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2013 BP MS150 Day One

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BP MS150 2013

The lead up to this year’s BP MS150 ride from Houston to Austin was faultless.  Barbara collected my rider pack and Hess jersey for me.  Malaysian Airlines and KLM got me to George Bush Intercontinental Airport as scheduled.  Tom and Donna were waiting outside Arrivals for me.  The Omni Houston Hotel at Westside had my room ready.  Most importantly Fedex had delivered my Ritchey Break-Away bicycle to the hotel.

The first thing to do was to put the bicycle together.  My bike came with a Ritchey torque key that fits the 4mm bolts on their bars and stems, as well as the bolt on the hinged clamp that anchors the flanged joint on the down tube.  Steve Dodds at Bicycle Doctor USA had told me to pack an 8mm Allen key to install the crank with.  I also packed 6mm and 5mm Allen keys for the seat post and saddle mounting bolts.  Four Allen keys and a pump were all I needed to get the Break-Away ready to ride.

The plan was to do the Thursday evening ride with the West End 6.30 group.  That would have been the perfect shakedown ride for my brand-new bike, if not for the rain that afternoon.  Instead Tom and I made do with a quick 8km / 5mi loop around Memorial Park on Friday.  If that short spin was anything to go by, the Ritchey Break-Away was going to serve me very well.  The ride quality was everything I expected from a titanium frame.  The SRAM Force group set shifted precisely.  The brakes had good modulation and stopping power.  I didn’t expect problems during the ride to Austin but we stopped at West End Bicycles to get the bike inspected anyway.  It is worth getting an official inspection sticker.  If I did have a problem during the ride I would receive free labor for repairs.

The weather when I arrived on Thursday was unusually cool.  When we started the ride from the hotel at 6.30am on Saturday morning it was unseasonably cold.  It was 4°C / 39°F.  That was a record low temperature for April 20th.  The previous low was 6°C /44°F set in 1901.

Needless to say in my group I was probably the least appropriately dressed for the temperature.  I was riding with Barbara, Laura, Dane, Joe, Skip and Tom.  Everyone was cold, but I was chilled.  It had warmed up by the time we got to the lunch stop at Belleville, but not enough for me to take my jacket off.  Barbara and Dane kept their arm warmers on, unlike  Laura and Skip.

BP MS150 2013 Bellville Group

Relatively normal temperatures for the time of year were restored by the time we got to the stop at Industry.  West End Bicycles was operating their customary service stand there.  Complete with yummy snacks.  There was time for a post-cookie fist bump with Tom before we hit the road again.

BP MS150 2013 Industry West End 02

Fayetteville is always a treat to ride through.  The residents come out in force to cheer the riders on.  And ring bells and blow whistles and generally carry on.

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Welcome 01

We had an additional treat in store for us at Fayetteville this year.  Skip knows a lady who runs an antique store out of a converted gas station.

BP MS150 2013 Antique Shop

For MS150 day she bakes all sorts of cakes and cookies which she lays out for anyone who wants some.  Not everyone knows about this though.  So hooray for Skip and his insider knowledge!

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Munchies

We had about 30 km / 18.5 mi to go to La Grange.  Dane headed out ahead of the rest of us.  His plan was to get to the VFW Hall early enough to reserve prime sleeping spots for us all.  We wanted a row of six camp beds near a wall socket.  We all had electronics that needed recharging.  We didn’t get the row we had hoped for, but we were near a coveted wall socket.  This is Tom watching Dane get sorted out after their turns in the private shower truck that Hess provides for its team.

BP MS150 2013 VFW Hall

This year the Hess bar featured recovery drinks made to order.  Just the ticket after a hot shower and before a massage.

BP MS150 2013 La Grange Recovery Drinks

We are all spoiled by the excellent support that Hess provides to its riders.  Air-conditioning, private showers, indoor toilets, an open bar, ear plugs in case the snoring gets too loud.  I’m not sure how we managed when we rode with other teams and had to endure conditions like this.

BP MS150 2013 Life on the other side of the tracks

Tom, Skip, “Sideshow” Dane and I went for a wander around the Fayette County Fairgrounds to stretch our legs before dinner.

BP MS150 2013 Dane 'Sideshow Bob' Schiller

We had ridden 160 km / 100 mi.  That made it my longest Day One in the three times I have ridden the BP MS150.  I was still a bit jet-lagged and very ready to call it a day as soon as I had finished my dinner.  Day Two wasn’t far away.

The National MS Society is still accepting donations linked to this ride.  The society is depending upon your generosity to raise as much as possible to put toward the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis.  Please click on the link below to make a donation to this worthy cause.

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

2011 BP MS150

BP MS150 2013

I will be riding in the 2013 BP MS150 from Houston to Austin.  This is a charity ride  in aid of multiple sclerosis research and treatment.  If you would like to donate to this worthy cause on my behalf please click on this link:

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

My first BP MS150 ride was in 2010.  I wrote about that ride in Austin or Bust.  I registered late for that ride and had to scramble to get onto a team.  One outcome was that Tom and I didn’t get space in the team tent for the overnight stop at the Fayette County Fair Grounds in La Grange.  Instead we stayed in a motel that was a 40 minute van trip away from the fair grounds.  I am sure we were more comfortable on proper beds in our air-conditioned motel room than we would have been on camp beds in the team tent.  Especially as it rained hard that night.  However we paid for it by having to be up and ready to leave the motel at 5am to get back to the fair grounds in time to start with everyone else.

I signed up early for the 2011 BP MS150.  By then I had moved to The Netherlands, and was no longer working for Hess Corporation.  The team captains were kind enough to let me join the Hess team anyway.  They were even nicer to allow friends of an ex-employee onto the team.  So Barbara, Dane, Laura and Tom would be in Hess colors with me.

