Giving Out Wings (88 miles)
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This Route traverses two of the steeper climbs in the area and visits three river valleys. A few sections include intermediately-traveled roadways, making this route best suited for weekdays.
Over its 88 mile distance the route features over 5,000 feet of vertical gain. Earn climbing merit badges on the two most-notable climbs: Crankbender and Bat Cave Summit.
Start by rolling along and then out of the Pedernales River valley. A long climb and subsequent descent puts you at the Blanco River. From here, climb the insane Crankbender over to the Guadalupe River valley. (Although you never see the Guadalupe, you come very close in Sisterdale. To say you saw all three, just ride south a mile or two out of Sisterdale on RR 1376.
Riding north on Old Number 9 (also Old San Antonio Rd.) starts out innocently enough, with favorable Hill Country scenery. Then, abruptly, the pastoral cruise becomes an agonizing climb up to the Bat Cave Summit. After that, even more climbing awaits, placing many climbing challenges toward the end of this long route.
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).
Bottles filled with drink, and tires with air, depart the Marktplatz travelling east on Austin St. Turn right on Elk St and ride to the stoplight at US290. Here, you have two choices: the short/traffic-laden way, or the (recommended) longer/quiter way. For the short route turn left and ride east on US290 then turn left at Columbus St. (this entails crossing a heavily-trafficked bridge with little shoulder). For the quieter way, cross US290 with the traffic signal on Elk St., ride down the hill and turn left on Creek St. This road bends to the right. Climb a short rise and turn left on Franklin St. Then turn left at the two-way stop at Columbus St. Cross US290 (first visit the convenience store here; no sustenance until Stonewall). At this point, the two optional routes are back together. Carry on straight to Schubert St., turn right, and then left on RR1631.
A bit of "scenery" arrives early in this ride; you soon pass a junkyard and then the town dump. After that, the visuals improve. A short rise here Landfill Hill, accelerates your warmup. After cresting the hill a long scenic descent follows. Crossing Palo Alto Creek, the road flattens for a few short miles. Up ahead, the Climb to Jung Lane deposits you at a Y interstection. Take it. Go straight, putting you on RR2721.
This road winds, rocks and rolls for about six miles. At the bottom of a quick descent, instead of climbing the big hill straight ahead, turn right on to RR1623 and enjoy a great view and easy three-mile descent to the Pedernales River and Ranch Road 1.
For those needing it, sustenance lies nearby but slightly off course. We emphasize that on the road ahead you face two large climbs and no commercial food resources so, if you have any nutritional doubts, best to take a quick detour for food. To do so, turn right on RR1, then left on St. Francis, which takes you to US290. A few convenience stores dot the town here. Take your pick.
Back on track, travel eastward on Ranch Road 1. This road represents about the only stretch of flat bicycle-friendly riding in this area. Great scenery too, and plenty of attractions at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.
This route does not traverse RR1 entirely. Trinity Lutheran church marks your right turn at Lower Albert Rd. (No road signage at this turn as of this writing.) A large highway rest stop resides here, providing another visual clue, as well as facilities for bathroom/water breaks.
Being mindful of fast traffic from both directions, as well as the awareness of your riding companions, cross US290 and continue southward on the mostly flat and scenic Lower Albert Rd. Prevailing winds often challenge here. This road T's into RR1623. Turn left and prepare to climb Blancoberg. The roadway here carries a fair amount of fast-moving traffic. Stay aware to what approaches you from the front as well as the rear. With road conditions such as these, we advise extra courtesy by cyclists to drivers, especially when climbing slowly toward blind peaks.
This road never steepens too terribly, but "ascending" describes the overriding theme. This climb and the following descent both feature a sawtooth profile. Therefore, finding a climbing "groove" may be difficult. Eventually you crest the ridge and then drop into the Blanco River Valley. At the bottom of the descent the road flattens. Enjoy this relief just before you turn right at RR1888. The turn completed, enjoy the tranquil Blanco River meandering along to your left for about one half mile, then turn left at Crabapple Rd. (County Road 104). Be careful not to miss this turn. Specifically, you bear left and descend a ramp-like section to the bank of the river, then make a 90-degree left turn and cross the low-water crossing. Be alert for gravel in this turn. And during the rainy season when the river is up, be alert to the oil slick coating of algea that may be present on the crossing slab.
