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Friday, April 12, 2013

Texas Hell Week 2013

"You can all go to Hell;  I will go to Texas."
Davy Crockett

This is the saying on my work coffee mug, the mug I got the first year I went to Texas Hell Week, the first year that started this pernicious addiction:  2005.  Ever since that time, when things are going badly and I wish for nothing more than to be on my bicycle gliding down the road with the wind in my hair, free as a coyote, or when the cold has grabbed my soul squeezing tightly and refusing to relent, or someone has angered or frustrated me and brought me to my limits and there seems to be no escape,  I look at that mug and know that so long as I can go to Texas in the spring all will be bearable.  Texas is about bicycles that roll up and down hills.  Texas is about friends that warm my heart.  Texas is about food that titillates my taste buds.  Texas is about scenery that takes my breath away and speaks to my soul.  And Texas is about freedom that can make the rest of the year seem like drudgery.  Many other woman look forward to spa visits or to cruise ships or to beaches, and yes, I also think I would like those things and am not immune to romance, but not as much as I like the spring trek to Texas and Hell Week.  At least, all except the car trip down and back:-)

I meet Steve Thursday afternoon, take him to the airport to pick up the van, and return to await the packing.  When Steve arrives, Dave and he hurriedly pack the van:  6 bicycles, suitcases, tools, and my faithful pillow, the one I took to PBP with me. Soon enough we had out on the road for the annual trek.  Some things are standard:  Czech Stop pastries, What a Burger, Austin Bike stores.  Some things differ.  But always there is the sense of anticipation that only those who truly love to ride their bicycle will understand, hat wonderful feeling before a ride that makes you feel young and adventurous despite your age or experience.  And I don't worry about the food.  I know ahead of time it will be a week of gluttony.  As Robb Walsh  said, "I didn't drive eleven hours across the state of Texas to watch my cholesterol."

Bill Pustow, Jody Patterson, Steve Mauer, Mike Crawford,first timer Ted King, and first timer, Amelia Dauer, all head down separately, either in pairs on individually.  Friends that are not in the bike club such as Greg S. and Greg Z. are either already there (unfair Greg) or also on their way.  In fact, I met these friends at Hell Week thanks to Greg Z. for I would never have had the courage to introduce myself.  And when I do sleep in the car, I dream of seeing everyone and I dream of Texas, happy, untroubled dreams, the kind that renew the soul.  For I am free for one week, no work, no cooking, no cleaning,  with nothing that I have to do and I can ride, eat, and sleep, three of my favorite activities. I am selfish with this time because it seems there is so little of it.  I still feel guilty about not sharing the driving, but I have offered to find another way and they have not accepted so I suppose they don't mind. And so I sleep and read and dream.

The first night we traditionally eat Mexican at the "Enchanted Inn" outside of Fredericksburg, and this year is no different.  We head out immediately after picking up our packet from registration. The price is reasonable and the food is outstanding however unhealthy it may be.  Decisions are made about what time to start as we don't normally join the group start but do our own thing. And before you know it is  morning and everyone is gathered in front of the motel ready to take off on one of my favorite routes, "Windows on Doss."  The weather is not what I had hoped for, but I am here and I am going to ride come hell or high water.  I am intoxicated just with being here, with seeing friends, with knowing that before the week is out I will get a chance to ride in shorts and a short sleeve jersey and be warm, the kind of warm that seeps inside your very bones and makes you glad to be alive.  I will sweat the clean, cleansing sweat of summer.

 I giggle at the name duplication in this morning group:  in a group of ten or so there are two Bills, two Steves, and two Gregs. The Gregs bring a new friend, a Bill I have not met before.  While I don't get to know him well on this trip, I already feel as if I will like him.  I worry about whether I will hold everyone up, but Steve Rice is nice enough to loan me his secondary GPS as I screwed up and did not download the routes correctly.  I know that if I am slow, all I can do is to tell the others to go and they will have to make the choice to stay or ride ahead, but now I won't get lost.  It is silly this worry, as nobody is forced to ride with me.  They all know my normal pace.  But still the feeling is there, the worry that I will cause everyone to be miserable for it is hard to ride a pace that is not your own.  It is sill to worry about getting lost, because eventually you find your way.  But there it is.  Feelings or worries just are whether they are justified or not.

I find that I have lost my urge to hurry.  I want to savor this moment in time, a moment when I am completely happy.   I want to talk and catch up with those I don't see often.  I want to sing and saturate myself with the scenery.  I want to be warm, and I know that before the week is out I will be.  And when I return home I will have lost all my patience with cold.  I will just be over it, unable to cope.  Days that would have seemed warm and quite ride-able a few weeks ago will seem quite unmanageable. 

Too much time has elapsed without getting a moment to write for me to recount much of what happened this year.  Life just got in the way.  Like each Texas trip, it was different.  And this was perhaps a year to mourn some of the differences.  Our groups are not what they once were and I miss the close intimacy that Steve, Dave, Bill, and I once shared.  Jeff and Lynn Pearce did not come. While I did not ride with them, they were missed. (Lynn is one of my female cycling Godesses, gifted and strong;-) New riders from Louisville and elsewhere did come. "Harry's" is closed.  I cry inside remembering the laughter when Harry told some guy who wanted to use the bathroom to "pee on a tree." The restrooms at Vanderpohl are now clean and new.  How odd that while others celebrate this face lift, there is part of me that clings to what was however nasty and unusable the restrooms were. 

Moments:  The ride to Old Number 9 with Greg and Greg and learning that the house I will add a picture of is not a fire tower but someone's actual home. (between Greg and Greg in the distance)  The warm feeling inside of riding with friends I have not seen for awhile, like your heart wants to weep because it is so full and you know the moment is so transient. Appreciation that they like you enough that they are willing to slow their pace. And I still don't know why when I used the restroom there (they are normally closed) there is wind coming up from the commode chilling my bottom. Learning about wild boars and how they have mated with some type of Russian Boar and can be impervious to even a Magnum if it hits the gristle.

Bill and I shared what has become our traditional solo ride together:  the 80 mile version of the Death Ride as I fear I will keep others from getting to Steak Night timely if I do the longer ride.  And now I would have trouble giving it up even with all the time in the world because I always enjoy this ride with Bill because he is a special person to me and I appreciate his patience.  On this ride during one of the climbs I see what I can only figure to be a Black Footed Ferret though its face seemed more beautiful than those I have found on the internet as I tried to ascertain just what type of animal it was.   And Steak Night, as always different than the previous year but always a good time.

And so it is over for another year, and I know that by next January I will once again be pining for Texas. Steve once again won the mileage contest (a little personal competition) with over 700 miles, but I once again won the century contest and had a tad over 650 miles.  Next year, maybe I'll try to win both;-)

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