The last weekend in August marks the annual Hotter'N Hell Hundred bike ride in Wichita Falls, TX. I've been attending this event for a number of years now and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience each time. It's one of the largest organized bike events in the country, drawing roughly 14,000 cyclists to the northwest corner of Texas. If you're into cycling, it's an event not to be missed!
The first stop is the expo for packet pick up.
The expo has all kinds of vendors from around the country....offering excellent cycling goodies! It can be easy to get carried away. I did pretty good.
My hotel for the evening. The weather was great and I slept quite well! I typically use the 'indoor-camping' option that is available at the downtown YMCA, but there were a few logistical hiccups this year, so I opted to sleep at the convention center in my truck. Normally it would be SO hot at night, but this year's weather was optimal.
Home Sweet Tacoma!
It's always fun to sleep in the truck. I've definitely spent quite a few nights back here.
The ride kicks off at 7:05am on Saturday morning. Thousands of cyclists fill Scott Street, waiting to tour the Texas countryside.
It was a nice opportunity to debut my new black sleeveless jersey. I'm quite happy with the purchase!
Wichita Falls is home to Sheppard Air Force Base, and they do a fly-over at the conclusion of the national anthem. The unusually cool and cloudy morning provided a great backdrop for the jets.
Rolling through the start line.
There are a lot of folks that come out to watch the cyclists!
Bikes as far as the eye can see.
Bicycle tours of this manner typically have rest stops every 10-15 miles. They're great for filling up on water and powerade. Even better....this particular ride always has EXCELLENT snacks! Lots of bananas and oranges! Even better....are the cookies. I try to keep my focus here.
Electra had big cookies.
Texas...in August. Notice the cloud cover? The weather was unprecedented this year! Typically we are out on the asphalt...baking. I didn't even put on my sunglasses until after 10:00am.
When you ride a bike long enough...the food combos become more interesting. This was blue powerade...and a pickle spear. Mmmm....
The pee line is a great photo opportunity.
Also, they guy who is only wearing one sandal....yea, his left one was stuck to his pedal.
We were still enjoying the cloud cover, but it was finally starting to break.
These make the bike go.
The infamous Margaritaville rest-stop. This one is staffed by sororities from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. No one ever seems to mind that fact very much. Plus...they have cookies.
What they ALSO have....unbeknownst to many folks...is leftover breakfast burrito supplies from the morning. You just have to know where to look. Tortilla, potatoes, cheese, and salsa hit the spot and served as a 'normal-ish' lunch for me, instead of shot blocks, GU....and, of course....cookies.
Rolling through Burkburnett, TX. This stretch through town is downhill and smoooooooth! One of my favorite sections of the ride each year.
Pyro Pete guards Hell's Gate at mile 60. This is where the time frame must be met in order to continue on the hundred mile route. Riders also have the option to voluntarily take the cut-off, which routes you back through Sheppard Air Force Base (a real treat), and makes the ride approximately 75-80 miles, depending on the year. Since I hadn't been riding much at the end of the summer, and wanted to go through the base, I took this option and was glad to do so. I've ridding the full hundred several times (including the past two years) and though it is fun and challenging, once I've hit about 75 miles or so....the rest just becomes a task. I also met up with a friend and fellow cyclist from my hometown of Ada, Jeff McAlister, and his plan was the same...so we teamed up and rode the last stretch together, enjoying conversation and general cycling banter!
Found another rest stop...found another cookie!
This rest stop on the Interstate 44 service road always has the old-school style of snow-cones. Remember how good these were when we were kids?!? They're just the same now...except you're old enough to realize how disappointing they actually are. BUT....they're cold, so task complete!
Entering the gates at Sheppard Air Force Base. Jeff is on the left side.
The route goes out between some of the jets and planes.
You can stop and take pictures with the pilots. I always want the Top Gun theme to be playing here, but it doesn't. Maybe I'll start singing it next year.
The Airmen line the road as you travel through the base. This is always a neat experience because they cheer as if you've won the Tour de France.
Riding through the flags on the way out of Sheppard.
The finish line crowd!
Jeff and I hanging out after the ride. I was fortunate to have run into you this year! It was fun to ride together my friend.
A cool, artistic, and space-conscious bike rack outside the convention center.
All showered up and ready for the drive back to OKC....recovery chocolate milk in hand!
If you're a cyclist and haven't ridden Hotter 'N Hell...you're really missing out. Plan your trip for next August and join the celebration!
Thanks for reading - stay tuned for another Appalachian Trail blog, as well as a report on my recent trip to Colorado.
It's supposed to cool down some this week, so get outside!
Welcome back to the Appalachian Trail portion of the blog. If you're still catching up, click here to jump to the first entry....or...hopefully....you're a regular...and all up to snuff on my blundering through the forest.
I last left off at the Antlers Campsite on Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
The UFO in the shot below....
....yep....mosquito. No surprise whatsoever.
There were quite a few blowdowns in this area of the trail. I'm glad I wasn't around for the storm that took down so many trees.
Side-Story: I was in a particularly wicked storm in the Smoky Mountains in 2002. My buddy Bryan had come out to hike with me and we endured a gnarly storm overnight that took down some hefty trees. I've been through countless storms in tents, on trails, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. and have a few that really stand out. That was one. I'll never forget the crack of splintering trees, the pitch black interrupted by frequent flashes, and the wind that took down giants around our tent. I clearly remember thinking 'I guess this is how it ends...gooshed in a yellow tent.' That was at Birches Campsite just north of Fontana Dam. Thankfully the trees fell around us...and nothing more.
