We Ride At Night. A Trilogy Of Night Rides(with a 600km Brevet mixed in)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had been on some really good rides or had some big ones planned. Well, they turned out to be some of the best rides I have been on this year. A big part of this was that they took place at night.

We have been lucky so far this year and have had a cooler summer than last year, though I think the heat is about to really hit as August approaches. Even though its been a little cooler, its still Texas summer soits still damn hot. I find it hard to get out early enough in the morning to beat the heat. My main motivation for getting out of bed  in the morning is a cup of coffee, followed by breakfast and read of the newspaper. Yes, the one printed on those large sheets of paper that used to appear on your door step every morning till the internet put many paper boys out of a job. By the time my morning ritual is complete its time to get to work. And with the Tour de France on this past month I have certainly not gotten out for a morning ride.

With a busy work day, this means that I will typically not make it out for a ride till after sundown. But to be honest, I actually much prefer this. The temperatures are cooler, traffic is a little more mellow. It also seems to be fun, more magical, even more peaceful at night. I feel like the empty roads are my playground and mine alone, or if I am with a friend I suppose I can share this playground.

During the day, the harsh Texas’ sun can drown everything out, creating a visual monotony that especially while being on a bike for miles can break one’s spirits or at least make a ride kinda boring. At night, the natural glow from the moon and stars along with the faded light from street lamps and my generator light dance along with the shadows creating a kaleidoscope drama and wonderment. We forget how much light, in its many shades and forms, can effect our mood or perception of both a place, ourselves, or whatever we might be looking at. I suppose that is why so many artists throughout history, be it painters, photographers, film makers or even architects, make the capture, depiction, or manipulation of light such an integral part of their work.

But I digress. Let’s get back to talking about riding bikes.

Part 1: 234km Dinosaur Dig Permanent

I have been pretty focused on running recently as I am training for a 100 mile ultra-marathon in September. Long runs have been a priority over long rides. Not that I have been neglecting my bike, I have just been going on shorter rides, riding more socially or for commuting. I was trying my best to at least keep up with the R12 award(200km for 12 consecutive months), but June 30th had rolled around and looked like I was about to break the chain. I was a little bummed out at this prospect, but I knew that my athletic goals were a little different this year and its hard to do everything.

I was also having a hard day because it was what would have been my Mom’s birthday. We were having a small memorial for her at the Botanical Gardens where we had gotten a commemorative bench installed. I was chatting with some family friends when I received a text from Bernie asking if I would be interested in a night time 200km permanent. He had botched a previous attempt at his R12 ride a few weeks before due to a thunder storm and was trying to get it in before the month ended. Originally he said that he wanted to leave at 11. I hesitated a little. Then Bernie messaged back saying he could probably go a little earlier. I didn’t hesitate this time and said I was down for the ride.

I was very pleased that Bernie had proposed this somewhat audacious ride on what would have otherwise been a solemn day for me. Bernie was also my riding buddy on the first really long ride I went on after my Mom had passed. It was long, cold, and cathartic ride back in December. Its great how your friends can turn up unexpectedly, especially when you need them.

With the marvels of modern technology we were able to sort out the signing of ride waivers and print out permanent cards just a few hours before the ride. Bernie picked me up around 8 pm and we headed to Willow Park, about 20 miles west of Fort Worth. Our start time was for 9 pm, and it was probably the first time we had made it to the start of ride with plenty of time to spare. Another perk of going on a night ride.

The sun was setting before we began to ride out, so we went ahead and donned our mandatory reflective gear and put our lights on. The route starts off on some of my favorite roads. Being close to Fort Worth this is essentially my stomping ground for a good country ride. We headed south on FM 5 and then turned left onto Airport Road in Annetta. This took us over to FM 51. From there it was a straight shot to Grandbury.

With the 4th of July falling on a Wednesday, it meant that festivities would be split between the weekend before and after. This meant things were kicking off during our ride. I was a little concerned about drunk drivers, especially on 51, but we were fine. In every direction, the horizon was alight in distant fireworks. With the periphery standing in darkness, the rolling hills we were riding on could have quite easily been the hills of Brittany that I rode last summer during PBP. The fireworks could have easily been to celebrate  Bastille Day instead of the Fourth.

