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Texas Pass Hunting - yes, really!

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Texas Pass Hunting - yes, really!

Old 06-21-20, 01:08 PM
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Texas Pass Hunting - yes, really!

‘Do you like mountain peaks or passes best?’

‘Passes. They lead somewhere.’ - Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright


Cycling in the Covid-19 era: no rallies, no pay rides, no races, no tours...no motivation. What to do?

Well, some 50 years ago a couple of French cyclists first formed the ‘Club of 100 Passes’, a brotherhood of riders who have climbed a minimum of 100 passes, five of which were higher than 6562 feet (2000 meters). The organization continues to this day, and their cycle sport is called ‘pass hunting’.

https://www.centcols.org/

Participants hail from all over the cycling world, but most are in Europe and Japan. There are a few folks in the USA that hunt passes, and the boutique cycle company Velo Orange even offers a bicycle model named the Pass Hunter.

https://velo-orange.blogspot.com/200...unting_20.html

Well, that’s nice and all, but here in America pass hunting would be a Colorado thing, right? Texas is surely just too darn flat for a Texan to ever dream of joining CentCols. Well, don’t be too quick to dismiss the Lone Star State. Remember, France is one of the Six Flags of Texas! CentCols’ ‘rules of the game’ as to what qualifies as a ‘pass’ are simultaneously more restrictive and more permissive than you might imagine. I applied their definitions and requirements to the USGS database for Texas and found 76 qualifying passes in the state. Yeah, 76.

Okay, to join CentCols you’d have to pick up another two dozen passes (including the required 5 high passes) by journeying to the distant and exotic lands of Oklahoma and New Mexico, but you’d gain bragging rights for having ridden every qualifying pass in Texas!

These 76 Texas passes, or ‘gaps’ in USGS parlance, are all on public roads*. Some are paved and some are gravel, so your climbing bike and your gravel bike can both get out for some adventure.

All the Texas passes are toward the south and west in the state. The furthest east is Sugarloaf Gap in Bell County actually Cedar Gap in Harker Heights (which I think is also the only Texas pass with a segregated bike lane running through it), the furthest north is The Narrows in Knox County. Furthest west by a long way is Smugglers Pass on Transmountain Drive north of El Paso, and furthest south is the macabre named Dead Mans Curve pass, in the tunnel in Big Bend National Park. Graham Gap is on a public road through Fort Hood military base signed “Danger - Overhead Artillery Fire’, which will be a fun story to share with those French 'Col-lectors'.

I’ll be looking for CentCol’s membership patches at HTH in a few years!

Tom Shaddox

*Several of these passes and gaps are on the grounds of Fort Hood military base. These roads might be closed to the public at various times.

Fun fact: El Paso isn’t a ‘pass’. The name comes from a time over 400 years ago meaning ‘the place you cross the river’.

Yes, of course, you can copy this for your club newsletter. Now saddle up and get out there!
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Last edited by tcs; 07-04-20 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 06-30-20, 10:05 AM
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That's pretty cool. I've ridden very near a few of these, and I've hit at least one.
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Old 06-30-20, 11:05 AM
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I've ridden a few over the years, mostly without realizing it. There are a couple one could ride through while wondering where the actual pass is. Not so Smuggler's Pass north of El Paso:

https://pjammcycling.com/climb/1248.Smugglers-Pass-West

There's some good ol' Texas history in the passes. Mountain Pass just west of Abilene saw twice-weekly Butterfield stagecoaches. The 49ers rushed through Reichenau Gap on their way to the California goldfields. The US Cavalry's quirky experiment in the 1850s saw trains of camels led through Bandera Pass. Infamous Texan Jim Bowie fought a desperate battle with Native Americans in Silver Mine Pass. Buffalo Gap was a major bison migratory route, and buffalo hunters set up a big camp there to slaughter the animals (scientific name: Bison bison) as they funneled through. For several years Big Foot Wallace drove the mail wagon through Wild Rose Pass on a run that stretched from San Antonio to El Paso. A prohibition-era federal agent raid on a distilling operation in Spanish Pass was said to have closed down half the speakeasies in San Antonio.
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Old 06-30-20, 11:54 AM
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If you've ever wondered why they call it the "Hill Country"...





​​​​​​https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?m...0B&usp=sharing
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Old 07-31-20, 01:17 AM
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Not a "pass" but it would be fun to make the ride from Davis Mountain State Park to Balmorhea State Park. It's 34 mile stretch of road with an ~1800' difference in elevation. It's up to you whether you go up or down, lol.
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Old 08-01-20, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Dick Chainey View Post
Not a "pass" but it would be fun to make the ride from Davis Mountain State Park to Balmorhea State Park.
And you'll 'pass' over Wild Rose Pass, my friend! (And it is a fun ride.)

A fun and unique century is Balmorhea to the observatory and back: 50 miles uphill, 50 miles downhill.
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Old 08-04-20, 10:20 AM
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Been through that tunnel in Big Bend NP several times on my bike. Texas is all flat? I live in the hill country Now the Lubbock area is flat people need to realize Texas covers all terrains and have different cultural regions. NO, everybody doesn’t twang! But there are some parts of Texas I don’t know what they are trying to say.
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Old 08-05-20, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Hondo Gravel View Post
Been through that tunnel in Big Bend NP several times on my bike.
Fun fact: It's one of just three road tunnels in Texas - and none are on state highways!
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Old 08-15-20, 12:21 AM
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I live near Houston and not a single one of those is east of I-35. Though, I have ridden a few of them.

A few of the "passes" on the list have been disallowed, which means they just might disallow more of the slight climbs if they're submitted.

https://www.centcols.org/en/cols-non-reconnus/

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Old 08-15-20, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Brad L View Post
A few of the "passes" on the list have been disallowed...
Hmph. I wonder what the criteria are for disallowing? None of these are 'invented', they're all official USGS gaps, identified on topographic maps.
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Old 08-15-20, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Hmph. I wonder what the criteria are for disallowing? None of these are 'invented', they're all official USGS gaps, identified on topographic maps.
The reasoning for disallowing The Narrows was, "Seems to be just a narrow crest but not a gap or a pass".

The likelihood of me riding just half of these is pretty remote, so I'm not too worried about their superiority complex.
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Old 08-24-20, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Brad L View Post
The reasoning for disallowing The Narrows was, "Seems to be just a narrow crest but not a gap or a pass".
Fair enough! It's definitely a gap, but the pass is in the form of a Native American game trail running north-and-south from the Brazos River watershed to the South Witchitaw River watershed. Where you ride is actually east-and-west, from one marginally higher point down through the gap and up to another barely higher point. I can see how the Brotherhood of 100 Passes might roll their eyes at that one.


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Old 08-24-20, 11:09 AM
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Very cool! I've got to put together my Pipeline rack and get the GF on the road. She's loving cycling. Planning on the North Texas Trail as well. It's closer than Hill Country to me.
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