Motoring on towards Abol Bridge.
Just a muddy logging road.
I wasn't able to make it over to White House Landing due to necessary mile busting, but it is supposedly a neat experience! You go out to the edge of the lake and they come across in a boat, pick you up, and take you to a whimsical land full of the above-mentioned food. Hikers can be won over with food veeerrrryyyy easily.
"Thank goodness for this log!" - my feet
My mom loves flower photos. I'm down as well.
So happy to have the bugs all around!!
The next portion of the trail was one of my favorites this year! Nahmakanta Lake was absolutely stunning.
There was a great log on this gravel beach, so I sat on it and had a leisurely lunch, taking in the breeze from across the lake.
The trail left the beach for the woods, then followed the shoreline for a while before climbing up high onto the ridge.
I passed on the swim.
The trail actually went along the beach several different times. It provided a nice break from the trees and let the breeze do some more work.
Heading up towards Nesuntabunt Mountain. Nesuntatatatnanbububunntttt? I couldn't say it but definitely walked alone through the woods trying to....aloud.
Some views across the lake....towards Katahdin.
This moment tugged my heartstrings. Passing the gravel beach on the lake moved me onto another map. The final map.
After 17 years.
The last one.
I spent a bit of time here....absorbing everything....anything.
Later I passed this fun little pond....
....and found Wayne's boat.
Found his buddy's canoe too.
So much great water in Maine!
Camp was at Rainbow Stream Lean-To. Slept in the Taj Mahal as usual.
Rainbow Stream was aptly named; vibrant yet deep, great flow, well-timed. Just...gorgeous.
Across this log bridge and to the left was the best swimming hole in the Hundred. I peeled off the nasties and took full advantage of the deep frigid water. So refreshing....and necessary.
As a bonus...someone turned this old tree stump next to the shelter...into a tiki man. I thought he was awesome.
Thanks for reading.
Closing in on Mt. Katahdin! Stay tuned..
Rolling with the Homies
I work with awesome people.
Dilon, Alan, and Geoff are also motorcycle enthusiasts, all-around good dudes, and tolerant of....me. We make a pretty good gang.
Last week, the four of us saddled up between morning and evening band rehearsals to blast around OKC on our motorcycles. We met up at 7-Eleven to fuel up before heading north to Pops, out on Historic Route 66.
Geoff was sitting on his bike....so I took a couple of shots. (And when did my eyes turn that color??)
Taking group selfies....with a helmet on....when it's sunny....is tricker than I thought.
The funny thing about Pops is that it is technically just a gas station...and cafe. What makes Pops so cool and unique...is everything else! They boast over 700 varieties of sodas from all over the world. I didn't stand and count, but I believe it. The restaurant is supposed to be scrumptious, though I've not eaten there myself. On any given weekend, the ample-sized parking lot is filled with classic cars, motorcycles of all variety, and good folks milling about...taking in the sights and checking out the rides. We happened to be there mid-day, and mid-week, on a hot day....so it was starkly quiet. Not a problem though. We all made our soda selections and sat outside to have some serious philosophical conversations about life.
No...actually we just sat and made fun of each other. That's all we ever do. Ever. Someone probably told a fart joke too. They did....I remember it specifically. This is our world.
Dilon and I analyzed the drink cooler....for a while.
Pops also has some cool architecture....
....and a sweet bottle.
Typically I grab a peach Nehi when I'm at Pops. My dad used to buy them for me when I was really little. We'd bounce around the oil field in his tank truck, him shifting through gears, and me holding tightly to my drink...trying to stay put in the passenger seat. Sometimes nostalgia...is a good thing.
On this particular day, I was dragging a bit, so I opted for a bit of caffeine. Nothing crazy....just a little bump.
Left to right (above):
BMW R1150R Rockster - Byron
Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster - Geoff
Yamaha V-Star 1300 - Dilon
Harley Davidson 883 Sportster - Alan
And a sweet booty shot below...
The crew. Me, Geoff, Alan, Dilon.
Geoff is the KING of Harley Davidson shirts. I will hear no opposing arguments. Thank you.
One of the greatest things about riding a motorcycle...is the motorcycle wave. It seems mundane. As motorcyclists pass one another, you'll notice a hang of the left hand, typically down low, as the machines zip in opposite directions.
It's universal. Cruisers wave to sport bikes, who wave to euros, who wave to choppers, who wave to tourers, who wave to classics, who wave to scooters, who wave to trikes.....and the list reciprocates.
We wave because there is an understanding of what life on two wheels entails: freedom, danger, heat, cold, rain, shine, fun, and most importantly....mutual respect. I've dropped the hand....clad in full touring gear....to a shirtless sport-bike rider more than once....and received the same in return. It's just about, "Hey...you're riding, I'm riding...we're both here....it's all good."
How cool would it be if we could give the motorcycle wave to all we encounter? Race, religion, gender, poverty, orientation, disability, opportunity?
Isn't life about freedom, danger, heat, cold, rain, shine, fun....and mutual respect?
Maybe we can all drop the left hand a little more often....