Posted: Fri, 30 May 2008
DAY 12 LIBERAL TO DODGE CITY, KS
This is the last ride day of our segment tour of the Southwest for Dan and me. It is an 85 mile ride into Dodge City, KS---a city we visited in 2004 on the Cross Country Challenge ride. Today it did not turn out as we had hoped.
Dan had immediate problems with his bike. The crank had a serious flaw that required him to drop out early in the ride.
I moved on, picking up Ken and Bill, two excellent cyclists and buddies from Peoria, IL. The 3 of us alternated "pulling" assignments all day long in the strong head winds and cross wind we fought continuously. Our progress was slow, but steady. Our mutual assistance in the wind was critical to our success today. We worked together very well. We had gotten to know one another as we recuperated in Dalhart, TX following the food poisoning episode. I enjoyed riding with Ken and Bill...two good guys!
We stopped at the old hideout of the Dalton Gang, the notorious bank robbers of the Wild West, for a SAG stop and some gatorade.
Once at the hotel in Dodge, I set about the task of getting my bike in the bike box for transportation back home on the plane with me. Pat, the staff mechanic, and Dan gave me a big assist. At route rap Tracy and Jim presented us with our certificates of completion of Flagstaff to Dodge City segment of the tour. We were given the opportunity to make our comments of "Thanks and Farewell" to the group we have come to like and admire. "God Speed" to them all!
The evening was filled with a walk to the "attractions" of Boot Hill, and Miss Kitty's Saloon for the floor show with several members of the Cross Roads gang.. It was a lot of fun over a few beers!
We are off to the airport early in the morning for the return home. I will miss this group!
I feel very good about this bicycle tour. I was able to ride for days with my buddies Rick, Dan and Peter, make many new cycling friends, train in the hills as I had planned, and get to see a part of this country that I have always wanted to experience more fully. I got what I came for--and much more!
Posted: Thu, 29 May 2008
DAY 11 GUYMON,OK TO LIBERAL, KS
KICKED INTO KANSAS!
You don't need an alarm clock in Guymon, OK. The trains roll by steadily at 4:00 in the morning with their whistles announcing their charge. You can hear the double tractor trailers pulling out of the rest stop near our motel. And the sound of the wind across these plains is constant. Rural commerce is 24/7, just like the truck stop restaurant where we ate early this morning.
Today was the cycling day we all wanted (maybe needed) to bring back the joy of bicycling. It was warm, reaching a high of 94 degrees in the afternoon, and beautifully sunny. Our destination city of Liberal, KS was only 40 miles down the road--so it would be an easy day. It turned out to be much easier than we thought. A strong wind of 30 mph with gusts to 37 mph was at our BACKS! We were propelled along the smooth rural US 54 (the official Yellow Brick Road in Kansas) the entire ride. We were "kicked" into Kansas by the gusts pushing us at effortless speeds of 20-24 mph. Dan and I averaged 21 mph for the ride, which took less than 2 hours on the bike. Beautiful!
We had a photo-op at the Kansas State line.
We all stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in Hooker, KS. WHY? Because we knew they sold unique t-shirts promoting the unique name of the town. I bought one---for gifting--that read in big letters HOOKER, and underneath it is the name of their mascot: the Horny Toads! The gals on the tour posed for a group photo in front of the Hooker C of C office, kicking up their legs and laughing.
We were at the Days Inn in Liberal, KS before noon. We walked down the main street (Pancake Blvd--I don't make this up) passing the Wizard of OZ museum and Dorothy's house, which I suppose may attract (a few) tourists, to have lunch at the Branding Iron Restaurant in the Liberal Inn. One still smokes in Kansas restaurants , such as the Liberal Inn, much to our chagrin! (I know now why I am not a LIBERAL)
Tomorrow is the last day for Dan and me. The rest of the group moves on to Revere Beach in Boston in their quest to cross America on a bicycle.
Posted: Wed, 28 May 2008
DAY 10 DALHART, TX TO GUYMON,OK
Along with 11 other "invalids" from the wars of food poisoning and dehydration, I spent the day recuperating at the Days Inn motel in Dalhart, TX , while many of my fellow cyclists rolled on into Oklahoma. Bummer!
It was a boring day of relaxation and revitalization. We made each other microwaveable soups and cups of tea, many napped or watched TV.
As the day wore on most of us began feeling better. We were picked up in the vans at 5:30 pm and driven across the State line into Oklahoma, where the cycling gang was staying in the small town of Guymon, OK.
It is not a positive experience to go through the "unpleasantness" of food poisoning and its aftermath. It is only temporary, however, and we all come out of it ok.
Tomorrow will be a new day--and we will be back on the bikes where we want to be!
