If you're like most Houston-area cyclists, you're getting increasingly tired of wet, cold and windy days - of which there seems to have been more than normal in recent weeks. Looking ahead to warmer days, however, it's time to start filling out that Spring riding calendar. This year, make certain to leave March 1, 2014, open for the 25th - yes, I said twenty-fifth - annual edition of the Baytown Family YMCA Gator Ride.
Those with callused buns may choose from among four long routes: 33, 43, 51 and 62 miles. Newbies and families are invited to participate in the Family 5K ride, a 3.1-mile jaunt in which walkers, riders and runners get to share the road with 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Gorski. The 5K again honors long-time Baytown YMCA Volunteer Lisa Guy. The first wave of riders (43- and 62-milers) leave at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 51 folks at 8:00 and the 33-mile group at 8:30. Family rides start at 9:00 a.m.; walkers and runners hit the course at 9:30.
Gephyrophobes beware: both the 62- and 43-mile routes cross the Fred Hartman Bridge, whose 2.6-mile span tops out more than 250 feet above the Houston Ship Channel. You can avoid the bridge crossing by following the 33- or 51-mile route. Other than the bridge approaches, riders can pretty much expect pancake-flat coastal plain terrain.
Proceeds of the Gator Ride benefit the Partners Campaign at the Baytown Family YMCA, contributing to scholarships for child care, summer programs and more.
Registration is $50 per person including walk-up registration on the day of the ride. If you're in for the Family ride, registration is $25 for one parent and $50 for two, kids under 16 are free with registered parent. On-line registration is available at Active.com until 11:59 p.m. on the 28th, or you can download a copy of the registration form on the ride website and and mail it in or register at packet pickup. The first 1,200 registered riders are guaranteed a t-shirt but it's first-come, first-shirted for on-site registration (note: last year there were 1,200 registered riders)
Details to remember: The Gator Ride is a BP MS 150 recommended training ride. As with all MS150 recommended rides, safety rules will be enforced: helmets are required, headphones and earbuds are prohibited. SAG and medical support will be provided as well as staffed rest stops and course marshals. Pets are not allowed, even on the family ride.
Getting there: The starting point is at Bicentennial Park, 119 Lee Drive, Baytown. There is parking at Lee College and other nearby buildings. The start point is 26 miles from downtown Houston via I-10 (Baytown East Freeway) and Texas Spur 330. Follow 330 as it turns into Decker Drive, turn right on Market Street and a quick left on Lee Drive. The park is on your right. See the map on the website for directions to parking.