This is the 3rd time we've ridden in the Katy ride. This year we decided to go longer at 62 miles. Also we decided to try to improve our speed as much as we could. Hey, it's flat in Katy,TX! We should be able to go and go and go as long as we stay hydrated, eat something now and again, and keep up with the sun screen.
We drove down on Saturday afternoon and stopped in at Northwest Cyclery on the north of Houston off Beltway 8. We drove into Houston at about 4:45pm and dug out the ride sheets and discovered that the packet picket ended at 5pm! Anne was driving so I got on the cell phone and phoned to see if they would keep the pickup going longer than that. Well, maybe... So Anne drove like a bat-out-of-hell and we arrived there at 4:58pm. Made it. And we weren't alone, there were lots and lots of cars with Austin stickers that were circling just like we were! Anne dropped me at the front and I went in and picked up the packets. No problem. They had a television going with a tape of OCL Adventure Television running the Tour de France. It was very exciting.
We checked into our hotel then called over to Anne's sister's house to see what what cooking for dinner. We ended up at an Olive Garden for a rip-roaring fun time with all of Trina's family (+1 friend) and her brother Tom and his family too (4), 13 people in all!
The ride started at 7am on Sunday morning. This is the _only_ ride we do that's on a Sunday. This usually means that we have to stay the night and head home on Monday, which we did this time again. Also, since we stay over a Sunday night, the rates at the hotels sky rocket. I wonder what that's about? So we drove down on Saturday and stayed at our regular Radisson one night on the west side of Houston near the ride, then at a Hampton Inn north of Houston up in The Woodlands way out the way of Monday morning traffic.
We left the Radisson at 6:15am thinking 45 minutes was plenty of time to drive the 10 minutes over to the I-10 exit in Katy. Wrong. The traffic was backed up way onto I-10 and we crept along until about 7:15am when we parked at the stadium. Yep, 15 minutes after the ride was supposed to have started. What a pain. There was plenty of parking, we were on the west side of the stadium. The start was over on the east side and we couldn't see it from our parking place.
We drove on over to the start and got in with our group, the 62 milers. The organizers were letting small groups of about 200 bikers go at about 5 minutes intervals. We waited maybe, 10-15 minutes, then our group got the signal and we headed out of the parking lot, turned left and were off. The last 2 times we did this ride we rode with Russell, our nephew, and did the 50 mile route. He wasn't ready this year so we altered our course and took the 62 mile route. We rode along with the 50 milers for a while then they took a right turn while the 62 and 100 milers continued straight. We looped around to the south and west and reconnected with the 50 milers. There was a rest stop here. The 100 milers left us at this point for a long loop west and north where they reconnected with us up on the north side and we all rode the last 10 miles together to the finish. We _did_ ride past the house and yard where the woman on the riding mower 2 years ago carefully turned to blow grass clippings and whatever else would come out from under the machine onto the bikers (me and Russell). Russell wanted to go back and spit at her but we wouldn't let him. I didn't see her this year, but the lawn was nicely mowed.
The temperature was very warm and the wind was out of the southeast and didn't blow much until midday. So the first part of the ride was very nice and easy. We probably averaged 18-19 mph for the first 40 miles. But then we turned east and then south, into the wind, and being tired, our average dropped way off leaving us with an overall average of around 17 mph. This is still very good for us, we usually only average about 15-16 overall.
Going a little faster like that put us into a different group of bikers. We saw a _lot_ of people who had crashed. Some had EMS units beside them doing first aid, others were biking along all scraped up. We saw one guy who looked like he had run into a light pole! His bike was broken and he was laying on the ground beside the pole, there were people quickly biking back the other way to see what had happened to him. It looked like he either got run off the road by another biker, or a car, or he just didn't look up at the right time. (This happens a lot to kids biking on these routes. It seems they don't know to look in front of them).
The ride was a little less organized this year than last. We heard from someone at one of the rest stops that they were trying to cut the costs from last year. It was noticable. There was less traffic control, no cups at the rest stops, and they ran out of Gatorade at some of the rest stops. Luckily, Rest Stop #9 at the 48 mile point on our route still had the big fans and water misters setup. It felt great to get some water on me then stand in front of the fan. In New Mexico I pinched the mouthpiece on my Camelback and let the water drip on my legs, arms, and back. It felt like ice as it evaporated, even in the 95 degree days. Not in Katy, TX. I did the same thing here and it just felt warm and ran down my leg. No evaporation. It's too humid here to get any effect.
We rode into the finish just before noon and headed over to the car. There was very little going on at the finish line, so we packed up and headed up to Popeye's chicken for some lunch. Nothing like some greasy chicken and biscuits after a long ride! After lunch we headed over to my brother's house south of Houston in Friendswood, TX. They had moved there from Lousiana about three weeks before the ride and were getting settled into their new home. We got cleaned up at their house, took the tour, and settled down to visit for a while. We had not seen them since our nephew, Clifton, graduated high school last year, and it was great talking to them, hearing about their new jobs, and checking out the new digs. We stayed a couple of hours then loaded back up and headed north to Conroe. We were trying to get out of Houston Sunday night so we wouldn't have to face the Monday morning traffic. We were too tired to drive all the way back to Plano, so Conroe seemed like a good compromise.
I'm not sure we'll do this ride again next year. It is a long way to go and we can't spend much time with family when we have the ride on Sunday. With Russell going to college, the parking situation, and the cost reductions that they did, I think it was a little less enjoyable than in the years before.