Monday, March 28, 2011

Bicycling: "Beauty and the Beast" near Tyler, 2011

(ABOVE: The beautiful pine trees of East Texas provide shade for much of the ride.)

"Beauty and the Beast" is an annual bicycle ride in Tyler, TX during late March. I signed up for the event last year, but I ended up missing it as I stayed in Tulsa to work during a big Spring snow storm.

I've wanted to do this ride for years as Tyler is my mother's family headquarters: I have two aunts, a cousin and their families living there. My grandparents enjoyed a beautiful home on well-known Cumberland Road. My Mother grew up near Tyler in the small town of London, TX. The community of Carlisle was renamed Price, TX for my great-grandfather J.M. Price. For the ride this year, I stayed with my Aunt Marcia and my Mother drove in from Orange to see me. :)

The weather this year was great for cycling: near 70 warming to low 80s by the end of the ride, not overly humid, and a south breeze of 15mph. Morning clouds helped too.

How was the ride? Awesome-- I was extremely impressed! The event appeared to be exceptionally well managed, especially for a smaller town ride.

Here are the details:

About 700 cyclists signed up to ride distances ranging from 22 to 67 miles. The course is rarely flat...lots of rollers. (Rollers are rolling hills offering gentle climbs and fun descents. Most cyclists love them!) It appeared that the 53 and 67 mile courses were most popular. I debated whether to ride the 67 miler, but my group of three cyclists chose the 53, so I stayed with them. I chose having fun rather than stretching my endurance!

The terrain varied from an elevation of 350ft to as high as about 550ft. The best part: the roads were smooth and free of debris: no rocks, sand or glass. I didn't see even a single pebble loose on the road as the course appeared to have been swept-- this was the cleaned course I have ever cycled. Very few folks had flats. Most surfaces were asphalt with minor road patches-- a very comfortable ride.

The well-marked course had lots of smiling volunteers. I was surprised to see that US Highway 69 was temporarily closed to allow us maximum safety. Traffic was reduced on the FM, county and state highways for the rest of the ride-- I never felt unsafe. Every major intersection had DPS (highway police officers) and volunteers making sure that regular auto traffic was cleared for bicycles.

Rest areas were located every 10 miles and offered shade, plenty of restrooms, snack fuel, water and sports drinks to keep you going.

And the ride was beautiful! The "beauty" lived up to its name with pine trees, wildflowers and scenic hills, farms and well-kept properties.

Regardless of which distance you choose to ride, the biggest hill (the "Beast") is during the last 5 miles. For experienced riders, the Beast isn't difficult. Some may choose to walk their bike up the 200 ft Beast which is near 0.25 miles long at 11% grade (according to my bike computer).

The ride ended a few miles later back where you started from at K.E. Bushman's Winery and Celebration Center. The huge, modern facility offered a festive indoor, upper scale atmosphere. A spaghetti and wine dinner greeted the finishers. Inside, they even provided towels for you to wipe your sweat after your ride!

Overall, I give "Beauty and the Beast" 4.5 out 5 stars. The only improvements I can think of: 1) Timer chips would be nice. It's fun to see how your time compares with other riders. 2) The ride ends without fanfare. Not that it's important, but some type of finish line, perhaps with a giant timer clock, would be cool.

If you are looking for smooth roads, curves, hills, trees, wildflowers along a safe route, you need to try "Beauty and the Beast"-- I'll be back next year! George

(BELOW: My Mother and I. She drove to Tyler to watch me ride. Yay!)

(ABOVE: Lots of friendly folks clustered at K.E. Bushman's Winery for the start. BELOW: I rode at about 90% of my capacity for the first hour of the ride. A respectable 19mph average.)

(ABOVE: This rest stop in Troup, TX provided a brief cool down. BELOW: You are rewarded with sunlit, wildflower covered fields when you pedal out from the pines.)

(ABOVE: With my sightseeing and the hills, my average speed dropped to 17.2mph. BELOW: Just before the "Beast", friendly folks cheer you along your way.)

