Reporting on: Monday, May 25, 2009 (Memorial Day)
Riding Route: Las Vegas NM to Tucumcari, NM
Temperature: 48-87 degrees/ Winds: Headwinds @ 10mph
Elevation Climb: 4200 feet
Miles Ridden Today: 109
Today was both a good day & a tough day! Let me tell you the good part first. It was a perfect day for cycling! I think this is how I imagined riding across this great country of ours would be: great scenery, mountains that were snow capped, cattle in the fields beside us, huge gates into ranch entrances, a two lane road with barely any traffic! Sounds idillic, huh? It was! However, it was a l-o-n-g 109 miles with more up and down than any of us had anticipated. Our day ended at about the 4000 foot elevation mark - which is 2500 feet lower than yesterday. I rode most of the day by myself. I like the peace and quiet and the time to reflect.
Right after our first SAG stop (mile 27) we encountered a huge downhill run (picture above). I opted to take an 8 mile "bump" in the van. It turned out to be wisdom at it's best! (Yes, with age comes wisdom)! It was an 8% downhill grade with switchbacks, guard rails and cattle guards. I told you I didn't like going downhill! Champ topped out at 42 mph - and our hotshot rider, Peter, who loves the downhills hit a top speed of 52 mph. Heck, I'd still be on the road if I had decided to ride it!
At mile 66 we had the hardest "short climb" of the trip. (The climbing up doesn't bother me)! All cyclists call it "the wall". It's less than a mile of 9% grade - straight up hill! The temperature had risen to 86 degrees - and the arm coolers felt good! We reached our first 1000 mile distance today - as you can see in the picture above. Hurray! At mile 80 I was ready to be at the hotel. I was tired, my back and neck were stiff - and I can tell you that I don't think my butt will ever get use to sitting in the saddle that long. All of us were tired when we hit the hotel about 4:15.
Now to the tough part of my story. Yesterday as we were leaving the hotel in Santa Fe we saw an EMT truck pull into the hotel parking lot. No one thought much of it until last evening when we learned that one of our riders, Charlie Semprebon (age 66) from Vermont, had passed away in his sleep on Saturday night. I can't tell you how it affected all of us. Charlie was a great guy - and a real team member. Tracy and the team put together a tribute to Charlie: This morning all of us rode five miles out of town where we gathered. Then we did a two mile ride, single file - with a van in the front - and a van in the rear. We left an open spot for Charlie. It was emotional and overwhelming as we rode in silence - each saying a prayer in our own way. I can tell you it's mighty hard to ride with tears streaming down your face. A very poignant thing happened as we began our ride. A group of wild mustangs joined us - running along the fence...and they stayed with us for almost the entire two miles. We figured Charlies spirit was in there among them. Bless you Charlie.
Tonight we're in Tucumcari. The town's claim to fame is that many of the scenes from the TV show "Rawhide" (1959 to 1966) starring one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood, were shot in this area. Yep, Clint is now 79 years young. He should be on this trip with us!