It’s a sunny Sunday in Texas and early enough in the morning before the blistering heat. About 1030AM I air up the tires to 120 and set off for the lake. There is hardly any wind. At the lake, there are some people fishing, dogs at the dog park and the usual walkers, joggers and a couple of cyclists. My goal is 20 miles. This route includes a 2 mile loop around the lake. I was on lap 4 when an explosion occurred behind me. A burst of wind blew on my feet. My back tire immediately went flat. I was startled! Fortunately there was shade from a recently planted oak tree. I took out my spare tube and CO2 cartridges and began replacing my tube. There were two fisherman in front of me. Upon examination of the flat tube, a split at the seem was visible. I got to the point where I needed to fill up the new tube with CO2 just enough so that it wasn’t completely flat. That’s when the CO2 pump failed. As soon as I put on the CO2 cartridge it discharged at the threading and you can’t touch it to stop it because it instantly freezes. I had a full cartridge and two partials…all no good now. I thought I would at least get the tube and tire on to walk it home. A man who was walking came by and asked if I needed help. He didn’t have his tools, but offered me water. I was grateful and told him I’d be ok. I kept working on my tire, it’s so hard to get the last stretch of tire over the rim, but I kept trying. I went on with this for at least 30 minutes all the while fighting an attack by Texas ants. It’s so weird, you can sit or stand on a spot that appears clear, then they come up through the ground and start attacking. There really isn’t a place on the ground in Texas that is safe from ants.
A cyclist stopped by and asked me if I needed help. He said he had an air pump in his truck. Again grateful, I told him that would help! He returned with the pump and at the same time the walker had made another round and stopped to offer assistance. Unfortunately the air pump was for a mountain bike and not the presta valves for the road bike. Still both men helped me get the remaining 4 inches of tire over my rim which helped me get the bike into rolling condition. I was offered a ride and more water, even a phone in case I needed to call someone.
This is amazing to me. There were a few people that passed and of course the fishermen in front of me, it’s the cyclists that stop to help and even offer water. I really didn’t think anyone would offer to help. This was a pleasant surprise to my older eyes. At this point in life, taking care of my business on my own is what a strive for. Having the tools, and a spare tube on my bike along with replacement practice is preparation just for this problem. With the hotter temperatures, it wasn’t wise to fill the tubes to 120. They needed to be filled between 100-110.
Another lesson learned. You need to be prepared if you go out and ride. The cyclist that helped me mentioned he runs a lap around the lake and rides 4. It’s great exercise. I am amazed at how many people don’t pay attention to what is going on directly in front of them. They are looking back, sideways or even down and just don’t see a cyclist coming towards them. There is plenty of room to stay on the right side, however people walk directly in the middle of the path. Many oblivious! LOL!
I walked the 1.5 miles home in the heat with my clip in shoes on which is awkward. I could have asked the family for help, not today. What’s the rush? Getting home will just take longer. Instead, I looked more at my surroundings. Maybe there was something I was suppose to see or that the walk was an opportunity to think about something I was suppose to think about (Like next time figure a way to check the CO2 cartridges or get an air pump to include on the bike). Who knows! It was hot and I feel as though my shoulders were sunburned through my shirt! Once home, I filled the tire up with air and will complete the remaining 10 miles soon. A new tube and additional CO2 cartridges have been ordered!
I am so happy about the opportunity I had to give an old bike away to a friend who needed it. My friend’s son is interested in bike riding and actually rides to school (college) from home. My friend told me the current bike was not functioning and how much her son enjoyed biking. They needed a functioning bike and I happened to have my husband’s bike that has been sitting in our garage for far too long. It’s really old (1993) and it’s a Schwinn when Schwinn was good. Before I was married my soon to be husband had me believe that he would adventure on bikes, canoes, camping, etc. That lasted maybe a handful of times.
I had to get new tubes and a chain for the bike (about $50) to get in into working condition. The gear shift doesn’t work anymore, despite the attempt to flush the lines. I was told they may start working, although admonished not to get my hopes up. Still the bike is stuck on a comfortable riding gear. With Houston being so flat, you don’t really need to shift gears anyway. It will cost $40 to get new shifts and $20 to install on each. For this bike as old as it is, the $50 spent to get it functioning was well worth it. A new bike now-a-days is at least $400 at the bike store. Of course they have the latest and the greatest options. This bike is steel and heavier than the carbon frames.
