Earlier this year I went to Colorado with Velo View (see post) and had a fine time, even if my cycling prowess was less than optimal. Shannon Burke offers a variety of quality bike tours, one of which includes Fort Davis and Big Bend National Park. This would be the best way for me to cross one more spectacularly scenic area of the country off my list.
This past Friday morning (7am) Shannon and Morgan (mechanic/driver) picked me up for the drive out to Fort Davis, about seven and a half hours. I joined Barry, with whom I'd ridden several years ago on Sunday rides. We stopped in Johnson City to pick up Sherri, husband Rich, and friend, Joe (from Cleveland) and continued on to Balmorhea for about an hour relaxation at the famous pool.
What trip to Fort Davis would be complete without going to the McDonald Observatory? We had dinner at 5pm then loaded the van for the ride up. This is the same route as the Hammerfest morning race. Unfortunately, clouds rolled in and the outdoor Star Party had to be cancelled. We attended the informative indoor presentation.
Photo op over, we enjoyed the downhill. Of course it was steep from the telescope, but most of the next seventeen miles was downhill. We enjoyed a late lunch at the Stone Village Market. They make great sandwiches (fresh) and one of us observed it was like a mini-Whole Foods. For dinner, after a short rest, we drove over to wander around Marfa (especially the Hotel Paisano), before having an excellent meal. The chef did a veggie plate for me, as the only vegan dish was the superb squash soup. We drove back to Ft. Davis and the other folks told me about a hard rain, but I slept through it.
Sunday after breakfast we rolled out and down to the Rio Grande Village Campground in Big Bend National Park, about a three hour drive. We had a packed lunch from Stone Village Market, consumed along the way. This was a mere thirty mile cycling jaunt. However, a review of the elevation graph shows a steady upward slope from 1869 to 5713 feet, followed by a short, steep downhill and rise into the Chisos Mountain Lodge.
After getting cleaned up and a short rest, I sought out the bar for a carbohydrate replacement drink. The restaurant had a great looking menu, which included a spinach-stuffed portobello for me (hold the cheese). Two additional porters and a fine meal ingested, and my body was beginning to forgive me. I had to pass up additional post-dinner exploring and rest.
Monday we started out with the one mile climb, back the way we came in yesterday. But then we had the screaming descent, with me maxing out at 45.2 mph. This was a very scenic riding day of forty-six miles or so. We continued on downhill or flat or slight grades, until two really steep climbs. The difference today was my Nuun infused water consumption, maybe three times normal. I used all my gears (28-28) and kept the heart-rate steady and managed to power my way up. We had a short stop at the top, then had our second screaming descent of the day. The wind had come up so I held the speed to 42 mph and held on to the handlebars for dear life, eschewing a tuck position until lower down. After that we meandered on down to the Santa Elena Canyon. At this point my computer ran out of juice and had to be shut down.
Then we drove home, stopping in Johnson City to eat dinner and say goodby to Rich, Sherri, and Joe. We arrived back in Austin about 7:30pm.
This trip is what my books are all about: short cycling vacations to incredible scenic areas and making it all palatable with good food and lodging and additional touristy stops. I can't say enough about Velo View and their tours. I don't think another bike company has Big Bend on their itinerary. Shannon makes it easy for you to say "yes" to going here. Added bonus: Shannon contorts his body on the bike and gets incredible pictures of his cyclists. Here are a few of his pictures, full complement at Velo View.