Click on any thumbnail for a larger photo.
Day 31. Wednesday,
Lubbock has a large enough population that AOL has put in some
free AOL numbers, so in the early hours I sent off some pictures to Barry.
The sun was up when I went over to the restaurant for some coffee and
breakfast. The sign requesting a cook evidently applied only to the
evening shift, since a woman was in the kitchen and the owner was
acting as waiter. He was in a conversation with a couple of other custo-
mers, speaking Spanish. As often happens, when I hear everyone else
speak Spanish I, without thinking, also speak Spanish. Although I'm not
fluent, I've never had trouble holding a conversation if the person I'm talk-
ing with cooperates.
I ordered the Mexican omelette, and the cook wasn't stingy with the
jalapenos. One bite and I asked for more water. Two bites and I asked
for more water in a large glass. The owner chuckled and complied.
Although the omelette was delicious, the tears were rolling down my
cheeks. I suggested to the owner that they name this omelette "el
lloron" (the crier). He laughed and ran back to the kitchen to relay my
suggestion to the cook, and sounds of great hilarity floated out.
With clear sinuses I set out for Snyder, 85 miles away, which seemed
close by the standards of the last three over-100-mile days. The wind was
a light tailwind, the road generally friendly. But in Texas each county has
its own idea of how a shoulder should be made. Whenever I crossed a
county line the shoulder changed in quality. Sometimes it was so rough
that I would move to a traffic lane (there were two lanes in each direction)
and monitor my mirror. In almost all cases an overtaking vehicle would
move to the left lane several hundred yards before reaching me. Only
occasionally would I have to move back to the rough shoulder.
The temperature rose steadily, and would reach the mid-nineties by
2 in the afternoon. I drank plenty of water, hoping to avoid the dry-throat
misery of the previous couple of days. I stopped at a restaurant in Post,
about the half-way mark, had a piece of pecan pie, and tanked up on
iced tea. With full water bottles I attacked the last barren 43 miles.
Although the map showed a couple of green triangles, they were
"picnic areas" (no water) rather than "rest areas" (with water). Also
shown were two named circles, but they were nothing but abandoned
buildings. When still 12 miles from Snyder I asked a man working on
a phone line if he had any water to spare, and he had none at all. I was
not really worried because I thought I had enough to make it into Snyder
without begging, but when I saw a house near the highway I decided to
play it safe. The friendly lady allowed me to fill the bottles from her
hose; I ended up drinking two more quarts before entering Snyder.
The only break in the monotony on this last stretch was finding a
gutter-gift. When 23 miles from Snyder I biked past a purse just off the
shoulder. I went another 50 feet before it finally soaked in that the purse
seemed a bit too nice to have been discarded. So I kick-standed the
bike and walked back to take a closer look. On opening the flap I
realized at a glance that the purse had been lost rather than discarded.
It was too hot to do further examination on the side of the road, so I
stuffed it into a pannier for later study.
I was suffering from dry throat when I finally got to Snyder, so I bought
two containers of orange juice before checking into a very nice room
(with remote, ice, refrigerator) for the bargain bottom-line price of $22.60.
After drinking about a quart of juice, washing everything, and taking a nap,
I finally felt strong enough to go to a restaurant next door (their slogan
was "the biggest surprise in this small town") and had their soup and
salad bar, which was quite good.
After returning to the room I finally felt up to examining the contents
of the purse to see how I could get it back to the owner. After pawing
through various compartments and pockets, I just turned it upside down
and dumped all the contents onto the bedspread. Besides about $35
in bills and change, the purse held two watches, lots of receipts, woman
stuff, keys, and various cards including her driver's license. The cards
showed that the purse belonged to a 26-year-old woman from Clovis.
I found the purse on the side of the road leading away from Clovis, so I
looked for some clue as to her destination, but found none. A 411-search
for her phone listing in Clovis was unsuccessful. However, only an hour
later, I spoke with a very surprised and grateful Bernadette, who had just
that day moved to a small town near Fort Worth. Here's how we finally
connected: She had a Blockbuster video rental card. I called their
number (in Clovis) and explained the problem to the friendly clerk who
answered, and gave her Mary's number in Albuquerque. The clerk
ooked in her records and called the number Bernadette had put on her
application form, Bernadette's mother answered, called Bernadette, who
called Mary, who called me, who then called Bernadette. She gave me
her address, and I told her I'd send everything at the first opportunity.
