The SWTR '04 Organizers did a great job. The host facility -- "T Bar M" Ranch -- was outstanding, with very nice accommodations at a very reasonable rate, great rec. center which played host to bike storage and pre-ride presentations each morning, and wonderful meeting facilities for our breakfast and dinner meals. Of course, best of all was having a chance to catch-up and visit with old friends who we'd met at other rallies and to collect a few new friends as well.
Friday: The skies looked a bit threatening for Friday early on, but blue skies with towering white clounds and a healthy breeze prevailed in the afternoon. Our Atlanta contingent rode into New Braunfels for lunch and then back to the "ranch" for the start of the 27mi "warm-up" ride to the Natural Bridges Caverns / Ice Cream stop. The roads weren't too busy and the hills were just long enough to make you work for it to hold a healthy pace but without any suffering. The afternoon social and dinner provided a nice way to meet the other participants and wrap up the day. Of course, best of all was having a chance to catch-up and visit with old friends who we'd met at other rallies and to collect a few new friends as well.
Saturday: As had been predicted, some severe weather arrived well before dawn on Saturday morning. Several squawls passed over the area between 4am - 9am, but after that things began to look up for the day. The rally-goers passed the time with a leisurely breakfast that seguayed into the pre-ride briefing in the rec center. The rec center included a full-size gymnasium, canteen, tables games area, locker rooms, and two indoor tennis courts which really came in handy given the weather. The tennis courts were basically "ride central" and played host to the bike storage/work area, a test ride center for Bike Friday's demo bikes, and a PowerPoint slide show by Cycle Provance. The rest of the rec center gave us all a place to kill time playing ping-pong, shooting pool, or shooting baskets until the rain stopped falling. Some intrepid riders went out early while others either hedged their bets by making the 7mi ride to the lunch stop at nearby Gruene, TX, or drove there with their tandems for a remote start. We opted to ride over (well, that was an easy call since we were without vehicles) on what seemed to be the start of an unseasonably cold (50's), windy (21mph w/30mph gusts), and damp day. Although the bikes certainly collected their fare share of road dirt, thankfully we were never actually caught out in the rain. Fortunately, we and our companions had packed various combinations of arm warmers, wind-vests, leg warmers, booties and/or rain jackets so that at least while riding we were able to stay warm. After our box lunches in the Gruene dance hall we opted to ride the 67mi long route backwards. The route took us North along the Guadalupe River (a great stretch of road) and then up past the Canyon Dam on our way to the Devil's Backbone, down Purgatory Road, then out West along SR 2673 to SR 3159 to Cranes Mill Road and then 46 back to the T-Bar-M Ranch. It was a little under 3,000v feet of climbing over 67 miles with a fairly steady headwind but sunny skies prevailed 2/3ds of the way through the ride. Unfortunately, since we opted to start late and do the long ride option we did not return in time for the tandem games. However, true-to-form, our friends David & Christen took top honors in the "slowest tandem contest" (it's amazing how long they can trackstand a tandem). Again, a very nice afternoon social and dinner event capped the day.
Sunday: Sunday brought blue skies and a bit warmer weather which allowed for something of a mass-start at 9:00am. The main group played nice for about the first 5 miles and then after an exciting twisty descent the tempo began to pickup a bit. Somewhere just short of the 1/2 way point we realized that we'd been enjoying a tailwind as we let the rabbits run off the front and began to work our way back to the ranch. Somehow it's easy to forget that you always have to pay for those great descents and tailwinds. Regardless, the sun in our faces along with the wind helped to off-set the additional effort required to make our way back to the ride start. Our companions and several other teams opted to put in a second 30 mile ride after the first and headed back out along the Guadelupe River. The weekend drew to a close with lunch for most of the group at a nearby BBQ joint that boasted about having "The Worst BBQ in Texas", followed by the tear-down and packing-up of our tandems for the trip home.
All-in-all, a great weekend of riding with some fantastic Texas scenery and great folks. No, the roads aren't as smooth as the ones here in Georgia, but a day riding on rough roads still beats riding in the rain and when we checked it was raining in Georgia all weekend. So, in the end, we certainly made the right choice by checking out the riding in Texas at this year's Southwest Tandem Rally. Again, our thanks to the TxCats for putting on a great event.
Last edited by livngood; 05-03-04 at 03:06 PM.
Reason: SWTR '04 - A Quick Summary