Sunday, March 29, 2015

Days 2-4

My tour ended on day four in Roby, Texas, a dusty little west Texas town about thirty miles north of Sweetwater. Saddle sores and associated problems got the best of me. I will say that I learned a lot about touring from these few days on the road, such as; whats needed and what’s useless extra weight, how much water I need over certain distances and conditions, what foods will provide the energy I need to get me through the day.

I didn’t update my blog after day one because I either didn’t have internet access or after arriving at my destination and completing my chores, I fell sound asleep. Here is a recap of day 2 through 4.

Day 2

58 miles from Mineral Wells to Breckenridge

I opted to pay for a screened shelter at Lake Mineral Wells State Park, I’m glad I did. A cold front blew in around 11:30 PM on day 1 and wreaked havoc. I heard branches creaking and cracking all over as the winds blasted through the park. Several of the screened windows in my shelter were covered by thick plastic sheeting-the sheeting was blown out on the initial assault. The temperature dropped quickly and I was forced to dig out my cold weather gear. I was really pleased with performance of my Klymit sleeping pad and Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt. I stayed warm and comfortable-the temperature was around forty-five degrees.

First lesson learned-repack your gear immediately after use. It took me way too long to pack up and get on the road that morning. I rode the trailway to the west side of Mineral Wells and then began my ride on U.S. 180 headed west. The shoulder on U.S 180 in Parker and Palo Pinto counties was wide, smooth and well maintained. The hills west of the Brazos River were long and tough but the scenery was excellent! I stopped for a burger at Red’s Grocery,Gas, and Grill, and continued westward. I dealt with a strong steady crosswind from the north on the open stretches of road where there were no trees or hills to protect me. Soon after passing Tx 16 I realized that I was running low on water. There are no convenience stores and very few houses between Palo Pinto, and Breckenridge, Texas. I started to get a little concerned. I was carrying a water purifier but the only water I saw were the small pools adjacent to the roadside culverts. No telling what has washed off of the roadway into these puddles. Filtering this water would be my last resort. I limped into Breckenridge at sunset, exhausted and dealing with some serious saddle induced pain. I heeded my wife’s suggestion and rented a room at a motel on the west side of town. You want to know how to attract the attention of every half inebriated oilfield worker partying in a motel parking lot? Roll a loaded touring bike up to your motel room door. They all came running. A few of them had seen me out on the road. After answering dozens of questions and refusing invites to hang out and get drunk, I guided my bike into the room and took a much needed shower. I was completely wasted and dealing with saddle sores and serious doubts. I turned off the lights and passed out.



Day 3

60 miles from Breckenridge to Anson, Texas

It’s amazing what a shower and a good night’s sleep will do for your mind and body. I enjoyed a quick breakfast consisting of peanut butter and honey and made my way west. I had applied some diaper rash ointment to my underside earlier that morning and it seemed to be working wonders on saddle sores. The ride from Breckenridge to Albany was uneventful (thankfully). I arrived in Albany around lunch time. I like Albany, it’s an interesting small town full of cowboys, artists, and art lovers. I stopped for lunch at The Icehouse on the town square north of the courthouse and then walked my bike across the street to the Old Jail Art Center. This art museum is a true hidden gem, with works by Picasso, Renoir, Calder and Modigliani as well as artifacts from the Ming dynasty and Pre-Columbian art. I spent some time browsing around the museum before heading to the closest convenience store where I filled two two liter Dromedary bags with water. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way to Anson and I wanted to have plenty of water available in case I had to stealth camp along the highway. The climb out of Albany was brutal but it wasn’t anything compared to the second climb of the day. This climb sucked the life out of me. I stopped at a picnic area just over the crest of the hill and layed down on a table and closed my eyes for about fifteen minutes. There was one more difficult climb to deal with before the road leveled off more or less. Sometime during the last thirty miles to Anson I caught a tailwind and picked my speed up considerably. I rolled into Anson just as the sun was setting. I rented a room at motel/ RV park on the west side of town and settled down for the night. I had saddle pain but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the day before. I actually felt pretty good and thought I’d actually be able to make it all the way to San Diego.

Hubbard Creek and Hubbard Creek Lake outside of Breckenridge are all dried up. This area needs rain badly.