We made it to Grandbury around 11. It was not a control stop, but we made a quick dash into a convenient store to fill up on water as there would be absolutely nothing between there and Glen Rose. A few miles past Grandbury, the traffic disappeared and it was just me, Bernie, and the moonlit road. We kept a good pace and it was not long till we saw the sinister glow of the twin reactors comprising the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant just on the outskirts of Glen Rose. A few miles down the road and we were at our first control stop. It would also be the only open control during our ride, so we took a little longer chowing down on the fine gas station fare. We were not sure of what our refueling options would be at the other controls. The route owner, Gary, had done the same route earlier in the day and said that he would stash some water for us, but there was a good chance that the stash would have been removed, so we bought plenty of extra water to take with us.

We were back on the road around 1 a.m. Though this route was new to me, it comprised many of the same roads that make up other brevets I had been on. I could nearly do the whole thing without the cue sheet. Between Glen Rose and Bluff Dale was another stretch of rolling hills, thought they were getting a little more serious. We did not see a single car the whole stretch as we were quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

There is a very bizarre and out of place looking lighthouse marking the entrance to a housing community on the approach to Bluff Dale. After pacing this marvel, you are rewarded with a quick decent down to the main road and control stop. Sure enough, the water Gary had stashed for us was still there. With the store being closed, there was not much point lingering, and surprisingly the night brought very cool temperatures and it was a bit chilly standing there, so we filled up our bottles and got ready to head out.

We were now starting to loop back to the North and we marched on to the next stop in Lipan. There was not a whole lot to report from this section. More quiet country roads and a couple of friends chatting. Well, I was actually doing most of the talking and this late at night, I was probably coming out with all kinds of nonsense. I couldn’t quite tell if I was annoying Bernie or if he was just to tired to respond. We made it to Lipan at around 4 a.m. Once again there was some water stashed for us. We had a good laugh at the fact that we were in some small town, in the middle of nowhere, during the middle of the night, and then got back on our bikes and headed towards Grandbury.

Most likely from the delirium of being up this long, Bernie had come back to life and we had a great time riding into Grandbury. As we approached we could see the first signs of sunrise. We made it to Grandbury around 6 a.m. Near our next turn was a convenience store. It was not a control, but we both fancied having a cold can of coke to give us a little boost for the last few miles, so we stopped to see if it was open. The hours posted on the door said that it should be open at 6, but no one was there yet. The sun was up, so we spent a little time taking off our reflective gear and turning off our lights. We waited till quarter past for someone to turn up, but there was no sign of anyone. I suppose they did not realize a pair of silly cyclists might be riding there bikes all night and need some early morning refreshment.

We got over our disappointment of not having a Coke and made our turn onto Tin Top Road. Anyone that has ridden on this road will attest to how much fun it is with its quick rollers, cactus laden scenery, and points of interest like the Brazos River, goat farms, and a  Christian Motorcycle Gang club house. On one previous occasion I even saw a stampede of horses.

As the sun continued to rise, the mystery of the night was replaced by that early morning peacefulness and serenity. I am never sure if that feeling is from still having the road to yourself as most people are asleep or from one’s mind and body being so depleted from being up for so long, that all is left is a sense of calm. Regardless, it was now a strange to be riding in daylight as we had started and done most of the ride in the dark.

Shortly after crossing the Brazos, we were pleased to find a small store that was open. Even though we blew a lot of time waiting in vain for the last store, we weren’t really in a rush so decided that the cold soda was worth another little stop. It was around 7 in the morning and I was starting to fade considerably. Some how the soda break did wonders for Bernie and he was riding like a bat out of hell once we got back on the road.