This area of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles is not scenic. Tourists don't come here. It is a land of BIG cattle ranches, pig farms, grain silos, a few oil wells, feed lots and the accompanying odors. It is wide open space for grazing cattle. The small towns look like they are caught in time--the 1950's! It is real Americana!
We have 2 Germans, 4 English, 1 Irish, and 1Canadian in our cycling group. It is an America that they have never experienced, and many of us have not as well. I love to see new places---and enjoy being here!
Posted: Tue, 27 May 2008
DAY 9 TUCUMCARI, NM TO DALHART, TX
THE PIZZA HUT PROBLEM!
The "exciting ride" into the panhandle of Texas that I envisioned yesterday did NOT pan out. The main culprit for me and at least 14 of my fellow riders was FOOD POISONING, probably acquired at the Pizza Hut restaurant in Tucumcari.
Several riders showed up this morning in civilian clothes complaining of vomiting and diarrhea. They were sent to the hospital in Tucumcari where the food poisoning diagnosis was confirmed.
The rest of us began the 98 mile ride to Dalhart, TX into very strong winds--25-30 mph from the NE directly into our faces. Only a handful of cyclists completed this ride. I was not one of them.
At the Texas State Line at the 56 mile point it was over for me. Sick and exhausted I could not continue. The food poisoning had hit quickly and completely! It was not a pleasant experience getting through the next day and a half!!
With others we were taken that evening to the Coon Memorial Center emergency room in Dalhart, TX. The medical team there through blood tests determined "salmonella food poisoning with resultant dehydration" (perhaps complicated by the difficulty of today's ride). We were treated with 2 one liter saline solution IV's along with antibiotics and released.
Dan and I were numbers 15 and16 of the cyclists on this trip hospitalized for various reasons. An incredible figure!
The 25-30 mph head winds created exhausting conditions that held rider speed to 10 mph during the ride today. The few that finished did so in 10 hours of fighting the winds. Kudos to them! It was another example of the horrendous weather conditions we have faced on this tour. Totally unprecedented!
I hope to feel better tomorrow.
Posted: Mon, 26 May 2008
DAY 8 LAS VEGAS TO TUCUMCARI, NM
"IT'S A LONG WAY TO TUCUMCARI"
(or is it "TIPPERARY"?)
It was again 46 degrees as we left the motel in Las Vegas this morning. We did not need a route sheet, as we turned onto State Route 104 in town and stayed on it all the way to Tucumcari, NM-- 109 miles to the East. Rt 104 is a scenic 2 lane highway that may be one of the loneliest roads in America. There were no services or rest rooms for 76 miles--no stores, no gas stations, no buildings, no PEOPLE. The Cross Roads cycling gang, several motorcycle groups, and a few cars were all we saw on the highway. Only grazing black cattle stared at us as we rode by.
It was a long, hot, windy and hilly century ride. We had it all today! The 25-30 mph winds built as the day progressed. The temperature increased 50 degrees from the morning low to the afternoon high of 96 degrees at Tucumcari. We had plenty of climbing practice; first on rolling hills and then "the wall". We hit the wall at noon. There were signs painted in the road exclaiming the difficulty of this .7 mile incline with grades measured at 8, 11, and 13 degrees slopes. Words of encouragement were also painted on the road. It was a challenging climb! Thank goodness it was short.
It was a very scenic ride, however. I'm sure this route has made photo appearances in the New Mexico promotional literature and websites. It is classic New Mexico: grazing cattle on HUGE ranches, red rock bluffs and canyons, layered mesas and rolling hills. Very pretty!
We could see the road ahead for stretches of 20 miles at times. It appeared to be an endless road.
Dan and I worked hard in the hills and heat and strong cross winds. It was a satisfying day, challenging, scenic and memorable.
Unfortunately we had 2 hospitalizations today as well. One the result of a high speed downhill crash. The rider has been released from the hospital with serious road rash, but will be ok. The second was for dehydration, which was counteracted with 2 IV's.
Tomorrow it's on to Texas on a 98 mile exciting ride into the panhandle.
Posted: Sun, 25 May 2008
DAY 7 SANTA FE TO LAS VEGAS, NM
THE "OTHER" LAS VEGAS
FEARING more cold weather, I was tuned to the "Weather Channel" at 5:30 am for the report. I didn't like what I heard. It was 42 degrees in Santa Fe this morning with a wind chill factor making it feel like 38 degrees. Now that simply is NOT warm enough for me! so, I bundled up with everything I had in my luggage to keep warm. I had on leg warmers, arm warmers, a long-sleeved undershirt, my bike shirt and a rubber rain jacket. I even tore up a plastic laundry bag in the room to wrap my hands while riding --if needed. I was ready!
Our "assignment" today was a 74 mile ride from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, NM--no gambling or show girls there!
