6/28/20 – Shot Down in Texas
I planned out my route the day before. From Clayton, NM to Dalhart, TX, then continuing northeast to Texhoma, a small town on the border of Texas and Oklahoma. It would be a 100-mile ride. The forecast was for a sunny day and even the wind was mostly blowing the right way. The route chosen took into consideration the wind direction. I’d been fighting it ever since Montana but today the wind would be working with me. At 6:15 a.m. I was off. As soon as I entered Texas there were wind warnings.
But the early morning winds were gentle and pleasant. I rode the 48 miles to Dalhart in just over two hours, then met up with Judy in the trailer about five miles out of Dalhart on Highway 54. We brunched in the trailer while our batteries were being charged by sunshine. The Sunride rooftop solar collector was putting out 165 watts and the trailer module 135. We took our time eating and afterwards I had a quick rinse off shower before lying down for a bit of a rest.
It was getting hotter outside so it seemed best to resume the ride sooner than later. I re-filled the water bottles and was back on the bike. Judy went ahead to Texhoma. Just before reaching Stratford (no, not Shakespeare’s Stratford on Avon but Stratford, Texas, the pheasant capital), I had a flat tire. Fortunately, the flat occurred right in front of a large 20’ tall metal statue of a cowboy, which had been deteriorating for decades in front of an abandoned café. It was fortunate because I could tie the bike off to a fence next to the cowboy.
A trucker stopped and offered assistance. I thanked her for stopping but said I really didn’t need any help. “Every time I do this,” I explained, “I have to learn it all over again.” We chatted briefly about the bike then she was back on the road.
It took an hour to fix the rear tire; but there was still time and enough stored solar energy to make the 100-mile destination. I phoned Judy and told her I would be an hour later. She always has something to read so it was no problem for her. I was cruising along just outside Texhoma when I heard a loud pop behind me. It was a blown tire. Quickly I put on the brakes and came to a safe stop. The ride for the day was over. I’d gone just 90 miles. Judy had to backtrack to come rescue me.
We loaded up the impaired bike on the back of the trailer. The wind had picked up considerably. It was a hot wind, 101 degrees. I’d take a big drink of water and be thirsty again within minutes. It was like the water was evaporating from inside my body. The water was hot too, the heat having overrun the meager capacity of my cooler. We proceeded northeast from the Texas panhandle through the Oklahoma panhandle toward Kansas. Strong crosswinds accompanied us the entire way, limiting our speed to just 48 mph. Giant 18-wheel semis frequently passed us throughout the day. Wind seems to be a bigger challenge to the trailer than even to Sunride, which is very aerodynamic and can handle any kind of wind at the top speed of 25 mph.
We passed through Greensberg, Kansas, a town that had been almost completely wiped out by a tornado a few years ago. We noticed all the buildings were new. The city is rebuilding using the abundant renewable energy it enjoys. Wind farms are everywhere and solar farms are springing up as well. Kansas has plenty of renewable energy resource, and it’s great to see the new town of Greensberg making good use of it.
We arrived at the RV park at 10 p.m. It was a long, exhausting day, especially after getting lost on unpleasant dirt roads southeast of Pratt. We finally pulled into Seidel’s RV Park in NE Pratt. The owner, Rose Shinkle, a third generation Kansan on property her grandfather settled in the 1800’s, was very helpful. For an area known as tornado alley, she had only seen one in her sixty-five years, as did her father in all his 90 years. She was out of town when the Greensburg tornado came. Business now is the best it’s ever been, according to Rose. In the 1970’s it was terrible but since, it’s gotten better and better. All the employees of wind and pipeline companies need food, places to stay, laundry and every other kind of service. They spend a lot of money locally. Blatner, a big wind company, gives a lot to the community including charitable giving. She said they have a very favorable opinion of the wind industry as a whole. Rose told us the winds the past few days were “crazy winds,” stronger than usual.
Rose is quite the entrepreneur. Besides the RV park she operates, she also raises mini-nubian goats. She markets these to the trendy sustainably-minded folks that have chickens in their backyards and welcome the goats as pets.
I found Rose to be politically astute as well. I’m always seeking to understand the views of others whose views are different than mine. Rose told me point blank she would vote for Trump again. “He understands business and takes away regulations that hinder business. If a Democrat gets elected my business will probably fail.” For the sake of argument, I pointed out that many fear the environment will suffer under Trump. Rose quipped back, “Yeah, so say those flying around in their private jets. I care about the environment too.” I offered my opinion by saying there’s probably more rich Republicans flying around in private jets than rich Democrats. We came to common ground when I told her I voted as an independent, as did she.
Pratt, Kansas is where the B-52 bomber is built. We slept so soundly we wouldn’t have noticed if a bomb had been dropped just outside our door.