(ABOVE: This is the biggest hill. The 1/4 mile climb of the Beast doesn't last very long, but it's a steep 11% grade according to my bike computer. I rode 6mph. BELOW: My average speed dipped to 16mph after the Beast. I sprinted at about 25mph for the last miles after the hill to get my average pace back to 17mph.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NSU-BA: Awesome, quick bicycle ride

(ABOVE: The Creek Turnpike trail around Broken Arrow is a pleasant getaway. The cows agree!)

If you travel the length of the Riverside Trail; taking it south from downtown Tulsa along Riverside, then to the Creek Turnpike through South Tulsa, you will find yourself 26 miles later at NSU-Broken Arrow. This is where the trail ends... or begins.

The usually quiet, small NSU-BA bike parking lot fills with mostly cyclists near dinner time. Many folks enjoy parking here then riding the trail back toward Broken Arrow and Tulsa.

(BELOW: Here is the trail terminus at this parking lot just south of NSU-Broken Arrow. I like to start my ride here and pedal south then west around BA. A ride from NSU-BA to Olive and back is 12.6 miles according to my iPhone Cyclemeter app. )

The trail is a dream for cyclists: longish stretches of straight-aways and curves, rolling hills and a few abrupt 100 foot climbs. While cars and trucks zoom along the nearby Creek Turnpike, you are isolated with trees, open farmland and country creeks.

(ABOVE: Near the Creek Turnpike and Aspen. You can accelerate to 30mph going downhill. Wheeee!)

Compared to the Tulsa sections of trail, higher speeds are possible as bicycles outnumber joggers and walkers-- you don't worry about running over folks! The few intersections aren't a problem either.

If you are looking for a great place to ride that isn't crowded, is somewhat isolated, yet not far from town, then this route is for you. Try parking at NSU-BA, then ride to Olive and back. It's a 12 mile ride, and could make you fall in love with our Tulsa Parks trail system! George

(BELOW: To stay healthy, Ruben Castro says he got back on the bike after 25 years of not riding. Says he loves it and wishes he did it sooner!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Ride: Green and Henbit

(ABOVE: Cyclists often wear bright colors anyway. St. Patrick's Day provides an excuse for me to wear green socks.)

St. Patrick's Day was celebrated as usual on March 17, and for 2011, I joined friends for a bicycle ride. A few folks wore Irish themed cycling jerseys. I contributed by wearing green socks!

(ABOVE: Mike Neal and Terry Englert show their St. Patrick's Day spirit with appropriate jerseys. BELOW: The green tires on my bike are always ready for March 17!)

I enjoy the rides for the conversation as much as the exercise, and sometimes a little education too. On the ride into the country, the usual wisecracking Mike Neal noted the small pink flowers blooming in the open fields. I've seen these flowers before, but I never thought much about them.

Visually, the pink is stunning. The flowers can really illuminate an otherwise bland field. The zillions of pink blooms appear clustered into a field of solid color in the distant horizon... really pretty!

Mike told me the flowers were Henbit. I learned these are weed flowers which bloom early in the Spring. Like most wildflowers, they lose their intense color and disappear when temperatures warm up toward Summer.

(ABOVE: I showed this on TV. A field of Henbit overtaking this farmland near Bixby. Beautiful!)

I stopped my bicycle to snap pictures of the Henbit. I showed the photos on the TV morning news, and a few viewers emailed saying "thanks" as they wondered what they were too.

Thanks Mike. Now we know!

(BELOW: I should have worn this green jersey on the St. Patrick's Day ride. Would have matched my socks AND tires! ;)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 19, 2011: Hail and BBQ?

(ABOVE: The Staab family in Bartlesville didn't let a hail storm prevent them from a cooking out.)

A few severe thunderstorms developed in the KJRH/Tulsa viewing area on the morning of March 19, 2011. Enjoy the "best of" pics emailed to by our viewers. A few of these made me smile for the creativity!

(ABOVE: Sam Triebel received hailstones about 2" thick! From the Old Parker area, 3 miles east of Coffeyville, KS. I notified the NWS of this, and the NWS and SPC quickly conferenced. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued.)

(ABOVE: Nic Pranger in Bartlesville could keep drinks cold with Mother Nature's finest! He scooped up this mostly dime-size hail.

