The day started with me over sleeping. I got on the road at 7am local time – but before you give me too much grief – that’s 5am PHX time. Anyway, I started down the road at 7 and noticed there was a wind blowing that was headed my way. It took me an hour to get the first 8 miles behind me because of the headwind. Then I got my first flat of the day – yes, I said first flat. Apparently I ran over the metal fibers from a blow out at some point and those smaller-than-a-staple metal hairs have been working their way through the rubber on my tires since the first flat yesterday. Anyway, the real issue with this flat was that despite packing everything I needed to change the flat – a tube, a patch kit, a tire changing tool, and a CO2 pump, I still managed to forget to grab an extra CO2 canister! So, I had to call Stephanie at 8am (6am her time) to get up and bring me supplies 10 miles up the road.
After I got the flat fixed and Stephanie headed back to the cabin, I was fighting a 5-10 mph headwind. Not that big of a deal really, it just slows you down a bit – until the wind picked up to 15-20 mph headwinds! Now I’m fighting to keep the bike upright and moving forward. I was going between 4-6 mph and I felt like I was climbing a 20% incline! After four hours on the road, I had only traveled 20 miles. I was ready to quit, but Stephanie was right there to encourage me to keep pushing forward (actually, I was ready to quit 2 hours into it but Stephanie wasn’t right there, she was packing the cabin up and so I had no choice, but then she got there, she made sure I knew that I had no choice!)
When I got to Kent, TX about 30 miles from Van Horn (where we stayed the night) I needed a break. It was already 12:30 local time so Stephanie and I had some lunch (PB&J sandwiches). After an hour or so the wind had died down and I continued up the road. Now I had already been climbing for the last 30 miles (its a steady incline from Van Horn to just outside of Fort Davis – after the pass its all downhill to Del Rio), but the real climb started here at Kent. For the next four hours I was pulling myself up this mountain. I stopped for a break at matchline (my route is divided up into panels, and at the end of each panel is a line that matches up with the next panel). Stephanie was there waiting for me so I took my break in the air conditioned car. When I got out to get going again – I had my second flat of the day. No problem – by now I’m pretty good at changing tubes out on my bike! I searched the tread to find the metal hair I mentioned, pulled it out and replaced the tube. Back on the road.
By now, Stephanie was worried about check in. Our cell phones stopped working as we got into the mountain and in some of these small towns, if you down check in before too late, the hotel staff have gone to bed for the night and you aren’t getting checked in at all. It was already 6pm local time but the temperature had cooled down, my legs had warmed up to the climbing and I wanted to keep going for the 40 miles I had left. I knew that would put me at the hotel after 10pm but how proud I would be if I could pedal all the way up this hill without aid! Stephanie took off over the hill with a promise to check on me in a couple of hours.
On my own and determined, I pushed forward. Then I noticed rain clouds behind me. I wasn’t too worried about getting rained on, but there was a lot of thunder and lighting and that had me concerned. I pushed myself harder to stay ahead of the storm. I had gone another 10 miles since Stephanie left me but I still had 30 miles ahead of me and I was thinking this storm was catching up and I wouldn’t mind if Stephanie picked me up right about now. I rounded a corner just passing the 60 mile mark when I saw one of the trucks that had passed me earlier stopped beside the road with two farm hand cowboys leaning against it.
“Howdy! You got a big a** hill to climb ahead of ya.” they called out
“Yeah” I was winded
“I don’t reckon I’ld want to climb that hill but I sure wouldn’t do it in a hail storm”
Did he just say hail? Ok, now I’m worried.
“We’ll give you a ride if you want”
I wanted to push on, but my better sense took over – “I think I’ll take you up on that”
Its hard to describe the next 30 min drive with these two Texas cowboys, but after seven beers between the two of them, a few cigarettes and a hail storm so bad it looked like it had snowed, we were in town. There was some banter there as well. They asked why I was riding a bicycle over a mountain and when I told them I wanted to see the world so I started in West Texas and was finishing in East Texas (my best attempt at Texas humor) they asked if I was writing a book. I said no (but I did think of the blog). They ignored my no response and promptly asked that I not put their names in any book I was writing because they were wanted in 58 states (yes, they said 58). After a hardy laugh the driver said of the other cowboy – “He’s wanted for everything from drugs to kidnapping bike riders!”