McAlester, Oklahoma

Monday Evening 25 September
Day 16

openRoadThe great plains fell behind us today as we headed for Arkansas through the woodlands and pasture of eastern Oklahoma. Hills were more gentle than yesterday, the winds were behind us and most of the riders were smiling coming into lunch.  It was my day to grill hot dogs again.

At lunch I had time to chat and snap pics of a few more riders.  I’ve known Xenia Brent for several years from Pactour Desert Camps.  He’s riding his first transcontinental.

Karen Ann also is riding her first transcontinental, even though she has her name on the trailer, having ridden 10,000 miles with Pactour at Desert Camps.

Dr. Jon, hailing from Australia, is riding his 15th transcontinental.  He and I first met in 2004.  The guy is a locomotive, the wheel you want to find in a headwind.

The Nutter gang is named after a famous Oklahoma merchant who stood up to outlaws invading his store. They coalesced on perhaps the third day of this tour and have been riding together since then.


Purcell, Oklahoma

Sunday Evening 24 September
Day 15
Leaving Weatherford
Leaving Weatherford

A glorious day in Oklahoma: 112 miles, winding roads over rolling hills, farm land, pastures, and long vistas.  Lon said the roads would be rough chip seal, but someone came along and resurfaced them without telling Lon.  Headwinds and cross winds meant that everyone, including me, was looking for a little extra help from a group to share the work of pulling into the wind.

Acoustic Musical Theory
Some Farm Thing
Some Farm Thing

I rode the first leg out of Weatherford with Captain Jack. From riding with him last year, I knew he is a highly accomplished French Horn player who also taught music performance at the college level. Since then I’ve been wanting to pepper him with sophomoric questions about musical acoustics.

“Captain Jack, for over a year I’ve been wanting to ask about music theory. I already know some stuff, like the circle of fifths and diatonic scales.”

“I hope I can keep up.” (The captain was teasing of course.)

My question: Why are instruments of the orchestra tuned to different keys? It  complicates tuning the orchestra.  Why aren’t they all tuned to the key of C?

Thus ensued a fascinating (for me) question and answer session on acoustic musical theory.  An assortment of things I learned:

  • Instruments are tuned to different keys because their sound is more complex than a pure tone; harmonics add to the complexity, and each sounds best in its own natural key.
  • There are actually multiple ways of tuning instruments in an orchestra: meantone temperament, just intonation, well tempered tuning, pythagorean tuning, and more.
  • Shubert wrote much of his work for the key of b flat. Beethoven favored e flat.

It goes without saying that I’m a nerd to ask questions like this while riding a bike.  Captain Jack gratefully and enthusiastically humored me.  We pedaled the first 27 miles easily, allowing a larger group 100 yards ahead set our pace. The captain pulled off at the first sag stop and I rolled slowly by.

Here Comes Big John
Large House on the Hill
Large House on the Hill

So I was rolling along soft pedaling, figuring I would eat one of the bagels and save my energy when Big John rolls up beside me.

“Come on Karl.  I’ll pull you up to that group up ahead.”

Big John is twice as strong as me.  All I could do was sit tight on his wheel while he powered up the road. In a couple miles John caught up to NY Rich, Winchester John and Eastside Matt.  I managed to hang in for a few miles before my legs protested and ordered me to let them go.

Tacoma Steilacoomb Boys

steilacoombTacomaBoysSo I’m back to soft pedaling, figuring now I can rest, even stop and take some pictures, when I hear another “Hi Karl.” It’s Paul and the the Tacoma boys: Larry, Phillip, and Tom.  Back to being a bike socialite.

Happily, the TS boys were going a little easier than the other guys, so I was able to  ride with them easily while chatting.  Even better, one of the guys – it was Tom or Phillip – also had musical talent, and we rode up and down hills listening to him belt out songs from the 60’s and 70’s.

Young girl, get outa my mind, my love for you is way outa line…

If you’re goin’ to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…

Eventually we reached the second sag stop, 58 miles into the ride.  I grabbed a couple cookies and rolled on alone … slowing down for awhile, until Rich and Matt caught me again.

And so the day went, rolling along, boy’s havin’ fun. Riding through the beautiful rolling hills of Oklahoma.  I arrived at Purcell tired, but with a smile on my face.


My very close friend Anne Marie introduced me to Pactour in 2003. We used to ride endless miles, talking and laughing together about all kinds of stuff.  One thing she explained to me was that a bike tour needed to have more than a minimal number of chicks to be a fun friendly tour. Anne Marie and I used to argue over many stupid things, but on this point I wholeheartedly agreed.  Another way of putting it, we guys are all cavemen. Women add charm, style and intelligence to a ride. This tour has fewer women riders than other Pactours I’ve ridden.  Hopefully I’ll have chances to ride with them too.


