We started with a run to Morning's Kolaches for a dozen hot ones and a quick stop at the gas station to top off the fuel tank. The drive was nice with light traffic and good roads. We listened to some old country and warbled away with Roger Miller. We arrived somewhat unprepared as the gate attendent asked us for the $5.00 entry fee and all we had to offer were five euros, which he didn't feel would be acceptable with his supervisor. He allowed us to enter and purchase the day pass at the bar where they had the capability of running my credit card.
I asked the bar keep about the trails in an effort to gleen some information that might give me an idea of what kind of ride we could expect. Unfortunately, he was not a well of information and answered only that he had no idea how long the trails were that he finished when he finished. (Later I found him to be amiable and a well of information about football, but, I save it for later.) He did offer that he personally liked the East trails better as they seemed a bit more challenging... bingo! Now we've got a starting point! I left the bar with our day pass, an idea of where to start and a place to get a cold beer when we finished. Life is Good!
I crossed the parking lot back to the jeep with a smile as the sun warmed my face and glinted off the waves on the lake. There were several other cars in the parking lot but nothing like we see at Memorial Park in Houston. There were a couple of boats out on the lake and one pulled a guy on a wake board. I thought to myself, "now, that's something you won't see in Wisconsin on February first." We unloaded the bikes, got our gear ready and discussed our approach agreeing that we should start on the West loop to warm up before tackling the East loop. We hadn't even pushed a pedal before being approached by three other groups of people, indivdually, who hadn't ridden there before and were doing reconaissence. I simply smiled and with an air of confidence relayed how we like to start on the West loop as a warm up before tackling the East loop. They were all very greatful for the information, which, as it turns out, was dead bang on. I guess when you look like you know what you're doing...
I enjoy watching people. I sat in the back of the jeep putting on my shoes getting ready and I just glanced around at what kind of folks were using this area... checking out my competition so to say. There was a great mix of old & young alike. There were families but, the families were "older" with a complete absence of children younger than late teens. There were just as many girls as guys. There were a few cross country runners. The equipment ranged from Walmart special to mid-level quality including specialized, trek, jamis and giant. I was the only one with a Cannondale that I saw and there was only one other 29er. What I saw was a place where I would feel very comfortable. Everybody, without failure, was very friendly and easy to engage in conversation talking about their riding experiences.
We jumped on our faithful steeds and headed for the West loop. The first 100 yards were on the road atop the dam. The first left dropped us down into the woods at a good clip followed by a series of switch backs and then... straight back up the dam! So much for warming up! Man, right out of the parking lot and now my chest feels like it's going to explode. I need to spend some time riding around the parking lot before tackling these trails. It turns out that the trail basically follows the dam around the lake incorporating the dam road to get from one trail segment to another on the way out. On the way back the trail stays off the dam except one short segment that follows along the base. The trail is wide, well-travelled single track. It is fast and a lot of fun. It was so beautiful riding along the trail with the sun pouring through the trees and the water sparkling like diamonds. The West loop turned out to be just over 7.5 miles long afterwhich we got a couple of cokes from the bar and chilled in the parking lot for 30 minutes talking with other riders.
The East loop is more technical than the West loop but not super high on the difficulty scale; although I wiped out three times, I think twice it was more from being tired. I think what made the East loop so much more difficult was the presence of so many leaves, especially on the up side of the hills. The leaves were very slippery and made for difficult excelleration and tight turning. There were also a lot of areas where the feral hogs had rooted-up the trail and it went from hard pack to super soft. Other than that, the East loop follows the same design as the West loop in using the dam road to connect a series of trail segments. We had to double back after missing a turn and ending up on the "short cut" so we ended up having 19.86 miles for both loops. Poor Fabian had a bit of a hard time on the East loop. One of his spokes loosened up and his back wheel was pinging and cracking making him worry about possible damage. On top of that, his saddle kept slipping and tilting back with an unnerving "crack" each time it went. I finally ended up moving it forward and flattening it out a bit to lessen the lever effect. It worked and although he was a bit closer to the bars, the saddle stayed put for the last half of the ride. Being used to riding 6 to 8 miles, Fabian and I were pretty well worn out by the time we got back to the jeep.
On a side note... the wildlife. The squirrels at Lake Bryan are fricken HUGE! I couldn't believe it. At roughly the size of a house cat you can't miss 'em! They were large red squirrels that were plenty fat and healthy with big, bushy tails. The urban squirrels that I am used to seeing around the house are scraggly-looking, greyish-colored, little rat-sized ones. Just one of these squirrels and you could eat for a week and make a new cap! I also saw a ladder-backed woodpecker, various other little birds, a legless lizzard and some rabits. The woods surrounding the lake were really jumping with wildlife and it was great to be out in it.
We loaded the bikes, washed up and headed for the bar for some post-ride refreshments. While ordering a beer I got into a conversation with the bar keep and a young lady about football. It turns out that she didn't care much for this year's Super Bowl because the Broncos were not playing. I offered that my brother-in-law had 2 Super Bowl rings for playing with the Broncos and off we went into a long discussion about how cool that was. (Actually, I think I had said 3 rings which stemmed the conversation about how many times and what years the Broncos had been to the Super Bowl... my bad.) The bar keep had a wealth of knowledge about football, the players and what teams played in each Super Bowl for as many years as I could remember. We also talked a bit about Fabian's punting/kicking ability and how he wants to go to college in America and go on to the NFL. Well, about this time some of the other patrons began to get thirsty and we went to our respective tables. On the way out of the bar I felt like I was in an episode of Cheers as everybody waved and said goodbye. What a perfect ending for a perfect day! I could have sat there for the rest of the evening chatting and sipping on Dos Equis.
The ride home was uneventful though somewhat painful for me. My back, neck and shoulders were absolutely killing me! Thank gods the jeep has heaters in the seats! I ran mine on full blast all the way home, chased it with a hot shower and a handful of pain killers and ibuprofen... Laying in bed that night I kept thinking how nice the day was and started planning our next bike ride!