A few weeks ago, our company’s EVP invited the wife and I to participate in an invite only small gathering of folks from the E&P industry in the Texas Hill Country. Every year, they get together and bike different routes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We’ve never been out to Hill Country before, so we were really excited – especially since it’s such an elite event. We knew we wouldn’t do as well as the regulars because we aren’t super strong cyclists and we’ve never biked in hills like that before, but we were pumped anyway.
It’s held in the little town of Fredericksburg, TX. It’s about a 3 hour drive west from Houston. It’s a fabulous, old, little town with tons of great shops and restaurants nestled into some marvelously nice landscapes. Perfect place for a getaway weekend.
Our group was nestled into a little spot around the town’s few hotels – we had our own tent and basecamp. Meals were catered and we also had a guy from a Houston bike shop for maintenance. The whole setup was pretty awesome. Side note: everyone was endlessly fascinated by my bike and how heavy it was. They couldn’t fathom how I was riding a steel bike that weighed about 30 pounds. About 4 or 5 people picked it up and were flabbergasted lol. But I love my Surly!
We skipped Friday’s ‘warm-up’ ride since we only took a half day at work, but Saturday and Sunday awaited us.
Saturday’s ride was absolutely brutal. 60 miles of some of the biggest hills I’ve ever been up on a bike (not to mention some absurdly fast descents as well). The wife and I both went the fastest we’ve ever been on a bike before (nearly 40mph). Here is the ride map and the speed/elevation graph for the first day:
As you can see from the terrain map, we definitely we’re in the flatness of Houston anymore. The two pics from my Garmin are to show my top speed, and the ridiculous total climbing amount we did.
Here are some pics from the first day (captioned with descriptions!)(and as always, click for larger versions!):
Gearing up to go!
The starting line. Tradition is to line up front to back by the # of years you’ve been to the event. So, naturally, as first timers, we were last in line – but, not alone! There were a lot of newcomers this year.
It’s a small event – only 30 or so riders maximum, so once the group spread out you didn’t see many other people at all. It was a quiet, beautiful ride.
It looks flat out in the distance – but it’s not.
The roads were a mix of good and shitty pavement, but they were all back country roads winding through beautiful areas and farms. I lost count of how many cattle grates we went over.
This was the first ‘rest stop’ – an old schoolhouse. Even though it was a small ride, we still had awesome support with SAG drivers and refreshments.
If you like, you can take an 8 mile segueway to Enchanted Rock. I’m told the road down to it is an insane downhill where you can reach upwards of 50mph, but the climb back out is agonizing. We skipped it this year. But here are a few pics of it.
Panorama of Enchanted Rock and surrounding area. Click for larger size.
While most of the herd crossed the street as I was approaching, this one sheep just stood there and stared me down. He finally moved. Cheeky bugger.
Rest stop 2 – at the top of a big hill at an old church. Perfect spot for some rest and some food.
After the lunch break we were back into the hills.
It looks like flat open road, but in fact it was about 4 miles of gentle incline that killed my legs.
This was the final pic I took on day 1. There was probably still 20 miles left, and my legs were killing me. So. Many. Hills. LoL. But I can’t complain – it was an absolutely beautiful day and a beautiful ride.
So after day one, the tradition is after dinner in the tent, everyone tells a story about their ride from the day. It was a lot of fun. I talked about being the last person to finish (I was), and about how being in the back and slow had its perks because we got to see three separate groups of amazing cars drive past us – must have been some sort of rally weekend, or groups out to just enjoy the awesome back roads in their slick machines. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics of them – but first we saw about 30 Porsches – all makes and vintages. Then a little while later about $15 million in Ferraris went by. It was like, whoa. Again, all makes and vintages. And bringing up the rear of the rally line was my dream car – a white Ferrari Testarosa – yes, Sonny Crockett’s car in Miami Vice. It was beautiful. Lastly, and less impressive, we saw a bunch of BMW’s in rally form go bounding by.
So the first day was brutal and amazing. Day two was supposed to be an ‘easier’ ride – but it wasn’t! Ha. This ride took us down to the tiny town of Comfort, TX, where everyone traditionally stops at a little cafe for some food and drinks. So, the thing about this ride is that apparently the towns of Fredericksburg and Comfort both sit in river valleys – and between them is a big ridge. So going out, you have to climb up out of the first, then enjoy the descent down to Comfort. Easy, right? Nope. It was windy as hell. So windy in fact, that on my ride down the back side of the ridge, I had to pedal to hit 15mph. Yes, after crushing it down hills yesterday at 40mph, I had to pedal to maintain 15mph or the wind held me back to about 12-13. Ugh.
A lot of the folks only ride half of the ride to the cafe, then get rides back – I decided to do this as well. Still managed to get a little over 20 miles though. Here are the maps and some pics!
Check out that terrain, baby.
It started out looking alright…
A shot from the top of the ridge, looking down toward Comfort, TX
So that was that. We loaded up the bikes and came back to Houston. An incredible weekend in a new part of the state we hadn’t been before. Also probably the most beautiful riding we’ve experienced since leaving Knoxville.
I hope we get invited back next year!