Day 20: Stinnett to Texline TX: 109 miles with about 1800 feet of climbing
I had planned to spend tonight in Clayton New Mexico, but last night's stop in Stinnett and today's weather led me to stop about ten miles before Clayton. I only rode for 7:45 to get here, so I could have ridden on into Clayton, but I was quite tired and there was a line of thunderstorms that had fired up between here and there...
I rode out of Stinnett about 8:45 this morning. The temperature was nice - around 70 F - and there was only a gentle south wind. Highway 152 descends into a river valley and then climbs onto an escarpment in the first six miles west from Stinnett. One lane of the road was freshly paved - fortunately it was the lane going west - and there was very little traffic, so I rode in the lane and got off onto the bumpy shoulder when a vehicle approached. I measured about 400 feet of climbing in that 6 miles, so it wasn't a big deal, but it was nice to do the climbing in cool weather.
Once on top of the escarpment, the road was nearly flat for the next 25 miles to Dumas. I stopped about midway to rest and snack and I took a bunch of photos which I have combined into a 360 degree panorama. It really needs to be a lot bigger than is practical on the net, but it does give you some idea of just how flat and open this Texas Panhandle country can be. There is a sign in the panorama which is a historical marker for a trail to Dodge City KS where I used to live. Folks out here used that trail to get supplies. Speaking of supplies: there are no services between Stinnett and Dumas.
Notice the tilt? It is due to the wind
As I neared Dumas, the wind started picking up and my speed, which had been averaging nearly thirteen mph, started dropping. I ate lunch (first lunch as it turned out..) In a neat café near the courthouse in Dumas. When I left Dumas heading west on US 87, the wind was pretty strong from the south-southwest. The next 20 miles were pretty miserable. I spent them grinding into the wind on a flat road running through corn fields. Sort of like Iowa and quite boring as well as hard work. The only noise, other than the considerable traffic (but I had a nice shoulder) was the noise generated by irrigation systems pumping water for those corn fields. The temperature was in the upper 80s and, by local standards, it was pretty humid. My average speed dropped to about 10.5 mph.
Near Hartley, 86 turns northwest and bicycling became much more pleasant. I stopped in Hartley to get some gatorade and had nice visit with a farmer. As I approached Hartley I notice the beginnings of a storm to the south and west. I asked him about it and he said it would track east and maybe a little north, but not be a problem for me. Riding out of Hartley towards Dalhart, I watch that storm spread to encompass almost the entire southern hemisphere of the sky. I had a great tail wind and was able to ride at speeds from 15 to 25 mph. The storm clouds blocked the sun and the temperature fell at least ten degrees so riding was also much more comfortable.
Storm near Hartley
US 86 has a nice smooth shoulder to Dalhart so that 12 miles was not only fast but also quite comfortable riding. I stopped for a second lunch since I knew I'd be riding for several hours without any services. It is 36 miles from Dalhart to Texline, and 86 is a four lane highway with good, but bumpy, shoulders running through mostly sagebrush covered land paralleling the railroad track. It reminded me of the Highline in northern Montana.
I was able to keep my speed in the upper teens for almost all the ride to Texline. I stopped at about the midpoint for a snack under a group of trees alongside the road. There are very few trees along this road and very little shelter of any kind. As I neared Texline, a storm developed to the south and west and spread north and east. For the last ten miles or so, I watched lightening behind Texline. Even if I hadn't been quite tired from seven and a half hours of pretty hard riding, I would have stopped here because of that storm. It would not be fun to be caught out in the open by a storm out here. There is no shelter, not even a ditch along side the road. The only motel in Texline cost me $25 for the night - about par for small town motels out here. Unfortunately its phone system won't work with my modem. Also unfortunately, but I'm not sure how badly this will affect me, the video connection on my laptop seems to have suffered from the bumpy, tar stripped, shoulders I rode for the last several hours. Maybe I can fix it or find a work around.