Tom travelled from New Jersey. I probably had the longest trip of all the participants. I met Tom in Austin early in the week. Tom rented a bicycle in Austin, and I brought my Ritchey BreakAway. We had decided to rent a Dodge Grand Caravan for the drive to Houston. It was probably a bit more than we needed, but I have to say I enjoyed being able to wheel both our bicycles upright into the rear of the van. And still have plenty of room for suitcases.
We spent the rest of the week in Houston catching up with friends, eating too much, and doing the Thursday evening 6:30 ride. I miss that “Two minutes” call
The weather forecasts in the days leading up to the ride weekend had not been favourable. A broad and heavy band of rain was expected to sweep through Austin on Sunday.
By Friday the prospects for bad weather on Sunday had worsened, as the doppler radar images showed. The organisers took the only option open to them given those forecasts. Day 2 of the ride was cancelled.
Team Hess quickly told its riders that the Day 1 evening arrangements at La Grange would continue as planned. We could enjoy the barbecue dinner and spend the night at the VFW Hall if we wished. The live concert at the fairgrounds would go on as well. So it wasn’t all bad news.
Skip, Barbara, Tom, Dane and I started as we usually do, from the entrance of the Omni Westside Hotel.
Others started, under threatening skies, from one of the three official start points at Tully Stadium in Houston, Rhodes Stadium in Katy, or Waller Stadium in Waller.
The weather may have put paid to Day 2 of this year’s ride, but in exchange we had excellent conditions on Day 1. The overcast skies meant that it was fairly warm at the start. Those same clouds shielded us from the worst of the sun as the day progressed.
The wind was kind to us this year also, blowing us toward Austin rather than back to Houston, as has often been the case in the past.
I thought it would rain at one point. A few light sprinkles prompted me to put on my rain jacket, but it was a false alarm, and my rain jacket came off again ten minutes later.
The route was unchanged from previous years. We skipped the first rest stop in favour of the second stop in the MHWirth parking lot, 36km / 22mi into the ride.
We then rode non-stop to lunch at Belleville. Belleville is at the halfway point between the Omni Westside Hotel and La Grange. The Hess volunteers took excellent care of us at the lunch stop. They made sure we were well watered and fed before we headed back out onto the road.
Tom and I always visit the rest stop at Industry to say hello to the West End Bicycles guys manning their customary service tent. So far it has been social visits only to the West End tent. I can recall only one puncture between the five of us over the three MS150 rides I have done.
Others are not so lucky. The West End tent is always busy attending to the mechanical woes that have befallen unfortunate riders.
After Industry comes one of the highlights of Day 1. Riding into Fayetteville.
It seems like the entire population of 262 line the sides of the road to watch the ride go by. Cowbells, bubbles, music, and lots of clapping and cheering.
Again this year there was an amazing spread of home-baked cookies and cakes on offer at Ye Ole Garage on the corner of West Fayette Street and North Rusk Street. A highly anticipated stop after 127km / 79mi of riding.
Kudos to the lady who does all the baking (I wish I knew her name). She accepts donations from sugar-sated riders. This year the collection went to a local school.
Even the Ye Ole Garage rest room maintains the theme.
After covering about 160km / 100mi, we all pulled into the fairgrounds at La Grange, accompanied by lots of whoops and cheers.
It was a good day for the five of us. We all rode well, had a lot of fun, and stayed safe. So it was smiles all around, despite the cancellation of Day 2.
Tom and I stayed overnight at La Grange with a diminished number of other Team Hess riders. The transport options were such that Barbara, Dane and Skip, and many others, headed back to Houston that evening.
The Team Hess volunteers did their usual outstanding job of looking after us at La Grange. They gave us plenty to eat and drink, including a delicious barbecue dinner. There was a very nice shower truck reserved for our use. A masseuse was on site for us.
Can you blame me for wanting to come back and ride with Team Hess every year?
The BP MS150 organisers did very well with the last-minute need to move people, bicycles and bags from La Grange back to Houston on Saturday evening, and again on Sunday morning.
Tom and I, along with many others, were on the morning bus to Austin.
Our bikes were delayed, which caused us a bit of concern, but they did eventually arrive in Austin. Even though we weren’t able to ride on Day 2, we posed for an Austin Glory photograph in front of the State Capitol. The customary closing to the BP MS150.
We are already planning for 2017.