Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Elevation: 6,298 ft.
Distance: 118.6 mi.
Odometer: 939.7 mi.
Yesterday I got a little bad news about the next few days. First off, the town I was going to stay at today essentially had nowhere to stay. Second, a road I was going to use tomorrow is unusable. Had to map new routes, which added a ton of mileage.
12 miles into today, mechanical failure. My left cleat detached from the shoe while still in the pedal. If I couldn't get it out, this would be an end-of-the-road type breakdown, or at last a major speed bump. While stopped, I called my dad to wish him a happy Father's Day. Went after the cleat with the pliers in my multi-knife. Good thing I sprung for the one with so many features! I knew the pliers would come in handy somehow. Before it worked though, a small part of me was hoping it wouldn't just so I could have an excuse to stop riding.
Today was all inclines and headwind. Net elevation gain of over 2,000 ft. today, with only one hill at the very end. I was on a 1% grade basically all day, with a 20 mph wind coming at me diagonally from the left. Long day.
I stopped in Clayton for a bit and met a guy named Tim, who was doing a self-supported tour from Dayton, OH to Taos, NM. We were headed the same direction for part of today. He stayed in Clayton for lunch and I headed out.
Des Moines, NM was the scheduled stop for the day, but since tomorrow's supposed to be so long, I thought I'd go past it by a town or two. Besides, I'd heard there was nowhere to stay in Des Moines in the first place. When I got there, I stopped at the gas station/restaurant and asked if they knew anywhere I could stay in Folsom, NM or Branson, CO. She knew for sure of a place in Folsom and a probably in Branson. I thanked her. As I was about to leave, Tim rode up. He found someone in Des Moines who would let him camp in his yard. We shook hands and I took off again. Happy riding, Tim.
I swung by the place in Folsom where I could stay. They showed me where and were friendly about it. They also said I could definitely find somewhere in Branson. I asked about safety and they said that it wouldn't be a problem.
"Out here in this part of the country, we still believe in the old-fashioned stuff, honesty, integrity, friendliness, you know." And you know what? From what I've seen in small towns in general, she's right. The people I've met have been one of the delights of the trip. I might even be a people person when I get back. Weird that I'd get that way from spending two months mostly alone.
There were 16 miles left, and it was basically a descent into a canyon and a climb out of it. As I rode it, a wave of general good feeling hit me. I was just so happy to be riding and got the feeling that later in life, this summer will be one of my fondest memories. I couldn't believe that earlier in the day part of me wanted my equipment to break so I could go home.
Crossing a second state border in the same day was a great feeling. In one day, I went from high plains to near-desert to the beginning of the mountains. Only about 1/4 of a mile past the state border, I made it out of the canyon and got my first broad look at Colorado. Nothing but flat plains as far as you could see. Rolled into Branson, a town of less than 200.
There was no one at the only church in town, and the school was locked. I could camp behind it, but there was no access to water. Also, the entire town is on one road, and I somehow didn’t like the idea of my tent and Freebird being visible from the highway all night. I asked a few people about the church or anywhere else to stay, and was given directions to the pastor’s house.
When I got to the pastor’s house, no one was home. I rode back to the church. It was already starting to get dark. I tried the door. It was open! I knew I didn’t explicitly have permission, but everyone I’d talked to had said the pastor would definitely let me stay in the church. And besides, I’ve always thought of them as God’s house, where I’m always welcome. Stealth camped in the church for the night after my longest day of riding yet.
from Pedal for Potatoes