Map of Texas

Show Me the Way to Amarillo

We arrived in Texas. British people are told a lot about Texas by the press. We are told about the people and the certain views they have regarding race, religion and even politics. Due to these headlines, I think we headed into Texas was a tinge of trepidation. As with many things on this adventure our perceptions were changed by what we saw and experienced. Texas is a state full of beauty, its vast plains stretch to the horizon and cattle move in swatches across the land – it is truly amazing to see. I remember thinking to myself that you could probably set off in almost any direct and I doubt that you would see another soul all day.

Map Of Texas Rivers

I was at the start of two days of back to back cycling and so I had 300 miles to cover. The pace was fast and my legs were pumping hard to keep my average speed up. Landscapes whizzed by in a blur, blending from one to the next. The roads were a patch work of smooth, bowling-green tarmac and rough, cobbled country lane. The main problem with this was that these changes in surface could happen either within a few feet or a few miles of each other. This made it very hard for me to find any rhythm.

Map Of Texas Hill Country

There wasn’t much to look at on the bike, the main view I had was the peak of my helmet or the droplet of sweat that accumulated on the tip of my nose. There was a scattering of houses every now and again, the occasional small outpost shop selling the very bare essentials but, aside from this, all you could see were fields – just fields.

Map Of Texas And New Mexico

Map of Texas Photo Gallery

We passed through a few different little towns; Erick, Sayre, Texola and Mclean. Mclean was my favourite – it was virtually abandoned but there was still a faint pulse resonating around the town. We pulled into Mclean towards the back end of the day. The majority of shops were closed and looked like they had been for a while, buildings were falling down or had already been pulled down and there was hardly anyone around.

Map Of Texas And Mexico

The town was built in 1909 by an English Rancher, who died in 1912 aboard the Titanic. As we headed towards the south side of the town we saw a woman parked in the middle of the road staring at one of the torn down buildings. She wound her window down and greeted us. After the normal pleasantries and the usual shock at why we happened to be stood in Mclean on this particular day at this particular town, she began to tell us all about the history of the town. She told us tales of the town with great passion but also great sadness. The building she was staring at was the old cinema, it had been demolished the day before we arrived in Mclean. She told us of the antique shop she used to run and how vibrant and busy the town used to be. As we parted company the woman turned to me and asked me what my favourite part of America had been so far. “That’s easy,” I said, a little smile coming to my face, “the people!”

Each time that I have undertaken a challenge it has always been the people that have helped me. It has been the kindness of strangers, it has been the beep of a horn or the cheer of passing people. America was no different – like any place it has its problems, where doesn’t? However, at its core America believes in its Dream, and to me, that’s all that matters.

The humidity of Oklahoma was left well behind. We were now pushing towards the desert and dry heat. The temperature had stuck at a steady 30 degrees for the majority of the day, the skies had been a clear blue with only the odd dab of white cloud.

We stopped in Amarillo that evening, and we probably sang the famous Tony Christie song about 40,000 times during that evening. The RV site was nice, large and flat with hundreds of other RVs rested up alongside ours. As tea cooked and we all set about our own little jobs on the RV the weather warning system went again. The clouds drew in and lightning cracked down in the distance lighting up the sky with every bolt. The air was different this time, to the storms earlier in the trip, this time the wind swirled as if a tornado was forming. Now, as much as I was excited to see a tornado I really was not keen on one appearing above our RV. As you can imagine, our nerves were a tiny bit frayed as the immense storm began to accumulate above us. The storm last two hours – but we survived.

The following day the sun broke through early, the clouds were gone and the sky was clear blue. However, the wind that so quickly whisked the storm up had stuck around, it was clearly not going to be pleasant on the bike. Pushing out that morning the wind channelled straight at me. It was backbreaking work keeping an average speed. It had been a while since the head wind had been this fierce and I was struggling. After an hour in the saddle, I pulled to the side of the road. I needed to speak with the team about a strategy, something we could do in order to get the mileage in. At my current pace, it would take about 17 hours to get the 150 miles done. The surface we were on was ok, a few potholes here and there but nothing that would throw me off the bike. We decided the best solution was for me to draft off of the RV If you don’t know what this is, this is what happens in the peloton during the Tour De France – it is why they always cycle in a big group. The RV provides protection from the wind resistance, it is scientifically proven and it worked! Behind the RV I conserved more energy and I was able to go a little faster with less effort. I powered along at a great pace (for a bike), the RV trundled along in front.

Just outside Amarillo is the Cadillac Ranch – a freakishly contemporary piece of art work where cars are buried half way into the Earth. Tourists are invited to go and spray-paint their names on to the old cars and have their photos taken. It was quite cool to see these cars just stuck in the middle of a cornfield, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why it’s done like this. It’s freaky but also somewhat beautiful.

It was whilst reflecting on this artwork that I became aware of one very embarrassing thing. I had left my sponge in. It looked like I had pooed a brick. I also realised that I had done this every time that I had gotten off of my bike since the sponge’s introduction. I now wonder what everyone thought when they saw me, most wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing. They would have seen a large, pasty individual who had dressed in Lycra and then seemingly soiled himself and was subsequently walking about in this state – I make quite an impression on my travels.

Kerry and I at the Cadillac Ranch, Magic Sponge on show. Amarillo, Route 66.

We moved into New Mexico at great pace, the heat pushing towards 32 degrees, baking me as I pedalled. It baffled my mind that I had just cycled through a time zone, surely that only happens when you go on holiday? All I could think about was what if you lived in one time zone and worked in another, that must be incredibly confusing.

New Mexico could be its own country – it was very different. The Earth there was scorched red from the baking sun and the rivers were a dirty, reddy-brown colour. Everything and everyone just looked too hot, even the cows. I, evidently, was no exception. New Mexico seemed almost lifeless, the desperation of towns we had seen all the way along continued into New Mexico. Ghost towns lay all along the old road, lifeless towns crying out for some sort of civilisation. It was so hot I stripped down to just my bib shorts in New Mexico. This picture is taken not far from our rest area at Tucumcari on Route 66.

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