My Cycling Journey
Six years ago, my daughter was the age where she wanted to ride her bike to school. At the time, I was grossly overweight and unhealthy, weighing about 315 lbs. I wanted to ride with her, so I started riding an old hand-me-down Schwinn World Class Tourist. The bike was given to me by a friend. I made the half mile trip with her to school in the mornings and met her in the afternoons to escort her home.
I soon got to the point that I loved the morning rides and would go on longer and longer jaunts, stretching the 1 mile round trip to 3 miles. That soon grew to 5 and 7-mile spins around our neighborhood.
For Father's day that year I got a Mongoose 29er and discovered the bike trail system here in Plano. I made the jump to 12 and 18 miles, once or twice a day. Over the course of the summer, I blew through 500 miles and lost 30 pounds. I was bitten by the bug and had to have more!
I love a good challenge! Through Bicycling Magazine, I learned of several longer rides, races, and tours. The one that I found most appealing was the Tour du Rouge. It is a 6-day ride from Houston to New Orleans, spanning over 500 miles. My wife is from Louisiana and knew that it was the ride for me! The only concern I had was the required average pace of 15 mph. The best I seemed to be able to do on the 29er was about 15, and that was downhill with a decent breeze at my back.
At this point, I had been working from home for a couple of years and had a very flexible schedule and having a second vehicle seemed a waste. I sold my truck to buy my Fuji Roubaix road bike at Performance Bicycle in November 2011. Shortly after that I found the Plano Bicycle Association and joined. In researching the group riding options, I found that the Tweeners seemed to be the closest to what my perceived ability and needs were at the time so I began riding with them as my work schedule and weather would permit. During those sometimes grueling (to me) rides, I made friends with Joe Rosario and Bill Lawrence. They were very helpful in teaching me about cadence, pace and the dynamics of group riding. In the beginning, when I would fall off the back in those cold northerly winds, either Joe or Bill would show up to encourage and pull for me. I cannot place a value on the encouragement and support that I have received over the years from them as well as others in the club.
In May of 2012, I rode my First Tour du Rouge. It was no big surprise that I was in the last group every day, but I kept the pedals turning, reaching New Orleans on the 6th day in a deluge. I completed my 1st century ride on the tour, completing it in 7 hours elapsed time (probably 10 or so in real time). On the Tour, I made new friends that commended me for the group riding skills that I had learned under the tutelage of PBA members.
In this last year, my daughter, at the age of fourteen, has begun to ride with me on my old rebuilt Fuji and has begun her foray into the cycling world. This last October, she completed her first Wish 100 riding forty-six miles with me on platform pedals. I know that it is just a matter of time before she outpaces me now that she has her Speedplays and proper cycling shoes. She has committed to riding in the 2018 Tour du Rouge with me.
Cycling has definitely changed my life in new and rewarding ways. I am healthier and have made new long-term friends over the years that would have seemed unlikely in the past. Now when my family travels, you will normally see both of our bikes on the back of our vehicle and me looking up my fellow Tour riders to go out for a jaunt while visiting an area such as Austin or Baton Rouge.
This year will be my sixth time to ride with the Tour du Rouge family, benefitting a new charity this year. The Arc of Greater Houston is the title charity this year and I expect great things from this ride! Please help me support this organization. They do great things for the community!