Ok, sorry for not posting in the last few days, however we had no internet connection, no cell phone service, and even no TV for one of the hotels – which wasn’t a bad thing.
Day 10: Slept In
So, after my ordeal with the hail storm and Texas farm hands, I had a hard time getting to sleep early enough to get started at my usual 5-6am start time. So I slept in. I ‘thought’ it would be no big deal because I had a short 50 plus mile day. I got up around 8am and took Zander for a morning walk. We saw all the damage from the hail storm and Zander found a swing set on the camp ground we were staying at (we had a ‘cabin’ which was advertised as a luxury suite but turned out to be a cramped hotel room with a concrete floor shower.) Zander enjoyed the swing and I enjoyed the time I spent with him. Later I helped Stephanie pack the car and sent her up to the McDonald Observatory for the 11am tour as I finally hit the road. The elevation on the map showed a mostly downhill day. It seemed like a lot of rolling hills, a lot of climbing, and a few fun downhills. I actually enjoy the rolling hills more than the flat days, but it slows me down a bit.
As I enter the historic town of Alpine, I notice my front tire is low on air pressure – almost flat. I had only just received cell service as I entered town and my sister called. We talked for 15 or 20 mins as I rode through town. I knew there was a bike shop in town and I wanted to get tire liners before I changed the tube on my front tire so I could avoid all the flats I’ve been having. I asked a couple of locals and got different directions to the bike shop – none of which were correct. I tried to call Stephanie to have her check the map which tells us the phone number of the shop (I only had a copy of the day’s panels which doesn’t have that info) but she wasn’t in cell range. I changed the tube, pulled out the metal hair that has become a recurring theme, and headed out of town.
The highlight of the day was a large bird (we called them chicken hawks growing up, but I’m not sure what kind of bird it really was) standing in the middle of the road. I was about 500 yards away, when it stretched out its wings for what looked like a four foot wing span and just stood there letting the wind blow through its feathers. After about 10 seconds or so, it took two large flaps of its wings and was several feet off the ground – very cool to watch, sorry I wasn’t able to get any pictures.I had 56 miles for the day. That night we stayed in a small hotel called the Gage Inn, in a town called Marathon, TX. We met a family of four on vacation by the pool. They were friendly and inquired about our trip. I didn’t get their names, but I did tell them about the blog – so maybe they will check in. She was pregnant and due close to the same time as Stephanie.
Day 11: Regret Not Finding Bike Shop in Alpine
As we went to bed, I noticed my front tire was flat again! I figured I must have missed a thorn or metal splinter when I changed the tube yesterday. I pulled the tire off, washed it with a rag, looking for and finding three metal splinters in the rubber. I also put air in both the tube that went flat that morning and the tube that went flat after I changed it so I could find all the holes and patch them. I patched both tubes and put my bike back together. I got up at 4am to notice that my front tire was flat AGAIN!!!
I changed the tube with the spare I patched the night before (my last spare) and went back to bed for an hour. At five, the tire was still inflated but I had no spare. If I headed out now, with no cell service and no spare, a flat would leave me stranded for who knows how long. I decide to sleep in, get up with Stephanie, help her pack the car, and head back to the bike shop 30 miles back. We get there about 10:30am and buy a couple of extra tubes (including a thorn resistant tube), two ‘stop-flats’ tire liners, and a couple of CO2 canisters. Stephanie drops me back off at the hotel and I hit the road while she takes Zander to the local library. Not much to tell about the days trip other than it was slow going, mostly flat roads, and the views didn’t change much. At the end of the day I had 55 miles and I never got a flat. I did change the tubes that night to install the tire liners and the thorn resistant tube – I even said “That should stop the flats for the rest of the trip”. Famous last words…
We ate at a local eatery called Paddy’s Pub. Paddy was a heavy set, busy, and friendly. They were out of everything – no hamburgers, no chicken fried stake, no fries, they were even out of diet coke. Finally we asked her what they had left. I had a turkey club and Stephanie had a Ruben. Zander was able to get Paddy to make a hamburger on white bread (apparently they were out of buns, not burger).
Day 12: Fatigue Sets In, Early Finish Line
I was supposed to go 80 plus miles today and then 30 plus miles on Thursday. I got a bright idea – why stay in a hotel on Wednesday night? If we are only 30 miles away, we could just drive the last 30 miles to stay with family on Wednesday – Stephanie could drive me back out on Thursday and avoid a whole day of packing and unpacking. Stephanie liked the idea and Jeremy said it was no problem, so that was the plan.
I got started at 7am – the sun doesn’t come up until 7 am in Texas. The elevations for the day were mostly flat (1000 foot drop over 100 miles) but there were a few rolling hills, with a couple of steep climbs. After 20 miles, I broke a spoke. I was still in good spirits and I figured I would just keep pushing forward. Stephanie caught up at about 30 miles and I took a break. It wasn’t too hot, but the humidity was over 80% so I was soaking wet with sweat. After a few minutes, I went to get back on the bike and guess what — I had a flat! Not only did I have a flat, I had a flat on the back tire where I put the thorn resistant tube and the tire liner! I was ready to quit, but Stephanie encouraged me. I calmed down and replaced the tube. The culprit was a thorn so big it looked like a nail – and it went right through the liner and the tube.
Stephanie agreed to meet me at match line about 20 miles up. It was slow going, I had a hard time moving my legs. I realized that I hadn’t given my legs a break in several days and many of the days were plagued with mechanical problems. I was just plain beat. When I finally met Stephanie at match line I had gone about 48 miles for the day. I took a 30 minute break and hit the road again. I didn’t get far. I left Stephanie at the crest of a hill and thought I would enjoy the down hill ride after my break. I had a hard time getting the bike to move – I have gone down similar hills at 25-40 mph, but I couldn’t get the bike above 10 mph! I don’t know if it was just low moral or that my legs just needed a day of rest, but either way after just two miles (just breaking the 50 mile mark) I was done.
Stephanie likes to let me get a little ahead of her after a break so she can ride by and wave before heading on to the next pit stop. When she came by to wave, I waved her down, loaded the bike on the car, and we drove the rest of the way in.
Seeing Jeremy was awesome and I got to get in a flight simulator to fly the T-6! I did a couple of barrel rolls, a loop, and a crash into the runway on landing. So it looks like my 1000 mile bike tour has ended with 735 miles and a crash landing! It was a lot of fun, I have a wicked cycling tan, a lot of pictures, memories, and stories! I’m sure the pictures aren’t great, but the memories are, and the stories will get better with time!!!