The MS150 Bike Ride

April 20, 2002

My 16-yr-old son was going to ride in the MS150 bike rally, traveling approximately 150 miles from Houston to Austin, TX. I thought it was a great excuse to go fly up in that part of the countryside, and take some pictures from the air.

The morning was cloudy (but not overcast) and with a strong wind. Even 3 months ago, I wouldn’t have considered going up in such weather, but with several long distance trips under my belt, I felt I could handle the wind. As it turns out, it wasn’t the wind, it’s the thermals that beat you up!

The plan was to fly to SportFlyer (27XS) and then fly about 5 miles north, which is where the cyclists would be traveling. I would then fly along the route for a way, taking pictures as I went. Accompanying me, as usual, was my brother, Jim, in his Challenger. After about 2 hours in the air (1 hour getting there, 1 hour of flying around), we would then return to SportFlyer where we would refuel, then head home.

Everything went according to plan. However, the thermals/gusts were severe at times, and we got beat up pretty good. The real bad news about the trip was, the bouncing around was so bad, I wasn’t able to take very many photos, but worse still was when I found out that the bouncing around had caused my exposure meter to be set wrong on the camera! Ouch! All that way, and very little to show for it.

The pictures I got were mostly overexposed, so the ones you’ll see here are some of the few that came out okay. My apologies for the poor quality.

Flying by SportFlyer on the way there… you can see how cloudy it was.

My first low-level fly-by netted me this image of some of the riders. Most of the road had either telephone poles or buildings, so this was one of the few times I could get really close.

This gives you an idea about the telephone poles.

The riders are really strung-out, not bunched up like I thought they’d be.

Ah, the sights you see in the country… yet one more grain elevator, and a sharp turn for the cyclists.

Another turn.

As close as I dared with the telephone poles. There were quite a few recumbent bikes… there’s one in this shot, on the far right-hand side, behind the rider with the dark blue jersey.

A little traffic jam in the country. I was amazed at the amount of road traffic that zipped in and out around the riders.

Obviously, the locals need to get to and from, but it just seemed really crowded (and dangerous for the riders). The riders stuck primarily to the right lane, which turned most of these roads into one-lane roads… so there were the inevitable traffic problems.

There were several break areas along the route, called SAG stops; 7 the first day and 6 the second day. This was SAG stop # 2, I believe.

Crossing an intersection.

This photo is pretty bad, but I really wanted to include it, as it shows the riders crossing the Brazos River bridge.

By this time, I’d been up for almost 2 hours, and I needed to refuel and stretch my legs, so I headed back for SportFlyer. Here is Jim’s plane and mine in front of the hangar with the fuel pump.

The trip back was much slower since we now had a 20 mph headwind… it was also even bumpier, but we decided to bide our time and take some pictures. After leaving SportFlyer, we quickly pass over Interstate 10 (looking east, toward Houston).

Here are the (almost required) tractor pictures:

In numbers 2 and 3, they seem to be spraying, not plowing.

Here’s Jim off my port side. My starboard side. Below me. And in front of me. He sure does get around a lot better in that Challenger than he ever did in his Quicksilver!

Before too long, we pass over US Highway 59. Soon, I see some kind of playground… and the power plant by Smithers Lake, with its black mountain of coal.

Just south of Smithers Lake is the George Observatory.

And, just before I get to the Angleton area, I spot an active rig, in the middle of a field, drilling for oil.

And finally, we land back at the home field, glad to be off of that rollercoaster ride!

— Robert

P.S. Oh! I almost forgot! Yes, my son finished the bike ride to Austin, with an average speed of about 16 mph (which is pretty good! I doubt I’d have done half that!) But I’ve never seen him more exhausted… a happy kind of exhausted! Quite an accomplishment for a 16-yr-old!

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