Sometimes the best trips are the ones that we didn’t plan on making. So what happens when you make a last minute decision on Thursday night to get out of town on Friday? TEXAS happens!
I hastily packed my overnight bag, cycling kit, picked up my new gravel bike and a friend after work on Good Friday and we headed out. Three and ½ hours on what some refer to as the best thing to ever come out of Oklahoma (I-35 South) and we arrived at our gravel port of call.
Muenster is a predominately German Catholic community just west of Gainesville in the scenic Red River area of north central Texas. The city is very rightfully proud of it’s German heritage and Texas hospitality and the business directory on Main Street reads like a Rhineland phonebook.
Unfortunately, we arrived just a couple weeks shy of the famous Muenster German Fest. This year’s festivities will be crowned with a performance by Grand Old Opry member John Conlee! #rosecoloredglasses
I guess David Hasselhoff was previously engaged?
Oklahoma “gravel” tends to be muddy as it is choked full of our trademark flour fine “red dirt” (you know, the same stuff we liberally exported as far as New York City and Washington, D.C. during the Dust Bowl era). Don’t get me wrong, every gravel road has it’s own personality to love, and Oklahoma is home.
The gravel in north central Texas is hard, white, limestone – the stuff that smooth, fast, and dusty roads are made of. The Red River area is incredibly scenic in April. The ride was characterized by winding and very rolling terrain through lush green ranch land. Redbud trees are in full bloom in April and punctuate this verdant green canvas with deep magenta and pink. Indian paint brush lines the shoulders of the road and, in places, erupts into the surrounding fields like a prairie fire.
By Oklahoma standards, this course was moderately hilly. However, painful climbs were rewarded by magnificent hilltop vistas and super fast descents through cross timber hollows. The ride was broken up into three separate loops that brought you back to the starting point, so bailing out was an option at 32 or 75 miles. I had hoped to do the entire 130 mile ride, but the late ride start (8:40 am) and a long drive ahead back to Tulsa made this choice a non-starter. Plus calling it at 75 miles ensured there was still some BBQ and beer back at the barn for us!
The crowning jewel of the course is Windmill Hill. This short but steep climb came up on me fast around mile 20 and looked very deceptive. My first clue that something was wrong as I closed in on the climb was the large number of seemingly capable riders dismounting and walking. As I was sizing all of this up, a rather compact female rider rushed by me to assault the hill with all the momentum she could bring. I followed her lead and began to light my pack of matches one at a time. The first third of the climb was certainly manageable with 8 to 9% grades and well compacted gravel, but this quickly increased to a constant plus 10% and I believe there were significant “kickers” on the remainder of this short climb that approached 20% grade. I stood up and wheels began to slip. I sat down and couldn’t keep revs up on pedals. I tried to tack, and walkers got in the way… I was starting to wonder if I would make it as I sat down as forward as I could on the seat and just mashed the pedals to the top. Yes, we call this fun (at least after it’s all over)!
Thank you Spinistry for putting together such a well organized event on such a beautiful course. I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could! What a great inaugural outing for me in the Lone Star State!