Good deeds (together with an 85-mile day) are exhausting. I slept
well that night.
Day 32. Thursday,
The place where I'd had a good supper didn't serve breakfast, so I
headed back to Highway 84 and biked southeast towards Roscoe.
Along the way I spotted what I thought was a man sitting outside an
isolated run-down convenience store, but on more careful examination
saw that it was a dummy. I stopped to photograph it, and the owner
stepped outside, seemingly surprised that anyone would stop at his
place. I felt morally obligated to buy something, so looked at his cold
drinks. The only non-carbonated beverage he had was Gatoraid (which
I don't care for), but I bought a small bottle and began drinking.
The owner began asking questions about my trip when up drove a
friend of his in a pickup. The newcomer got out, and immediately joined
in the questioning, but in Spanish. I answered in Spanish, and the owner
(also Hispanic) continued his questioning in Spanish. The rest of the
conversation, lasting about 15 minutes, was entirely in Spanish, and
neither of my two new friends gave any indication of surprise that I could
speak that language.
When questioning about the bike ride had about been exhausted,
the newcomer went to his pickup and returned with a paperback book
with a title something like "Guide to Medicare, 2001". He asked what
it was, and I said it was information on medicare. (I believe he was
illiterate.) "Are you 65?" I asked, and when he nodded I said that he
was eligible for medicare and that's why he had been sent this information.
Having opened the door to questions about age, he then asked my age.
I told him I was 69, and his very next question was "Do you still XxXxX?"
(The X's represent a word I'd never heard and don't remember.) I indicated
that I didn't understand, and the owner laughed. The man repeated his
question, but this time doing a little dance that I first thought was a poor
imitation of Elvis Presley. Then it soaked in exactly what the meaning
of the mystery word was.
What a change from southern Idaho, where they won't even ask why
you are out in the middle of nowhere with a 120-pound bike. Here they
know you for five minutes and ask what most people would consider a
very very personal question. I'll omit the rest of the rather-frank conver-
sation on this subject, but when the owner interjected "biking is good
for the heart" I couldn't resist adding "and for other things as well",
smirking in a suggestive way. I finished my Gatoraid, took their picture,
and pedaled away, having perhaps made a convert to biking.
At the only restaurant in Roscoe it was too late for them to serve
breakfast, so instead I had an early lunch of chicken fried steak with
several glasses of iced tea. Biking along a frontage road to the interstate,
I reached the town of Sweetwater in the early afternoon. I looked around
the downtown area hoping to find a shipping store, but saw no sign of
one. Finally I went into a botique and asked if there was such a place
in town. "We do shipping" was the welcome reply. So ten minutes
later Bernadette's purse with all its contents was packaged, sealed,
and ready for pickup by UPS later that afternoon. I was now three
pounds lighter, and Bernadette was $9.07 poorer, the money for the
shipping having been taken from her purse.
The long days were beginning to take a toll. I'd already biked 40
miles this day, and Abilene was another 41 miles, farther than I wanted
to go. So I went into the Chamber of Commerce and asked if there were
any motels between Sweetwater and Abiline. "There are some large
motels near the freeway", I was told, "and some small ones along the
old highway." I just learned a better way of describing a "cheap" motel:
"small". The man giving me this information was a biker who had
ridden (more than once) the Wichita Falls annual "Hotter-than-Hell
Hundred" (a century ride held in late August), so we connected well.
He gave me a Sweetwater Texas pin, and an invitation to come back
for their annual "Rattlesnake Roundup", complete with a snake-meat
Reassurred that there was a motel closer than Abilene I continued
east along the frontage road, bought some orange juice, and shortly
thereafter found a very nice room at Merkel, after a 65-mile day. Although
the motel was a mile away from the center of town, there was a small
Mexican restaurant in the same building. Once again I had an all-Spanish
conversation, this time with the entire restaurant staff, one of whom had
noticed me biking in earlier. I was fixed a delicious tostada, and after
finishing it they all sat around and we exchanged questions and answers
for over half an hour. I spoke more Spanish this day that I do on any
day-trip to Tijuana.