Weatherford, Oklahoma

Saturday Evening 23 September
Day 14

Route 66, the Will Rogers Highway, established 11 November 1926, carried tenant farmers from the dustbowl of Oklahoma to dreams of California in the mid 30’s.  Today we rode the opposite direction, thin tires bouncing on each expansion joint of the old concrete pavement.  Perhaps ten cars passed all day, while an endless stream of cars and semi’s thundered along over I40, just to our left.

Pictures tell today’s story better than words.  Good thing, because I’m too tired to write much.


Shamrock, Texas

Friday Evening 22 September
Day 13

treesOnHorizonGentle crosswinds blew from the south while I soft pedaled east across the Texas panhandle.  Still in cattle country, grassland and granaries  straddled both sides of old Route 66.  I didn’t notice the Burma Shave signs that Martha told me about later.

As faster riders approached I was able to catch a few action photos.

Texas High School Football
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights

QB Ken, who played quarterback while in high school, discovered the local high school was having their homecoming game.  He organized a small group to attend the event, which started at 7:30.  Ken, Tom and Broh rode their bikes while I walked a mile and a half along a quiet side street.  Dogs barked at me from behind chain link fences, and as I approached the school, a stream of pickups began passing me.

Locals greeted us at the gate.  Clearly we were not from Shamrock so we became a mini-attraction.  Everyone else knew each other.

“Welcome.  Thanks for coming.  Enjoy the game.”

“Best seats are to the left of the entrance on the 50 yard line.  Sit there.”

The newspaper reporter took our picture and asked some questions. Tom described our trip.  I guess we’ll be in the paper next week.

At the concession stand, Tom asked if they had something we couldn’t buy elsewhere.  They sold him four frozen pickle pops – dill pickle juice frozen in 2 oz. cups.  Incredible recovery treats.

The home team Irish Shamrocks had 23 men on the roster.  Fans wearing green shirts held their index fingers high while a small band played the school song.  Then after a moment of silence, both teams entered the field and everyone stood while the band played the National Anthem.

The Shamrocks dominated the first half.  Each time they achieved a first down, the crowd of several hundred people cheered.  When they scored a touchdown, the band played the Notre Dame Irish fight song and an ambulance at the end of the field hit the lights and siren.

Sitting in the stands, I said to myself, “Wow! I would enjoy teaching here.”

Go Shamrocks!
Go Shamrocks!

Knowing the hour was getting late for old men, I left right before halftime, not staying for the homecoming festivities. Walking back to our motel, the streets were quiet.  I felt simply happy.  Grateful to be on this trip, happy to be in this town.  I said to myself, “I could live here.”


Amarillo, Texas

Thursday 21 September
Day 12
Big Texan
Big Texan

New state, new time zone.  Everything is bigger in Texas.  Restaurant next store, called the Big Texan, offers a free 72 oz. steak to anyone who can eat the whole thing, along with the fixin’s in one hour. That’s nearly five pounds of meat. The contestant sits on a stage and the crowd gathers round as the clock ticks down.  Sometimes they win, sometimes they barf.

Three large guys attempted the Big Tex challenge and failed while we were eating dinner there.  Wild Wes walked up and chatted with one of the contestants.  He had just arrived in Amarillo after attending a diabetes health conference.

Twenty mph tailwinds today. Riders cruised east at 40 mph while soft pedaling.  Smooth shoulder meant no flats.  More sub 5 hour century PR’s on Strava today.

Karl and Debbie
Karl and Debbie

Amarillo was established in the 1800’s because it had water and a railroad. It flourished as a marketing center for cattle.  We passed long BNSF trains traveling east and west on this rail line today. Grain elevators and enormous feed lots lined the south side of the road. My friend Debbie couldn’t bear to look at them and had to turn the other direction.

Bike Tech
Daniel's Helmet
Daniel’s Helmet

Check out Daniel’s space age helmet and visor.  I asked him about it during lunch today.  The visor is photo gray, meaning it gets dark when it’s sunny, clear when there’s no light.  He said the visor keeps the wind and dust out of his eyes, prevents tearing, and stops projectiles. The brand name is Casko – a bit hard to read on my picture with bad lighting. It’s made in Germany, is rather pricy, but he was able to purchase it at a discount from a firm in England.




