Above: Trees near the sidewalk leading to the library in Graham, Texas.
My Determination To Ride
Jennifer, my faithful researcher, warned the day before that
a significant cold and windy front was coming through central Texas.
Now Jennifer did a great job throughout being a dutiful information giver and a reliable assistant, but I must confess
I dismissed her input as unnecessary worry. I resolved I would go and be just fine.
That morning, I checked out of the motel and noticed unusually chilly winds.
"You're going biking today?" asked the motelkeeper. I kindly shrugged
her off nonchalantly, as I was used to non-bicyclists expressing their
bewilderment at my routine to bike in chilly early morning weather.
Ma'am, Of course I am riding!
Interacting with locals sometimes got under my skin, and this morning I had quite an attitude and
did not care what non-bicyclists thought. The last time I checked,
I was the one who was actually bicycling across America, who was in amazing shape,
and was going through this daily riding routine. All these people are sissies,
and all my chicken little friends who lavished me with their worries on the Internet were sissies.
I would also not be entrapped by anyone's hype about cold weather,
especially from local people who, by their very presentation of themselves, it was obvious they had no interest in exercise.
Who is anyone who has never even rode a bicycle 30+ miles
in a day in their lives to give me advice about bicycling and weather conditions?
I was all worked up inside!
Yes, I was quite determined to ride today. :)
The Cold And Strong Northerly Winds
I began riding, traveling north into downtown Graham. Yikes, it was
cold, as in really cold ... as in pretty
darn cold bordering on an average winter day in Colorado.
The windchill from the strong head winds made it feel even harsher.
"Oh my, this is probably not a good idea." I thought.
I sat inside a convenience store near the edge of town and called Jennifer to inquire about the weather.
Today's high was projected to be in the low 50's, which is not all too bad, but that morning it was
just 28 and don't forget those 25 miles per hour northerly winds that will be whipping against my side!
I was legitimately concerned.
I stood outside with my bike near the store entrance and as usual, I elicited various responses from locals.
Most were wearing winter gear and looked at me as if I was crazy to even be out
with the bike, let alone ride 66 miles to Decatur. Good heavens, doesn't anyone ride a bike or exercise out here?
The conditions did not look good. I decided to wait and see, and to
spend an hour or two in downtown Graham. Maybe, if the conditions improved,
I would ride out on Highway 380, and I could lower expectations by stopping and staying in Jacksboro,
the nearest town with services 27 miles away.
The square in downtown Graham is much larger and busier compared to the squares of smaller
towns to the west in Haskell,
Brownfield. I spent time
walking along the sidewalks and photographing the town square including the
historic doorway to the old courthouse.
The winds, even with wearing all of my gear, was pretty brutal. I needed to get inside.
I spotted a restaurant serving breakfast where
I could lock the bike on the sidewalk and watch it from inside,
but they did not accept credit cards. Oh well! Next door, however,
was a health food store with a few places to sit in front.
I enjoyed some coffee, bought some snacks and sat on the circulation table in the back.
The owner, a very friendly and talkative native Graham resident, was very welcoming and encouraged
me to stay as long as I desired as I scouted the weather.
At 10:30 a.m., the weather conditions had not changed.
It warmed only into the 30's, but remained fairly cold with those strong northerly winds.
The U.S. and Texas flags above the courthouse were whipping strongly to the south.
Sigh, if that wind was coming from the west, I probably would have gone for it, but
I ruefully accepted the fact that I needed to stay put in Graham this day. I was not happy.
"Just remember, you're halfway there." Jennifer encouraged me on the phone.
Oh ... and I admitted she was correct about the weather. Grrrrrrrr! :p)
Bored and Stir Crazy
This was a hard day. A lonely day. A boring day.
I wrote the following on my myspace blog:
When I'm not bicycling, I find myself doing one of three things, which uh, I'm getting a little tired of:
1) Resting in a motel room.
2) Walking around town and feeling like a homeless person.
3) Eating out somewhere and eating big! (I need to pack the calories on this trip.)
I did not do much on this day in Graham. Let's see, I visited the town library (photo above)
and caught up with Internet communications, ate lunch at a taco place and watched TV in my motel room.
I was very down. I never quite learned how to be content
on these off days where I knew no one, hardly interacted with anyone and had nothing to do
... besides eat. Forced rest days due to
the weather were helpful to my body, but mentally, it was really hard to sit around.
Seeking dinner as the sun came down, I walked inside a seemingly popular restaurant
to look at the menu, and got really bad vibes from the manager behind the counter.
(For now, I will spare the details but I will probably elaborate in the book version.)
Maybe my kick-ass long hair was too much in this conservative Texas town
or perhaps it was my cycling attire that made me look different. Whatever it was,
I walked out of there as quick as I could.
No worries though, because there was a Dairy Queen just down the road!
As I waited for my food, I spoke on my cell phone with Jason, a fellow therapist whom I
once trained to take over my job five years ago. While in
Jason left me this ordinary yet amusing voice mail:
"Steve, I have two pieces of advice for you: Pedal hard and keep riding east."
Thanks Jason. What would I have done without your great advice? ;)
"I look forward to hearing what you learned about yourself on this trip." Jason said,
sounding like the reflective shrink that he is.
Um okay. That was a nice thought for sure. Nothing came to mind though.
I was just doing my thing - riding 4-6 hours per day, town after town, day after day, motel after cheap motel.
No bright lights or "burning bushes" of insight about myself* had been revealed to me on the roadsides.
(Minus, of course, a short encounter I believe I had with God
I told Jason about my frustration over today and my routine with motels, eating out and overall boredom.
"Steve, you'll never be able to do this again in my life, so I might as well take my time and enjoy it."
he said, "... and there will be a day that you miss cheap motels and eating out."
"Fair enough. But I would like to see you ride day after day, week after week, doing this." I replied,
"I am not saying your input isn't good, but I'd like to see what your thoughts would be if you were in my shoes."
Jason had no answer to that. :) I was probably a little stern in my response,
but Jason knows me well. We once ran, for our lives,
down the side of Mt. Yale (alt. 14,197 feet) in Colorado, when a sudden snow, rain and
thunderstorm came in fast while we were completely exposed above treeline.
My buddy did help me identify one thing that arose in my consciousness today: I was
beginning to think about my desire to finish the trip.
Yes, I was enjoying myself on many levels and having a deeply memorable and meaningful
life experience, but the honeymoon was quite over. Especially after today.