Friday, October 6
During the previous three days the temperatures reached record highs
for those dates at several nearby recording locations. But I was told by
several people that a cold front was approaching and that there would be
a drastic change. That change occurred during the night. I awoke and
looked out the window at overcast skies and trees being bent by a north
wind. I stuck my hand out the door, pulled it back in and got out my
raingear and gloves. The temperature was in the mid 50's.
The wind was straight from the north, and my path started directly
east, although I would eventually turn southeast that day. After a few
miles, my frustration at not being able to take advantage of a tailwind
caused me to take a closer look at my map, and I decided to take Texas
Farm Road 707, which would skirt Dyess Air Force Base and avoid
Abilene. The Texas farm roads usually have little or no shoulder, but
their surfaces are good and traffic is very light. I soon joined Highway
84 and for many miles biked southeast, helped by the strong north wind.
I'd had no breakfast, so enjoyed a good lunch at a cafe in a small town
along the way.
The temperature continued to drop during the day, eventually reaching
the mid 40's. After 75 miles I reached Santa Anna, and would have called
it a day except for one major concern. My next leg was a 23-mile stretch
to Brownwood, directly east. The wind was predicted to come from the
northeast. If I continued now I had a crosswind; if I waited till tomorrow
I would likely have a headwind. So I decided to push on.
I was still in pretty good shape when I got into a room in Brownwood,
after a 99.5-mile day. No dry throat, just cold hands. The room had a
heater rather than an air-conditioner. Right next door was a Chinese
restaurant which served me a pretty good buffet.
Some of the local weather stations recorded record lows for that day,
with more of the same predicted for the next few days. Winter had
caught up with me.
Saturday, October 7
The wind the next morning was strong from the northeast, so I
congratulated myself on the wise decision to push on to Brownwood.
My next goal was to reach Georgetown (near Austin), the home of
my nephew (also named Harry) by Sunday afternoon. This would require
two relatively-short days, with easy biking unless there was a major
change in wind direction.
I left town, turned southeast on Highway 183, and had a slight tailwind
component as I headed towards Lampasas, 70 miles away. As usual, I
didn't come across a cafe until I'd biked much farther than I wanted to on
an empty stomach: 34 miles. But in Goldthwaite there was a wonderful
small cafe. I had an excellent breakfast, and resisted their appealing lunch
buffet only because I knew I'd stuff myself to the point where I wouldn't be
able to bike.
I was now in Texas hill country. In spite of the gloomy overcast skies,
the terrain was attractive. The trees were mostly small cedar and scrubby
mesquite, but there were a few examples of large mesquite.
This is cattle country, and the ranches usually had ornamental entrances from
the highway. A specialized business is supplying ornaments for these
That afternoon it began to rain, never very heavy, but enough to force
me to put covers over my cyclecomputers (or else the displays will fog).
Around four I entered Lampasas, biked an extra couple of miles looking
at the two motels and deciding that the first was more my type---grubby-
looking. I got a satisfactory room with a good heater, had my juice, and
walked across the street to an interesting-looking non-franchise restaurant.
While waiting for my chicken fried steak I admired the decorations on
the walls: old license plates, small farm implements, and thin display
cases filled with small objects like pocket knives, tobacco cans, marbles,
and on and on and on. I'd have to eat there every night for six months
to soak in all that folk culture.
I took the baked potato back to the room, where it satisfied my hunger
pangs in the middle of the night. The weather channel said there would
be more of the same cold wet weather for at least the next couple of
days. Not bad news, for biking in the cold and wet is much better
than biking in the hot and dry. And tomorrow I only had to bike 50
miles to reach the hospitality of my nephew and his family. I thought
of a possible "how do you speak Australian?" Fostor's beer commercial:
"What do you call it when you only bike 50 miles?" "A rest day!"