At this stage I was over halfway done along Route 66, and what a trip it’s been so far! If you’ve not read part two, click here for access!
This was the stage I was looking forward to most. The profile looks like someone literally drew a downward line from one side to the other. Around 230 miles of descending, granted there would be some lumps and the descent was actually only marginal, but, it would be an easier day. Or it should’ve been an easier day. The wind put an end to that.
It was the right choice to not ride through Amarillo the previous night. At 5am the roads were quiet, but, you could tell it would be slow when busy. We made it out of the city and off into the countryside, again, loosely following I-40 for the day. It was a gloomy day too, although I was sporting some extreme tan lines, mainly to the right side of my body (where the sun is most of the day), so I wasn’t too worried about that.
I had developed a system to keep my mind focused each day. I tried to never think about how far in total I had to go. More how long until my next stop, how long until my next bar, how long until the next state, and so on. On top of this I had downloaded many audio books to listen to. Today I was listening to Bear Grylls’ ‘Mud, Sweat and Tears’ a really motivating story about how he overcame adversity. Thanks for the ‘encouragement’, Bear.
Again, today there was very little to see here today other than towns struggling to survive. It was amusing to see the Tesla charge stations around here though. Given there was nowhere else to put them, they had to put them in a ghost town. But, if you’ve ever considered doing a road trip along Route 66 or wanted to ride certain segments, do it now, it’s very hard to see how the businesses will survive. I presume they are run by diehards who want to preserve the heritage. Unfortunately, much like the towns they hope to preserve, they are all on a shelf life themselves and I find it hard to believe there are too many people looking to spend their days running dead end businesses.
As we approached Oklahoma my spirits lifted. Every new state was one state closer to the finish. Again, with the headwind, we weren’t going to make much distance up today, but, another solid day in the saddle with 225 miles covered. More importantly, mind and body were holding strong. Of course, it’s a daily occurrence to have the “why am I doing this” thought. I usually deal with this by letting my ego take over, thinking about what people might say or think if I quit. Our egos can sometimes be incredibly damaging to our persona, but they can have their uses.
Another stage I was really looking forward to. This marked the turn from travelling mainly east to travelling north-east. This was a mental marker for me, almost like we were turning to head home, it was the last stretch.
Two big cities today, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, meant that in reality, we still might not bridge any of the distance we had lost, especially if those cities took time to get through. And, as we approach Oklahoma City my gear cable snapped. The bike had done well, but, I was glad that both my mind and body had made it further than the bike. Forgetting the two slow flats and one blow out I had on the tubeless wheels, the bike had survived a lot! For a few days pervious I had noticed my shifting was sloppy. I simply put it down to it being dirty. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case my ride was halted.
Once I got on the spare bike, Oklahoma City was great, a real pleasure and the support we had from people was incredible. People asking questions at lights, honking their horns. My mood was at an all-time high today. Chris took the Domane to be fixed, big thank you to Al’s Bikes for doing that so quickly and for the cost of the parts only. It was a revelation being back on my Madone though. I had ridden the Domane, setup mainly for comfort, for so long, that when I jumped on the other bike, in all its aerodynamic glory, it was a shock to be going so fast! I also had power back for the first time in a few stages and was pleased to see my effort was around my target power for each stage, 160 watts.
As we left the first major city of the day we were riding busy back roads. This was a first for us, usually we were on quiet back roads, but, now we were faced with having to manage traffic and not wanting to upset anyone. This was fine for a while, until the chase car got a flat. It’s hardly surprising, you spend all day every day riding the gutter, or the dirty shoulder of the interstate, and you will inevitably get one. Somewhere we had gotten three nails in the tyre. I’m just glad it was this far in and wasn’t repeated for the remainder of the event. This did mean that as soon as Chris brought my Domane back, he was off to fix the car. It also meant that I was now being chased by ‘The Meg’, the wide and 25’ long beast, which is less than suitable to chasing a slow bike rider on busy narrower roads.
As we approached the midway point in the day, I noticed a warm sensation in my right quad. Nothing like I had ever experienced before, I wasn’t too worried at first and just kept on riding. I figured that I would have some issues along this event, that was a given, and as there was nothing I could do right then, I’d wait until my evening massage to address the situation.
As the light started to fade we made it into Tulsa. Tulsa is an amazing city, very artsy and beautiful. I enjoyed none of it. My leg had gone from moderate burn to stabbing agony. I had no power through that side, not without more pain anyway, and now standing to relive pressure on my injured bum was also a problem.
Before I continue with Stage Eight, I wanted to mention the support crew, give thanks and explain how we came together as a group. For those who didn’t follow my training journey, I had originally arranged for the support team to be made up of family and friends. The friends I had invited had, long before, told me that due to either finances or new businesses, they couldn’t make it. While initially disappointed, I was respectful and understanding of their situation, at the end of the day it’s not a paid job to support me and they have lives to return to after.
This presented an excellent opportunity to recruit some other people. Firstly, I had Chris approach me. Chris is an amazing human being, one of the most thoughtful and compassionate people I have ever met. In fact, we had only met the one time before Route 66, at Tour de Big Bear. We then had Thomas, from Altitude Training Cycling Camps. Thomas came on board as he would be in the US preparing for his gravel tours. He was more than happy to run my social media (a great job he did too) and offer support with massages in the evening. Mathew also offered to support the last four stages (Chris would take the first five). Mathew, a client like Chris, I met the day before I had my first date with Noelle, my fiancé. Mathew is another kind and generous person who I’m delighted to have in my life. Get well soon, mate.
About two weeks before we were due to start Route 66, my father called me with some bad news. He had been diagnosed with cancer, again, and a more serious heart condition. He, and my mother, wouldn’t be unable to travel to support. This was devastating for me. I now faced the fact that I would be supported by people I had met no more than once. While I am completely grateful and appreciate the efforts of the team, you can’t replace people who have known you their whole lives. There is a bond that can only be built with time, something I look forward to building with the team, and that was a crucial part that was now missing.
This situation also left me with replacing two members of the team. First Chris stepped up and got unpaid time off work (thank you to Team Ford Lincoln). He would now be there from beginning to end. We then had Alan, who I mentioned I met at Haute Route Asheville, come into the fold. Luis, another client, also came forward. While no replacement for my parents, they provided me with amazing support throughout the trip. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but, I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for their help. Thanks guys!
In the whole event I can only remember having two issues, the first was being fed gluten, something I’m intolerant too and leaves me with an upset stomach and skin complaints. The second was a misunderstanding on this stage. Around 150 miles in I was asked how far I wanted to ride today. I was feeling good, this was prior to the leg issue, and said I wanted to make some distance up today. A question was asked to me about how far I wanted to ride, I responded with an answer that would gain us maybe 10 miles on the deficit. Unfortunately, as we left Tulsa, it become apparent that rather than 10 miles to go, we had 30. This was a real low moment for me, I knew I was in trouble with my leg and having an extra 20 miles to do was not good news. But, we pushed on.
Unfortunately, the situation didn’t get better and in the small town of Claymore, we turned off the main road and headed towards our stop. I was again very frustrated (an understatement!) to find we would need to ride 4 miles off route to get to camp. 4 miles might not seem like a lot, but, it really is a lot extra that you don’t need to be doing. I opted not to get in the car. Getting in any vehicle is prohibited unless it is to move past an impassable object, this I didn’t feel was characterised by that.
In my mind, when we finally rolled into camp and I could barely walk, this was the end.