ACA – LTC

Always thinking down the road and cracking open the door to opportunity, fun and more adventures, I recently attended Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course at the Mexican Hill Ranch in Richards Texas. This was an intensive four-day course covering how ACA runs it’s organized group tours. You can learn about the course by visiting: http://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/educational-tours.

My journey required a two and a half day drive to Richards from Rochester and I arrived earlier than expected. What I did not expect after passing under the gate

Welcome to Mexican Hill Ranch
Welcome to Mexican Hill Ranch

was the sight of a tent city filling the yard at the ranch.

Bubba's Tent City
Bubba’s Tent City

Bubba’s Pampered Pedallers were riding eastbound from San Diego to St.Augustine and spending a layover day on the ranch. I got to meet Bubba and Ernie, the owner of the ranch, and what a pair of happy guys! The ranch is just off the Southern Tier route and it’s certainly an oasis worth taking an extra day at. Ernie and Doris love all the cyclists coming through and Ernie has built wonderful facilities for us. Stop in and say Hi!

Bubba-and-Ernie
Bubba and Ernie

Bubba invited me to share dinner (and breakfast next morning) with his crew and I got to chat with a number of his riders. They were glad to be out of the dusty side of Texas and now about to enjoy the green of the Sam Houston forest nearby to the east. Bubba arranged to have a local artist and historian tell stories of local heroes that evening.

Local Historian
Local Historian

I learned of Frank Hamer who was once a Texas Ranger and later the City Marshall of nearby Navasota Texas. Frank’s moment in history came when he led a posse that tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde.

After Bubba’s group got on the road the next morning, I had breakfast in town and headed for Navasota to find sunscreen which I failed to pack for the trip. I met two Southern Tier riders on the way out, one of whom took the tip and stayed overnight at the ranch. In Navasota, I located the city hall where Frank Hamer’s statue stands in front of city hall.

Frank Hamer - Texas Ranger
Frank Hamer – Texas Ranger

My return to the ranch included a stop to shoot some local flora …

Don't Pick the Flowers!
Don’t Pick the Flowers!
Or these ...
Or these …

and fauna …

Expired Dillo
Expired Dillo

and a detour to Shiro where the historian mentioned one could find one of many banks that Bonnie and Clyde had hit. 

Busted Bank
Busted Bank

It wasn’t much, and neither was the town, looking like a ghost town in the making, but the ride was beautiful. Rolling countryside and 80+ degrees made for a beautiful ride of 53 miles by the time I returned to the ranch. I set up my tent when I returned to camp (I slept in the back of the Prius the night before)  and skipped eating any of the snacks I brought back from town for dinner. I might need them later.

Thursday morning dawned and once again,  and I headed into “downtown” Richards for breakfast, this time with Scott and Delinda …. two more early arrivals. The only place to eat is the Kottage Kafe

GREAT Breakfast!
GREAT Breakfast!

where for 7 bucks, I once again enjoyed the biggest breakfast on the menu! After breakfast, Delinda peeled off on her own exploration while Scott and I squeezed in a short 25 miler before heading back to camp, not wanting to be late for the start of the Main Event at 4:00pm. By then, the attendees  were gathering.

OK … now comes the “Secret Part”. To preserve the integrity of the course, we are all sworn to secrecy about the content of the course … and Arlen’s high school exploits. Nothing radical and no blood-letting, but if you were hoping to find clues to how to survive and thrive in the course, you won’t find it here. If you take the course, I promise you’ll learn a lot about ACA, and even more about yourself. Perfect!

But here’s proof this wild group had FUN too!

The Texas Gang!

One of our group, Roger, is heading westbound on the Trans-Am and Western Express routes only a week after the course. You can watch his adventure at “Bound for Berkeley“.

After wrapping up and seeing everyone off, Judi and I remained one more night at the ranch cabins

Cabins with Kitchen
Cabins with Kitchen

to head out fresh in the morning … Judi to Austin, and myself toward Blacksburg Virginia … the long way. I meandered through east Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi (up a stretch of the Natchez Trace), Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee to reach Shady Valley Tenessee, just south of Damascus Virginia. Just before reaching Damascus, the crossroads of ACA’s Trans-America Trail and the Appalachian Trail, I ran into the Backbone, a ridge of rock that had a hole blasted through it for lumber trains to get in and out of the valley. Like most of this area, hiking opportunities abound.

Backbone Ridge
Backbone Ridge

On past Mount Rogers, I stopped briefly in Troutdale, a tiny community that we visited on our 2004 Trans-Am. The local church hosts cyclists and hikers in a bunkhouse on top the hill, and it brought back fond memories.

Troutdale Hostel
Troutdale Hostel

One last stop before home … visited and went riding with our buddy Linda in Blacksburg.

Afternoon Ride around Blacksburg VA
Afternoon Ride around Blacksburg VA

Thanks again Linda … see you at S-Lodge Weekend in Potter County PA!