We had a vague goal of finishing in under 12 hours, with an even vaguer goal of finishing before 8:30 a.m, around 11 hours 30 minutes. This was now looking like a possibility, and  Bernie was taking this a little more seriously than I was. I had never seen Bernie ride this hard towards the end of a ride and I was having to put a big effort in just to sit on his wheel. We turned off of Tin Top Road and soon we were back on 51 for a couple of miles before turning onto Airport.

A little down the road we ran into Gary, the route owner, going the opposite direction. He was out for a 300km permanent and seemed pleased to see us. We stopped for a moment to say hello and then headed on. Bernie was still hauling ass and I asked him why he was riding so fast. He responded “Aren’t we trying to get in before 8:30?” To that I said “Well, yeah, but we don’t need to kill ourselves over it. Plus, we are about to have a big climb so I would save something for that.”

Shortly after that Bernie dropped me going up the climb. What is going on? This never happens. I wasn’t about to let it bother me, and was actually quite impressed with the big guy’s performance. I caught up with him when we turned onto FM 5 and we flew along for the last few miles. We made the last turn onto East Bankhead Highway.

The pace was still high but the last kilometer had a few climbs and Bernie turns to me and says “Okay, I’m done.”

“What do you mean you are done? We are almost there, you can see the control,” I respond.

“I don’t have anything left, let’s just crawl in.”

“You have been kicking my ass over the last 15 miles, making me ride way harder than I wanted to and now you want to crawl through the last kilo?”

“Yup,” Bernie simply puts it.

“Okay, I don’t actually want to ride fast anymore,” I willfully conceded.

By the time this exchange was over we were pretty much there. We got our cards signed at 8:35 a.m. So close to our vague goal. We made a short list of how we lost that 5 minutes, placing most of the blame on the shop clerk in Grandbury for not turning up on time and us standing there waiting for the store to open. This discussion ended with “Oh well, the ride was amazing regardless. Let’s go to Whataburger.”

Part 2: Transport Stage to Mineral Wells

I did not have to wait long for another long ride. The following weekend was the Lone Star Randonneurs’ 600km brevet out of Mineral Wells. I needed to complete a 600km towards the Super Randonneur Award, SR for short. I had already completed the 200, 300, and 400 that also comprise the award.

I was not exactly looking forward to this brevet. It’s not that I did not want to do the distance. The 600 is actually one of my favorite distances. It was more that I  had already done the 600km route out of Mineral Wells twice over the past 2 years and a third go round felt like it might be kind of dull. Combined with the summer heat, this did not seem like an attractive endeavour.

I had toyed with the idea dashing off to another State to do the 600km so I could ride some different terrain, be in cooler temperatures, and either ride with friends in other cities or make new ones. Unfortunately I am not quite the jet setter as I would like to believe I am. With time and money a bit short it was going to have to be Mineral Wells.

A few days before the brevet I was speaking with my friend Linnae. I  was telling her about the previous weekend’s ride and the upcoming one. She had previously mentioned, on multiple occasions actually, that she really wanted to ride her bike to Mineral Wells and spend a little time in this odd but nice little town. This was brought up again when I mentioned that the brevet was starting there.

Inspired by a few stories in Bicycle Quarterly about randonneurs doing transport stages before brevets, I had always wanted to ride out to Mineral Wells before a ride. Without  that much discussion it was quickly decided that we would ride there Friday night. Not only would it be fun riding  with a friend, doing the transport stage that I had always wanted to do, but I thought, surely,  doing this ride at night would provide the adventure that might be lacking from doing the same 600km brevet route again.

After a busy week, Friday finally rolled around. We meet up at around 5 p.m. After running a few errands, we were on the Trinity River Trail around 6:30 p.m. It was still sweltering as we rode westward, directly into the sun.

We had not made it that far when Linnae rode up next to me and said “I need to stop for a second, my back is killing me.” I knew that she had some back issues over the past couple weeks and also being a busy single mom she had not had that much time to go for a proper ride for sometime, this being a rare chance that she was away from her daughter, so it was understandable that she might have some discomfort.

However, at no point did I really think her back pain or time off the bike would hinder the ride. I knew that her conviction/determination to ride to Mineral Wells was very strong and that she used to commute 30 miles a day so was no stranger to long rides.

