Today is one of those lonely, melancholy days when I don’t feel like pedaling my bike, going anywhere, doing anything. The dour, overcast, cold weather doesn’t encourage joviality, and its endless stretch of soggy, grey clouds along one continuous horizon that encircles me like a purse seine has me fenced in, physically and emotionally. What might it take to encourage my lips to stretch themselves into even a mere semblance of a smile?
Here I sit, in a friendly gas station convenience store just off the interstate in Adrian, TX. I’ve unsuspectingly wandered into Mountain Time, or, no, I haven’t actually*. I am apparently simply incapable of reading the clock on my phone. Or I am confused by the passage of time.
The few people I have talked to here are all that is keeping my spirits up, if I should define them in such a way, and I’m not sure that I should. But I am no longer dangling from the nadir of despondency. That I can say. The chili and hot chocolate have provided comfort and encouragement as well. That warmth! Not just of the meal, but of the cheerfulness of the two ladies behind the counter, too. Talking to them has been like warming myself in front of a stranger’s—now a friend’s—hearth; fire once stoked, embers now softly glowing, the cast-iron stove having absorbed their heat now emanating it throughout the room like the passing of a baton in a relay.
I’m tempted to linger longer as I’m reluctant to go back out into the chill, but it’s five o’clock, and I really must get back on the road.
The baton is in my hand.
*I crossed the border into New Mexico an hour and a half later, where I did actually cross into Mountain Time
The most brutally difficult day on my bike yet.
I hope this is the last time I write feel the need to write that.
Things started well enough with my front tire nearly bereft of air. I discovered this after breakfast, and after breaking camp, and after having packed everything onto my bike, naturally. Irritated, and rather perplexed I removed everything and proceeded to look for a hole of some kind in the tube. Nothing doing. Now even more perplexed I added air to the tire and finally rolled away from Black Kettle a half hour later.
It was a short three or four miles north that I was to cycle before turning west, and I managed that with aplomb. Having accomplished that task I was immediately walloped by a strong cross-headwind from the south-west, and I wished that my destination lie more immediately north rather than west and south as it did. I was to continue directly west for approximately 45 miles, cycling into Texas, before turning south-west for another 15 in order to reach the next town on the route. That’s 60 miles of basically nothing. That’s actually not entirely true. There was the headwind, of course, and there were many, many, many hills. And there was plenty of grass, and some scattered trees. So, this portion of the day which lasted far, far too long mainly consisted of a series of outbursts of cursing from me from time to time while pedaling along at about eight or nine miles per hour, often about half that for having to go up a hill while being battered by a headwind. It was hot, but I had to conserve water because I was moving so slowly (yet with tremendous effort) so I knew it would take at the very least an hour more than I had anticipated the previous evening to make it to Miami. I also carried little in the way of snacks with me, and I consumed all of those within the first thirty miles.
The few prominent memories I have of this portion of the day’s ride, besides what I’ve already related, are as follows: being passed by a foursome of motorcyclists just before the Texas state line, and then passing them as they pulled off the road to snap pictures of the sign, then being passed again by them ten minutes later and thinking that I chose the wrong mode of travel; stopping beneath one of the few trees not on the other side of the fence, which ran along beside me on both sides of the road for as long as there was a road, to eat all my snacks in one go; a decrepit and caved in old ranch house that I tried and failed to get a good photo of; and, lastly, several miles after turning south-west onto a new highway, dropping down in elevation a few hundred feet, loosing the dry grasslands and rolling hills and finding myself cycling amongst small, stunning plateaus erupted like mushrooms from the sandy ground, and the lushness of trees, and bushes, and the color green to the left and to the right of me, everywhere but on or near the plateaus in the middle-distance.
I arrived in Miami and demolished a surprisingly delicious burger and fries at what appeared to be the only restaurant in town, and consumed more than a liter of water. There being no decent place to stay in town I decided to cycle the next 24 miles to Pampa where I would stay in a much over-priced (as they always are) Best Western. I had one more lengthy climb before the terrain flattened out, the wind lessened and changed direction slightly, and the asphalt improved considerably (I had crossed a county line). Coincidentally enough, all this happened in about a span of ten minutes. After this I scooted along at nearly 20 mph and arrived in Pampa in close to half the time I had expected. It was a glorious end to an absolutely horrid and long day.
Now I am currently eating at the Texas Rose Steakhouse next door to the inn. The name certainly sounds charming enough, though the staff exude none of that. Everyone is just scurrying around like mice or ants, or standing in a corner chewing the cud like a couple of old cows in a field.
The place itself is a squat, wooden building erected over a concrete floor; square, hardwood tables all around, sort of old-timey-like if you might imagine. I can see them all being pushed out of the way from time to time, and great, joyous dances taking place, the community all gathered together, people holding hands, laughing, and the occasional boy and girl, twinkles in their eyes, sneaking off unbeknownst to their parents. There is a band playing on a small stage set up in front of the big stone fireplace over which is mounted a stag’s head. Kegs will be tapped, the beer will flow and many a person may be found stumbling through a dance as the night moves along, and perhaps even found on the floor or passed out in one of the booths that line the walls by night’s end. But here I am munching on a roll, waiting for my food, my imagination brandished like a shield in front of me, and the waitress comes over with my chicken-fried steak (the first and likely only one I will ever have), and all this melts away as I’m seized back into reality and look around me and think about where I am and realize I must have been dreaming because these people want nothing to do with me. They want my money only, and they want to go home.