Crank Stranger

After an hour-long drive down narrow fog shrouded Texas farm roads I followed the sign and turned right down the gravel driveway towards Huff Brewing.  Riders were already heading out for a day of gravel riding east of Houston on the organized ride known as the Crank Stranger.

Bicycling events are few and far between during these COVID days and I was happy to stumble upon this event during my time down here in Houston.  I signed up for the long event which was fifty miles and a little over two thousand feet of elevation gain.

The fog remained thick as I rolled out of the parking lot and onto the course.  Within the first mile I met up with Jon, a rider with whom I’d ridden the Prison City route out of Four Notch the week before.  Jon and I rode along for a few miles following the well-marked rolling gravel.  I was no longer in the Houston flats; this is some nice rolling country.

East Texas Gravel

The event had sold out, but the road wasn’t crowded with riders.  Soon a rider rolled alongside and noted that he and I were riding the same Ibis Hakka MX mounts.  He introduced himself as Corey and we ended up riding the remainder of the route together.  Both Corey and I were on the same page when it came to pacing the route: we moved along quickly, but not race pace.  At one point a group of eight assembled due to a crossing train and when those crossing gates went up I naturally went into race mode.  My first inclination was to hit it hard and then start moving up though the group, pushing towards the front.  Then suddenly I had an epiphany: hey this isn’t a race, ease up and roll steady.

Waitn for a train

The gravel conditions varied from super smooth packed rock to rutted washboard to three-inch deep sand.  The Ibis smooths out the washboard, and years of Pacific Northwest cyclocross has taught me how to float through sand so neither obstacle proved to be a significant problem.

I was following the map on my Garmin and wasn’t tracking mileage and I was surprised to see cars and trucks parked along the road marking our return to the parking area.  My internal odometer figured that we had at least ten miles remaining.  I guess the fast packed gravel and relatively flat (flat compared to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest) threw off my internal sensors.

All in all the Gravel Stranger was a super well run ride on a fun route.  There were enough riders to make me feel like I was out with like-minded folks yet not so many as to give me any COVID concerns. 

I enjoyed making new friends on the ride

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