Mineola Metric Century 2012
A few weeks ago I was looking for a ride to split the month between the Bike the Bay tour and the upcoming Turkey Roll. The only ride even remotely in my area was the Mineola Metric Century. By in my area I mean it is only two and a half hours away from my house. Mineola is somewhat near Tyler Texas and I have a friend who happens to have a lake house just outside Tyler. I dropped him an email to see if he would be interested in participating in this ride so we could use his lake house for lodging the night before and he was in.
I sent a follow up email a few days before the ride to shore up the details and found out he was sick ! Disaster ! Luckily I had not preregister for this ride because the cheaper registration had ended so there was no point. You never know what you will get for weather in Texas in November so that was a factor as well. To my surprise, even though my friend Mike could not make the ride, he gave me use of his lake house to spend the night Friday. To him again I say THANKS Mike !!
I drove down to Hideaway (by god) Texas on Friday night. I picked up some super nutritious Whataburger on the way there in Canton Texas. It has been so long since I had a beef hamburger from a fast food restaurant.. it was glorious. I made the lake house in Hideaway by about 9:00 pm so it was pretty much time to get some sleep.
Sleeping is never easy the night before a ride I have never done before. I am not sure why but I still get very anxious about riding in events. I realized as I rolled up to the house that I left my sleeping meds in Allen. OOPS ! Needless to say, I got little sleep and was up at 6 am ready to head toward Mineola.
The drive from Hideaway to Mineola was beautiful. Out in the Texas version of god’s country there was fog in the trees that made the scenery very peaceful.
When I arrived at the ride start there were maybe 15 cars in the driveway. I immediately went to register and get a bib number. I was there early because on-time is 10 minutes late in my book. (that drives my wife batty) I was glad to be there early because by the time I was getting my bike ready for the event there was a line of about 30 people that was not getting smaller. The start was at the civic center and by ride start time the parking lot was almost full. The nice folks putting on the ride actually postponed the start for 15 minutes so that they could get everyone registered and the gentleman to announced the delay to us was very nice to admit they were overwhelmed. It is good to see such nice people overwhelmed in a way that helps their cause. It turns out the weather was predicted to be so nice that at the last minute a couple hundred people decided to make the drive to Mineola.
The ride started with the entire horde of riders following the sheriff through town. We weaved around the town center where they were having a festival. There was a remarkable number of folks cheering us on so early in the morning. The sheriff then led the pack out of town and things began to spread out a bit. The announcer had told us that the sheriff would lead us to a certain intersection and then we were “on our own”. Not a statement that gives a rider a warm fuzzy feeling. It was not as bad as it sounded though.
The ride out of town was an reminder of the pain we all feel riding over chip-seal. As I have commented before riding on chip-seal will shake loose your fillings from your teeth.
The scenery was beautiful. Green trees, green grass and a fog in the trees. The sun would break through the cloud layer every so often and shine through the trees hitting the fog in the air. It make a rainbow like refraction in the mist. It was in a word, breathtaking. There have been very few rides where I would look around and say out loud “Wow”.
The first 5 miles had a few moderate climbs. I knew when I decided to do this ride that it was projected to have 3400 feet in climb in the 63 miles. More than I have ever done in a single day, so this was going to be a challenge.
As we would climb up hills then descend back into valleys we would enter areas of fog then climb back out. The air was cold and the moisture in the air thick so it was very easy to breath and that was a good thing with real hills that were coming.
Much of the roadway in the first 20 miles was lines with very tall trees. This is something we do not see in the Dallas area.
The warm up roads were well behind us by mike 12 or so. The hills that were to come had to be a quarter mile in length with about 300 feet of climb. That does not sound like much, and to many people it probably isn’t, but to a rider of bigger size like I me that is used to riding in DFW, they are huge. Some of the hills were so far off where they would peak that we could not see them in the fog.
I rode by the first rest stop as I normally do. When I arrived at the second rest stop it was pretty clear the over whelming of the volunteers was not over. They were some great old guys though. I stood there with my feet set firmly in an ant pile eating my banana, drinking my a Gatorade and taking to them. The ants sucked but everything else was pretty awesome. I was about 20 miles into the overall ride at this point and was feeling pretty good. My climbing ability has improved and I was proud when at the biggest climb of the first section I passed a group of 8 riders or so at the crest of the hill that had to stop and get off their bikes in order to catch their breath. When I first started riding a couple year ago I often had to do the same after climbing even small hills because my cardio fitness was so poor. It is a small victory for a big guy !
The second rest stop was at the start of a loop around Hawkins Lake. The view was so beautiful the name of the lake is burned into my memory. When I got to the stop I was the only rider there. The volunteers were awesome. Very friendly folks. I had an amusing conversation with one of the ladies manning the food area. She was giving me a rundown of the food they had available. With every option she gave me there would be a follow up comment of “That’s not healthy” or “That’s healthy”. I was so tickled by her caring about the nutrition. I explained to her that what I needed was dense calories and her home made chocolate chip cookies were going to be just what I needed. When I asked her if I could take two bags (4 cookies) I thought she was going to burst with joy. She was thrilled someone wanted her cookies over all the healthy fruit.
