April 2007


Set-a-Spel Cafe
Filler 'er up

Saturday was the Red Poppy Ride here in the Austin area. I haven’t done this ride before and in fact haven’t really done much riding up around Georgetown over the years, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find. For being only their 3rd year, turned out to be a great ride.

I have to hand it to the people that put these rides together. While at $35 it’s kinda pricey to do these rides often, these folks really turned out the volunteers and the rest stops were great. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and homemade cookies even. The map was great. The 62 mile route was practically traffic free, portable toilets where you needed them and they were just some friendly people. And with good weather and a flat route, what more could you want? They even had the school cheerleaders out.

The rest stops were trying to outdo one another with various themes and they seemed to be having quite a bit of fun with it. My favorite was the “Set a Spel Cafe”. They had set up tables and put out fresh cut flowers. Wow! Not only that, someone had made a whole lotta snacks they called “Cajun Crackers” too. (Cue Andy Griffith: “mmm, good cracker.”) Turns out they’ve posted the recipe online here. Might have to try that.

The 62 miler was about as flat as you’re going to find around here. Looong stretches of flat, open, quiet roads. Fantastic for last Saturday’s practically windless day. Had the wind been up, might not have been so many shiny happy people out there. Seemed to be only a small percentage of the riders that were doing the metric century though.

If I had any complaint, it would be a general one. I wish ride planners in general would just make the T-shirts optional and charge a little less. Or just sell them at the ride or on a web site. The T-shirt in this case and in most cases is great, it’s just that there’s only so many a person needs or wants.

Great ride. Would do it again next year.

ChasKem

Stop!

Sunday was just not a good day for me to be anywhere near bicycles. First, my Breezer fell off the back of the car (last post), and later in the day I was actually pulled over on City Park Rd for “running a stop sign”! Just a bad karma day or something. Lights, siren (woop woop) and everything. Unbelievable.

Now, if you’re annoyed by whining, then feel free to stop reading now. ‘Cause I’m going to whine. Getting an actual traffic ticket for not coming to a complete 100% stop and putting my foot down – which is supposedly the law according to this fella from the Travis Cty Sheriff’s dept – is in my humble opinion completely frivolous.

Now I’ll grant you that it makes sense to stop, look and listen, but IMHO, the issue should primarily be one of actual safety. The reality is my right turn was not unsafe. I was just coming up a very long hill and since City Park is generally a busy road, I was going at most somewhere in the 3 – 5 mph range and watching closely. Probably going no faster than your average jogger. I was not blowing through the stop sign at full speed. I had ample opportunity to see traffic and easily had space and ability to fully stop if anything was coming. A ticket just seems a little excessive. Given that he was just sitting there down the road a few hundred yards attempting to snare speeders, I think it’s more likely he was just out to write a few tickets that afternoon.

A little searching suggests I’m not the only one out there that thinks there ought to be some latitude on the subject. From an interesting post on bikeportland.org:

In Idaho, the law allows a bicyclist to slow down before a stop sign and then make the decision to continue through if there is no traffic, or to stop if another bicyclist or vehicle has the right of way. The stop sign law has been in place for over 20 years and has been shown to work very well.

Seems to me these folks in Idaho are practical folks. Read the statute yourself.

And as long as I was searching, there’s nothing in the Texas Transportation code that I can find that seems to suggest that putting your foot down is actually required. It just says you have to stop. Maybe it’s there, but I didn’t find it.

My daily commuter and coffeeshop ride is, this afternoon, at the local bike shop. In for a little corrective surgery. Kem and I were driving down the road this afternoon and my bike fell off the back of the car! Oh nooo! What a nasty surprise that is when you hear it.

I had actually checked the rack at least twice. It seemed solid. It’s one of those Thule rear mount types that you set the bike into. No need to remove a wheel or much of anything. It’s very convenient though apparently not idiot proof. The part that engages the front tire apparently was just not placed at just the right spot on the front wheel and it managed to slide down and the bike fell over. The rear tire stayed in though, so it just dragged down the street for a bit on the Tekno brake levers and handlebar ends. So, those are shot. The handlebars are a little out of alignment as well but that seems like it’ll be easy to resolve.

I could have probably just ordered some parts and fixed it, but I opted to bring it over to Sport Shop. They’ll fix’er right up – and no doubt faster than I’d get to it. Of course, I’ll get tagged with a parts & labor cost of $70. Sigh.

Though I can’t say every post here is or will be about cycling, it seems most have been and are likely to continue to be. To that end, I’m now listed on http://www.blognetlife.com/cycling/. Check it out. There’s an amazing number of people that are writing about cycling out there.