Ranchers meeting for lunch at The Icehouse in Albany

The Old Jail Art Center in Albany




Painting by Renoir

Long killer climb west of Albany

Me frolicking in the spring flowers after climbing the killer hill

Day 4

30 miles from Anson to Roby, Texas

I felt like I was getting the hang of things. I was packed up and headed down the road just after 7:00 am. Right from the start my legs felt dead and extremely sore. I figured the soreness would work itself out as the day wore on. About ten miles into my ride my saddle pain reappeared with a vengeance. A short time later the sun rose and the wind picked up. It started out as a moderate cross wind out of the south but soon turned into a fifteen to twenty-five mile per hour headwind. I was averaging five miles per hour and was having to stop every one to two miles to give my rear end a break. I ended up pushing my bike up a couple of hills to avoid the dreaded saddle pain and give my legs a break. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to make it to my next destination (Snyder, Texas) much less San Diego, California. I struggled into Roby and and found the only motel in town. I checked in, showered, and surveyed the damage to my undercarriage. My tour was done. Any attempt to continue would have been a struggle and that’s not what this tour was about, reaching my destination at all cost. I called my wife and made arrangements to have my son pick me up (luckily the end came in Roby, a three hour drive from Fort Worth as opposed to somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona). I had an excellent plate of enchiladas at Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant a block up the road from the Roby Motel. I went back to the room, layed my head down and had the best sleep I’ve had in many years. By the way, If you happen to ride through Roby I recommend the Roby Motel. It doesn’t look like much but it’s very clean and reasonably priced at $47 per night.

Beautiful start to my final day

The wind was terrible out here! There's nothing to slow it down.

Well, that’s pretty much it. My first attempt at a multi-day tour. It didn’t end the way I had hoped but I gained a lot experience. Thanks for reading and thanks for the encouragement.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 1

Day 1, 17 miles, Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway trailhead in Weatherford, Texas to Lake Mineral Wells State Park in Mineral Wells, Texas.

Well, I’m on my way. My wife dropped me off at the Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway in Weatherford, Texas and I started my journey west. This was to be a very short ride to Lake Mineral Wells State Park. I thought I’d use the short ride as a final shakedown, make sure I had everything I needed for this trip. The only casualty of the day, I lost the buckle to my helmet. I’ll replace it first chance I get. Me and my wife met a couple of nice young ladies who had just finished their ride. One of them was interested in touring so we had a short discussion about it. My wife was still chatting with them as I headed off down the trail. I also met a guy who is planning a tour of South America. As is usually the case I forgot his name, but he did say that he’s a bike mechanic at the new REI store in Southlake, Texas. I didn’t realize there was an REI in Southlake.

When I arrived at the State Park the dark clouds were rolling in. The forecast called for possible severe thunderstorms with large hail and possible tornados. I opted for a screened shelter, basically it’s a cabin with no plumbing. I should be comfortable tonight. That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’m going to try to make it fifty-six miles to Breckenridge, Texas. The winds are supposed to be blowing pretty hard tomorrow, fifty-six miles might be a bit optimistic.





Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's a Go!

It looks like it’s a go for my tour. If the weather cooperates I’ll get started Wednesday afternoon (04-25-15). I initially wanted to leave from my house but I wasn't real happy with the route I'd have to take to get out of Fort Worth. Instead I'll be dropped off at the Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway in Weatherford, Texas. It's about fifteen miles from the trailhead in Weatherford to the entrance of Lake Mineral Wells State Park in Mineral Wells, Texas. I'll spend the night at the park and start my tour in earnest the following morning.

I’ll be headed west on U.S. 180 passing through the towns of Breckenridge, Anson, Snyder, Lamesa, then into New Mexico passing through Hobbs and Carlsbad before crossing back into Texas with a stop at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I’ll then head to El Paso where I’ll connect to the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Tier Route (it heads to San Diego).



I'm a little apprehensive in that I haven't put in as many miles on the bike as I would have liked. Some people say that you can ride into fitness on tour. I'll be putting that theory to the test. I've also had lots of trouble getting comfortable on my saddle. I started with my Brooks B-17 special, the one with nice large rivets, but it hasn't been broken in and was causing me lots of pain, mostly my sit bones. I replaced it with a Selle Anatomico X after reading great reviews. My sit bones were fine but the edges of the new saddle splayed out when I sat on it. The edges were grinding against my thighs causing problems. I just switched back to the B-17 and mounted it with the nose slightly elevated . Hopefully I've got it worked out. If not this is going to be a very short tour.