We might compare Crabapple Rd. to a chocolate covered firecracker: It starts out all pleasure and enjoyment, ending with a sudden shock of pain! Actually, the painful Crankbender climb rears its ugly summit before you tackle its earliest steep slopes.
That allegorical bell you hear before climbing Crankbender might be an angel "giving out wings"; or, does it "toll for thee?" Straight, steep, and shadeless describe this one. Mercifully, Crankbender's slope carries on for only a short distance, but this distance is prolonged by the space/time distortion caused by the suffering it inspires.
Once over Crankbender you begin to drop into the Guadalupe river valley. Soon enough, the pulsing vibe of Kendalia attracts all comers. Actually, there is not much to Kendalia, but the Kendalia Store makes great hamburgers, and the dusty old filling station decor is nothing if not authentic. Find cold drinks and candy bars on offer too (if the store is open).
Leaving Kendalia, head west on HWY473 (aka RR473). Over a span of abour 20 miles, HWY473 rambles up and down, with one or two short challenging climbs. Here again, weekend traffic might be heavier (especially motorcycles) so steel your patience, smile, and ride friendly. A sweeping righthand turn at RR1376 drops you into the small town of Sisterdale.
For those that want to "touch" each of the three rivers of this route, a pretty section of the Guadalupe River lies just a short distance south of here. To see it, detour off the explicit route and ride south on RR1376. Find an interesting view from the tall bridge, but because of its height you will not be up close and personal with the river, unless you are riding during a flash flood warning, in which case the river may be dangerously close.
Sisterdale features a small general store as well as Sister Creek Vineyards, which offers bathrooms and water (and wine).
Head north out of Sisterdale and turn left on RR473. More rolling and winding here, but lighter traffic usually. Eventually, a steady descent deposits you at the intersection of Old #9, aka Old San Antonio Rd.
This road parallels the old Fredericksburg and Northern Railroad (now retired). For some distance, most of your trip goes uphill from here. The scenic early miles feature gentle climbing. This all changes at the base of the "Old Tunnel".
The railroad burrowed through the Guadernales Ridge, which separates the Guadalupe and Pedernales river valleys, and in warrmer months the now train-less tunnel houses millions of bats. Their summertime emergence at dusk makes for quite a show, and the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area located here features this spectacle. Climbing Bat Cave Summit, which goes over the tunnel, on the bike challenges mightily, although to a lesser degree than Crankbender. The steep slope slackens somewhat in the middle, offering minimal but welcome relief, before steepening again for the final meters.
Once at the top, the route continues straight ahead, down a steady descent. For those seeking sustenance after the climb, the Alamo Springs General Store & Cafe lies just 100 or so yards to the east on Alamo Rd. Great hamburgers here too.
Continuing northward, down the slope, the route passes LLL Farms lavender farm and then runs quickly through Grapetown, a little hamlet that most agree is past its prime. Immediately after Grapetown begins the final climbing section of the route. First you ride the Piedmont de San Antonio, then a slight plateau, and finally the Col de San Antonio. Arguably just one big climb, the gradient never turns too steep on this section. Compared to those climbs already conqured, most find this section quite benign, although the location near the end of the route multiplies the degree of climbing difficulty.
After cresting the Col de San Antonio, a pleateau eventually gives way to a long and scenic descent. No hyperbole here, the view captivates. Spectate as you ride, with the entire town of Fredericksburg spread out ahead of you.
A few flat miles separate the bottom of this descent from the outskirts of town. The Pedernales River crossing lies in here. Be careful--it sneaks up on you, and the narrow crossing barely accomodates a single lane. Best to slow as you approach it, especially in a pack of riders, and only cross when clear of oncoming traffic.
A few miles later the road T's at US290. Turn left and then stay right. Plenty of road width here, even over the bridge, but traffic moves quickly and in fairly strong numbers, so wise cyclists ride single file here.
A broad selection of retail buildings on your left, and Ft. Martin Scott on your right, signal an upcoming left turn at Friendship Ln. You have the benefit of a traffic signal here, as well as a turning lane. Use both to your advantage. Concentrate on traffic, with potentially much of it coming from many directions.
Enjoy the wide footprint of Friendship Ln. for the early stages, then this road narrows as you near your right turn at Creek St. More single file riding here.
Turn right at Creek St. and follow it to Elk St. Turn right and then use the traffic signal to traverse Main St (US290). Then, left on Austin St. and you ride just a few blocks back to the Marktplatz.
Having gone the distance, no doubt you've earned your wings!