Copyright 2008, Linda Mae Dennis

All rights reserved

The MS150 Bicycle Ride from Houston to Austin, 2001

Well, the big bike ride is complete. Of the five of us in our circle of friends riding "together", we had no crashes and no flat tires! Considering our training rides, it was very successful.

You see, on one of our training rides, just three weeks before the BIG one, I crashed. It was a cold, windy and sort of rainy day, and my biking partner and I had planned to ride the 45-mile route, which we were well into when IT happened. A nasty crack appeared out of nowhere, and grabbed first my front tire, then my back tire, flattened them both, and then flattened me. Apparently, I took the weight of the fall on my right elbow, which required six stitches after they cleaned the dirt off the chipped bone. (Eeewww!) Actually my whole right side got pretty bruised and scraped, but the worst of it was that it took about a week before I could bend well enough to pedal. I thought it would be really difficult to regain the strength and stamina that I had worked so hard to build since January, but it all came back fairly quickly.

But let's begin at the beginning.

On Friday at 11:30, we met at the Travis county Exposition and Heritage Center to catch the first bus to Houston, which was supposed to leave at noon. We waited for the bus for about two hours. I don't know exactly what happened, but the original busses that were supposed to show up didn't. The organizer was on the phone frantically looking for busses, and more and more people kept showing up. When it looked like we had at least a busload of people milling around, I suggested to her that she line us up, so that the people who had been waiting the longest would definitely get on the first bus. Otherwise she'd not only have no busses, but a lot of angry people on her hands. She agreed and did so immediately. By the time the first bus showed up, there were about two busloads waiting, so I'm glad I made the suggestion. Our bus made it to Houston in 2.5 hours.
And that was the only thing that really went awry the whole weekend.

The bikes were being kept at Tully stadium for the night, and we had planned to camp there, too. However, when we heard that the overnight temperature was going to be about 42, we camped in the hotel with some friends. We all went to Macaroni Grill for dinner and had an absolute blast. We got back to the hotel at about 9:00, all stoked up on carbs, beer and adrenaline went up to the room to prepare for bed. I think we finished giggling at around 11:00.

We got up Saturday morning at 5:00AM. We were supposed to get up at 4:30, but our alarm didn't work. Amazingly we were out of there and on the bus to the stadium by 5:45, and we would have been ready sooner except one of us got stuck in an elevator for 10 minutes. At the stadium, we lugged our luggage to the appropriate trucks and located our bikes.
The first group of riders out left at 7:00AM. These were team and handicapped (sorry, differently able) riders. We were in the fourth group to go, and we didn't get off until about 7:30. It was lighter by then though, so I didn't mind.

Getting out of Houston was long and difficult. The roads were smooth and flat, but they were very trafficky, and we had to stop for a lot of the lights, and there were over 7000 riders that started the ride, so there was a lot of difficulty in dealing with all those differently able (not handicapped) riders.

We skipped the first rest stop partly because we felt like we just got going by the time we got to it, and partly because it looked like a total circus. And although the second rest stop looked rather circus-like we had to stop there. We were both hungry and I had to use the Port-O-Let (can you think of a worse name?).

For most of the morning, the roads were flat and smooth. We made very good time, skipping every other rest stop. Just before lunch we hit some low rolling hills, and it was low rolling hills for the rest of the day, with one windy stretch. We worked pretty hard and arrived at the La Grange campground at about 4:00, completing the first 90 miles way ahead of most of the riders. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Once the sun was up and knocked the chill out of the air, it was dry, sunny and about 75 all day.

In case anyone was worried about the slow riders, at about 7:00, just before dark, they go out in trucks and get all the riders who haven't made it in yet.

I got my camping spot set up pretty quickly, and we caught a school bus over to the high school for a shower. The shower felt great, and oh, how nice to be off the bike and in dry clothes! Once we were returned to the campsite, we headed directly to the food. They even offered some vegetarian dinner items...beans, rice, dressingless coleslaw, and tortillas. Anticipating this kind of low calorie fare, I brought some high calorie veggie pate, and was happy to add that to my dinner. After resting in the sun at our picnic table after dinner and commenting that that was probably the best tasting dinner we ever ate, we picked up a pitcher of beer and went back to our campsite.

The camp neighbor hood had changed significantly. There were tents radiating out from ours in all directions, set up less than two feet apart. We wove our way through the maze back to our tents, then lazed around in our camping area for a couple of hours, chatting with our neighbors, and comparing notes on the ride. At about 9:00 they set off a bunch of fireworks. We were going to lie in our sleeping bags and chat, but once we closed our doors to change into pjs, that was it.

In my attempt to re-hydrate on Saturday evening, I drank lots of water (plus three quarters of a cup of beer over ice). I may have overdone it, because I had to go to the bathroom (a long way through the maze of tents) three times after almost everyone else had gone to sleep. The campground was so well lit though, that I didn't even need a flashlight to get around. But anyway, once my bladder was finally empty, I didn't have any trouble sleeping.

They started serving pancakes at 5:00AM Sunday morning. It was pretty cold outside. I heard people start moving around at about 4:30. I know that because I heard someone close by say "Hey, get up, it's 4:30." I had to go again, so I got dressed and rolled up my sleeping bag, and trekked over to the bathroom. On the way back I picked up some coffee, and enjoyed coffee and dried pineapple rings in my tent.

We packed everything up, lugged our luggage back to the trucks, and got back on the bikes. The roads were a bit slippery with dew until the sun got up, but we got off smoothly and early. I think there were still about 2000 people in line for pancakes when we rode away at 7:00AM. In the early part of the morning we were in rolling hills again. (One fabulous down hill that made the whole ride worth it.) Then we got to the State Parks.

I think the roads through Buescher and Bastrop State Parks were supposed to be scenic, but somehow, on a bicycle they just seemed steep and winding. This steepness, was all well and good on the downhill parts for most of the people. It scared me though, since I really didn't want to fall on my poor little already injured body. There was also dappled shade over the roads, which made it difficult to see, and there were a lot of people who didn't care so much whether or not they fell or caused others to fall either. So I went cautiously down the hills and as quickly as possible up the hills, although that was tricky since there were people weaving all over the place trying to bicycle up. I ended up walking (I mean cross-training) up four of the hills; two that I could have biked up had they been clear of people, and two that were just that ugly.

Once we were out of the park though, it was just a few miles to Bastrop, which, if you live in Austin, sounds pretty close to home. We had lunch in Bastrop at the high school at about 11:30 and then only had the twenty miles to ride into Austin. That doesn't sound like much does it.

Well, it was pretty grueling. A stiff wind came up, and although it was at our backs generally, we had to fight it unless it was directly behind us. It was very gusty and tiresome. Plus there was quite a bit of impatient car traffic on the winding county road we were on.

It was really nice to go pedaling up that last hill past all those struggling riders, and through the column of cheering well-wishers. We arrived at last at about 1:45. We had to ride about a quarter mile to the check in, and a quarter mile back to our cars. Then we had to walk another quarter mile over to get our luggage and another quarter mile back
lugging our luggage in our not-very-comfortable biking shoes -- just what you need after a 168-mile bike ride. Then we had hugs and pictures, and headed for home intending to eat food, apply ice externally and beer internally, and take a nap.

The first thing I noticed on my way home was that my car seat is really comfortable.
Later I noticed that most of the chairs I have at home are really comfortable, and that I probably have the softest blanket in the world. And I hardly ever have to wait to use the bathroom.