Friday, November 15, 2013

Two Wheels, Human-Powered, Part IV: Tour de Gruene

Three posts in one day?  It's a Chestnut Tree Cafe record, for sure.  Most unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon.  Or ever.

I just got back from visiting my sister and her family in San Antonio, Texas, where I also rode in the Tour de Gruene.  Gruene is a small town near New Braunfels, which in turn is close to San Antonio.  The first thing I learned after arriving is the correct pronunciation of Gruene: you completely ignore the letter U and say "green."  It's that simple.

The Tour consists of recreational tours in several lengths, plus a set of individual and team time trials.  I tried too late to sign up for the individual time trials and was on standby in case someone didn't show up, but was not called.  Next year, I hope, I'll do better.  Meanwhile, my sister and her grandson (I believe that makes him my great-nephew) also wanted to ride.  They are not really experienced riders, so we opted for the shortest recreational tour, which was 35 miles.  (There were also routes of 45, 55, and 65 miles.)  My sister, who is senior to me by three years, was on a hybrid touring bike, while my great-nephew was using a mountain bike which he uses to go to and from school (a mile each way).

The team, ready to go.

I should stop here to note that this was the largest group ride I've ever seen.  Based on bib numbers, I think there must have been close to 3,000 people in all.

Now, my sister, as you can see, is quite fit.  But as it turns out, she must not have been feeling like cycling that particular morning, and she returned to the start after a few miles.  My great-nephew, however, was game to continue, so on we went, at an easy pace.  He was at a substantial disadvantage relative to the other riders: inexperienced, young (I don't think I saw anyone else who was near his tender age), and on a bike that is ill-suited to distance touring, given its heavy frame and wide, aggressively-treaded, low-pressure tires.  But he was undaunted.  "Quit" seems not to be in his vocabulary.

The touring route was promoted as "hilly."  Well, it was, although I was fresh off the Thriller Ride, and the slopes seemed pretty gentle to me.  My great-nephew, understandably, needed to walk his bike up a few of these hills.  But he was far from alone.  I saw lots and lots of twenty- and thirty-something riders on lightweight road bikes doing the same thing, when I hadn't even needed to shift to my smaller chainring yet (although I did need it for a couple of the hills).

Look at all those Texans behind the boy.  Many are walking their fancy road bikes up a modest hill.  Soft, they are -- very soft.

Quite a lot of the route followed the Guadalupe River.  It was very scenic, in an un-midwestern kind of way.  Trees in southern Texas tend to be kind of low and bushy.  But that makes for a very, very big sky.  I could get used to it, I think.

Lots of people go tubing on the Guadalupe.  Isn't that water nice and clear?  And this was one day after it flooded!

Check out that big sky.  It was a perfect day; high was 71°F, and not a cloud to be seen.
The Tour de Gruene is connected with a German-heritage festival in New Braunfels called "Wurstfest," and our Tour registration packets contained "free" admission tickets for Wurstfest.  It was a great time, later that evening.  Here we are, queued up for chow.  I enjoyed "pork chop on a stick."  Sounds unusual; tastes really good.

Mmmm, Wurstfest!  That's my younger great-nephew down in the corner, leaning on his big 35-mile-riding brother.

Looking forward to next year!  Hopefully, I make it into the time trials then.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Jim, I loved your accounts of biking and am in awe of your prowess. I fell off my bike about forty years ago and broke my ankle pretty badly; had a cast on for two months. Have barely been on a bike since. It seems incredible to me that you could ride as far and as long as you do and actually survive the trip. Loved your pictures, too. I doubt if I'll ever get to Texas or to Indiana--both seem so exotic to this easterner--and your prose and pictures made it like being there. Great fun to read and vicariously experience!