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

 

 

Day 7 Winslow to Springerville AZ

And on the seventh day, they rested (not!)

After a lovely dinner of fried squash blossoms, bread and hummus from an extinct native tribe, and lamp served three ways, we all slept well at La Posada, especially after several tough days.

I think today is Saturday – in the real world. We loaded up and hit the road at 6:45am, riding into the rising sun in chilly weather. Today we covered 121.7 miles. A few days ago we rode on I-8, then I-10, and today we had the pleasure of I-40, with construction and large trucks. We also rode on Rt. 66, which has not been paved since Tod and Buz drove on it in their Corvette.

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We stopped at the Wigwam hotel in Holbrook, filled with 1950’s cars but no paying guests. The doors look too narrow for today’s American physiques.

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After then passing by Bucket of Blood Ave, we got on Rt. 180 for about 50 miles, pedaling past petrified forests that now only live in gift shops. By the 90 mile mark we had still only done half of the day’s climbing. Things were about to get interesting.

We made our last turn and were smacked in the face with a headwind. The road rose and fell, but overall kept climbing. The 95 degree day that had us all melting soon disappeared under heavy clouds. We had a dozen miles to go, and could not break 15mph on the downhills, and consistently dropped to single digits on the climbs. Our 8 riders formed a double peloton, rotating the lead every quarter mile, and still made little progress. It rained briefly, the PAC van stopped and gave us Coke and Rice Crispy treats, and we still were fried, and constantly buzzed by pickups. Here we are on the last turn, with storm clouds behind, less than 4 miles to go.

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Now we are at the Rode Inn in Springerville. We always wash our bikes before bringing them into the room. Here is Eric cleaning up.

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Right now the skies have opened up and we are doing laundry. Such is the exciting life on tour.

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 6 Cottonwood to Winslow AZ

Great day for up

After yesterday’s three mountains, we took it easy on a 110 mile day.

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It has just one climb. One very long climb, from ~3000 feet to 7500P1000929

I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, and anything else that looked tasty. Tim spent the night in his VW camper, on his way to the meet in Jerome, and took some FB photos as we rolled out. Lynn always leaves first and “soft pedals” which means she just warms up, waiting for the rest of us. I was running late so I passed her, looking forĀ  the rest of the team. I have a saying, “No matter how fast you go, you can never catch up with someone behind you.” Yes, Jim, Jim, Greg, and Eddy rolled out after me. We finally joined forces and descended to the Verde River.

At 20 miles the climb started. Not too bad, with prickly pears growing through the guard rail, and a hat-box shaped mesa.

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In Mass, an example of a long climb is Mile Hill Road by Wachusetts Mountain that is … well you can guess. Here in AZ we rode for 30 miles, up, up, occasionally a little down, then up some more.

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I was feeling good so I rode with Robert from SF and Eddy, stopping at all the water and lunch stops, plus a little where we impressed the clerk when we told her we were headed to Georgia. The route for the entire day had one turn, so at least we couldn’t get lost. Here is a view showing 5 miles of road ahead.

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Eddy said I did a few “chasse patatte” which means I was stuck between groups, not getting the advantage of either.

Now we are all safely in our hotel, La Posada, a refurbished Harvey hotel filled with eclectic southwest art and Georgia O’Keefe-inspired surreal works that are both fascinating and a little creepy.

Yes, we are in THAT Winslow AZ, which has a corner dedicated to the Eagle’s song, complete with a statue of someone with a guitar, a mural, and even a real flat-bed Ford on the curb. Jim and I had our photo taken for the Stow Independent.

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 5 Wickenburg to Cottonwood AZ

Triple Bypass

We got an early start this morning to take on a 104 mile day over three mountains. The map doesn’t look that bad.

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But the profile did. 8000ft of climbing – as tough as the B2VT ride in New England, but much, much hotter.

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The worst parts were not the mountains themselves, but the “false flats” that lead up to the steep parts. It felt like a normal road but we couldn’t go over 10mph. You can see the road going up to the right.

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The first climb was gradual with a great view of the valley below. One of the Tour leaders, Lon is taking a photo of the valley we just came up.

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The road eventually went around the corner, winding up the back of the mountain.

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Here is Team Flat at the little store at the start of the second climb, with me, Jim Miller, Jim Salvie, Lynn, Greg, and Eddy in the middle.

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Eddy and I took off on the hill, pausing only for photos. This spared the rest of the team from my songs and bad jokes. He told me to look like I was creating the philosophy of the 21st century, with the road in the background.

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The last climb was up Mt. Mingus, the steepest of the day, topping out over 7000 ft.

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You can see the tiny cars heading up, a few hundred feet below us.

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The downhill on the other side was spectacular. Nearly a 3000 foot drop in a few miles. You can see the road way down in the valley. We ended up in Jerome which is built on the side of the mountain, with lots of funky shops, an insane asylum that has been turned into a hotel, and The House of Joy (do your own research). A convention of VW camper vans was headed into town so we dropped another 1000 feet down to our hotel for the night.

Tim, a long time friend from Synopsys, came to our hotel driving a … VW camper van! He is not quite the hippie crew but knows a good reason to get out of Phoenix for the weekend.

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 4 Blythe CA to Wickenburg AZ

A New Hope

We got an early start this morning to take on a 116 mile day across the desert and over three smallish mountains, and our first border crossing – state border that is.

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The first thing was to find the Colorado River and to get on I-10 to cross it, and into Arizona.

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It was a “blue” day so Jim and I wore matching 2015 B2VT jerseys, and Jim Miller from Iowa had one from his shop in Iowa. Greg didn’t get the memo so he wore red, and Lynn showed off her Gran Fondo NYC, as shown in this over the shoulder shot.

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We rode along the interstate for miles (legal if there is no alternate route for cyclists) and several of us got flats from the debris. Soon we got onto Rt. 60 and didn’t make another turn for 80 miles. We had several long shallow climbs including riding past the town of Hope. (My apologies to Strunk & White.)

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Back in New England, the two bottles of water on my bike last for 40-60 miles, depending on the tempature. Here in the desert we were treated to water stops every 20 miles, and needed them, in addition to guzzling Coke, and chowing down on Pringles, pretzels, and lots of sweet or salty snack food. Just a mile after a water stop my mouth was already dry again. I drank 2 gallons on the ride plus a quart before leaving and at least another at the end of the day.

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Our group (Jim M, Jim S, me, Lynn, and Greg) stuck together the whole day, though I did get close to being voted off the island for singing songs about Greek Sailors and TV Party by Black Flag.

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The wind was generally on our right, so we made an echelon where the lead rider stayed on the edge of the road, the next rider was on his left and a wheel back, and so forth, staying in the aerodynamic shadow, spread across the entire lane. Three of us had mirrors and could easily see cars behind us two miles away.

We all finished together and then went out for Mexican food and sundaes at McDonald’s.

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