Bicycling


It’s been a few more months now and I thought I’d post an update about how the cycling has been going since my prior post.

I’ve managed to keep up a pretty regular regimen of riding. I try to get out most days for an hour+ unless it’s raining or I’ve got something else planned for the day.

Early in September I was away for a couple days and then at some point mid month we finally got some rain so my Sept mileage is off my August pace but I still managed to log over the 300 miles threshold again this past month.

That was no doubt helped by some fantastic weather here in Austin as September came to a close. It’s not unusual for summer to linger on well into the fall around here but somehow we managed to get a nice blast of cooler fall air and the last week of the month has been spectacular. I took the photo of my bike propped in a big batch of Lantana just a couple days ago. The Lantana seems to be outdoing itself so far this fall.

Who knows about October… I hope we continue to have great weather like this. Maybe I can get out to the Texas hill country and do some longer rides. We shall see…

Monthly Cycling Sept 2020

I haven’t posted here in a while and with the time I have on my hands right now I probably should be.

Two coincidental events came together at the start of March 2020. One was me concluding that it was time to take a break from work. After nearly 13 years at the most recent company … I needed a change. The opportunity presented itself. Timing was right.

Meanwhile, the world was being consumed by COVID-19 and it only really hit the fan here in central Texas about mid March. Good timing to be around home!

Either way, and certainly together, I have been spending a lot more time at home. And I’ve taken at least some of that time and spent it getting out on my bike(s) more. The Garmin data is pretty clear. I recently snagged the data over the last year and since the start of March, I’ve logged a lot more time in the saddle:

Because of the pandemic, almost all of these miles are very close to home though.

Observations

I’ve always ridden close to home but typically my rides would be on weekends – and certainly not during a pandemic. These days a lot of my riding is on weekdays.

Early in the pandemic there were a TON of people that were getting out on the streets! In my suburban neighborhood I have never seen so many people out running, walking, & biking.

On the one hand it was and has been great to see so many people out exercising in some way. But on the other hand … lots of people have become obstacles in a way they never were in the past.

People like to be in groups and try to ‘socially distance’ from one another so they end up walking and running in the street instead of the sidewalks – and in the place I’m trying to bike (and stay away from cars too). Even now, there are lots of people to dodge on the street. Not as many as earlier this spring though. (People are increasingly back to work – and it’s also just getting a lot hotter here as summer approaches.)

Meanwhile, kids will be kids… they have no idea what side of the street to ride on. So they are often coming at you on the wrong side of the road. And you never know if they will decide to cross to the other side right in front of you.

And since I would typically ride the neighborhoods on weekends, I had no idea how many service vehicles are around during the day! In these neighborhoods, I think I know where a lot of stimulus checks are going. People are getting new floors, new roofs, new additions, new windows, new paint, … meanwhile there are landscaping crews with trucks and trailers and mowers and blowers everywhere! Then there are the pool cleaners (or installers!). And the power-washers. I had no idea so many people power-washed driveways and rock walls. Nor had I any idea how many people would be getting completely new lawns delivered on trucks.

I’ve also learned all the different schedules for garbage pickup around the different neighborhoods. If it’s Tuesday, the streets over in Glenlake are lined with garbage bins (and the trucks that pick it all up). If it’s Wednesday, Westminster and lower Riverplace are stacked with trash bins… you get the idea.

UPS, Fedex and innumerable delivery vehicles are in and around the neighborhoods all day everyday. Not unusual at any time but with the pandemic on .. it’s noticeably higher traffic by delivery vehicles. They are everywhere.

In any case, I had no idea how busy the streets would be around here during a typical day.

Best time to ride: Sunday morning. Nobody’s mowing (at least not landscape crews), and the service vehicles are all gone. Traffic is low. People are about, but it’s mostly quiet.

I hope to keep up my riding even as the summer heat comes on here in central Texas. At this point I’ve become used to the obstacles and plan and ride accordingly.

I need to find a way to cycle somewhere more remote on a regular basis but where? … that’s still TBD.

It’s a new year and time once again to focus on a new goal to keep me in the saddle, so to speak. At this time of year, even here in Austin, it’s often gray and at least chilly if not actually cold (where cold is reserved for temps around freezing). As much as I always enjoy getting out to cycle, gray and chilly isn’t typically a recipe to motivate me to get out there.

