Friday, May 20, 2011

Yippee Ki Yay! Tall Tales from the 1st Texas Rando Stampede

A 1200k is a big event. to ride, and to organize and put on. The folks in Texas from three different regional clubs were involved in this one-Lone Star Randonneurs of the DFW area, Hill Country Randonneurs (Austin), and the Houston Randonneurs. LSR George Evans was at the helm and LSR RBA ( K-Hound crazy) Dan Driscoll cracked a mean whip too. dozens of others came into play as the ride unfolded and I think they did an admirable job all around.

the assembly took place in Waxahachie, Tx just a bit south of Dallas on tues may 10. the talk leading up to ride was weather-a blender full of wind, rain, hot, cold, thunder, you name it. mostly to start tho, was the wind. opening day was gonna be gusty southerlies 20-30 mph.
after a check-in and bike inspections, we had a meeting with final info and went to eat and meet our fellow riders. the talk was fun. great folks. NC pal Tim and I went to the store for a couple things and I introduced him to blue bell ice cream-a Texas favorite! we gobbled it up on the way back to the hotel and tucked in for the last good nap before the ride. I managed about 5.5 hrs sleep. I hopped up at 3:30 and prepped for the 5am start. i rolled the bike and my drop bag downstairs, cyclers everywhere already. a little food to go and i was ready to head outside. it was kinda balmy. and 'breezy'..a few words from george and at 5 sharp we rolled. off to marble falls-224miles to 'overnite controle #1'

ready to rando!

Stage 1-Waxahachie to Marble Falls-224miles
Tim and I were right by the driveway. when the gun fired, 3 or 4 bikes zoomed out the drive and just took off. the rest of the field did not follow suit. the plan was to ride in a group to work the wind today. of course there would be some sorting out, but at first it was fairly big and easy going. after all the short moves downtown we were on a long stretch and opened up a little. I put in a pull on a mile long grinder and dropped off to shoot a video and see who was around. it was about half the field-

lookin' back

that's Dan right on my wheel keepin' me in check. good thing, cuz there's more to come..
I fade to the back and ride with Tim into the daylight. I meet a bunch of riders and see some cool bikes. the night before was mostly modern fast stuff but today I see a Riv Homer Hilson, a Gunnar, a Waterford, a Custom Riv, Ti from habanero, serotta, lightspeed, Dean, and Leonard Zinn! of course, Claire is getting noticed too :o)

with the winds coming at us good now, we start to share the work and get down the road.
16-17 is about the best we can do and keep the peace. Dan rules the peloton with an iron fist and we make our 1st store intact. we keep it to about 15min and roll on to controle  at mile 73. this stop lasts about 20min and away we go into the wind. unrelenting, all we can do is push. the rollers are big and soft but not painless. I keep pushing and double D uses his big lasso to reel me in. we get some texas dirt today too as a section is under construction. we pass it without problems and head onto the jailbird. part of a local perm route.

all smiles on the dirt

following instructions to not pick up hitch hikers, we make our way onto higher ground. the views coming down toward Lampasas are great. Rugged. Raw. Scruffy. one can see for miles, but just in front i s a little dog. a very confused, scared dog. middle of the lane, miraculously we miss him at 30mph going down hill!  by now i've found the climbers and some are the hill country guys. they know the way over the mountains tonight and out tomorrow. I'm wanting to go with them in the morning maybe. one perk today is clouds. less sun and heat, but rain maybe? we'll see. into Lampasas and there is George and the sag team-Charlie and Patricia. these people were just fantastic. thanks for helping out! between stops they dug thru the mountain of drop bags, found mine and had it for me to dig thru ( I needed a bar and my supplements).a few guys were at this stop already and looking like they worked hard to get there. it was no fun out in that wind alone and I had no allusions about making a go for the front. turns out there were only about 2-3 bikes up the road. our group of 26 or so soon turned to 40 as weather reports abound on all types of mobile devices. they weren't good and a group decision was made to wait..

dan and george think we should wait
yeah, it rained pretty good, but if we knew what was to come, I think we'd have rode. the hour+ at that store was one hour we weren't going to sleep later on...the next section was full of cool roads and as we headed for the hills we wondered what the stray riders had ridden thru up ahead of us. sunset was nice. i grabbed a shot and then flatted on a roller that had me thinking 'oh well, let's have one now and get it over with'.. 

