Thursday, February 28, 2008

Victory in Victoria

I know I said I was going to leave the wind out of it, but it plays such a big role in my day. It is impossible to neglect mentioning it, especially when it smashes me in the face for hours on end at 20-30 MPH. But more on that later.

I didn’t get as early a start as I was hoping to in leaving San Antonio. I was actually staying a real hotel; as there was some choice opposed to say in Salome, AZ. The bed was comfortable, the breakfast was a nice touch and I was even sent on my way with orange infused water in my water bottles.

I took it easy getting out of town. I have to say that San Antonio had the least traffic of any large city that I have ridden through. It seemed that anyplace in San Antonio was only on a mile or two from a highway, which all the traffic used. While the roads weren’t exactly in the greatest shape, with no traffic I was able use an entire lane to dodge potholes without worrying about getting run down.

As soon as I got out of town I was slammed with the wind. When I had checked the previous night, the winds were forecast at 20 MPH dead in my face, but when I checked in the morning, it got upgraded to the 20/30 MPH range with higher gusts. I wasn’t expecting to make great time, but as always, with every turn of the cranks I was closer to my destination by however small a distance.

As the day progressed the battle between the wind and I heated up. I just kept on pedaling. My back began to ache. In the first six hours of riding I had only stopped twice, both times to eat. Perhaps I should have taken a few more breaks. There was one point where I thought my spine was going to collapse. I had to pull over for a few minutes and stretch. When I started the trip in Los Angeles, I had concerns about my back holding up, but had been gaining confidence as the trip wore on. Today was the worst it had been on the entire trip. The people that drove past could probably see me grimace.

In the updates from my 2005 ride I went off on a town because they had posted a list of their High School Championship teams going back to the 70’s. Fall City, Texas has the new record. Their list of championship teams posted on a sign right at the entrance to their town goes back to 1950. There was probably only one other town against which their team competed as even now there is only one town every 40 miles. What are “regional champs" and “bi-county champs" anyway?

It was getting late in the day and when I started to do the math, I wasn’t going to make it to the town in which I was planning to end my day. Not only was I moving too slowly against the wind, but my back wasn’t doing well and I was just tired. Getting 6 hours of sleep a night, which is about what I have been averaging, is not nearly enough rest.

I was 15 miles shy of Goliad, TX when I figured I should just stay in that town for the night. Those last 15 miles were a struggle. I had been in the saddle for 7 hours 20 minutes when I reached town and it was 5:15.

Remember Goliad! It is not as memorable as “Remember the Alamo" but it too was shouted by Sam Houston, leader of the Texas troops, at the Battle of San Jacinto. A large group of Texans had surrendered to the Mexican commander, Santa Anna, at Goliad thinking they would be imprisoned. Santa Anna ordered them executed. At the Battle of San Jacinto Sam Houston was hoping to avenge the deaths of those lost at the Alamo and Goliad. The Battle of San Jacinto was a victory for the Texas that would ultimately lead to Texas being annexed by the United States.

I was exhausted. The battle with Mr. Wind took its toll. For some reason though, when I saw a sign letting me know that Victoria, my initial goal, was 27 miles further on, I just had to go for it. I knew I would never make it before dark. I just didn’t want to fail to make it to the town in which I was planning to end my day.

I knew full moon was coming up in the next few days, or was it new moon? I wasn’t sure. As you may well image, I haven’t had many romantic nights with young ladies recently, gazing up at the sky, so I didn’t know if the moon was waxing or waning. I was hoping it was a full moon so I might have a bit of light.

There was construction work being done on nearly the entire stretch of road between the two towns. Initially it was problematic as there was one lane in each direction cordoned off by cement barriers. Cars backing up behind me weren’t exactly thrilled as they were probably on their way home from work. After the first few miles the new road that was being built was nearly complete, but not yet open to traffic. Today, it was open for a bicycle though. It was only eight miles where I was able to ride on that road, but it was better than being in traffic at dusk with no lights.

By 6:15 cars put on their headlights. By 6:45 it was totally dark. There were no streetlights, so I did the best I could to use the headlights from the cars to help me out. The wind had calmed down when it got dark which was both a blessing and hindrance. I was able to ride faster, but I was not able to see the road. It happened many times, but at one point I ran over something particularly large and metallic. I was really hoping I didn’t end up with a flat. Changing a flat tire in the dark would not have been fun. I tried to make out dark or shiny patches in the road and steer around them. There were a few times though where I gave the handlebars a white-knuckle death grip, stood up on my pedals and hoped for the best. Well, that and I used “The Force".

I had made it to Victoria, Texas just after 7:30. I had been turning the cranks for 9 hours 12 minutes, which only got me 117 miles. Had I ridden for that many hours on the day I averaged 21.1 MPH I would have covered nearly 195 miles. I was fine with my progress though. While this trip is about seeing America, it is also very much about challenging myself. It took all I had to finish the day in Victoria and it is an accomplishment that no one can ever take from me.

No comments: