Thursday, December 31, 2009


Last Thursday, Christmas Eve, I went cycling. I didn't have much of anything specific in mind, so as I was riding north on Lamar I decided to see a movie. I decided to see Avatar. I had been planning on skipping it since the reviews that looked past the spectacle have said it wasn't a very good movie, but of the movies that were playing I decided that was what I most wanted to see, even though it cost an extra $2 for the 3-D experience. It may have been due in part to it being the first of the new generation of 3-D movies I've seen, but to me the spectacle was enough to make it an enjoyable experience and worth the $8. After the movie, I went to the bicycle shop down the street. I had been looking around at different places about buying a new road bike, and I was pretty much decided on buying it from this shop and that was good of a day as any other. I test rode a few around their parking lot, and decided to go with the Specialized Secteur. There was one I liked a little bit better, mainly because it came with 105 components instead of Sora, but it was more than I really wanted to spend. The Secteur frame is slightly stretched compared with a traditional road bike, which is supposed to make it more comfortable for long rides. I don't have any immediate plans for anything close to a long ride, but around the parking lot it handled more like what I'm used to, not as twitchy as the lower end bike I tested. Since it was getting kind of late in the day and the store was going to close before too long, I decided to lock up my Roma to their bike rack and ride the Secteur home. It was immediate trial by fire, riding a brand new bicycle on the side of a busy street. I had to figure out the gears, handling, and even where I wanted to put my hands since there are three different possible positions. One of the biggest things, though, was getting used to toe clips. It's been many years since I've ridden a bike with toe clips, and to try to remember/figure out how to get my foot back in them after stopping. I've gotten a little more used to it now, but I was not having an easy time with them then. For probably many reasons I was having trouble setting and keeping a good pace. I was fitted for the bike, and it seems like the proper seat height is lower than what I was used to. The gearing is quite different, and with the compact 2-ring front derailleur there's a really big difference between the two. I wound up over-exerting myself and a couple of times had to throttle back to keep from getting a cramp. At least I made it home without wrecking or getting hit or anything.

I woke up around 7 Christmas morning and had enough time to open the few gifts from my parents before heading to the Dallas area for dinner with my aunt, uncle, grandmother, cousin and her family. The day before the Dallas area had gotten a rare snowstorm that actually stuck. On the interstate, all it amounted to when I got there was a little bit of water on the road and occasional patches of snow in the median. Once I got of the highway, though, the road hadn't been cleared as well and there was some slush left in the middle of the road. That (and the expected 50 degree high) made me glad I hadn't decided to ride my motorcycle. We had a really nice home cooked dinner around 1 and a little later exchanged gifts. My cousin's kids (7 and 10) and I played with the little nerf guns she had given each of us for a good while until they went home. I spent the night there at my aunt and uncle's after a rather subdued evening.

Saturday morning after breakfast I left for Colorado Bend State Park, just outside of the tiny town of Bend. I got to the headquarters (all the way into the park) around 1:30 and decided I would take the 2 o'clock guided tour of Gorman Falls. I also signed up for the cave tour the next morning as well as paying to camp for the night. I walked around that area for a bit before meeting the guide, Kevin, and following him in my car to the falls area. At the gate, since I was the only one taking the tour, I hopped in his truck for the last mile past the gate to an old hunting lodge. The falls are actually quite impressive, a stream over 60 feet of travertine. It formed in essentially the same way that cave formations do, where the limestone is dissolved upstream, flows in the creek and then deposits the minerals forming, essentially, a big dripping wall. Kevin gave me all kinds of information about the falls as well as the park in general. He said that there was more water flowing than he had ever seen, so it was nice to see it so full. In some sections the water fell almost like mist, and in a couple of places was a full stream. Another interesting thing nearby was an old car buried in the bank of the river. On the ride back to my car in the truck, there were calls over the radio about shots fired, directly across the river from where I had planned to camp. When I got back to headquarters, they told me they wouldn't let me camp in that area and I could pick any of the regular campsites, that are usually a few dollars more, for the same price. Since there was nobody else camping, I could pick literally any of the sites. After a quick survey, I decided to take site #7. The plus side of camping in that area was that I could have a fire, so I bought some wood. I had planned on waiting to light it until after dark, but as soon as the sun started going down the temperature dropped rapidly from the beautiful 50-degree day it had been. After I got the fire going I made dinner and read the newspaper. I sat in front of the fire reading (my book after I finished the paper) until around 10, at which point it was quite cool. Around 6 o'clock, I saw a car pull in. Since the headquarters had already closed, they must not have had much of an idea of where to camp, because out of literally any site they could have chosen, they set up in the one next to mine. It's not like it was a big deal, he didn't bother me or anything, it was just kind of funny.

