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May 30

June 2, 2019

The 59 miles from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari started out beautifully. The weather was sunny, but not too hot. The Wind Advisory had finally expired and the south wind, though still brisk, wasn’t too big of a factor since we had turned east. Some dark clouds were building behind us, but I wasn’t worried… the afternoon forecast for Santa Rosa called for “a possible stray thunderstorm” and Tucumcari had no rain in the forecast. The further I pedaled from Santa Rosa, I reasoned, the less likely I was to encounter rain.

Jax and I stopped to play, eat and drink at a really nice rest area that was “closed,” so we had it all to ourselves. I fell asleep on a picnic bench for 15-20 minutes, while Jax stood watch. When I awoke, it was a little cooler and the wind had shifted to the southwest. “Awesome –  a tailwind – almost! Let’s roll, boy.”

On I-40 from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari

So we rolled on, and now we were really moving (relative to our normal crawl). An hour went by and a passing cloud cast a shadow on us. I welcomed the coolness. Another half hour brought another shadow, only this one didn’t pass. We were going up a long, gradual hill when the first raindrop hit my arm. Then all its brothers and sisters joined the party so quickly I didn’t have time to stop and get out my rain jacket or the battered tarp I use to seal off the mesh panels in Jax’s trailer. I just kept pedaling, trying to get to the shelter of an underpass about a half mile up the hill. A little thunder and lightning helped me pedal faster. When we got there, we were both soaked, but the rain was slowing. I guessed that we’d been caught by that “possible stray thunderstorm.” The rain slowed to a trickle, so we set out again and soon reached the long downhill stretch that would take us to Tucumcari. 

The slope was gentle, but with very little pedaling we cruised at a steady 27-29 mph., roughly 3X our average speed! Every once in awhile, a huge raindrop or two would hit me, lightning would flash from behind and I’d hear almost simultaneous thunder. It dawned on me that a storm was pushing us ahead of it and that if I slowed down, or it sped up, this easy cruise would be over. So I pedaled a little harder and hoped it would slow down or change direction. It did neither and with four miles to go, I had to exit and turn northeast onto Old Route 66. The second I turned, the wind that had been pushing us forward hit us broadside and the sheets of rain that must have been juuust behind us for miles caught up with us. And then came the hail — little marbles that stung when they hit. Rain was falling faster than it could drain off the road, so we were rolling through water about 3 inches deep. And lightning… ground strikes (boom! Boom!! BOOM!!!) all over the place. 

All I could do was pedal and think electrically-non-conductive thoughts. After a mile of this, I saw a dark shape that turned out to be an abandoned Shell station, rolled through its cratered, flooded parking lot and took shelter under its awning, next to graffiti-covered pumps. Route 66. “The Mother Road.” “America’s Main Street.” Despite its romantic image, what I saw right then had a very post-apocalyptic vibe. I kept an eye out for zombie gas station attendants. 

No zombies showed and when the storm weakened, we left the station and covered the last three miles with ease. Our destination was the Palomino Motel, which may have seen better days, but which is run by a very nice woman. She waived their customary pet fee and gave us an extra large room so I could wheel in my soggy bike, trailer, dog and self, turn on the heat and ceiling fan, and begin the drying-out process.

The next morning, we stopped at a store to get dog food. That’s where we met Aki from Japan, who is bicycling solo from Boston to L.A. Talking to Aki was like playing charades, but I learned he, too, had been caught out in yesterday’s storm. I don’t think he was able to make it into town, though — I gathered that he stopped at a farmhouse and they took him in for the night. “Home help. Home help.” I’m proud of whoever opened their door for Aki.

The rig, wet but undefeated.
You a’ight, John?
Our storm moved on, but others came during the night.
Jax and Aki. “Home help. Home help.”
Storms are stressful, but they’re nothing compared to what many of our service men and women go through. And don’t forget the dogs with so much to give that are locked in cages. You can help! Please tap or click the image or this link to donate.
Here’s an interactive map showing our progress so far. Sometimes the paw prints aren’t on the red line. That means we decided not to follow the planned route at that point. Don’t forget, you can also keep track of us by clicking “Our Route and Progress” in the top menu.

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2 Comments
  1. Catherina permalink

    Keep it going John! I believe in you! Did my 50 Miler yesterday. Made the mistake thinking I should check on my fellow rider. And wanted to cheer her on….I unclipped the right then was going to on the left which pulled me down with my bike on top of me with a big dodge truck barreling towards me coming up the hill. I did e everything I could to get out of its way. Put a pretty good sized whole in my left knee.and a huge black bruise on my left hip. But feeling good
    Glad you both ok
    Good luck. Hang In there! God Speed!

    Liked by 1 person

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