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Old 02-19-22, 05:25 PM
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The weather had been a bit limiting in the preceding weeks -- there was one ride in particular with a 27mph wind -- so when I saw a forecast for temperatures in the 60's with light and variable winds, I knew it would be among the best of the month's days for a long bicycle ride. This would be my second century starting out from the new neighborhood, so I planned a conservative 85 mile loop to allow for missed turns and route variances. In my head, I compensated for this by angling straight into the Hill Country; at worst, I would wrap up with an extra loop in the Prairies.

It is still February here around 30N and the lows were only a couple degrees above freezing. I layered up well to start. As the morning went on, the conditions were approaching perfect: the warm sun and steep climbs nearly caused a sweat, but this was consistently offset by a lingering chill in the low-lying valleys (and often enhanced by the effortless speed of the descent).

Some areas of the Hill Country are rather easy to capture by photo -- things like excessive road cuts and highway bridges often highlight the challenging topography. The roads most often bicycled, however, have fewer such features for illustration. Rather, the best riding roads twist and meander up and down the hills and bluffs, often at over 10% grade; the effect is that photos of these roads generally fail to highlight more than a few tenths of a mile ahead, and the background, if there is any at all, looks deceiving flat. (Also, it's often mentally difficult to force oneself to stop at the top of a big hill!) The following picture was taken along the appropriately named Valley View Road: it begins as a modest 2% descent with a few broad curves before opening to this expansive view, which marks an 8% plunge to the Blanco River.

It wasn't until noon that I began to lighten up my layers; first it was gloves, and a bit later, the wind breaker. It wasn't until lunch, in Canyon Lake, that I finally removed my leg warmers and ear covering, but still leaving my arm warmers. It was warming up, sure, but still below 60F. It was cold enough for a coffee and a handheld fried pie with chocolate filling. I also added a few cookies and gummy bears, but mostly for the saddle bag. I couldn't decide whether to say I was already over halfway to my goal, or to say I still had 45 miles to ride. On the plus side at least, the next section up was River Road -- it's the kind of section where you really don't notice your odometer, rather just the scenery.

Passed River Road is the small village of Gruene, which was bustling with the nice weather. I topped off on water and began thinking about my options for 30 more miles; autopilot took over anyway, and I found myself closer and closer towards home. The miles inched by, at least, until I crossed back over I-35 and got away from traffic, back onto the most local of my loops. I would need to double back a bit, and I couldn't imagine a better road to do so than York Creek -- it's part of our local group's weekly ride, and for good reason: it's nearly fully shaded, with few farm accesses, made better by its easy grades and entertaining curves. The odometer nearly vanished again -- even at mile 95 -- as I plodded along to finish the century.

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