Today was our first — and only — full day riding in Texas, and it went well. We had 112 miles to bike today, and with an early 7 am start and a good tailwind once again (thank goodness for the Western prevailing winds) and not a whole lot of climbing, we all got to our motel in Pampa, Texas, just after 2 pm. Pampa is a dusty oil and cattle town of some 17,000 people that seems less poor than many of the towns where we have recently spent the night on this trip. A lot of the West seems very poor and hardworking to me, with much of the labor very physical (like working on a ranch, slaughterhouse, or in the oil fields). Last night at dinner, I noticed that everyone in the restaurant (except the other visiting bike riders I was with) was still in their soiled work clothes, and looked like they had had a long, hard day. What can I say? It just feels very different from Vero Beach out here.
I want to share three ride impressions.
First, the song birds. Today I rode alone for some 30 miles of the 112, and for a while I paid particular attention to the songbirds that were sitting on either the low barbed wire fencing or the high telephone lines that stretched along the long, straight highways we traveled. As I passed, many of the birds cried out a sweet/solitary song, as if they were greeting me. Perhaps they were paying me no mind at all, but I took pleasure in focusing on their warbling, and it helped to push me down the highway, making my trip more effortless. When you pay attention, this world of ours is filled with small and saving pleasures.
Second, the oil rigs. Today we passed hundreds of working oil rigs (and their accompanying silver storage tanks), and it reminded me that right after World War II, my dad, Wendell Alexander, had a job with Bethlehem Steel, traveling Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas selling steel for just such rigs out in the field. We have a picture in one of our family albums of him with his foot up on the side running board of a 1940s era car at one such rig. It gave me a few goose bumps to remember that my dad — now long dead, bless his heart — moved through this same stark and rough landscape 70 years ago...I felt connected to him today, and to my good memories of him.
Third, milk shakes. All the riders who are sharing this adventure with me are starting to lose weight because of the physical rigors of this ride. So many days, before we turn in to our motel for the night, we look for a dairy bar that serves ice cream and milk shakes, and share the treats together. One of the indulgences of this long and arduous (calorie-burning) trip is that we can all eat pretty much whatever we want — and milk shakes taste mighty fine after a long day of biking at 22 miles an hour! Today, I had a chocolate mint chip shake at a dairy bar in Pampa that tasted wonderful. When I get home, I will not be able to indulge my sweet tooth in this way (unless I am willing to watch the pounds pile on), but out here on this demanding ride, it is actually a form of good self-care...so let's hear it for the glory of milk shakes!
Talk to you all tomorrow, when we ride to Elk City, Oklahoma...another small, and relatively poor Western American town. Blessings to all...
Today was another beautiful weather/riding day across the far West. We left Tucumcari, New Mexico, at 8:30 am because we knew we had a short day (only 96 miles) with strong tailwinds that would allow us to average some 22-24 miles an hour. So even with the time change at the Texas border (we lost an hour as we moved into the central time zone) we got into our motel in Dalhart, Texas, just a little after 2 pm. Dalhart is a dusty cattle and railroad town (I will be hearing the trains blowing their whistles all night here at the major railroad switching station) that doesn't really offer much for the traveler...it is honestly a pretty depressing little town.
Still, I am delighted to be here, feeling very strong and well, and enjoying my companions, two of whom you can see in my video blog today at the Texas border sign.
We are now over the most physically demanding part of the trip. All the riders have gotten much stronger with each passing day, we are going faster and faster, and everyone on the ride feels confident they have the strength to make it the rest of the way. We did have one rider drop out a few days ago — he just wasn't physically ready for this challenging ride, and so flew home. This ride can be accomplished only by someone who is a rigorous athlete, and I am so relieved that my training did indeed prepare me for this great physical and mental challenge. Tomorrow we push on to Pampa, Texas, and with good weather and wind it should be another quick and fun day across the heartland of this wonderful and expansive nation...talk to you tomorrow.
Today was an absolutely magical day riding across New Mexico. We got up at the usual 5:30 am, had breakfast at 6:00 at our hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico, packed our bags on the SAG (support and gear) truck, and left the motel parking lot at 7:15 am, beginning our 109 mile ride. The weather was cool and calm (mid 40s) but as soon as we headed across the high desert plains (vast vistas of flat grazing land and the occasional cow!), it began warming up, and the winds picked up at our backs, graciously pushing us down the road. In about 3 hours, we arrived at one of the most beautiful spots on this ride (see my video blog for today; I tried capturing the amazing panorama). We then quickly cycled down a 2,000 foot drop, sometimes reaching speeds approaching 40 miles an hour (I often brake — 35 miles an hour is all that my comfort zone allows).
The next 5 hours were amazing. The landscape was rolling and beautful (with almost no sign of human activity), the sky vast and clear, the winds picking up to 30 miles an hour at our backs and pushing us down the quiet highway like prairie schooners of old, as the temperature crept up into the low 90s. At times I was riding alone — as many were today — and I had time to let my heart fill with the grace and beauty of the American West...indeed our entire creation. You and I live in a glorious natural world, with so much diversity, grace and harmony, and today I fully felt and savored that beauty — it was like heaven on earth. The early 19th century Unitarian Transcendentalists often talked about "Heaven on Earth" and the need for humans to do what they could to help create it. Today, no effort on my part was required...heaven on earth simply unfolded as a gift of merely being alive where I found myself. For me, today was the best day of the ride, both physically and spiritually.
Tomorrow we have an "easy" day, just 98 miles to Dalhart, Texas — again with what is predicted to be a sunny and warm day, with strong tailwinds to push us effortlessly down the quiet road. Blessings to all...talk to you again tomorrow by both written and video blogs!
Today was a good but very long day. We had 135 miles to cover, so we left our motel in Albuquerque at about 7:15 am, and arrived here in Las Vegas, New Mexico (not to be confused with the glittering city with the same name located in Nevada — this is a very plain and poor little town!), at about 5:30 pm. I had a good day in the saddle because it turns out I do quite well with hills and climbing in high altitude because of my strong cardiovascular capacity...I guess all that biking I do at home has paid off, for I am strong with this sort of biking day. But I am tired tonight. Collins and I talked on the phone, I had a quick (not so good) Chinese take-out dinner, and am now looking longingly at my motel bed. I am tired, but ready to take on tomorrow's somewhat easier ride (a mostly beautiful and downhill trip) to Tucumcari, New Mexico. We had strong tailwinds today which took us through beautiful high desert, and even when I am tired, I strive to notice and appreciate my surroundings...mindfulness is one of the spiritual practices I am trying hard to maintain though the physical rigors of this demanding ride. So I'm off to a little mindless TV in bed, and then a sound night's sleep. Best wishes to you all! I look forward to seeing you at the gala "Splash Party" on Tuesday, May 22, at Waldo's restaurant, at 5:30 pm...when "The Ride To Beat Hunger" comes to its triumphant close!