We started out pretty hot, with Sean leading the charge, making me wonder if he was channelling Rachel Alexandra. 10 miles in, we were passed by a group of three riders, which of course was like a red rag to a bull, and I jumped on to the rear wheel. We kept with them for a fair distance, actually taking the lead for a while, but wiser counsels prevailed and we let them go just before the turn onto Mayer road.
Back at a more sensible pace, we made our way through the rolling Waller County landscape to Hempstead and our usual stop at the Exxon gas station. Paddy and I took the opportunity to stock up on essential supplies - energy bars for me, steroid-laced sports drinks for him. We looked at the map and agreed to try the 50 mile route, essentially our standard ride with a 10 mile loop south of Hempstead.
We picked up the new route and were delighted to be running pretty much downwind, downhill - at least until the turn, which took us dead into the wind with a few climbs to negotiate. A small deer decided to cross the road in front of us, making a spectacular leap over a fence in the process. I know that deer strikes can mess up a car pretty comprehensively - what would they do to a lightweight road bike?
We turned north on the last leg of the loop and immediately felt the wind. Sean was feeling his oats and pulled us most of the way into Hempstead, where we picked up the usual route and settled in to a nice, long downwind run. A quick break at the 40 mile point in Waller and then we moved onto Old Washington road, a strip of two-lane blacktop that runs parallel to our normal route but has much less traffic. With about 3 miles to go a dog appeared out of nowhere and began to give chase. I started to wind up the pace to see if I could drop him, then Paddy went flying past, going like Lance being chased by the french press. The dog left me for dead and went flat out after Paddy! It soon reached the end of its territory and went home - it was probably more interested in a run than in a mouthful of spandex.
We regrouped and had a chuckle about our canine encounter. Sean and I agreed that the dog was probably looking for a man-sized meal, which is why it had focussed on Paddy and left him and me alone. The last few miles went by pretty easily (other than one last pull into the wind) and we were back at the cars, in the now-crowded car park.
Next week will be the long-awaited, much-postponed Houston-Bellville-Houston classic - if the weather, work schedules and several ageing knees/ankles/backs/derrieres co-operate.