Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Hill Country Tour

The Easter Hill Country Tour is 3 days of riding over Easter weekend in Kerrville. It's also a ride I thought I'd never do, after hearing Del talk about the super steep long hills and descents. After the RAAM ride Ingrid asked if I was coming to EHCT, hmmm, I'll consider it. I had decided I wasn't going, but then with all the electrical issues at our house I wasn't excited about being at home, especially since Jeff had to work most of the weekend. After a little encouragement from Jeff, Ingrid, and Amy, I decided I'd go, I had to work on Friday so I missed day 1 of riding, but I got to Kerrville at 7:00 and met everyone at Grape Juice for dinner- Yum!!

I was staying at a house with 10 other people, the only people I knew were Ingrid and Amy. Luckily everyone was really fun and really nice. I ended up rooming with Kelly who is in Texas Iron. We all went to bed early on Friday to get up early Saturday and ride, but Kelly and I talked and laughed until I was sure Mark and Caroline in the room next door would come tell us to be quiet!

Ingrid, Amy, Kelly, & Keith planned to ride 100 miles, I planned on 80 and Anjy, Simon, Guy, Diane, Mark & Caroline planned to ride 33. This meant I'd be riding alone, but I knew that before I decided to go. I hoped I might run into Betsy & Amy out on the course and maybe see Del & "Ronger" for a little while. Those of us riding longer got up early and got over to the University early so I could register and we could get an early start. We got going, but only a mile or 2 into the ride Kelly got a flat! She & Keith had it changed in less than 5 minutes, but while we were waiting Betsy & David came riding by and stopped to say hi. Then as we were getting ready to start again, a group was riding towards us, it was our 33 milers! They thought it was hilarious that we had gotten up so early to get a head start and by mile 2 they had caught us anyway! Guy & Caroline were trash talking like crazy and everyone was talking & laughing and having a great time! I had scoped out the course on map my ride and knew there was a big hill coming at mile 7, I turned the corner and saw it and immediately thought "there's no way I can make it up that!!" but I kept pedaling..and pedaling...and pedaling and eventually realized there was a pretty good chance I'd make it all the way! I was breathing so loud I could barely hear anything else when someone behind me said "hi Heather!", I don't think I even looked, but then Wilmer was right beside me! "Hey Heather, how's it going? How have you been?...." I think I got out "Hey... Wilmer!" but that was about it and then he was gone! Still good to see him even if I couldn't talk to him. And I made it up the big hill!

At mile 14 we rolled into rest stop 1, we waited for everyone to catch up, I saw Shellie from Houston and Del & "Ronger". I feel like we hung out there forever! Kelly ended up getting another flat and decided to call it a day. Ingrid and I finally took off on what we thought was the 100/80 mile route, I didn't see a green arrow (the 80 mile color) but I saw red so I assumed we were good. We saw a couple of our group doing 30 miles and started to wonder if we made a wrong turn out of the rest stop. Finally Ingrid talked with a couple and they said they were definitely on the 33/51 mile route. So we decided to turn around and go back to the aid station and get on our route. We saw some of our group doing the 33 mile on our way back. We went about 7 miles out of the way and made the proper turn at aid station 1 this time! I was a little annoyed that we'd made the wrong turn just because I really didn't want to ride more than 80 miles, but I knew I could take the 60 mile route (now 67 for me) or SAG in if I got too tired. I was still having so much FUN! Ingrid would sprint up ahead, then turn around and ride with me for awhile or she'd get ahead of me on an uphill and I'd race to catch her on a flat, we had a great time talking and looking at the beautiful Kerrville scenery! We got to rest stop 2 at the Guadalupe River at mile 39 (for us).
At that point Ingrid said she was going to race ahead and see if she could catch Amy on the 100 mile route, but she might wait for me at hwy #9. As much as I loved riding with Ingrid, I was a little happy because I had been riding faster than I normally would on such a hilly route and I was afraid my legs would get too tired later. We took off and Ingrid left me in the dust. I came to the turn off for the 80 mile route and decided to go ahead and take it. It was so quiet and beautiful out there! Almost no cars at all, just a few other cyclists. I really should have stopped to take more pictures!