We stopped so she could stretch a little and we made a few adjustments to her stem, handlebars and saddle in hopes that a little different position would lessen the discomfort. We decided to see how things were when we got to Benbrook. If she needed to turn back that was a good place to do so. We would then see how she was in Aledo, but after that it was Mineral Wells or bust.

We got back on the trail and were in Benbrook in no time. I did not tell Linnae that we were in Benbrook because I did not want her to turn back. She did not mention any discomfort and soon we were riding the hills across Aledo Iona Road. It was still dead hot, which made the climbs a bit harder.

The road flattened out as we approached Aledo. We pulled over at the Shell Station and took a break to get some water and a snack. Linnae’s back was still giving her trouble, but she did not mention wanting to turn around and I once again did not bring it up.

We were back on the road around 8:30 just as the sun was starting to set.  The heat, hills and traffic were now behind us, and the real fun would start. We made quick work of Aledo and were soon on East Bankhead Highway that would take us straight to Weatherford. Spirits were improving with the falling temperatures and this was a nice section. We made it to the outskirts of Weatherford and stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop for some fine dining a la  Subway.

I am not entirely sure what time we left, but the streets were plenty quiet as we made our way across Weatherford in search of the Rails to Trail that would take us to Mineral Wells. I was in charge of the directions and after riding up a pretty big hill that I had no recollection of doing on a previous ride it was apparent that we had over shot our turn. Luckily, we were having too much fun at this point so neither of were bothered or stressed in the slightest. Our patience was quickly rewarded as we witnessed something we would not have seen if we had not been lost.

As we were trying to figure out how to get back on track, Linnae pointed up at the dark sky and said “Hey, what’s that?” I turned to look and saw the most unusual object floating along. Not even that high up was what appeared to be a very small, unmanned hot air balloon. I could not really see what it was made of but seemed to be made out of some kind of bag or even a pillow case with a small flame, maybe from a candle, providing the heat to move it along. It was certainly a sight to see.

After watching it go by till we could no longer see it, we headed back down the hill and soon found the turn we had missed. There was good reason why we had missed it. The road sign was sitting behind a large tree, and the street hardly looked like a street at all. It looked more like a paved path through, what we soon found out, was a graveyard! Nothing like unexpectedly riding through a graveyard in the middle of the night. First the hot air balloon and now this. We had a good laugh as we rode through the cemetery over these strange surprises we encountered.

We made it to the other side of Weatherford and were looking for the entrance to the Trail. We over shot it again and after  back tracking, once again it was easy to see why we had missed it. There was a gate closing off the entrance as they did not want anyone riding at night. How boring, no riding at night? We hopped the gate and were finally on the trail.

It was about 20 miles to Mineral Wells and the trail would take us all the way there. The few missed turns had put us back a little time-wise and it was approaching midnight. It was late, but we were generally having fun at this point and things were just getting better the further west we went.

We thought that we had the trail to ourselves but it turned out we were sharing it with a lot of busy spiders that were spinning giant webs that were spanning the width of the trail. We would laugh at each others’ expense when one of us would  would start shrieking from getting caught in one. I was going through more of them as I was riding slightly in front of Linnae and as a result was doing most of the shrieking.

We finally came out of the other end of the trail in Mineral Wells just before 2 a.m. With the various stops this was a bit later than expected but we had a great ride with all kinds of sights, sounds, smells, not mention laughs and good chat. We stopped at Wal-Mart to get some snack food as this was really our only option at that time of night.

It was nearly 3 a.m. by the time we got to our 4 star accommodations at the Mineral Wells Executive Inn. I really needed to be asleep as I had to get up at 6 and be ready for the ride at 7. By the time I had showered and had a snack it was about 4 a.m. The prospect of 2 hours of sleep did not do much to make me look forward to the next day, but I none the less set the alarm clock and tried to get what sleep I could.

Unfortunately, I was extremely paranoid that if I feel into a deep sleep I would surely sleep through the alarm and totally miss out on the brevet. Instead of falling asleep, I tossed and turned for 2 hours, got up when the alarm went off, began to get my stuff ready for what would now surely turn out to be an adventure, albeit one more about survival than discovery.

Interlude: 600km Mineral Wells Brevet

I felt surprisingly okay as I lined up with my club mates at the start of the brevet.  Maybe because I  had ridden during the night, had a great time with a friend, and saw plenty of odd things, I felt like I had awoken from a dream. It could of also been that I was now running of adrenaline as my body was trying to keep me up. But, like most randonneurs, I knew that feeling good was not going to last a whole 600km. From the start I knew that I had to just go when I could and ride my own ride, as I would no doubt slow down considerably at some point.

Another reason that I felt like I needed to ride my own pace at all times was because I had it my head that I was going to ride the 600km straight through with no sleep. This was, firstly, to maximize the cooler night temperatures, and additionally improve on my previous times for this route, but also because I was now really enjoying night riding. Not sleeping the night before might alter this plan, but I was going to give it a good shot.

From the start I took off with a pretty fast rider that was doing the 200km. We made it to Palo Pinto in no time and turned onto FM 4. From there it was a straight shot to the first control in  Lipan, about 32 miles in. Eventually the other guy dropped me, but I kept going as fast as I could. About 4 miles outside of Lipan I was joined but 4 others. 2 of them were doing the 200km, and the other 2 the 600km. They were hauling ass, and I sat on their wheels to recover a little from my solo effort. I was told that we were averaging 19 mph, not a bad way to start a brevet.

I was hoping for a little breakfast in Lipan, but did not see anything that caught my eye. I grabbed a banana at the register, but after one bite I remembered how much I don’t actually like bananas and threw it away. The rest of the group was rolling up, but I knew I had to keep going while I still had some energy and also maximize the cooler morning temperatures.

When I made the first turn I saw that there were a couple behind me so I slowed down and let them catch up. It was Debbie and Danny, who were both doing the 200km and also pretty fast riders. I knew they wouldn’t mind me riding behind them as I had a long day(s) ahead of me. They pulled me along till their turn around. From this point I turned east and headed towards Glen Rose. I was now on the same hilly road that I had ridden only a week before.

I used my momentum from the rolling hills to keep my pace up and was in Glen Rose shortly. Conveniently, the control was in a grocery store and I could grab some decent food. I have a hard time eating in the heat. Processing the food seems more difficult and I also feel full from how much liquid I have to take in. One thing that does seem to work is cold fruit and I bought a 1/2 dozen plums and ate them all immediately.

I was starting to go onto autopilot at this point, not a good sign so early in the ride, but luckily autopilot was set on a good pace.  The previous year we had faced not only  scorching temperatures but also a 30 mph headwind during most of this ride, especially on this section, so I was thankful that conditions were slightly better this time.

I made a quick stop at the control in Meridian and was heading out as the group appeared. Temperatures were starting to rise on my way to Cranfils Gap. It wasn’t too bad, slightly under a 100, but I didn’t want to take any chances and wanted to be as comfortable as possible. I filled up an ice sock(a long sock filled with ice and knotted at the end) and put it under my jersey.

This helped considerably till the ice melted about 1/2 way to the next control in Hico, and I started to boil again. With a few miles to go, I felt what seemed to be a few rain drops. I was not sure if I had gone delirious from the heat and lack of sleep as there was not really any clouds in the sky, nor any rain in the forecast. I looked up and saw one lonely black cloud right above me. As I was staring at it and feeling the few drops it let fall I literally said, out loud, “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

I breezed through Hico and was on my way to Dublin. The heat and exhaustion was starting to hit big time and I began to struggle. I might have been a vampire cyclist the night before, but now I was turning into a zombie randonneur. Luckily this did not last for too long. Apparently, my courteous “thank yous” to the black cloud had paid off and a few miles outside of Dublin he had gathered some of his friends and not only gave me a few more rain drops, but also lowered the temperatures slightly, and most graciously gave me a tail wind that pushed me the rest of the way. This was yet another very welcomed surprise.

Even with the help of tailwind and rain drops, I was pretty beat once I made it to Dublin. I hung out for a while, and the group appeared before I left. I decided to wait a little a bit, see how they were doing and also find out if we were in for a storm. It looked the storm would pass us by. I waited a little longer with intentions of riding out with them. It was taking a little longer, so I rode out figuring that I was going pretty slow at the point and they would catch up shortly.

The rain and clouds had cast a giant rainbow. At first I could only see one side of it. 20 minutes down the road I saw the other end. The amazement of this was short lived as soon after a bug hit me on my face. I swatted at it, but I did not have a chance to see that it was a wasp till after it stung me about a split second after landing on my knee.

I grimaced and cursed loudly, but did not stop pedaling. I have now been stung enough times, while riding a bike, to know that I am at least not allergic, so stopping would not really serve any purpose other than losing some time. It did however slow me down, and I was soon passed by Dan and Pam. I tried to catch up with them after I had recovered a little, but they were going pretty fast and I could not get them.

They were leaving the next control in Gordon when I was approaching. This was the final stop before heading back to Mineral Wells. Since I had an extended stay in Dublin and knew the hotel was the next stop, I simply filled my water bottles and was back on the bike. It was now after 9 p.m. and the night had once again brought cooler temperatures. It is amazing how much this, along with not having the sun beat down on you, can raise your pace.

I hurried along, and made the final turn onto Highway 180. It was still 18 miles to Mineral Wells. I had not even made it to Palo Pinto when the fatigue was being to set in considerably. At this point I was having trouble keeping my eyes open and instantly knew that riding straight through was not going to happen. I got over this disappointment quickly as sleeping sounded very enticing.

I made it back around 12 a.m., which was great for riding 350km in the heat. Linnae was nice enough to get me some food earlier in the day so I had plenty eat. I ate, had a quick shower, and was asleep in no time. I wanted to get up at 3 a.m. but when the alarm went off  I thought “No way in hell am I getting up right now,” and set it for another hour.

I was out the door by 4:15 a.m. I rode along and enjoyed the darkness and empty roads of the early morning hours. The sun eventually rose and with it my energy was restored and I was cruising along. Once again I wanted to go strong while I had the energy and the temperature was moderate.

The first stop was Strawn, TX, one of my favorite little towns in this area. The grill was hot in convenient store/cafe so I had a quick breakfast of an egg and cheese sandwich and coffee. Back on the bike I hurried along to the next stop in Gorman. I was in out, trying my best to beat the heat. Still riding strong I made quick work of this first 80 miles and was at the 3rd stop in Ranger in good time.

The next leg would the longest one of the day, with not a whole lot in between. I knew that the temperatures would start to rise considerably. Before I left Ranger, I filled up the ice sock. It was a good thing I did because it got really hot as soon as I left. The sun was beating down pretty hard, and I looked as burnt as the trees had the year before after the area had severe wild fires.

I crawled to the last control, once again in Gordon. The only thing keeping me going was the fact that I knew I was almost done. I filled up with ice and water and started that final slog. The last leg involved going up my beloved Cherry Pie Hill. I usually look forward to this, but today I was not. As I approached it, I was telling myself that if I felt really bad it was “okay” to get off the bike and walk. Luckily I did not have to resort to that, though I am sure that was the slowest I had ever ridden up.

Finally at the top, I knew I was on the home stretch. I was completely gone at this point, well, I was probably completely gone a long time before then, but at least I knew it was 12 easy miles back to Mineral Wells. I literally rolled all the way in. Once back at the Executive Inn, I was so pleased to be done. Honestly, I should not have been able to finish this ride. Between starting with no sleep and riding in the heat, I should have either quit or been in the hospital. I don’t know how I managed. And somehow, even with taking a few hours sleep, I improved my previous fastest time by 2 hours as I finished in 33 hours.

