“Texas-Size It!” - I Am the Weakest Link - CycleBlaze

May 30, 2016 to May 31, 2016

“Texas-Size It!”

Day Zero: Road Trip to New Mexico

We left on May 30th for the remote border crossing of Antelope Wells, New Mexico, which is the start of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. (For most riders, it’s the end of the route, but we’re doing it the “wrong way”, South-to-North.)

My college-age cousin Nathan was riding down with us. He had agreed to drop us and our bikes off at Antelope Wells and then drive our car back.

The first day of driving was long and kind of boring. It was about 700 miles from where we live in the St. Louis area to the first Texas town, Shamrock (population 2,029.) To get there we had to drive across Oklahoma, which was a long, uninspiring slog. It was my first time in the state, and the only opinion I formed about Oklahoma is that it has very, very below-average interstate rest areas.

When we arrived in Shamrock we selected one of the several old, cheap motels in town (Shamrock supposedly has 500 rooms!), and I proceeded to subject Joy and Nathan to my usual lengthy cheap-motel negotiating process, which involves haggling with the owner, inspecting multiple rooms, etc. etc.

I believe Nathan, who had probably never stayed in such a place, was amused by all this, while Joy, who has witnessed it many times, was slightly more patient than usual, probably because it was the end of a day riding in an air-conditioned car, and wasn’t occurring after a long, hot day of bicycle riding.

I was outvoted on the choice of dinner, so it was Taco Bell, a place I had never tried, to Joy’s and Nathan’s amazement. I had heard that Taco Bell’s food contains sawdust, but my quesadillas were acceptable.

Afterward we went to Dairy Queen, but it was an odd, Texas-specific DQ, with unusual menu items. Signs on the wall encouraged us to “Texas-Size It!”, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter that. Maybe I’ll try saying it in New Mexico and see what happens.

After dinner we walked around town and I took some photos. Shamrock is on historic Route 66, and we checked out a beautifully restored service station and some other old stuff.

Sadly, Big Vern’s was closed on the day we were there, and I was forced by my traveling companions to have dinner at a Taco Bell located in a gas station.
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I didn’t expect to see Tesla charging stations in a small, rural Texas town. These were outside the old, immaculately restored U-Drop Inn.
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The next morning we were up early. Joy hadn’t slept well in our room, with its ultra-loud, wall-mounted air conditioner, and strongly expressed her preference for a Hampton Inn or something of similar quality for this evening. I said “OK.”

My traveling companions voted for McDonald’s for breakfast. Afterward, Nathan, who hasn’t traveled with me since he was about two years old, seemed amused when I brushed my teeth in the McDonald’s parking lot. Hey, doesn’t everybody do that?

Today’s pace was more relaxed, and we made an early stop in another small Route 66 town, McLean. Signs along the road had promised either the largest ball of barbed wire in the world, or the largest museum in the world devoted to barbed wire. We discovered it was the latter.

The main attraction in McLean: The largest museum IN THE WORLD devoted to barbed wire.
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McLean
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Later, on the outskirts of Amarillo, we stopped at another iconic Route 66 attraction: Cadillac Ranch.

Cadillac Ranch, as seen from the road. It’s ten old Cadillac cars buried in the ground, not an actual ranch.
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Cadillac Ranch initially appeared unimpressive, but Joy was able to muster some appropriate enthusiasm.
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Me, at the world-famous Cadillac Ranch.
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I’m still interested in the cars, long after Nathan has turned his attention to his smart phone.
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Joy had heard about an Indian restaurant improbably located inside a truck stop off an otherwise empty interstate exit in the middle of nowhere. Obviously we were not going pass up an opportunity to eat at such a place. Service was eccentric (despite the very large “BUFFET”, visible from the freeway, there was in fact no buffet, and we had some difficulty communicating with guy taking our order), but the food was really good.

FYI, there’s not actually a buffet. Still, really good Indian food.
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After hours of not-especially-interesting interstate driving, we exited at Hatch, New Mexico (population 1,648). From there it was two-lane roads to Deming, where we checked into the Hampton Inn I had promised Joy.

Chiles for sale in Hatch, New Mexico.
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Dairy Queen turned into a fireworks/chile store in Hatch. Not sure what the dinosaur signifies. Also, no hot dogs were actually available for purchase.
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Tomorrow Nathan would drive us to the smallest and least-used border crossing along the US-Mexican border, and we would starting riding our bicycles to Canada.

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Comment on this entry Comment 2
Ron GrumbyHey Jeff,
I stumbled across your journal on Medium today and, as I read I had a feeling that you and Joy were familiar. Then it occurred to me that I've seen your stuff in Cycleblaze and maybe CGOB.

Are you going to post the rest of your GDMBR journal on Cycleblaze? What I've read so far is great. Jen and I are in Colorado for a year or so to help with her mom so I'm looking for some routes to do this summer and was thinking about doing the Great Divide Route on Colorado.

Ron
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5 months ago
Jeff LeeHi Ron,

Yes, I've been trying intermittently to copy our Divide journal from Medium, where I originally created it during the tour, over to CycleBlaze. Unfortunately it's very cumbersome to copy the content from Medium. I haven't found a way to automate the process, and I've been busy with other things, so I've barely got any of it done. I'll leave it on Medium until I get it copied over here.

Joy and I were on CGoaB for several years, although Joy quit interacting with it long before I stopped. In fact, I quit (or rather, was "fired" from) CGoaB during our Divide tour in 2016. Virtually all our journals are here now.

The Great Divide route is extremely challenging - definitely the hardest thing I've attempted. We only did about half of it, the New Mexico and Colorado portions, before we decided to make our own route, and head to the North Shore of Lake Superior instead. That was mostly pavement and some gravel roads, and was much easier and more like a "normal" bike tour.

I don't want to scare you off the route - there's awesome scenery and a sense of isolation you won't get on other bike routes - but it was a little too much for me, and I missed eating pizza and ice cream in small towns at the end of each day. There's not much of that on the Divide, ha! It's more like backpacking.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do this summer,

Jeff
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5 months ago