My friend arrived with her son. Which warmed my heart. Now a days it seems that kids just aren’t as appreciative. Not this kid. My kids would never ride a bike to and from work or school. I would ride to work back in the day, not to save gas, just for the exercise. My friend’s son was so appreciative and told me about his riding paths. Again, warming my heart that he has found exercise he enjoys. It is so special to me that I can contribute something that fosters the desire to keep going on this path. There is just not a better feeling. I hate throwing things away. Finding a purpose provides meaning.
Cycling has so many good purposes, traveling from here to there, good for your knees, exploring beautiful scenery, physical challenge, etc. There are so many places to travel in the USA and ride. Back in the day, I almost planned a trip alone to Martha’s Vineyard to cycle the island. I may someday go back to that plan. Just listening to the bike shop chatter, there are trails in the blue ridge mountains and in many other places that you can ride for miles. I can’t wait for retirement. I can definitely see me on these trails.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” — John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”
Once a month Bike Houston a non profit organization holds a bike ride to explore the Bayous. They meet at Market Square in downtown Houston on the first Sunday of the month at 8am. This ride only maxes out at 40 people usually and they go about 25 miles. The website suggested that wider tires were necessary because the path would be about 60% paved. I had to get mountain bike tires and discovered a hybrid tire. It’s wide, smooth in the middle and nobby on the outside. The cost is about $20/per tire and $6 for new tubes.
A storm was coming and looking at the radar I saw red and even heard thunder. The group decided to head out and deal with getting wet. If it got really bad the plan was to sit under a bridge until the storm passed. As we headed out the rain started. I thought, I’m doing this for fun and to me it’s not fun or safe in the rain. I made the decision to turn back because I really thought the storm was coming and conditions would be worse. After getting the bike in the car, the sky became clear. I’m so mad I didn’t stick with it. I was really looking forward to this ride. You can ride the bayou anytime, no need to go with a group. However, because I am unfamiliar with the trails, I really wanted to go with a “guide”.
It looks like there is a north and south side of the Buffalo Bayou trail. And they don’t look like the connect. Further to the west is White Oak Bayou that is to connect eventually as a part of the Bayou Greenways 2020 project. If you live between the city loops on the north side, you can potentially ride your bike all of the way to downtown along the bayou.
So, on my own, I may decide to explore the White Oak Bayou trail and the Heights bike trail. It’s not easy to get this info on the internet. However for the Heights trail, I think you can park at 2799 Moy St, Houston, TX 77007. Which seems to be in the middle of the trail. I really can’t tell how long it is. (Between 4 and 10 miles). I’m not sure how safe it is either. This is why it’s a good idea to ride with a group!
Day two of the MS150 starts early! We get up at 5:00 AM. What-a-Burger delivered at 4:30 am breakfast. I’m a breakfast person, I don’t think I ate enough the night before and was starving. So I get up, pack my cot and sleeping bag and go eat. Our ride marshall said to put your bike at the start so you can be as close to the start as possible. I did. Our start was delayed to 8:00am. After a breakfast taco and some coffee, I put my luggage on the team truck and chatted with the team. Around 7:30 I went to the start and talked with the people around me. It was cold and it rained a little, 50 degrees and I had my rash guard on that was keeping me warm. They finally let us go, I was in the third wave. Leaving LaGrange we began on Hwy 71. There were two options the challenge route which normally goes through state parks or the express route. Being that it is my first time, I opted for the express route.
The hills were challenging. The head wind rough! It made for a slow ride. Day two is 66 miles with a lot of hills. Lunch was in Bastrop where my in-laws live. I rolled into the stop and enjoyed a turkey tortilla roll up and had lunch with a few team mates. I took off with one of the guys and stayed with him for a while. The road was familiar because I’ve been on it so many times with my family. After lunch their were two rest stops that were at least 1/4 mile off the road which was not worth it! Most rest stops are right off the road. After riding for so long, my thought is that there is no way I’m doing more. I needed to stop to stretch. So stretching I did.