Red Poppy

A couple of Austin area rides are coming up. This weekend 4/28 is the Red Poppy Ride and then on May 12th is the Armadillo Hill Country Classic.

I don’t know anything about the Red Poppy Ride. I’ve never done that one. But then, this is apparently only their 3rd year, so I guess that’s not surprising. I don’t generally ride that much around the Georgetown area and it’s a shame they didn’t include a map of the ride on their site. Though the Sun City Cyclists have an excellent collection of ride maps around the area on their page here.

Are there really more red poppies growing in Georgetown than other areas? Hmm. Can’t say as I’ve seen any growing around here so I must admit, I completely stole the picture of the red poppies along with this post. The http://www.redpoppyfestival.com/ site says they’re the red poppy capital of Texas though. Cool. Who knew.

The Armadillo ride is, though, one I’ve done a number of times. It’s up in the Liberty Hill area and always a favorite. Get there early. Parking’s usually a bear.

Inks Lake State Park, Texas

This past weekend was the MS 150 from Houston to Austin. In years past I might have gotten involved. But I have a kind of “been there, done that” attitude toward the MS 150. It’s really a great ride, but it’s also gotten huge and the logistics involved are always a lot to work out. Oh, and then there’s raising the money. Anyway, been there, done that. Maybe I’ll do it again in the future some time.

Instead, my parents were in town through the weekend. Consequently, not much bicycling got done. Just a little bit on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, the weather wouldn’t cooperate and I only managed a short and what turned out to be, a very wet ride.

We did manage to make it out to Inks Lake over the weekend though. Given my recent flower picture posts, I couldn’t help including yet another one of flowers on display in the park. Inks Lake is a pretty small lake in the Highland Lakes chain. The park is a great little spot for a picnic or camping. For hiking, there’s not much there. They do have at least one nice trail that leads up into some craggy rocks and overlooks a little creek. You can see a couple more pics here.

I was actually kind of surprised to find that the domain name “ramblingroads.com” had not been taken already. It seems like every time I’ve ever looked for a domain name someone’s already taken it. But, not this time. Cool. So, I’ve snagged it and now this ‘blog is set up as just plain old http://ramblingroads.com.

The free WordPress subdomain URL I’ve been using for this has been quite sufficient for my purposes but I figured what the heck, why not. Fiddling with this stuff is fun and I like keeping some of my notes here so why not settle in and do things properly.

This past Saturday I had planned to ride the Pedal Power Wildflower ride. Turned out though that the winds on Saturday were blowing at a sustained 20-30mph most of the day. I opted out of riding in that. Getting pushed all over the road and slogging against the wind for hours isn’t generally my idea of a good time.

Sunday, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect around here. Sunny, little or no wind, and temps a comfortable 73. What a difference a day makes. A perfect time to go out and ride the route that we were supposed to have done on Saturday. The route map was posted online (see the route map) so Kem and I drove out there on Sunday morning and did the 62 miles. It’s really a beautiful route. Yeah, it’s hilly and the roads are kinda rough in places, but it just has such great views.

The whole ride had lots of great wildflowers to see, but the Willow City Loop part of it was particularly prolific this year. Most noticeable right now of course were the Bluebonnets. We encountered several other bicyclists doing the route on the same day. Mostly though, there were a LOT of Sunday drivers just out poking around the Loop. The number of cars, trucks and motorcycles easily out numbered the cyclists by a couple orders of magnitude. Thankfully, everyone was going slow.

One of my favorite rides.




TX wild flowers

Originally uploaded by chas.

I can’t seem to get enough of the flower pictures this time of year so thought I’d post another one. Part of it of course is just the fun of messing with the camera to see what I get. Close-ups with this particular little camera I’m using don’t always pan out. Then there are ones like this one that turn out great.

The walk from the office to my place takes me through what’s essentially an unmaintained part of the office park and there’s a carpet of different flowers that have been sprouting like weeds there.

The Easter Hill Country Tour is supposed to be 3 days of wonderful cycling in the Texas Hill Country. Well, this year the weather conspired to make that only one day of wonderful cycling. Friday was fantastic, but on Saturday and Sunday, we were treated to an unusual snap of cold weather. Our blue skies were replaced by freezing rain and sleet. Not the best of conditions for cycling. Still though, we made the most of the time we were able to get out.

You can check out a Flickr slide show and a few more pictures here.

Some of the fields of Bluebonnets along Friday’s route were just amazing. The picture below was taken just south of Enchanted Rock State Park and was one of the better roadside displays.  The flowers stretched on as far as you could see.

TX Bluebonnets