Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
The very first day, I unfortunately had to sit out and work an aid station, handing out food and water for the ATLAS Ride. All the riders I was feeding and watering seemed to be enjoying the ride, and no one seemed to be devastated by the first 60 miles before they got to my station (the whole day was 70 miles). That was good. I got bored. And I also didn't want to be fresh for the next day (a 125-mile ride) when my teammates weren't. I wanted to go through everything they were going through. So towards the end of the day, I checked to make sure the other people at the aid station could handle closing up shop, then ran from my aid station to the finish. Then enjoyed some good barbecue.
The next day, as I mentioned, was 125 miles. Many people had trouble handling the heat. That was compounded by spending an hour or more at aid stations, meaning many miles would be logged in the late afternoon, aka the hottest part of the day. I kept moving and apparently got 40+ miles in front of the people at the back, because after a while, I didn't get aid stations anymore. I would've had to go the last 55 miles on two water bottles if it weren't for my teammate David chasing my down in the support vehicle to give me food somewhere around mile 100 (thanks David!). I wound up finishing well over an hour before anyone else, despite getting lost in Coleman at the very end.
Once I was in Coleman, I had the idea that it was gonna be a while before most of my teammates showed up. It was hot out. I went to Dairy Queen. Somehow I figured a bunch of my teammates would show up and gravitate to the Dairy Queen, maybe even by the time I finished my Blizzard, but that didn't happen.
Much to my pleasant surprise, no one sagged!
The next two days were both about 85 miles. Didn't seem so bad after 125. And people shortened their stay at the aid stations, so we finished in better time and closer together. Our hosts in Sweetwater were fantastic.
When we got to Snyder, Athan and I had the idea to ask a local diner if they’d donate burgers to the team, and wouldn’t you know it, they did! Incredible that someone would be so kind as to cook 20 burgers for a bunch of strangers they’ll never see again!
Later that night, one of us got a visit from a friend of his he hadn’t seen in a long time. They wanted to grab a pint together, so we asked our hosts if there was a bar in town.
“Oh, if you want a bar, you gotta go to the other side of the tracks.”
And seriously, you did. This was one of those old-fashioned towns, where certain things are only allowed in certain parts. Once we walked across the tracks, you could tell a noticeable difference in the neighborhood, and I suppose that was the part of town they considered an acceptable location for alcohol.
We’d been warned about a hill on the way to Lubbock. The Caprock. From training around Austin, we’d become aware that hills are usually tough if they’ve got a name. Jester, Ladera Norte, Spicewood Springs. There are countless more, but it’s the ones with names you really gotta look out for.
We only had a 40-mile ride that day, adding to the idea that there must be a huge hill if we’re barely doing any miles. After “sleeping in” until 6:00, we set out to take on the Caprock, most of us a little nervous.
As parting words, our host left us with “I have to drive over that thing once a week to get to Lubbock, and I notice in a car! I can’t imagine doing it on a bike!”
The Caprock was supposed to be about 8-10 miles from Snyder. 8 miles out, the ground turned from flat to incline. I dropped a gear, then another, and put in a little extra effort to try to stay at a healthy pace, but not push it. Mile 9 came and went. Mile 10. Mile 11. It started flattening out again.
Mile 15 came and went. Was that it?!?
Turned out the Caprock was a gentle incline that lasted only about two miles. I’m not sure how any of us got tricked into thinking there’s a hill in the Panhandle. I guess to the folks that live out there, when it’s the biggest thing they’ve seen, it seems huge.
After only a 40-mile ride, we were in Lubbock. Many of us finished before 11:00. It seemed like we had just warmed up for the day's ride when we got there. I wound up spending much of the day walking around town, visiting campus and the Buddy Holly statue. The Lubbock chapter of the Texas Exes fed us both dinner and breakfast, and I got to hang out with a great high school buddy while I was in town.
Every afternoon, you start to hear a little snap-crackle-pop going on as you ride. For a while, none of us could figure out what that was, but one day, someone finally noticed: the asphalt gets so hot that the tar starts to bubble, and our tires pop them as they roll over, making a snapping sound. If that weren't enough to illustrate how hot it is out here, one of us had part of his tire melt due to contact with the hot asphalt, leaving a tumor-looking bulge coming out the resulting soft spot. The tire was almost new and still under warranty, so he gave the manufacturer a call. Turns out they consider the conditions we're in to be too extreme, voiding the warranty.
It's hot out here.
The day after Lubbock was our first border race, a 90-mile race from Lubbock to the Texas-New Mexico border, followed by another 10 miles into Clovis, New Mexico. I was solidly in third place with a chance to contend for second when I got three flat tubes in a row, due to a sliced tire that needed to be replaced. I wound up staying at an aid station for over an hour while Mione drove up to the next one, where the equipment van was, and brought me back a replacement tire (thanks Mione!). I wound up placing 15th.
I think it was in Clovis that we all looked at each other and realized we still hadn't cooked for ourselves, nor had we paid for a meal yet. We keep getting meals provided for us, and even when they're not, we often walk into a restaurant and ask for a donated meal for all of us and actually wind up getting it. The generosity we've received from all the people we've seen has been tremendous. I really hope we continue to have this kind of good luck, though it might just be Texas hospitality.
Texas was mostly flat, but the scenery wasn't bad. It’s been cool to see a part of Texas that I’m less familiar with, and watch the environment slowly change from the Central Texas Hill Country to the High Plains of the Panhandle. It sure was hot though. Overall, I did well in Texas, considering heat doesn't bother me and hills do. We'll see if I do nearly as well when we're somewhere cold and hilly.
from Texas 4,000