Well today ladies and gentlemen was a long day. On our notes it was billed as a 95 mile ride with just over 2,000 ft of climbing. I think all of the riders would agree this was the toughest day so far. First we rode into a headwind all day, therefore making the ride feel a lot longer than it was. Secondly there was just enough elevation to make you work. Sometimes you actually had to pedal strongly just to go down a 1% decline. Lastly once we crossed the Texas border at 54 miles the road became a 40 mile vibrating surface which never let up until we hit the hotel.
So anyway enough of what was difficult and the moaning. It was another beautiful sunny day with blue skies. As we rode along you could see for miles across either pastures, crops or prairie. All along the side of the road were tiny colorful flowers which I have to admit did brighten the mass of green and brown which we have been seeing for days.
Who am I kidding, it sucked. Head down, pedaling hard all day. The miles on the Garmin went up slowly and my speeds went down often. If you looked up, all you could see were huge expanses of grass, cattle or both. I tried to get on to the odd paceline but it was either way too slow or just a bit too fast. So I spent most of the day trying to stop my mind complaining, thinking of negative feelings or reasons to stop. One of the things I did think about is what makes people stop or not. For me this ride is no different (well in mind lets say) than a lot of other challenges you may set yourself. It would be easy to say ‘forget this last 30 miles into the wind on a vibrating road, I will ride the van and carry on tomorrow, who cares anyway’. It is not a race, yet for me it does require me to ride every Foot and Inch as the saying goes to succeed. One rider to be honest has done many miles in a car rather than all on their bike, which is fine as long as they are happy and are getting something worthwhile out of this trip. I am guessing that some might be the type who say, I know I am on a diet but if I don’t go to the fridge and eat that pudding I will be unhappy, ill or die!!! It’s all in the mind. I could stop because my butt aches sometimes, I feel tired or the road isn’t the best. We all could pack it in when the wind blows you back, traffic gets tough or the hills just keep coming. We do have a choice in most things and its those choices that make us who we are and define what we do. My choice on doing this ride is to prove to myself I can take on a challenge and push myself still in my 50’s. To do something that is difficult but makes me feel still alive. Attempt to do something that doesn’t make me feel like a cancer/lymphoma patient. I want to do this because I have got a form of cancer and not use cancer as a reason why I cant do anything like this. Barry, Bruce, Terry, Mike and most all the other riders have their own reasons and drive to keep them going no matter what. As the days unfold we will all be continually tested in our resolve and determination which I believe is why, when this is over the self satisfaction in its completion will be personally a life changing event for all of us pedaling across America.
So with no thoughts of quit in me it was time to cross the border into Texas. For such a huge state it seems funny we will only be in the ‘Lone State” for one night. There are two signs when you enter Texas. The first is the usual type of sign you see welcoming you into a state. The second not too far up the road is a cement map of the state with bullet holes especially around the T and the A in Texas. Need I say more, welcome to Texas everyone.
After this the only two things to report today are seeing an antelope that I made too much noise to photograph and seeing the large cattle feeding lots just outside of Dalhart. The antelope was just standing there and I thought great, stop and get a picture. So I stopped with a large tree between us so as not to spook him while I got my camera out. Now with camera ready and feeling like David Attenborough I took a couple of steps further to see him around the tree. Cycling cleats that clip into your pedals are metal. Roads are stone or similar. Stone and metal isn’t a quiet sound and off ran my ‘National Geographic Photo Contest’ winner, over the hill and into the distance. The feeding stations or XIT Feeders as they are called, are literally acres and acres of cows being fed and fattened in one spot. I can not imagine how many cows I saw in the couple of miles that I passed these stations. This was a big operation and at the end of a very tiring and tough day the last thing I could be bothered to do was to debate in my head this type of operation. Some I am sure would be on the side of ‘Free Cattle in Texas’ others might oppose with ‘Food for all’. So I decided like politics, religion or law to leave these to others to sort out. I simply looked at the cows, smiled, wished them well and rode on by.
So apparently tomorrow we have headwinds again, great. We will be entering Oklahoma which according to the song is ‘where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain’, perfect. Yet our saving grace should be that it is only 71 miles of gently descending roads almost all the way with, I can not believe, only 389.3 ft of elevation gain!!!
Tune in tomorrow to see if this is true or just a ruse to get us back on our bikes after todays ride.