Day 17 McAlester OK to Talimena Lodge, AR

Return to Arkansas

Today we rode from the low lands of McAlester, Oklahoma up to Talimena Lodge, AR. Doesn’t look too bad, right?

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Well, have a look at the profile. This puppy has 7500′ of climbing, the second most of any day on the tour, and most of it comes on the Talimena Parkway.

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The rollers started a few miles out of town. I tucked in behind a couple on a tandem as they crested a hill. They pulled at first, then the road flattened out so I sprinted to catch back up with them. We lasted until the next climb, and I didn’t see them for the rest of the day. The first water stop had some of these fruits under the bushes – does anyone recognize it?

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After the second water stop at 60 miles, things started getting vertical. Marcy was ahead of me going into the park. The boring flat stuff was over, now the challenge started.

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The sign says 10-13% grade, however several people reported seeing 14% on their GPS.

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We climbed up and up and I struggled to keep 5mph, then we plunged down and hit 46. The Talimena Parkway goes along the ridge of the mountains, so you often see the next leg going up the following ridge.

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I was riding solo today as I climb at my own pace. Jim S, Jim M and Lynn came into lunch as a well-oiled team.

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Here is the view at lunch.

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The up and down climbs went on for a dozen miles or two. Just when I was about to rate the road an 8, it switched to a rough chip seal, and then went up for 3.5 miles at 13%. Ouch! On the downhills you could ride on the top of the rocks, but the grind up was painful.

Close to 15 years ago my sister left Arkansas to become a professor in Boise, so I thought I would never set foot in the state again, Wrong! Best of all, once you cross the border, the chip seal ends and the road goes back to smooth asphalt.

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Now today’s ride is coming to an end.The penultimate cue on the route sheet said to look for the steam locomotive.

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We are staying at the Queen Wilhemina Lodge, which was funded by Dutch railroad investors. Now you know the rest of the story.

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The view  up here is tremendous, take my word for it. A photo from the balcony does not do justice.

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Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim Salvie’s blog

Day 16 Purcell to McAlester OK

Coming around second base

In the words of my very patient roommate, we are in the third week of the PAC Tour, which is like rounding second base. We have passed the halfway mark, and still have more work.

Today was supposed to be relatively easy with only 3500′ of climbing, compared to yesterday’s 5000′ and tomorrow’s 7500′. Before I started this tour, I would not have said that any day with 114 miles is easy.

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People are riding all sorts of contraptions. A recumbent bike is very comfortable, but does not climb well as you can’t stand up. Likewise, it is harder to climb with a tandem bike as coordinating two people is a real challenge. Not sure how these riders did.

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It was a cool morning, Monday in the real world.Carol and Dennis Tumey got to ride together – normally he is working while she spends the day on her bike.

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Oklahoma no longer looks like dry dusty Texas and now has a more wooded feel, and we passed through several horse farms.

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We also passed a nice herd of goats, protected effectively by dogs so this was the best shot I could get.

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We stopped at a grocery store in Konawa to use the facilities, and what was parked out front? S2K! Joy said she had 171,000 miles on it and had just replaced the convertible roof. Always nice to meet a fan.

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Before long we were headed to Ada. We passed by several oil rigs, both classic and modern.

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The landscape is looking more like New England with leafy trees providing welcome shade, grass and low bushes, and even some poison ivy to make me feel at home. The squashed armadillos are the only discordant note.

At lunch my team of Lynn, Jim, and the other Jim needed to make one more pit stop, just as Jay was headed out. He is a tall guy, broad in the shoulders, and punches a huge hole in the air that just pulls along anyone who is behind him. I wanted to ride the Jay Train! For three miles I chased him, little Elenore, and Herb, before catching them. Now the view in the Jay Train is fairly boring as you squeeze between the rumble strips on the right and the white line on the left. Hit the strips and your bike vibrates with an electric intensity that pops the bottles out of your frame and twists your handlebars. Too far to the left and you are mixing it up with pickups and semis, who do not appreciate people with Lycra shorts in their lane. And you need to keep this balance at 18-30mph.

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The final rest stop was at 92 miles. Here you can see Jay in front of the Stuart Hotel / City Hall. On the last leg of the Jay Train I even pulled a few miles, but he did the fast work.

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Tomorrow we enter Arkansas!

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim Salvie’s blog

Day 15 Weatherford to Purcell OK

A Roller Coaster Day in Oklahoma

We rode from Weatherford to Purcell OK today. The route looked good, and the forecast was sunny with a light 5-10mph SE wind, so we would have a mild headwind. Compared to previous days, I’ll take it.