But then the realization hits that I have a bike tour that I’ve already arranged for the new year. At least I’ve put a deposit down. I don’t have flights or any other details worked out. There’s still the ingress and egress to work out. Using a bike tour company, the getting there and getting away are the main challenges to work out.

This year I’ll be cycling Corsica and Sardinia. Here’s the tour company take on Corsica at least from when I expect to be cycling and the distance. Details at this juncture on things like elevation are limited but based on what I know, I expect the tour to be “lumpy”. These islands in the Mediterranean are not flat.

For Corsica, day 1 and day 11 with “no cycling” is typical. Actually, you do cycle on day 1 but it’s just to make sure your bike is in working order. It’s short.

Day 11 is a transition/travel day from Corsica to Sardinia.

Looks like a good mix of cycling and rest days. (Where some of those rest days may involving hiking or some other activity.) If you’re keeping score at home, my tally of the mileage works out to be around 719 miles.

I hope to be ready to simply enjoy those miles rather than consider them a major challenge. So… I’ve been getting rides in any time I can so far this year. And, I expect to keep that up.

As you can see by the big grin on my face in the photo below our weather in central Texas has finally felt a bit more like fall in recent weeks. And that means that I can cycle at something other than the crack of dawn (or at least pretty early in the morning) to avoid the oppressive Texas heat.

While this particular bike ride in the photo was out in the Texas hill country earlier in October we’ve generally had some pretty good weekends for cycling throughout October. While I’ve backdated this post I’m actually writing this toward the end of October on the 29th. This weekend and particularly today, the 29th, was superb for getting outdoors and cycling. I did a city ride of around 24 miles today and it was a perfect day to be out. As I write this the day finishes with mid 70s and abundant sun. You gotta love fall weather in Texas.

Out Cycling Between Burnet and Bertram, Texas

The bike tour I mentioned in an earlier post is now over and I’m back at home.

The brief recap: the tour had us cycling from Venice (actually very near Venice in the smaller outer town of Mira) to Konstanz, Germany. We headed north through Italy to Austria and then on to Germany.

If you only read this far, let me just say it was a wonderful bike tour through northern Italy and into Austria and Germany punctuated by just about every emotion you might want from a bicycle tour. From the exhilaration of descending mountain passes on winding roads in wonderful weather, to quiet scenic roads, to struggling up mountain passes when the wind was against you and it was starting to rain, to full on down-pouring rain, to some white-knuckled rides in what seemed to me to be some highly trafficked roads. Oh, and those dark tunnels… So, just about perfect! Just the diversion desired.

I typically have high hopes that I’m gonna post something here every day of such a bike tour but that ends up just not very practical. For one I tend to spend a fair bit of time digging through photos and finding links to things when I post and there’s just not time for that. I could adopt a different strategy and just make posts very short and sweet but I use Facebook and Instagram for that sort of stuff. The other primary reason is I’m just preoccupied. When you’re not cycling you’re either prepping to cycle or just enjoying yourself after cycling or with other tour participants.

And then practically, the wifi often sucks at many hotels and uploading photos or otherwise using the internet is marginal at best.

So, I’m gonna try to just summarize and then follow up with some other posts. Let’s see if I can get at least that accomplished.

See the map to get a better idea of the route covered:

This comes from combined Garmin data over 10 days of riding. If my Garmin data is reasonably accurate, we covered 462 miles and approx 42,500 feet of elevation (amount climbed in aggregate). Those are the major aggregate stats. Some days were harder than others based on factors of the day – heat, rain, steep climbs.

As you can see from the following elevation profile over the 462 miles, we climbed slow but sure from the coast of Italy and into the Dolomites. Those spikes in the overall profile were mountain passes we did along the way. It may not look like much in this context. Those spikes were a lot of work. 🙂

Highlights

Wine & Food

What would a visit to Italy be without some good wine?

Right from the start, and particularly toward the end of the first day of riding we began to see vineyards. That first day’s route took us from from Mira to San Pietro di Barbozza. The photo below was taken from the hotel stay at the end of the ride. Beautiful wine country and home of very good Prosecco (sparkling) wines from the Valdobbiadene region. (DOCG wine designation.)

