Day Thirty

Anson, TX to Sweetwater, TX

The south wind from Wednesday turned to west-southwest  today, and that was all it took to make this a very difficult day. After loading up plenty of water, Coke and Gatorade, I left Anson headed for Snyder. The headwind beat me back, and I was hard pressed to push my speed into double digits. After the first hour I was averaging less than 9 mph. There isn't much that one can do on a touring bike when confronted with such a wind. While riding in the drops (hands low on the handlebars) makes it a little better, the drag created by the wide panniers cannot be helped. I had to just keep pushing the pedals.

Eventually I started going a little faster, but not much. By the time I reached Roby, the only town along my route, after three hours and 28 miles, I had consumed 70 ounces of fluids and was running on empty. It was about 35 miles to Snyder, and my current pace would put me there around sunset. However, I had some doubts about my stamina in the 80 degree heat, especially since it was 40 degrees cooler just a few days ago. I pulled into the biggest gas station in town, right across from the modern but modest courthouse. It was incredible that this tiny town of less than 700 people was the seat of Fisher County. A man came up to me. " I saw you back in Anson around 10:30," he said. " You've been making good time."

I didn't think so at this point I was still averaging below 10 mph. " It's been a rough day. The wind is killing me."

" Where are you headed?"

" Snyder, I hope."

" Have you ever been on the road to Snyder?" I answered that I had not. " Well, it'll be flat for awhile out of town, but then it gets pretty hilly. And of course it'll be windy, too."

I thanked him for the info and went inside. I bought two liters of water, a Coke, an OJ and a cookies 'n cream ice cream sandwich. I needed to find an alternative to riding all the way to Snyder in the wind. If there had been accommodations in Roby, I would have stopped right there.  Looking at my special map where I had highlighted every town with lodging, I decided to ride to Sweetwater instead. Due south, it would be a little windy, but it was also 15 miles shorter, which translated to 1-1/2 hours less of riding.

The ride south on SR 70 wasn't too bad, certainly much better than the ride to Roby had been. The crosswind didn't bother me nearly as much as the headwind had. Still, I couldn't wait for the day to be finished. I fantasized about what I would do in my motel room. I wanted to turn on the bath and lay there until I shriveled up and slid down the drain (despite Mr. Rogers' assurances to the contrary).

Just when I thought I was in ranch country, I saw a cotton gin and lots of reddish-orange plowed fields. As I entered Sweetwater, the road went under a long railroad bridge. A train was passing overhead and came to a stop. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad had switching yards in Sweetwater. Once I got downtown, I was faced with a dilemma--since I hadn't planned to ride here, I had no idea where the motels were. I reasoned that there should be motels at either end of the I-20 business loop (which used to be US 80) that ran through the heart of town. I rode west since I wanted to leave from the west end of town in the morning. In retrospect, I really should have stopped to ask someone (I know that women reading this are sighing that men never ask for directions). I rode into the wind again,  past the courthouse, over a high railroad bridge, past two dogs that chased me for several blocks despite their owner's commands to stop (and wore me out), past an old drive-in movie theatre, up and down several big hills, beyond the city limits, over another railroad bridge... and there was I-20 with  not a single darn service in sight, not even a gas station where I could refill my now empty water bottles. So much for hunches.

I was entirely spent after my Quixotic five-mile charge into the wind searching for non-existent motels. As I looked back at eastbound I-20, I saw blue signs listing services at the next exit. It appeared that I might have to ride on the interstate, which is legal in Texas but probably not much fun. However, I had forgotten another feature of many Texas interstates--frontage roads. While the frontage roads end abruptly in many other states, the frontage roads in Texas tend to  last for many miles. I was able to follow the south frontage road for about five miles to the first exit with motels.This was pretty easy because it was mostly downhill with the wind at my back, but that just meant that I would have to climb back up  first thing in the morning. Naturally, it turned out that if I had stayed on SR 70 through town, I would have gone straight to the motels. I had to choose between the Motel 6 and the Ranch House Motel (" newly remodeled to the quality of a national chain" ). I opted for the latter, which was $4 more but included breakfast in the motel restaurant.

Once again, I collapsed on the bed, but I didn't fall asleep this time. I didn't feel like going out, so I ordered a P'zone Power Pack from Pizza Hut, which included a P'zone (of course), breadsticks and a 2-liter Pepsi. By the time I was finished with the breadsticks and the fourth cup of Pepsi, I literally felt like I had come back to life. It was the neatest feeling, like energy was pushing through my body and flushing out the exhaustion. I'm not sure I've ever felt anything like it before.

After dinner I looked in the mirror. I looked like a freak--I'm surprised the young lady who delivered my dinner hadn't run away screaming. While I often have a salty crust on my forehead after a day's ride, this evening I had dried up salt down both sides of my face. It looked like my face was flaking off or something. Yuck. By the way, I never did get to take that long bath I was dreaming about. After talking to a friend on the phone and editing photos for a few hours, I took a shower around 2:30 AM, then I uploaded a bunch of photos. That P'zone gave me too much energy, as I worked through the night. I even considered just staying up until dawn and riding, but I knew that would really mess me up. I think the woman at the front desk was surprised at 4:30 AM when I asked for a 9:00 wake-up call.

Totals for the day: 57.11 miles in 5:36:31 for a 10.2 mph average (those last, fast miles downhill with the wind at my back nudged my average  into double digits).

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.