Saturday, May 14, 2005

Shiner B.A.S.H. Ride

Otherwise known as The Road to Bugville.

This was my third time to do this ride. It's an interesting concept-- riders start at the same time from Houston, Austin and San Antonio and all converge on the town of Shiner for a concert and post-ride party. I've never been too crazy about the whole post-ride scene (how can anyone care after 96 miles?) but I've always enjoyed the ride itself. In past years I've taken the bus home. For $15 you can purchase a ticket, and they line up the buses to take riders home starting around 3 or 4 pm. But this year Dan's friend Neal wanted a ride home and lent his truck to Dan for that purpose, which meant I had a ride home too.

The morning started with a bit of anxiety because Neal was scheduled up pick us up at 6 am for a 7 am ride that started 34 miles away. Neal had picked up his packet the week before, see. But I hadn't. I didn't ask any questions until the night before, and Dan didn't snap that we had a little math problem until it was too late to do anything about it. So by the time we got to the ride start, we had no time to dilly-dally. Dan got my bike ready while I ran inside, got my packet and used the restroom. Luckily the lines by this point were short in both cases, since most people were lined up with their bikes at the starting line. I guess a late arrival has its advantages.

Back at the truck, Neal took off for the start while Dan pinned my ride number on me and filled my water bottle. Just a few more last-minute items and I was ready. I had a moment's intense suspicion that I was being stupid to leave Dan in charge of my bag instead of putting it on the truck to Shiner, but I had no time to really think the matter through and so I jumped on my bike for a quick test that everything worked just as the announcer wished everyone a great ride and sent off the first wave. I gave Dan a kiss and headed up to the start, resetting my computer mileage to zero and merging with the second wave.

And after that, nothing much happened for a long time. The pace was typically slow for the first mile as we wound our way out of absurdly gigantic Katy Mills Mall and down some two-lane roads. I worked my way around a few packs of slowpokes and finally settled into a pretty good pace. The morning was foggy and windier than advertised on, but nice cycling weather for all that.

I ran into friends and former cycling buddies Phil and Harold early on. I passed Phil as I went past a rest stop. Much later, he and Harold caught up to me and started to tease me about catching up until I pointed out they had needed to draft off a pace line to do it. We rode more or less together down a rough road to the third rest stop (Eagle Lake), where I guess they stopped because I continued straight through and never saw them again.

I didn't stop until the fourth rest stop, around mile 50. By then I was out of water and hungry for a bit of solid food. I topped off my water bottle, grabbed a banana half and scooped a cookie into an indusrial-size can of peanut butter they were using for sandwiches. Not bad. I put the water bottle back on my bike and continued on my way.

After mile 60 was where things got nasty. In addition to the road, which had been rough and slow for much of the way, now we had to contend with love bugs-- those red-eyed mating flies one often sees in the spring. I've ridden buggy spring rides before, but this was far and away the worst I'd ever seen. The flies were literally swarming, so that all of us slogged on for mile after mile with their soft bodies pinging our faces, arms, legs and bodies non-stop. They got in my helmet. They got stuck on my sunglasses. They landed on my legs, arms and water bottle and took up residence. They hit my face. They hit my chest and I feared I would find them inside my jogbra at the end of the ride. (I did not, thank goodness.)

After twenty or thirty miles of this, it became maddening. I suppose if this had been a race venue with something at stake, I would've pulled out the mental resources to try to make something humorous out the situation. But instead, the rough road and my tight IT bands (which had been bothering me from the start) combined to put me in a grumpy mood with brief moments of near desperation over the constant plop of insects hitting my body. It was positively Hitchcockian. The only thing you could do was put your head down and hope for a clear patch. There were precious few of these.

My only other stop was in Halletsville. I always like this stop because it's at the old town courthouse-- one of those beautiful old buildings that always seem way too fancy for some little country place, but that one nevertheless finds all over Texas. So I like this stop for its location. But even more important, we have access to the courthouse restrooms. My ride philosophy is that if there's an opportunity to use a flush toilet in a clean restroom with all the trimmings, do it! So I parked my bike, used the restroom, washed my face and reapplied sunscreen, put an IcyHot patch on my aching lower back, filled my water bottle, stretched and ate a Clif Bar. I dawdled. It was my only indulgence that day, and I needed it if I was going to face those %#^%^#@! bugs again.

We finally got free of the bugs as we made the turn off the highway onto the back roads near the Spoetzl Brewery. In previous years the ride has ended at the brewery, but this year we were directed an additional mile to a large park. For many of us, this kind of defeated the purpose. The whole point of the ride is to go to the brewery, but the ride and post-ride party have gotten bigger in recent years and this year they figured a bigger venue was needed.

To say I was disappointed with the new venue would be an understatment. We got there on a road pitted with small holes, and there were no people cheering at the finish line, no volunteers handing out water. Instead, we had to get off our bikes and start trudging in the direction of the Rider Check-In. The showers were on the way, so I stopped and called Dan to see if he had made it in yet. He hadn't. I wasn't surprised. Somehow he had taken our instructions of the morning, where we said we'd be there by 2:00 at the latest to mean he should be there at 2:00. It was 12:30, I was sticky and buggy, and he was still an hour away with my bag. No shower for me. I knew I should've put my bag on the truck. I should've trusted my instincts on that one!

So I stopped at some sinks and washed my face, arms and legs. That helped a little, then I went up the hill, got my post-ride tickets and trudged what felt like a quarter mile toward the food. At this point there still wasn't anyone giving out water to the riders. I was starting to be pissed.

At the entrance to the concert/food area, they were doing metal checks. Metal checks? I couldn't believe it! What was this, an airport? A prison? A high school? Who ever heard of needing to be gone over with a metal detecting wand in order to get a stupid bottle of water and something to eat after a 96 mile bike ride???

Okay, whatever. I got inside and it was huge! I got me some water, which I had to use one of my tickets for (another annoyance, since all other rides give the riders their water for free), then checked out my food options, keeping an eye out for Neal all the time. I wasn't terribly impressed by the food. It was heavy on carnival fare, such as funnel cakes, turkey legs and the like. I just wanted some pasta or ice cream or something, but no such luck.

Thoroughly out of sorts, I went to the massage tent and got on the waiting list. There was a long wait, but hey, no hurry. Dan wouldn't be arriving for awhile. Then I bought me a chicken shishkabob that was way more food than I could eat, so I only ate half of it. If I'd had a means to save the rest for later, I would've. Instead I had to throw it away, which seemed wasteful. I finally got my massage, and then tried to call Dan again. His cell phone wasn't responding, and I later learned his carrier doesn't give a signal in Shiner. Great. So I gave the last of my food/beverage tickets to a good-looking guy who had been complaining that he couldn't afford both a massage and extra tickets for beer, and then I headed to the Rider Pickup area, trusting that this would be my best bet for finding Dan.

Once there, I ran into Neal who had had the same idea. He'd looked for me earlier, as I had looked for him, but the venue was just way too big for people to find each other unless they had a pre-arranged meeting place. We hung out in the shade of a tree and waited about ten minutes or so, and then saw Dan walking up the path from the parking area. We hurried down to him, and were pleasantly surprised that he had brought us our shoes. It wasn't a huge deal for me because I use mountain bike shoes on these sorts of rides, but Neal had been stumbling around on his slick racing shoes with their big clips in front. We put on our shoes while Dan apologized for his tardiness and related his misadventures (traffic tieups, misdirections, etc.). We hardly cared at that point. We racked our bikes, changed into clean t-shirts and piled in.

The drive home took two hours, including the usual I-10 slowdowns once we were back in the city limits. The first thing I did when I got home was take a shower! Finally clean, I put my gear away, cleaned my helmet and sunglasses, hung my damp clothes to dry and then settled in to eat and check my email. I was still keyed up from the ride, but everything hit me within about 30 minutes. It was nap time.

I had earned it.

Today's Workout
Shiner B.A.S.H. Ride: 96 miles, Houston to Shiner


jet said...



Did I misread something?

Ok, you Texans can make fun of people in Cali all you like, but water has been free on every ride I've been on. Hell, post-ride food (and often wine or beer) has been free on every ride I've been on out here. Massages and showers aren't free, but camping space usually is...

bunnygirl said...

We had to "pay" for food and water in the sense that we had to use our "free" tickets (paid for with our registration fee). So in one sense it was free, but it was limited. Run out of tickets, no more water unless you've got cash to buy more tickets.

I think we were all pretty upset about it because I've never seen anything like this happen on other rides. And what was even more outrageous is that we had to walk a long way to get our tickets, then walk again to the food area, then get metal-checked, and only finally get a chance to use a ticket to get water.

If I'd ended the ride totally depleted like two years ago, I would've been screwed. I really feel for the stragglers who came in later on, hurting. It's not only rude but unsafe not to have water waiting just beyond the finish line, like every other ride has it.

Wil said...

OK - that's just insanity. Did they have special water from some remote polar ice cap or something? Last time I checked water was unlimited! And after that kind of mileage I can't believe that they didn't offer to open your mouth and pour it down your throat for you!