Well, some three days after the Texas Rando Stampede, I am still sore. My left ring finger is still numb, my feet still hurt, and naturally, my thighs are sore. But, I am finally to the point where I can stretch, so I am on the backside of the pain.
We started in Waxahachie, TX. When I was registering the night before, some guy with an English accent was ranting on about 30 mph gusts. Of course, we don’t rant about that kind of wind if it is going to be at our backs. That is something you rave about. The ride organizer, George, said something about how nice it will be at our backs the last two days. More on that later.
Naturally, we left in a huge paceline like we were chasing a spot on the podium. I took the bait until I had to pee somewhere along the road. I was about to catch up when I saw John Fusselman had fallen off the wagon. John is the type of rider who tells stories of doing PBP in the 90’s. I’ve ridden with John a few times, and he is strong. I decided to stick it out with him.
Going into Gatesville, John noticed my back tire was going flat. We were 2 miles from the gas station on the cue sheet, so we tried to air it up to see if it would make it. Short version, it made it another 20 feet. We quickly changed the tube out and got rolling. Then my front tire was flat. We quickly changed that and I was good to go. Not sure what happened, but I got the “flat monkey” off my back after that.
We continued to fight a pretty fierce headwind (some claim it to be a steady 20 mph). Then, going into Lampasas, it died. We were able to kick our pace up to around 16-17 mph. Then, it was at our backs and we were cruising. Then, it was pouring rain and the wind seemed to be coming from every direction. Lightning was cracking from everywhere and I was horribly ill-prepared for this kind of weather. I thought it was going to be piping hot, the kind of hot dog days we had last May. Nonetheless, I had no jacket and it was pouring down rain, stinging rain. I limped into Lampasas, stopped to get a Subway (my second of the day) and was surprised to see a majority of the riders leaving. The van with the drop bags was still at the control, so I grabbed my wind vest. Then, we did probably the dumbest thing in the randonneuring world–we sat at the control for an hour talking about how bad the weather was. We were all wet and freezing, so we stood outside, knees clanking and shivering as time rolled on. In hindsight, I should have rolled. But, I was able to get John to leave with me, when everyone else claimed they were “ready.” I have no idea what they were doing, but John and I were leaving and no one else was on their bikes.
A way down the road, John had to stop to brush his teeth (that was a first for me) and call his wife. The rest of the group caught up. We rolled on with them and then a Burnett County Sheriff rolled up. He said he got a complaint that we were blocking the road. First, we weren’t blocking the road, we were using it as any other vehicle is entitled to use the road. Second, maybe 3 vehicles passed us on the Ranch Road we were on, which didn’t even have a line painted down the middle. Third, doesn’t the Sheriff have anything else better to do? He was kind and didn’t really know what to say, since he saw us riding and we were obviously not blocking the road.
We got more doom and gloom at a gas station heading into Jonestown. I guess there were severe thunderstorms and hail up ahead. John and I heard this all day, so we got on our bikes and headed down the road. The moon came out and the wind died down. It was a beautiful night. We did our get up at the Jonestown control (telling the Travis County Sheriffs about the Burnett County Sheriffs) and headed on down the road. I was going up the first big hill and my chain broke. John and I stopped to fix it and we were able to drop a link and get the chain re-attached. We checked to make sure the link wasn’t stiff and we pushed off down the road. Well, the link was still a little stiff, enough to knock the chain off. I located the stiff link in the dark and worked it. Problem solved. Great, so I push on down the road and while shifting, the chain drops. I get back on and get started in the middle of a big hill. Climbing another big hill, the chain falls off again, wrapping around the bottom bracket. I was in a pickle, and so was my paint job. I get it fixed, John comes back to find me and we start again (in the middle of a hill). John recommends to find a gear and not shift. So, I do the remaining 25 miles in a single gear. Arriving at the control around 2 am. They let us know all the controls the next day are open an extra 2 hours the next day. John and I settled on leaving at 6am, in 4 hours. I scarfed down some food, took a shower and hit the sack.
