So the plan for last weekend was the 50 mile Pattison-Bellville out and back with Kevin and Larry. But Kevin called on Frday evening to bail out due to work commitments (what's up with that?), so I opted for the Frostbike 50 organized ride on Sunday because Jorge was going to ride. But then on Saturday Jorge had to bail too, being on Mother-in-Law minding duty, so Sunday morning found me heading out to Lone Star college on my own - and I had to drive, too!
Once there I quickly found the Mules trailer and a big group. Paddy is in Perth (where he seems to be spending a lot of time on his bike...) so Crawford had towed the trailer behind his shiny new pick-up truck, features of which he proudly demonstrated to me. Crawford is a big, burly Scotsman with an accent you could cut with a skean-dhu, but he's also a diehard Aggie fan and a regular tail-gater at Kyle Field. His truck (Aggie maroon, natch) is kitted out with large, built-in coolers along the truck bed, and he can rig up a sofa on the actual tail gate. As a true Brit though his tailgating fare generally includes proper bacon, sausage and eggs (because he gets there at the crack of dawn, as you must to get a good spot).
We talked about pace groups and distances for the ride. I was planning to ride the longest route, 55 miles, but at a reasonably subdued pace (I joked that I was looking for 16mph but they took me seriously). Adam had brought a friend, Dexter, a fairly green rider who wanted to do the 45 mile route and my pace sounded good to him. So we duly set out, 16 Mules in all.
The first half of the road is all south of 290 and mostly new roads to me. The second half is on more familiar territory around Zube park. With a freshening wind off the gulf it looked like we would be fighting on the way home, unfortunately.
Dexter and I settled into a 16.5mph pace pretty comfortably and chatted a bit. He rode the MS150 for the first time last year and enjoyed it despite having a wreck when he went for his water bottle fairly early on. As a result he's still uncomfortable riding one-handed and in fact didn't actually take a drink until we stopped at the breaks.
The first break was in Paul Rushing park, which I've seen before - it has several cricket pitches and while we were there a group of players arrived, presumably for some practise. The ride organizers had only provided two port-a-potties and so a big line developed. This was bad planning, the first rest stop is always busy. I stood in line for 20 minutes or more.
Back at it and we passed Warren Lake which is part of the Katy Prairie Conservancy and has a beautiful two-level wildlife viewing platform - well worth a visit, Susan and I went there a few weeks back. Pretty soon after that the 45/55 mile routes split and Dexter and I parted company.
I picked up the pace a bit for the next few miles. It was just a gorgeous morning and with a generally favourable wind I was cooking along in fine style. Then came the turn and my speed dropped dramatically but I was still feeling good.
There was a decent sized group of riders in very distinctive yellow jerseys who passed me several times in this stretch, presumably because they were stopping more frequently. Their leader was rocking a gold helmet and a reddish beard that would not have looked out of place on Duck Dynasty! But they were courteous riders and called out when they passed, more than I can say for another group with whom I exchanged words. They were moving fast in a tight paceline and the leader called out, but then one of their riders buzzed me - passing so close I could read his bike computer. This caught me by surprise and I wobbled quite a bit. More angry than frightened, I yelled a choice phrase or two at their backs, something to the effect that they should please give me more room as we weren't in the Tour de France. I added an adjective for emphasis, and one of the female riders responded with a time-honoured gesture involving one finger. Either that or she was showing me her manicure. A charming little interlude, all too common I'm afraid.
By now I was 40 miles in and tiring. It only got worse when we crossed under 290 and the road headed due south into the wind through a tree-less plain. With no shelter at all my speed dropped to about 12mph - and I was passing people at that. This torture continued for a few miles until we got into one of the soul-less subdivisions that dot the prairie. Houses and trees provided some respite from the wind, and then we finally made the turn north and back to the start. My computer showed 57 miles at an average speed of 14.5mph, nothing to brag about but not bad under the conditions.
Next week we'll try Plan A again, hopefully Kevin and Larry won't beat me up too badly.