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Bluebonnets and Bikes

27 Feb

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Above is a photo of Mark and me last March when we rode with Classic Adventures in the Texas Hill Country. The photo is in the Classic Adventures 2013 catalog. The picture was shot the day we rode through the beautiful Willow City Loop. You can’t believe all the wildflowers we saw – bluebonnets and beyond. Just incredible.

The riding was pretty incredible too.

If you care to read about the Texas Hill Country and our tour you can do so here.

A couple of studs we are.

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Texas Hill Country-Hilltop Ride

23 Apr

Day 6/6 of “Biking and Blogging” on the Classic Adventures Texas Hill Country Tour.


Another last day of another bike tour. About the time the last day rolls around, I find I’m getting into a good groove and don’t want to stop! I love riding daily and exploring new places by bike.

CA logoOne thing is for certain, we will ride in the Texas Hill Country again. Soon, hopefully next year.

Every bike tour has a “Queen stage”, the toughest day of the tour – the ride to Hilltop, Enchanted Rock and back to Fredericksburg would make it the most challenging (and longest at 67 miles) of the week. Daily mileage options are always provided and on this day in particular our group utilized all the available options.

Mark and I didn’t ride to Enchanted Rock, only to the entrance then back to Fredericksburg. We chose not to do it because of a tough climb coupled with a strong headwind and since we know we’ll be back we elected to save it for another day.

Even without Enchanted Rock it was a challenging day. Mainly because of the heat and headwind we faced going back. Still, it was an awesome day – good route, good mileage (it would put us around 250 miles for the week) – and just another superb day of riding.

We started out as usual from the Inn on Barons Creek. A good day for sunscreen so I slathered it on and put the tube in my trunk. I think Mark and I  were the last of the group to pull away, other than Dianne. We headed out on the road we had come in on the day before. Got to see these guys again.

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Wasn’t it nice of them to pose for me.

Although our route took us back on a road that had a fair amount of traffic (compared to the other roads), cars weren’t an issue and we didn’t appear to be a problem for them. They passed when it was safe and gave us a wide berth when doing so – all any cyclist needs or expects from drivers.

I have never encountered more courteous, respectful drivers than those in the Hill Country. Mark and I have talked a lot about this fact; most recently yesterday when we were out riding on our local roads and cars were buzzing by us as if waiting for two seconds to pass safely was too much to expect. We have come to the conclusion that the biggest difference is no one in the Hill Country (that we encountered) appeared to be in a hurry. No one felt the need to catch up on their phone calls, send text messages, read that report for work, do their nails… while driving, so they didn’t feel irritated by our presence. They weren’t in a hurry and everyone everywhere else is.

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It’s that mosey thing… I’m telling you we all need to mosey more. Moseying on a bike – even better.

We were all stretched out on the road. That’s Deena in the photo just above. She is a strong rider and relatively new, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she rides. The day we rode the Willow City Loop, she also rode it the other way so she could do the toughest hill again – going the other way making it steeper. I’ll always think of that hill as “Deena’s Hill” because several years ago before she started riding, she was on the Willow City Loop in a car, saw some cyclists riding that same hill and couldn’t imagine doing it. Several years later it’s her charging up that hill – Deena’s hill.

Most if not all of us who bike have similar stories and I love hearing them. Cycling transports the body, but it transports the mind and soul too.

Now, I’ll mosey along with this blog about our ride to Hilltop and back.

Mark and I met up at the snack stop and headed off together. We rode an easy pace, savoring the last day of the tour. As the pictures show it was a beautiful day.

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With bucolic bliss adding to the biking bliss.

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The last miles to Hilltop Cafe were fast and smooth as glass thanks to a tailwind and a newly paved road and shoulder. I parked Lucille and noticed Deena and Christopher – the speedsters – were already there.

The food was very good, including the gumbo which was possibly better than the stuff I grew up on – although I would never admit that to a family member.

 

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More homage to the bike outside the Hilltop café.

Soon after lunch we rode through a gypsum mine that sort of resembled the surface of the moon. It was a blizzard of gypsum dust, making it very hard to see – I guess the wind was kicking it up. Fortunately we noticed a Tonka looking truck roughly the size of the moon approaching on our right. He didn’t appear to want to wait and who were we to expect him to since he could have crushed us like a bug.

The rest of the route, however, was more of what we had experienced all week – roads that were more like paved bike paths, particularly today because there were more bikes than cars. We saw more cyclists out than the previous days combined.

You only have to bike here once to understand why.

We had a bike club from Houston flying down the hills with what for them was a tailwind as we were ever so slowly making it up the hills with the headwind. One hill in particular was very steep and fairly long. I actually stopped in the middle of the climb because my legs refused to turn the pedals fast enough. They paid for it when we had to get started again.

A few more shots of the lightly traveled roads and quiet beauty of the Texas Hill Country on the remaining miles of our last day.

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I told the cows above that I had chicken for lunch and they let me pass.

