I’ve spent much of my life driving past interesting roads, especially those dirt and gravel ones you never have a reason to drive down. I feel a burning curiosity to go down those roads that don’t have stores, parking lots, or even houses. Sometimes the roads stretch to the horizon, and sometimes they curve and disappear into a tunnel of trees. The emptiness that draws us in isn’t actually empty.
Gravel grinding is celebration of those roads.
Last Saturday, I went up to the Texas/Oklahoma border to ride Spinistry’s Red River Riot gravel grinder. 130 miles of desolate roads through rolling prairie and tough hills. The terrain just north of Muenster is far more rocky and hilly than I’m used to seeing around Denton. The elevation was killer, something like ~6800 feet total in the first 70 miles. The second leg of 57 miles was less hilly but just as scenic. I only saw a handful of cars in 10 hours on the bike, but I did see a big brown snake, a few dogs, sheep, horses, cattle, the wind farm, and a nice glimpse of the Red River. I had a blast, and I felt honored to finish. Only 13 out of 78 finished, which is a 17% completion rate. The community that surrounds these events is strong and small, yet it’s growing every year. It’s egalitarian and you don’t need expensive gear, just self-sufficiency and a burning desire to keep going. Cross-bikes, mountain bikes, they both work. The distinction is less important than the will to finish.
All in all, I met some great folks, got lost twice, and I would absolutely do this again. Congrats to Sheila Blank-Torres, 2011 Tour Divide veteran and first woman to complete the full Red River Riot! Check out that HUGE trophy flask. All the photos are on Flickr, and here are a few: