Is it Spring yet? It must be, because these days you can join fellow Houston-area cyclists on an organized ride every weekend, and twice on most. That's probably a good idea if you're determined to ride the 2013 edition of the BP MS150, just over the horizon in late April (20-21, to be exact). If you don't have your calendar filled out, here's a choice event for you the first weekend in March: the 24th running of the Gator Ride over yonder in Baytown, Texas.
Riders this year get to pick from four long routes: 33, 43, 51 and 62 miles. Newbies and families are invited to participate in the Lisa Guy Memorial ride, a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) jaunt. The first wave of riders (62 milers) starts at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 51- and 33-mile riders at 8:00 and the 43-mile group at 8:30. The family ride will take place at 9:00 a.m.
Gephyrophobes beware: the 62- and 43-mile routes cross the Fred Hartman Bridge, a 2.6-mile span over the Houston Ship Channel that tops out more than 250 feet above the water. You can avoid it by following a 33- or 51-mile route. Other than the bridge approaches, you can expect flat coastal plain terrain.
Proceeds of the ride benefit the Partners Campaign at the Baytown Family YMCA.
Registration is $35 per person until February 28, after which it goes up to $40, including on the day of the ride. If you're in for the Family ride, registration is $20 for one parent and $30 for two, the kids ride for free. 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 1000 paying riders are guaranteed a t-shirt but it's first-come, first-shirted for on-site registration.
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 website for directions to parking.