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The elevation profile looked easy, though it contained a secret. The route has 5000 feet of climbing over 112 miles. What does that really mean to non-cyclists? If we started at sea level, we would have made it as high as Denver. In the rolling terrain of Oklahoma, where most of the hills seemed to be 100 feet high, we rode up at least 50 of them, or one every other mile. That gets a little old. So the elevation map looks okay, however all those little bumps hurt!

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We started at sunrise. Here is our support Caravan, loaded and ready to meet us at the first water stop.
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After the last few days of bumpy, poorly paved Rt. 66, we started off with 17 miles of pretty good concrete. I could almost see driving the route, except that it is barely wide enough for two sedans, little less two modern pickup trucks. Not only is it missing a breakdown lane, but actually has a raised shoulder so that if you nod off while driving, you will be pushed back into opposing traffic. Not cool.

We did go by a little fairgrounds in Hinton with a small Ferris Wheel, but no roller coaster visible. Here is a shot of Lynn and Marci coming up a hill. You can see the long straight road heading to the horizon.

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We had the usual animal activity. The buffalo were too far away to capture, but this rattler posed for a shot.

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Most of the cows ran away when we approached so we had to sneak up on them.

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Lunch was by the side of the road. Oklahoma’s finest thought we were blocking visibility at the intersection so we all picked up the entire cookout, tents and all, and moved it to the other side of the street. You can see the cruiser parked in the background.

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I noticed that my rear tire looked worn, even though it had just 2 weeks of wear, which is about 1500 miles. A half mile after lunch, I got a flat and had to use my last tube. At the next water stop I pumped it for good luck, and by the bottom of the next hill, hiss, down it went. So I bought a new tire and a few tubes from John, the always helpful PAC repairman. Maybe I should have been riding this instead.

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Now we are at a very worn out motel that looks like a place you go to check in but never check out. We made the most of this by getting sandwiches from Subway and fresh food from the Walmart next door and having a little al fresco dining experience. Here is Lynn and Jim – note the towel tablecloth.

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The one good thing about the motel is that they don’t have a lot of double rooms, so Jim and I each have singles. Last night I snored so bad that he yelled at me, threw a pillow at me, and finally got up and hit me with a pillow. Only fair as I did the same thing to him last week. Now we can have some peace and quiet.

PAC Tour trivia time. One of the riders works at Industrial Light and Magic and has created special effects for Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Shrek 4D, Iron Man, and the first Star Trek reboot.

Lastly, here is a shot from earlier in the week, two cowboys making a binding agreement, photographed by our NYC judge.

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Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim Salvie’s blog

 

 

Day 14 Shamrock TX to Weatherford OK

Oklahoma is OK

We reached the halfway point between San Diego and Savannah, so it is all downhill from here. So long as it is downwind, I’ll be happy. Today we rode 104 miles, mostly on old Route 66.

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This route was laid out in the 1930s and for forty years was the most famous highway in the USA. This two lane concrete ribbon, known as the Mother Road stretched across 3 time zones from Chicago to Santa Monica. Little towns blossomed and business boomed. Then the interstates came along and bypassed all of this and many of the towns withered.

Today we went to Erick OK, home of the Roger Miller museum and the 100th Meridian museum. (West of the 100th, you could not get a bank loan as it was considered desert.)  We were glad to see Erick as the ride started with pouring rain and sleet, so the organizers moved the water stops to come more frequently.

The National Rt. 66 Museum is in Elk City OK, and is a collection of building about the highway and local history. Lynn shocked me in the following picture.

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Later she spotted the original car used in the Grapes of Wrath movie. Next, Robert looked in the window at the Mercantile.

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Jay peeks out from the rain at the drug store.
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The rain stopped and we rode on to Clinton, over concrete and bad asphalt to the Oklahoma Rt. 66 museum. This is focused just on the road known as America’s Main Street, with more detailed displays. Not that you can tell from the following photos showing me and several Jims.

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Nostalgia is alive and well out here, including Lucille’s Roadhouse where we had a nice, non-steak dinner, including a chocolate milkshake.

My lovely wife said that many of you are asking how I am doing. I am seeing dozens of places that I would never experience any other way, and meeting some real bike fanatics. One unnamed rider’s first job was a stripper at the wiener tunnel at an Oscar Meyer factory. The trip is exhausting, however my saddle sores have given up and let me ride for 8-10 hours a day. Most people ride cross country Pacific to Atlantic to catch the prevailing west winds, but we have had headwinds almost every day. I’ve learned more about our country and the some crazy history, like the cross country foot race in 1928 where participants ran 40 miles a day for a $25,000 prize. They don’t teach that in your high school.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 13 Amarillo to Shamrock TX

Finally, an easy day

Today was an easy ride, just 93 miles from the outskirts of Amarillo due east to Shamrock TX. At the start, we rode for 6 miles without seeing a single car. Odd, as we were on Business 40. Not much business there.

