Texas Storm Fury
you have to see it and potentially experience it to believe it…The power, sheer amount of water on the trails, and overall danger are unbelievable…! Views from Austin, and the Barton Creek mountain bike trail…
I have been posting listings of the new places for mountain biking I am discovering in my travels in our home state as well as across global locations. In parallel with that I thought – well, what about the places we have visited and gone biking to over the years. With the help of some research here is a listing of those in the US:
In my previous posting I discussed (very briefly) the surprising lack of bicycles in Sofia. Now lets continue with something more uplifting and interesting – going to Southwest Bulgaria – the town of Bansko, and the Pirin National Park. Why go there – well in only a few words – beautiful scenery (as you will be able to tell from the photos below), great hiking, and of course the opportunity to actually do mountain biking.
Bansko is located approximately two and a half hour drive from the Sofia international airport. You also have the option of taking a bus as well as a shuttle which could be organized by many of the hotels in town. Here is a map of the region in Bulgaria – Sofia and Bansko – to give you a relative idea
I will skip all the intricacies of driving in Bulgaria – if you have not done it or do not want to gain that experience, your safe bet is the bus or shuttle services offered. Not a bad idea overall…
Now, about the mountain biking in Bansko. For that you have many options and things to consider.
This is the trail we took and enjoyed. Here are some more photos, the beauty of the place is a driver enough to consider exploring – no matter whether on foot or on a bike. Enjoy!
Torrential rains in Austin – what do you do?
Well folks, Austin and Texas in general are in the South West…and usually that means dry and hot and certainly very rare instances of heavy rain down pour. This May things have been different. According to plenty of sources this has been also the wettest May on history – Austin received over 20-inches of rain. What do you do in this weather in Austin? Go see a movie? Visit a museum? How about go for a bike ride …? We just waited for the rain to pause and decided to hit the trails.
So, what does this do to trail and mountain biking experiences? The reality is – very little. Why ? Because mountain bike trails are by definition are very rustic and easily covered with mud and otherwise messy conditions.
Given that, we decided to be adventurous and experience the trails along Barton Creek in the heavily rain saturated ground. Included below are multiple photos – hopefully they will give you an idea how different the trails look after the heavy down pours.
Mountain biking post heavy rains
Rain is really needed and important for Texas! The lakes are low, water is in limited supply….(I think in better shape than California, though…)
But, the rains have been heavy and causing really sticky mud on the trails in Texas. If you are out to get exercise – there is nothing like biking on a muddy trail in the Hill Country. Why? Because the mud is REALLY sticky – and it causes you to exert quite a bit of both strength pedaling and skill navigating and staying on your bike in the slippery slopes.
Here are some photos from my Saturday ride – it was right after a Friday (and Thursday, and Wednesday…) heavy rains. What was I thinking 🙂 Well, let me chalk it on the need to exercise….
Well you have seen it now. The mud is pretty heavy even-though the trails look pretty compact and stony – in reality they are but there is also quite a bit of sticky dirt on the trail – and it gets everywhere including the derailleurs…making shifting gears more difficult. And of course you need to be ready to spend time cleaning your bike post ride…
But as I said – it is all about the exercise…!
The Peak to Shek O ride is a long one – approximately 25km route and is a combination of road biking and mountain biking – primarily along the Dragon’s Back trail, a trail along a ridge in Southeastern Hong Kong island between Wam Cham Shan and Shek O Peak;
The map above will hopefully provide you with a visual indication of what is the actual path we have selected for this bike ride. It is not very challenging so relax – you will like the feel of the open road and wind while biking;
As I stated this ride will be a mid of mostly road biking and about 4-5km of real mountain bike ride. That ride starts at The Peak and pretty soon gets you to the challenges of Wanchai and Repulse Bay and then you will go along Stanley Road (Stanley itself is a relatively well known for its bits of history as well as Saturday markets), then you will get along Tai Tam Rd and pretty close to the Tai Tam gap you will have the opportunity after biking for about 100-meters along Shek O Road to get on the actual mountain bike trail. If you do not find it – it may be challenging to spot – you can just stay on Shek O road.
This will get you to the Shek O village itself where you will have to decide if you are done or would like to proceed to Cape D’Aguilar Marine reserve at the very extreme Southern end of the Shek O / D’Aguilar peninsula.
Yesterday my family and I finally decided to brave the long drive and head out to Colorado Bend State Park. The weather was great – mid 70s F, sunny, light breeze….all in all really perfect weather for a bike ride. So we loaded the bikes on the SUV, loaded plenty of water in bike bottles and in the cooler and started off towards the park.
Getting to the park from Austin entails two options – you can either go the North route – via 183 or the South route via Marble Falls, Burnett, and eventually Lampasas.
On the way to the park we decided 183 may be the faster route – well that was a mistake. 183 is a mess – unless you use the toll road version – 183A – which we did not and paid dearly for that in terms of wasted time. Took us 3 hours to get to the park – while on the way back it was the expected 2 hours – but we went via 281 and 71 via Burnett and Marble Falls
Once we got to the park – we signed in relief – the place is beautiful, the trails are good and in different difficulty level – here is the map of the park which includes the biking trails – which in aggregate amount to about 30miles of varying degree of difficulty
The river trail is very scenic and very much an easy beginners level trail to use. We started on that one as a way to get our daughter in the groove of things. The trail was nice – about 3.5miles in one direction. Once you reach the intersection of Old Gorman Road and the River Trail you have the option to head back the same way, or take Old Gorman Road towards Cedar Chopper Loop. Please see map above. Based on the various loops and roads you can actually construct a pretty long bike ride. We ended up on a 2 hour ride which was more than enough to get us exhausted and ready to head to dinner by the time we were done – which was around 6pm.
Overall the experience was great. Please see the album with photos below…
I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid. Or at least that’s what I thought until I moved to live in the Netherlands.
First of all, forget about getting a fancy bike – anything more than EUR 50 will most likely get stolen within a week if you live in any of the large university cities (Leiden in my case). Think cheap, rusty, screeching, pedal-break type. And definitely double locked – once with an integrated rear tire lock and once with a chain lock, just to be sure! Oh, and don’t forget to pick a strange, easy to recognize color to paint the body, so you can spot your bike among the hundreds of bikes parked at Leiden Centraal.
So I bought a used bike on my first week in Leiden and went on to explore the city. The Netherlands has a very extensive network of bike paths – I am sure you can go from A to B anywhere in the country with just a bike. However, there are some things to keep in mind – always stay in the bike lane – usually they are red in color or have the bike sign drawn on them. Careful, some of them are one way, and people will look at you funny, even ring their bells if you ride the wrong way. Always have both rear and front lights, you can get a pretty hefty fine if you get caught without one at a regular police checkpoint (usually at a busy part of the city, at night). Luckily, almost anything counts as having a light, even tiny LED blinking lights you can attach to your regular (most often not working) lights. You can buy them at any convenience store for a few bucks. Drunk biking is also a reason for a ticket, sily as it sounds – the Dutchies take their biking pretty seriously! Crossing a street while the bike light is red is also not advised.
Alright, I have a bike now, with working lights, side bags to put groceries, working breaks, even a bell. I am only riding in the bike lanes and I even stop at the traffic signals. So far so good, until it starts raining! And the wind comes out! Usually I am not a whimpy kid, I think I can stand a bit of discomfort, but that wind just knocks the breath out of you! Not only that, but sometimes it is side wind, so I almost got shoved into the canal running by the bike lane! Interestingly enough, most Dutch people around me just continued on, while I got off my bike and went on to push it miserably along the way. I also seemed to have forgotten my rain suit – a pretty spacy-looking water resistant pants you put on top of your regular clothes, and a gigantic jacket with a hood. Some people looked like mini ships at full sail! But, when it is not windy or raining, biking in the Netherlands can be pretty awesome. There are a ton of tiny villages and pastoral scenery to enjoy. And, if you are in Eindhoven, you most definitely need to see the Van Gogh-inspired luminescent path that looks like straight out of Starry Night!
Maryland bike trails can be found in many places across the state – both in the city as well as outside in various parks. Just recently I posted a slideshow and a brief description of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – a park we discovered only after having visited Maryland and the Annapolis area for more than 20-years. This time around we decided to use the time after Christmas for exploring areas on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as later on during our stay – areas in West Virginia in the Shenandoah valley.
So back to the Eastern shore – after driving for a couple of hours east and then south of the Bay Bridge we came upon the Blackwater park.
Here is a map of the park and surrounding area:
The park and surrounding area offer several bike routes for both novices as well as experienced cyclists. The different routes are anywhere from a 4-mile or 7-mile loop route along the paved Wildlife Drive – where you will be able to see a great number of birds (see the slideshow below). There are also the 20-mile and 25-mile routes along the surrounding roads.
Here is also a link to the slideshow I posted on YouTube:
And finally a link to the park itself. Enjoy your visit!