Hill Country Traditional (36 miles)
This 36 mile "slice of the Hill Country" features an area of the county we call "Little Switzerland". Flat-landers should not be deterred, however, because of all the routes reaching to this area, this one in particular features relatively little climbing. Relatively!
The first climb of the Route (also the longest), Gypsum Mine Summit leads you to an actual Gypsum Mine, which provides some visual interest, if not beauty. You then drop rapidly into the hills and dales of Little Switzerland. The L'Alpe Petite climb lies in wait in this region. Aside from that challenge you enjoy terrific rural scenery. Then, a fun and twisting descent drops you down to a road that aims you back toward town and features Grinder, your last substantial climb of the Route.
The ride back to Fredericksburg utilizes Old Mason Rd., a favorite cycling byway connecting Fredericksburg to many popular cycling areas. And, traveling in this direction, it goes downhill for virtually its entire distance.
Although this route would most favor a north wind, particularly northwest, the downhill run back into town makes it attractive even on a day with a prevailing southeast wind.
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).
To begin, depart the Marktplatz travelling east on Austin St. and turn left on to Adams St. Ride two blocks and turn left on to Travis St. Be careful crossing Milam St. (RR965), because of fast traffic from both directions. Travel ahead, west for many blocks and turn left at Catholic Cemetary Rd. Ride past the cemetery and then make the right-left chicane at Austin St. (post office on your left), continuing south on Theodore Specht Drive to US87. Turn right onto US 87 and take advantage of the generous shoulder as you amble through the suburbs toward countryside.
Note that at one point the shoulder on US 87 becomes a climbing lane, towards the very edge of town, so stay aware of what approaches from behind. The route continues to climb for a good distance. (Don't be alarmed by the occasional gun shot heard after you leave the city; a shooting range lies nearby.) A ways further, turn right on Cherry Mtn. Loop. Rolling hills make up this section's profile; despite some dips, the net elevation increases. Turn right on Gypsum Mine Road. The Gypsum Mine Summit comes at just over 10 miles into this ride.
Quarrying facilities flank Gypsum Mine Rd. on both sides. On the right lies a sizable structure offering some visual interest, but on the whole expect rather bleak scenery. Not for long though. A high fence and cattle guard signal a big descent just ahead.
This fast downhill section drops rapidly, dead straight at its steepest section. Mind your speed, however, because you never know when a deer might dart out of the woods. (This is no driver education video game; a tie goes to the deer!)
At the bottom of this steep section, but before the road bottoms out completely, lies your left turn on to Schneider-Moellering Rd. This turn makes a second good reason to temper your speed. Turning left, and now in Little Switzerland, you ride through an interesting old farmstead and then drop down over a scenic creek setting. Very pretty in here. Make the most of the calming scenery, because the climb up L'Alpe Petite lies just ahead.
The early stages of this climb begin somewhat gingerly, with a few twists and turns. With those bends behind you, the serious mashing begins--straight ahead up a meaningful grade. Towards the top, after much climbing, this slope gradually fades away leaving you on a short plateau, which normally lacks much motorized traffic and features nice Hill Country scenery.
This pleateau soon melts away into a true descent. Here again you will want to modulate your tempo. The road gets twisty and views ahead to approaching traffic (yes, occasionally you will see motorized vehicles) might be compromised. Enjoy the technicalities, but don't risk life and limb! Schneider-Moellering Rd. intersects RR2323. Turn left at this intersection while again watching for traffic. Once on RR2323 the climbing begins again almost immediately. The concave profile of Grinder causes mild burning and modest pulse elevation at first. For those aggressively challenging gravity on its slopes, much pain and discomfort usually follows. Some riders may be able to fake climbing prowess on the early slopes, but no doubt the posers will be shelled away as the grade steepens toward the top.
With the major incline behind you, the balance of RR2323 presents a rolling profile into a prevailing southeast breeze. This road terminates at US87.
Turn left on US87, minding the fast traffic from both directions, and make use of the wide shoulder for the very short distance to Old Mason Rd. Turn right.
This great road carries bountiful bicycling traffic. (Not only a bypass off of US87, it also functions as an artery delivering cyclists to several networks of scenic and quiet cycling "capillaries" on the west side of the county.) From its western-most tip, where you now find yourself, the road descends for virtually its entire distance, which takes you most of the way back to Fredericksburg. To be sure, a few small humps lie in wait, and a prevailing southeast wind will slow you somewhat, but on the whole you should look forward to this section because an exceptional Hill Country setting awaits as you cross a tree-lined creek flowing alongside two old farmsteads.
At its eastern tail end Old Mason Rd. crosses a cattle guard and terminates back at US87. Turn right here and backtrack along the highway, utilizing the generous shoulder as you re-enter suburban Fredericksburg.
As you near town, look for a white brick wall on your right. This signals the city limits sign lies just ahead. Those who sprint for such things will want to mind traffic here; not too dangerous, but if cars are lined up in the primary lane and waiting to turn left at the Post Office, best to set glory aside for another day.
Minding traffic from ahead and behind (especially if you are delirious from a city limits sprint), turn left at the post office. Then turn right on Austin St. and enjoy the slight downhill grade back to the Marktplatz.