49.27 Miles / 1117.99 Total Miles
938 Ft. Elevation Gain / 51,046 Ft. Total Elevation Gain
Today was. Sunday, and due to the lack of lodging options up the road, we were facing a long, hot 78 mile day. Our goal was to be on the road by 6:30 AM. We missed that by just a few minutes. Starting out on the road in front of the truck stop, where we camped last night, we cycled back up to the intersection of Highway 87 and turned onto State Route 200–our route for the day. Within 3 miles, we encountered a couple of loaded cyclists coming westbound, and of course we stopped to chat.
Bud, from Oklahoma, and his brother-in-law Andy, from Arkansas, had much to tell us. They started their trek from Maine on May 9th, and Andy, a cardiologist, needs to be back work on August 2nd. No problem there–he has lots of time to pull that off. Bud videotaped us with his GoPro, because he has a VLOG going on some site somewhere. We exchanged quite a few tips, and one key tip from Andy was that there is a really nice B&B, about 46 miles up the road, that is inexpensive, charges $15 for a full dinner, has laundry, etc. Hmmm. A quick change of plans ensued. If we stopped there, we would cut our ride today down to around 50 miles and up the miles on tomorrows ride from 33 miles to something around 55. And we wouldn’t have a long torturous day, today, on Sunday. We were planning to stop and pick up second breakfast in Winnett, just 21 miles up the road, so we made a plan to call the B&B and arrange a stay when we pulled into town.
While talking to Bud and Andy, a good sized herd of Angus cattle, who thought we were their meal ticket, starting moving toward us. Ed, who not only plays the bagpipe, but is also a cow whisperer, a fact even his wife probably doesn’t know, let out one of his classic Moos, and I thought we were going to have a stampede on our hands. I was worried they were going to bust down the fence and come after us, but alas, they didn’t, and we lived to see another day.
It was only 9:08 when we arrived Winnett and placed that call. The B&B was just 24 miles down the road, so we decided to look for a church where we could attend church services. We rode almost all the way down the main drag and the place was a complete ghost town, with not a car or person on the road, and no cars piled up in front of any building for any reason, and no visible church, so we turned around and parked our bikes in front of the City Hall building, where there was some shaded lush green grass out front. I had cell service, so I tried to pull up my Ward in Gilbert’s church service on Zoom, but unfortunately, that didn’t work. (Bummer.) We ate some snacks, tried to take a nap (Ed succeeded, I didn’t), and we waited for time to pass, before hitting the road again. Arriving at the B&B at 11 AM seemed just a little too early for us. While Ed slept, I made some phone calls and looked for signs of life, but there weren’t any.
The scenery of the day started out lush and green, with hay fields and pine trees on the higher ground, but by Winnett, it had transformed to yellowing prairie grass and sage brush. And I need to mention the hills. The entire day was rolling hills–BIG rolling hill that were 1-3 miles apart, where as soon as you reach the top of one, you are descending it and climbing another. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat……
We passed the turnoff for the Cat Creek Oil Field, where oil was first discovered in 1920. We didn’t have the energy to ride the 8 mile round trip to see what goes on there, but later learned that our B&B frequently hosts people from the petroleum business who work on the drilling operation–no fracking here. Apparently, 4 oil fields make up the Cat Creek Oil Field, and per wikipedia, at one time it was all owned by Conoco.
We pulled in to the flashiest rest stop I’ve ever seen (a plaque inside explained that a local rancher, former judge, former congressman, (big time wheeler dealer), had donated the land and over a million dollars so this rest area could be built. Per their instructions, we called our B&B hosts, so they could drive down with their pickup truck to transport us and our bikes up the super steep gravel road to their home. Apparently bicyclists have great difficulty making it up that road, and we’d already done enough climbing for the day, so we were happy they were so kind.
While we awaited our chariot, we read the 3 historic markers at the rest area.
The Hill Ranch Oasis is located on a huge ranch with a sizeable sheep operation and who knows how many acres of land that are leased to cattle ranchers for grazing their herds. The house where we stayed had at least 6 bedrooms in a large, well cooled basement, with a large family room, pool table, and 2 nice bathrooms, and there were more bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. The proprietor, an attractive little lady who is probably in her 80s, was assisted by her son Kevin (he picked us up in the pickup truck) and her daughter Linda (she prepared dinner). What a delightful family. In talking to them, we learned that they drive 25 miles to Winnett every Sunday to go to church, and today noticed a couple of cyclists sleeping on the lawn in front of the City Hall, as they drove down to their church building, that apparently is a ways down the road from where we gave up looking for it. Dang it! If only we had ridden further down the road.
Three other cyclists, who were looking to hide out from the heat, also spent the night at the B&B, so we had quite a group at the dinner table and lots of interesting conversation. In all that chatter, we talked about the many Northern Tier cyclists we all have run into or heard about. Many of them have stayed at the Hill Ranch Oasis, so the Hill family filled in parts of their stories too. That is where we learned that Bud, the guy with the GoPro, from our encounter this morning, has terminal cancer, and this is basically his last ride. Very sad, but glad he can still do this. And this goes back to why I am doing this. No one knows how much time they will get to live on this earth. It’s up to each one of us to decide how we will live our lives and whether and/or when we will achieve the goals we have set and dreams we have dreamt.