At the last rest stop I knew I needed water, but it was only 15 more miles. I’m like, yeah I can do that. As I approached the finish, our team ride marshal was with me. He is an amazing guy, so positive, uplifting. I’m like please tell me this is the last hill, he says well maybe there is one more, but it’s a baby hill. Any hill at this point is too big. I admire his positivity. As we round a corner I see the city and the capital. At this point it was a couple of miles and my heart was like, yeah this is it! We turned many times and finally hit the finish. There is a bubble bistro at the finish and it horse shoes around to dismount. The biggest deal is the picture of you and your bike in front of the capital. I had to work for this picture. My team tent wasn’t in front of the capital, but I took my bike there anyway and got a pic thanks to a stranger willing to take it with my phone.
I went to the bubble bistro and met Jeff. His story was amazing . He was diagnosed in 2008. Wheelchair bound and at the time all of the 4 available medicines didn’t work for him . Now one of the fourteen meds work.
He is not only out of his wheelchair , he did the ms150 full for the first time ! He said he was so inspired by the cyclists ! He told me that they are working on meds to repair nerve damage , this will help others as well. Ms is the number one neurological disease that receives fund raising and that benefit can help other neurological issues ! That is my hope for people like my mom!!! I encourage you to never give up!
What a weekend! What an experience! At sunrise my team began the MS150 start at the Wood Group. The biggest concern was the weather later in the day. We had a ride marshall on our team who said we would have a tail wind the entire first day. The sky was overcast and the temperature comfortable in the 70s.
I cycled with one of the ladies for most of the approximate 9 miles it takes to get to less traffic congestion. As we started to get out of town, which was really suburbia and near my house, the scenery around the two lane road is pretty. It’s lush and green and there are still many beautiful wild flowers out. The cycle traffic merged in from Rhodes stadium. We were on the Tully stadium route, and must have been slightly in front of most of that group. Along the side of the road and into the small towns like Fayetteville, people were on the side of the road cheering, ringing cow bells and playing music. The first rest stop was about 20 miles in and then stops were spaced 8 to 12 miles apart. Lunch was in Bellville at 47 miles, by the time you reach Bellville, it’s more like brunch time. The wind wasn’t really a tail wind, it was more like a cross wind. Houston is pretty flat, however as soon as you get outside, there are some rolling hills. I clinched and held on tightly going down the hills because the cross wind was powerful and it would blow in short swift bursts. It was nice meeting up with the team and chatting at the lunch stop and with them at rest stops as well as meeting other people. That coconut water from Goya is the best. It’s the one in a small can with bits of coconut in it.
After lunch the wind really picked up and the sun came out, temperature and humidity rose and the hills were a little more steep. The last two rest stops were tough getting out of, my toes were numb. I’m pretty sure because of the tightening to hold on for the wicked cross wind. As I rolled into La Grange I couldn’t feel my toes. As soon as I got off it was better. I looked at the mileage…94 miles for day one!
I found our tent and they had my bedding setup. I went to the shower trucks. The women’s line was much shorter than the men’s. After a short wait, I went into a steaming hot truck where there are lines of individual showers with curtains. There is a hook on the outside where I hooked my plastic bag and towel.
After the shower, I went back to be with the team, eat, drink and rest. The Wood Group had the best bathrooms ever! They were portable, flushed, had a sink and were even air conditioned. We had a band right in front of us that was playing great music. I would have loved to dance, however I had no more energy. The storm rolled in around 9-10PM. We had an emergency plan, but didn’t need it. The wind really blew in and cooled the temperatures 30 degrees. The sleeping bag was perfect! I turned down ear plugs only to regret it later. I had “the motor” behind me snoring all night!
No neighbors behind us!
Another day closer, the March muster meeting was held yesterday for Team Wood Group on their campus. At this meeting the much anticipated jersey uniform was distributed. I am so excited to have received this! The jersey is a really cool bluish grey displaying a graphic of a cyclist with the Houston skyline on the front and the back with a cyclist and the Austin skyline, it has the company name and logo and red accents.
The final information was given about the plan for the team. My decision is to leave with the team at the company campus which is about 9 miles from the Tully stadium start. I want to be a participant in the team photo. New pieces of information included that volunteers will wash our jersey’s and setup the bedding for us in the team tent. Also new info is that we are having barbecue for dinner and What-a-Burger breakfast food for the morning at the over night stay in La Grange. It will be nice to recognize some familiar faces at the stops for lunch and dinner even though I don’t work for the Wood Group. Socializing is coming slow as there are not many women on the team. The coordinators are women and they are friendly. It will be nice to have someone account for me in the sea of people at the event since I am solo.