I got to hwy 87 and turned, then I saw red tape on the ground but no green so I kept going. I thought maybe I missed a turn, but I saw riders in front of me, and lots of riders behind me, so I knew I was right. But as I rode I looked at my cue sheet and realized I was only supposed to be on 87 for .2 miles, I had already gone more than 1/2 a mile! So I stopped and looked around, some of the people behind me were turning around, so I went back and made the turn. This detour was totally worth it because I saw the biggest most beautiful field of bluebonnets ever! I didn't stop & get a picture (I should have).
I didn't stop for a pic while riding but Amy & I did stop on the way to Lukenbach on Sunday
The next road was narrow, winding, and really pretty, with nice views, loose livestock (and cattleguards) and lots of hills! It felt like a lot of uphill and the wind was starting to pick up some. My legs were getting more tired on every uphill, but I was still really enjoying the ride! I got to hwy #9 and no Ingrid- thank goodness she didn't wait! By the time I made the wrong turn and everything she would have been waiting forever! I got to the next rest stop and was really ready for a break! I talked with the volunteers and they told me about the Bat Tunnel Park (again I should have stopped for a photo op!) Trey from Houston saw me and came over to talk, he had seen Ingrid and said she was on the 80 mile route not the 100 so I should go catch her! Yeah right!! Hwy #9 was also really pretty! It was a little more downhill but there was a little headwind and still some uphills, I was feeling every uphill at this point and not sure I wanted to do the last 20 miles of steep hills back to Kerrville! I decided I'd ride to Comfort and see how I felt. A few miles before Comfort the road turned to awful horrible chip seal and that's when I decided that I was going to SAG in. I probably could have done the last 20 miles but I think I would have been pretty miserable before it was over. I rode into Comfort, stopped at the little grocery store and called the SAG # and figured if they couldn't get me I'd call Mark & Caroline (they were worried about me riding alone and had insisted that I take their # and call if I needed anything- super nice of them!!). The SAG van was there in 10 minutes. They took my bike and got me a cold Coke (talk about a good end to a ride! comfy seat, A/C, and a cold Coke!) then another rider rode up to ask directions, I was about to give him my map when he said "you know...that air conditioned van looks pretty good!" He got in and we rode back to town. The route back was really pretty with a view of the river for a lot of it, but there were also some seriously steep looking hills! I was happy with my decision to SAG in and I had really enjoyed my ride! 68 hilly, beautiful, fun miles!

We got back to the university and I texted Ingrid, she said she was at the mile 73 rest stop, so I figured she should be finished in about 30 minutes. I put my stuff away and hung out to wait for her. After more than 30 minutes I texted and called, I was getting worried. I was about to go drive the course backwards looking for her when she called and said "I'm just now in Comfort" Somehow Trey had been mistaken, Ingrid did do the 100 mile route and she was still 20+ miles from the finish. So I went back to the house and cleaned up and heard about everyone's rides. The 33 milers had a good but challenging ride. Amy and Keith ended up taking some wrong turns too and ended up with 70 miles instead of 100. Amy was disappointed she didn't get to ride through Lukenbach, but otherwise everyone had a good day of riding (except poor Kelly with too many flats). While we were hanging out Simon said I looked familiar, we figured out that when Jeff & I lived in Houston, he was our mailman and he remembered me!! That was our "Small World" moment of the weekend! Ingrid finally made it back and had ridden 115 miles (with the wrong turns and turn arounds)- Wow!!
Anjy & I with the mom & baby giraffe at the YO Resort
Mark & Caroline were leaving that night and Kelly had already left, but the rest of us went to the dinner at the YO Resort. Fionna and Hans from Houston sat with us and we had so much fun!! I'm pretty sure we were "those people" you know- the ones laughing way too loud and acting crazy! We had a Chicken Dance contest with another table, and I laughed until I cried! They did door prizes and a few of us won. I won some chain lube and water bottle, Guy acted sad that he hadn't won, so I threw him my bottle.
And then I laughed til I cried again! We ended up staying up late laughing and talking at the house (even Ingrid was up past 11:00!!) So the Sunday morning plan was to sleep in and ride whenever we got up.

Ingrid took off riding a little earlier on Sunday while the rest of us decided to be lazy and start later. We were all going to ride the 20 mile route and take it easy (except Ingrid of course). The 20 mile route was part of the Kerrville Tri course so I had ridden it before and I knew it wasn't too hilly, even so, I couldn't talk Guy into riding again, he was just too worn out. The rest of us rode together and talked and laughed and had a great time! Keith and I sang "Lukenbach Texas" loud & proud (in our horrible singing voices) as we rode up 173. I'm sure Amy, Anjy & Simon were behind us laughing like crazy! About 7 miles in, we saw Ingrid riding toward us! She turned around and joined us. Before the ride I think Anjy had said "it's only 20 miles so we won't stop at the rest stop" haha! We were there taking pictures of the river and each other for at least 20 minutes!

Yeah, we took A LOT of pictures! These are just a few of the best ones! We saw Del & "Ronger" but missed Betsy, David, Amy & Matt (apparently if we had taken a few more pictures they would have passed us). We rode back together talking about how much fun the weekend had been and how we were all coming back next year! We stopped off at the state park to look at the river and then rode back to the university.
Ingrid, Guy and I went back to the state park for a swim, well, Guy hung out while Ingrid and I swam. The water was great, a little cold getting in but then really comfortable! We swam about 30 minutes and as we were getting out Del & "Ronger" showed up to have lunch at the park. We said goodbye to them and went back to pack up at the house. Everyone except Ingrid stopped off at Lukenbach to have a beer and lunch before going home.
 This is the most fun weekend I've had in a long time and I think the rides are probably on my top 5 all-time favorite rides. I can't believe just last year I said I'd never do this ride and now I already can't wait for next year!

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