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Today was a big day for several reasons as you will discover if you read on. We left Las Vegas in the usual cool early morning air. The weather forecast was telling us that today was going to be hot and within half an hour I could feel the temperature rising. The Route Sheet and Paula’s commentary at the Route Rap gave an indication of what we were going to face. The key words were “No restrooms or services for 74 miles.” Written in bold which is usually a clue for some pretty serious hazards along the route. So it seemed that today’s comfort breaks might involve a rattlesnake check…!
As is often the case when I’m riding with on good roads with few hazards or traffic, my mind tends to wander in random directions. Emil’s comment triggered vague memories of some Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner:
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
I tried to sing the lines that I could remember to the tune of Jerome Moross’s soundtrack to the film ‘The Big Country’. Now readers, bear with me. This might seem a pretty avant-garde thing to do or even rather eccentric behaviour but what I’m trying to convey here is what I was seeing and how it made me feel in my heart. Riding through some amazing territory, the sweeping strings and pulsating brass of the soundtrack just seemed so right. Today I felt like a pioneer, exploring a vast new landscape, soaring along just above the tarmac like the albatross over the ocean. The long, long straight roads punctuated with gently rolling hillocks were just so invigorating.
Reaching the bottom of the descent we carried on along a smooth, gently downhill trajectory and with a good tailwind we spun along at an easy 20-25mph. With a small uphill bump we reached the second SAG where we enjoyed an early alfresco lunch, including those yummy peanut butter and jelly sarnies that I told you about a few days ago. Just the fuel for the hungry cyclists. With the temperature building, it was hard to resist the temptation to linger and snag a second sarnie but we needed to press on and make as much progress as possible before the temperature rose too high.
There was a nice surprise at the top because I met Phil, one of the riders, and Rick and his wife. Rick doubles as the tour mechanic. Phil was leaving the tour today, getting a lift from Rick and wife. Rick will be back in about a week’s time. I had chatted with Phil over breakfast and he seemed a bit subdued. Partly I sensed because he was leaving and also because he wasn’t sure if he would have the time to ride as far as The Wall. Well he did and I was pleased to see him again, to shake his hand and wish him well. Chapeau Phil!
The final ascent in the full heat of the day was quite a challenge – physically and mentally. Pete and I eventually arrived at the top in Tucumcari with our water bottles empty and we landed on the first gas station we passed like crows landing on carrion, much to the amusement of the cashier and the apparent disgust of at least one customer who clearly wasn’t a connoisseur of hot, sweaty, lycra clad cyclists! Then it was a short pedal to our hotel where I rode straight in through the doors to the reception desk to check in. An ice bucket full of cold bottles of beer was ready and waiting. Then after I had whetted my whistle it was time for a shower. This had been quite a tough and long (110 mile) stage but a rewarding one. And once I’d showered I felt pretty good. NO, I actually felt really good. So good that more words from the Rhyme came to me:
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze –
On me alone it blew.
Chatting about the ride after dinner I learnt that much of the country we had ridden through today was seen in the film ‘No Country for Old Men’ starting Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. So if you want to get a better feel for the scenery watch the film. I have and it’s really rather good.