Blown into Texas

Day 12: Clovis NM to Amarilla: 112 miles, 20 mph, 925 feet of climbing, 7631 calories

Old cyclist blessing: May your centuries all be downhill and a brisk tailwind blow you home. IMG_1765

That is what we lived today. Without working, I had my fastest century. But today was not about speed. It was about the conversation with Ian. It was about the joy of cycling. I remembered being a kid, getting my bike out on a warm March day, and pedaling the neighborhood in pure joy and freedom. That’s how it felt today.

 

I could tell you about fragrant feed lots or grain silos punctuating the flat range. I could comment on the climb out of Pali Duro Canyon. It is worth mentioning the horror in Ian’s voice when he said “what’s that huge fucking thing coming up from behind us?” I think it was a disker. It covered 2 lanes of the highway as it crept by. What I do want to tell you is that my stress is dropping away day by day, being replaced by the sheer joy of being.

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A Social Ride

Day 11: Roswell to Clovis NM: 108 miles, 17.1 mph, 7024 calories

The day was spent on the shoulder of the highway, with less than scenic ranch land. So it was time to socialize. I joined the Ice Cream Gang and spent the day in pleasant conversation. I never checked my odometer until mile 52. Gary, Ian, and I took turns singing while leading the loose pace line through the rest stop at mile 83. It reminded me of the relaxed rides with my friends back home. The difference Jim, John, Chris, and Hal is that we were cruising at between 19 and 22 mph. When Gary started into Born to Be Wild we’d speed up to 25.

True to our name, we ended the ride at Sonic for milkshakes. Not surprisingly, I am up 11 pounds since the tour started. I am told it’s water and I should cut back on salt. But I know it’s the oreos for snacks and the grilled hamburgers for lunch.

 

Elida had a nice picnic area and a welcoming senior center. But the storefronts were empty and the town felt as empty as the countryside.

 

Recovery Day

Day 10, Ruidoso to Roswell: 97 miles, 18.5 mph, 3022 feet of climbing, 44 mph maximum downhill

We started in a ski lodge in Ruidoso and descended 4000 feet with a tailwind helping push us along. I pedaled sporadically and easily. My only regret is that I saw no antelope (and no aliens) in transit.

This is supposed to the beginning of 10 “easy” days. As we enter the middle third of the tour, I am feeling strong. My knees ache, as expected. I got stung on the neck yesterday and in the mouth today. So the new hazard is insects. At.least there were no flats.

To Ruidoso

to Ruidoso NM: 105 miles, 6191 feet of climbing,13.7 mph

It was lovely climbing up from the Rio Grande (here the Rio Empty, as in the picture) into the high desert. I rode with 5 guys from greater Seattle, claiming honorary membership because of my sister. There was 1 tough climb followed by a 35 mph downhill. I proudly pulled out my cellphone to capture the view of the perfectly framed mountain. I would share it with you except that the pictures ended up being of my knees. At least I didn’t drop the phone.

The last 25 miles were frustrating and humbling. I was looking forward to challenging climbing. But I got a flat rear tire, struggled to change it, lost my crew, and lost confidence in my equipment. The last 15 miles were bumpy and shimmying. I stopped to check that the replaced tube was holding. It was. So I powered on to the finish. Only then did I discover that I’d been riding on a flat front.

But God loves fools. Because I was too late for the shuttle to the restaurant, I ran into a secret society of riders who seek out local craft brewers. After a good dinner (green chili chicken lasagna) and a taste of imperial stout, I am feeling much better.

John Moore is also doing a blog. His interview with me appears today on johnmoore52.wordpress.com

Continental Divide

Springerville AZ to Soccoro NM: 154 miles, 18.3 mph, 4354 feet ascending, 9890 calories burned

A series of gentle climbs were followed by a sweet downhill and then more climbing to the continental divide. After 80 miles it was all downhill to Soccoro. I am sore after a long day in the saddle. But I am getting stronger. I rode this mostly alone and so I could focus on my own rhythm. A good day.

I enjoyed watching a storm blow rain over mountains to the north. I stopped to take the picture. Then it started raining on me (even a bit of hail), and I rode into town cautiously.

Day 7: Long Days in the Saddle

 

Winslow to Springerville AZ: 118 miles, 4180 climbed, 14.1 mph, 7416 calories

There was little variation in the landscape and the 118 miles promised to be a grind. So I chose to ride slow and socialize. The reward was a good conversation with Brough. But there was also a hazard. I got a flat (wire from a radial tire) and struggled to get the bead over the rim. Thanks Jack for rescuing me. For a while I was riding second to last (my poor friend, Mose, had 4 flats) and was in danger of being swept up by the van. So I tucked into the aero position and rode hard for 20 miles, rejoining my adopted group and finishing the conversation with Brough.