What does it mean to have visited a place? Did you just change planes in an airport, watch someone attempt to eat a belly buster steak, or did you get to walk around and talk to a few locals? We didn’t see much of Amarillo while there, however the wind farms were pleasant.

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The fields to the east of Amarillo were flat and dry, with a healthy dose of turbines. The wind was at our back and since it was a short day (less than 100 miles) we could keep our heart rate low and take lots of photos.

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Remember yesterday when I said the grain elevators looked like Oz in the distance? Here is the one at our first water stop. Now imagine it from a mile away in the hazy distance. Rt. 66 will feel like it is paved with yellow bricks.

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We ran into several little creatures on the I-40 access road, this one alive and skittering. We almost got hit by a truck trying to get her photo. This tarantula was at least 4″ across.

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One of the nice parts of the PAC tour is that every day is a cookout for lunch. Today in McLean I had a grilled cheese with tomatoes and guacamole. Yum! The town boomed when Rt. 66 came through, and busted when the interstate drew all the cars away. They have a Devils Rope and Rt. 66 Museum that was worth the visit, even if it was full of sweaty bikers of all types.

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(Our hotel in Amarillo had a group of Harley riders from the Czech Republic who came to ride Rt. 66.) In our group, Lynn played Vanna White with samples of barbed wire.

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On the last leg, I rode with Greg from Amarillo, who had never really visited Shamrock. He is a retired railroad engineer, what I like to call a real engineer, running trains up to 13,000 ft long! We pulled into the Chamber of Commerce which is in an Art Deco gas station.

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Fellow riders were getting their photo taken with a local celebrity so I jumped in – it was the mayor of Shamrock, wearing the green!

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It was a relaxing day on the bike with a breeze to blow us into this emerald city. Tomorrow – Oklahoma!

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 12 Clovis, NM to Amarillo, TX

Will it rain?

Today we rode from Clovis NM to Amarillo TX.

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The problem with trying to spice up these descriptions is that we arrived in Clovis later afternoon, ran around trying to get dinner and squeeze in a trip to a pharmacy for all the usual ointments, went to bed by 9pm, up at 6am, eat breakfast and on the road by 7-7:30am. So all we usually see of any town is the hotel strip, generally not the best.

Today was very flat with only one little dip in the city of Canyon. So we anticipated a fast ride. Instead we woke to soaked pavement and lightning to the south, behind the non-stop rumble of passing trains. (I didn’t take a photo of anti-Sharia law billboard in Clovis – it was not worth the electrons.) We soon crossed into our 4th state; so here is Eddy and I agreeing never to return to Clovis.

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Now we rolled on Rt. 60 for 80 miles. We passed through towns such as Bovinia and Hereford, so you can guess that there are few vegetarians in this corner of the world. Gasoline was $1.89 / gallon!

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The prairie was so flat that distant grain elevators looked like Oz in the distance.

While Jim repaired flat number 99, I took a picture of this little guy who we had seen jumping around since Pie Town NM. (I didn’t take a picture of the frogs and rats, neither who were on the side of the road by their own choice.)

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Now we are at the Big Texan Restaurant / Hotel. There is a fleet of limos sporting horns, and the rooms are rustic right down to the faux suede shower curtains.

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They serve some great steaks. Our party all ordered the 12oz Ft. Worth cut, which, coincidentally adds up to 72oz, the same weight as the roast that a woman was trying to polish off in 60 minutes up on a stage in the middle of the restaurant. She also had to down a roll, house salad, and a baked potato. Sadly, she was unsuccessful, but avoided chumming her fellow patrons. Our servings were so large that I couldn’t finish my carrot cake, which is hard to believe.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 11 Roswell to Clovis NM

Things go flat

What is there between Roswell and Clovis NM? On our 110 mile ride today, we realized there is … nothing.

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I won’t even bother showing the route profile as it was so flat some riders never shifted out of their big chain ring. Here is the first water stop. Hold your breath.

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We did see wildlife – several flattened coyotes and a live rattler. My front tire went soft before lunch and I quickly replaced it. The cardinal rule with this repair is to find out why it happened, so I quickly ran a finger around the inside of the tire and found nothing. After lunch it flattened again and this time I found the thorn. It was turning into a real blah day. Eddy and a few others helped me fix it.

We rode past hay fields and feed lots – a preview of Texas tomorrow.