I took a few minutes to eat a cookie and drink a Gatorade when another rider rolled up. This guy was going on and on (not the most pleasant chap) with the man who was nice enough to hold my bike about where the turn off was for the 35 mile route. Mind you, this rest stop was at the 30 mile mark and there was no 35 mile route. I suggested that he go back to the main road, turn left and cross the bridge over the lake. The course took a route around the perimeter of the lake and brought us right back to the other side of that bridge… within sight of where we entered the lake area. After the other cyclist rolled back toward the road I joked with the cookie lady that if that guy wanted to make a 35 mile loop he made a mistake about an hour back. She laughed with me and shook her head.
Before we rolled out of the start area the man making the announcements said, “When you get to the lake we have not marked the route but if you come to a turn, just go towards the lake”. Words that sent a shutter through my whole body. This type of arrangement never ends well in my experience. I was kind of lucky that when I rolled out of the rest stop a group of riders who happen to be locals passed me. I got up on the pedals and caught them so I would not get lost. Good fortune shines on me again !
This portion of the ride was about as close as you can get to a fall foliage tour. The trees around the lake were changing colors and were quite dense. The roads were lines with fallen leaves. Beautiful. It was the highlight of the entire ride… Glad I didn’t take the 35 mile route. This 10 miles around the lake were the by far the most beautiful.
The third rest stop was within the perimeter of the lake road. This stop had one solo lady trying to keep all the cyclist supplied. She was so nice and willing to do just about anything to keep everyone who rolled in happy. She was filling water bottles about the time I stopped. I did not need anything accept a rest for a minute and part of a chocolate chip cookie. Life and the view was beautiful.
The conversation at this stop was starting to turn towards what kind of terrain was ahead of us. One of the locals was telling everyone how many huge hills were ahead of us. It was hard to not hear him because he was pretty much yelling because he never took his earphones out. It was odd. At any rate, he painted a painful picture of what was to come.
The hill out of the lake area was painted by the yeller and a monster. I have to say, it was not that bad compared to some of the hills I climbed in the first 20 miles. I passed a rider coming down the other side of that hill and turned at the tour marker. As I came to a Y in the road the same guy passed me. The road I took per the route was pothole-o-mania. It was horrible. The other guys was a local and knew the road we passed met this one and was nice and smooth. We started talking when I was about to pass him again. He said “You get to pass me for a second time” to which I said, “Nah, how are you today?”. We had a great cyclist conversation that took my mind of the worn legs and sore back for about 4 miles. We talked about general cycling stuff, rides we had done and how after a punishing ride we all say “never again” but within a week forget the pain then sign up for the next one. It is a great moment in life when you have a conversation with a complete stranger and understand each other completely. It was another highlight of the ride.
When we came to the next really big hill I started to pull away from my conversation partner and he wished me well and I told him to have a great rest of the ride. He had told me how he is not good on big hills so I did not want to apply passive pressure for him to stay with me talking.
There were a series of pretty aggressive climbs that lead is to highway 80 east of Mineola. Being on the side of a busy roadway like highway 80, picture taking stopped.
This was the first time that I really felt a headwind all day. The aching started back and luck would have it the event organizers put a strategically placed rest stop out on the highway. It was manned by a boy scout troop. The great thing at this stop was that they were actually cooking some kind of cobbler right there at the rest stop. It was cool to watch but I did not have any because it was not ready. I sat in a chair and had a couple orange Gatorades while a boyscout held my bike. As I was sitting there I noticed the scouts handing my bike around because they were shocked it was so light. When I walked over to get back on the bike one of the younger scouts said, “That is a really nice bike”. I told him thanks and keep up the good work.
Back into the wind I went heading west. We only had about 4 more miles before we turned back south towards the nature preserve. This area was rolling hills that seemed to go on and on. There were peaks that you could see across the rolling hills that still had some mist. It was breathtaking.. Once again I said “Wow” out-loud for no one to hear. I took a photo that does no justice to the beauty of the vista…
This area was followed by a turn north back towards Mineola and believe you me, I was ready. My dogs were barking. At the last rest stop I talked to a older gentleman who told me, “at about mile 40 I get the hot foot.” I asked him what it felt like and was amazed, I had the same pain. I need to Google it to see what can be done although it is probably like that pain we all get at our shoulder blades that we are all sure could be eased by some nice person sinking a knife into our backs too cure. Cyclists know exactly what I am talking about…
The turn north was with the wind but was one of the longest turning climbs I have ever seen. At the top there was a bridge and about 200 yards from that point the climb negated the wind, it became hot and punishing. I remembered from the route map that we would ride all the way around the town and then back in from the North. I passed some people that were part of the ride that were on mountain bikes. I assume they did the 40ish mile route. That would be tough on a heavy bike and one of the women was walking her bike up one of the hills. Having been there, I feel for her. There were about 3 more good climbs then I turned south. Luckily the start are snuck up on me and I was pleased to find myself back in the parking lot at the back of my truck.
The lady at the food table would say to everyone who rolled in, “Congratulations, what took you so long”. It was funny every time because the reactions of riders were priceless.
I packed up my bike and changed clothes quickly. As riders we were entitled to a free beer and bowl of chili at the festival downtown. I decided against it thought since I had a 2.5 hour drive home and had only a few hours before my nephew’s eagle-scout ceremony. Not a chance I could miss that.
The Mineola Metric Century was one of the most beautiful and challenging rides I have done. I found it to be rewarding in several ways and I will do my best to make their future events and recommend it highly.
Next ride… Turkey Roll our of Denton on the 17th. My friend Dave and I will go back to where it all started 3 short years ago.
That’s all I know for now…