Mandatory music: You must listen to the traditional folk music of the Real Ale Ride. Go on, press the button:
Today was the Real Ale Ride, which starts and ends at the Real Ale Brewery in Blanco. Did it last year for the first time on a rented road bike; this year I went out on my lovely newish GT. Was going to do 50 miles, but didn’t have the legs for it, so I just did 30. Not only were my legs tired going in, I was so sleepy that I almost just went back to sleep on the living room floor when I was stretching out before leaving. Yikes.
As has become tradition, I listened to the first Van Halen album on the way out, putting “I’m the One” on repeat for the last 15 minutes of the drive. When I listen to Van Halen (I), I imagine what it must have been like to see this band playing this music in a small club in LA, before they got huge. Can you imagine standing in some dinky bar while Eddie Van Halen plays “Eruption” in your face? That must have been AMAZING.
Because I went last year, I knew that parking across the highway was an option, and so zipped past the ½ mile of traffic crawling into the brewery parking lot. Riding from the car to the start, I could feel the lack of go in my legs just riding up the slight rise of the road up to the brewery. I nipped over to the registration table for the group portrait of the Beerbassadors and then stretched out some more.
At this point I realized I’d forgotten both gloves and sunscreen. “Eh, no problem,” I thought. But sadly my hands were vibrating at the end of the ride (after I got off the bike), and my inner arms were red and hot; ooof.
The ride’s tagline is “Up the hills, down the beer.” The 30-mile route has only 2 really killer hills. I’m a little afraid of hills since switching from old bike’s triple to my new bike’s compact—I miss those extra gears. But when I got to the first killer hill (which arises quite suddenly after a turn), I remembered that I made it up last year so I committed and just kept my eyes on the ground in front of me, focusing on just turning over the pedals. I was going 2-4 MPH, so too slow to clip out and stop without falling over. (About the same speed as all the folks walking their bike up the hill.) And I made it to the top: victory!
Approaching the first rest stop at ~13 miles, we hit a good stretch of chipseal—so much chipseal that my hands were numb by the time I rolled to a stop for half a peanut butter sandwich, an orange slice, and a Nutter Butter. This point was the split for the 30- and 50-mile routes. I was feeling pretty good, and afraid it was a mistake to just do the 30. But pretty soon after that stop, I approached the second killer hill and had two thoughts: 1) Fuck this, and 2) Time to make it a duathalon. I hopped off and walked up (as briskly as possible!) with everyone else (except the badasses sloooowly pedaling past us).
Not far from that hill is the very best downhill, the most compelling reason to make it up there at all. The view from up top is glorious—the hills stretching out in the distance. I got in the drops and tried not to look at my speed (took one peek and saw 47 MPH) as I rolled along in a long glorious whoooosh; it was like a self-powered roller coaster.
After that first rest stop, the crowd had thinned out, which is ideal because I want to look at the scenery and the bike goes where I look, which can be problematic. It’s one thing to run myself into a fence because I’m looking at a field full of goats; it’s quite another to take someone else out with me.
Once I made it back to the brewery, I had lunch and a couple of brews, followed by a 10-minute massage. I got a massage at the end of last week’s Armadillo Classic; that therapist was like an angel sent from Bike Heaven to bring joy to my shoulders and neck. This therapist was more like a lab puppy: big, eager movements that were a little too deep at times. I rode over to my car to put up my bike. I was feeling too loopy to drive (combination of beer and endorphins) so I called my dad to catch up while I sobered up.
Then it was time to pick up my free case of beer (one of the Beerbassador perks), which turned out to be a case of Fireman’s 4 Pale Ale. Carrying the case to my car across the highway was a bit of a hike, and I had to stop for a rest at one point. Then when I got to about 20 feet away from my car, this other rider saw me and insisted on carrying that last 20 feet. He felt strongly I should not have had to carry it all the way from the brewery. “Would it make you feel better if I told you I got it for free? “ I asked him. “Nope,” he said. What a sweet guy!
As I walked to and from my car, I cheered along everyone coming in. These were folks who’d done to the 50- or 65-mile routes, and I liked seeing their weary faces light up a bit in response to the cheering. Every little bit of encouragement helps at the end of an endurance event.
Some cool non-road bikes were on hand; I saw the super-fat-tired bike roll in after a rather long time on the 15-mile course (according to bystanders, anyway). The flaming fixie was super cool, but must have been problematic on the hills.
On the way home, stopped at Thyme and Dough in Dripping Springs on the way home for a delicious chicken salad sammich on toasted 7-grain bread with a Mexican Coke and a cranberry cookie that had a wonderful saltiness to it.