So, I’m back at home now. The bike tour went very well. I know I pulled off my best time. Better than all of the training rides. The preparation really paid off.
After a very restless night, I was so excited to just get going, I woke up to the cell phone alarm at 4:00. Everything was already prepared and packed. I nuked the scrambled eggs made earlier and got dressed. It still took 45 minutes to get in the car. At 5 till 5:00 I found the Amarillo College East Campus parking lot and unpacked the bike. One last check. If it wasn’t on the bike, it wasn’t going. And I was off at 5:06, rather incredulously. Really, isn’t riding 100 miles at the height of summer crazy?
At the edge of Amarillo along I-40 in the pitch black with a little bike light and two red tail lights. The tires are reflective and the wheels have the standard reflectors. All I had with me were two 24 oz insulated water bottles full of ice water, a brand new bike computer, a new 2 gig silver iPod Shuffle and a small bag under the seat. The bag had my wallet, cell phone, 3 allen wrenches, 4 vitamins, 2 safety pins, and a camera.
The route this year was a little wierd at the beginning due to the new starting location at the AC East campus. To get 100 miles out of it you have to ride along I-40 and cut across one of the county rodes to highway 60 and then come into Canadian. My guestimate was 5 miles out then turn up the county road 10 miles. I memorized the numbers, but that’s not always a help in the boondocks, because signs for county road carry the name of the road and maybe not the number so much. I turned at the wrong place. At the time I thought one exit late, but it was really one exit early.
Riding at night was great. Definately, one of my favorite rides. Though I was constantly afraid of running over something sharp and getting a flat. It would have been a major setback. No one else was awake and the ride did not start for 2 hrs. The air was still, cool, and a little moist. I passed many farmhouses completely darkened. I guess they’re abandoned or empty as active ones have a street light on near the house.
On the horizon was Pantex, very clear and I could see the cars on highway 60. Little matchbox cars and semis. All of the sudden I came upon the massive overpass that is under construction. The road ended, but just 100 yards or so was the detoured highway funneling 4 lanes into 2. Then I noticed the detour sign pointing right.
So, I set out in that direction and the road became dirt. Thank God I switched to commuter tires with some tread and thickness on them. The dirt road was a challenge, because it led slightly away from the high way and those cars, which were almost full size grew smaller again. After a little while, my faith waning, I pulled the light off the bike and scanned it around. I was on a “real” road. The tired old rough tree post fence post holding the 3 barbed wires on my right attested to this fact.
At the same time the sky was very slowly lightening in front of me. Not enough to see around me. I saw a few cars cross in front of me and surmised that there was a paved road not too far. Then a Stop sign appeared and my off rode adventure ended. At the time it seemed like 4 miles, but it was probably two. Besides the very small detour sign, nothing else indicated that was the way around the construction.
Once again on old sealcoated asphalt I was soon at the turn for highway 60 when something dropped and my back tire started rubbing hard. The underseat bag had fallen. I stopped on the road in front of this house and as I rode off again I performed my minor role as spectacle to the resident’s morning coffee.
The location was the grain elevator between Pantex and Panhandle. Later, Sara told me that road was the one everyone else took. Oops.
The sun had not risen, but the light was enough to see. I kept all the lights on, because the cars many of which have sensor controlled lights still had their lights on. I flew across the pavement riding the white line and when a car was not visible behind me the well worn slick groove in the right lane.
Highway 60 between Amarillo and Pampa is a wide divided highway similar to Texas interstates without the overpasses. The stretch is a nearly level, slightly winding, expansive panhandle boulevard bordered by a double track railroad to the north and corn and cotton fields as far as the eye can see for 50 miles. As you speed through at 70 miles an hour you have to slow down twice. Once for Panhandle and then White Deer. Both are home to about 2,000 citizens and you drive through the bare edge of town.
Before long I was in Panhandle. That’s about 30 miles from Amarillo. It was 6:40 and my water had started to run thin. I pulled into the Dairy Queen, sat on a bench, and called Grandma and Sara. A voice mail told Sara where to catch up with me. Grandma answered and we talked for 15 minutes or so.
As I left town I passed a sign stating 16 miles to White Deer and 30 to Pampa. The riding was wonderful. Cool still air, enough light to see easily, and light traffic. Along the way I had seen what I guessed were rest stops. The only indication being the porta-potties. One, two, three, four, and then at five there were people. Yay! I really needed to refill. I was down to enough water to keep my mouth wet. No water! What did I expect of #5 at 7:15.
Sara caught up with me about 8:10 and I handed her all the extra weight of lights. She didn’t have any water either. I was way ahead of any other riders. Off she went to setup the first rest stop after Pampa.