We finished the day with 60 miles, 3228 feet of ascent, and 2546 calories burned. For the week we rode 258 miles.

It was an outstanding week of riding, far exceeding any expectations I had.

I highly recommend the Texas Hill Country for your biking pleasure and the same goes for Classic Adventures. Dale and Dianne managed to make a highly organized tour seem flexible and relaxed, I’m not quite sure how they did it. The accommodations were very good, the dining choices very good and the daily routes superb. They provided each of us with excellent support throughout the week and treated us like friends rather than customers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs, especially those of you on the tour. Safe travels.


Previous Posts on the Texas Hill Country Bike Tour:

Texas Hill Country – Classic Adventure

Texas Hill Country – Boerne Arrival

Texas Hill Country – Boerne to Comfort

Texas Hill Country – Fredericksburg

Texas Hill Country – Ride to Doss

Texas Hill Country–Ride to Doss

23 Apr

Day 5/6 of “Biking and Blogging” on the Classic Adventures Texas Hill Country Tour.


Today was our second of three Fredericksburg loop rides. There are numerous ride options originating from Fredericksburg, I have a feeling we will try more of them in the not too distant future.

CA logoFredericksburg is more of a town than the actual population (10,500) would indicate. There are numerous good restaurants, shops, and lodging options so it would be a great place to serve as a base for riding in the Hill Country.

Every morning after breakfast and the route meeting, Dale would have all of our bikes lined up in a row having topped off the tires and doing a quick check to see if any of them needed adjusting. I saw him more than once with chain lube in his hand checking out our chains and gearing. We used Classic Adventures bikes but a few brought their own bikes and Dale took care of them too. 

Today may have been the first day I put sunscreen on my arms and legs. The sun was out for a change and although I’m a fan of cooler temperatures when riding, it was nice to see the bright blue sky.

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Early on in the ride we met a couple from Wisconsin who told us they spend a week in the Hill Country every spring to ride and have been doing so for 10 years. Like us, they enjoyed the scenery and lightly traveled roads. The bluebonnets were superfluous to them, it was all about the great quality riding.

Not wanting to stop, but still wanting to take pictures I was shooting almost all of them while riding. I keep my “point and shoot” in a small Bento box on the top tube by the handlebar so it’s easy to grab. I’ve also been know to talk on my cell a time or two while riding, but before you jump to conclusions about my safety – I’ve never texted!

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Some things aren’t worth stopping to take a shot of, but a quick capture while going by – why not? When do you think that mailbox is going to finally fall… notice the flag is up too.

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If something looks interesting, like this studio or mega-greenhouse I shoot it and hope the focus is okay.

The sun was bright but the temperatures mild. I love taking shadow shots, usually while I’m pedaling because I like the motion shot better, but I took this one when stopped at the snack stop.

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Today was one of the days where we had several warnings noted in our trip notes. The first warning was coming up at mile 10.2. Sure enough, that cattle guard was still damaged at the center! I wish someone would do trip notes for all my routes.

Another warning was a tight turn at the bottom of steep downhill and we were forewarned at our pre-ride meeting and in the trip notes about every water crossing/slick slab. I for one appreciated the heads up.

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The miles slipped away easily. By now Lucille and I were scoffing at the Texas size chip seal, nothing was going to take away from our enjoyment of the ride. I was no longer thinking about either Rocket (my carbon fiber/Campy steed) or Condor (my “steel is real” touring bike), much less missing them.

Truth be told, I was thinking about how I needed another bike – maybe a Trek.

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Another “cow herd on the side of the road” sighting so I stayed to the right (they look dangerous, right), and took their picture before they noticed. If they had known what I was going to have at the lunch stop just up the road they would have no doubt attacked me.

 

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The burger was as good as it looked – and as big. Lunch was at the newly renovated Doss Country Store. It seemed to be a gathering spot for local farmers, ranchers and cyclists. We met a friend of Dale and Dianne’s who had stopped by for lunch too. We talked to him about Texas Hell Week, a weeklong ride held in March. Sounds like a great time, may have to try it next year.

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As we rolled out of Dodge, make that Doss, we headed back toward Fredericksburg. It was starting to get hot, but with clouds to keep the sun at bay it wasn’t bad.

Just miles and miles of open road and big sky.

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And a few sheep to keep things from becoming boring – not even possible. The baby lambs were cute though.

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While waiting for Mark before a turn, I looked to my right to see this gnarly tree. Looks like a tree from a Stephen King novel. I switched the camera to black & white mode, I’m so glad I did. One of my favorite shots from the trip.  

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Although we could have stopped at Chisholm Trail Winery, we decided to ride on. The Doss Loop was another great route and ride.



I finished the day with 55.5 miles, 4:25 riding time, 3441 feet of ascent, AHR of 113, and burned 2113 calories (roughly one supersize cheeseburger and fries). Dinner was on our own tonight, we dined with our riding buddies Bill, Wilma and Christopher at Fredericksburg Brewing Company.

