Day 10 - Tucumcari to Dallhart
Greetings from Dalhart, Texas folks! Welcome to the town where there are more cows than people, literally. On our way in today we passed over 10 miles of feed lots, thousands upon thousands of bovines just lying around in massive penned areas for as far as the eye could see.
But we're not here to talk about cows, we're here to talk about the ride. And what a ride it was today! I can honestly say that I will never again encounter conditions that I experienced today on my own free will. On paper, it was supposed to be our easiest ride of the trip, with only 95 miles of flat riding and a sweet wind at our backs to help us coast from one destination to the next.
Well Mother Nature had other plans in store for our merry little band of cyclists. And let me tell you when that gal is in a foul mood, she lets you know it!
The day started out reasonably warm, around 61 degrees as we left New Mexico and headed for the border of Texas. As we dressed up I held up my cold weather underarmor and complained to my dad that it was going to be too warm to wear this.
"Trust me," he said, "you're going to need it."
How right he was. Folks, if there is one thing I've learned in the almost 23 years I've been alive, it's that parents don't just tell you things for no reason. They have the experience and wisdom of their years under their belts, and they are only looking out for your best interests when giving advice. If I hadn't been wearing that snug piece of material, this ride could have turned out very differently, and not for the better.
As soon as we rounded the corner out of the hotel and onto our route, we were greeted by a wall of wind blowing at a consistent 20 mph. And I'm not talking a breeze here or there, I'm talking about a constant, howling wall that never relented in its ferocity at any moment during the ride. We left at 6:30 in the morning, and didn't pull into our first stopping point 25 miles away until 9:30 a.m. I'm not a math guy, but I know that 25 miles in 3 hours is not a good indicator of progress.
And it only got worse as the day went on. For you to really get an idea of exactly what the conditions were like today, I want you to imagine this:
You're riding on a stationary bike in a wind tunnel, with the operator simultaneously increasingthe resistance on your bike, as well as the wind speed, until all you can hear is the rushing of air past your ears and the pounding of your heart in your head. Add someone throwing handfuls of sand into your face (this stretch of road was actually part of the Dust Bowl back during the Depression for you history buffs), while continuously lowering the temperature until eventually it feels like you're in a meatlocker. By mile 30 I had lost feeling in both my feet, and my legs were quickly following suit until the only way I knew that I was peddling forward was by the slow change of scenery.
Oh wait, don't forget to add the constant eighteen wheelers blowing by at 75 mph while riding on a shoulder of road no wider than a narrow sidewalk. I'm not sure how you would incorporate this addition into my little imaginary scenario, but you get the general idea of what conditions were like.
I hate to report this, but today was the first day of my trip that I was unable to finish the entire route. As much as I wanted to continue, after over 7 hours of fighting against this inhospitable environment, I could no longer physically stand after our lunch break. I must have sat there with a handful of cookies in my numb lap for over 10 minutes before I finally decided that maybe today might be a good day to pack it in. I had made it a little more than 2/3 of the ride, and I was content with the fact that I had done my best.
Don't worry, I wasn't alone in my decision. Over half of the group had already called it a day a few hours before me, including my dad. Although I was disappointed that I couldn't grind out the last 30 miles, I knew that continuing would have been too harmful to be worth it.
Sometimes in life, the smartest decision is knowing when to pull back on the throttle. It can also be one of the hardest decisions a person has to make. No one wants to be the guy to quit on this trip, we are growing closer with each passing day and everyone wants to see the team succeed, down to the last man. But today, even our support team thanked us for making the right call and not further risking our health to the elements.
Tomorrow we are going to be forced to cancel our ride due to extreme weather. With gusts of winds reaching up to 40 mph, the temperature continuing to drop throughout the night into the high teens and low 20's, and 1 - 3 inches of FREAKING SNOW just to add a little flavor to our day, it was decided that we would press forward in the support vans onto our next destination in Kansas.
Not to worry, I have some cool ideas for what I want to talk about tomorrow, including a little video of my dad and I as we share our thoughts on the past few days of riding. I hope you all tune in to check it out. Just because we don't get to ride doesn't mean we still can't have some fun!