Sheila’s Race Across Texas 2016

“After completing the Race/Ride Across Texas in 2014 and 2015, some might say been there, done that. But an unexpected opening on my schedule left me just enough time to pull it together. This year the mileage was bumped up to 1,000 miles so I was looking forward to seeing some new territory. The route is organized into 7 segments averaging 140 miles each with a net gain of 4,000 ft from start to finish. http://www.rat1000.com/

Day one: Texarkana to Roxton

Enjoyed 155 miles of lovely low-traffic back roads and a few stretches of the Northeast Texas Trail. Segment one ends in Paris but I was hoping to bank some bonus miles since the next segment will have more elevation. My memory of a perfect rural ballfield is mistaken but I luck out to find a nice cemetery just before Roxton.

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Happy place: fantastic meal at the Avery Volunteer Fire Department’s fish fry. Yellow food group! Pie!

Wildlife: followed a coyote trotting down the road after dark. He was a handsome fellow, and not a bit concerned about my presence.

Day two: Roxton to Whitesboro

Roads are more of the same with variable gravel quality and a fairly high percentage of pavement. More wind and heat today turn it into a slog. Took me a hard push after sunset just to make 123 miles so I treat myself to a room in Whitesboro.

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Happy place: Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge crossing the Red River into Oklahoma.

Wildlife: armadillo moseying across the road in Pottsboro.

Day three: Whitesboro to Lake Arrowhead State Park

Get ready for hills! Constant rollers from Muenster to Nocona but the gravel is super smooth and there are plenty of shady spots along the way. Milam Road south of Ringgold is less friendly with it’s cobbles and steep little climbs with a stiff headwind making it extra special. Reaching the end of segment three in Holliday would require riding much later than I want so I aim for the State Park. Bonus is they have showers; a good thing since the the undercarriage is a little worse for wear. Another memory fail though. Although the last 7 miles around the lake are beautiful and blissfully paved, I completely forgot about ten miles of utter suck beforehand.

Happy place: Starbucks in Gainesville. The only espresso all week, of course I’m stopping.

Wildlife: chased a road runner down the road

Day four: Lake Arrowhead to Vernon

Dragged into Holliday after a rough night.  Though I know better, I linger over breakfast at RT’s Food Store. It is one of the best meals on the route three years running now. The landscape is changing with more wide open spaces and miles between towns. Roads are all good except for three miles of sharp, rocky road near the end of the wind farm. I’m sure the boys on cross bikes were hating life there. Task for the day: just keep moving.

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Happy place: Lazy J Road south of Electra, not wild exactly with all those oil pumps, but still a beautiful expanse of emptiness.

Wildlife: bunnies, bunnies, bunnies!

Day five: Vernon to CR S & FM 658

Great ride today, at least as far as Childress. Route after Vernon is somewhat unremarkable but it sure gets pretty around Chillicothe and Quanah. Good quality gravel and a ton of long straight-aways heading into Childress. The plan was resupply at Walmart then a hot dinner at the truck stop, but I realize I’ve lost some important gear so there’s a bit of a meltdown and another trip to Walmart. Almost 10 before I finally got rolling. Might have been smarter to just stay in town but I won’t realize that until later. Was hoping to camp at Baylor Lake but it doesn’t work out. Was pretty whipped by that point but only option was keep going and hope for something better elsewhere. I find a little copse of trees where three roads meet and hunker down for a couple hours of fitful rest.

Happy place: Medicine Mound, which one might call a ghost town if there were more than two surviving structures.

Wildlife: scared a black and white spotted wild pig off the road, also skunks after dark (and WHOA! that first one was way too close)

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Day six: CR S & FM658 to Turkey

A few rollers on the way to Estelline but things really get interesting another 12 miles down the road. The “Red Roads” feature the steepest climbs we’ve seen so far. And the descents require constant vigilance thanks to frequent erosion gullies and sand traps. Such a spectacular landscape though it does not feel as remote as advertised. I pass a road grader and 5 pickups along way. One driver stopped to ask “Are you lost?” Thankfully it was in a friendly, joking kind of way, and not a suspicious, you-don’t-belong-here kind of way.

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As much as I dig the Red Roads, they nearly do me in after last night’s recovery fail. Dead legs and vacancy at the Hotel Turkey make it too easy to knock off ridiculously early. Plumbing drama is a bonus. It’s not run down; it’s “historic.”

Happy place: Red Roads, in all their heinous glory.

Wildlife: nighthawk or poorwill dipping and bobbing in the beam of my headlamp.

Day seven: Turkey to Vega

I hear the hotel makes a killer breakfast but ain’t nobody got time to hang around ‘til 6. The road is sandy in Caprock Canyons State Park but not as bad as last year. I’m super jazzed to be starting the caprock climb around dawn. Last year I came through in the dark and I missed out on some amazing scenery. Once on top, the route is flat with super smooth gravel. (More here about the Lllano Estacado caprock for non-Texans.)

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Stopping at Schlotsky’s in Canyon, the cashier can’t believe I want the huge $12 sandwich. You get that a lot when bikepacking.

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Happy place: a selfie at the Happy, Texas city limit makes me think of lots of things that make me happy: riding my bike, meeting new friends, every single mile with a tailwind, city lights twinkling in the distance, and a warm bed after a long day in the saddle.

Wildlife: chased a jackrabbit down the road; and got a double dose of puppy love outside Canyon.

Day eight: Vega to Tucumcari

Blazing sun and vicious south wind today. Dropping off the caprock at Sand Point yields some amazing, panoramic views of the desert floor. Thanks to recent rain, the long and sandy northbound climb which follows is relatively firm.

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I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked by the time I drag into the Glenrio truck stop. It’s hard to leave this air-conditioned oasis but as SheilaR would say, “Only one way to get there.” A 15 mile battle into the south wind brings me to the bonus caprock climb which is new this year. On the map it looks like an awfully long trip out of the way but once there it is totally worth the effort.

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Happy place: The amazing view from atop Endee Hill, a stunning final sunset, and five screaming fast miles of pavement into San Jon.

Wildlife: pretty sure those were desert bighorn sheep on top of the mesa

I would have liked a few more photos but there’s barely enough daylight left for the twisty trip back down. Finally the wind is behind, pushing me back towards civilization. Only 26 miles of Route 66 between me and the finish in Tucumcari, NM.

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Final time: 7 days, 17 hours, 19 minutes.”

-Sheila T.

 

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Jim

Cup O'Dirt Admin

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