Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Uncertain Times 200k

Here is my ride report for my ride Friday in Longview, TX. I will post a report for Saturday later.

I left work at 4 pm Thursday afternoon to drive to Longview, TX. It is only 4.5 hours from the house. I figured I would do the ride alone as no one had come out with a firm commitment and as I suspected all the maybes turned to nos by the time I left work. That was okay and I was not upset about riding alone. I knew I would get to ride with Sharon on Saturday. I believed she would ride with me and keep me company on our ride, so mentally I was okay riding alone on Friday. Plus it had been a long time since I had ridden a new route alone and had to do all of the navigation. I was looking forward to it actually.

I got to the Motel after 10:00 and was in bed by 12:00 - later than I would have liked, but my ride was set up for 7 am, so I would get a decent amount of sleep. At the ride start, I notice that my bike computer had crapped out. The last two weekends the display started fading out. You could still see the display, but it was really light. I tried to trouble shoot it but once I got the computer inside, it worked properly and I could not figure out what was wrong. The battery was only 3 months old. So, here I am at the start of a solo 200k on a route I have never ridden (nor had anyone else) without a bike computer. Great! Fortunately, I had brought my Garmin. The only problem with it was it was supposed to be for back up only. I have not used it in 2 years since I have been doing routes that I know or routes that were marked and sagged. So, I kinda forgot how to use it properly as a bike computer and not a gps unit. I could not have made it without the gps portion of the unit.

Right off the bat, I make a mistake. The cue sheet said to cross HWY 259 and continue east on Bar K Ranch Rd. I assumed the road I needed was at the light. However, there was another road parallel to the road at the light that I did not see. So, fortunately, the next cue should have been at mile 1.4. As I did not have a working computer, I had no idea how fast or far I was going. I reached an intersection that did not match the next cue, so I stopped to check the Garmin. I was not on the right road. Although in total it was only 4 miles, it took me 36 minutes to get back on the right course. I ended up going with school traffic and that slowed me down drastically. So, I now try not to go mental with a 36 minute "penalty" and 126 miles and 7000 ft of climbing to go. Fortunately for me the route is beautiful and has a lot of turns so I am paying attention and not thinking too much! The first 27 miles have a good mix of rollers, shade, lightly traveled roads and great scenery. I get to the first control and I am up 1.5 hours. Wow! I did much better than I would have thought! Locals at the control were very nice and very curious - probably stayed at the control longer than I should have as I was having a good conversation with all the older gentlemen on the porch of the store. This control was in Uncertain, TX. A very pleasant community near Lake of the Pines. I would like to go back one day and stay in the cabins. Headed out as the temps started to climb.

The cue sheet became less detailed at this point. I really had not picked up on that fact, but truly the cue sheet started lacking details. It was completely missing a cue at one point. Fortunately with the gps and common sense I was able to figure out which way to go. I know I was on course as I could stop and remove my computer to see the elapsed miles. Made a non-control stop to make sure I had plenty of water. I was really getting hot now. Came to the first cue that was incorrect. It gave detailed directions to turn on old hwy 729 and that the road was unmarked. Well, the directions appeared to be for old Hwy 726, but was there an old 729 up the road further? Fortunately, a check of the gps revealed that there did not seem to be an old hwy 729. I continued for the several miles mapped and came to a corresponding cue and decided I was right to turn on old 726 instead of trying to find 729. Come to another missing cue and surmise after much deliberation which way to go. Rolled through very pretty country side with nice lakes and fishing opportunities. The traffic has been very light all day. Finally made it to the control just up an hour now. At the control, I am very hot and very hungry. Hotter than I have been in a long time. As I am debating on what I can eat/drink that won't make me nauseated, I see a grape Nehi! Oh, I have not had a grape Nehi in years! I can't wait to open it. I pour it over ice and take a big refreshing gulp. Oh, it was soooo good!

The first cue out of this control is wrong. It says to veer right when it should have been veer left. The road becomes awful. It would best be described as paved dirt or Shattered Clay Pot Chip Seal. There are truly large pieces of broke clay pots imbedded into the chip seal. The terrain is steep short rollers. The downhills are bone jarring and actually vibrate my headlight loose. I stop to fix the light when this pack of angry wolverines, erh, dauchsands rush me nipping at my hills. I can't get my light tightened while doing the doggie dance, so I jump back on the bike to try and drop the weenie dogs cursing all the way. It is at this point I get to another "missing cue" when I realize that I am on Nasturtium street instead of CR 1649! I am pretty certain that I know that the original cue sending me down this way was wrong. But, I don't want to have to face the Cujo/dachsands on my back to retracing my steps. I also try to find the best way back on course. The road I am currently on was not even on the GPS, so finding my way back would be a challenge. Fortunately, a lady drives up and I wave her down and she points me in the right direction. I don't think I am too far off of my original route nor have I added many if any bonus miles. I finally get back out to 1649 but have to now decide what direction to turn to stay on course. Fortunately, I choose correctly and continue to the next control without incidence, or so I thought. Apparently, on a long fast descent I loose my cue sheet. I still have 17 miles to get back to the control - yikes!

So at the control when I realize I have lost my cue sheet, I comb the store looking for where I may have misplaced it. It is no where to be found. I start trying to figure out how I am going to get back to the ride start. I think about calling Sharon or George but decide that is probably not going to help and then I realize I have my trusty GPS unit programmed! So, I start out for the last 17 miles of the ride.

It is on the next 13 miles or so that I decide that I am tired of being on the bike and only because of the absolutely awful road surface. Once again I am on "paved dirt". There are huge chunks of rock and "clay pot" dotting the road. It is impossible to hold a line and the large rock and pot holes are bouncing me everywhere. I pray to God that the road surface on the transcon is not like this. If so, I won't make it far. I was very worried that I would completely ruin my wheels and maybe even my frame the ride was so rough. I sure wish I had wider tires for this part of the route. On the pleasant side, the road is completely shaded and the scenery is nice. I finally get off of the paved dirt roads and hit just normally Texas boulder seal. What an appreciation I now have for the nice smooth boulder seal surface - never again will I complain!!! BTW, those of you that have ridden the north Natchez Trace chip seal or the chip seal surface of the spillway bike trail, if you hate those roads, do not even think about riding in Texas!

I finally pull up to the final control/ride start and I am very pleased. It has taken me 12 hours and 45 min. 1 hour and 45 min longer than I had hoped. However, I started 30 min late from my first navigational mistake and I am guessing I had an hour of navigation slowness trying to make sure I am on the right course. Additionally, the course had 7000+ feet of climbing. I really don't know where the climbing came from as I would have guessed that the route only had 4000-5000 ft of climbing.

Great ride, Great scenery, Great adventure, and only mild discomfort from the crappy paved dirt roads!

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