Deb Richardson and Mike Drost roll past a cliff  during a gravel biking trip to Mason. Pam LeBlanc photo

My mustard-colored Specialized Diverge got a taste of real gravel this weekend, when I crunched over 50 miles of undulating two-lane roads around Mason.
Highlights of my gravel biking excursion? White-tailed deer that bounded over ranch fences and streaked in front of our small group. Real Texas terrain, complete with burnt orange and white longhorns, prickly pear cactus and vultures perched atop telephone poles, their wings spread like capes to dissipate heat. And lots of wide open spaces.
Our group of four – me and my husband, plus Mike Drost and Deb Richardson, who (along with Janie Glos) put on the Castell Grind each spring – met at the Dos Rios RV park south of Mason Saturday morning. I’ve been riding my new gravel bike on dirt roads around Bastrop, but have been wanting to try the terrain farther north.
I didn’t disappoint.

gravel biking

Chris LeBlanc and Mike Drost push their bikes through the James River during a day of gravel biking. Pam LeBlanc photo

gravel biking

Deb Richardson says hi to a longhorn. Pam LeBlanc photo

From the RV park we pedaled south about a mile until the paved road turned to dirt. That’s when I knew my legs were going to get cooked.
We passed a gorgeous rocky escarpment, blasted over some bowling ball-sized rocks that nearly shook my fillings out, dismounted our bikes and tiptoed across the slippery James River crossing, then biked past the entrance to the Eckert-James River Bat Cave Preserve, where 4 million Mexican free-tail bats roost each summer. Our lollipop-shaped route took us alongside big ranches, wide open fields and up a few big hills. We didn’t see much traffic – except for a pickup truck whose driver stopped to chat with us. (Somehow the conversation turned to politics, and I opened my big mouth. Luckily nobody got shot. Lesson learned.)

Deb Richardson takes a break next to a rocky escarpment during a 50-mile gravel ride near Mason. Pam LeBlanc photo

My legs felt like overstretched rubberbands when we rolled back into the RV park about five hours later. I collapsed on a saggy hammock for a few minutes, sucked down some lemonade, and then headed down to the river, where the cool water brought me – and my worn out legs – back to life.
I’m heading back in a couple of weeks, and can’t wait.

gravel biking

That’s me, attempting to recover after a discussion about politics with a random stranger in the middle of nowhere. Chris LeBlanc photo

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