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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If Yorkshire were a state in the USA - Which one would it be?????

Having spent three weeks in Texas it was nice to finally come back to my home in Yorkshire.
I am always surprised that when I travel, how many people outside of Europe have never heard of Yorkshire or know exactly where it is positioned within the British Isles.

I say British Isles as one Texan recently asked me. 'Yorkshire, that's in Dublin ain't it ?'
I was also asked on the same day 'Did they name Yorkshire after those cute little dogs?'
You are both wrong and forgiven as I seem to recall that a certain Mr Bush was not too hot on Geography either.

Yorkshire has often been refered to as 'Gods County', which is sometimes further exaggerated in to 'Gods own Country', probably by the very inhabitants who live within the white Rose region.

Yorkshire people are straight talking, brash and opinionated. They are also immensely proud of their roots, heritage and the values of familylife.

There is a couple of well known sayings that typify this.
'Yorkshire born,Yorkshire bread.
Strong in the arm, but thick in the head'.
'A Yorkshire man says what he likes, and likes what he says'.

Although I was not born in Yorkshire, I consider myself one, having spent most of my life living here.
Although I do not totally subscribe to these stereotype images, I do understand how perceptions can be fuelled. In large working class families, loud voices were needed to be heard across crowded dinning room tables, where three generations of families would often be gathered daily scrambling for Gods offerings.

Manual work such as mining, steel forging and working in the mill created dominant Alpha male figures who were carved out of the same sort of granite that was scattered upon the surrounding Moor tops.
Yorkshire folk like other Northerners are often ridiculed and seen as prime targets as comical scapegoats.

I often wonder whether this is influenced as much by envy as it is by ignorance.
Yorkshire has a distinct Identity.
It is an incredibly diverse County both culturally and geographically and embraces numerous multi ethnic communities.

Its countryside and people have been and inspiration to many of its sons and daughters such as The Bronte Sisters.

"He said the pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly." Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

David Hockney.

Patrick Stewart and Bill Gates.

Yes even Mr Microsoft has been genealogically linked to Yorkshire.

It also boasts a massive participation in cycle events. Throughout the whole year Yorkshires highways, moors and forests trails are lit up with brightly coloured two wheeled athletes, enthusiasts, and pleasure seekers. In typical Yorkshire fashion if they stopped there riding during the winter months they would think they had been short changed.

Us Yorkshire Folk are a hardy bunch you know.

Having not ridden since the MS 150 Houston to Austin Event, ten days ago, the thought of riding again did not enthrall me. After tasting the delights of using a proper road bike and obtaining averages of well over 20 mph, I knew that getting reacquainted with Scott would be a bitter sweet experience. Sweet at seeing him, bitter at knowing now that he had severe limitations. Sure he would carry me anywhere, but only in his own time.
But cycle I did and I was joined by my Yorkshire Lass Joanne on a chilly spring day. We only did 26 miles today. My legs were tired and Scott was playing up, protesting with a 'go slow'. He obviously saw that I had another distraction and perhaps sensed that his days were numbered..
It did however give me the opportunity to take some photographs of my ride.
Having ridden in 90f last week It felt freezing. I was still brave enough to wear shorts, but had to conceded to arm warmers. Full training resumes now and blog will return to more of a cycle theme.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

'Customs and Excise'

Growing up as a twin has been an unusual and unique experience, especially when you happen to be the identical type. It is like carrying a mirror around with you permanently.
Inexplicably twins also tend to adopt a lot of the same very specific tastes and characteristics.
Growing up together we were always more competitive than other siblings. What he had, I wanted and Visa Versa, and we would do everything together. At that time it would be have been obvious to expect us to be very similar and it would be true to say that we were.
However at 18 yrs we both left home travelling the world on the high seas. In the following 31 years we rarely saw each other again.
He initially lived in the Caribbean before moving to the USA (Chicago, San Fransisco and now Houston) where he eventually became an American citizen.
During all this time I remained in England.
During those 31 years our friends, careers, respective external influences and environment's have been totally different. Yet we still seem identical on the inside as well as the outside.
The one exception is his very suspect musical taste. I was never a great fan of the Pretenders or Dire Straits.
Being in his company now for a more sustained period is like having continuous self reflective therapy. When I experience him doing something kind or honorable, I too feel the positive side of that experience. I step back and wonder if I portray myself in such a way.
In the same respect when I see him behaving badly or showing more undesirable character traits, I think. Oh F*** am I too like that.