The forecast on that 1st real day of riding was for rain. Ugh! And not just rain but ‘thunderstorms’. But we (or rather, many of us) managed to avoid the rain on that day. The route was pretty flat and 86K so we made hay while the sun shined and even with a stop for lunch in one of the small towns along the way we were in by 1:30pm. But not 20 minutes later, I looked out and saw that the rain had started. And then it just unloaded and came down in buckets. Some folks on the ride got drenched. Not only was there a lot of rain, but the wind picked up and it became a raging storm for at least an hour.

That kind of rain forecast pretty much stuck with us for the entire 2 weeks. It might rain overnight or early and then there would be dry (enough) weather to take off and ride for most of the day. But by afternoon, there would be rain again. If you timed things right, you could miss the big rains.

Late in the day of that 1st day of riding the rain subsided and we walked to a tasting of some excellent Prosecco wines (a Brut, a Very Dry and a Dry). Suffice to say they were all very good but I was more fond of the first two. The 3rd starting to be just a little too sweet for my taste.

As we walked to dinner that evening at Trattoria alla Cima it started to rain again and by the time we were seated at the restaurant it was a raging storm again. Dinner though was top notch and just a ton of food. There was a plate of starters and then a course of pasta with mushrooms, followed by a course of wonderfully done beef with potatoes, eggplant and zucchini. I was stuffed after all that (I had seconds on the pasta!) but of course had to try some of the Tiramisu for dessert. It’s a good thing we had ridden 86K.

There would be other wine and great food along the way and not surprisingly the cycling made for good appetites and the freedom to eat whatever we wanted along the way.

Scenic Mountains & Climbs

It didn’t take long in the tour for the terrain to become much hillier and mountainous. That made for spectacular scenery and some choice mountain passes.

The photo you see here is from very early on in my climb up Passo Falzarego from Cortina, Italy. We have only just begun the climb but the views are great! The town you see in the valley in the photo is Cortina. Click through the links for more insights on both of these.

We woke to fantastic weather the morning we rode up the Falzarego pass. Nice temps and little chance of rain. An excellent day to make the climb.

You’ll find alongside a couple photos of me during the climb as well as at the top.

In my experience you need to bring enough gear and layers to account for both heat and cold and possibly wet weather. You can see here I’m wearing a jacket. Near and at the top, it was chilly! A key reason I have a rack on the back of my bike is to stow the extra layers.

On the climb up we were really sweating but with the temp plus the humidity early in the ride I could see my breath as I huffed and puffed up the climb.

At the top I donned leg warmers and thicker gloves for the descent. Without the jacket and other gear you can get really cold on these long descents at high altitude. Your hands can easily go numb since you’re constantly gripping the brakes and your hands are cold anyway.

It’s always nice to find a little bar/cafe at the top of such climbs. In this case I went in and had a coffee and a bottle of water. The tour guides in both cases took these pictures of me. They were also very conveniently along the route for refill of water — though on this particular climb there were places that would have been easy to stop for that.

There were other days of big climbs that followed. Not least of which was a couple of days later when we did a loop ride out of Corvara. We did 4 mountain passes that day: Gardena, Sella, Pordoi and Campolongo. Regarding the links, I think I have the directions correct for which way we went up the passes.

I already posted some pics and notes from that day in a Facebook album so I won’t repeat here. Click thru the link for more of that day.

What turned out to be the most challenging climb of the tour for me – and the group, judging by the sentiments expressed after the ride – was the day we climbed the Hahntennjoch pass in Austria.

I’ve included here the result of the Garmin data from that day. We spent the morning riding a pleasant bike route along the Inn River. Generally the morning was a flat route though we did have some wind in our face that day and it was warming up fast. By the time we’d covered 40 miles and stopped for a bite of lunch, it was getting just plain hot. The lunch break in Imst was helpful though for the calories because even before you leave the town you begin to climb and it gets steep right away. And then you climb for about 9 miles. As you can see in the speed graph, my pace really slowed down! Click for a more detailed climb profile.

The climb was steep and toward the top it began to rain and the wind picked up more. As you can see in the temperature graph in the image the temp really dropped as I approached the top. The Garmin recorded 50s (F) but it sure seemed chillier than that. But … wind and some rain.

Finally at the top, the descent down to the small town of Elmen was fantastic. At one point as we came out of the switchbacks I stopped to take a photo. (My bike is facing the opposite way I’m descending. You can see the road up ahead down below my vantage in the pic.)

