Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Texas Cycling Experience - Travels with my Mule in Texas


As I start thinking about going home this Sunday I have been reflecting on my cycling experiences in Texas

Living in Beverley, (East Yorkshire,England) I have always felt spoilt about my cycling opportunities with so much contrasting variety in both the terrain and the natural beauty of the countryside. If you go East you have fast flat riding on the coastal Holderness plain which borders the North Sea. To the South you have the impressive Humber bridge with the Lincolnshire wolds beyond. To the west you have the East Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of York . Finally to the North you have the Howardian Hills and North Yorkshire Moors, where the monster hills prey on tubby cyclists. Whatever route you choose you are in open countryside within five minutes.


Coming to Texas I have had to adjust considerably. To go anywhere you first had to encounter the vehicular gauntlet that is called '1960'. I am sure all major urban areas have their own equivalent, but to me this highway is particularly terrifying, even to drive on. To venture out on anything that contained less than two axles, and four wheels would be be like turning up at a slimming club with a family sized tub of Kentucky fried chicken.
The thought of having to drive somewhere - and then to cycle seemed to defeat the whole liberating experience. My own car is rarely used with an annual mileage of about 2,000 miles a year, about a quarter of the distance I cycle.
In Texas, like a lot of the big American cities the roads are cluttered with 'Drive ins'.
This viral epidemic which had previously only affected cinemas and fast food outlets, has been virulent, spreading to Banks, Chemists, Post offices, Dry cleaners, and supermarkets.

Seemingly there is very little you cant do from the drivers seat of an automobile.
This is such a great shame because once you get past your '1960' s of this world. Cycling is a great an healthy alternative, with huge enviromental positives. In Texas there are in fact some great places to cycle, most of which have been put in place by local government.
Memorial Park,Terry Hersey Park, Cullen Park, Beaver creek and Bush Park to name a few.

The fascillities are first class.
There was also an added attraction - It may just be at one time the Great man Lance Armstrong could have ridden the same tracks.


Even if you do have to venture out onto the main roads and highways most of them have a hard shoulder as wide as some of our own motorways back in England. Places are accessible by bike !!!!!!
Once I allowed myself to relax, I felt far less intimidated by traffic than I ever do in my own country.

In England cars like to engage with you.
You know get 'close up and personal'.
Stroking your leg with a wing mirror would not seem out of place at all.
I realise that this sort of intamacy is usually monogomous and reserved for a human relationship, but cars are sleezebags.
They dont mind you embracing other items such as kerbs and hedgerows and are all too willing to encourage you.

If you dont take care they will have you kissing a lampost without a second thought.
And they say that English people are not warm hearted!!!!!
The many cyclists I met on my trips in Texas we ALL incredibly warm and friendly and there was none of the bike snobbery that I have sometimes witness in England.
At one time or another we were all bought our first bike.
The very first time we revolved those pedals 'unaided' we became cyclists.
Although we may have embraced different disciplines, intensity, frequency and type of use, we are all still just cyclists.
The moment we forget that we risk losing the thrill and freedom it can bring in differing degrees - to anybody.
One winter morning I was once passed by a pace line from one of our local cycling clubs. Being a bit larger than I am now, but still in Lycra, I received some looks that suggested I was not worthy to be out on a road bike.This was accompanied by some sniggering as they snaked passed.

Ten minutes later I overtook half of them climbing 'The Devils Chimney'.
A beast of a hill that climbs 800 ft in a mile, which just happens to be my favorite local climb. Scott has even warmed to it too.

As the uniformed skeletons ascended the steepest part of the gradient they rocked from side to side, out of their razor edged saddles. I sat back in mine setting a steady rhythm and admired the wold top view. Taking a drink from my water bottle, I remarked with a very anxious voice that my drink had contained too much brandy.

When I got to the top the others were waiting. As I cycled passed them I smiled saying 'Not bad for a fat lad eh?'



Texas I loved cycling here !!!!!!!

3 comments:

Lily on the Road said...

Here I thought we only had sleazbag vehicles in Canada LOL...

Glad you enjoyed your time in the Lone Star State.

Anonymous said...

Phillip,
Hello Friend! Great meeting you while I we were both in Texas training and riding in the ms150 recently. I couldn't have had a better time than I did riding with the twins on Monday and Tuesday before the big event! I was asking your team members along the ride on Sunday where I could find you guys and was informed that Paddy was sick and down for the count on for the final stretch into Austin. Sorry I never found you gents, but I hope we can meet up another time for some more Texas riding (and I'll have to look into the hotter than hell ride). I was happy to hear from your team members that you were taking the same crazy pills as me and did the ride on Saturday, I ended up logging 115 miles as I got lost and didnt bring a map. It was a fantastic day for cycling that I'll never forget. Again, great meeting you and Paddy, please tell him I say hello and I'm eternally greateful for his great guidance as our tour guide through the abundance of west Houston biking trails! Take care and happy travels.
Frank (Vail, CO.)
fjvilece@hotmail.com

Philip said...

Thank you Frank and lilly. Frank there is actually a picture of you on earlier blog