I have been looking for new places to go for a bike ride – and willing to drive farther from home. With the seats folded down, my bike fits in the back of the Matrix and it gets nice gas mileage – so it’s all good.
Looking over Google Maps with the “Bicycling” option turned on, I spotted a green line going north from Highway 380, just east of Denton. It’s the 380 Greenway/Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail and runs ten miles north through the riperian forest of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, ending up at the dam of Lake Ray Roberts.
So, after wasting the morning futsing and dutsing around the house, I loaded up my stuff and drove north through the big evil city until I reached the parking lot off of Highway 380. The Greenway trail is a branch of the Texas State Park system, so I had to pay to use it, sealing seven dollars into a little envelope and dropping it in a steel box. I checked all my gear out, saddled up and headed north into the woods.
The trail is flat as a pancake for the whole distance, which makes it easy and fast, though you never stop pedaling. The trail splits in two – with the equestrian trail on one side of the river and the hike/bike on the other. There were a few folks walking near the south end, but after a couple miles I only saw the occasional mountain bike. The southern section is locked in heavy woods – which is really nice, anything to shade the blazing Texas sun. As it goes north, the landscape opens out a little, with the occasional hayfield or open meadow breaking up the scenery.
It was a really nice ride through some bucolic scenery, but I made a tactical error. I didn’t read closely enough before I left and didn’t think about the trail surface. It is an improved hardpack with gravel surface. I left my thin, smooth, street tires on the bike. They are wide enough, so I didn’t have any problem riding – but the stones cut them to pieces.
I was no more than a couple miles up the trail when I stopped to take a photo of the trail through the woods. When I started back up my bike tire was flat. I carried an extra tube and a patch kit, so I sat along the trail and swapped the tube out. I couldn’t find a thorn or anything, but did find a small hole and patched it, keeping that tube as a spare.
Six miles up the trail, it crosses a highway and I stopped there for a protein bar and some water, and my tire went flat again. Out with the tire levers, off with the tire, on with another patch. This time I did find a tiny glass sliver – took it out. Since this was my second flat, I thought about heading back south to my car, but I sat there for twenty minutes and it seemed to be holding, so I went north to ride the whole trail.
I stopped again at the base of the Ray Roberts dam to rest for a bit. A big, expensive SUV drove up and a couple climbed out. They walked up to me and the driver, in a thick New Jersey accent, asked me, “Do you live around here?”
“Umm, I live a long way from here, but maybe I can answer your questions.”
“Well, we’re looking at a house near here and I wanted to see about this park. It says you have to pay to park here.”
“Oh, if you lived close, you could buy an annual pass. It’s about fifty bucks, I think. You could use this trail and the Ray Roberts park has a nice beach and a lot of stuff to do.”
We talked a bit about the trail (he had looked at it on Google Maps) and where it went and how it connected to the park. The two of them walked around and looked at stuff. I wished them good luck on their house hunting and they drove off. I packed up and headed back down the trail.
A few miles down the trail I felt my back wheel hit a rock hard and immediately the tire went flat again.
This time I found three holes in the tube, patched them, and pumped it up. I counted my patches, three left, plus one spare patched tube, so I was pretty sure I could make it back to my car, but I was getting tired of working on those flats, and my arms were sore from pumping up those fat tires with the little portable pump.
I was able to hammer on down the trail without any more trouble though. As I neared the southern end more walkers began to appear – the day was getting long and the temperature was cooling off.
I went past a woman walking along wearing an outrageous frilly bright red dress, thick makeup, and high heeled shoes that were completely useless on the gravel trail. She looked sheepish, stumbling along, and next to her was a man carrying a tall, transparent, lucite chair. I certainly hope the two of them were walking to do a photo shoot in the woods – otherwise… well, I don’t know.
It was nice to see my car in the parking lot while I still had some air in my tires.