We had both done Chappell Hill rides before but not together and it was a while ago so we didn't remember the route. Not to worry, my friend Juan (a fierce MS fundraiser) rides out here regularly and had provided a map and GPS coordinates, so what could go wrong?
Juan's map had three routes, long, medium and short. Sadly the long was too long (58 miles!) and the medium too short, so we took the Goldilocks option, a bit of both that was just right. In theory.
In practise we missed a turn less than a mile from the start and it wasn't the only one we blew. We stormed down a pretty, rolling road in bright sunshine, only to discover that we were about to merge onto the freeway. Whoops! This could perhaps be put down to a misfortune, induced in part by an unusual level of pre-ride hilarity. Somehow the topic of embarrassment cropped up while we were getting ready, and I remembered the Monty Python sketch featuring Dr. Karl Gruber of the Institute of Going-a-bit-red in Helsinki. The catchphrase "wankel rotary engine" had Kevin practically paralytic with laughter and he was still chuckling throughout the ride.
Anyway, back on course and we were immediately into a succession of rollers, some significantly steeper than others. I doubt we found more than a mile of flat road on the entire ride, and my granny ring got a thorough workout in the process. It's just beautiful country out there and it was a wonderful spring morning so it should have been a beatific Texas experience, were it not for the damn hills.
About fourteen miles in, we realised that we were probably off-piste again and stopped to consult the map, my GPS and two cell phones equipped with Google maps. As Kevin says, we knew our position to within a foot and were still lost. Eventually we worked out that we had missed a turn but could modify the route a little and get back on course. Kevin also casually announced that he hadn't been able to shift out of his big ring for the last several miles and had been grinding up the climbs on it. I'd been through just about every gear on my bike over the same course and had been looking for more!
Back at it on a busy road where the grades are lower but the climbs correspondingly longer. He left me on the longest but waited at the top, where he had enough time to take a drink, chat with some other riders, stretch and scratch and then get his phone out to take this shot just as I crested the rise.
Shortly after this point we turned north onto a quieter but no less lumpy road. Somewhere along here Kevin spotted a stranded turtle and turned round mid-climb to render assistance. What a role model!
We were now a few miles from the town of Independence where we planned to take our official mid-ride break. Sadly there was still work to be done, with a long, slow climb up to a large communications tower that put me in mind of the climb up Mont Ventoux. That's probably as close as I'll get to the real thing but it was tough going. Once past that point it was a short run to the village store for a much-needed rest.
A few minutes banter with the locals and we were back at it. The plan was to follow the long route in reverse and it started out well enough, mostly downwind which didn't hurt. Kevin spotted an unusual bird along the way and that was all the excuse I needed to stop. This little chap had a distinctive yellow breast and was singing his heart out on a farm gate. We subsequently decided he was a meadowlark, the first I've ever seen.
A few miles on and the GPS was showing a turn but we didn't believe it and stayed on the same road. We should have had faith! We ended up on the outskirts of Brenham, well off course and throroughly confused. It was now 12:30, we were at least 15 miles out from the start and 60 miles from home. Time for the apologetic call home to the very understanding spouse.
Much head scratching later, we agreed to trust the GPS and set out on an interception course. Miraculously enough it worked, we were back on track with only a few miles to run, just as well as I was played out. Kevin was feeling great of course and enjoying the admittedly ravishingly country scenery.
Back at the start and I proposed lunch before we headed back, mainly because my blood sugar was in negative territory. One sausage sandwich later and life began to take on a more rosy hue. We've certainly got our hills in this year.