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  • Writer's pictureJim Schroeder

The Last Hell Week Ever!

Nick Gerlich moved down to Texas from Bloomington, IN and the Great Lakes area. Already an accomplished ultra-distance cyclist, Nick started a early spring training week for his UMCA and RAAM friends in Hill Country of Texas. This area is a triangle between Austin, San Antonio, and westward and boasts constant short hills and was always of a favorite of local, Lance Armstrong. All this started 27 years ago, and Nick is calling it quits after this year while starting a new chapter in his life. This is my seventh Hell Week and I'm honored to be doing the last one with a few hundred of my friends.

All rides are loops out of Fredericksburg, one of those weekend destinations of the nearby metro areas. I'm motivated to do as many miles as possible, just because. Sylvia, my wife, is down here but not as a rider, so I'm free to push myself to the limit and hopefully not past the limit. I recall once on the first day I ended up in the hospital due to dehydration at the end of the ride.

One of my friend's "buddies" in Fredericksburg

Day 1 we ventured eastward to the LBJ ranch and then north and west into gypsum mining country. My first attempt at a century of 2017 as I did 93 miles with a small shortcut after my first stop at Stonewall and at the end of the ride. It was pretty much solo as the others in my party opted for the 46 mile C route. We had periods of sprinkly rain and drizzle on 3 or 4 occasions, but that's what rain jackets are for. Lots of wildlife was observed: 3 deer, a roadrunner, llamas, and a camel at the end. Naturally, there was cattle on the livestock roads. This senior heffer was quite upset that I scattered the family as only she stood her ground on the middle of the road and gave me a shreiking moo after I passed her. It was mostly cloudly, but the sun shone thru a couple of times, once while it was raining. We'll see how it feels tomorrow.

Day 2 brought us colder weather but not rain. It was about 10 degrees warmer than Bloomington. I shortened the route up a bit, but I did reach Camp Verde, and I found a couple of long lost hills of the past: Stoneleigh and Hasewinkle.

Day 3 was Mountain Home and Away, one of my favorite routes. Starting out in Fred was 50 degrees and sunny, but it soon turned going west to Harper. The temperature dropped steadily as it also starting drizzling. At about mile 20 it was 45 degrees with heavy sprinkling. The sun finally came out in Harper as I dried out and listened to the local banter at the Velero gas station. The hills now became gently rolling while I was high up looking over the Guadalupe River all the way to Ingram, one of my favorite cafe' and sandwich stops.

There was more local banter there with a group of seniors that must meet there every afternoon. They were mostly "once upon a time Yankees", and I told them about my opinion about Indiana, the only southern state north of the Mason-Dixon line. I finished the day riding the "Fred Kerr Freeway" home with some nice sunny weather, finally!

Day 4 was a "shorty" with my friends from Michigan, i.e. Friends of Ron. Wellsy and Linda rode quite strong, as Phil and I mosied on to Lukenbach to meet up with Sylvia for lunch. It was nice and mellow listening to a little music from the locals. We finished together with a stiff wind and some traffic east of Fred.

The fifth and sixth days were south and west of Fredericksburg but travelled different roads or at least in different directions. This area is my favorite of all of Hill Country. While most of the big boys went down to Bandera on day 5, a few stayed and rode this wonderful ride south of Fred. Sunny and cool initially, but it warmed up in a couple of hours. I stopped at Waring and sat with this rooster on a leash. Unfortunately clouds rolled in and a saddle sore issue was the only downer of the ride.

The Comfort Zone on day six featured Skyline Drive halfway out, and I opted out as I had ridden it before. Once was enough. Unless you are an accomplished climber, avoid roads with the word "skyline". Instead, I had a nice lunch that High's Cafe' and Store in Comfort. Amazing what they can do with avocados.

Day 7 took me to Kendallia and Blanco, south but farther east of Fred. Clouds greeted us in the morning and with a stiff headwind out of the south. The hills were longer, but with some nice vistas as a reward. It was surprising to see Phil pass me while I was taking a picture of an Angorra goat. It didn't didn't look much different from a great white pyrrenes dog. We stopped at this odd general store in Sisterdale, that sold some drinks, candy, and lots of ketchup. We all concluded that it was a front for some illegal activity. Phil hung back at this turnaround point for Linda and Wellsy, while I tried to chase down this Brenda from Austin even with a one mile short cut, but never could. She was leaving a Blanco convenience store while I was arriving. I never saw her after that, as it heated up till the end.

Ahh, the last day of Hell Week and I opted to ride my own route to areas of Hill Country I've never ventured to. The lack of nearby general stores prevented a route to Marble Falls and Llano so I came up with a one way to Llano and I would meet Sylvia and head home up north from there. Farm to market roads northeast from Fred were quiet on this Saturday morning, and then I turned onto Althaus-Davis Rd. It was nice and scenic and no traffic. The final three miles of it was a red dirt road, but it was usually smooth and easy to handle.

Afterwards, it turned into another farm to market road into Horseshoe Bay, quite a affluent neighborhood of Texas. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, it has become quite a lakeside development supplied by the Colorado River.

The last Hell Week was indeed a success: 675 miles and 35,325 ft of climbing. I caught up with a few good old friends. Sylvia did some shopping and a whole lot of quilting. I think I'll take a couple of days off.

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