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Yesterday, sweetie, my daughter, and I traveled to Dublin, Texas for the 2012 Tour dePepper Race.  I do call this ride a race because there are winners, though the winnings are cases of Dublin Dr. Pepper.  However, I still count all of the riders as winners because by that definition, we all got to have Dublin Dr. Pepper at the rest stops.

In case you don’t know, Dublin is famous as being the one place on Earth where Dr. Pepper is still concocted with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar.  In the early days of soft drink (or as my Papa called them, “Soda water”) production, sugar was the primary sweetener.  However, when sugar became very expensive and corn syrup quite inexpensive, all the manufacturers switched sweeteners.  Even though both products are sufficient in sweetness, some of us do notice the difference.

The bottling works in Dublin does not use corn syrup but still chooses to use Imperial Pure Cane Sugar as their sweetener.  They developed quite a following round these parts and for a time people were traveling to Dublin just so they could score a few cases.  More recently, Dublin had begun to branch out their distribution to some larger markets.  They are a very small bottler and the “big” Dr. Pepper was able to arrange for them to quit making their original brand.  Something about a trademark issue with the bottles.  Feel free to check that part out for yourself.

But, as part of the town’s Dublin Days where they celebrate the history of the bottling works, there has been a ride set up for the past four years to raise funds for an organization called “Kids Across Cultures”.  This group raises funds and supports works in other countries to benefit the health and education of children.  The Tour dePepper is one of those activities to raise funds.

Normally, I would not have even known about the ride, but I got a notice about it in my email.  When I told it to my sweetie, she was very interested in us going.  Normally, her time when I’m on a ride is quite boring.  It was good to learn about a ride where she could do some exploring herself.  When we talked about it, even my daughter wanted to come along.  So, at a VERY early time, we headed out on a Saturday for Dublin, which is southwest of Stephenville.

We arrived at the Dublin High School, which sits about a mile east of the downtown area.  We got slightly lost at first because we were told to look for the stadium, but the first stadium we came across was only nearly an intermediate school.  People were just starting to pull into the parking lot near sunup (about 6 AM).  The Tour dePepper is a young ride.  This is their fourth year.  However, they were well organized and ready for the riders.  It’s not a large ride (yet) and as such it does have a more friendly feel than some really big ones.

We started off at 8AM, after a warning not to run over any turtles.  Our route for the 100K distance would take us first to the east of Dublin, then south to a point just west of Hico.  There we would turn east to a small community of Carlton where the 34 mile route split off.  We would continue on and do a loop further south that would carry us through the small town of Gustine before making it back to the road leading to Dubling.  At that point we would have in about 50 miles, with about 15 left to go before finishing in downtown Dublin.

If you sign up for this ride, bring your climbing legs and a climbing bike.  There are HILLS!  Out of the total 64 miles we covered, I can only recollect about four or so of that being anywhere near level.  On the road that started and ended our loop through Gustine are some of the biggest hills I have seen short of the Beast in Tyler’s Beauty and Beast ride.  And, there’s not one hill like this, but two in a row.  I took my Fuji on this ride and the bike held up really well (I think I did too), but it would have been better to have taken the lighter and better geared Trek for this one.

The rest stops for this ride are some of the best I’ve seen.  All of the volunteers for this ride were uber-friendly and they weren’t puttin’ on either.  They meant it.  We had watermelon at almost every stop along with home-made cookies.  Some rides offer cookies, but you will often find the packaged kind if you’re slow like me.  However, there were no shortage of home-baked cookies on this one.  Pickles were in abundance on this ride, which I haven’t seen much of lately.  Salty pickles can really perk you up well when you’re starting to lag.  I also do not want to forget the copious quantities of Dublin Dr. Pepper.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t want a soft drink while on a ride.  They tend to slow you down.  However, by 45 miles out, I was definitely ready for a Dr. Pepper in the shade of a large pecan tree.  It was good, too.

This ride was hard.  Either choose one of the shorter distances (they have 9 and 34 miles), or get ready to train before coming.  It’s early June and the weather is getting warm.  However, I was pleasantly surprised at the cool morning we had.  I didn’t start feeling the heat till about 3 and half hours out.  By the time I finished at five hours, it was getting toasty.  By the way, who says you have to go to France or Belgium to ride cobblestones.  When they turned us onto the final approach in town, we ran right over cobblestone streets.  I don’t recommend them much.

Overall, I place Tour dePepper  in the tops of rides.  Well organized, friendly volunteers, and great rest stops are worth the effort of lots of hills.  The challenge factor is up there.  I do think I can place these hills equal with Aledo’s Ride for Heroes and Weatherford’s Peach Pedal any day.  You’d probably have to go further west to find bigger ones than around Dublin.  This ride made it well worth getting up really early on a Saturday.  I’ll go again.  Happy cycling!

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janice writes fiction

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