 jeff and mike stayed with me and we jammed up to group at the next store. it was only about 5min for me to stay with the group as we went into the night. it seemed like the miles went quickly and by 9:30 or so we were in jonestown at mi 194 with just 30 to go.
the local police thought otherwise. after explaining to them what a bunch of cyclists were doing on the road at night, they said it was too dangerous and consented to us passing if they escorted us to the edge of town. we let some more arrive, reload, and we left together. prob'ly more that 30 of us. it was up and over a mountain pass to get to marble falls. the first climb was big and headed into lightning and high winds. I had company at the top:catherine, peter, and dave. the blue lights were a mile back. we'd strung it out good. down a whooptee and back up and storm time. we stopped for 120 seconds to don rain gear and off we went. another fasty and i was fishtailing. flat #2!! see ya! i watched a dozen bikes fly by. someone lit me with a helmet light. i changed the rear in a hail storm. down the mountain with ZERO visability, and NO Brakes! "on your left!!" I yelled as we swept to the right and back uphill again, thank you gravity..the dude with me lost his lights, so we stopped and he got 'em lit right away. off we went again and another big climb was on. I saw blinkies ahead and pushed hard. after catching this trio I continued my march. i caught the herd, then two lone riders. I arrive in marble falls about 9 mins behind the other members of my future. the volunteers are cheerful and quick to check us in and get us upstairs. i remove all the wet gear, clean up, and go eat. other riders are coming in, and I look around to see what's up. I find Catherine and ask 'what time tomorrow?' "4" she says..'who's coming?' 'David'  'cool...'
at that moment I played the most important card of the ride..I went to bed at 1 and got back up at 3. I was downstairs by 4. there was hot food in the lobby. and vols with water and bananas.

Stage 2-Marble Falls to Sealy-242miles

4:15 we gather and roll. myself, Catherine, David, Peter, and Hamid. after 2 blocks I jet back for my bottles, damn. I chase for a few miles into the sticks before I see the red taillights. By the time I rejoin it's mountainbike time-a few miles of dirt road that is mushy after the rains. we take our time navigating this stuff and finally hit solid road again. we begin a descent and cross a low bridge and hook back, straight up! when the road levels we are split up. we encounter a lost rider and bring him along to find the next road Dave and I have a 'word' with a motorist who insists we yield to him because its the law. whatev... we hang at the turn to regroup and i flat! damn! while changing the front, Ann comes along and is freaking out. some guy has threatened to get his gun! she had been hiding in the brush. she won't wait and rolls on. off we go to dripping springs, 1st controle of the day. here we find Ann. Don too. I beg Ann to ride with us, but she leaves before we do. On the road it's really kinda dark out for almost 8 in the morn..I know these skies and it's sprinkling. I spot a little yellow jersey ahead and we catch Ann. now she asks-'can I ride with you guys?' please do. we stop and put on rain gear, john has joined in and rides without any. it's very dark and lightning picks up and rain is falling at about a 45deg. angle. shit.
clouds are moving around like stalking lions and Catherine says- '2 miles'. 'what?' 'the lightning, it's 2 miles from us' 'cool, let's just keep pedaling'..the wind picks up more and as we zoom down a hill toward a bridge, I can see it coming down the riverbed across the bridge sideways..gusts were said to have hit 70mph in that area that day. this may have been 40-50mph. oh, it was frozen too. like tiny ice needles on the face. I led the way and watched the mirror for 4 more bikes. we forged on and the blasts eased to plain ol' big rain. I can tell some of you this: Yo A! was on this part of trip. I could not have been in better company, tho. amazingly cool, brave riders all..the 15 miles of hell gave way to Canyon Lake. there was a store and we all grabbed something hot, collected ourselves and got back out there. reports were- when the cell passes us, it will clear and we'll be OK. Peter flatted on a hill a mile up the road. on the restart I was freezing. my teeth chattered like I was at a playoff game at Lambeau Field! gimme a climb so I can slow down and warm up. we got that climb and made our way to river road. as in the Guadalupe River...

