Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lyondell Bike Around the Bay

My stoker, Aimee, and I did this ride on Saturday and Sunday along with my other Teambent friends, Ken, David, Debbie and Pat. I'll start by saying that the ride was alot of fun and I look forward to doing it agian next year. This was to be a 160 mile ride, but the route was shortened a week or so ago because of construction on I-10. This left a total route of about 150 miles divided almost evenly between Saturday and Sunday. Shortly before the ride, detailed maps were provided online showing the route in small segments. These would have been helpful in navigation, particularly during Day Two but, alas, they were not provided in the ride packets. Had I known these maps would only be available online, I could have printed them out and brought them on the bike. As it was, this is the only map furnished in the packet.

Ken, David, Aimee and I all went to the ride together in my Tahoe. The Draftmaster worked perfectly and we were able to haul all three bikes no problem.

The ride was not as heavily patronized as I thought it would be. I think about 450 riders showed up and I was told by someone later that 1000 were expected. The ride started at 8am in Anahuac. Our friends Debbie and Pat showed up late for the ride, but were not allowed to start. Instead, they were sagged up to Rest Stop No. 1. I assume this was for safety.

The ride south was beautiful. The route is over flat terrain with the exception of four large bridges along the way: the High Island Bridge, the Galveston Causeway, the Kemah Bridge and the Fred Hartman Bridge. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Winds were from the southeast at about 10-12mph. That meant a headwind, but we were cheered by the fact that these sames breezes would be a tailwind on the second day of the ride when we headed back up the north. I didn't realize how lucky we were with the weather until Monday, the day after the ride, a huge cold front blew through bringing rain and thunderstorms.

Our only real challenge on Day One was the High Island Bridge linking High Island to the mainland. Since it spans the Intracoastal Waterway, it's tall and fairly short. Aimee and I did not like the climbing performance of the Seavo in Oklahoma so last week we replaced the 30 tooth chain ring on the front crank with 26 tooth ring. It worked as intended and we had no problem reaching the top with gears to spare.

At the western end of High Island we boarded the Bolivar Ferry for the 10 minute trip to Galveston Island and the end of Day One.

Seen on the restroom doors at the High Island Ferry landing.

Ken, Aimee, yours truly and David. We finished Day One at about 3pm. Day Two afforded the same great wether as Day One, only now we had a tail wind. Riders were warned Saturday afternoon that the Day Two ride would start promptly at 8am and that there would be police excort over the Galveston Causeway. This worked out well. The route north covered territory that was new to me, at least on my bike. We rode along the Texas City Dike, through Kemah and the shipping and rail center at Barber's Cut.

Sag support was exceptional on this ride. I had to stop on Day One to take a work phone call. Three sag vehicles stopped to ask if we were okay. It was the same on Day two. Any time Aimee and I stopped to take an unscheduled break, a passing sag wagon would slow down to be sure were okay. There were also many motor cycle riders patrolling the route on both days.

Rest stops were well staffed and fully stocked. The lunch provided on both days was excellent, in my humble opinion. Saturday was Chick Filet and Sunday was Jason's Deli.

By early afternoon on Day Two we were approaching the Fred Hartman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel. I've ridden this bridge a couple of times in past years, but always east to west. This ride would take us west to east. In order to minimize our exposure to freeway trarffic, the organizers erected a ramp at the base of the bridge. This allowed us to get on the bridge without riding on the busy freeway approach. It also let us begin and end our bridge transit in a cordoned bike lane all the way over. This was a great idea.

In sum, this is one of the best organized rides I've been on in quite a while. This is the first year for this ride and I hope it will be repeated next year.