Fredricksburg Loop #2

Texas Hill Country–Willow City Loop

22 Apr

Day 4/6 of “Biking and Blogging” on the Classic Adventures Texas Hill Country Tour.


CA logoThe Hill Country is known as the mecca for the infamous Texas bluebonnets. Due to drought conditions in the last several years there haven’t been the usual number of bluebonnets. Instead of fields of bluebonnets, aka lupine, you were lucky if you saw more than a few clumped together. Thanks to a wetter winter and early spring, bluebonnets are again in abundance.

Although we had seen bluebonnets and other wildflowers the last few days, they were nothing like what we saw on the Willow City Loop.

We got our first taste of what would be a bluebonnet bonanza early on in the day’s ride.

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Granted, I’m smitten with flowers, but I couldn’t get over the beauty of the bluebonnets. Blue is a rare color in nature’s pallet, and bluebonnets are especially spectacular.

In addition to flower lovers, there were signs that hill country is also inhabited by those that love and worship bikes –

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Once again, we had a day with cool temperatures and few motorists. Instead of cows, horses and sheep (oh my) we had bluebonnets, poppies and Indian paintbrush. A fair trade.

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I just could not get over how great the biking was! And also wonder, how had I managed not to know that? I’ve biked for over 20 years, visited the Hill Country numerous times in those years, yet somehow I had never noticed how perfect it was for bike touring. The only explanation I can come up with is I was in a car, and in a car you don’t get a good sense of where you are. To know how great it would be on a bike I guess I needed to actually be on a bike!

We did a bike tour along the California coast and Sonoma County last fall and I actually think the biking is better here. Was California more beautiful? Yes. Was the scenery more spectacular? Absolutely, but the riding wasn’t as good. For the purpose of biking, I’ll take the little to no traffic, good roads and the quiet beauty of the Texas Hill Country over California’s biking and beauty.

And better yet, the Hill Country is an easy day’s drive from our home.

One thing about biking is true everywhere – bike tires sometimes go flat. Soon after getting back on the bike after our little bluebonnet photoshoot, Mark had a flat on the rear. Fortunately, we had a tube, small hand pump and tire levers so we could change it, but Dianne, our guide on the bike, came up and offered to help change it.

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True confession: I suck at changing a bike tire (don’t have the hand strength to roll that last little bit on) and Mark has never changed one. Dianne quickly got the tire off and the new tube in and started pumping air, but the tube wouldn’t inflate. Mark gave it several tries too but couldn’t get the tube to hold air either, so out with that tube and in with another. Dale, our guide in the van, pulled up and in no time we were on our way again.

We came across a large field of rye, or some type of grass, that with the billowy clouds above it I knew would make a wonderful picture so I stopped and took these shots. No bluebonnets, but I think they are a good representation of the type of quiet beauty of this area.

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Next bit of bucolia, was riding through a small farm of goats, sheep and a few cows. They were looking at us as inquisitively as we were staring at them. I really wanted to stop in the middle and take a picture but I flashed on the You Tube video of the woman biking and being attacked by a cow, so I just moseyed on.

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Before long we came to Willow City Loop road. We had the option to ride the Willow City Loop, which we decided to do because of 1) bluebonnets 2) mileage 3) a couple of tough hills – okay, not because of the hills, but in spite of the hills (as it turned out, hills weren’t too steep or long).

To say the bluebonnets and other wildflowers were in abundance on Willow City Loop doesn’t come close to describing what we saw so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Actually, the pictures don’t do it justice either. We were told it had been more than 20 years since the Willow City Loop area has had such a showing of bluebonnets or poppies.

The riding was fun, up and down and a few sweeping turns, but the tourists in cars made it where we had to ride our brakes. In one area we looked down to the valley and couldn’t quite make out what we were seeing. It looked something like water but not quite.

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Then we made our way down we saw what it was. Flowers!

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And if we weren’t on sensory overload already by the sheer beauty, which of course we were, the scent was intoxicating!  Seriously, it was beyond belief. By now I was suffering from Stendhal syndrome of the natural kind.

I joked with the group that I was going to have to figure out a way to have a “scratch and sniff” post because without the strong scent of all those flowers (presumably the bluebonnets) I couldn’t capture the scene.  And we were experiencing all this on bikes, under our own power, engulfed in the beauty of nature. It was awe-inspiring.

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By now it was raining, but no problem, because we skipped the few miles on a highway catching a lift in the van to our lunch spot. We had lunch with Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty at the Knot in the Loop Saloon.

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While enjoying what was a great burger and fries, it poured. When it was time to mount up and head out again, it cleared. Thank you cycling gods.

More great miles and scenery.

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Back at the Inn on Barons Creek, we enjoyed our reward for the day, an ice cold Shiner bock, then met up with the others for dinner at another great restaurant, Crossroads Saloon and Steakhouse. Fabulous meal and company.


For the day:  56 miles, in 4:34, 12.3 pace, 110 AHR, 2024 calories burned.

Fredricksburg Loop #1

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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