Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Hamilton Pool is another Texas treasure!!!  This natural wonder is located just outside of Austin to the West.   You have to make reservations to go and there is no guarantee that you will be able to swim because of bacteria levels which are tested daily.  Reservations are from 9-1PM and 2PM-6PM.  This is my own opinion, but I think there are bats in the “grotto” and I would think that the unsafe bacteria specifically ecoli might have something to do with their poop.  That’s just a guess.   It’s worth the risk to make the 3 hour drive because you can still enjoy the view of this beauty which is quite spectacular.   And there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Determined to go, I made the reservations months ago.  Even if I had to go by myself. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, son, daughter and friend went with! Your reservation is by the carload and since we have smaller vehicles, it was worth it to rent a minivan.  I looked at this day trip as a mini vacation and treated it as such!  We were comfortable!

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We began the 1/4 mile rough terrain to the water.  It really is steep in some places and rocky, the rocks aren’t even.  There isn’t anything to hang on to.  People lug their coolers, chairs and floats regardless!  There is no wheelchair access, which makes me sad because for people with disabilities this would be a huge challenge to go see and some would never go.

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The vegetation kept the hot Texas sun away.  There are lots of mesquite trees and cypress as you get towards the water.  I’m standing on the “beach”  here taking my first picture. This is where we laid out some towels and I called it our base camp.  The beach is rocky crushed rock with good size stones.  Outside of the stunning beauty of the cave like curved roof with water gently falling into a clear green massive pool, I noticed these three very large catfish at the water’s edge.  They hung out there the entire time!  First things first, I wanted to explore!  You can walk in the cave all along it to the other side.

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I thought bats were coming out of the swallow nests, but they aren’t.  If you look closely, you can see the muddy nests with a hole in the middle on the ceiling.

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Here is a view of the beach from the other side…

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Sometimes the water that falls is quite massive, on a day like today, it was picture perfect for standing under.

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Under the waterfall is the rock where people jump in.  I swam around the pool.  At first I thought it was going to be freezing because the water temperatures are in the 60s year round.  It was cold at first, you quickly get used to it.  Even though the water looks clear along the edges, it isn’t as it gets deeper.  Still it’s a very pretty green.  Looking up at the water falling is pretty cool as you see the droplets take the plunge.  I could have spent the day here, however my crew is not the chilling type.  At least not here.  I’m guessing it’s because there is no cellular service.

The idea was to eat here, bringing in food.  However, for this group it was a better idea to go out to lunch/dinner.  We ended up going to Canyon Grill which is on lake Travis.  We had another amazing view and great food!  Fantastic day ! ❤

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Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Cyclists stick together

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!

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Cyclists stick together

FINISHER Day Two

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.

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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!

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FINISHER Day Two

FINISHER – Day One

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.

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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.

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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!

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FINISHER – Day One

Tour de Houston

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.

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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.

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Tour de Houston

Critical Mass Houston

Critical Mass is a bike event held on the last Friday of each month.  With the weather as fabulous as it is, this is one event I did not want to miss.  I found it during my research of cycling groups to prepare for the MS150.  And since we are so close to Halloween, many dressed up.  The event starts at Market Square Park in downtown Houston.  It’s a great spot for night life.  There is an outdoor restaurant as well as a street lined with old buildings and really cool city restaurants.  Sometimes other events are held there like blanket bingo.    There was well over 1000 people that showed up for this event.  To find parking was difficult, I used a garage not far by in the theater district.  Not knowing what to expect, the first thing I saw was a solo slender man in a slim fit business suit riding a bike all lit up (the wheels especially) and trailing a bike trailer (also lit up) that carried a modern boom box blasting dance music.  This set the tone for what kind of event this was.  There were all kinds of people there, mostly young, but older people too.  There was a girl with the cutest puppy on her back in a backpack.  I tried to take a pic but it came out blurry.  We rolled out at a little later than 7:30PM.  One lady told me the path changes every month and is never announced before hand, and it’s usually about 20 miles.

Being that I did not have a light on my bike, I knew I had to stick to the crowd and ride the entire route.  Police are organized for this event because they allowed us through the intersections, we took up the entire road.  I was totally lost as to where we were going but we ended up going through the Heights which is a very cool part of Houston.  It’s hip and it’s established and it’s young and funky, it’s one of the best places near downtown.