White Deer came up quick and then I was riding towards Celanese. The large chemical plant indicates 7 or so miles from Pampa. A big BP presence loudly declaiming their lack of water wasn’t very helpful. I continued on Pampa. At this point I didn’t have any water and I decided to stop at the first convenience store I came to.
At 8:40, I entered Alsup’s in my full biker regailia in skin tight clothes and off kilter shoes clicking loudly on the ancient vinyl floor tiles. I found two big ass Dasani water bottles, bigger than my water bottles, in the back.
With water, finally, I headed through Pampa towards Sara’s rest stop as fast as I could. Turns out that 14 mph or so is the perfect speed to hit all green lights.
On the other side of Pampa Highway 60 drops the spaciousness of double divided lanes and becomes the more common two lane with car wide shoulders. The railroad moves far back and the farmland becomes dotted with dairies and industrial pig farms. Highway 60 splits off and one goes to Wheeler while the other goes through Miami and Canadian. At this split is a seldom used weight station and a newly transplanted Californian dairy.
And Sara’s rest stop. As I pulled up the water/food truck pulled away. Finally. It was 9:00 and I still had to make lunch in Miami and then the hills around Canadian. I wolfed down three banana’s and handfuls of trail mix, peed, and topped off my water bottles. What I really missed was ice. The insulation works much better at keeping ice water cold, than cool water cold.
A few more miles of flat plains becomes hills and Highway 60 and the Canadian river get closer to crossing one another. After a couple of teaser hills, there is a huge, long drop. That was fantastic. The bike computer registered 41.6 max and I didn’t have to peddle over the speed bump of an incline afterwards. After some rolling hills and flats there is the climb up to Miami and the big drop on the edge of town to coast through.
At the bank a quick lunch. 15 minutes to swallow pizza, brownies, a sandwich, and Coke. That was when I heard them mentioning riders continueing by the rest stop/lunch stop.
I had been passed. It took 3 hr to kill my 2 hr head start. There are some really fast riders out there. The first one got in at 10:58. Damn.
Click. Click. To get in the peddles and I was off again. But with mixed feelings. Whereas, I had ridden the previous route 7 times before from age 13 to about 20 the remaining 24 miles are something I had avoided.
To overcome this fear and predict any problems I rode this section 2 wks earlier on my own. It was the toughest challenge of the whole process. Hills with wind facing me the whole time were the same hills with wind facing on the way back due to a cold front. That trek damaged the bike and forced me to get gloves, foam handle bars, wider wheels, and to recalibrate the derailleurs. In short, it fucked up my bike. 49 miles took 6 hr 12 min.
But I had been on the bike 5 hr at this point and covered 75 miles. Just 24 to go. The light tail wind dialed down to a whisper only felt when not in motion and the heat dialed up. Hill climbing had me in the lowest gear a lot of times inching along at 4-5 mph. Several horseflies bit my ass through the black lycra shorts and I discovered a red tick on my handlebars. Seriously. My foot started to hurt from a too tight velcro strap that I misadjusted in Miami. My thighs were complaining. The long muscles near the bone on both sides. Lots of problems appear when progress seems slow.
Finally, I approached the seven mile home stretch. Where Highway 60 divides, because it becomes so hilly there’s not enough width and the elevation drops off about 600-800 ft. It starts with a big, long hill.
The bike computer only registered 39mph and most of that was taken by the first hill. Not a “speed bump”. More gear shifting, more exhaustion, more heat and horseflies.. I stopped at the last rest stop, about 4 miles outside of town, because I needed to adjust my shoe. It was painful. And because I was just tired. 5 minutes and I was rolling downhill again. No more stops.
At 11:54, I rolled into the Canadian Courts Motel. Yay! 6 hr 48 min. That includes the 45+ minutes of stops. My goal had been 1:00-1:30 and I got in before noon. Kick ass. Call to Grandma. Call to Sara, she was almost there. I rode my bike up the hill to Grandma’s house and parked it under her porch. Done! The bike computer read 101 miles.
We slept most of the afternoon. Then I rode Sara around town. With Grandma preparing to move there is little reason to come back. So, I’ve been saying my goodbyes to that 18+ yr time frame. The schools look good. My old house, Stanley’s old house, the Pink House, etc.
Dinner was at the Jones Pavilion. Catered by a number of Masons. Thanks so much. Steaks, blackened chicken, shrimp, and pasta salad made up the meal. There were awards and prizes. Props go to the BP team and Western Builders. Each raised $30K+. A framed jersey for Tasha Enloe was displayed. It is to be given to her family.
This morning I decided not to ride. I could have put 2 hr or more on easily and I woke up in time, but there aren’t too many lazy breakfasts with Grandma left. That’s more important to me. There are always more 2nd bike tour days.