Day 19: Wheeler to Stinnett TX 85 miles with 2300 feet of climbing
This 85 mile day thing is getting repetitive! However today was a very different ride relative to yesterday. For one thing my average speed was 12.7 mph instead of about 10.5 mph. For another there was no bad weather - unless you count really hot weather as bad - and I wasn't exhausted when I quit for the day. I was sun blasted to the extent that my toes are sunburned a bit as is my face and I just didn't feel like exposing my self to another several hours of bright sun on this hot, 95 F, day.
Stinnett, famous the world over as Jim Foreman's home town, has a very nice motel and, unlike last night in Wheeler, I am able to use the phone system with my modem. I had decided that, if I couldn't use my modem, I would douse myself with some more sun block and ride on the 30 miles to Dumas. I really wasn't looking forward to that ride on this hot, hot, evening, but I could have done it. Now I get to climb out of Stinnett in the relative cool of morning and attempt a 115 mile day tomorrow - which will be even hotter than today, instead of having done one today. I'll be fresher and I'll try to get off earlier tomorrow than I did today. I should be able to do a good average speed since the winds should be as favorable tomorrow as they were today.
A farm on the plains
I started today with a good breakfast at Mel's Diner in Wheeler and ended it with a large milkshake at the Dairy Queen in Stinnett. I left Wheeler about 9:15 heading west and slightly north towards Pampa. It is about 42 miles from Wheeler to Pampa and there are no services. There is a good shoulder all the way on TX 152 and there is a picnic area about a dozen miles into the ride. The picnic area is important because it is the only shade I found on my route today! It was also a historical spot "Fort E??? was established here in 1875 to get rid of the Indians in the area." Refreshing honesty and I did enjoy the shade. I also saw a lot of cattle and quite a few large feedlots, most of which were north of 152 which minimized their smell. I stopped twice along the way to eat a snack and rest a bit.
The usual view, with a tree!
This part of Texas is not flat, although it does have long flat stretches. Riding from Wheeler past Mobeetie was pretty hilly, then 152 climbs an escarpment near Laketon and the land is pretty flat - it definitely feels like the high plains - till 152 heads north west about ten miles past Pampa. Pampa is pretty much what I pictured a Texas panhandle town to be. Flat and not too great to look at. Borger, on the other hand, is quite nicely situated on a ridge that is several hundred feet higher than the valleys east and north of it. Those are big towns, pushing 20,00 folks. Stinnett is about a tenth that size and just about as flat as Pampa. Borger and Stinnett do have the advantage of having some pretty country (i.e. hills) nearby, but, at least based on first impressions, I'd rather be in Wheeler or western Oklahoma.
Pump Jack with Cattle north of Dumas
Texas has excellent roads and some of the nicest folk I've met. It also has a big sky and wide open spaces which I like, but it isn't for the faint of heart or weak of leg bicyclist, since those spaces mean long windy stretches where there is little to see other than the sky and the plains and nothing to do except crank out the miles in the wind. Speaking of which, after eating a late lunch in Pampa, I headed west again on 152. Boy was it flat! And boy were there a lot of pump jacks from Pampa west for about ten miles. Lots of oil out here, also lots of cattle, and a good bit of dry land wheat and several large oil and gas plants.
Once the land gets hilly again, at that escarpment ten miles west of Pampa, there are fewer of all of the above, but the oil industry is still obvious in its presence. Near Borger, there are huge oil and gas installations which I assume are a big part of the economic base for this region. Other than occasional petroleum odors, they don't interfere much with touring. Ditto for the cattle, although I did scare quite a few of 'em today. Once one cow headed away from me, their herd instict would take over and I'd get watch a hundred cattle rumps running for safety. I don't think they see a lot of loaded bicyclists! The, very nice, woman who runs this motel said that they had had one other bicyclist tourist stay here.
This lady was also very concerned for my health when I showed up at the office, insisting that I drink a glass of ice water before I passed out from riding in this heat. I was happy to oblige, but, unlike last night when the older man at the motel said 'You pretty much done in?' and I agreed, I really was just hot from riding the hills between here and Borger. I was riding north with a ten mph tail wind. That sounds good until you factor in the 95 F temperature and the 500 feet or so of vertical in the ten mile south of here, the intense sun and the complete lack of shade. It was damn hot cranking up those hills at 8 mph or so. It was nice going down the other side at 35 mph, but, overall, that stretch was the hottest I've been since Louisiana.
Texas in July is hot riding - no surprise there. I can handle the heat, but I need to do a better job of protecting myself from the sun. Only my face (under the brim of my hat and in front of my ear and neck protecting handkerchief) and my toes and the parts of the top of my feet not covered by my sandals (note - this is sun burn through my liner socks) need sun block. Everything else is covered by clothing that stop enough sun to protect my easily tanned skin.