We stopped at an HEB (grocery store) midway for about 15 minutes.  Some guy offered me Oreos (such friendly people, I did do this by myself).  I was a little unsocial, so I could have met more people, just not feeling well today, despite the drive to make it to this event since it only happens once a month!   I checked the map to see where we were and saw that we were 14 miles to Market Square.  I assume, since that was the midway point that it was closer to a 30 mile ride.  At this point I tried to move to the front of the pack, thought I was there, but it just kept going.  I really don’t know who was the leader, it just sort of happened.

There were so many kinds of bikes, BMX, mountain bikes, road bikes.  And some people wore helmets.  I personally witnessed a guy use his front brakes and completely flip over the handlebars (without a helmet).  He was ok, I’m glad I wore one.  This is a ride that you have to be comfortable being extremely close to others.   Before I left I decided to take my older Cannondale, because if I needed to stop and lock it up with my cheap lock, and it got stolen, I wouldn’t cry as badly as I would with my nice road bike.  Plus it has the regular petals. (not clip ins) I only saw one guy wear clip in shoes.   I asked him about it and he said his were easy to get out of.  Mine are not!!! So it was a good call for me to go with the bike I did.  There were parts of the ride that were slow and parts that were fast. I’m happy with the bike I chose for this event.  I really did take a risk in that I didn’t have any tools with me to change a tire in the case of a flat.  And that does happen, I’ve gone for rides close to home twice and had to call home for rescue.  I didn’t really see bike medics, so I will wear a backpack and prepare for that in the future.  That could have been UGLY!

Overall, this was an extremely cool event to go to on a Friday night.  Time well spent!

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Critical Mass Houston

Summer turns me upside down…in Texas

Summer officially begins June 20th according to the solstice dates, but that is not how people in Texas determine the start of summer.  The start of summer is recognized here by school ending, the community pools opening, the weather turning warm and humid and for me…the crepe myrtles blooming (my favorite summer tree).  Summer is here! And summer is long!  It stays hot all of the way  through the end of September, but somewhere around then you feel the change to fall.  You just won’t see the leaves change until December.

Now to hit the things to do that are perfect for summer in Texas!  So what does one do in Texas during the summer?  For sure you need to hit a body of water.  Being the water lover that I am, I am a bit of a connoisseur of water activities in Texas.  There is always room to expand the knowledge!  The beaches, while abundant are not my first choice.  Galveston our little island, has plenty to do, however if you are from Florida, you tend to be spoiled by clear water and that is not what we have here ….anywhere from Galveston, to Port Aransas, to South Padre.   These are all really popular places to go to the beach and are fun, just if you really, really like being in the water, you might want to be able to see your toes and open your eyes under water and you can’t do that here.    Some of the lakes are kind of the same thing, murky but not all lakes in Texas!!!  Austin has some of the most amazing places for water activities.  Barton Springs is a clear spring and SUPER cold!  Like 68-70 degrees year round!  Ok, for me that is cold, water temperature to me needs to be like bath water.  Tubing is really fun also.  Places like the Comal River or the Guadeloupe River between San Antonio and Austin are a must!!   It’s super relaxing to float peacefully down the river on a hot summer day in clear water!   And a stop by the town of Gruene is a must too.  It’s one of my favorite Texas towns.  The Grist Mill restaurant in Gruene is perched on a hill overlooking the Comal River and the tubers.  It’s amazing in the summer and the winter.  It’s so open that you are either really hot or really cold.  So it’s fans or the big Texas fireplace to help balance the temperature.  And their steak is nothing short of awesomeness.

So I booked my July reservations for Hamilton Pool and Jacobs Well (It’s by reservation only now) near Austin.  Both are in state parks and are natural clear water bodies.  Both are similar, Hamilton Pool is described as “A scenic natural swimming pool in a canyon below a 50-ft waterfall, surrounded by a grotto”.  Oh heck yeah, need to go there!  It’s hard to get commitment from others, I just booked it anyway. (If you book it they will go? … we’ll see)

Tubing down the Comal River…

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Port A…

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Can’t wait to share new adventures of places to go in Texas!

Summer turns me upside down…in Texas