Saturday, March 15, 2003                       Burnet County Ride

Today's ride combined route suggestions from Pedaling.com (a database of cycling routes) and Best Bike Rides Texas. It was called the Oatmeal ride because it went through a tiny town by that name. After yesterday's aborted ride, it was like deja vu as I parked on the Burnet town square and assembled my bike. The only difference was that now I had a shiny new SRAM chain. I started out riding to Bertram by way of Old Bertram Road and FM 243, which were much nicer than the busier parallel SR 29. I refilled my water bottles at a store in the quiet downtown.

I bought some water at Carolyn's Market in downtown Bertram.

On the way out of town, I had a bit of excitement when a Bubba came roaring through a stop sign, honking at me as we reached the intersection at the same time. I plainly had the right of way, so I didn't yield (I had no stop sign on FM 1174, while he was running a stop sign on a side street). He slammed on his brakes and honked some more. I called him every name in the book, but only in my head, of course. At least he was in enough of a hurry to get somewhere that he didn't harrass me any further. Oh well, at least that got the adrenaline pumping.

I went about ten miles south, then made a tight right at a fork to turn back north to Oatmeal. The town's centerpiece, a giant oatmeal can, was whitewashed, but one could still make out the Quaker Oats label that lay underneath.

The highlight of the tiny town of Oatmeal, this used to be painted as a giant can of Quaker Oats.

After pausing for a drink of water, I headed out on a spur road toward Oatmeal Cemetery, making jokes about how Wilfred Brimley would be buried there (he used to do Quaker Oats commercials). There was an old church along the way, and there were plenty of great hills. I was getting a good workout, and I was enjoying it. When the road dead-ended at the cemetery, I turned around and rode back to Oatmeal.

This rural church used to be Oatmeal School.

Maybe I'm morbid, but I laughed pretty hard when I saw the " no outlet" sign at the Oatmeal Cemetery!

I took a roundabout route back toward Burnet. Along the way, I gave a friendly greeting to a man who was repairing his maibox. He was cheerful considering his circumstances--I saw several more damaged mailboxes over the next mile, so probably a few local punks looking for kicks on Friday night had knocked them down. I supposed there wasn't much else to do for entertainment in Burnet.

I had an exhilerating ride down this hill on the way back to Burnet.

When I got back to the car, it was only mid-afternoon. I felt good, so I decided to explore another route originating in Burnet, this one heading south toward Marble Falls. If I had done the Oatmeal ride the day before, it would have been too dark afterward, so I considered this a " bonus ride," a two-for-one special.  I refilled my water bottles, changed the cue sheet in my map holder and headed out.

Mormon Mills Road ran parallel to US 281 from Burnet to Marble Falls, but with far less traffic. In the mid-1800's, this area was settled by Mormons who built a mill on the creek that runs beside this road, hence the name. This road was a lot of fun to ride. There were some rough spots (some really rough) and some steep hills, but I was still feeling good. Sometimes attitude makes all the difference, and for once I had a great one. A moderate south wind had developed, so I was charging straight into it. On the bright side, I knew that I'd get an extra push back to the car.

Many Texas Hill Country bicycling routes warn about water on the road where the pavement dips into a creek bed. I guess it's not worth building a bridge when the creek is dry most of the year. Although many dips had water gauges beside them labeled in feet, I hadn't seen any where water actually flowed. Ahead, two dogs were watching me, waiting for me to come into range. The road just beyond curved sharply and disappeared down a hill. As I charged past the dogs, my worst fears were realized. There was a creek at the bottom of the steep hill, gurgling over the pavement. I tentatively pulled the brakes as I descended toward the water. Since the dogs stopped, I wasn't worried about them at the moment. Since this was an out-and-back route, however, I would have to confront them again, next time while climbing a steep hill where I couldn't outrun them. The water crossing was shallow. I clipped out of my pedals so I could put a foot down if necessary (the pavement underwater  can be especially slick with algae), but I didn't dismount and walk like some books recommend.

Mormon Mills Road was a pretty ride.

After I put the creek between myself and the dogs, I took a picture of them.

A few miles later, I came to another creek and crossed it the same way. It was getting late now, so I decided to turn back. The area was so scenic that it was like a whole new route on the way back. I lucked out because the dogs weren't around when I came back up the hill. The miles passed quickly with a tailwind as I raced to get back to Burnet before the sun went down.

I must have missed a turn on the way back because I ended up on busy US 281  just south of town. This wasn't bad at first since there were shoulders, but once I got into Burnet there were curbs instead. I finished the second part of my ride for a total of 65.6 miles for the day (in 4:57:47 for a 13.2 mph average). The route had not been easy, but I rode comfortably. I felt rather triumphant after being waylaid by mechanical troubles the day before.

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