Gravel for Breakfast

Because Mrs. Pondero had other plans for our Saturday afternoon, my craving for gravel had to be met early. Because there aren’t many street lights out here on the prairie, it can be sometimes be rather dark when I start my rides. The photo above was about 30 minutes into the ride. I really enjoy my lights.

On the menu this morning was what I’ve named the “Slidell Loop”. It’s about 32 miles, and a large majority of it is gravel. Because so much of this route is car free and quiet, there are long periods of no sounds but the wind and tires crunching gravel. The last time I did this loop, it was much hotter outside, and I had company.

It was still chilly when I reached downtown Slidell, Texas. The sun was up, however, and a short breakfast break came at a great time.

A perfectly refreshing warm-up.

After a nice, hot cup of fresh coffee, there’s not much better than cruising down a rural gravel road on a crisp autumn morning.

…at least that’s my perspective on things.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

In addition to being my (unbelievably) fourth-in-a-row weekend of camping, it was also my longest overnight trip by bicycle. In some ways, it was a trip of contrasts. On one hand, my traveling partner, Chandra (GreenComotion), was pleasant company. On the other hand, the threatening weather turned out to be more than just idle threats.

It all started out well under overcast skies. Two friends out for a small adventure of what ever the day might bring.
It brought calm easy pedaling down the Trinity Trails toward the southwest. Here Chandra anticipates the trip with confidence, prepared for almost anything.
Not really weary yet, but the scene was inviting. Decidedly not in a hurry, we paused to soak it in.
Before too long, we began to see signs of those early morning clouds burning off, and the sunlight erased the thoughts of the stormy forecast from our minds.
Somewhere between before reaching Aledo, the sun shone brighter, the temperatures climbed, and Chandra began thinking he didn’t really need quite everything he had packed. Even the longhorn was a little concerned.
But bicycle touring is an elegant endeavor, and Chandra had a nice flow going…

These folks had a nice flow going as well, and it appears they had more cargo capacity than they needed.
We both eagerly anticipated the Weatherford to Mineral Wells Trailway. The quiet, the colors, and the occasional wildlife sightings kept us alert for what we might see around the next bend.
By this time, I believe Chandra was thinking about which items he could live without on the next outing.
Even with the returning clouds, we saw a few stars, and the full moon gave us a little light at dinner time. Figuring we had our camp all set-up, a little rain during the night shouldn’t be a big problem.
As it turned out, no rain appeared during the night. The sleeping was quiet and restful.

We didn’t linger too long before packing up to go. Chandra needed to make decisions about some of his excess gear and how it might affect his plans to continue his tour. He’d either get the park HQ to hold some of his gear and continue to Granbury, or he’d call for a ride back home. Either way, I’d be riding back toward Fort Worth alone this time. After having his excellent company, I was a little sorry to leave Chandra behind, but a storm was coming and I thought I’d race it to Fort Worth.
…and that’s where the photo documentation of this story ends.
I rode pretty hard all the way through Weatherford with only occasional drizzle. But when I reached the east side of town, an ocean fell out of the sky. After finding shelter and informing Mrs. Pondero that I was fine, and was planning to resume my trip after “this little storm blows over”, the wind blew about 40mph and the shivering began. During that brief pause to brace against the wind, my sweet bride told me about the size of the storm on the weather radar, and insisted in coming to fetch me. Because I’ve learned that it is not wise to cross Mrs. Pondero, I decided being rescued is not a bad thing.
Thanks to Trinity Bicycles for allowing us to use their shop as a meet-up place, and thanks to Chandra, who I can honestly say pedaled a huge load all day, but remained pleasant company through it all.

The Joy of Climbing

Why does the love of my life climb with a delighted smile on her face? Is it because she’s riding with me? Is it because I taught her proper technique for efficient climbing? Is it because she likes autumn weather?

No. I don’t think so. Its probably because she’s got the whole zen-like, fixed gear, connected-ness, at-one-with-the-machine-in-touch-with-the-terrain thing going on.

Fairfield Lake State Park

As bad as September was for my time outdoors, October has been good. This was the third consecutive weekend of camping.

Although I didn’t arrive by bicycle, I managed to bring one along.
This trip was a family outing, and included lots of stuff that was meaningful for us.
The sunsets over the lake, however, I think anyone could have enjoyed.

Post Commute Coffee

October weather lends itself to commuting by bicycle. Even on my longish 20-mile route, I can arrive relatively unsweaty. I’ve been rolling in the courthouse square before sunrise. So the perfect transition between the hypnotic pedaling in darkness to the hectic pace of the business world is a good hot coffee. When practical, I get my coffee at The Hydrant Cafe.

The Hydrant serves up fresh, locally roasted coffee that has become my palate’s favorite. This place is a little more peaceful than some of those other popular, louder, more active coffee shops. It seems just right for that post commute transition coffee that I crave. After a few minutes lingering with the locals, the sun peeks over the courthouse lawn, and I’m ready to take on the day.

Not Just the Cycling

Northwest Denton County is a wonderful place to ride a bicycle. This is especially true on October evenings. Hot summer days behind us, cooler air is added to the always pleasurable rolling countryside. Beginning in late afternoon, you can watch as the sun seems to accelerate downward, as if falling out of the sky. But it’s not just the cycling.

I arrived under this disintegrated windmill just after sundown. I was surrounded by pasture as far as I could see. It was quiet. There was a dirt road leading to this windmill standing about 100 feet from the county road, and I had paused to enjoy a snack, the quiet, and the golden twilight.
An old pickup came up the county road from the south. As it came near, it slowed. “Oh no,” I thought, and braced myself for questioning…or worse. I was preparing my, “I just wanted to get out of the road and take a couple of photos,” defense. Trying to appear harmless, I waved. The truck slowed almost to a stop, signaled, and began turning toward me onto the dirt road. With half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in one hand, I grabbed my stem with the other and scurried out of the way. The driver side window came down. “Just need to go feed the deer,” she explained. “I’m sorry,” I replied, rolling out of the way. She smiled and said, “No problem, you stay here as long as you like.” So I did.
I finished the sandwich, wiped the peanut butter off my face, and stowed the wrappings back in my handlebar bag. While I turned on my lights for the ride home, the pickup truck came bouncing back from wherever the deer feeder was. I slowly pedaled up to speed, and waved as she pulled up along side. The passenger window came down, and she waved back. Then she said, “You have a nice evening!” So I did.
Up here in northwest Denton County, it’s a great place to ride a bicycle, but it’s not just the cycling. It’s also the neighbors.