Yesterday was my last long ride before the MS150. The Mules had outings planned, but Kevin got in touch looking for a ride with more climbs, and I suggested the Sealy route. I put the word out, and Brent came forward too. He was looking for a slower ride than the usual 45 mile gallop around Zube - I assured him that we were looking for an MS-paced ride, 17-18mph all the way. Jorge couldn't make it but Kevin was planning to bring Tom, an old BP buddy who is also his usual MS150 riding partner. Kevin offered to drive, but when he arrived at my place he was alone - Tom had opted to attend his kid's track meet instead.
We set out for Sealy, with The Raphael Gadot Trio's new CD, Hypnosis, playing. The bass player in the trio is a co-worker and I thought that Kevin, also a bassist, might appreciate his work. We talked about his upcoming trip to Marfa, and all of his back-up plans. What once seemed like a crazy-ass, mid-life crisis dream now looks like a tough but doable ride.
Once at Sealy we hooked up with Brent, saddled up and headed out. There was already a strong wind out of the south that promised to make the run home down Route 36 pretty tough, but it gave us some Lance Armstrong moments on the north legs (as in cruising at 20+mph without breaking a sweat).
Birds galore today, including at least four scissor-tailed flycatchers (one flew right in front of us, giving a great view of his plumage), an eagle and plenty of vultures. As we got into the ride, Brent began struggling with the climbs and I wondered how he would handle the hilly section at mile 35.
We reached Bernardo and took a break. For once the Feed Store was open (I usually do the ride on Sundays and it's closed) and we went in for water. Kevin has rigged up a triathlete-style dual bottle rack behind his saddle and it had worked loose, so we made some running repairs.
The run from Bernardo to Cat Spring is through very pretty countryside and we enjoyed the wildflowers and views, before getting down to the serious part of the ride. First though a stop at the Cat Spring Country Store, another locality that I've never seen open. By now the wind was really blowing and gusting.
Off into the hills. We dropped Brent pretty quickly but under the circumstances it had to be every man for himself. We slowed back a couple of times to keep him in view but otherwise hit the descents and ascents pretty hard. Half-way up the toughest climb, I tried to shift chain rings but my drive train locked up, forcing me to drop into my granny ring before I needed it. Kevin surged past and I couldn't catch him. One more tough climb and then we were through. Brent appeared pretty quickly and we regrouped, ready for the last push down 36.
When we reached the turn for 36 I was surprised to see that the road construction started two years ago was still not complete. A second carriageway had been built but was not in use, so were were forced onto a fairly narrow shoulder. Kevin told Brent that he and I would take turns at the front, aiming for a 17-18mph pace. Unfortunately, when I took the lead it was all I could do to hold it to 15mph, into a 20+mph head wind with strong gusts. When the pace dropped Kevin went past but he was too strong and I called him back. On my next turn at the front I led the group onto the unfinished carriageway, and we had a smooth surface all to ourselves. Brent dropped back but with the wind so strong we couldn't wait for him and forged ahead.
Kevin dropped me just outside the city limits but I wasn't far behind when we pulled up at the cars. I was pretty drained but Kevin felt OK, a good omen for his big ride. Brent was a few minutes back - he'd lost sight of us and had stopped to check the route (and maybe get his breath back). I think he enjoyed the ride.
Back home to watch the trees swaying in the wind and a good nap. Next ride - LaGrange and then Austin!