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Camp Verde, TX
We awake at 6:30am to head for coffee at the Hill Country Cafe, a Texas legend according to the sign in the window. The waitress is short, blond and her skin is oddly orange. Like the cafe, she is clearly a legend herself, an institution. She loves us. She calls coffee ‘java’ and fills our cups with alacrity. Our ride host, Louie, orders two eggs over-easy with hash browns and a short stack. Pete gets scrambled eggs, a sausage biscuit and blueberry pancakes. We each order the equivalent of 2-3 meals, but nothing is wasted, what goes uneaten is packed up in foil and napkin just in case.
We’re on our bikes at 9:30. It’s maybe seventy degrees with low, gray clouds imperceptibly drizzling for spells. This ride is about Texas Hill Country, but hill country in a predominately flat, mountainless state doesn’t sound threatening. The ride starts out easy enough with miles of gentle rollers on narrow rural roads. We seldom see cars but the roads are rough with chip-seal.
Twenty miles in we hit a six-mile section of dirt road. It’s hard-packed dirt is covered with loose sand and rocks so we speed-up and push into it.
Seventy-six miles in three things happen; the sun breaks through the clouds, the temperature instantly rises to 90?, and the humidity jumps palpably.
At mile 77 the climbing starts in earnest, the ‘hill’ part of ‘hill country’. Massive scrubby but gorgeous rolling hills covered in trees and laced with creeks, peel off in every direction. Here we hit the ride’s name sake ‘Ranch Road 337’.
We climb three distinct, progressively difficult sections of 337. We see countless ranches, chickens, buffalo, cows, horses, vultures and creeks. It’s hot and hard work, and it’s beautiful.
126.5 miles from our start, with Ryan nearly cracked and Greg falling apart, we finish in the historical town of Camp Verde—spent, satisfied and ready to soak in the cool, shaded river just ten feet from our van.
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“The second most brutal ride of my life. What a way to start the tour." – Cole Maness
“The hardest Rapha Continental Ride I’ve ever done, at least in regards to the way I felt." – Greg Johnson