Charley’s ride across America 20. Life lessons, privilege, people


Day 38 mar 6.  60 miles 7:30 BIG hills, hot but oh so beautiful end in  Leakey

Day 39 March 7. 22 miles, one BIG hill, cool, easy end in Campwood 

Total miles 1635

Dear friends and family,

Today was only 22 miles over the last of the big hills. Yesterday was the hardest day yet, see the profile picture attached. Eight hours in the saddle in the hot sun, including about a half hour sharing advice with riders heading east. I got to use and reinforce some life lessons.

Last night I stayed at the Historic Leakey Inn, built in 1929 and wonderfully restored, with a bar and food service. When I checked in the clerk told me there were two other riders heading east and one heading my way, all staying at the hotel. I went to their little restaurant to eat and hopefully meet the other bikers.

 First I went to the food service window to order. Sure, a quesadilla would be great, but I’d like a salad too. I was informed that they don’t have salads in a Spanish/English way. I then asked if they had lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheese and olives, all in what I thought was Spanish. They informed me that, yes, they had all those. Then I asked if they could combine all those in a bowl for me. The young woman said she had to call the owner, which she did and then said cinco dollars for it. Yes, I thought maybe I’d get my salad. I felt like Jack Nicholson in five easy pieces ordering his breakfast.

Soon my dinner and a lovely salad were delivered and I sat next to two guys in their twenties wearing bike cleats and casual clothes. They were the ones heading east and we shared how tough the hills were in these parts. One was outspoken and kind of proudish of the distances they were putting in of about 100 miles per day. I let them know that 50 was a good day for me and I was wiped out from the 60 miles today of steep hills, three of which I had to walk up. Outgoing one asked “ hey, how, uh, old are you to be doing this”

I answered “ sixty- nine, and a tired sixty- nine today”

My answer gave both pause as they contemplated people they knew that age ( I surmised)

For some reason then the quieter one said “ I walked up the steep hills today too”, his confession that maybe they weren’t infallible either.

Soon I saw the outspoken one come back from the kitchen with a big salad in a bowl. I said “ hey, a salad just like mine” to which he replied “ Yeah, I wanted one so I told them make me what that old guy got”

Somehow I felt respect being called an old guy.

I’m so enjoying these small towns. Yesterday 1000 people, today only 500. Since I had a short day, I went out to breakfast at the only breakfast place in town. As I was checking out, the young waitress said “ I hope the sun comes out for your ride today” nodding outside towards the low clouds and mist.

“ Oh, not me, I love riding in this, lots cooler”

If I could read her mind she would wonder “ why is this guy in Texas, and I wonder where he’s from”

Not to be denied, she then said “ Well, maybe you can enjoy the sun after your ride”.

Before I headed on the road, I met Gregg, who said he needed a lay day so was staying put after his hardest day yet yesterday. He’s heading the same direction, so we exchanged some tips and contact info. He writes a blog about traveling with himself (the Wheelman) his bike (Lady Luck) and his pig heart valve (Pinto). They were not all sure that they would make it yesterday, so needed to convince each other.

Since I got into the Cowboy Motel in Campwood early today,I went across the street for a proper Mexican lunch. The outside lot was filled with Harleys and as I walked up the drivers were filing out. I waded into this crowd and told them that we should hang together since we are all two wheelers. They remarked they saw my screaming down the pass earlier and were surprised I was here already. They took my picture among their beast vehicles as they showed me humor and respect.

Inside, the waitress/owner came up to take my order. For some reason I saw Dr Pepper on the menu and thought after 30 years or so I wanted a nice cold one. The waitress took my food order and then said “You want a Dr Pepper, don’t you?” which drew my reply “How do you do that?” and she answered “ I’ve been doing this for almost forty years, so I just know”.

In eight hours on the bike there’s lots of time to think. If I hoped for less hills, I noticed it made no difference. In fact neither hope nor worry seemed to change my situation for the better. In fact, it used up vital energy when I was wondering if I had enough left to finish the ride. A clear indication of the Stoic idea of just dealing with what I can control, not what I can’t, and not putting energy there.

Marlene, my former rowing coach uses the phrase “ keep your head in the boat” which is similar in that if you row your best, you’ll come out just fine, without paying attention to others. 

John Wooden the famous basketball coach has his own version, which is to do your best at your job on the court and the score will be fine. I want to compare myself to these other riders, a lot younger or just somewhat younger, or to my expectations. Just keep your head on your bike.

Eric Hiscock, who with his wife Susan, sailed all over the globe in the sixties before it was popular talks in his books about planning. He mentions that the adventure usually is a result of bad planning, which is why they did so much successful sailing with so little drama.

I’ve adopted a strategy I’ve learned from sailing that accidents have a lineage, in that there is usually a series of three things to happen before a calamity. On a boat it might be forgetting to check your rig ahead of a passage. On the basketball court Wooden started every seasons first practice with how to tie your shoes properly to prevent ever tripping over your laces ( true story)

I think of that every morning when I ever so carefully tie my cleats for the day. I don’t want the laces wrapping around a pedal. First step of being careful.

Yesterday I was wondering about how well I planned my water supply for what turned out to be an eight hour day on the seat.

As I was filling my accessible bottle from my plastic oversupply bottle, I briefly juggled the plastic bottle knowing that if I dropped it and broke it, I could be in trouble. It was the last of the water with an hour and a half to go yet in 85 degrees.

It immediately reminded me of juggling a caribiner and potentially killing a legend.

In 1985 the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Boston Celtics in the Gund Arena. I was in charge of rigging and safety for the halftime show which would feature four climbers rappelling down climbing ropes from the ceiling of the Arena to the floor. So, way above even the scoreboard before the half, I was walking along the I-beams with ropes, slings, and caribiners to be ready for the rappelers. I would wrap a sling around the I-beam, then attach it with a couple of caribiners for safety. 

As I was attaching one of the caribiners, I briefly juggled it, caught it, then looked down the floor at what I might have hit had it gotten away. I noticed the blonde head of a player soon to be known as Larry Legend, directly below in the thick of the game. I tried to stop my imagination from wondering what would have happened had I bonked him in the head from this height. Maybe Larry “less than Legend” and I????

I feel so privileged to be able to spend so much time thinking, enjoying these gorgeous Texas views ( see pictures) and even testing myself in such a simple way.

 I’m enjoying the process immensely.

Thanks for comments,

Sending love,


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