had taken us NE of Dallas to ride the 200K “Honey Do” permanent. There were great smells along the ride which came from smokers doing the BBQ thing. Hard to pass up when I’m hungry but with the amount of possum flesh on the road and rumors of BBQ possum I wasn’t going to stop. I even saw a fence with stretched hides of some critters that I assumed to be possum. The tails are a dead giveaway.

Above ... Robin and Beth

Val taking a break, decked out in his Durango club bike cap:

Val had always said that their rides were not that easy with the wind and rollers. And I said “Yeah right” every time he mentioned it. Initially it was fun to push all the way back up the rollers but then they never seemed to end. So miles into the ride with a stiff wind in your face these little hills begin to get the best of you and halfway up it’s “oh crap” as you reach for the shifter before you crest the hill. And Val said this was one of their flatter rides.

Robin riding with mascot ...

Roads are great but the chip seal is done with rocks. But there are roads everywhere that are quiet and paved which results in many various rides all over. And the strangest are the friendly and courteous motorists. Riders can ride double and make little effort to hide along the shoulder. What a concept as this makes for a very social ride and fosters camaraderie that I have never seen before. I would put Texas as one of the best places to ride along with Northern California. But Texans don’t think twice about letting Rover out for a run along side your bike. They will even name rides for the dogs.

See you on the bike!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Flèche Aspirants - Express Your Interest Here!

The 8th Colorado Front Range Flèche will be held the weekend of May 7th. If you are a team captain or forming a team, you need to have your completed application to me by April 15th - this includes your route (map and cue sheet with checkpoints), and roster of team members (more flèche info).

Interested in finding a team? Or in finding members for your team? This year you can do so by replying to this post: give your name, whether you're looking for a team or team members, way(s) for others to contact you, and any info you please about your riding style, social skills, and other pertinent data. This is only offered as a convenience to help flèche riders become aware of each other - you're on your own from there.

Team Deer With Headlights and Team Prairie Dog encounter each other at the finish line.

Last year saw more teams and more riders take part in this traditional spring 24-hour team event. Teams Prairie Dog, Deer With Headlights, Falcon, Antelope, and Painted Turtle will all testify it's quite the unique undertaking. Maybe this is your year to take the plunge!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Roggen Roundabout 206K Permanent

Andrea and I hooked up for the Roggen Roundabout permanent. True, Saturday was the better day but we both wanted to get in a ride for the R-12 in Feb and this was one of my few openings for the month.

The Sunday forecast was for 10% snow. Looked to us like that would happen, but only in the mountains. So as we rode out in the morning we thought of all the bike riders who passed up a ride on this calm and warmish Sunday for a cold blustery ski.

Here you can see the clouds parked over the mountains to the west.

The first control is in Prospect Valley at the Sodbuster Cafe which is about 50 miles out. Note that if you are planning to ride this route you should stop in Hudson and get food at water.

Scenic ride!

Here's the Sodbuster. Yep, it's closed. Good thing we fueled up in Hudson! Next stop is Roggen.

Still very scenic. Not much to look at except for a couple signs now and then. Good training for the Last Chance, actually.

Still, the day was really sunny, so we are liking that.

Heading back we were treated to a slight tailwind and also to great views of Long's Peak

A fun ride and we're looking forward to the next one!