****DISCLAIMER****

I usually set goals and practically kill myself trying to reach them-not this time. I’m retired, this is not a voyage of discovery, I’m not trying to “raise awareness”, I’m not riding in memory of anybody or any event, I’m definitely not trying to impress anybody, I’m simply riding for my own amusement. If I get to the point where I’m not enjoying myself, it’s over. I’ll head home and do some serious bass fishing, no sense of loss or failure. Well, we’ll see what happens. Wish me Luck!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Backyard Equipment Testing 2-22-15

I'm gearing up for a "possible" long distance bike tour and I'm trying to save money where I can. I've got a tent that I bought about five years ago, its a North Face Rock 22, two person backpacking tent. I chose it because it's mostly mesh and, you know, it gets a bit warm here in Texas. I've been happy with it although I've never used it in cold or inclement weather. It weighs about five and a half pounds which may be excessive for a long distance tour. I also have a North Face Cat's Meow 15 degree synthetic mummy bag that I bought in 1998 or 1999 after reading good reviews in an outdoor magazine. I've never had a chance to really test the bag, again, because I've always camped in mild weather. I also have a new Klymit Static V sleeping pad that has never been used. Yesterday morning I set up my tent and like a forty eight year old kid, I camped in my backyard last night. The temperature was forecast to reach the low forties overnight with a hundred per cent chance of rain the following morning. I thought this would be a great opportunity to test out my gear and see what will work on my "possible" bike tour and what will need to be replaced. The results: I'm very happy with the Klymit V sleeping pad. I was very comfortable in all sleeping positions, what more can I really say. The Cat's Meow sleeping bag will be replaced. I was warm most of the night, or at least I was when I could completely close the bag. The zipper was a big problem. It would constantly snag on the interior and exterior lining. I thought I was going to have to cut myself out of the bag at one point. The tent is a keeper. I left the tent pitched overnight to see how it handled the rain. After a few hours of constant rain and moderate winds the interior has remained bone dry.



This is the bag I'm considering as a replacement:


It's a Sierra Designs Back Country Bed 600. It's an interesting design, no zippers.

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By the way, retirement does not equal "craploads" of free time.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Miscellaneous Stuff 02-15-15

I've been pretty darn busy for a retired guy. I've been taking care of things that none of you would be interested in, so, I won't mention them. The Panasonic seatpost fiasco is still ongoing. I cut the top off of the post and was going to insert a hacksaw blade and just take my time sawing on it. I had forgotten how thick those stupid Laprade seatposts are-the saw blade wouldn't fit (see photo below). I turned the frame over to my brother-in-law who works at an industrial shop with all kinds of metal working equipment. He was going to sneak the frame in after hours and work on it. Well, he's developed a severe respiratory infection and has been forced to stay home.


I'm still spending alot of time thinking about a long distance bike tour. I don't know if I'll be able to do it this year but I'm enjoying the planning process. I loaned my Trek 930 to a friend a couple of months ago. He returned it to me the other day. I've decided to build up the 930 as my touring bike. The frame is just a little small for me but I'm very comfortable riding it.


I've been spending lots of time browsing the forum and journals at crazyguyonabike.com. I was reading a question on the forum about carrying water while on tour. I don't remember the exact question but it had to do with increasing your carrying capacity, bottle cages etc. Somebody mentioned carrying 2 liter water bottles and suggested that you could adjust the positioning of your water bottle cages using an adapter from Mount Skidmore (a small Austrailian company). I'll be ordering two of these.



New to me blog discovery-Cycling Dutch Girl


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

First Ride of the Year

The weather was perfect yesterday morning when I rolled out of my house for the first ride of 2015. I'm out of shape. This was really apparent when I hit my first moderate climb and my heart rate and breathing rate soared. I'm planning to slowly build up my fitness by riding about five times per week and increasing my distance each week. I've got to get my butt used to sitting in the saddle for long periods of time. Sorry for over-saturating my photos. I'll try to tone it down in the future.


Quick stop at the Woodshed for a glass of iced tea.

Fort Worth PD Bike Patrol. I believe these are personal bikes that these officers are using for their off-duty jobs.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Klymit Static V2

The mailman dropped off my Klymit Static V2 sleeping pad while I was out fishing this morning. I was looking for a replacement for my old closed cell foam pad and came across a review of the Static V2 on Crazyguyonabike.com. After quite a bit of research I ended up ordering the Static V2 from Amazon for around $53, less than half the price of another sleeping pad I was considering, the Therm-a-rest NeoAir. This thing rolls up to a size of a small waterbottle and weighs a little over 16oz (470gms). I inflated it to about 80% capacity and set it on my back porch for initial testing. I weigh 220 pounds, no part of my body came into contact with the cement while I was laying on my back or side. So far I'm pretty impressed. I'll post another review after I've had a chance to test on an overnight camping trip.