Tour Participants

Aside from myself and a guy from Hong Kong, all the tour participants were from Australia. The tour idea originated from AllTrails in Australia hence the group dynamics.

You often spend breakfast, lunch and dinner with folks on such a tour so it’s great when you find folks you can easily get along with for that much time.

I tended to spend the most time with the three guys in the photo here. We rode at a close enough pace to one another that typically at coffee stops and lunch stops we’d grab a table together. From left to right in the pic: Antony (who took the photo — it was bright out so I think he’s struggling to see he’s got this photo framed right), then me, Peter, and Jeff. The waitress was a surprise addition to the photo since we were all looking the other way and she seemed to get a kick out of it.

We often ended up at dinner at the same table too. Antony was a wine fan and so we often went in halves on a wine for dinner.

Here’s the whole group:

From the left (and more for my memory than for you the reader) : Bob (from Tasmania), Lisa (tour guide), Jeff, Richard (owner/operator of AllTrails), Antony, me, Jo (married to Richard), Di, Peter, Jan, Mary, Tana (married to Bob), Barry, Percy (from Hong Kong).

Only three of us (Antony, me and Percy) signed up for just the 1st half of the tour to Konstanz. Everyone else (plus a rider that only joined the 2nd half) continued on to ride all the way to Paris.

I’ll finish this section with one last photo of the usual suspects taken by Antony. Half the fun of these group bike tours is after all the hard work of cycling you clean up and spend time socializing with the other folks on the ride. Stories of the day. Politics. The locals or tourists walking by. You name it, we probably talked about it. This shot was taken in the old town and after arrival in Innsbruck on a particularly warm day. We had to stay hydrated of course …

Around Christmas time I was pretty set on doing an interesting bike tour once summer rolled around. I found one that fit the ‘interesting’ criteria and where the timing would pretty well suit as well. And so, I’ve been trying to routinely ride since then. Nothing like planning a bike tour to motivate you to get out on your bike!

On many of my rides since Christmas I’ve had a Garmin device on the bike. Perhaps the majority of the rides – but not all of them. But I found it pretty interesting that the Garmin website had a calendar view that identified the days that you had logged a ride. You can see a screen shot of the calendar in this post.

Seems pretty clear that the time I get a chance to ride has mostly been on the weekends. But I’ve tried to step it up a bit and get in some mid week rides at the end of the work day as well. It’s been easier to do that after Daylight Saving Time kicked in, and while we haven’t gotten into the truly hot weather of central Texas.

If I can keep a similar routine up I hope it’ll make the tour more enjoyable.

 

Day 3 had doing a loop ride out of Rocamadour and then right back to stay at the same hotel as day 2.

The weather and the riding on the routes in this area were again fantastic and especially in the morning.

The photo at the boulangerie (bakery) was a particularly fun little stop in the morning. Nothing fancy, just some good coffee and a croissant. That’s Jim on the left there, me on the right.

By mid day we had arrived at a planned activity for the day and that was a visit to Gouffre de Padirac. Quite touristy but also actually pretty cool – quite literally. You descend into this giant hole in the ground to find some spectacular caverns and an underground river. And, it was much cooler down there than up top so I was glad that we had been given a heads up to bring something more to wear. I was also glad to not be in cycling shoes down there. It’s wet, its slippery and you actually do quite a bit of walking up and down stairs.

You’re prohibited from taking photos while on the tour (though that has to be hard to police and I saw more than 1 tourist being admonished) so consequently I don’t have any to post here. I would suggest instead you check out the official website.

The darker evening photo was taken from our terrace dinner location back in Rocamadour. Rocamadour is pretty small. There where other restaurant options but many of us – based on recommendation – opted to eat again at the same terrace restaurant we had been at the night before. Food was again good – I got the duck. The most enjoyable part though was simply being able to dine outdoors in what amounted to room temperature. It was really perfect weather to be outdoors in the evening.

I’d be remiss while I jot notes about Rocamadour if I didn’t also mention the cheese I ate at every opportunity while visiting. I’d never actually heard of it before the visit but the 1st night it was served as part of the dessert courses and then I noticed it was available (along with some meats/cheese) at breakfast the next morning. It was rather aptly named Rocamadour Cheese and was a little goat cheese served in a small flat and round shape. I’ll look for it around here in Austin but I don’t expect to find it. I did, however, find it in other nearby towns. In fact, I bought some more in the town of Sarlat, which would be our next destination.

