Saturday, February 28, 2009

Training day gone bad!--by Charley

Ok, so we're trying to get in shape for our little "Waltz Across Texas" next month which has led us to going on shopping errands with 50 pounds of water in our panniers (panniers is a sissy name for saddle bags, as any good cowboy would immediately recognize) and, one of my great ideas, a little jaunt to Alamogordo where our old bike mechanic has built up a new wheel for us. Alamogordo, or as the gringos say, Fat Cottonwood is about 75 miles for us if we leave our truck at a friend's house that lives in northeast El Paso, and about a 100 from our house. We figure that 75 miles with a half loaded tandem is a "do-able" thing even though we really aren't in touring shape yet. By half loaded, I mean that we are not going to take our tent and sleeping pads. We'll be doing what is referred to as a credit-card tour and in this case, a mini-tour, as we will go up one day and back the next. There is a reason that we have never done a credit card tour before, but we are thinking, two days, 75 miles up and 75 miles back, piece of cake.
But Murphy is listening. "Those two idiots are thinking that they will just treat this as a little training ride, treating themselves to the luxury of sleeping in a soft bed in a motel and eating at the fat man's buffet (Golden Corral) Well, I'll show them. Ha, ha, ha!"
So we start out in the early morning with a beautiful sunrise, a Burger King breakfast sandwich and, Glory be to the Wind God, a tailwind. We're flying. We're in the zone. We've got about 1/2 the weight we would have on a regular tour, but I mean we're flying, 17, 18 miles per hour. Of course one of the things about a tail wind and a little speed is that it touches a place in your spirit that you want to go just a little bit faster so that what would be an easy, push the pedals around, ride at 15mph, but we have to do 18 mph. So, of course, we're feeling great and pushing harder than we should, but we're flying and the first 4 hours is great and then....then Murphy changes wind direction and the push is not on our backs, but in our faces and the speed has slowed to 8 to 10 mph and the pedals are harder and harder to spin and the miles are going by agonizingly slow. Somewhere in the bushes, that we are struggling by, I can hear Murphy laughing.
Still we continue to push because we need to get to the bike shop by 4 o'clock (a self-imposed deadline) and even though the afternoon has been less than ideal, the morning's average speed is going to get us there on time and then..........then the rear tire goes flat and I swear that I can hear Murphy laughing, and snorting through his nose as we fix the flat. Not going to make that 4 pm appointment. Oh well!
Well, we laid over an extra day, slept in a comfortable bed, and ate at the Fat Boy Buffet and, although I hate to admit it, it was probably a good thing. Our muscles were sore which complemented our sore butts. So a day of rest was a good thing. We leisurely rolled around Alamogordo taking in the sights, even found a little house on a 1/4 acre for 30,000 which tickled our brain. Now with a day of rest we ought to be ready for a ride back to El Paso. There was one little problem. The TV said that tomorrow would be breezy. Breezy? Just what the hell is the difference between breezy and windy? They had said that the day before was breezy, but it really didn't start blowing until about 3 in the afternoon. "Ahhh, we will just get up and leave early and we will be in El Paso before it really gets bad."
Wrong!!!! We're scarfing down a couple of bananas and the remains of a Wal-Mart giant sandwich from the night before by 6 o'clock and we're on the road by 6:30 in the morning. But the wind has already started. It's not terrible but it's head on, out of the south. We're turning the pedals over and are able to maintain 10 -11 mph. Not great, but still, not depressing. Around 9, it hits. The wind shifts so that it's a little bit of a headwind and a whole lot crosswind. We slow to a 5 - 6 mph crawl and a constant fight to keep the gusts of what must be 30 to 35 mph cross winds from blowing us into the traffic. It takes us an hour to struggle the last 5 miles into Oro Grande, where we find refuge along side the wall of a closed filling station, eat our peanut butter sandwiches (which ,in spite of the misery of the journey, were great on Kamala's homemade bread and which proves that silver lining crap is true).
Now here is where traveling without the tent and sleeping gear comes in. You see if we would have had a tent, we would have gotten off the road, set it up, and climbed into our little sanctuary to let the damn storm blow itself out. Strong winds out here in the southwest usually blow themselves out with nightfall. There is absolutely no shelter around, no overpasses, no culverts, nada, zip , so we push on. The wind worsens. Last year was a particularly wet year around here and what would usually be pure sand, and greasewood is now filled with 2-foot high grass, which means, thankfully, that the sand which usually lifts off at 25 mph, is not sandblasting us, but the crosswind is smashing against us and we've still got 30 miles to go. What to do? Push on bravely? Or stick our thumb out? Having long ago given up that pride thing we stick our thumbs out. 1, 2, 3 , 4 pickups pass; but, finally, after a half-hearted thumb, a white pick up slows, pulls over, and we mount and pedal like hell to where he has stopped. The guy recognizes our tandem, his friend, Richie, had painted our tandem in his shop. Go figure! So Kamala and I sat, with smiles on our faces, as we zoom the next 30 miles to Northeast El Paso in the back or a pickup with our trusty steed leaning up against the side. Sometimes it's good to have no pride!
Tents-Don't leave home without one.

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