If you asked each of us how our day went, today, the answer from a good part of our group would have been that it was the hardest day on the tour. But there have been so many days, where, within minutes of starting the ride, I thought there was no way I could finish the route, but somehow I just kept hammering at it and muscled through it And after the fact, it would be hard to rank one of them against the others, because the factors that make them difficult are all different. For me, yesterday would be in the top 5 most difficult.
During our dinner, last night, even though there was only a 15% chance of rain, it poured. I ran back to gather up all the electronics that were charging and to zip up the open rain flies on 6 tents. Crisis averted, but then as we went to bed, the wind kicked up and gusted all night, an omen of the day to come.
Ahead of us, this morning, were 74 mostly uphill miles with absolutely no services of any kind on the route, so we were all loaded up with extra water and very aware of how much food we were carrying to replenish our energy. We pushed out at first light, which in the central time zone was now an hour later, and immediately found ourselves peddling into a heavy headwind. I would have been happy to ride the entire day by myself at my own pace, but there’s no way I could ride into that wind by myself.
I frantically started looking for someone to ride with so we could trade off on breaking the wind. Catching up to Tom C, Erwin, and Eric, was impossible, as they were going too fast. Pedaling ahead, I ran into Tom R and Joe, who had stopped to take a photo and were riding a little slower.
The two of them ride out together each morning, but at some point, Joe kicks into his Superman gear and jettisons ahead. When Joe reached that point and rode ahead, Tom and I made a pact to ride together and trade off breaking the wind a mile at a time, and I will love him forever for hanging with me throughout the entire day. For the half of the rest of the day, this was my view, as I attempted to stay within a wheel of his bike.
The chip seal surface was bumpy and was taking a toll on our sit zones for 25 straight miles when we crossed into Presidio County, where the road hadn’t been maintained in who knows how long. For 35 morenmiles, our wrists, shoulders, and tender sit zones took a serious beating.
Stopping numerous times to apply and reappply shamy cream helped, but the headwind, the grade and the bumps were conspiring against us.
About 10 miles into that last section of road, I clipped Tom’s rear wheel, as I followed him, apparently a little too closely, and me and my bike went on a collision course that for a split second was pretty scarey. The last thing to hit the ground was my helmet, and I thank the good Lord for that. I was completely decked out on the pavement with my bike laying on me while I assessed the damage: nothing broken, no concussion (I was still thinking clearly–I think), no bleeding, but a hole in the right knee of my sun legs, very minor raspberries on that knee, my right hip bone and my right shoulder, and a little scrape on my right shift lever. Am I lucky or what? (Don’t answer that. We may not agree on the correct response.) Tom lifted my bike off of me, and I layed on the pavement for another minute or so. Thank you Tom!
As we rode on, I recommitted myself to doing everything in my power to keep myself safe on this ride. That fall could have easily played out much worse, and a broken bone would have ended the ride for me. I have come way too far to not finish this ride over something as stupid as inattention, and I need to make it home safely so I can continue to be my daughter’s Mom and my grandbaby’s Grandma.
I know this is out of order, but there were a few highlights in the day, besides Tom’s sharing the load with me.
A little before the halfway point of the day we rode into the town of Valentine, which in 1881 was a Southern Pacific Railway station. At one point it had a booming population of–get this–600. When the railroad stopped passenger service to Valentine and then in 2010 relocated the train station to Van Horn, the population dropped to 134. So now the place is almost a ghost town, but the families have come together to make sure the library stays open, and it is a really cool library.
The second highlight was just a couple of miles further down the road in the middle of nowhere–the “Prada Marfa” permanent land art installation. It looks like a Prada store, I guess (I’ve never really paid attention to designer brands and stores, so I can’t be sure), but the doors are sealed shut, and I heard that the glass is bullet proof. I also heard that it is a tour bus stop on West Texas bus tours.