Day 17, 4/11: Vega, TX to Amarillo, TX (34.2 miles)
Day 17 was our shortest day yet but also one of our toughest days because of the weather. The morning started off really great with us giving presentations to students at Vega elementary, middle, and high school. Half of us talked to 3rd-6th graders about bike safety and nutrition/MyPlate while the other half talked to 7th-10th graders about healthy sleep habits and mental health. We talked to each grade individually and had a ton of fun! We also opened up the floor to questions at the end of each presentation and the students asked some of the best questions we’ve received to date, mostly about the ride in general. It was hilarious how each class had very similar questions, especially about falling while clipped in to our pedals lol.
The forecast for the day looked bleak with wind and rain, and by the time we finished our presentations, it was around 10am. It was the first time we’d encountered rain on this trip actually. We prepared ourselves with rain gear and as we headed out from the school, all of the classes we had just talked to lined up outside and cheered us on with chants (“We! Are! Proud of you! We are proud of you!”). It was super inspiring and we felt like we couldn’t let them down as we pedaled on.
Shortly after we left, it started raining and with the cold 30-40 degree weather, it felt almost like ice rain/snow. What made the rain worse were the 20mph crosswinds. We were in groups of 4 and pedaled on almost blindly as our glasses kept getting blurry from the raindrops. Our first/only rest stop was around 18 miles, which couldn’t come soon enough. Crew had hot chocolate waiting at the rest stop and a few people decided to rack their bikes (aka not ride anymore and put their bikes in the truck) because of the cold/rain and some mechanical issues such as flats. The rest pedaled on and the rain lightened up a bit. Everyone reached the Hillside Church where we were staying somewhere around 2pm – what was supposed to be an easy short day actually turned into a pretty long day.
Hillside Church was beautiful and for lunch, crew got pizza donations from La Bella Pizza! A bunch of people crashed/napped and we did a load of very wet laundry. Kyle whipped out his games and taught a bunch of people how to play Exploding Kittens and BANG, which was super fun. Crew also got tons of awesome donations, including pulled pork+sides, BBQ pork sliders, chips, brownies, and even banana custard!
Day 18, 4/12: Amarillo, TX to Shamrock, TX (104.9 miles)
Day 18 was our third century ride, and a windy one at that! We left early in the morning since it was going to be such a long day and quickly formed pelotons as the winds picked up. The second 20 miles was definitely the windiest segment, with 20+ mph headwinds that slowed down our pace significantly. The route was mainly along Route 66 and frontage roads, although we did have to ride along the interstate for 10 miles or so. We also ran into more mechanical issues with derailer hangers breaking. Robert got a few more flat tires and finally figured out what was causing his back-to-back flats – a very minuscule sliver of car wire was trapped on the inside of his tire, and you couldn’t see it without a magnifying glass! So, we started a running countdown of days since Robert’s last flat on the whiteboard lol.
Thankfully, the winds died down a bit after lunch but then the landscape changed into rolling hills. At the top of each hill, you could see the next hill in the distance, which was pretty tiring just to look at lol. Finally, around 4-5pm we arrived at the First United Methodist Church where we were staying that night. The pastor and his wife were so friendly and welcoming, and even let us take showers in their home next door since the church itself didn’t have any. They also cooked us an amazing spread of some classic Southern food, including baked chicken, meatballs, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cornbread, corn casserole, and the best mac n’cheese I’ve ever had. Their desserts were also fantastic and included chocolate cake, strawberry cobbler, brownies, cupcakes, and unbelievable oatmeal coconut pecan cookies. They even gave us leftovers, which fed us for days (especially the desserts!). After dinner, we called it an early night and passed out in bed.