Prior to leaving home completely when we used to go away to sea, we each used to covert one an others possessions, usually clothes. Its a similar experience that sisters usually have or Mothers and daughters.
There would be some serious negotiations that would take place prior to leaving as to what the other could 'borrow' which was a kinder word than 'steal'
Sometimes negotiations would breakdown where no items could be secured.
This ritual that would always take place and became to be known as 'Customs and Excise'.
When you go into a new country there are two lines you can go down.
The green line - Nothing to declare. This is where you walk through freely in the knowledge that you could get stopped at anytime and have your bag searched.
If you have contraband with you ,your F****D.
I can never understand why I don't get stopped every time.
Although I never have anything to hide, I must look as anxious as a cat that has just fallen into a dog pound.
Walking quicker than normal, and perspiring like a sauna attendant - I would have picked me every time.
The red line - Where you have brought something with you that you have to pay duty on.
This is where you face the customs officers face to face and have to talk to them. If you have an extra bottle of wine and want to pay duty on it, then there is no problem if he decides to have a cursory look in your bag.

If however you are bringing in 13 bottles of wine and are pretending that you only have one over your limited allowance - your mouth does not always work properly.
When you get caught you may just loose it all.
After trying every scenario with my brother I soon realised that going down the red line and declaring everything was the best way.
As I leave Houston approaching 50 yrs the old Customs and Excise routine has again been re-enacted . Sensibly I choose the red channel and declared a number of fancy cycling jerseys and other cycling equipment.
He didn't even search my bag.

No further riding since we got back from Austin although we do plan to cycle the next two mornings before I leave on Sunday afternoon.

Paddy and I have been busy devising a Website for Charity bike rides called although its very much a case of work in progress I hope it works.
Our aims are to:
Raise awareness in environmental issues
Participate in charity fund raising events.
Promote a more healthy lifestyle
My next blogpost will be back in England. Which will probably be written accompanied by a mug of hot steaming tea and the heater on.
I cant really see myself in shorts.

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 !!!!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

MS 150 Houston to Austin - Part 2 'The Main Event'

After showing our belligerence as the 'Renegade riders' on Saturday a degree of decorum was now required for Sundays main event. Our rider numbers were revealed and carefully attached to bikes, helmets and onto the rear of our fancy team jerseys. Grooming rituals took place where razors headed north to greet stubble chins, an unusual diversion from the more customary lower limbs.
As we gathered together with our BHP Billiton team mates in La Grange there was one visual difference between us and them.
It had nothing to do with tired eyes or sun burnt necks, but we each wore a black 'Pirates of the Caribbean' wristbands to signify our brotherhood.
It was out of mutual respect for each other from escaping the jaws of the 'Prairie beast' on the previous day.
Poor Dave, despite his courageous act of gallantry, he didn't even have any scars to illustrate his heroic actions. Unsurprisingly these were getting more and more exaggerated at each rendition. We even thought of carving some claws marks into his seat to provide actual evidence as to the size of the creature.

With the sun shinning in a cloudless sky it was a beautiful scene as 13,000+ riders gathered by the Courthouse in central La Grange. A whole array of different brightly coloured shirts greeted the morning, and there was a warm energy that radiated from all the participants. It was quite awe inspiring.
The American National anthem was played just prior to the start with complete silence honoured. It was something I both respected and warmed to.
When I say I respected it, I don't mean that glibly. I listened to the words and related to them. They felt right, and they were especially poignant just prior to this event.
Although I am proud to be British I think our own national anthem is irrelevant to me personally. Its all about our sovereign and not about 'The people'.
Am I sounding like a socialist?

Shortly after the start the route splits and provides two courses before converging again at the lunch time stop of Bastrop. The easiest and fastest route was along the shoulder of Texas 71, a four-lane divided highway. The other was simply called 'The Challenge' route, a series of rode less-traveled, farm-to-market roads that wound through two state parks of Beuscher and Bastrop. On my two previous MS 150 rides I had elected to take the easier route.
You see I never really liked the word 'Challenge' unless its placed in context.
To me challenge is a bit too ambiguous, it comes in the same category as other words like 'Nearly' or 'Not far'. Its all about perspective.
At the end of March I took part in a Cycling Sportive called the 'Cheshire Cat'.
It was 102 miles and described as 'challenging'.
Although I did manage to complete it in a fairly respectable time, I nearly cried on some of the mountains (that were described as hills). I found it a massive challenge and so did Scott (my bike) We didn't speak to each other for at least a week afterwards.

Anyway continuing our more rebellious theme we opted for the 'Challenge Route'.
Dave and Kelly (Who joined us on day two) had previously completed the route and therefore knew the terrain. I just followed them with a degree of scepticism.
I never really quite worked out which aspect was the official 'challenge'.
For Houstonians I expect the numerous steep climbs and rapid descents were very challenging after flat riding.
For me there were two.