Tracy, our Cross Roads tour leader has returned to the group following back surgery. It was a pleasure to finally meet her. She runs a "tight ship" and leads an excellent staff at Cross Roads Cycling.
The sky today was cobalt blue--cloudless. the temperatures increased hourly and by noon I had taken off all the cold weather gear. It was a magnificent day for a long bike ride. A Sunday morning bike ride--everyone's favorite time to ride. We rode on what had been old Rt 66, and was formerly "the Santa Fe trail", but is now scenic New Mexico Rt 34.
We had rolling hills and fast descents, beautiful scenery of sandstone hills, cedar forests, and dark mesas in the background. The abundance of these short cedar trees put out a detectable fragrance. We rolled on through rural NM without the interference of traffic. It was a most pleasurable ride in some of the best weather we have had.
At the 27 mile mark we entered the town of Pecos, NM and the Santa Fe National Forest, passing the "Pecos Valley Cowboy Church" in town.
We took an "optional" ride into the Pecos National Monument commemorating the ruins of a Pecos Pueblo Indian village and a former Christian church. The sandstone ruins and church sits atop a hill with a background of the snow capped mountains of Taos, NM. A beautiful sight on this Sunday morning in May.
At the SAG at mile 44 I had a picture taken at the Route 66 sign. Pat, of the Cross Roads staff, joined me. We rode alongside I-25 on rural Rt 34. The route sheet said "climb to the motel" for the last 30 miles.
Actually we climbed and then tucked in quick descents. We had hill after hill--just what I needed. It was a fun ride right into Las Vegas. We again opted for extra miles by going into the old town plaza looking for food. We found it at a Dairy Queen just past the impressive campus of New Mexico Highlands University.
We are still at higher altitude here-- at 6500 feet--and can feel it. We climbed over 4200 feet today in the course of our "attack on the rolling hills of New Mexico".
It was a great day on the bike!
Posted: Sat, 24 May 2008
DAY 6 REST DAY IN SANTA FE
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and means "Holy Faith" in Spanish. It has a vista of snow capped mountains to the North. It is a city nestled at 7,000 feet in the foothills of the Rocky Mts. It's beautiful adobe architecture blends well with the high desert landscape. It is a wonderful place to visit.
We had the opportunity to explore the old town area surrounding the downtown Plaza on our rest day here.
Several cyclists and I bussed to the Plaza and walked the streets of old town filled with art galleries, expensive adobe hotels, museums, parks and churches. We shopped for local "trinkets" of silver and turquoise, visited an excellent art show in a park, spent time at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which featured her beautiful art work along with photographs by Ansel Adams. It was a great combination! Dan and I had lunch at the Ore House on a balcony overlooking the Plaza.
It was a great relaxing day off. Normal "day off activities" such as laundry and bicycle cleaning were taken care of yesterday, leaving today to more restful endeavors.
ps It is still cold!
Posted: Fri, 23 May 2008
DAY 5 ALBUQUERQUE TO SANTA FE , NM
THE TURQUOISE TRAIL
What is with this weather?
This morning's forecast called for COLD conditions--in the mid 40's, with rain and cloudy skies all day and winds from the SSW at 25-30 mph. Unfortunately, they were spot-on!
With the precision we have come to expect (and rather like), we rolled out onto Albuquerque's Route 66 at 7:15 am. We all wore all the cold weather and rain gear we had brought to the tour. It was not enough!
The first 10 miles was on city streets through the outskirts of Albuquerque on our way to Santa Fe--67 miles to the ENE. We began climbing right away, as this was to be a significant climbing day of 5200 ft.of elevation gain.
We joined Rt 14N at the 16 mile mark and stayed on it all day--right into our hotel in Santa Fe. But there is much more to the story!
It began to rain immediately; a bitterly cold rain in windy conditions. At the 22 mile mark we stopped at a roadside store to warm up. We drank coffee and hot chocolate and waited. When the rain let up (for awhile) we headed out again in the cold.
I thought I had a problem with my bike, it shimmied and shook and was unstable. When I took my hands off the handlebars it became stable again. I then realized that it was so COLD that I was SHAKING, which of course made the bike shake. It was one of those days.
The only sunshine we experienced came as we hit the SAG stop at the 33 mile mark--and then only briefly.
Our route today really had it all--with the MAJOR exception of the weather. The road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is called the "Turquoise Trail", and is a registered "Scenic Byway". The landscape is hills and mountains with sparse vegetation of juniper (or cedar) shrub trees and cactus. Areas of big boulder rock hills are plentiful and give it a unique perspective. It was the kind of terrain I had come here to experience. I wanted -and needed- HILLs to climb and descend in preparation for the upcoming Blue Ridge Parkway ride in a month's time.