One last photo. This one was taken from my hotel room window just about sunrise as we prepared to head out and ride to our next destination.

From Rocamadour

Day 2 had us heading off from Brive to the little village of Rocamadour.

Check out the link to read more about Rocamadour but as you can see from the photo it’s a beautiful little town tucked into the limestone cliffs. As you can also see, the weather we had that day was spectacular. Warm but not hot – at least by Texas standards for the time of year.

The route from Brive to Rocamadour was in my opinion outstanding. While there’s undoubtedly some troublesome traffic to endure as you leave the center of Brive, once you’re out on the rural roads it was quiet, quaint, rolling and picturesque.

Not far out of Brive we had a pre-arranged visit planned at a little farm and bakery. Had this not been pre-arranged it would have been very easy to simply roll by just another farm. But having pulled in, we were directed into a little barn and inside was the owner of the farm/bakery was a big wood fired oven and a whole lot of loaves of bread and bread-making equipment. He was also in the midst of making more bread with plenty of doughy goodness ready to be stuffed in the oven. You can see a photo here of some of the loaves in a big bin. The best part of course was sampling the fresh bread!

After leaving the bread behind and what seemed like a relatively short ride on our route we passed through another pretty little town named Collonges-la-Rouge. The town is clearly mostly a tourist attraction at this point but it’s beautiful. I didn’t take a lot of photos here but you can see one I’ve included. The town was built entirely of red sandstone bricks. Had I arrived post the noon hour I would have been inclined to stop for lunch at what looked like some interesting little places. I was a little too early though so I kept on.

Our route that day was 47-something miles and the afternoon presented both some warmer temps and some hill climbs. Challenging enough but the grades were not that bad and the roads were quiet. It was an outstanding route into Rocamadour.

Rocamadour consisted of pretty much one main street at the base of the cliff. Along the street were mostly shops and restaurants and hotels. It definitely exists mainly as a tourist destination though I would say I didn’t find the touristy bits to be too overdone. In late August, we were told the crowds were much less than just a couple weeks before.

Our hotel was right in the center of the town and conveniently had two highlights: the first was that it had a really inviting terrace/bar next to the hotel. It was shaded in the afternoon and afforded good people watching at the same time. Our crew of riders and guides gravitated to the terrace given the fantastic weather and tasty beverages. You can see a photo of some of the group laughing it up at the terrace bar post that 2nd day ride. Good times.

The other good thing about the hotel turned out to be its restaurant. The food was excellent and it too had a terrace. Loved dining outdoors!

Next day: a loop ride and right back to Rocamadour.

Alright, let’s get to the cycling already. I mean, that’s the main reason I traveled to France this year, right?

There are a lot of different ways to do bicycle touring. I’m open to most of the options when it comes right down to it but in recent years tend to favor bike tours where you pay a tour company to literally do all the heavy lifting for you. The routes are time tested, you ride from town to town, hotel to hotel. Guides are with you all along the way with van support, water, snacks. They handle the details and you just enjoy yourself. Most meals are included. You enjoy the cycling and more often than not it’s just a good time.

Oh, but then of course you pay for all that convenience. But where in the world is that not true.

Sometimes I might bring my own bike on a tour like this one (like last year) but this time I took one of theirs. It really all depends on what the tour company has to offer. In this case, it was a titanium bike with plenty of gear ratios. My bike has better componentry but this time I concluded not by a wide enough margin to be a factor. So, I brought my bike shoes, seat & pedals (and seat post – which I’ll explain later) and it worked out fine.

The photo above is of the group getting all fitted and ready to start the tour. 11 riders, 2 two guides. Nice ratio.

The ride on the 1st day on a tour like this is invariably something short. I would hazard a guess the main point is just to check out the gear and make sure you don’t have any major surprises. Any bike tour company I’ve used operates this way – and yet I always wish we’d just get on with it and get in a good ride. At least this year it was a nice little lumpy loop ride that we could just do a 2nd time if we wanted more time in the saddle.

The other photo here is of the group at the first dinner. Intros all around, great food & wine, and you can see of course it also makes for a good point at which to review the next day’s route map and elevation profile. In this case we were gearing up for 47 miles and some hilly terrain. Nothing mountainous in this part of the world.

