“Wichita Falls 22 Miles”
Never have I ever been so happy to be racing toward this city in Texas’ plains region. Never have I ever been so glad to get off my bike’s saddle.
You see I once again decided to ride – rather than drive – the 150 miles from Dallas to Wichita Falls. (read my first accounts HERE and HERE) And this year I was doing it all in one day, the day before I was to ride the century. Crazy. But I wouldn’t be alone, no, I had two friends in tow who are just as crazy as I am.
My buddy Cliff and I started from East Dallas at 6AM, our pockets were full of sandwiches, egg burritos, bars and gels. Our bottles were topped off and we were heading out. Now, I’m not going to lie even a little bit, I was nervous. I kept telling myself to pay attention to my nutrition and hydration, that if I focussed on that I would be okay, it was just going to be a long day in the saddle…
But 150 miles? That’s a LONG way to ride! My longest ride in fact, because the furthest I had ever ridden before was ‘only’ 125…
Damn. But I was with friends, we would get through it!
After leaving my place Cliff and I went west toward Love Field Airport to pick up our teammate Gottfried. Gottfried is a hard-riding bad ass MOFO from Austria, and someone I hadn’t put in the miles with before. I was looking forward to spending some time in the saddle with him.
Now there were three of us. We sped off into the still dark morning heading north-west. Our speed was holding around 21mph the first two hours. From Dallas we rolled through Farmer’s Branch and Carrolton then into Coppell and Flower Mound (you can look at Cliff’s Strava file here.). Finally it started to feel as though we were out of the city.
Then we hit the dirt.
I am of the mindset that all road rides should include a good smattering of non-paved surfaces. I love riding road bikes on dirt roads. It has a different sound, feel and style of riding to it. You have to sit back a little and push through it and when you go through a curve you must keep a light touch to the bars. And watch out for the bigger rocks!
After about 8 miles of this dusty heaven we were back on the blacktop and cruising toward Justin, Tx, home of the world famous Justin Boots company!
The hours were starting to pile on with the miles. It’s that point where you are no longer just riding but you start to feel your muscles working. You know you are pushing. It’s this point where one MUST pay attention to their nutrition. When you are riding out away from home there is little room for error. You have to be careful not to get too dehydrated or flirt with the dreaded Bonk.
I’m pretty vocal about reminding people to eat and drink, I don’t want to risk the group’s (my) pace and want people to have a good time. I definitely don’t want someone to have the memory of lying on the side of the road, hungry and unable to move stuck in their head. (that happened to me once)
In Ponder the road opened up, it was time to spread these wings of ours and fly. I had looked forward to this point for quite a while. I tell this to people all the time: There is NOTHING like riding down a highway with a tailwind. It gives you – or at least me – the sense of really going somewhere. It brings back memories of riding across the country and of cowboy movies. Of scenes out of Easy Rider and such flicks. It’s freedom and speed. And it gets you noticed!
Riding along the shoulder of 380 and then 287 is a lot less stressful than people think it would be. Sure, there is traffic that is traveling at a tremendous speed just feet away from you but each time it passes beside you the bike is actually pulled along. If you can listen for the bigger trucks and shift just before they pass you and give the pedals a bit of extra oomph you can easily get on top of a harder gear and roll that much faster. It’s amazing.
This was our routine for the next several hours: Pedalpedalpedalpedalpedalpedalpedalpedalpedalpedal… This routine was punctuated only with stops to refuel and the friendly honks we would hear from cars as they passed us by. The closer we came to Wichita Falls the more cars we saw loaded with bikes, and the more honks and waves we recieved. Realy, this is what I fell in love with the first time I rode to the Hotter ‘n Hell. It seems like every car that passes you has a bike on it!
Finally we were only 30 miles from our destination. We traveled 120 miles thus far and we sure showed it. Our faces were red and covered in dirt and grime; we were tired. And we were ready to get off the bike. And I was ready for a beer, damn it!
That’s when the Green Weenie showed up, honking as it slowed behind us.
The Green Weenie, Team S. Crude’s RAGBRAI double-decker party bus is captained by my friend Ray. I caught myself looking over my shoulder again and again waiting for this sight to come barreling into view. Now, with it here we had the fuel we needed to push the final few miles into the city. We were tired but after the encouragement coming from those on the bus, and the beers sloshing in our bellies, we were once again off and alone in our thoughts on the highway.
Finally we made it. We made it in to Wichita falls after a 10 hour trip from Dallas (we still had a 19.4 mph average). I had three flats along the way due to radial wires picked up off the shoulder of the highway and we were more than a little sunburned – and tired as hell – but we were all excited. And we were ready to relax and prepare for the next day’s 100 mile ride.
“Why do I do this?”
That thought crept into my head over and over again. It crept into my thoughts and everyone I met that weekend asked me the same thing. “Why do you do this?” I never have a really good answer. Sure, it’s a form of vacation and it makes me happy. And it makes me think back to a time when I was on the road, unencumbered by anything back home, only by the weight I had on my bike. I do know for certain that after finishing Friday’s 150 miles the next day’s 100 seemed like not such a big deal.
Saturday was the day. My girlfriend Emily drove up from Dallas Friday afternoon and we woke up together – rather early – for the Hotter ‘n Hell Endurance Ride. And I was excited. No, I wasn’t particularly excited to get back into another pair of bike shorts but was excited to ride all day with my girlfriend.
We rode and rode and rode and rode and rode, through an enormous mass of people all on bikes. We narrowly escaped deadly water bottles lying on the road, all of which were like alligators, ready to bite you and take you down. If that happens then you are most likely to be run into by the 30 or so people riding directly behind you.
We rode on past the first few rest areas, wanting to get at least 30 miles in before we stopped. We rode and talked to people I knew and people I didn’t. Past creaking pump jacks pulling that liquid gold out of the barren Earth and dilapidated and ancient farmhouses which melted back into the scorched scenery.
It was amazing. And it reminded me of why I love this sport so very much. It gets you out into the world, out of the bubble that we so often keep ourselves in. It allows us to hear, smell and feel all that surrounds us, whether that be good or bad.
This sport is one which can - if you allow it to do so – push you to the breaking point. And some people out there like to push themselves farther and farther trying to find that point. I know that after the ride Friday simply going out for 100 miles no longer seems so hard.
Emily and I finished our century about 6 hours after we started it, we made sure to stop and enjoy the refreshments at the rest stops every few miles and talk to people along the way but still managed to hold our pace to right about 20mph. It was a good day on the bike.
Getting back into town after climbing the last overpass above the rail road tracks and swooping into downtown Wichita Falls taking the last few turns as hard as we could we came across the line together. I was ready to rip my bike shorts off and have a beer and Emily looked around for water and a shower. I saw the Green Weenie parked beside the finish line and it beckoned to me. Chairs! Water! Beer! It was time. It was time to relax. I had ridden my bike 250 miles in 48 hours; on the highway, over dirt, with a tailwind, with my girl friend and with about 16,000 other people. It was a great trip but at that point all I wanted was to chill out and relax.