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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010: Going to Camp Verde

I normally take off work the Thursday we leave for Texas Hell Week each year, but this year I took off Wednesday as well for a medical appointment. Just being off work makes me shed years like a snake sheds skin and for just awhile I forget my years and I am a young girl again, free of responsibilities and decision making. As departure finally arrives, however, I have mixed feelings. While I anticipate this trip each year, almost from the time I arrive home, there is also a tinge of regret at leaving home and the people who love me the most. I treasure a husband who allows me the freedom to go on this vacation on my own with men that he really doesn't know.

Dave, Steve, and I meet at Dave's house at 5:00 p.m. and I take Steve to the airport to pick up the van that we rent. It is perfect for three people: all our luggage and two bicycles each can fit inside. It also is the first time either of them has gotten to see my beautiful new Lynskey bicycle as I am taking it and my Cannondale. Traditionally, the ride to Fredericksburg is a time for indulging in Girl Scout cookies, talking about club gossip, and reliving past Hell Weeks, and this year is no different. I grin at the guys and their eager anticipation of arriving in Texas to our first Whata Burger. I feel fortunate that they allow me to tag along. Originally I was to help with the driving, but I really am a lousy driver so now I just ride in the back seat. Sometimes I worry that they would rather ask someone who could contribute more, but I have given them outs before and they haven't taken it so I suppose they really don't mind so much.

We make good time and Steve asks if I mind making a side stop at Austin to see Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop. Of course, lusting in bike shops is one of the things I do best; it is actually one of the few types of shopping that I enjoy. Each of us purchase a little something, then it is on to Whata Burger. Leaving Austin we happen to come across an older man, probably in his seventies, sporting a gray beard, a pink wig, a pink crop top, a pink thong, and a fanny pack. Believe me when I tell you that from the rear there was absolutely nothing left to the imagination. For some reason, I think of a favorite poem by Dr. Seuss and so appropriate for cycling, "Oh! The Places You'll Go."

Finally we get to Fredericksburg and go to our motel. We are trying a new motel this year as we were all dissatisfied with last year's motel due to cleanliness and breakfast issues. It is beautiful, but only my room is ready so we head to guessed it....the local bike shop. Actually, we end up going to both shops. At one shop Steve points out some socks I HAVE to buy as they have a vicious looking drooling dog on them. I think about how one of my favorite things about Texas and Texans is that they control their dogs unlike those in Indiana and Kentucky.

After we register and clean up a bit, we head to registration. It is like a home coming and I am incredibly elated seeing people that have befriended me through the years but that I rarely see. We see Greg S., Greg Z., Marsha S., Jeff P., Lynn P., and Joe C. Greg Z. points out some others who log on the Big Dog site, but I am too shy to go and introduce myself. Then Johnny B. strolls up. I haven't seen him but once or twice since PBP and while I don't know him well, I know this is a kind man from his actions: I had not ordered the medals for all the series leading up to PBP but he mailed me a set anyway. It is always a treat when some one's kindness knocks you on your rear because sometimes I forget this with the work I do. Kindness is vastly under-rated in this world. We also find Bill at registration and our group is complete.

I decide to buy a jersey this year. While I don't really care for the colors, I do like the design. We then decide to head to one of our favorite eating spots: The Enchanted Inn. This place has tortilla chips that I dream about all year long, literally glistening with what is probably lard. Once again I think that I am lucky that I do not live here or I would soon be too fat to get on a bicycle.

After dinner, we agree to meet early in the morning to take off as a group. Mike Crawford, a Hell Week newbie, will be joining us this year. In the morning, I am delighted to find that not only does the hotel have waffles, but they are shaped like Texas. Dave, Steve, Bill, Mike, and I meet outside of our motel door.

As we leave Fredericksburg for the ride of the day, "Going to Camp Verde", we pass a road runner standing in the midst of a field. The air is crisp but promises warmth with the brilliant sun and the turquoise blue sky that does not sport a solitary cloud. Within a few miles, I fall in love with the Texas hill country once again. Every year I forget how hauntingly beautiful this land is, a contradiction, desolate yet brimming with life. Spring is a good time to come: summer would here would be brutal and unforgiving. My eyes have been starved for color and dance with the wind flowers laced along the sides of certain roads drinking their beauty. As usual, there are deer shyly haunting the fields and trees, similar yet different from our own deer. For awhile, we frolic alongside the river, bicycles weaving in and out, and yet again I am struck by the various shades of color within the depths of the waters. There is a small waterfall in one spot adding sound to the visual feast. I am happy here with these people with whom I can ride in comfortable silence, sing, or chat.

For awhile I have to put my new bike through his paces, climbing and racing over the roads, and I find he responds. Only Steve paces me and we soon drop back to ride with the others. Lunch is at Vicki's Burger Barn that offers a mean cheeseburger. I eat more beef this week each year than I do at home in two months. Too soon this day is over, but there will be other days and other centuries to ride this week and the forecast is great.

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