BELOW: The size of hail is best represented by taking its picture next to other objects-- but this was the first time I've seen "peppermint size" hail! Picture courtesy: Kim Jones)

(ABOVE: We of course want our viewers to be safe during the storms, so a quick snapshot out of the backdoor works great too. This pic from Vivian Frost of Coffeyville shows mostly "small" hail everywhere.

BELOW: Oh, what about the Staab family bbq? If you are wondering, the hail storm obviously didn't stop supper time! Here's the end result...)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gracie dog :)

(ABOVE: Gracie is a West Highland White Terrier, a "Westie". Vicious attack dog, eh?!)

I love my job! But one of the joys of getting off work is spending time with my family. Wifey took this picture of Gracie dog curled on top of her. Daddy can't wait to get home to see all of his girls!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Boston Terrier rescue on bike

(ABOVE: I aborted my bike ride at mile 39 when Roxie dog wanted to play in traffic.)

The bicyclists vs barking dogs game is played nearly every ride into the country with my friends. Often, big barking dogs are left unleashed by their owners. The dogs then charge out of their yards to run, chase or attempt to eat us.

But sometimes a lost-looking doggie wants to join too. That's what happened today riding in Tulsa near the Creek Turnpike at Memorial Drive.

(ABOVE: This puppy finally caught up to me, but she didn't know what to do next!)

I crossed Memorial Drive as usual and pedaled eastward up a large hill toward Mingo. A small dog found me at the top of the hill. She barked and started chasing me... and chasing and chasing!

The "vicious" barking thing appeared harmless! I stopped to make friends with her. She was a puppy!-- a Boston Terrier with new looking teeth, probably 6 months to 12 months old. I scratched her head; she closed her eyes; then splatted into the grass for a tummy rub! Thankfully she had a collar with ID: "Roxie". I took out my cell phone and called the owner. The owner answered but told me she was 30 minutes away.

(ABOVE: She melted in my hand while getting a head rub.)

Roxie dog tried to run out into Mingo, but I got her off the street in time. She then bolted toward the highway! I left my bike on the ground, scooped her up and held her into her owner arrived. I had fun taking pics of us! Moral of the story: name tags for doggies work!

(ABOVE PICS: The owner came to the rescue in record time! In the middle picture, I guess that my nose must taste good...)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

State Record: -31°... Coldest temperature in Oklahoma

(ABOVE: Channel 2 photographer Thomas Berger and I visit the location where a record -31° was measured.

Click HERE for the video on KJRH.

During the first two weeks of February 2011, nearly every major snow and all-time low temperature records were broken.

In addition to record lows and highs being set within a week, the following records fell in Tulsa: Most snow in 24 hours (14.0") , most snow in one month (22.5") , most snow in one season (26.1") . A new state record was also set for most snow in 24 hours: 27" near Spavinaw.

(ABOVE: Meteorologist Phil Browder chats with me about the all-time state record. Phil used to work in TV before he got smart and earned a job with OCS.)

The snow slowly evaporated, and the evaporational cooling helped create record cold conditions in Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma. With the snow piled high, Tulsa dropped to -12° on the morning of February 9, 2011-- that's the coldest in Tulsa in 80 years. The long-standing state record of -27° was shattered too, as the temperature plunged to -31° near Nowata. The temperatures in Pryor and Bartlesville dropped to -30° and -28°. This area experienced unrivaled cold after a narrow swath of 15-25" of snow fell north and northeast of Tulsa.

(ABOVE: The old thermometer was removed for testing and a new thermometer is installed)

To verify the new records, weather officials (Oklahoma Climate Survey) maintaining the Oklahoma Mesonet traveled to Nowata. (Click here for the video) I witnessed history: we met up with the crew at the exact location where the record -31° occurred. It felt awesome to stand on that snow-covered farm as OCS removed and swapped out the record measuring thermometer.
(I took this picture at River West Park in Tulsa on March 2, 2011. More than three weeks after the blizzard, this 10 feet high pile of snow remains! The city dumped snow here when clearing streets.)