05 October 2009

Living in Comfort (Cross Post)

I am an erstwhile writer for the UT Cycling Team Blog as well, and wrote this piece for it after a weekend getaway in the hill country. I decided to cross-post it here with the original publication date, since I haven't been writing here often, even thought much of my life still occurs "Sur Le Vélo". I hope to write again soon, but many of my experiences lately in life have been hard to express in a way that agrees well with the intended purpose and style of this blog. That's to say the blog has been on hiatus, and may be undergoing a re-evaluation of sorts. While my writing in this idiom is temporarily on hiatus, life keeps rolling… See you out there! (Hopefully soon, back here too!) ~ Cameron, March 2010

This last weekend of September saw the team take a wonderfully enlivening trip into the wilds of Comfort, TX (nestled snugly in the Hill Country between Fredericksburg and San Antonio, just off of I-10) for the SCCCC mountain bike race hosted by our cycling club, held at the delightful Flat Rock Ranch.

When they call it a ranch, they're not just borrowing the title as an affection of rusticity; as they do legitimately raise goats and cattle on the property, the sounds of which made us feel very close to nature the entire weekend. The owners of the ranch are very friendly to cyclists like us and genuinely concerned themselves with our well-being, and also took time to look into the races and how they were proceeding. They struck us as being genuinely interested in the race and are true patrons of the sport. Their ranch fits these ideals, has a lot of well-planned facilities for cyclists, and hosts many other non-collegiate races throughout the year. The ranch heads are very hospitable, and spared no effort in making us feel at home. They personally found firewood for us and brought it to the fire pits at our campgrounds, as well as starting the fires in the early evening before sunset. All in all, it's the most I've ever felt at home so far from what this Austin native has grown up around; and it set the stage nicely for a very relaxing break from academia, traffic, and the city hustle.

On Saturday after we arrived and made camp, The Mountain guys got down to racing the first stages of their Omnium (beginning with a Time Trial and the a Short Track stage); and we roadies headed out on what ended up being a fairly exhausting road ride, with a bunch of hills placed so well after a good 30 miles or so of initial effort. We came home to Comfort tired and ready to celebrate our survival, and to catch up with the mountain team and see their results. Unsurprisingly, we had a lot of success for our team that weekend! Our C-Team Superstar, Kenneth Day, finished First in the Time Trial and thereby secured the Omnium lead! He had a competitive placing and was holding position in the Short Track race later that day, but unfortunately got on the bad side of a stray piece of bailing wire mid-race and flatted out.

Ken Day vs. Bailing Wire: SHOWDOWN!

In the long run, this didn't end up hurting his standings too badly, even though he was initially upset about it. He managed to recover from a DNF in the Short Track stage and still come in Third overall in the Omnium standings! We're all very proud of his success in his first mountain bike race. He's written his own race report on his blog that bears reading if one wanted the real dirt on what the race was like.

While the mountain bike squad did their business, the road racers went out on what ended up becoming an exhausting 50 mile excursion through parts of the scenic Texas Hill Country. Needless to say, by the end of the day, everyone was beat. We all looked forward to the evening's meal and wandered into nearby Fredericksburg to find it. Myself and a few of the road guys ended up at a small local brew house and sampled the traditional German cuisine that Fredericksburg is renowned for. I ended up having a Reuben made with the strongest sauerkraut I have ever eaten in my life (feeling very authentic to me), and I got to sample some of the House Porter that's exclusive to that establishment, and found it to be very pleasant!

Afterwards, we all meandered back to camp in Comfort and began to unwind for the evening and make camp. We pitched out tents, sat around telling stories and talking about nothing and then got down to serious business around the campfire: S'mores!


We all began to wind down and get to bed around Midnight or so, but I personally stayed up a bit and perfected my marshmallow technique, drinking in the stars with my eyes. They're so overwhelming that far away from the cities without any artificial light to drown them out. It's breathtaking if you've forgotten what it looks like to see the heavens in full force.

After a while I, too, had to retire. We all slept very well, despite the best efforts of a certain cow in the pasture that had some sort of bizarre problem with it's throat. It would start mooing and then have that turn into some sort of screech that was quite reminiscent of a whale call. Rest assured, that was quite unsettling to hear late at night in the pitch black.

Whale-cow aside, we found our sleep restful and awoke the next morning ready to roll. The mountain bike team woke up, ate, and prepared for a grueling day of cross-country racing. We, the road group, planned our ride for the day. Most of us were still exhausted from the hard ride the day before, so we decided to make our Sunday short & sweet. We decided to take it to a well-known restaurant in the area halfway between Comfort and Fredericksburg, the Alamo Springs Café. This little place is in a scenic location and apparently was rated the No. 3 Cheeseburger in the state by Texas Monthly! Having eaten said cheeseburger, I can say that title makes sense. It was juicy, perfectly cooked, and well-matched with its bun and toppings. Seasonings were creative and livened up what was already a near-perfect burger. I'm not really sure how to compare it with the best works of Austin, but the same publication's No. 2 burger is apparently local to 6th & Lamar, so I may have to do some investigative journalism for fact-checking purposes on my own sooner than later.

Aside from the delicious meal, the staff were friendly and very welcoming of a bunch of sweaty cyclists still in Lycra at their establishment.

Stephen and Our Fearless Leader, Sean Kearns

Trent and Robbie are winning the Smugathon!

It was Kaitlin's Birthday! Yaaay!

After that, we made the return trip to camp so that we could shower, pack, and get back to Austin. Despite some initial car trouble, we all made it back safe and sound. Weekend Accomplished!

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