The main one was avoiding novice climbers who suddenly ran out of gears or puff and stopped or fell over abruptly in front of me.
Very inconsiderate of them!!!!!
But equally as demanding were the technical challenges, which worked my mind far more than my body.
Constant visual readjustment was needed when moving from bright sunlight to heavily shadowed woodland. With my aging eyes it was like being temporarily blinded. I hope I didn't bump into people during those darkened moments. I now have visions of me causing my own trail of destruction whilst riding under natures canopy, through the shadowed twilight.
The forest trails also varied in their surface, some parts were dry, others damp or even contained puddles. Some parts were clear others were strewn with pine needles, bumps and pot holes.
I loved it, both the technical aspects of the challenge and its beauty.
With it came the sound of a bagpiper playing. His music reverberating through the woods reminded me of home.
We stopped at one of the drink stations which was contained within a clearing surrounded by tall pine trees.There was music playing, people dancing and singing.
It was more reminiscent of a sixties rock concert than a charity cycle event.

The previous days dampness seemed another season away as the sun now burned at my skin. Feeling slightly dehydrated I drank and drank at every opportunity. I also tried some pickle juice, apparently its good for cramp. Whether it prevented me from cramping or not I will never know, but it was disgusting.
After some lunch at Bastrop we set off for the final leg to Austin.
Out of the shelter of the Park we were struck by 20 mph + headwinds, but nevertheless we soon got a good pace line going. At one time I looked around and we were pulling about 100 bikes - It felt really great.
It did not matter that nobody else wanted to take a turn at the front with the wind conditions I didn't blame them.
Just as we had got a really good rhythm going Dave had a puncture so we all stopped.
Sensing our hospitable nature we were joined by a BP rider who requested our assistance with her own puncture.
Kenny and Dave were alarmingly quick off the mark to assist although her particular puncture seemed far more serious and seemed to take on a life of its own.
It took two inner tubes, three CO2 canisters and much cursing to solve.
Whilst all this was going on I soaked up the sun and took some photographs of riders as they filed past.
I even managed to get a snap of a real cowgirl who had ridden up to see what all the commotion was about.
I offered her my bike in exchange for her horse but I don't think she understood my accent or my unique English humour.
She smiled sweetly and gently pressed the heels of her ostrich boots into the sides of her white stallion before riding off through the long swaying grass. With her right hand she skillfully held her double reins and in her left she lightly secured her cowboy hat. All that was missing was some 'voice over' firmly stating that this was 'Marlborough Country'
For a minute I thought my dehydration had got the better of me and that it was all an elaborate mirage.
As we approached the outskirts of Austin the road became familiar as did the long undulating terrain into the city.
The finish was incredible and something you would only expect to see in something like the Tour de France. The streets were cordoned off with supporters four or five deep outlining the streets. People were so generous reaching out to touch your hand and shouting out with all the support they could muster for every single rider. I struggled to hold back my tears of pure joy.
And suddenly it all made sense.
Links to Media Articles:
Although this ride has now finished, this is just one story on 'The travels with my Mule'
There are many more to come.
One of the things us renegades talked about was to try and set up our own charity cycling team called 'Travels with my mule'.
We had some great ideas for shirt design.
Any feedback or ideas would be welcome.

MS 150 Houston to Austin - Part 1 'Renegade Riders'

