Amarillo, TX to Matador, TX – 120 miles
After a good nights sleep in Amarillo I was up at 5 AM to get ready and meet the support crew (Evan, Melanie, and Celeste) for breakfast and to go over the day ahead. The first thing that struck me was how dark it was at 6 AM here. It did not start getting light until well after 6:30. So much for trying to get out early to beat the heat! The support crew is great. Evan driving the Pony and Melanie driving the small SUV following me most of the time. It was very good having her following me with her flashing light and blinkers on as I was out in the right lane most of the time pedaling and this avoided me getting squashed by some big semi barreling by. We started off with a bang (literally). Two miles into the ride I blew a flat. Changed out the tube and then that one blew as well. Turns out I had a bad tire I put on before leaving home and it would not sit properly on the rim. After replacing the tube for the third time and a new tire I was finally on my way.
I found this first day of the ride very challenging both physically and mentally. Although I have done rides similar to this length in my training and racing this just seemed tough today. The terrain was pretty flat but I had to face a very stiff headwind for almost the entire day. That constant fight with the wind, the soaring temperatures, and being alone in the middle of nowhere most of the day started to take its toll. I was very overheated and my legs were tightening up so miles 80-100 were brutal. Although I found the roads in Texas to be very clean with no trash or debris, the surface of them leaves more to be desired. It was pressed gravel leading to my bike chattering almost the entire ride. Even with a carbon frame, that constant rattling takes its toll on your body. I had to check the fillings in my teeth when I finished. At mile 100, we changed directions just a bit and wind went from head on to a bit of a crosswind. Although still not great, I found this a relished treat for the final twenty miles and I had my best stretch of pace at the end. In any case it was good to be finished at 120 miles with Evan waiting in the Pony.
We came into the very small town of Matador, which is literally a half a block long. We all looked at each other like “where are we sleeping?” However, we stayed in a very nice B&B called the Matador Hotel. It was quite charming and comfortable. Dinner was another story. There was only one little place to eat in town serving only fried foods with no veggies to be found! Not exactly what I was looking for or needed in my body, but you got to do what you got to do. I had chicken fried chicken (isn’t that redundant?) for dinner. It didn’t matter that much, as I was ready for sleep.
The highlights of the first day were the ranch animals. The horses and cows were so funny. They must have never seen anyone on a bike before. Whenever I passed them they all stopped doing what they were doing and ran up to fence where I was. One set of three horses was out in a pasture and they galloped up to see me and ran along the fence following me. All these animals had expressions that were unique, really (or maybe it was sunstroke). Melanie and I got such a laugh to see them react. They all did it every time I would pass them. I must have indeed been a rare sight, because a road crew guy saw me coming up the road. I had to stop a minute to wait for some construction to clear. He came up to me and said he thought he was seeing a mirage and then realized it was some guy on a bike. He couldn’t believe I was out there in the middle of nowhere in the heat. So I guess the horses and cows weren’t the only ones!
-Dr. William Van Nostrand