Sunday, April 12, 2009

Texas Ride Report II - A Ca(n)terbury Tail?

Texas Ride Report II
A Ca(n)terbury Tail ?

by Jim Kraychy

I would like to share a story about the second of two recent late February rides in the Dallas - Fort Worth area I did with Val and Robin Phelps of Lone Star Randonneurs ( LSR ) on their Marko Polo Permanent - a pretty apt name since we did do some “exploring”.

Read Jim's full story here! ...

The route was a loop starting from Plano ( North East of Dallas ), continuing through the outlying towns of Cado Mills, Celeste, and Princeton, and returning to Plano. These small towns were located in the rural country side, yet Plano was close enough in to be quite suburban in nature ( malls with plenty of big box stores, etc. ).

Traffic was light as we left the start and remained so until our return. Most drivers gave us the entire lane as they passed. The terrain was flat relative to the Kickapoo Joy Juice Permanent with its seemingly endless rollers that we rode the previous day. Still, there were a few hills to break the ride up.

OK, now for the first highlight of the ride: Time to fess up. I would be more embarrassed if the scenario weren’t so funny. We didn’t have a route map but there was a cue sheet giving us street and road names, and cumulative mileages to the successive turns. You would think that two pretty experienced riders wouldn’t have any problems, wouldn’t you ? Well, Val and I got to gabbing and telling stories like the stereotype of a couple of older women on their way to a big sale that we missed a few turns through out the ride ( three times !! ) and added about 20 bonus miles as a result of our uh, “explorations”. Some of our inattention was because it felt so nice and relaxing to be out riding and there was a tail wind heading East from Plano, how could anything go wrong ? HA !

In our defense, the first time we missed a turn, the name on the street sign didn’t agree with the cue sheet and we did catch it within a half mile. That first error resulted in the biggest chunk of our bonus miles ( maybe 10 miles or so ) since we backtracked - into the head wind - far enough to figure out what the problem was. It took so long to get our first error straightened out that we almost missed the time limit at the first checkpoint - I think we made it with only two minutes to spare !

Now our odometers were off from the cue sheet numbers so mental arithmetic was required for every successive turn to stay on route for the remainder of the ride – great, even more attention required now.

You would also think that after it happened once we would have been on our toes, but guess what – it happened twice more ! And both times were due to yacking it up again, telling stories !!

Oh well, it was such a nice day, with green grass in spots, some yellow flowers scattered about, and birds were singing in welcome of spring that we didn’t care too much about time, so long as we weren’t late for dinner.

After “negotiating” our way around Lavon Lake near the town of Wylie ( our second addition to our bonus mile tally ), ranch and farm land with plowed fields made up most of the scenery. Interesting to note that you could easily mark the location of towns by the water towers off in the distance. These smaller Texas towns seem to be closer together than in Colorado.

The weather was gorgeous compared to Colorado standards for late February: sunny and mostly calm. The only head wind to speak of was at the beginning when we back tracked West. It warmed up nicely as the day progressed, with the sun being a nice gift after our ride the day before which was mostly overcast with a little light rain early on ( please see previous ride report ).

We saw quite a few dogs, some just lazing in the sunshine, looking at us, seeming to be saving their energy for more worthy opponents ( maybe since there were only two cyclists we weren’t worth the trouble ). Those that did run out responded in our favor to Val’s method of dealing with them ( shouting a firm “NO” to them ). Enough canines ran out to us that I was sensitized to any noises or movement in my peripheral vision; which set me up for the following cat tale.

We reached straight stretch of road where there was a shallow ditch in the grass along the right side of the road and a pipe rail fence separating us from a field of short bright green grass ( the brilliant green that you see in early spring so soothing on the eyes after the grays of winter ). Val was to my left when I saw out of the corner of my eye some movement. “DOG !” I thought and warned Val. The movement that caught my eye turned out to be a tabby cat of medium length fur that darted out of a bush at the front edge of the field and started running next to the fence parallel to the road in the same direction we were riding. After I assured myself we weren’t about to be accosted by a canine. I had time for a closer look. The critter’s orange color really stood out against that bright green grass.

“Hey Val, check out this cat“ I said. The feline appeared to be racing us as it ran along the fence with us for a good 50 yards or more. I was surprised that it didn’t appear to become winded and was in fact pulling ahead of us.

What happened next surprised me even more: as it pulled ahead of us, it turned towards the fence, crossing under it at an angle, and headed right for us on a collision course. Expecting an impact and the possibility of a nasty crash, I braced for the worst, not wanting to take Val out if I went down by opting for the ditch if I had to. One of the thoughts in my head at that moment was that this dam cat was going to grab a hold of my foot, claw its way up my leg all the way to my throat and start to work on my jugular. Hell, I had NO idea what it was thinking ! Who has ever seen a cat that wanted to race cyclists ? Dogs ? sure. Horses ? all the time. Cats ???

Keep in mind all this transpired quickly - it is taking you far longer to read my description than for all of it to occur.

The cat disappeared under my right foot ( which was forward as I stood up on the pedals - I must have been contemplating a bunny hop, or leaping off the bike to get away from it if the attack was pressed home ). Next thing I felt was a “thump” from my rear wheel as I continued straight down the road. A quick glance revealed Val still riding next to me and upright, with the cat tearing across the road into the driveway of the house across the road, by all appearances unhurt !

I can only guess that my rear wheel ran over some part that darn cat. Val said it ran right in front of him after I hit it. He asked me if I ran over its tail, but the thump felt too big ( enough to rattle the chain and rear derailleur ) for me to be sure. It didn’t look like any bones were broken as it ran off in full stride.

Most of us have experience with those kamikaze squirrels and rabbits that purposely zigzag back and forth in front of you trying to cause a wreck so they can brag to their buddies about the cyclist they crashed, but this cat was a first for me. I like cats a lot but don’t feel all that badly for this one as it chose to do what it did and the resulting mayhem. Maybe those genes shouldn’t be in the feline pool anyway. Hopefully that feline knows it has only 8 lives left now. I may have added a few more gray hairs up top now from the encounter so I am pissed off at it.

Whew: way too much excitement packed in a very short period of time. In comparison, I think criteriums are a bit more relaxing.

In comparison, the rest of the ride was almost dull. We did have one more bit of distraction resulting in a small addition to our total bonus, nowhere near the magnitude of the first two. Nice to be out in the early spring sunshine and wonderful scenery.

Texas is a great place to ride ( just keep on your toes ! ). LSR offers over 120 permanents in addition to all their Brevets. I am glad I had the opportunity to ride with Val and Robin there.

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