Charley’s ride across America 21. Alien and horses


Day 41 March 9 63 miles. 6:30 Tailwind first half- fast, good shoulder, not bad. End in Comstock, TX.

Day 42 March 10. 28 miles, 2:45. cool. Long hills. End in Langtry Tx.

Total miles 1775

Dear friends and family,

Over with the spiky hills, but now have a long elevation gain over gentle rises.

With shedding weight and hills the riding goes faster. I sent 10 pounds of extra gear back and probably lost about fifteen pounds, so my load is about 25 pounds lighter. I am either feeling it or imagining that it is easier to move us forward.

Yesterday I was moving forward on a 63 mile day steadily on a fairly wide shoulder next to a two lane highway. Every fifteen minutes or so a semi would go roaring past at 75 mph, but I was safely distanced aside so found myself deep in thought, this time about riding.

“ I wonder if I raised my seat about a half inch if that would allow use of more big leg muscles and be more efficient” I was thinking, as I cranked the pedals and mentally measured which muscles were in use at each portion of the stroke.

Then I heard “ Are you Charley?” from next to me. Said in a very long drawl.

I looked left and saw a white sedan moving down the highway matching my speed, about 12 mph, with the passenger window open.

“ Yup, that’s me” I replied to this alien dropping into my world.

“ I’m Sean from the motel, I’ll see you in a while” he drawled in an almost non-understandable way.

And he was gone, back to the 75 mph speed limit.

There’s only one motel in Comstock, population 85, and I had made a sort of reservation, meaning I called him several times, finally getting him to pick up and telling him my name and that I was coming the next day. That’s all.

Turns out the Comstock motel is very clean, remodeled and everything done by Sean. He books rooms ( when he’s in the office) cleans by himself, and repairs all. He describes himself as a hillbilly from Kentucky.

These tiny little towns are just a joy to explore. One motel, one restaurant, often open, and one quick stop that sells gas and junk food. So far all the locals are welcoming the business and being very friendly. I guess they can’t afford to do otherwise because there’s not a lot of other passer-throughs.

At the side of the road yesterday I dropped my bag of gorp. Damn, I killed Larry Bird.

I caught up with Gregg again yesterday and we stayed at the same motel and had dinner together. He’s challenged by several health issues, mostly heart and lungs, but still gets up every day and rides. He’s a very experienced tourer, having cycled around the globe a number of years ago and across the country a few years after. He likes to leave in the early  darkness and pedal by headlight for a couple hours. 

Not me. With my poor night vision and fear I could run over something sharp and split a tire, my earliest start is at first light, which I did yesterday. More heat of the day, but a lot safer.

Everywhere I go ( including when I walk into a motel room) Fox News is playing. I hear from them over and over about this record heat Texas is having. Since this station seems to have a credibility issue, I don’t know whether to believe it or not. Sure feels hot.

“A horse is a horse of course, of course.

And no one can talk to a horse of course.

That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse

He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse

He’s always on a steady course

Talk to Mr Ed”

Theme song from the Mr Ed show

I understand that most touring riders eventually name their bike. Now that I’ve been on the bike for thirty some days it’s time for me to do the same. I’m out here one could say on a solo tour, or you could  say it’s me and the bike. 

A bike is a lot like a horse to me. You sit in the saddle, ride all day. Talk to each other.

In Greek mythology, Arion  was, by most accounts,the offspring of Poseidon and Demeter. When the goddess Demeter was searching for her daughter Persephone, she was pursued by Poseidon. To escape Poseiden Demeter turned herself into a mare and hid among the mares of Oncius, king of Thelpusa in Arcadia, but Poseiden turned himself into a stallion and mated with Demeter, producing Arion. It made Arion divinely bred and fabulously fast, endowed with eternal life AND the ability to speak. A talking horse.

My Surly disc trucker bike is very tall and can be very fast ( on a long downhill with all this weight) and since I’m spending all day in the saddle, just the two of us together, well, the ability  to have a talking horse ( bike ) comes in handy.

A few days ago one of my panniers came loose over a bump and slipped halfway off the rack with a corner poking into Arion’s ribs (spokes). I stopped immediately, because I learned a lesson earlier in life:

A bike is a lot like a horse to me. I grew up riding horses. When it became my turn to manage the family horse, Dapple I decided to join a horse drill team brigade; fourteen horses and riders doing maneuvers in local parades. Picture weaving in and out and figure eights. I was probably fourteen and the only boy with thirteen girl riders, all about my age.

It was Strongsville Days Parade in a town out further in the country with a long history of horse celebrations.

I was dressed in my best cowboy shirt, bolo tie, new cowboy hat and shined boots. I got to carry the flag during our maneuvers. During one maneuver I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the flagstaff and let it slip out of its holster directly into Dapple’s rib. 

She thanked me for that painful gesture by rearing  up, creating  sparks of her steel horseshoes on the concrete road in a cacophony of scraping, and dumping me and the flag off In a heap on the street. I could have been hurt but nothing short of death would have been worse than my embarrassment of this in a parade in front of my drill team and the abundant parade watchers. Immediately the crowd surrounded me asking if I was ok. It would have taken many broken bones to prevent me from leaping back in the saddle, flag holstered, as if nothing happened, to continue my spot in the maneuvers.

In my discussions with Arion, I assure him that I will be careful and not do any stabbing into sensitive places, so there is no reason to toss me off. I’d so hate to be embarrassed like that again. And, substitute semi trucks roaring by instead of parade watchers. 

I never ride Arion hard and put him away wet. Quite the contrary. He comes in the hotel room with me and gets inspected per night for mechanical issues.

I laid the bike up against the air conditioner a few nights ago and thought that could affect the saddle. Lesson learned from earlier days.

We had a beautiful antique western saddle for Dapple. Worn in just right from years of sweat and Neatsfoot oil. After riding one day, I placed the saddle a little too close to my goat’s pen. When I came out the next morning half the saddle was eaten. Not chewed, eaten. Converted to goat pellets out the back end.

So, I’m careful where I place a saddle now.

Nice hearing back from you

Sending love,


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