Spring is springing up around us: on a roadside near Humble this weekend, I spotted my first Indian paintbrush of the year (the 40-degree temperature notwithstanding)! As happens every year, the cycling calendar starts overflowing on weekends. Such is the case for Saturday, March 9, in the BP MS150 recommended ride series; when there are two rides on the calendar, both of which offer... more "varied terrain" than many Houston cyclists normally see outside of parking garages and freeway overpasses.
Best pack your gear the night before for either of these two, however, or make a night of it at a nearby hotel. Your first choice (in alphabetical order) is Pedal Through the Pines, which rolls out of Bastrop, Texas, at 9:00 a.m. The event's a benefit for the Family Crisis Center.
Riders get to pick their route from 17-, 27-, 47- and 62-mile courses in and around Bastrop and Buescher State Parks; the longest course heads over toward Giddings before turning around. All routes follow Highway 71 for about ten miles and then loop back on the Park Road through the Lost Pines, site of devastating fires in 2011. Houston homies, be apprised that there are some small but ste-e-e-eep hills between the parks!
Registration is available on-line at BikeReg.com or - to quote the organizers - spend 40-some cents for a stamp and mail in the form from their website. Fees are $40/person until February 28th and $45 March 1 through the day of the ride (on-line registration closes at 19:00 on March 7).
If you're going, the start is at Riverbend Park, 107 Highway 71 West, Smithville . That's (about) 120 miles from downtown Houston via I-10 and Texas 71, or 40 miles east of Austin via Texas 71. Lodging is available in Bastrop and east Austin.
Your other option is closer to home, especially if you live up north: that's The Raven's Revenge, which tours an area near Huntsville, an hour or so north of Houston. The ride's a benefit for the Texas Lions Camp of Kerrville, Texas. No word on who (or what) the "raven" is: maybe he lives at the Walls Unit? Riders may choose from a family ride of 10 miles or from longer rides of 20, 33, 51 or 61 miles.
Registration forms are available at the ride website or you may register on-line at Active.com. Fees are $35 per person; the mail-in form includes a family entry fee of $65 that does not appear to be available on-line. The ride begins promptly at 8:00 a.m.; the course will close at 2:30 p.m. Riders will be fed after the ride - mmmmm, brisket! As in Bastrop, the terrain is not as flat as the coastal plains around the Bayou City - but, then, you get to look at that huge and blindingly white statue of Stephen F. Austin!
If you're going, the start line is in the West Hill Mall parking lot. That's around 70 miles from downtown Houston via I-45 (the North Freeway). Take the State Highway 30 exit west; the mall is a few hundred yards on the south (left-hand) side of the road.
Details to remember: Both rides are BP MS 150 recommended training rides. As with all MS150 recommended rides, safety rules will be enforced: helmets are required, headphones and earbuds are prohibited. Expect SAG support, mechanical support for major breakdowns, course marshals yelling "car up!" all the time, and staffed rest stops. The events will take place rain or shine.