I flew into Houston a few days before the start of the ride.  I visited the new Hess office at Discovery Green and called in on Patrick Cummings, one of the team captains.  The first indication that this experience would be quite different from the previous year’s came when I heard that we would spend the night in the VFW Hall at the Fayette County Fair Grounds in La Grange.  No tent pitched on grass for us!

The ride started as it did the year before.  My West End friends and I rode out at dawn from the Jack Rhodes Memorial Stadium in Katy.  Tom and I chose not to wear jackets so we shivered for an hour or so.  By the time we got to the first rest stop it was warming up in the patches of sunlight.  There were still some jackets and arm warmers in use though.

MS150 2011 Rest Stop 01

Our lunch stop was in Bellville.  That was when I got the the second indication that the Hess team did the MS150 a little differently.  There were Hess volunteers and a Hess tent at the lunch stop.  We had an alternative to the sandwich lunch on offer for everyone else.  The wonderful Hess volunteers were handing out chicken and spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-A-Fil.  And Snickers bars and iced drinks.

This is Tom, Laura, Dane and I at the Bellville stop.  The patch on Laura’s jersey signifies that this was her tenth consecutive BP MS150.  Fantastic!

MS150 2011 Bellville 08

One of the other stops before La Grange was at Industry.  The guys from West End Bicycles were manning a bike service tent there.  We hung out with Daniel and the team while we ate our bananas before continuing west.

MS150 2011 West End Industry Stop

One of the most appealing things about this ride is the encouragement all the riders get from the communities along the route.  It seems like entire towns turn out to cheer us on.  And some do more than simply clap and wave.

MS150 Band

Laura, Barbara and the rest of the West end crew rode into the Fayette County Fair Grounds at La Grange at about 2pm.

MS150 2011 Laura and Barbara

It was pretty hot by then, so we were grateful for the Hess volunteers who were on hand with cold water and iced towels as we got to the VFW Hall.

That was, dare I say it,  just the start of the pampering that we received at the overnight stop.

In 2010 we queued for thirty minutes with everyone else for the communal shower trucks.  In 2011 we lounged in folding chairs with a cold drink in hand while waiting for our turn in the Team Hess shower truck.  After which we handed our sweaty cycling gear to a friendly volunteer to be laundered.  Note the jerseys drying on the line behind Laura and Barbara.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Showers 02

Feeling a bit tight and sore despite the hot shower?  Get a massage!

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Massage

We spent the rest of the afternoon waiting for our turn to be kneaded, and chilling with drinks and munchies on the patio behind the VFW Hall.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Patio

We were eventually roused from our seats and coaxed into our freshly laundered jerseys for the obligatory group photo.

MS150 2011 Hess Group 02

Then it was dinner time.  Courtesy of the crew manning this beast.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Barbecue

The barbecues come big in Texas!  And the food that came out of this one was delicious.

Well-watered and fed, we started thinking about sleep.  As I mentioned earlier, no tent pitched on the grass for us.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Main Room

Air-conditioning and indoor toilets if you please.

There was no excuse if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  And there was no excuse if you weren’t well-fed by the time you got on your bike in the morning.  The Hess volunteers served up a delicious breakfast from the kitchen next to our sleeping area.

The BP balloon lit up the pre-dawn sky as we waited for it to get bright enough to continue on our way.

MS150 2011 La Grange Start Balloon

The decision to be made at the start of Day Two was whether to take the Bechtel Challenge Route or the Pfizer Lunch Express.  The Bechtel Challenge takes riders through Buescher State Park and Bastrop State Park.  We chose not to take the Bechtel Challenge Route in 2010 because the hilly roads were wet and potentially dangerous.  There were no such concerns this time.  The Challenge adds about 17 km / 11 mi to the ride but it was well worth doing.  The road wound through scenic loblolly pine woodland that is 18,000 years old.

Sadly Bastrop State Park and the surrounding pine forest were the scene of a devastating wildfire in September and October 2011.  This was one of the most destructive single wildfires in Texas history.  Bastrop State Park suffered significant damage affecting 96% of the park.  The Challenge route was not an option during the 2012 BP MS150.  However I am happy to say that the road through the park has reopened, and weather permitting, we will ride the Challenge route again this year.  Albeit through an altered landscape.

We skipped the opportunity for even more pampering from the Hess volunteers at the lunch stop in Bastrop.  We did the usual for the West End crew.  No matter what team we were riding with, we congregated at the Whataburger for a burger, fries and a milkshake.

It was about 55 km / 34 mi from Bastrop to the finish line at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.  We made one last stop at the Moose Family Center of Austin.  The Moose Lodge is about 5 km / 3 mi from the Texas State History Museum.  A perfect place for the West End gang to regroup so we could roll through the finish together.  Sophie and Alisa joined, Tom, Barbara and I.  We missed connecting with Laura and Dane.  They thought they were late getting to the Moose and had ridden on.

MS150 2011 Moose 01

It is quite a thrill to ride that last kilometer or so through spectators three and four deep on both sides of the road.

79051-1745-004f

We took advantage one last time of the superb care – read cold drinks and snacks – provided by the Hess volunteers at the finish.  Then Tom and I headed toward the State Capitol.

MS150 2011 Glory Shot

I am looking forward very much to my third BP MS150.  It is going to be a treat to reconnect with my West End friends.  Who like me have been spoiled by the Team Hess treatment in the past.  Who like me can’t imagine riding the BP MS150 with any other team.  And who like me are depending upon your generosity to raise as much as we can to put toward the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis.

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment