So much for plans. After the previous days of riding into a headwind I had decided that today I was going to ride with the others as much as I could. As we finished the route talk at 7:00 am I noticed I had a flat tire. As the group left I started to change my tire for the seventh time since starting the ride in LA. Dana quickly saw me and took over as he is, like my hero’s from SRAM, an expert at the tire change. A few minutes later I was out on the road, but with the winds and the gap ahead to the riders I was again in no-man’s-land. Oh well today was a shorter ride of around 72 miles so it was time to have a steady solo ride like most of my training rides have been for the past 9 months.
Off into the early morning sun I rode and found that unlike yesterday the road turned quickly into a beautiful smooth surface for most of the day. That is all it took to change from a tough day yesterday to a promising one today. Trains and trucks passed up and down the route towards Oklahoma with fields all around. Every now and again you would see large grain silos appear on the horizon and grow with every mile I road closer. The fields on either side had one of three things, cattle, windmills or circular irrigation. The cattle here were free to wander unlike the the huge feed stations of Dalhart. As I passed by the cows looked up almost surprised to see Irma and me pedaling along the highway. The windmills form lines of silent motion as they turn around in the winds. Unfortunately they all seemed to be positioned to take advantage of a wind blowing towards me and not helping at all. Finally there were many fields of crops that contained a long line of irrigation sprayers that very slowly rotate around a central pivot point. These are the fields that look circular from airplanes as you look down from above. In each of these fields you can often here a motor running from a pumping station all controlled from some central unit somewhere.
We were told on leaving the hotel that at 19 miles there is a statue of a cowboy. As I watched the miles tick over I wondered if it was a bronze depicting cowboys chasing across the prairies on horseback. Maybe it was a marble sculpture of a famous cowboy like Billy the Kid? As it turned out it was a large fiberglass (I think) cowboy that looked remarkably like Woody from Toy Story. Ah well a little Americana was enough to brighten my day. We posed for photographs and had some fun out of the winds for a short while.
Eleven miles after Woody I found the first SAG stop had plenty of riders standing outside a Dairy Queen eating, drinking and chatting about the ride so far. The DQ was out of business but a man who seemed to sell barbecue at lunch fro here now, opened up for any who needed the bathrooms which was good of him. The late starting group had already caught us and were preparing to head out in a paceline of 7-10 riders. I wondered if maybe I could hang on to this group for a while and get some easier miles under my belt before being forced to drop off. I prepared myself and as I noticed them preparing to head off I rode out onto the road hoping to be ready as they formed a group on the road. OH NO NOT AGAIN. Yes flat number eight and the end of a paceline chance too. I circled back and again with Dana’s help replaced yet another tube as all the riders departed in various groups.
Unlike yesterday it didn’t seem too bad as a smooth road, no rush and some varying things to look at made it quite enjoyable to be out on the road. Cows and plants became a distraction for a while. At one stage a young male cow seemed to be interested in a bicycle passing and ran along behind us for a good quarter of mile, which made me smile as I whistled at him. Later I found a couple of Texas Longhorns looking directly at me, all I could think about was how heavy are their horns and I wonder if they get tired of just holding their heads up? I quickly christened these two characters, Larry and Lonnie Longhorn, waved and rode on.
As we approached the Texas/Oklahoma border a few huge grain silos filled the skyline from a distance back. These are unbelievably large when standing next to them And I can not imagine how much grain they actually hold. Passing through towns whose centerpiece is a huge concrete grain silo seems normal here. No shopping malls, Bloomingdales or Nordstrom’s to be seen here.
The State Line here at Texhoma was somewhat disappointing to say the least. A relatively small sign on th e side of the road that is probably unnoticed by most passers bye. Ah well it marked the second new state for me to have now visited and the fifth state cycled in on this trip so far. Just after the border I spotted a cattle market and so rode over on my carbon fiber steed to check it out. I quickly realized these were serious cowboys doing serious work. A Lycra bystander with an iPhone is not really going to fit in here. So I quietly cycled to one side and contented myself watching a couple of trucks unload some cattle into the many interlocking pens.
Now I had passed the time away and discovered I only had another 20 miles to the hotel. Back on the smooth road it wasn’t difficult to ride and watch the miles slowly tick down on my Garmin. To beat the wind I was riding as low as I could in the drops (bottom of the curved racing handlebars) which means you are often looking at just the road a few yards ahead of you. Every now and again I caught site of the odd flower or plant to my right in the grass verge which broke up the continuous grey of the road. Finally on one of my looks up ahead I saw the sign welcoming all to Guymon, OK. Another ride was completed a mile or so later and today it didn’t seem quite as hard a day on the bike.
It is funny that today a smooth road surface was almost all that was different to the previous day and yet the two rides feel almost as different as chalk and cheese. A different perspective or viewpoint can sometimes completely change how we feel or see things, something I am learning to use more and more these days. Later this evening we all gathered for an Italian dinner together at a local restaurant across the road and then back to the hotel to get some well earned rest. Tomorrow is almost a rest day for us. We ride only 40 miles to Liberal, KS, so will not start out until around 9 am which seems positively late in the day now.
Despite a headwind, two flats and riding alone – Today was a good day.