Monday, April 13, 2009

Tour de Houston March 2009

I missed this ride last year because of my broken femur so I was anxious to do it this year. My lovely stoker was still recuperating from here hip replacement and couldn't ride so I took my new Barcroft Oregon. I picked up friends Jim, Danny and David and we loaded all four bike on my Tahoe and headed downtown.

Three bikes went on the Draftmaster and my new Oregon fit neatly in the back of the truck. I work downtown so our first stop was to see if I could edge the Tahoe into my parking garage three blocks from the ride start. Unfortunately we were too tall by an inch or two. We opted for a pay lot right next to Discovery Green.

Packet pick up the day before the ride had been disappointing. I seldom sign up for organized rides in advance but I did so for this one because I wanted the T-shirt. Danny and I stopped at a Guaranty Bank branch (Guaranty sponsors this ride) on Saturday to get our packets. There were no T-shirts at this location. Oh well.
There were at least ten Porta-Potties on Discovery Green. Nevertheless, David and I stood in line for a good 15 minutes to get into one. Right after I reached the head of the very long line someone pointed out that there were public bathrooms just a few feet away with no lines. The story of my life.

Someone told me at the start line that 5000 had signed up to ride. Looking at the crowd I could believe it. The start was well planned. Start times were staggered by route distance. Riders were further staggered by starting in limited groups to reduce congestion. I had no trouble pedaling on my SWB single recumbent right from the start. There were so many riders, however, that I never really broke clear of the pack for the whole 40 miles ride.

I enjoyed the ride route since it took us through the heart of Houston. Leg One was up through the Heights with the first rest stop at Reagan High School. I realized after the first few miles that I was on the wrong bike for this ride. The Oregon rides on 451 wheels inflated to 100 lbs. The frame on the Oregon is, of necessity, pretty stiff. This bike on these wheels is fast, but the combination is not conducive to a smooth ride on city streets like these. This ride was a tooth rattler! If I do the ride again it will be on more forgiving tires.

This brings me to accidents. I personally saw two wrecks happen and passed several others that had already happened. I watched one young lady go down about 100 feet ahead of me for no apparent reason. She was riding in the open and fell as we passed over Memorial Drive. I could see no reason for the crash except that one of her wheels must have dropped into a crack. It seemed to me that more people were crashing on this ride than other rides I've been in. I'd be interested in the numbers. My theory is that it was due to the city streets and the fact that there were so many bikes that riders never really broke free of other bikes. There were bikes all around me for the whole ride. With the bike traffic and city streets, constant vigilance was required.

At Reagan High we bumped into Paul and Cyndy with their homebuilt Bilenky type tandem.

Leg Two took us down through Montrose, over the Southwest Freeway on the Mandel Street bridge and through Mid Town and Montrose down to North Braeswood and then up Weslayen to Rest Stop Two.

This leg of the trip took us along the north side of Rice University and then down Main Street to Braeswood. There were police blocking traffic at all busy interections and the route was well marked. Indeed, there were so many bikes on the road it would have been virtually impossible to get lost on this ride.

Rest Stop Two had a forest of Porta Potties. There was no wait!
The remainder of the ride was consisted of retracing our steps back over the 20 miles we had just traveled.

There were festivities at Discovery Green at the end of the ride. A free lunch from Antoines was included in the price of the ride along with free beer. Not bad. All this was followed by live music.

I will do this ride again next year, but on a different bike.