So it was off to Wallis, Tx for the Independence Ride, a charity event supporting Disabled Vets, some of whom rode sections of the route on various modified bikes. Paddy was there, driving SAG in his Mules-themed pickup, and we saw some other Mules too (all of the speedy variety!).
The ride started and finished at the Wallis Knights of Columbus hall, an impressive building given the size of the city (population 1,250 on the 2010 census). For once there was no line for the indoor flush toilets, that tells you something.
Another beautiful morning in southeast Texas, although we natives were shivering a bit (mid 40's when we started!), so we were glad to get going. We'd arrived a bit late, which meant we started with the Fanny Pack set (as opposed to the Shaved Leg set, not that we're natural members of that group either), and spent a lot of time passing people on mountain bikes wearing sneakers and anoraks. There was a pretty sharp head wind for the first several miles, which sorted the men from the boys a bit too.
The first 15 miles or so was on roads that we had seen before, but once past Brookshire and into Pattison it was terra incognita for both of us. We turned due west on FM1458 and immediately had a screaming tail wind. Together with a warming, sunny morning and mostly smooth roads, this was cycling paradise and we scorched along at over 20 mph for a good 8 miles.
We crossed the Brazos near Stephen F. Austin state park (a good place to go camping!) and rode through San Felipe, the capital of the original Austin colony and a very historic site for Texans. There was a rest stop right by the freeway and it was a good time for a break. I took the opportunity to peel off all my cool weather gear and eat some trail mix before we headed out for the last leg, a 13 mile pull due south.
This section was pretty tough for me. The road surface was poor and that tends to wear you down, and I was tired from the heroics earlier in the ride. A cross-wind is almost worse than a head-wind, because it's hard to draft. There were a few rollers to negotiate too! So I was very glad to see the final turn coming up, not so happy though to see ambulances and fire engines, with what appeared to be a Life Flight helicopter landing. Apparently a rider had gone down pretty hard, but we didn't find out what had happened.
Across the finish line to rapturous applause from a couple of young volunteers and then back to the car to change out of our shoes and sweaty gear, before heading back to the hall for some food. Sadly the fare wasn't quite as good as last week's - seriously overcooked chicken, baked beans and potato salad, dirty white bread and only nasty mass-market beer. A few minutes into lunch, a heavy metal band started up, which was the end of conversation, so we left, turning down the opportunity to buy raffle tickets (first prize - a glock, second - $300) as we did.
After a nap and an early beer we decided to check out the Unitunes offering that evening, and were very glad we did! Unitunes is a series of concerts in Emerson Unitarian church, run by Kevin and a few of his friends. The show was excellent (Bob Livingston and Bradley Kopp) and I managed to (mostly) hit the 2 and 4, so that lesson was learned.