Being a 1200km randonnee addict, the prospect of an extra 1200km on top of PBP Randonneur is a plus and not a minus. Having thoroughly enjoyed my previous Randonneurs USA rides (Gold Rush Randonnee 2009 and Boston Montreal Boston 2006), exploring a new state at high speed and meeting up with old friends seemed like a deal not to be missed. And the icing on the cake, almost guaranteed Texas sunshine, rather than the hit and more often miss tendencies of sunny May days in the UK. All I had to do was persuade Dave that this was a good idea. So, having employed my magnificent powers of persuasion, the entries to the Texas Randonnee Stampede were e-mailed off.
As I’d already discovered, each state in the USA has its very own individual taste and flavour. Texas wasn’t to disappoint in any way, shape or form whilst we were there.
After getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting loads of new fellow randos at the sign on, we were ready for an early start from the central Texas town of Waxahachie. The ride followed a loop, skimming past the well known Texan cities of Houston and Dallas. The Lone Star Randonneurs, who’s promotion this ride was, tend to ride as a group rather than solo. Knowing their head honcho, Dan Driscoll, via Dave was a big benefit as we rode with his group for most of the ride.
The ride organisation was excellent. The combination of commercial controls most of the time and night/ sleep manned controls worked a treat. George Evans, the chief organiser, was brilliant. Although the weather was warm and eventually moved to hot, we had a value-added headwind that dogged us for the best part of 1000km. Given the wind, riding in groups was a clear advantage if you wanted to enjoy the ride and make good headway. We also ran into some terrific rain storms. George was fantastic, popping up at controls at just the right moment with iPad in hand so that we could look at the satellite picture of the storm, letting us to make the perfect call to stay at the control until a good deal of the storm had passed by.
For the most part, the terrain was flat or rolling with almost all roads constructed of big deteriorated chip-seal with bonus bumps and joints to gave a free vibro-massage. Oh for the comfort of a Moulton with its suspension! The ride did have some lumpy bits though, which of course was where the worst of the storms hit us big time! Descending in the dark with useless brakes due to the volume of water being dumped by the storm became interesting; particularly as there wasn’t anywhere good to take shelter while the storm passed!
The toughest day was day two, as it was the longest. Debbie Breaud and I formed an illicit two women breakaway after the penultimate control of the day to get to the Holiday Inn Express ahead of the group. This gained us about half an hour extra time off the bike. For others, like my good friend “Big” Bill Olsen, getting to the sleep stop wasn’t going to happen and other arrangements had to be made. Having not seen the well appointed bus shelters that delight AUKs the length and breadth of UK, I did wonder what USA randos did. Once I caught up with Bill, it turns out that US post offices provide deluxe free 24 hour accommodation, so one to remember for the future.
On our last night section, vollee Cindy Tyler, daughter of Vicki who was riding in our group came up absolute trumps by driving out for a secret control, her car boot full of goodies to cheer up weary riders about 50km from our sleep control. The chocolate ball cakes, which I hadn’t come across before, hit the spot perfectly.
Having had a fantastic time riding with the group and making new friends, approaching the finish whilst being an exciting denouement to the ride, was also tinged with sadness at having to leave new and old friends. At the finish, a real Texan reception committee celebrated, wearing Texas “ten gallon” hats, firing cowboy guns (toy ones, happily for the nearby buildings!) and presenting everyone with a finisher’s medal and sheriff’s badge.
Cyclists are always hungry, particularly at the end of a ride, so food was the next priority. Various options were explored, but dial-a-pizza in the end fitted the bill perfectly. The next day, folks drove home in Texas or inter-state, others flew within America or further afield. Plenty of farewell shouts were tagged with “see you at PBP”
It was the first Texas Randonnee Stampede. It was a brilliant and well-run ride, definitely one to put on either the “wish list” or the “to do again list”.
For further information on this rando and other Lone Star Randonneur promotions, go to http://www.lonestarrandon.org/
More photos can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/swift_swallow/sets/72157626903070283/