foul weather aside, everyone loved this part of the ride. just wonderful winding roads peppered with funky tube ride/rafting places and cottages. half-way thru I had another flat and made yet another fix. we made our way thru another groovy village and were about 12 miles from controle at new braunfels. Ann got tangled up in some train tracks but was fine. (other reports tell of falls here, these tracks collected a half dozen or more riders) we made the controle and refueled. it was dry now and a bit of sun was peeking out too! the 'herd' rolled in as we were leaving, the one and only time we saw them. the next 10-15 miles could have been fast but the wind was back, the roads were rough as hell and of course I had to flat again. i put a new tire on this time and it went the rest of the trip. I told the crew, 'when we hit a nice stretch, I'll pull you all at 20mph..'  "til you flat again!" Dave interjected. we needed that laugh :)

we made the first whataburger controle in Lockhart at 4. everybody munched. a fresh burger and tangy pineapple shake hit the spot! we had picked up Ian from Seattle along the way. Also here was Don and John..those 2 left and our original 5+1 remained intact for part 2 of this day. yes, after all that riding and adventure we were at 128 of 244 miles. just lovely country roads all the way to La Grange, Tx. lie ahead including some fast, hardpack sections..

Colorado Cate and Canadian Dave

rearview crew
this was a fast, fun 100k that went by in no time! the approach to La Grange was sweet too..we finally got a big ol' Texas Sky..

road to La Grange
I was hoping for a quick stop here. there was almost another 100k to go. the whataburger controle was adjacent to a big c-store. we split up, and it took a bit of time. john and don showed up too. hamid had wobbly lights which I fixed while everyone ate and got ready. finally we took off all together. 8 riders in the night. there were some long stretches of 7,8,9 miles and long climbs too. we stayed together. after this insane day, no one was getting left behind now. we kept it light until about 20 to go. it just felt right to run some brisk steady tempo. Catherine and Don were going strong and we zipped along thru the middle of nowhere. with only a few turns left, John made a move. As much as I wanted to stay together, i marked him. Peter came along too. we we moving fast, probly 20mph at 1 in the morning, 21hrs after departing! we had a friendly 'race' to the finish and found the holiday inn express. upon check-in we learned we were first in behind the lone wolf, chris!
I quickly ran outside to greet the rest of the crew waved them in. everyone was glad to be there and stunned to find out they were in the lead group. in minutes we were all gone upstairs and off to napville. we slept just over 2 hrs and were on the road around 5am..

my apologies for no updates coming thru on this day. your thoughts were much appreciated! we needed them sometimes :)

Stage 3-Sealy to Crockett-155miles

It's nice out. 60's. gonna be hot. but roads are supposed to be flatter, and less wind.
hmmm. the roads were still rough, the wind had shifted and was still pushing at us. it was kinda flat tho.. I left with John and Hamid. the girls were up the road. Dave left early on his own. Ian was nearby too. halfway to the 1st controle in magnolia we were all together.
Dave stayed up the road all day. I left magnolia with Ann, Catherine, and Don. John caught on later. we started the slog thru the Sam Houston forest. really nice area. but a hearty 50 mile stretch that was hot (95) and windy with long hills that took their toll. glad we out early. we crossed a track on the way and I lost a gel flask. the train was right there! the gate came down on us..

choo choo
we were in the woods and it was going to be tough. a little more than halfway tho, we came upon a sight for sore eyes-the city hall cafe. an oasis in the middle of nowhere. we stopped and filled and chilled. after 20 min or so we all headed out one by one, but would be back together in a few miles before the huntsville controle.  a logger truck buzzed us all one-by-one and we were glad to be alive and back together again. don flatted on this stretch and my front was soft upon arrival. i changed the tube while the rest ate at the truck stop. the next few roads were busy as hell. huntsville is the justice center for texas and jails are everywhere. there's even a jail museum. finally on a mellow road again, Don and Catherine pull Ann and me for some hard miles in the wind. we pedal down hills that should coast 20+mph at maybe 15mph...we do this for 15 miles until I do a nice pull with everyone in an echelon to a tiny store in weldon. we drink and snack and cool off. i never saw a tumble weed, but Ann found a furball in the street.

Peter showed up here too, with Ian not far back. we marched off to Crockett. hard to believe just 25 left on this stage, we'd finish in daylight. not without more climbing tho. the last road to Crockett was cruel-a ribbon that went up about 300ft per roller, dropped back a little, and did it again. in  a mile or two, we'd put another 600ft on the ticker.
finally there was the Crockett Inn. we pulled in and let Catherine go in first. the stampede's first 1000k finisher! yay Colorado Cate! superb riding! 

Don, Ann, Catherine, Peter, Me

 Dave was there to greet us, and we checked in, cleaned up and talked departure. early was on tap but we opted for a little more rest, and got 3.5 hrs...