The day ended with a long climb into a headwind. I arrived late and tired. But simple things helped: chocolate milk, a shower, and the foam roller. Kudos to Alethea for giving me the foam roller, my cumbersome but indispensable recovery tool.

Tomorrow is 155 miles, starting at dawn.

Day 6: Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

IMG_1573.JPG to Winslow AZ: 116 miles, 7192 feet of climbing, 16.2mph. 47 mph maximum speed

It was the best of days. It was the worst of days. We left Cottonwood in the cool of the morning and started climbing. The landscape changed dramatically: high desert to oak/ponderosa pine forest and back again as we entered dusty Winslow. I tend to divide longer rides into 25 mile increments; it is mentally easier to work with my most familiar distance. The second interval was probably the toughest ride of my life. It was all climbing, beginning with a 10 mile ascent into a headwind. The last 50 was certainly the easiest of my life. All downhill, with a tailwind,  I could easily average 30mph. I set a personal best of 49:33 for 40k.

I thought a lot about sister Joni. The forest at 7400 feet reminded me of her wedding site in Idaho.

Cousin Chuck visited from Flagstaff. It was great to reconnect over a couple beers and to wander through the beautiful La Posada hotel.

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Day 5: How I Lost My Legs and Came to My Senses

Wickenberg to Cottonwood AZ: 103 miles, 8048 feet of climbing, 14.1 mph (elapsed), 7406 calories

Most of my photos are taken from my bike. So you will see a lot of highway. This may not be as scenic but it captures my world. When the pavement is bad, it requires my full attention. Even when it is good, it is the center of my visual field. What you won’t see is a picture of butts. They also tend to be the center of my view. When you are riding in a pace line, your front tire should be within a foot of the back tire of the rider ahead. There will be an accident if you are not closely attending to that rider.

Last night, over dinner, Mose (a Michigander) told me how to get to the promised land: ride alone. No  need to focus on butts. Today’s ride offered some of the most beautiful country anywhere. So I chose to ride slow and avoid pace lines. In part, this was because my legs were tired after 3 days of pushing the pace. In part, I wanted to focus on my senses. I savored the gusty breeze, attended to the ache in my legs, heard the ravens and meadowlarks, and enjoyed the visual splendor of Arizona.

Today featured 3 long climbs, each followed by a thrilling descent. I stopped off for a beer (thanks Todd) and ice cream in Jerome, a fascinating mining town perched precariously on mountain cliffs. Now I am resting up for an equally demanding day tomorrow, one which I will ride slowly and with senses attuned.

Day 4: Paceline

Blythe, CA to Wickenburg, AZ: 115 miles, 3386 feet of climbing. Moving pace: 19.1mphIMG_1491.JPG

It is interesting that each day’s challenge is immediately eclipsed by the anticipation of what the next day brings. Yesterday we were talking about how the distance and heat made this a dangerous trip. It turned out to be joyous, easy, and fast. Now we are talking about all the climbing that will make tomorrow tough.

Today we crossed into Arizona and climbed gently out of the Colorado River basin into the Sonoran Desert. Roads were good and there was a tailwind for much of the way. Bob Fisher continues to welcome me as his riding partner. He is a wise mentor, today slowing the pace when we were putting out too many watts and showing me tricks for quickly changing a flat (2 today). Terry Hart joined in as well. He is an accomplished triathlete and a beast on the bike. We took turns leading the pace line, alternating every time we passed a mile marker. We ended the ride with a delightful descent into Wickenburg. The velomobile reached 72 mph while my group settled for a humble 33.IMG_1493

My post ride routine is a shower, a nap, wash out my gear, sit by the pool while it dries in the sun, drink a beer (for recovery), check my email, and then go to dinner. Tonight it’s Mexican at Anita’s and I’m hungry! It turns out that the owner of Anita ‘s is from Detroit and I ate dinner with Mose, also a Michigander. Is there a theme developing?

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Day 3: Out of the Heat

Today’s totals are 104.7 miles and 2047 feet of climbing.

We left at 6:15, with temperatures already in the 80s, determined to ride fast. The first 25 miles were through agricultural land. The mighty Colorado River is reduced to irrigation runoff. But the next 50 miles were empty dessert, with no single habitation. So we just kept spinning. The road then waved over short dips and climbs so much like home that I started doing aggressive standing climbs, much to the dismay of wise coach/partner Bob. He reigned me in to 140 watts for the last 20 miles. But we still finished by 1:25,

 

in time for a shower and nap before the luggage van arrived. I have got to stop wearing my Winchester Wheelmen kit. It makes me too aggressive.

Tonight I am tired. I hope there will be enough in the tank for a hot, climbing 116 miles tomorrow.IMG_1423