The perfect 21-mile cycling route starts in Willow City

Chris and Pam LeBlanc pedaled the Willow City Loop this weekend.

 

Every year while the wildflowers are blooming, I load up my bicycle and head to the Hill Country to pedal the Willow City Loop.

The hilly circuit makes me whimper a little – especially that giant hill about 3 miles from the finish, which turns my quads to jelly – but the reward comes in the form of classic Texas vistas of blue, yellow and red blooms, limestone outcroppings and, if you’re lucky, a flowing creek or two.

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This year, I missed the bluebonnets, which peaked about three weeks ago. That turned out OK, though, because instead of a steady stream of motorcycles and slow-moving cars, I encountered hardly any traffic. Plus, I saw something new – fields of blooming cactus with fuschia and yellow flowers.

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To do the ride, park your car on the side of the road in Willow City, which consists of a bar called Harry’s, a couple of houses, a historic school, a single intersection and bunch of goats.

For best results, bike the loop in clockwise direction, heading west first until you reach Texas 16. Turn right on Texas 16 and head north along this busy two-lane highway. (This is my least favorite part.) Keep your eyes open — you’ll get a quick glimpse of Enchanted Rock to the left just before you start the big downhill glide. A few miles after you reach the bottom, you’ll see an official highway sign directing you to the Willow City Loop on the right.

The land along the road is private, and vehicles aren’t supposed to stop along the right-of-way. (They do anyway.)

You’ll cross lots of cattle guards (caution!) and a few small creeks, weave alongside some craggy boulders, and spy fields of flowers and cactus. We also spotted a wild turkey, a tortoise meandering down the road, a bunch of cattle and a gray fox. Near the end, take note of the long stretch of fence, with cowboy boots capping each post.

Cowboy boots top fenceposts alongside one property on the Willow City Loop. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Most of the motorized traffic drives the loop in the opposite direction, so you’ll see cars coming at you. About 3 miles from the finish, you’ll see an imposing ridge rising in front of you. Take a big gulp of air and prepare to mash your pedals.

We call it the hill that keeps on giving. The first part is steepest, with a break followed by another moderately steep stretch. Even when you think you’re done, the gradual incline continues all the way to Willow City.

Welcome to May, when you get free breakfast tacos for biking to work

Daniel Staub stops by a free breakfast station at Whole Foods in this file photo. Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman

 

Welcome to National Bike Month, when we cyclists gloat non-stop about how pedaling to work beats sitting in traffic in a car.

But seriously. It does.

I started riding a bicycle to work as a result of a commuter challenge hosted by the city 13 or 14 years ago. I got caught up in the mania, and somehow by trying to log more bicycle trips than other teams, it became a habit.

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These days, I ride my bike to work an average of four times a week. I love it. The 14-mile round trip gives me some bonus exercise, keeps one more car off the road and it helps me avoid the distress of getting caught in gridlock traffic. Plus, I like to think it keeps my legs cute.

Pam Leblanc leaves her home to ride to a bus stop on June 23, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Every May, cities around the country celebrate National Bike Month. Here in Austin, the highlight of the month comes on Bike to Work Day, set this year for May 18. And the best part of that day? Free breakfast for bike commuters at stations all over the city.

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Bike Austin has partnered with more than two dozen businesses that will serve up free coffee, water and breakfast treats like tacos and donuts during the morning commute. The fueling stations will be open from 6:30-9 a.m.

Here’s a handy (and evolving) list:

• Alliance Transportation Group

• Austin Beerworks

• Austin Habitat for Humanity

• B-Cycle

• Bennu Coffee

• Bouldin Creek Cafe

• C3 Presents

• City Hall

• Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden

• Crux Climbing Center

• Cuvee Coffee Bar

• Dia’s Market

• Easy Rider Pedicab

• fibercove

• Ghisallo

• Greater Goods Coffee Roasters

• Houndstooth Coffee

• LIVESTRONG

• Monkey Wrench Bicycles

• Mueller Neighborhood Association

• Orange Coworking

• Regions Bank

• Sayers Advisors

• Spokesman

• The Austin Coffee Trailer

• The Paramount Theatre

• Townlake YMCA

• Vital Farms

• Wells Branch Speedy Stop

• Wheatsville Food Co-op

TownLake YMCA will offer free passes and shower use, and C3 Presents will donate a pair of 2018 ACL Music Festival tickets to a lucky winner.

The day wraps up with a party from 5-7 p.m. at Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River Street. Don’t forget to pick up a passport at the first fueling station you visit. You’ll get one entry into the evening’s door prize drawing for each stamp you collect.

For more information go here.