Those T-shirt Rides I’m Not Doing? I Did One

Shortly after posting that I would henceforth be skipping t-shirt rides (organized rides), Mrs. Noob asked if I had registered us for the LBJ 100.

“No,” I said. “And I’m not planning to.”

“Well, I want to go,” she said.

That took care of that.

We did the ride last year, and I performed poorly. I had to sag out after about 55 miles of the 65-mile course — completely out of energy. I was determined to avoid a repeat of that this year. Fortunately, the forecast called for mild (if warm) temperatures, with only moderate wind.

Appropriately, the LBJ Ranch is on Texas Ranch Road 1.

The ride starts and finishes at the LBJ Ranch, the former home of President Lyndon B. Johnson. His daughter Luci is a great supporter of the ride, which raises money for the historical site on the ranch. It’s now run by the National Park Service.

An airstrip behind the ranch house served as a runway for LBJ’s planes when he was president. The big Air Force One couldn’t land here, so he would fly into Austin (then Bergstrom Air Force Base) and take a smaller jet to the ranch. Cyclists drive onto the runway and park. The ride starts at the base of the runway.

The runway, looking toward the start.

It appeared to be an even larger crowd than last year. My friend and riding companion Rick said there were over 700 pre-registered, and they were expecting the total to top 1600. The ride included routes of 10, 30, 42, and 62 miles. Pat did the 30 with Rick’s wife Penny, and Rick and I opted for the 62.

The route out from the ranch is beautiful, and the roads near the ranch are lightly traveled. We didn’t push to leave with the lead pack, but took our time. Rick is a strong rider, and we skipped the first two rest stops. By the time we hit the third, about 25 miles into the ride, we were ready for a refill of the water bottles.

Rick looks over the old Willow City school building, site of our first rest stop of the day.

This is the Texas Hill Country after all, and we were in for our share of rollers. None of the hills is steep. However, some gradual climbs go on for some distance, and those are the ones that really take it out of you. By the halfway point, Rick was way ahead out of sight. I limped into the rest stop at Sandy, the easternmost point of the ride, and took longer than usual to unwind. A hot spot had flared up on the bottom of my left foot, and I could feel my energy waning as the temperature warmed into the 80s. I downed a bottle of Pickle Juice Sport (horrible stuff, but it seems to prevent cramping — I had no issues with that this day), refilled my bottle twice, and had a banana and an orange slice. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich quarters just didn’t appeal to me in the heat.

Most of my riding so far this year has been in the 20-30 mile range. My long ride was 37 miles. Clearly, I hadn’t built the base miles I needed to tackle a metric century.

It’s a little over 20 miles from Sandy back to the ranch, but the first 10 are all uphill. Again, these are mild grades, but they’re probably the most difficult thing in biking for me. I wasn’t the only one having trouble with them. About four miles out from Sandy, two guys were sitting in a shady spot. I pulled over for a rest and a pull on my water bottle. Both of them were in bad shape. One had cramps in both thighs, and could hardly walk. The other seemed to be in the early stages of heat exhaustion. A sag wagon was taking a third guy out — they would send another van back for these two. While I was there, another rider stopped and announced he was done, too. I got back on the bike and started pedaling for the next rest stop.

A little farther on, I was passed by a cyclist going perhaps 6 mph to my 5. “I’m ready to get off the bike,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied. “But a lot of people need sag more than I do, so I’ll just keep going.”

“I saw that. Let’s go,” he answered.

Many cyclists were going no more than 5 mph as they approached this rest stop.

This year, they put a rest stop at the spot where I called it quits last year. The friendly volunteers filled my water bottle with ice before I topped it off — most welcome. I choked down a small energy bar of some kind (a kind I will never try again) and sat in a shady spot to rest. More people were barely limping in under their own power. The sag wagons were busy, taking some folks to the next rest stop, and others back to the ranch. But this was the high point (altitudinally) of the route. We had some great downhills to the last rest stop and the ride back to the ranch was mostly downhill or flat. I rode slowly onto the runway about 15 minutes after Rick arrived.

“You’re right,” he said, as we and the wives sat in the food tent afterward. “This is just a t-shirt ride. But the scenery is pretty good, and the start at the LBJ Ranch is unique.”

Pat nodded in agreement. It looks like we’ll be back next year. And I’ll be a lot smarter — I’ve already decided I’m only doing the 42.


  1. says

    That stretch between Sandy and the last rest stop is way harder than it looks. I really struggled last year because they were out of water at the Sandy rest stop and I had to push it to the last one on 1 bottle. I was glad to see that extra rest stop this year. It’s still a fun ride…sorry I missed you.

    • says

      We let the first rush get going, and lagged back. Then we got stuck in the traffic jam at the first cattle guard in front of the ranch house. I assume you got way out ahead of me right off the bat. Sorry I missed you, too.

  2. says

    You touched on a couple draws of “T-Shirt Rides” that I like – the first being a unique route that you woulnd’t ordinarily get to travel (the airport runway sounds cool). The second advantage is a fully-supported ride, complete with a SAG wagon to bail you out if you get into trouble is a great relief, especially if you are on unfamiliar roads.

    Great report and congratulations on the ride!

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