Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 19 (Fri, 8 Mar)

I rode from San Angelo, TX to Brady, TX today passing through both the “Center of TX” and the “Heart of TX” (see more below!).  The ride was entirely on US Hwy 87 and was 78 miles with about 1,100 ft of climbing.  Weather was cloudy and it was supposed to rain today – it did but I was able to stay behind the weather front and stayed dry all day (more rain in the forecast for next 2 days).  This was the first day with noticeable humidity in the air.  Starting to feel more “normal” to me (compared to MA weather in the summer).  Winds continue to be strong (15-20 mph) and the roads continue to be “gravel rough” – so those are ongoing challenges – TX is a tough state to ride in, but its definitely making me stronger, which is a good thing…

I spent quite a bit of time today thinking about what goes into making a ride like this successful.  I came up with three categories that are interrelated but I believe distinct and collectively, to me, are the most important aspects to think about in all the decisions a cyclist makes in preparing for and executing a long distance bike ride.  Everything I could think of feeds into 1 or more of these.  The 3 are (in order of priority):

1.     Safety.  The top priority and safety factors into all things such as how you prepare for the ride (physically, mentally, food, etc), what you choose to bring with you (and also what you leave behind) and how you execute the ride (the 100s of small and big decisions you make during the ride).
2.     Pace.  My Uncle pointed out to me in an email early in the ride: “set a Pace that you can sustain.”  Extremely wise advice and I think less easy than one would think.  As cyclists we like the feeling of “putting the hammer down” and really cranking out speed, but on a multi-day/week sort of trip, you really can’t do that and in many cases the whole day revolves around making decisions to sustain and complete that days ride in good fashion, while also setting yourself up for the next day or two.  If you don't set a pace to complete the rides then you're likely getting yourself into unsafe territory in pushing yourself and you certainly won't have fun.
3.     Fun.  Another cyclist who has successfully completed a cross-country ride and is following the blog emailed me a few weeks ago “Enjoy every ride.”  Again, very simple advice on the face of it, but as I’ve thought more about it and struggled through some of the rides – it is very wise advice and is really very powerful and the primary reason for doing the ride in the first place!  I work hard even during the toughest of times to keep this advice at the forefront of what I’m trying to accomplish during the day.

So – the Cycling “SPF” factor for a ride or set of rides.  The way I’m thinking about this is that we should maximize #3 at any/all times during the ride within the constraints of #1 and #2.  I’m starting to work out a grading scale on this.  Will think more about it and if I come up with something that seems to make sense – I’ll write it up!

A few interesting pictures and tales for the day:

I believe this is actually the first river or creek that I've passed over on the entire ride that had water in it!  Although the small dam seemed to stop the water, so not that much of it!

OK, here is a real river!  With water...  Unbelievable to me - a unique site thus far in the 1400 miles that I've cycled through the southwest.

Lot's of wide open farmland - similar to yesterday, it looks like the fields are all prepped for the season, or perhaps already seeded.

Those clouds certainly looked like ones that were going to give me a wet day - I was lucky to stay dry! Also, finally starting to see some trees again.

I passed through this town called Eden about midway through the ride.  They claim to be the "Center of  TX".  Also home to a famous WWI and WWII Army Air Force General:

Two big bulls.  I rode up to them going up hill on the highway and at first thought they were Texas Longhorn cattle.  I don't believe they are, but as I was getting my camera out they started looking at me with a pretty intense stare.  I checked that there was a fence between us - yep, there is.  I got the camera out and remembered that I was wearing a RED shirt - double check the fence again to make sure it looks strong - yep, looks pretty strong.  Go to take the picture (now I'm remembering how fast these guys can run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain AND that I'm riding up a hill with 40 lbs of stuff on the back of my bike) - triple check the fence - it does look quite strong in case they charge me!!!  Take the picture and get riding...  Impressive animals.

Alright, I'm starting a theme of taking pictures of "old, rusty things."  Mainly because there are lots of opportunities around here to do that, but also I think they make pretty cool pictures.  This one of what looks like a really old grain elevator.

Sheep - looks like the countryside in Australia!

Old, rusty water tower.

Old, rusty barn.  Other than for the facts that there are still cactus in this area (none of those in WI) and there are no red barns here (lot's of those in WI) - the countryside looked a lot like Northwestern Wisconsin (WI) to me (that's where I grew up).  Also, kind of smelled a bit like it with all the farms and farm animals around...

GREEN!!!  That's a new site on the trip.

Two items on this sign (which is at the entrance to Brady, TX): 1) they appear to be arm wrestling with Eden, TX for who is at the center of TX.  They're only 20 miles apart and have come up with different names to their claim.  In this case "the heart of TX."  2) if you read this sign you can see that Brady is also where the World Championships are held for cooking GOATS - yum...

Given that Texas is such a huge state, important to the US (perhaps almost as important as Texans think it is!), and was once its own country (for about 9 years in the mid 1800s I believe) - I've been paying attention to which flag they fly the highest down here - appropriately so, they keep the US flag above the Texas flag!

Hunting for Whitetail and Mule Deer is quite popular in the area.  This is in the lobby of my Best Western hotel (you don't see that very often in hotels).

Updated map.  I'm about halfway complete with the journey.  Exactly half of the 38 stages are now complete, I'm about 20 miles from the midpoint in terms of distance and more than 1/2 way in terms of the hill/mountain climbing I'll do!  Successful so far - lot's of encouragement from everyone following the ride, support from my wife and help from my dad (who is also a big cyclist and has helped tremendously in route planning/options and helping keep an eye on the weather for me).

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