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Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 10 Ruidoso to Roswell NM

A good day ruined

Up in the mountains of Ruidoso, the rain stopped before dawn leaving a wonderful sunrise that kissed the hills around our dilapidated hotel.

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Our route was taking us from Ruidoso (home to some great house racing) to Roswell, known for … hold that thought. By car that would be 75 miles due east, but the PAC Tour took us north then southeast.

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The good news is that we started over 7000′ up and finished around 3600′ and the graph looked phenomenal, except for the occasional bump.

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In reality we backtracked though the hills of Ruidoso which meant some high altitude climbing. Then we got on on Rt. 246, which has maybe one ranch every few miles. Here is the water stop, and the termite mound that looked like the Spinx.

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The real issues started when we turned southeast into a headwind. The road wound back and forth, but even from the side we were blasted all day. There is a ridge of mountains on our left for much of the ride, including Boy Scout Mountain.

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Sadly, I was able to get another shot when Jim M got a flat, assisted by Jim S, with a better view in the background.

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We rode through high desert ranches filled with little more than cactus and dry grass.

[Just a side note, no photos please. Ever wonder what it is like to ride 800 miles in a week? My hands hurt from griping the handlebars for hours, my feet are sore from squeezing into bike shoes, and my back side is unmentionable. Several people are wearing two pairs of bike shorts, the inner pair inside out to help with chafing. Others have brought or purchased replacement saddles to take pressure off places that you don’t really want talk about in pubic. I’ve been alternating Desitin (diaper rash ointment) and antibiotic cream. Maybe I should have brought a spare saddle.]

The headwinds fought us all the way to our Best Western in Roswell. Yes, that town. Not only do they have an Alien Museum, the little green men seem more common than cowboys. Here is the entrance.

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Yes, we should teach the controversy, but parts of this were downright cheesy.

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Or just blatant ripoffs of old Ringo Starr albums.

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The skies opened up and dumped several inches of rain on the city, flooding the streets. Hopefully it will taper off by the morning.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 9 Socorro to Ruidoso NM

The Last Hard Day – Hopefully

Today we took it a little easier on the PAC Tour than yesterday, just 105 miles from Socorro NM to Ruidoso.

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Notice how the right side looks a little bumpy – thems there is mountains!

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So we took it easy for the first half, riding through fields of chili peppers until the first water stop by White Sands.

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Great place for a picnic and you don’t even have to bring charcoal.

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On we rode, straight, straight, straight. In fact, I need to re-watch Forest Gump as one section of Rt. 60 looks like it was used in several Hollywood films to show tarmac going to the horizon.

Then we got to the right side of the graph, and rode went up.

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Here is Gerry from Tucson heading up the big climb that was capped with a water stop. He is over 65 and I took most of the day to catch him! Then, no problem, roll into the finish. No such luck. Up and down we went through steep valleys, over and over for 15 miles. Exhausting! We are now at the run-down Swiss Chalet Inn, high up in the mountains at 7000′, which at least has a nice view from the balcony.

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I have been assured that today was the last tough day and the ride gets flatter. Tomorrow we have to climb back through a few hills, then it is more or less downhill for 90 miles. We shall see!

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

 

 

Day 8 Springerville AZ to Socorro NM

The Longest Day

Some days on the PAC Tour are tough because there is a lot of climbing. Today was tough because of the distance, 156 miles.

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This was an easy to navigate, just get on Rt. 60 and ride, ride, ride. We left the tiny town of Springerville and its all too rustic hotel, and crossed into NM 14 miles later, staying on Rt. 60 all day.

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We saw elk, crickets, and lovely rolling high desert hills.

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After the second rest stop my right leg was giving me problems. My shoes which normally fit just fine were squeezing my foot something terrible and my knee felt swollen. We were 10 miles from the water stop in Pie Town AZ and I kept looking for a support van to give me a lift. 5 miles. 2 miles. Finally we rode into the water stop and I told the rest of my group to go on without me.

I was able to make some adjustments to the shoes, and the support van gave me a lift 10 miles forward, to the top of the ride, just after the Continental Divide.

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Note how it is all downhill from there. I had now leapfrogged my team and ended up riding solo the rest of the day. By loosening my shoes, everything was better.

We rode past the Very Large Array, a set of 27 radio telescopes, spread many square miles of high plains. If you zoom in the picture below you might be able to see some white dots in the background.

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The winds kept shifting from side to side, front to back, so in a mile I might be slowed down to 10mph or whisked along over 25mph. The final descent into Socorro was a real blast and made up for my problems earlier in the day. Everyone at the finish was exhausted including the crew. Luckily I was able to get a leg massage that revitalized by leg, as the next day was going to be tough.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog