October 7, 2010

Day 20: Camp Wood to Kerrville

Started: Oct 7, 2010 7:38:37
Ride Time: 6:13:34
Stopped Time: 2:09:21
Distance: 89.64 miles
Average: 14.40 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 964.56 miles/h
Climb: 22324 feet
Calories: 3740

The data above is pretty wonky, but I think the map is accurate.

Got rolling before the sun was showing over the hills, and it was downright cold. Had to keep my jacket on and zipped for the better part of an hour, at which point I got to the climbing. Steep climbing. That got me warmed right up. There was one long hill that just went straight up, and I had to take four or five breaks on the way to the top just to let my heart rate recover.

I spent a long stretch on Ranch Road 337 in the first part of the day (and at the end of the previous day as well). RR 337, along with 335 and 336, are known as the “three sisters” to car and motorcycle enthusiasts, who seek them out as a driving loop for the roller-coaster hills and curves. I know this because Gwen and I spent our anniversary in a cabin on RR 337; we had brought our bikes out but Gwen prudently refused to ride on the stretch of road right in front of our cabin (and several miles on each side) because the road was narrow, with no shoulder, and presents a lot of blind turns. We did do some riding nearby, and were puzzled to see six Porsches drive by at once, or a dozen Mazdas, or four Corvettes. Eventually we got to talking with some Mazda drivers and they explained the whole Three Sisters thing to us.

I didn’t put this together right away when I found myself riding on 337. I rolled through the town of Leakey and found it strangely familiar, but couldn’t put my finger on when I had been through there before. And then I saw a warning sign reading STEEP GRADES AND SHARP CURVES, and I knew exactly where I was. In fact, I saw a trio of identical Honda minivans with dealer plates and serial numbers stuck on the back windows driving back and forth here, presumably using the road to test their handling.

So, that was challenging. I rode right past our cabin. At the easternmost, and most notorious peak along 337, I saw a motorcycle rider pulled out at an overlook, so I joined him. We chatted for a while and took pictures for each other.

I pushed on to Hunt, where the road crisscrosses and then runs parallel to the Guadalupe River. It’s one of the prettiest areas I know in the state, with cypress and pine trees lining the banks. The road was mostly level with the river here, and the pavement quality was somewhat improved, so I was able to make better speed and enjoy the ride more. When I made it to “the store” in Hunt, I pulled over to get some water and Gatorade, and chatted with some motorcycle riders who had passed me on the road not long before. They were impressed at how quickly I had caught up with them.

I wound up taking a slightly extended break here and pushed on towards Kerrville. When I was just a couple miles away from town, I was startled by my first actual blowout. When I got up to examine the tire, I found a gash at least two inches long, with the cords completely frayed under the casing. I knew that trikes tend to wear out tires quickly, and I knew I was wearing my tires out faster than usual, probably because of the pack weight, rough roads, and heat. They had about 2200 miles on them (which includes pre-tour riding), which still seems pretty short.

In any case, that kind of damage is a showstopper. I might have been able to patch something together that would get me to the next town, but even that’s debatable. If this had happened anywhere else, I would have found my way to the next town and had a new tire overnighted to me. In this case, since I was so close to home (and would have ridden home the next day, had the tire held), the logical thing to do was to have Gwen pick me up. Which she did. So I got home a day early for the break I had intended to take anyhow, and I’ll be here for a few days. I’ll write an interim tour overview shortly.