Once back in the room, I ordered a pizza to be delivered to the room and took a shower while I waited for it to arrive. I ate nearly the whole pizza along with whatever food was left in the fridge. Soon after I was catching up on some sleep before the long ride back to Fort Worth.

Part 3:   Return Transport Stage

I woke up a bit before Linnae returned from her day of adventuring around Mineral Wells. Before getting back she had met a few of the Lone Star members, including our President Dan. He is quite the recruiter and did not miss a beat trying to talk Linnae into coming out for a brevet. I had a good laugh from hearing about this exchange. After the ride out to Mineral Wells, there was no doubt that she would make a great randonneuse, but I am just not sure if it was something she would want to do. Some of us need goals, targets, or awards to stay motivated to get on the bike all the time. Linnae enjoys riding purely for the fun and sense of adventure that bikes provide. Maybe the rules and regulations might hinder that sense of freedom? I know I have learned a lot, seen new places and met a lot of great people through randonneuring, but it is that sense of adventure that is always at the core.

After stopping at a restaurant so Linnae could have dinner, and I could have a second dinner, we started our trip home. It was already 11 p.m. by the time we got on the Rails to Trail. This was fine as we had planned on leaving late and riding through the night again. Linnae told me all about her time wandering around Mineral Wells.  I was a bit jealous as I had never really had the chance to discover Mineral Wells since  I had always just rode through it. It turned out that in the span of a couple of days she had become something of a local celebrity and was now known as “that girl riding her bike everywhere”.

Not that far down the trail, we soon learned that the spiders had been waiting for us, and were more prepared. We seemed to be going through more spider webs and if that wasn’t bad enough the spiders were now jumping on us and our bikes. It was not a laughing matter this time. Multiple times we had to stop and make sure there were not spiders crawling on us.

After one very bad encounter we decided that it was time to get off the trail and find a road that we could take back to Weatherford. We soon found our way onto Old Garner road, which happened to be another favorite road of mine. It is quick, with windy corners, a few climbs and descents, and was especially fun at night with no traffic. The distant glow of Weatherford guided us in and we made our way across town to the same Love’s Truck stop. At this point it was about 2 in the morning. We stopped to eat and caffeinate.

Other than the vicious spider attacks, things were going a lot better. I think having a few days riding around Mineral Wells had restored Linnae’s riding legs, and her back did not seem to bother her as much. We were both getting tired, but we were having a great time, so it did not seem to bother us. We also knew there was only one way home.

It was 4 a.m. when we rolled through Aledo. With the stores shut, we did not stop and kept that forward momentum towards home. We climbed the few hills on Aledo Iona Road, but they were not as bad this time. Cresting the hills the lights of Fort Worth were now visible.

Back in Benbrook we hopped onto the Trinity Trails. Dawn was approaching just before we made it into Fort Worth. The trail being one of the main places people go ride or run in Fort Worth, sunrise also brought out the early morning exercisers. We must have looked like some sight as we passed them and exchanged the customary  “Good Morning”. With dusty racks and panniers, plenty of spider webs still attached to our bikes and very tired eyes, it was obvious we had not just stepped out for a morning ride.

Unfortunately, swarms of gnats tried to ruin the last few miles of our ride. It was annoying, and actually kind of hard to ride in, but we did not let them succeed in damping our spirits. Almost back to the neighborhood, we made an unexpected detour. Instead of taking the infamous Zoo Hill, we turned off right before and followed the tracks of the miniature train that runs through the park. We had heard that you could ride across the tracks that crossed the river, as it was supposed to be paved. It turns out that it was not paved and we ended up having to dismount and walk across the tracks with views of the river showing through the slats of wood. It was a little nerve racking in our tired state, but still kind of fun. We then turned up a service road that took us to the main road and back to the neighborhood. Along the way we saw a few murals that we had not seen before, nor would have seen if we had not taken this odd route.

It was interesting, after all we had seen during the past few days, to experience something new and exciting so close to home. I suppose adventure and discovery can happen when you least expect. It’s great going to faraway places and experiencing other worlds, but finding something new, in your own back yard, can be just as profound.

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