More on the next day’s route in the next post.

After my overnight at Le Petite Clos I headed for Brive and what would be the start of my bike tour down the Dordogne river valley.

I arrived a day early knowing I typically take a couple of days to deal with jet lag.

Brive seems like some other small cities I have visited in Europe in that it has something of a sprawling and modern outskirts and then a very small historical core center, often with one or more lovely old church or similar historic buildings. In my jet lagged stupor I mostly just walked and browsed the little side streets of the central core.

My hotel, the Truffe Noire, which you see pictured in this posting was essentially on the edge of the historical center. Other than it’s convenient location, the restaurant was the key feature that otherwise set the hotel apart. The food was good. The room was nothing special but then I didn’t spend much time there.

You can see my room from the front of the hotel because it’s the one, again, with the window wide open. The weather was nice.

The other photo below was the view out my window.

The hotel was the meet-up point for the bike tour and even before the official metope time on my 2nd day at the hotel we started to meet one another. But we all got together officially at 2pm in biking gear to ready bikes and do our first short loop ride.

Next up: we’re off to Rocamadour.

One of the fun things about visiting France is happening across the markets – what we’d refer to as a farmer’s market – that you find in the little towns and cities. I stumbled on this one in Brive on a Tuesday morning before the bike tour group met and just a short walk from the hotel. I didn’t investigate but based on the weekday time and the location of the market (under a big shelter house) they may run it every day. In other little towns they block off and take over the streets of the town/city.

This one in Brive had plenty of interesting things to choose from. Vegetables, flowers, meats and cheeses of all kinds. If I’d been staying in a house as opposed to a hotel room and about to bike out of the city I would’ve gotten some things for later. But it’s still fun to look.

For bigger versions of the images, click through to open new windows.

1st Stop: Le Petite Clos

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since January. I should go back and post date some travel experiences. I may just do that but then this post will look a little odd because the casual observer will see postings between Jan and August and then this comment will be a little out of context. Anyway … I’m off to France! Actually, I’ve already been and am just now starting to take some time to post some of the photos and maybe a few notes. More than just the caption in a photo album would allow.

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I love to travel but the connections to my destination of choice are often the most exhausting part of the experience.

As with my trip to Spain a year ago I chose this time to simply rent a car upon arrival to make my connection to what would be the start of another bicycle tour. And as with last year I strategically found a small inn just a couple hours out of my arrival city to hole up and relax for a bit. (I use the map view of TripAdvisor to essentially do the equivalent of throwing a dart at a spot on the map that seems about where I would want to end up and then see what’s around there that looks interesting.) In this case, that was the small town of Chaumont sur Tharonne just a few miles off the Autoroute.

I really enjoyed my short stay at Le Petite Clos. This place is indeed small as you can see in the photo. (5 rooms) I had the room upstairs in the corner. The one with the window that is wide open.

My host Rene was both helpful and friendly. After showing me my room he offered coffee and cookies at a table outdoors in the garden area. Perfect place to unwind. And I needed the coffee. Experience shows that getting off my caffeine schedule can be one of the worst parts of jet lag.

Absolutely nothing was going on in Chaumont sur Tharonne on a Sunday afternoon. Nothing was open. No restaurants open either. And when I tried a nearby town, nothing I found of interest open there either. I was thankful for snacks I still had in my carry-on bag.

Breakfast in the morning was great. French toast, fruit, yogurt, croissant, coffee. Good for the 3’ish hour trip that remained to get to Brive. On to Brive…

Le Petite Clos

I’m finally getting around to jotting just a few notes on a two week bike tour I did this past summer. I really enjoyed this bike tour and while this short posting won’t do two weeks and 12 days of riding justice in terms of the experience I’ll at least give a high level perspective on the tour.

Nothing like a map to provide a little context so that’s where I’ll start. As you can see, the tour starts up near the French border in a little town named Roncesvalles and makes its way across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino – literally ‘The Way’ – is historically a Christian pilgrimage route.

These days the Camino has become something of a tourist fav or both hikers and cyclists – whether they’re on a pilgrimage or not. There are many tour companies that’ll help coordinate and plan your way to Santiago. It was also obvious that many along the way were packing everything with them – either on their bike or on their back. Let’s just say I was glad to be on my bike and letting someone else cart the luggage from place to place.

The terrain and architecture change quite a bit as you make your way across the country. At the start in Roncesvlles, the towns and architecture look more alpine than you might otherwise expect but then it is certainly up there in the hills. In fact, upon arrival, it was chilly, wet and foggy. But the morning we left couldn’t have been better weather. I think we lucked out generally. The weather was excellent all along the route. We dodged rain a few times and it was certainly warm a few days but not bad.

The actual Camino route is mostly a trail. Sometimes it’s off road, sometimes it runs along the road and sometimes it is the road. Since we were on road bikes we deviated from the traditional route from time to time.

If you’re going to do the route, I highly recommend you get a credencial. It’s essentially a type of passport and churches and other places along the way have stamps to prove you have made your way along the pilgrimage. Mostly it’s just fun to fill it up with stamps. You have to stop at churches and take a look around, and then sure enough you find someone there to stamp your credencial. In Santiago you can get an official document as proof of your journey.

Had I gone to more effort to chronicle the trip from day to day I might have a lot more notes here. Each day really deserves its own set of notes. Every little town you stop in along the way is interesting.

Though I liked all the places we stopped, I particularly liked going through the Basque and Rioja wine regions. I’ve included a photo of me along the way in that area between Laguardia and Haro. It was one of my favorite routes/days. Low traffic, winding through vineyards with great weather. What more do you want as a cyclist?

The map here plus the stats below that follow came from a little Garmin bike computer I took along. The elevation profile below is telling. While clearly not a flat route, the terrain is not mountainous. We never got over 5000 feet of elevation. But there were days that had a bit more elevation gain.

From left to right, that first spike in the elevation profile was the route into Laguardia.

The tour was done in two week-long editions. You could do either one, or both. I and 4 others did both. The rest of the tour group – another dozen – met us mid way and did the latter half of the route. As you can see from the elevation profile, the 2nd half of the tour had a couple more interesting climbs. That said, only a couple few of us actually did those climbs. The tour group arranged for transport for most on that spike in the middle. Most chose that as a hiking day along the Camino. The climb wasn’t that bad though. And yet I was glad that we went up the direction we did. Note the backside of that mid spike in the elevation profile. It was a very steep descent!

That long and mostly flat section in the middle of the elevation profile was referred to as The Meseta. The inner plateau. It had everything from vineyards, to sunflowers, poppies and wheat fields. Our longest day of 70 miles was on the Meseta. The photo included above in this posting of the open road and wide open spaces was on the Meseta.

You can also see some of the tour group below. One of the guys snapped a good shot of us on our way to the last group dinner.

Cycling Through Rioja

Last Dinner Group

The Stats


With summer arriving I’m back on the road and this time back to Spain. I’ve been one other time but that was to Mallorca and to the Costa Brava. Like that trip, this one is largely about cycling, though not in the first week.

At 4am the bike cases were set out on the porch and ready for a shuttle ride to the airport. A long journey awaits. Like last year’s visit to Italy, this year’s trip routes through Washington’s Dulles airport. Unlike last year though, I went out of my way to avoid arranging for a 3rd leg of air travel. I’ll be going from Washington to Madrid and then from there renting a car and heading north. Last year I went from Dulles to Frankfurt Germany and had to sprint through the airport to make my connection after a delay in the international flight. My luggage was unable to sprint.

This year I planned to be delayed out of both Austin and out of Washington. It’s sad that we have to plan to be delayed, but that is the norm with airline travel for me. If it’s not for you, consider yourself lucky.

My flight from Austin to Washington was in fact a normal one and essentially on time. Fantastic. So, I had hours to kill at Dulles. I spent most of it in the United lounge. One of the few perks of having an “Explorer” card from United is that they give you a couple of lounge passes a year. I don’t generally care or have time for one but this time I had hours of time. So I hung out there. The photo below is from there. Clearly others had plenty of time to kill there as well.

The international flight to Spain boarded as expected on time and with little fanfare. And yet, no surprise, this year’s international flight was also delayed in leaving. And even more than last year. There was some kind of oxygen thing in the cockpit, followed by some kind of snafu with the oven in the galley in the rear of the plane. All tolled we sat there at the gate for about an hour.

