McDonald Observatory Summit

Cyclefest is an event I’ve heard about for years but I’ve never taken the time to travel to it.

Cyclefest is put on by the Permian Basin Bicycling Association out in Ft Davis, TX, and Ft Davis is way, way out in west Texas. All these years I’ve lived in Texas and I’ve never been to west Texas yet. So this year I signed up and geared up to make the long trip. Somehow I managed to convince Tony to join me and we loaded up their Honda Element and hit the road.

In my estimation it’s a pretty good drive just to get down to Kerrville but getting out to Ft Davis is 350 or so miles more west of there. We left Austin in the morning and spent the better part of the day driving west. We got gas in Fredericksburg and then pulled in for food in Kerrville – oh, and pulled into Specs too since we didn’t figure we could find a decent bottle of wine for another 350 miles.

I10 is a long road and there’s not much to look at. Tony was going 80mph and it seemed like we were standing still. The Honda Element is basically a box on wheels though and at that speed it drank gas like you can’t belive. Somewhere west of Ozona Tony looked down and realized we were about out of gas. Uh oh. Not good. There’s literally nothing out here. The gas warning light went on… We dug out the owners manual. We had about a gallon left. Not going to make it to Ft Stockton… Somehow our prayers were answered though and at the Bakersfield crossroads we managed to see an Exxon sign! Click through to see what I mean. There’s nothing around except for a tiny little Exxon. Saved!

The plan for Saturday was to cycle a scenic 75 mile loop from Ft Davis. About 5am though I woke to the sound of rain. I looked out and sure enough, a steady rain was going. You don’t expect a rain to last too long out here. It’s very arid most of the year. The temps were hovering in the mid to upper 40’s. Not good. I rolled back in and hoped it would move on. At breakfast a bunch of folks that were staying at the B&B were all geared up and ready to ride but nobody was too excited by the prospect of riding in the wet, cold weather. It was still raining. It kept raining. Sigh.

By 10am some hardy souls decided they would give it a go. It was still raining and hadn’t made it to 50 degrees yet. From the porch I wished them good luck. Not my kind of weather.

In another hour or so though it let up. Not great weather but at least it wasn’t raining and radar showed it’d moved on out. Probably not a good day for getting the 75 mile loop in so we loaded up the bikes and drove them out along the route. We parked and got maybe 30 miles or so in that afternoon. Not what we had geared up for but we enjoyed the ride and scenery even though temps were chilly and skies were grey.

By Sunday morning though the weather was pretty close to perfect. Skies were clear and it was chilly but just right for riding with some cool weather gear on. Destination: the McDonald Observatory. We left from Ft Davis and biked all the way out. We thought we would catch up to other riders for a mass start at the Prude Ranch but there was nobody there. Only later did we come to realize that the mass start was from a spot further up the road. We missed that mass start but it didn’t matter. We climbed to the top just the same. As it turned out, we caught up the the tail end of the mass start group by the time we hit the step section that climbed up to the Observatory. The photo above of me is after we’d climbed to the top. Nice view from up here!

The ride from Ft Davis up to the Observatory is steep and challenging but not as difficult as the European climbs I’ve done. Those were overall longer and steeper. Still though, this is a great ride! We particularly liked the ride back to Ft Davis. We rocketed back down the hills and practically coasted into Ft Davis.

I would really like to see what the 75 mile loop ride is like though and so I hope one day to return out to Cyclefest and take that ride in.

The photo below was taken later in the day after cycling and before the sunset. We drove into the Fort Davis State Park and up into the hills. The views in all directions were great. The setting sun made for some great light for taking a few photos.

Looking East over the Davis Mountains

Looking East over the Davis Mountains