Stage 4-Crockett to Waxahachie-147miles

It's 3am. Off into the dark we go.  A tick less than 3 miles and turn right, go 23.6.. yep, some of the longest ques' ever on this ride. the sheet could have said-'turn right and pedal til you need to shave', or 'go 'til teeth rattle out' today..and later today would be a doozy. this opener tho, was a super roller and plenty of fun in the dark. 'Critter!!' 'Possum!' don't know how we missed him going downhill in the dark but we did. Dave was driving up front for a good ways. there were a million stars in the sky. This was good cycling. the time passed quickly, and the chill in the air kept us working toward mile 40 and Palestine, where the first controle store was closed. 'McDonalds has good pancakes' said Ann. A smile greeted us at the door as they opened at 6 and served 8 cyclist a hot breakfast. Warm and happy we roll away to rural areas on 'roads' that were cart paths with asphalt poured over them. Wow, where are we, lumpyville? Great scenery, tho..for about 30 miles..

Add caption
we stopped at very friendly little store in Tennessee Colony, and began the slog to Corsicana. left turn into the wind and 19 miles on hwy 287. then straight 15 more. THIRTY FIVE MILES on this one highway. super rough, bumpy ass highway 287. I thought it wouldn't end. my knees were tender but my friends helped out. we stopped. Peter was offering advice and Catherine rolled up, removed her knee bands, gave them to me and off we went. I felt better. Corsicana finally arrived. there were choices to eat and Taco Bell was it. after chow, we got it together and headed out.  a last farewell from super SAG Pat and Charlie, and thru downtown we go all together. another 13mi que and off goes John. Of course there is no chase today, pure group. bon route! a sign seen on this road perks up the gang:
no barn has ever smelled sweeter..
yep, we've checked off another 200k, and are closing in. we stop and finally take off the last thin layers remaining and enjoy the sun. lots of chat, we're not even trying to go fast, we got this thing. It was like the last day of the tour, a parade now. support rolls by as I grab a sunflower pic of the group, cheering loudly and making sure we're OK.

lookin' good, group!
we are joking on the last road about how many water towers we see and how far off some of them are. we roll into town and line-up on the last road all together. finish as a unit.
82 hrs and 34 minutes. john ahead at 82:12, and lone wolf chris at 79:43. congrats to all!!!

if any day were gonna kill tires, this was it. somehow I'd snuck  thru today. 'til picture time. my front was flat in the lobby! I rounded up my spent tubes and made it a memory:

me, claire, and lots of butyl

We had time to clean up and relax before we got to welcome the next wave of finishers and finally see some folks again. the herd was lookin good too! still a big group, that is Spencer behind Jeff. he conquered this beast on a fixie. a tip of the stetson there, Spence..

with all that ensued over 4 days and 766 punishing miles, the real gift of this ride was people. all the ones who put it together and ran it. and mostly the ones I shared the road with. I met so many the first day , it was a little sad to not see them after that. But the company I chose and was blessed with was incredible-the unflappable Catherine the Great, calm cool David, Ann, Peter, Don, Ian, Hamid, and roomie/sparring partner John. what an honor to conquer my first 1200K with you all. thanks for all the wisdom and experience you generously shared with us all. this group was rich too. PBP's, mille miglias', gold rush, last chance, cascades, shenandoah..whew, now the Stampede. Truly EPIC.. 

ps: I can't say enough good stuff about all the texas people who threw this event. they were great from start to finish. if and when they do it again, count me in!


Jeff said...

Great report, Geof-- reads like vintage Kerouac! Sorry to hear about all those flats, though they didn't seem to slow you much. I think you chose correctly when you upgraded to the early (and earlier!) morning departure crew-- your cruising speed is a bit higher than what we were trying to hold down in the Herd, much as we would have welcomed your help up front.
Getting to chat with Spencer was a real treat on the way into Crockett. Our guests from Australia, Dave and Judith, just need to adopt new accents and move to Texas-- we'll miss their Jedi rando prowess and high spirits. Also pulling the train was Bob the strong and Mike (from Norman, OK) the atomic powerhouse. I'm sure you made similar, lasting bonds with your crew. See you in France?

TexasPamRides said...

Great report indeed Geof! Loved reading and re-living the ride. Huge thanks for coming to TX and bigger thanks for conjuring such great memories :)

Jason Dail said...

Wow, Geof! I am so impressed. It really sounds like it was one of those epic rides of a lifetime for sure. I bow to your coolness and endurance brotha.