Fifty Miler (50 miles)
A perfect medium-distance route for days when the wind blows from the north or east, Fifty Miler distinguishes itself by avoiding several notable climbs in the region despite covering -- you guessed it -- 50 miles.
The first quarter distance of this route climbs steadily for almost 15 miles, but the substantially benign grade should cause only slight burning, not a retching fatigue.
With the exception of one recognizable climb, the route then drops for most of the distance to Willow City. The route then continues through the northeastern part of the county along typical rolling and scenic Hill Country roads.
Turning back toward town, the route traverses several rolling hills; although none challenges terribly in its own right, together they add up to a cumulative challenge. The final stretch, after crossing Palo Alto Creek, presents one last sustained rise before dropping back into town.
This route begins at the Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg, Texas. Find this main town square located on the North side of Main Street (also HWY 290/HWY 87) at the intersection of S. TX16. (North of this intersection, S. TX16 becomes N. Adams St.)
When groups meet here, generally they form up at the facility's northeast corner, where W. Austin St. intersects N. Adams St., which is not too far from the restrooms and off busy Main St. (Infrequently these restrooms may be closed for festival setup; find alternatives two blocks southeast at Fredericksburg's Visitor's Center).
Leaving the Marktplatz, we recommend riding west on Austin St. rather than riding on busy Main St. Turn left at Theodore Specht Drive, then right on US87. The ride to the outskirts of Fredericksburg entails enduring somewhat fast traffic, although you benefit from a generous shoulder for much of the way. This shoulder becomes a climbing lane towards the very edge of town, however, at which point you will want to be aware of traffic approaching from behind, and stay hard to the right.
Your next turn, Old Mason Rd.; a left turn a few miles out of town, entails crossing potentially fast-moving traffic, so stay alert! Old Mason climbs scenically for a few miles and then reconnects with US87.
Turn left on US87 and then right on RR2323. Not much to see here. About one mile further, turn right on Wendel-Ahrens Rd. This small road offers a thrilling roller coaster profile for a few miles, and then T's into Cherry Mountain Loop. Turn left, climb the hill and look for the convoluted intersection at Gypsum Mine Rd. Turn left again. You now approach Gypsum Mine Summit, about 13 miles into the ride.
Quarrying activity flanks either side of Gypsum Mine Rd. and a sizable quarrying-related structure on your right offers some visual interest, but the scenery on the whole here is somewhat bleak. Not for long though. A high fence and cattle guard signal a looming invigorating descent. At the bottom you will find a pretty gentle-flowing creek, which represents the tranquility of many Hill Country water flows.
Gypsum Mine Rd. terminates at Keese Road. Turn right on Keese and then, almost immediately, turn left on RR965, the road to Enchanted Rock. Somewhat infrequent traffic does tend to move swiftly, but otherwise this segment usually offers quiet pedalling. However; there isn't much of a shoulder so, once again, stay alert to the rear and ride single file.
Turn right on Lower Crabapple Rd. It dips down to a low water crossing (usually dry) climbs a little and yields the humble but interesting Lower Crabapple community church and other buildings. This complex makes an excellent spot to stop, regard the buildings, catch your breath, and soak in some good vibes, which for some reason always seem to resonate here.
Commencing the ride, after about 3.5 miles on Lower Crabapple Rd., turn left on Eckert Rd. This scenic road starts out rolling up and down casually on its way to Eckert Hill: not too abrupt but it does tend to terminate conversations. Eckert Rd. T's into TX16. Turn right, then take a quick left on FM1323. (Caution here, fast traffic.) This mostly flat road eventually climbs into Willow City. Note, a city limit sign stands near the fire station, so position yourself to sprint if you are in the company of locals. A general store, for refueling, lies here as well. FM1323 pauses at a T intersection, with the Willow City Loop to the left and the continuation of FM1323 to the right. Turn right to stay on course.
Shortly after FM1323 rolls out of Willow City intercept Herber-Schaefer Rd. Turn right. If all roads were like this one, life would be grand. No big hills to speak of, just pretty farmland vistas. You may spot guard dogs on duty at a goat ranch through here. Although they look threatening, we have never found them to be a bother. (Your results may vary.) The latter stages of this road remind us of our rides in Luxembourg because of similarities in terrain and scenery. A short jolt of a climb punctuates the end of this road.
Turn right on RR1631 and enjoy the rolling profile we call Sawtooth 1631. A typical southeastern wind will not help here, but such a breeze can be an aid on the final leg of this route.
After a sizable descent, you begin the home stretch in a slight valley, which finds its low point at Palo Alto Creek. Once over this creek, climb Palo Alto Slope. Not a steep climb, but possibly unwelcomed at the end of a long ride.
RR1631 terminates in town at US290, near Hill Country Bicycle Works (located just to the west of this intersection). Turn right. From here the route follows Main St. (US290) over the creek. Riding on Main St. here means riding with fast traffic. Riders benefit from a wide shoulder, however, so those in a single file should have little trouble with anything but the orneriest of motorists. Turn right at the light at Elk St., left at Austin St., and then straight back to the Marketplatz.