We actually leave around 6:30 am, and I got a new chain put on. Thing works like dream. Thinking back, I put the old chain on in March and it almost had 1800 miles on it. Lesson Learned.
We’re riding to Dripping Springs and a car passes us, pulls over and a guy gets out. I think, “this won’t end well,” but he just wanted to warn us there was a severe thunderstorm passing through. What a citizen! I wish there were more people like that man. And, oh boy! was he ever correct. We were heading south, a few miles outside of Dripping Springs and we could see the storm blowing in. We turned east just as it started to sprinkle. We had a nice tailwind and flew into the control. A nice lady in a big SUV asked if I wanted a ride. Another outstanding citizen. There were more people stranded at the control and we all sat around until the storm abated. I wanted to go, and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Some lightning struck a transformer across the street, the lights in the gas station flickered and I got off my “HTFU” soapbox.
I slowly regained confidence and finally coaxed everyone out and onto the road. ‘Bent rider Steve Petty let me know I had a good attitude and that if the van drives by, he’s getting in. I guess the thunderstorms wear on people. The thunderstorm passes and moods are getting brighter. However, the day has gone by extremely slow. We have 175 miles to go, and it’s well pass noon. I kick it up a notch to see if I can keep the group a little more honest. Then…my Berthoud bag just about falls off. The screws had rattled loose from my decaleur. The only bike shop on route is some 10 miles ahead, so I limp on into the store. The kid fixes me up (and we put some loctite on) and I pick up 2 more tubes from the day prior (no need to sit on the side of the road patching a tube in the dark). And after a small delay and haircut for the Circle A, I push off to New Braunfels.
I regroup with the ‘bents to fight a headwind (hey, there is a little draft), but it is difficult to keep everyone together on the hills (I was a little faster going up that day, and they are always faster going down). We manage into the next control where I end up taking off by myself, sometime after the ‘bents. I eventually catch them, and Steve is on the up and up. The skies have cleared, it’s a beautiful night.
We are riding along on a beautiful evening and someone is gifted a flat. We stop to change it and some riders from behind catch up. We can’t find anything in the tire, so we put on a new tube and press on. As we are leaving, Steve’s handlebar riser breaks in two. I stop to investigate, but there is nothing I can do. I felt horrible. At over 600 km (half way) and enduring the worse of the weather, a mechanical breakdown put Steve’s ride to a halt. Steve waves me on after I make sure he can get a hold of the sag, I offer some food and push off. A little ways down the road, the same rear tire from a few minutes ago is flat again. With it being pitch dark, we decide to put on a new tire and tube to get us down the road (we were looking at a 5 am arrival at the “overnight”). We re-group in La Grange, where I quickly stuff down a PB&J (everything in town was closed) and sling a leg. After almost two days of doing this, I found straddling your bike shows you’re ready, opposed to just talking about it.
It’s 3:45 am and I am tired. I am not at the point of falling asleep on the bike, but it’s coming. We are passing through a town, so I pull off to take a quick 15 min snooze. John joins me and it is just what we need. The ‘bents cruise on, as we are 25 miles or so from the overnight. We are back on the road by 4:05 am and feeling a lot better. It’s John’s turn for a flat 10 or so miles after our siesta, so we deal with that and handled it in decent time.
About 13 miles from the over night in Sealy, there is a left turn and I see a blinky straight ahead. I’m a little tired, so I think, “That farmer incorporated a blinky into their mailbox.” Reality was, the ‘bents had run out of steam. We roll on into the overnight, watching the sun rise, arriving at the control at 6am. I take my shower, eat my food and get into bed. The plan was to try and get a solid 3 hours of sleep.
Our hotel phone rings at 9:30 am telling us to hit the road. We’re off by 10:30 am. And within 5 miles, John has another flat. We located the culprit (a small piece of glass) and felt a lot better about it. Bill Olsen and Irene T roll by. By this time the Texas heat is rearing its ugly head and we’re heading north
with the promised tailwind into a stiff headwind. Of course, I knew that when we arrived in Sealy. I asked Bob (Houston Randonneur’s RBA) what the weather was going to be while he was signing my card. His reply, “You don’t want to know.”