We had a speaker, Lisa Sailor, who has MS, describe her experience living with the disease. She mentioned that just three days ago after at least 20 years a new drug was FDA approved called Ocrelizumab which targets the primary state of MS which is about 10-15% of patients according to STAT in a recent article. Although reports are saying it’s not the cure, the medicine is showing that there are measurable results in the positive direction. (slow progress). My son asked if you can die from MS? You can, however most people live an average life expectancy, handicapped. Even though I don’t personally have family with MS, my mother lives with a severe handicap effected by nerve damage. And although it is not auto-immune, I still have hope that even if she is not categorized in a lump group of people with a common disorder, the effects of the damage can somehow be repaired with new medical technologies discovered from research like this.
My bike journey began with a bucket list and turned into something that I am happy to be a part of for other reasons.
Tour de Houston is part of the MS150 ready to roll series. It’s a cycle ride that begins at City Hall and loops to the south east of Houston and ends in south Missouri city, then the ride goes back the same way to City Hall. You could choose 20, 40 or 60 mile distances. There were three rest stops at about 10 miles apart (so the turn around at each one gave you the 20, 40 or 60 mile distance depending on the one you go back from). Your $40 entry goes towards restoring parks sponsored by Apache Corp. The ride began at 7:30a.m. and they had police controlling the intersections. On this ride I took the road bike with the clip in shoes. This would be a good test to see if I can handle the stops and the crowd.
I would say there were at least a thousand people there (the news reported thousands). After the multiple warnings about road hazards (expansion joints in the road) and to remain in the right lane we began. The first thing I noticed was that the road changes quite a bit from smooth to pretty rough. Immediately I saw people with flats (that was quick), I was able to maintain a speed between 16 – 20 mph. The scary thing is that there were multiple wrecks, I saw at least 5. Two or three so bad the ambulance had to be summoned. We rode through the spectrum of economic communities in Houston from the uber rich to poorer communities. All while hearing the calls, “Slowing”, “Rolling”, “Crack”, “Car back”, “Stopping”, etc. (cycle lingo)
Starting early in the morning I knew I would need sunglasses and noticed I really didn’t have a place to put them. And it’s important to put on sunscreen which I forgot. If you are ever training for a long cycle ride, I found it useful to have trained outside (rather than spinning indoors). One person commented that the headwind was kicking butt. This is a challenge I face every time I ride around the 2 mile lake. The wind can almost blow me off the road or slow me down to 8 or 9 miles an hour. I didn’t even notice it during this ride.
There were ride marshalls riding along and checking the path to make sure people were safe. They would call SAG (support vehicles) in case a rider needed assistance. I didn’t need to stop at the first two rest stations. After passing the second one at 20 miles, I had met a milestone. I have never cycled in one sitting past 20 miles. I was really happy to keep going. The scary part for me was after that 2nd stop, the crowd thinned out and at a few points I didn’t see any other cyclists ahead of me. Then came the stretch of road that was two lanes. So you are riding with other cars (to me that is too close for comfort). Added to that I could hear gunfire from some massive gun range and started to worry about a stray bullet heading my way. This was for a good couple of miles. At the end was the neighborhood and the last rest stop (and turn around). Surprisingly the port a potties were clean! And you could wash your hands with a portable hand washing station . That and grab a “Kind” bar and you are on your way. I was worried about leaving my bike unlocked at the bike stand. I did bring a chain and noticed no one locked theirs. I thought it would be so easy to select a “new” bike and head out. You only wear your number on your body, your bike isn’t numbered like it will be in the MS150. Luckily, my bike was where I left it and I completed the last 30 miles.
Afterwards I was surprised that I wasn’t sore. I do think I was dehydrated and it effected me weird! I felt like I had no sleep. But then again, I did get up early and didn’t sleep soundly the night before. Only this lasted into the next day. This was a good test to indicate, I can do this! It’s only 20 more miles to equal the 80 miles in the 1st day of the MS150. It took me 4 hours to do 60 and would probably take me another 1.5 hours to do 20 more.