“What is wrong with those people?”
On a lonely shoulder just south of the sprawling Metroplex, the Pondering Cyclist and I pushed on into the wind and rain. Our legs were tired and cold and back at camp, most of our friends had called in for a ride home. Motorists flew by and looked at our sad and soggy backs, wondering why anyone in their right mind would be out on a bicycle in this mess. But if they had grabbed a look in their rearview mirror, they would have seen two beaming smiles laughing at the wind, oblivious to any downside.
Two days earlier, the crew of the UTA Maverick Bike Shop left our humble closet/workshop with 12 brave souls in all. Some were on bikes borrowed from the shop while others rode a mix of mountain and road bikes loaded for a weekend camping trip to Cedar Hill State Park. The only thing that varied more than the bikes were the riders. Experiences ranged from almost none at all to daily commuters as well as former racers.
Start of the trip at the MAC at UTA. We started Friday afternoon with 12 brave souls and only 2 of us ended up riding back in the rain on Sunday.
This of course made the ride to camp a bit of a challenge. The group would stretch out, catch up at lights and intersections, pull into parking lots to regroup, whatever was needed to keep everybody together. I’ll admit to getting frustrated with the pace at points. I tried to keep the rabbit of the group, a friend on his Surly Cross Check commuter bike, in check at the front and often we’d pull over to make sure everyone would regroup.
Eventually, at one stoplight, I came up next to one of the bikes that had spent a lot of time in the back of the group. It was a borrowed tandem that had begun the morning with no wheels. A young Indian couple had decided to ride it for the trip and after getting the bike together, the shop set them up with a trailer as well. Between their friends helping them load down the trailer, not having ridden a bike much, and a particularly strong headwind for most of the way, it had been slow going for them. You would expect them to be miserable. But as we left the light, I looked over at his face and there was only a smile. No grimace or signs of fatigue; just a smile.
On the way there we took the dam that borders the north end of Joe Pool Lake. With no turns ahead and a few miles of no cars, I took the opportunity to stretch my legs up front. After finding a comfortable pace, the Pondering Cyclist pulled up and decided I wasn’t going fast enough. So he pulled me along and we chatted while fighting the crosswind and took in the view of the lake with flowing, silver waves under a glowing, cloudless sky.
At the campsite, we met up with another group that rode out from Switching Gears Cyclery in Dallas. The shop owner, Colin, brought a group of four riders as well as a follow car driven by his girlfriend, Andee. Along with the follow car, he also brought a lovely propane camp stove and a palatial six-person tent; luxuries usually forgone with Spartan bike camping, but indispensible to cooking for large groups.
The two groups mixed and shared stories about the ride over. Our shop manager, Ellie, brought out some pizza and we spent the next few hours talking into the night. We wandered out to the edge of the lake and the heavily receded shoreline. We even spotted a skunk several times throughout the night wandering the dried up beach.
The campgrounds were so thoroughly dry when we got there, huge dried out crevices scarred the hills. One even made for a sufficient bicycle stand. Mother nature remedied the dryness the second night on into the morning and most of the day.
The next morning, a small group took a ride to downtown cedar Hill to pay a visit to local favorite Sam’s Pizza. We started the ride by climbing out of the park and turning south straight into the wind and up a hill that kept our max speed to about 15 mph. It was painful, but if anyone mentioned it, it was only to yell excitedly with a huge grin.
What happened next can only be described as the magic of cycling. Upon approaching downtown Cedar Hill, every road to Sam’s was blocked off with lots of commotion on the other side. A nice lady informed us that we can’t go that way until the parade is over.
“Parade? What parade?”
It was Country Day on the Hill
, the streets were bustling with people and vendors while music and delicious smells hung in the air. I call this moment the magic of cycling because while the bicycle riders exchanged high-fives and asked, “How cool is this?” several folks in cars drove by and, when told they aren’t allowed down that road just yet, immediately flashed looks of frustration.
After making our way through the crowd and an amazing lunch at Sam’s we wandered the festival, taking in the spectacle. We watched the band for a bit, got a kick out of 5 or 6 little kids dancing, perused to produce stand and bought some homemade hot sauce and jams. We even had a nice chat with the Cedar Hill Tea Party who said “Why not?” to bike lanes and gave us some small American flags which found homes on our bicycles for the remainder of the weekend.
A gift from the Tea Party of Cedar Hill.
The ride back was a nice break from the headwind of the previous day and the ride over. The wind was to our backs and the road fell downward. I found the hardest gear the bike had and the Pondering Cyclist and I hit about 40 mph and jumped over a couple of lanes in front of cars afraid to pass us as we made our left turn back into the park.
As night approached, so did the storm. While the sun fell, the campers watched the lightning show over the lake, waiting for the rain to come. Colin cooked up some chicken and onions on the propane stove as the temperature dropped and the rain jackets came out. The rain sputtered on and off, but the radar told us the night on into the morning would be a different story.
I awoke to spots of on and off rain. A quick glance at the radar on my phone (camping in the 21st century) told me that an onslaught was coming. I got up quickly, dressed and packed my gear. We watched as the once dry dirt was pummeled into a slurry of thick clay as we stood under the awning at the Swtiching Gears site. The longer we stood, the worse it got.
7 campers from UTA had returned the previous day. Three more found rides in dry cars. Only one camper from Dallas had ridden his bicycle back. Once I announced I was about to head out on my bicycle the Pondering cyclist, almost ready to call it in himself, decided that I shouldn’t be the only one having all the fun. So off we went, into the elements.
And there we were, having as much fun as we’ve had all weekend.
At every turn, a smile. At every roadblock, a new adventure. Every headwind a losing battle against Mother Nature you immediately give in to, but still enjoy deep down. And drivers look on, with a mixed expression of confusion and consternation, asking, “What is wrong with those people?”
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has over the years ‘down graded’ from motorcycles to bicycles but don’t worry, he still loves to go fast on two wheels. Currently enrolled at the University of Texas- Arlington studying aero-space engineering and working part time at the Maverick Bike Shop he is a true rebel. Just don’t mention Ben Spies because he won’t be able to control himself and might start giggling like a school girl.