I don't know exactly how cold it got overnight, but it was cold enough that when I went to get some water to make oatmeal, the spigot was frozen solid. I ate a couple of granola bars instead, which were so cold I warmed them up in the rekindled fire. I managed to stay warm overnight in my down sleeping bag with two layers of clothes on. I packed up and doused the fire and after scraping off some of the ice on the car, went to join a couple to wait for the 9:15 cave tour. Kevin was the guide again, and we caravaned to a parking area for the somewhat secretive trail leading to the cave. The park has 350 known caves, but the one we were going to, Gorman Cave, is, if I remember correctly, the largest by volume (but not the longest). The trail Kevin led us on to the cave was really nice, especially on such a beautiful morning. We stopped at the top of a box canyon, and then continued along its rim before dropping down to the river bank. We followed the trail along the river for a little bit before we got the entrance to the cave. The cave was pretty nice, but since it was private property until only about 30 years ago, so it wasn't protected and subsequently was filled with a lot of graffiti and a lot of formations were broken. One kind of neat graffito, though, was one dated 1883 that has been authenticated as actually being that old. Since it is a wild cave and the area has gotten some flooding recently, there were several places we had to cross through water. It was never deeper than my boots, but the boots seem to be a bit less waterproof than they should be. I didn't have puddles at my feet, but my socks were damp. We took our time going through the cave- even though we only went about 1000 feet in, we took two hours doing it. We stopped at a gate, after which point the oxygen levels are low and it goes underwater. We didn't take much time retracing our steps to the entrance. We decided to go out a different natural entrance near the one we had come in, which required a little bit of a scramble up a talus slope. On our hike back to our vehicles we took a different route, which took us past an old abandoned gold mine. I chatted with Kevin most of the way back to the car. I drove back to the headquarters and set out for a hike. The first two miles were nothing too special. I took a break at 2 when I got to the road, then crossed over and headed for Spicewood Springs. It was all going just fine until the first time I crossed the creek. Due to two big recent floods, a lot of their trail markers were lost, as well as the trail itself being damaged. Since the park doesn't get that many visitors, and the trails have only been built in the past few years, it wasn't exactly a major, obvious trail to begin with. The markers that they had replaced they only set up for people coming from the opposite direction as I was going. I lost the trail several times, but I knew I couldn't get too lost, I just had to follow the creek. The stream itself was really nice, it had clear water, and there were numerous small waterfalls along the way. It was frustrating trying to follow the trail, and my pace was pretty slow. Finally around 3 I came to a swimming hole that seemed to be more popular with visitors. The path from there back to headquarters was wide enough to drive a vehicle down, so I made quick time that last half a mile. I stopped in and bought a Dr Pepper and complained about the trail. I left the park and got home just before dark.

I had the day off Monday as well, but wound up having to do a good bit of work anyway, but at least I didn't have to go in to the office. In the afternoon I was able to get away and go for a second ride on the new bicycle. I went for a pretty basic ride over to the veloway. I was already feeling fatigued when I got there, so I only did one lap, then rode home. I had originally wanted to take the whole week off, but had too much work to do. I was able to take New Year's Eve off, and around 11 I went for the third ride, which went better than the previous two. I think I managed to find a better pace and what gearing I wanted. I again rode to the veloway and did three laps. I stopped for lunch on my way home, and called it a pretty good ride.

At the end of 2009, the Fat Boy's odometer reads 101921, and the Night Train's reads 7285. That only adds up to just over 11,000, which I'm pretty sure is the least number of miles ridden since at least 2002. I was going to take the Night Train for a little ride today since I haven't ridden it in a while, but the battery was dead. I tried hooking up the charger for just 25 minutes, but it wasn't enough to get it started. Unfortunately Harley batteries don't last very long, so it may be due for a replacement.
As for my bicycles, I don't think I rode my mountain bike at all (and it's been sitting over at Jimmy's for months); the Roma's odometer reads 1362, most of which is from this year since I got the computer last December; the Secteur's mileage is approximately 45, but I haven't rigged it up with a computer yet. I looked into getting a second cradle for the computer I have (since it can do two bicycles), but that would cost only slightly less than getting another one like I already have, so I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet.

And finally, rather than make New Year's resolutions, I thought I would make some goals for 2010:

  • Complete riding in all of Texas' 254 counties
  • At least five state highpoints (this can include revisiting ones)
  • At least five state capitols (can include touring ones I only photographed)
  • Enter some sort of athletic competition

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