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Old 04-03-21, 07:11 PM
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Technically, this story begins in March. Thanks to riding with a buddy, a quick return trip to Dripping Springs blossomed into a full-blown century ride (a bonus March century for me). Throughout the ride, we quipped about getting "lost" in the Hill Country. Of course, there's not many alternate routes in those hills, and we never really did get lost. That was one week ago today.

Fast-forward to today: same buddy, same plan, different route. This time, we'd try and get lost in the gravel roads that intersperse the fields of the Blackland Prairie, east of the Balcones escarpment. We'd succeed too.

A check of the weather on Friday night suggested cool temperatures and a slight mist, but otherwise a great day -- not having to worry about excessive sun and carrying gallons of water is always a relief in Texas. So, we set to convene Saturday morning around eight.

Just as expected, the morning was cool, but pleasantly overcast and dry. We set off along the route, and covered a solid 30 miles; at one point, a mild -- but expected -- mist set on; in the distance, lightning marked a brewing thundershower. Nonetheless, our route was dry enough, we were headed away from the dark skies, and the wind was clearing the skies ahead. We should have stopped for more pictures but we were making good time, and before we knew it, we hit the lunch stop.

Lunch wasn't much but the typical convenience store fare, but it satisfied all the same. Warm pizza was slightly better than my usual choices and felt good on the cool day. As we ate, a downdraft and a strong drizzle set in -- I got a chill, but was determined all the same. Besides, a little rain might keep the dust down.

We set off and, at first, the rain seemed to let up. The pavement just out of town was damp, but the tires weren't kicking up much spray. That, of course, didn't last. Within ten miles of lunch, the rain was starting to soak through clothes and shoes -- at least the temperature held strong above 50F. Once we turned back onto the gravel though, conditions started to deteriorate. The rain became steady, but worse, the ground became soft and the sandy-gravel started to spray -- feet, derailleurs, and back. "I have muck on my shoulders!"

We dutifully followed the cues on our planned route: a turn down Oil Field Road and a search for an 'unnamed' road. Well, we found the road, and a gate. It said nothing about no trespassing, and it might have been passable (there are a lot of public roads behind gates around here), but we felt it better to head back the way we came. The cue sheet was useless now, as were the cell phones... no service deep in the fields.

It was a slog back up the road, where our tires had already dug half-inch deep ruts; now we were sure to be lost. Luckily, our fancy bike computers have a compass to keep us going towards home, at least generally; we picked a myriad of turns -- a left here, a right there -- anything to avoid the main highways (and, even despite the increasingly sloppy conditions, preferring the gravel roads). It was around mile 75 that we finally checked for cell service and a map; even the most direct route was likely well over 25 miles, and we were starting to run short of food and water: according to the original plan, we should have been in Lockhart around mile 70. I snapped a quick picture to text to the folks at home, to let them know I was running late.

A few more guesswork turns, and we finally reached Lockhart around mile 85. The station there was a welcome, nearly necessary relief. We knew where we were once again and could figure exactly how far it was home. Even better, the sun started to peak through clouds, the rain decided to pass over, and the wind stirred at our backs. I celebrated with ice cream.

All in all, we made it home under 110 miles (from a planned route at just 90 miles). The muck left brake pads and chains howling, but otherwise, it was a dashingly successful ride: we got lost, we bested the weather, and we scored a few bonus miles, too. Most of my centuries have ended flat at 101 or 102 miles -- thanks to the bravado of a buddy, I can say this ride was perhaps a bit more memorable. (I'll certainly be remembering all next week, as I slowly tear down, clean, and rebuild my bike!)

Last edited by Bulette; 04-03-21 at 08:55 PM.
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