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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
Laura, Barbara and the rest of the West end crew rode into the Fayette County Fair Grounds at La Grange at about 2pm.
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.
Feeling a bit tight and sore despite the hot shower? Get a 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.
We were eventually roused from our seats and coaxed into our freshly laundered jerseys for the obligatory group photo.
Then it was dinner time. Courtesy of the crew manning this beast.
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.
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.
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.
It is quite a thrill to ride that last kilometer or so through spectators three and four deep on both sides of the road.
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.
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.