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.

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 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

Mmm, Frappacino

The last couple weekends I’ve been riding the Bike Friday. Over the Labor Day weekend I’ll be doing a cycling trip up in New Hampshire and I figured the Air Friday would be just the ticket for the trip. While it’s not exactly the most flattering picture I’ve ever had taken of me, here’s a shot of me with my Bike Friday that Kem took this past Sunday. We had a fun ride in the hills of NW Austin.

If I look hot and sweaty, well, it’s August in Texas. What do you expect? In fact, one of the reasons for making the trek up to New Hampshire to ride is to hopefully find some cooler weather for a change. I get so sick of the hot weather by this time of year. Plus, it’s just fun to check out a new place. Looks like it should be a really fun trip. Kem will be joining me too.

The ride will be supported through Bike Vermont. I’ve done one of their rides before. For the most part, it should be a pretty cushy ride. Bike Vermont’s a touring company that’s been around for decades. They do a nice job and the food & inns are top notch.

It’s otherwise been awhile since I’ve posted. It’s been a very busy summer. Lately it’s been just a lot of work. I’m working to scale up and migrate a web site and in the event it isn’t obvious, such an endeavor takes a lot of effort. Still though, I’ve managed to take some nice breaks.

A couple weekends ago we got out and did the Bertram to Lampasas ride. There’s a picture of Kem attached below of that ride. We got caught a couple of times having to deal with some low water crossings. Sometimes, as in this case, it’s just better to walk across than try to ride through. They can be surprisingly slippery. It’s really an oddly wet summer though. This picture was taken in August! Normally a little creek like this would be close to bone dry at this time of year. Everything is usually drying up and brown and the city starts sending watering schedules out to conserve water. This year though, August is looking like a spring month. Everything is still very green. In fact, it’s rained again the last couple of days – on top of the rains we got last week in the wake of tropical storm Erin.

Kem gets her toes wet

Not everyone would probably be all that thrilled to bike to work. But there’s a few of us that like the idea and I have a very, very short haul to go – thankfully – to my office. It’s actually easier and faster to go by bike than by car.

Here’s a shot of my Breezer that I snagged this morning. It’s just perfect for the short ride in. Classic commuter style bike. Fenders, rack, chain guard, lights, rubber pedals, big ‘ol tires, kick stand and a pretty cushy seat. Oh, and a bell. Weighs a lot but then I’m never going to be going too far on this bike anyway so it doesn’t matter. Great for a ride up to the coffee shop too.

Maybe I’ll post some more on other bikes I’ve got some time.

Turned out to be a nice day for a ride on Sunday the 25th and Kem and I both wanted to get in a nice long ride. As it turned out, so did Nat and Charisse, so they joined us. We took the drive up from Austin to Bertram and parked at one of the quicky marts to do a route from Bertram to Lampasas. Check out the details here.

The route is one of the better ones in central Texas. Rolling hills, nice long vistas of open country, cattle, goats and mesquite. The traffic on this particular occasion was light to nil. On occasion you can get a fair bit of pickup truck traffic but they’re usually very gracious about sharing the road. I did have one occasion last year when I was purposely run off the road by someone on this route but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Keep an eye peeled for dogs.  While I’ve done this route and never encountered any dogs, twice now I’ve been chased down and had to outrun them. Such are the hazards of cycling far from the maddening crowds. But on the upside the views and fresh air usually make up for it.

The route’s 25 miles up and 25 back for a nice rolling 50. Lampasas is at the 25 mile mark of the ride and a good place to fuel up with water and other things if you didn’t bring enough along. There’s no place at all to stop otherwise. No cattle guards, but the road surface is the type of asphalt made from small stones. On a road bike sporting 100psi+ tires, plan on feeling plenty of road surface.

I haven’t been doing the best job of keeping this ‘blog up to date. But, I was thinking, maybe I should start keeping track of some of the bike routes I’m doing here.

Here’s a map I snagged from Gmaps Pedometer of a route I did last week. The traffic around Austin is kinda nasty so I try to find rides outside the city. This is just part of a route I did many years ago on an overnight ride to Salado from Austin.

I drove up to Florence and parked in the ‘downtown’ area of Florence. That’s where I started the ride. There’s not much to Florence hence the quoting of ‘downtown’. There’s a handy little grocery store in the main part of the downtown area though (on main street) so a good place to start from. You can pick up water or other stuff there. It’s the kind of grocery store you really only find in really small towns like Florence.

The route from Florence to Salado isn’t very heavily trafficked. Part of it (the part in Williamson county) has a shoulder. But that doesn’t last long. Most of the route is in Bell county and there is no shoulder. But there wasn’t much traffic. About 19 miles out you hit the I-35 frontage and from there can make your way over the overpass and into Salado. Salado‘s a cute little town and when the weather’s hot is a good place to pick up another bottle or two of water.

The ride back to Florence seemed more up hill than I would have expected, but part of that was due to the fact that I had a 10-15mph headwind. At least that’s what it seemed like. By the time you’ve gone over and back and meandered around Salado, you’ll have ridden 40 miles if you do this route. As a someone that used to live in Minnesota, I still marvel I can do this ride in February.

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