We huddle up with Bill at an intermediary town with services. Irene didn’t think she could hang, so she took off. John, Bill and I worked together to fight the wind and had a good 2 minute rotation going. We never did catch Irene until the control in Magnolia. In Magnolia, I come out of the gas station and my bike is on it’s side. My GPS mount is broken and my rear fender dinged up. I think someone tried to steal my GPS. When they couldn’t figure out how to undo it, they tried to yank it off (unsuccessfully), breaking the mount and tipping the bike over (it’s a little awkward loaded up). There aren’t any scenarios in my head where the bike could have fallen and had the GPS mount break. Oh well! They were unsuccessful, and the worse case for me was a broken mount. Lesson learned.
The sun set on us just before we reached the next control in Huntsville. I was feeling good because we had a good chance to make it to the overnight between midnight and 1 am. I set us on a schedule to leave in 30 mins and we actually keep that schedule. It was actually me who didn’t have their act together. We get going and we are tearing down the road, clipping 18-20 mph. I’m not too sure what got into us, but we had found our mojo. Then…another flat. I help to fix it (my 7th flat I helped repair, 2 which were my own). The flat took the wind out of our sails and we push on at a much slower pace, ~14 mph.
About 12 miles from the overnight, Irene is getting tired. We decide to take a 15 minute nap at the post office while Bill and John go on. On our way into Crockett, the tandem passes us. This was the kind of day a tandem is made for, relatively flat and they only pay the price once for the headwind. They cruise by us a few miles out. We eventually make it into the overnight about 2:30am. Irene had finished her 1000k!!! She was talking non-sense about doing a 200k perm the rest of the way, but if I were her, I would have ridden the van in. I did have a pleasant surprise, as my mother met me in Crockett. It was nice to see her, as I only get to see her a couple times a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to chat. I did my overnight get up and hit the sack.
I awoke 2 hours later to get back at it, brining my total sleep time to 7 hours or so. I was hoping to get twice that amount of sleep over the course of the ride. I left Crockett alone, and I needed it. I usually ride by myself, and riding with others was starting to get to me. I needed a little break from other humans, so I shoved off alone and enjoyed the open road. The weather was pleasant, minus a stiff headwind (there’s a theme, have you picked up on it yet?). The little orange car rolled by and one of the support gals screamed out the window and gave some encouragement. It was a nice and gave me a little boost. I gave them a thumbs up and they zoomed off. About 15 miles outside of Corsicana I caught up with some other riders and we took our time eating a sit down meal. With all that headwind, my “alone time” was adequate and I was ready to socialize with other humans. I ate some food with the Canadians and Dan Driscoll’s “love train” rolled through. I opted to stick with the Canadians, and rolled into Corsicana at a nice pace under an air show with jets and planes zooming all over the sky.
There were probably 30 of the riders together at the last control. Unfortunately, we all didn’t want to roll in together. So, I left with the ‘bents (which was the last group to leave). I was in good spirits. As we were leaving town, I lost the bolt that holds my front low-rider rack onto my fork bridge (trust me, all my bolts are getting loc-tite). I didn’t have a backup bolt, so I thought I should “piggy back” the Berthoud on the Carradice and Bagman rack. It was a lot of weight and it was bouncing all around, plus my low-rider rack was rattling. I knew it wouldn’t last another 40 miles, so stopped to thread a zip tie through the fork crown to hold the rack on. I moved the bag back to the front and raised the decaleur to alleviate some of the weight. It got me down the road.
The only problem was I now was behind the ‘bents. I dug in and caught up to them and was able to enjoy the rest of the ride in with them, I especially appreciated the draft. It was a beautiful evening, the temperature was perfect and the sun was out. We rolled in to the finish and I wanted to smash my bike like a rock star does his guitar. But, I knew better (and I probably couldn’t lift my bike anyway).
So…9 months since I did my first randonnuering event, I finished a 1200k in 86 hours 35 mins. I’m quite proud of this accomplishment.
Details of the ride here.