On Friday night the 'Renegade riders' were full of bravado and testosterone, ready to take on the world and more besides. However by 4 am on Saturday morning the storm clouds were not the only things to roll into 'Camp defiance'.
With the Radar pictures taking on the appearance of a Jackson_Pollock painting, double helpings of apprehension appeared with our morning 'Starbucks'
Morning itself had also decided to stay indoors, leaving us in the shadows of dark foreboding clouds which rumbled and growled like a discontented old man.
At 7am we set off from a parking lot next to Tully Stadium the traditional starting point for the MS 150.
With a strong tail wind behind us and fear being pumped through our veins,we set off at lung busting speed maintaining 25 mph on empty roads. Knowing that 13,000 + people had entered the event we all believed that there would be a few thousand rebellious miscreants like us who would wish to complete the whole event. There were very few. Those that we did see on the road appeared to be seasoned riders. As we broke through the fifty mile mark the sky darkened further and the wind dropped, always an ominous sign.
The crackle of thunder and pyrotechnic lightening display followed, accompanied by the sort of deluge that Noah would have needed to float his arc. Although we were slightly mad we were not altogether insane so we sought shelter in the town of Bellville. Visually it looked like 10pm but it was approaching 10am.
Other riders then appeared and we all crowded around 'Blackberry's. Streamed Radar images were sought and we watched the red splodges move across tiny screens, covering up the name of Bellville. Roads became rivers, sports pitches lakes, and cyclists as wet as otters pockets.
We found a local eatery and decided to have an early lunch under a veranda. Half expecting to float away at any moment we looked around for some prospective makeshift paddles. After sampling the local delights the weather had not got any better, although the lightening had stopped.
With that danger eliviated we decided to press on in the knowledge that fine weather was appearing at our destination.
Progress was slowed considerably.
The rain and standing water were bad enough, but being caught by 'The Rooster tails' streaming off the leading bikes was like being hit by a fire hose.
The water was not the clear carbonated 'spring' type that you might have to accompany a good meal. No, this was the brown muddy type.
'Road kill soup' diluted with water from overflown drains.
The bouquet was as equally unpleasant.
As the afternoon wore on the rain stopped, temperature rose, and the Sun decided to put in an appearance.
We also started to talk to each other with the fear of getting a mouth full of effluent subsiding. With four miles to I found myself pulling as the lead bike. As I rounded a corner there was a farm to my right and sat smack bang in the middle of the road was a dog.
Now at this stage I really need to set the scene properly.
Having been bitten attacked and bitten by a big dog when I was young, I have an inbuilt sense of fear towards certain dogs.
I kind of know the difference between the nice ones and the bad ones.
They don't have to wear black or white cowboys hats.
There are ones who will roll over and let you tickle their tummy and others who salivate at the thought of sinking their rabid teeth into your reproductive equipment.
This was a bad one. He had the apperance of a cross between a hyena and a wolf with teeth the size of knitting needles.
Dave Hill was behind me. Now Dave is a fit, young, tough, strong Texan, who probably rides bulls in the rodeo and allows such dogs to use his arm as a doggy chew.
So being a considerate sort of guy and all heart, I let him go in front of me.

The gladiatorial scene was set with an audience already in place as this beast had already stopped the traffic flow from the opposite direction.
As Dave approached him the 'hound of the Baskervilles' was already snapping at his feet.
Sensing an opportunity I accelerated on his outside fast approaching my top speed ever on a bike much to the amusement of the non paying observers.
With a similar sence of preservation, my fellow cowards had followed my course of action, and we all watch on with interest from a safe distance.
After initially failing to pull Dave from his bike, we all heard a loud guttural roar as a new beast appeared. The one that was polishing Dave's shoes with its slobbering mouth was seemingly just the puppy as its mother three times the size appeared from nowhere.
Me shouting 'Remember the Alamo' didn't really help Dave, but his increased cadence did as he scorched away from becoming dog food.
I thought that Dave might have been upset with my nervous laughter that I could not contain, but he was proud to show his undoubted bravery and take one for the team.
Dave you are my Hero.
La grange soon appeared in no time with 101 miles completed.
We were then picked up by Joella, my brothers wife and travelled to her mothers house for the evening.
Rest would be needed to join the 13,000 + for the final leg.
Part two to follow, where our intrepid riders enjoy the sunshine of the Texas Hill country.

Friday, April 17, 2009

MS 150 Houston to Austin Cancelled

Due to some horrendous weather in Texas with tornado warnings all around, the MS 150 organisers have cancelled the first day from Houston to Austin. They will review the final day later. Apparently La Grange has had 11 inches of rain today and some of the support tents have blown over.

This means that many people will probably not ride at all, and the remainder will just be able to complete the 60 miles on Sunday, from La Grange to Austin. Literally a wash out.
This will be a massive disappointment for so many people, especially for organisers and thousands of volunteers who do invaluable work behind the scenes.
It must also be disappointing for the local townsfolk who come out in their thousands. Many spend all day clapping, hollering and ringing cowbells in support of the miles of Lycra that snake through their streets.