And yet, somehow 7 to 8 hours later we essentially arrived in Spain on time. Hmm… sometimes I wonder if ‘maint’ issues are manufactured so that a plane can arrive as planned give the weather conditions of the day. Clearly we must have had some pretty good prevailing winds. We made up nearly an hour of delay.

With spring weather comes great cycling in Texas. Two of my favorite organized bike tours are the LBJ 100 and the Easter Hill Country tour.

Finishing the LBJ 100

Both of the rides have come and gone at this point but I thought I’d jot a few notes and a couple photos.

LBJ 100 Ride

This will be my 5th LBJ ride if I’m counting right. The ride starts at the LBJ ranch. I’ve written before about the logistics of this ride and this year things were just as well organized. There was once again a bit of speechifying at the beginning but not much and we were soon on our way.

Price for registration was again $50 ($55 last min) though this year they didn’t even include the shirt for that. At least not at the packet pickup I did at REI. Thankfully there’s good support on this ride and good food/beer after but I’ll note once again it seems like an expensive ride despite the charity nature of it.

Ride attendance was very good. I don’t know the count but it seemed like a thousand people were at the start. Maybe it was only hundreds but sure seemed like a lot. You can see a photo here of the group at the start.

You can also see in that photo at the start that the weather was picture perfect. Temp was also great. I was cool enough to be wearing leggings and a long sleeve but that wouldn’t last long. It was going to warm up.

It didn’t take more than 5 miles from the start to also realize that wind was going to be a factor. Wind was stiff coming out of the southwest. That meant you were either going into it or had it as a cross wind for much of the ride. There was of course a few miles near the apex of the loop ride where you got a tail wind and that was fantastic. But the last 20 miles was into the wind. I counted ourselves lucky the temp was so good and it was otherwise a beautiful day.

The photo at the very top was at the end of the ride heading back into the LBJ ranch. The Live Oaks there on the drive in are beautiful and their shade covers the road.

Post ride there were tacos this year – and some tasty beer. Can’t recall what the beer was but it hit the spot as you can see by my goofy grin in the pic here. It was refreshing.

Easter Hill Country Tour

I’ve been doing the EHCT on and off since the 90’s. The bike tour has been around a long time. It’s still based out of Kerrville and for whatever reason, this year it seemed to have a bigger crowd than last year, at least judging by the number of cars in the parking lots. It’s otherwise hard to tell how many people are doing the ride because there is no mass start. There are 3 days of riding – though I generally do just the Fri and Sat rides – and people take off whenever they’re ready.

On both days I chose to alter our routes a bit from the published ones. The problem with cycling in the Kerrville area in my opinion is the roads have more traffic than the remote roads up around Fredericksburg. So the Friday ride in particular had a long stretch on the return leg of the loop ride on RR 783. Not my favorite. It’s heavily traveled. So instead, we got the same amount of mileage in by simply making the ride an out and back. By contrast, Zenner-Ahrens Rd is a quiet country road with loose livestock and lots of cattle guards. Almost no traffic – ‘cept bikes and cows.

On Saturday Peter and Bryan joined Tony and me for a longer 55 miler. It too was a hybrid route because I refuse to ride on Hwy 27 for anything but a short distance. Way too much traffic going 70+ mph. Instead, we took Wilson Creek. The photo of the three guys below was taken on Wilson Creek. Obviously you can see you don’t have to worry about traffic on that road. It’s a great road to bike.

The other photo is of me and Tony coming into the little town of Comfort. As you can see the weather was still cool enough we had plenty of gear on. And obviously Tony noticed that Bryan was taking the photo and I was oblivious. Or, I knew the rest stop was just ahead and was making a bee line for the snacks.

Wind was a factor on that Saturday ride. We slogged against it all morning to Comfort and then a good portion of the ride back from Comfort. Winds were out of the NE so it wasn’t until we were well past the apex of the ride and practically 10-15 miles out that we picked up some of the tailwind. That last section of the route from Comfort back to Kerrville is quite hilly though so the tail wind was only so valuable.

All in all, good rides both Fri and Sat. And we lucked out with no rain. Just some drizzle on Fri.

This one last photo of the wagon was taken on the drive back to Austin from Kerrville. Actually, on the road – Ranch Road 473 – between Comfort and Blanco.

Wagon in the Texas Bluebonnets

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