Riding with Dan, we climbed and shot down these hills all day. On a sunny day, or any day with warmer temperatures, this ride would have been AWESOME! The scenery was great, there was little traffic, the pavement was fine and the hills made it challenging.
BUT, we could see our breath in the COLD, and the drizzle continued. Our hands and feet were numb.
We stopped briefly in the "funky" town of Madrid at the Mine Shaft Tavern (photo) to see some of the gang there having lunch. We moved on through the town and the region that was once an anthracite coal mining area.
It began to pour when we were 7 miles from the hotel. These last miles rank among the 7 most miserable miles I have ever spent on a bicycle. COLD, wet, ant tired we watched vans pass us with bikes and cyclists loaded to the limits. Some cyclists had had enough. We trudged on.
The hot shower was magnificent. It washed away the cold and dirt and misery of those last miles.
All in all, as one of the cyclists said, "It was a day that built CHARACTER". I'll buy that!
Posted: Thu, 22 May 2008
DAY 4 GRANTS, NM TO ALBUQUERQUE, NM
TWO RIDE DAY
Today's scheduled 75 mile ride from Grants to Albuquerque, NM was actually a combination of 2 rides. The first lasted only 5.6 miles from Grants to a Shell gas station on Route 1175 just before State Route 124. At that point the majority of riders had had ENOUGH! We all pulled into the shelter of the gas station and waited. We had been pelted with sleet, hail, and high wind gusts on wet slippery roads in 38 degree temperatures. It was a combination of miserable conditions and the fact that we felt unsafe to continue.
The staff soon arrived in vans and a truck to load bikes and riders for transportation to another gas station located 25 miles down the road in the Indian Reservation in Laguna, NM. The logistics of this move was a challenge to the staff; transporting 30 riders and bikes in these vehicles. They accomplished it well.
We waited in Laguna for the storm front to go through. Dan and I and many others decided t try to bike the remaining 47 miles to Albuquerque despite the cold temperatures in the low 50's and the threatening dark clouds overhead.
We were so glad we did. As the day progressed the weather gradually improved. We cycled on I-40, but were pleasantly surprised that this stretch of highway had been repaved--including the bike lane--and was in the best condition we had experienced so far.
We sailed into Albuquerque with some helpful winds this time, following a 5 mile climb at the 56 mile mark.
Biking through the west side of Albuquerque with its strong Mexican influence, past old town, in traffic, was a pleasant and safe ride. We stopped for a photo of the very muddy Rio Grande River just a few miles from the motel.
Weather plays such a major part of any biking day. In the cold, wet, sleet conditions of the morning, I thought of the weather I had left in Florida. A song that played on Dan's bicycle I-pod speaker yesterday came to mind. It was a song by the band Crowded House with the refrain: "Everywhere you go take the weather with you". We all could have used some of that warm Florida sunshine today.
This is Rick and Peter's last day with us. We will see them again on the Blue Ridge Parkway ride in one month. Adios Amigos!
We had dinner together in an authentic Mexican restaurant to celebrate the completion of their ride. Dan and I --and 35 others--head for Santa FE in the morning.
Posted: Wed, 21 May 2008
Day 3 Gallup to Grants, NM
A WHIRLWIND OF A DAY!
Never plan on having an EASY cycling day! Anything can happen in the course of a 68 mile bike ride.
We left an hour later than usual today--an 8:15 am start--as we lost an hour of personal time crossing into the Mountain Time Zone at the NM border yesterday.
With only a 68 mile, relatively flat ride East to Grants, NM with favorable winds expected, we planned on an enjoyable but quick ride day. It started that way. We rode through Gallup and into the rural Route 66 countryside for the first 19 miles. The wind was only 10-15 mph and mainly supporting us.
We entered I-40 for 10 miles in the nasty interstate bicycle lane. The wind was picking up. At the SAG stop at the 30 mile mark at an Indian Trading Post on old 66, we took photos at the sign marking the Continental Divide.
The next 10 miles provided a "perfect" bike ride; we had old Rt 66 all to ourselves. Rick, Dan and I rode side-by-side at 20+ mph (with supporting winds increasing as the day went on). This is why we cycle: a quiet road, beautiful scenery, a quick pace AND riding with good friends.
At the 40 mile mark with 27 miles to go our world changed. The winds were now at a steady 30 mph with gusts to 50 mph--YES, 50 MPH!! It was no longer a supporting wind. It was a major struggle! We were slowed to 10-12 mph and pushed sideways by the strong gusts.
We encountered sand-blasting dust storms, tumbleweeds blowing across the road, and energy draining slow progress in the incredible wind.
We, of course, made it. The three of us supporting each other in the wind.
Another memorable cycling day for the boys!