They will all be missed especially by some renegades. Who may just wish to go on a collective Saturday cycle ride, from Houston to La Grange (without their sponsor shirts) then complete their quest the next day. Some may write blogs about mules.
Unless they were experienced and committed riders, with their own support systems in place they would be very fool hardy.
So I guess I will see you on the road

'MS 150 Houston to Austin'

(Paddy, Me)
With the loss of all my blog posts, it now gives me the opportunity to begin a new leg of my journey with my Mule (my bike) and to start afresh with only hours left to the start of this years MS 150

The beginning
Living in England and a keen cyclist I was first invited to take part in 'The BP MS150 Houston to Austin Charity ride ' back in 2006. My twin brother Paddy lives in Houston and is always looking for reasons for me to visit.
For those living outside Texas or in fact living anywhere on the rest of the world you may not be criticized too harshly for not knowing what the MS 150 was, but for those within the lone star state it features on the calender alongside, thanksgiving, Christmas and the mother in laws visiting times.
For the uninitiated let me explain.
It is a two day charity cycle ride in Texas run by the Multiple Sclerosis Lone Star Chapter and supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The two-day cycling adventure takes riders from Houston to Austin and provides a unique tour of Texas hill country.
Riders peddle between 140 and 160 miles (depending on starting point) on routes that snake through many small Texas towns. The event features an overnight stay at the Fayette County Fairgrounds in La Grange. However, it's not just Texans that participate. Riders come from across the world to endure the hills, headwinds, sun, heat and even rain. Young and old, all ride to support friends, loved ones and those inflicted with MS. All in all it attracts 13,000 +

Knowing that it was always staged in April, I reluctantly accepted.
You see this is not a good time for an English recreational road cyclist.
Winter training is never good at the best of times. The pros do it in Italy, Teneriffe or Columbia. But for me it would be Yorkshire.
Americans often ask 'Where is that?' Well its up in the North of England. It has the same sort of standing in England, as Texas does in The USA. However it is cold !!!!!
Winter training in ice, snow and winter gales did not quite have the same appeal as the Dolomite's, or Bogota.
However us Yorkshire folk are a hardy bunch with a mixture of Celt, Anglo Saxon and Nordic blood running through our veins.

The idea of riding past illuminated Christmas trees and sheds which contained road bikes wrapped up snugly for winter had some sort of masochist appeal. So what if you got frost bite and had to wear 13 layers of clothing.

In my pre MS 150 days my training calender was something like this

January - Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
February - Occasionally peep outside to make sure shed is still there and not blown away by winter Gales. Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
March - Occasional visit to my shed to make sure that my cycle has not been stolen. Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
April - Get my bike out of the shed and tell everybody that I'm going cycling at the weekend. Only to cowardly return the bike back after watching the weather forecast. Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
May - Cycle to lovely country pub up a ten mile climb drink lots of ale and free wheel home. Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
June - Break out the Lycra, regular cycling and moderate weight loss, ale replaced by Bananas and protein drinks.No time to Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
July - Cycling two hundred plus miles a week including the odd 'sportive' dreaming of buying a better bike. Lost my own winter blanket around my waist. No time to Read Cycle Magazines in Bathroom.
August - Fully bike fit now and tackling the 'Devils Chimney' (This testing climb will feature in future blogs), Doing centurion rides (100 mile races) looking like some two wheeled God.
What cycle magazines he scoffs!!!!!!!!
September - Cycle rides get shorter with the odd visit to the country pub for lunch of Ale and steak pie.bananas relegated to fruit bowl.
October - Bike gets lovingly placed in shed and covered by a tartan blanket.
November - Subscribe to cycling Magazines.
December - Reading Cycling magazines and choosing variety of different sized cycle tops for Christmas.
Now I only really take a break from October to December.
Four years on and considerably lighter and fitter, I am now hooked by cycling, and very much bitten by the MS150 bug.
This will be my third ride and certainly the best prepared.
This year I managed to drag myself out of bed on cold winter mornings and total over 1,700 miles since the turn of the year. There were some very bleak days.
Since arriving in Texas a week ago I have completed a further 270 warm miles including the 'Katy Ram' and various training rides exploring Houston. I have also met some great like minded cyclists who have affirmed my belief that cycling is an incredible sport, past time, and leisure activity which seems to bring out the best in people.
The MS 150 is one of many charity rides I try to complete throughout the year.
I am also dipping my pedals into the world of time trialing and sportives, which I love, but really I need a thoroughbred rather than Scott my Mule, to compete.
I am back in Texas in August to take part in the Hotter than Hell, in Witchita Falls.
My blog will feature the highs and lows of my travels with my mule and will include topical commentaries on anything that takes my fancy. Hopefully it will be light and humorous and have some tenuous link with cycling.

As all of my previous post were lost I now attach a series of recent photographs.

See you all in Austin
Frank from Vail, Colorado. A great Guy who joined us in Terry Hersey Park for two days. Sandwiched between twins Ouch !!!!!!!

Our BHP Billiton Team Shirts worn for the Katy Ram

Paddy taking a rest

Two days after an Easter deluge
Beaver Creek

Below is a link to a german weather where they first heard about our weather for the MS 150