Clovis, New Mexico

Wednesday Evening 20 September
Day 11
Lon Loading Bikes at Dawn
Lon Loading Bikes at Dawn

While sitting at dinner this evening in K-Bobs Steakhouse, Lon had to ask me what day it was.  I wasn’t sure either and had to consult my iPhone.  K-Bobs is a chain, a typical PacTour restaurant.  I ordered a rare NY strip steak.  The friendly waitress served me a steak with a red flag that said rare.  It was cooked medium. Tasted ok though, I was hungry after riding 110 miles.


Food is our fuel. Muscles work by burning ATP, which the body produces by mixing oxygen with stored glycogen.  Our bodies can store about 2600 kCal of glycogen in our muscles and liver.  Our calorie burn depends on how fast we ride. If we don’t ride too hard, we burn perhaps 3000 kCal, and our bodies can also convert fat to glycogen. Many riders, like me, cannot eat much while riding; we grab just enough to maintain our reserves.

Here’s what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast (before riding): 1/2 waffle, fake butter, syrup, 1/4 c. oatmeal with milk, 3 c. coffee with cream

During ride: 4 cookies, 2 bananas, 8 green beans, 1 slice tomato, 2 tbsp. baked beans, 12 oz. coke, 3 liters water.

After ride: Guzzled Sprite, no idea how much. 1 cheeseburger, small fries at McDonalds. 7 oz. steak, 1/2 baked potato, 1 c. chicken vegetable soup, salad at K-Bobs.

The Ride

The tour has reached the midwest.  Total climbing for the day was less than 2000 feet – pretty small for 100 miles.  All day on U.S. 70, straight road stretching ahead of us seemed to be going uphill. Big John said that illusion is created by the curvature of the earth.  I’m not sure if it’s that or diffraction.

U.S. 70 has a wide shoulder littered with tire treads that contain fine wire staples.  People were flatting all day.  I rode one stretch with Bro’s Todd and Terry until one of them flatted.  I’m not sure which one because they’re twins (riding their first tour together.)  I helped them boot the tire and replace the tube, then flatted myself 200 yards up the road.

Clovis Point
Clovis Point

Archeologists discovered fluted projectiles called Clovis Points in a dig near this city in 1929.  They were created by indigenous people 12 – 13 thousand years ago, and represent one of the earliest known examples of tool making technology and archeologists still argue whether it originated on this continent or migrated here.



Roswell, New Mexico

Tuesday Evening 19 September
Day 10
Are these light posts or alien antennas?
Main drag in Roswell – Are these light posts or alien antennas?

Recovery Day: Long gradual descent from 7200 ft to 3000 ft, only 98 miles and a 15 mph tailwind.  Some riders tacked on a couple extra miles so they could log sub 5 hour century PR’s.  I drove the lunch rig, prepped and served tuna salad. No rider pictures, everyone was going too fast.

In addition to a alien museum, Roswell sports a great Mexican restaurant next to the Best Western.  Today was Taco Tuesday – all the tacos you can eat for 89 cents.  Beer extra.  Martha and I enjoyed Chile Rellenos with spicy red sauce.  I couldn’t talk her into walking two miles down the main drag to visit the alien museum.

Bike Tech – More on Platform Pedals

After posting a blog entry on platform pedals a year ago, I’ve been thinking platform pedals are a superior choice for long tours like the one we’re doing. So far, my experience riding with platform pedals has supported this idea.

Advantages of clipless pedals and cleats
  • You can ride faster and more efficiently.  Actually I don’t believe this statement, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is true.  For a sprint or time trial, they might mean the difference between the podium and the lanterne rouge, but on a long tour any advantage is miniscule.
  • They look cool. Anyone who uses them is clearly a serious cyclist.
Disadvantages of clipless pedals and cleats
  • They are difficult to impossible to walk in.  Riders need to carry an extra pair of shoes. If you walk through heavy clay coil, some cleats like Speedplay’s get clogged with mud.
  • On long rides on hot days, riders feet swell.  Many stiff road shoes are uncomfortable.  On other tours, I learned to pour water in my shoes.  After many consecutive days they started to smell and grow stuff.
  • Riders go to great lengths to adjust cleat positions.  Even after all this attention, on long tours some riders develop knee problems or foot problems because the foot is locked onto the pedal in one position.
  • I’ve done seven long tours.  On nearly every one, at least one person has crashed because he couldn’t get his foot unclipped quickly enough.  I saw one person go home with a broken hip because of this kind of crash.  Ok, so you have to be a dork to crash like this, but when you’re tired you start acting dork like.  Why take the chance?
  • Cleats wear out, break at inopportune moments, need to be replaced.
My Experience So Far on this Trip
  • Riding with Keene sandals on platforms is incredibly comfortable.  The pedal provides my foot a wide base and low pressure on any part of the foot.  It’s easy to move my foot to different positions.
  • On a hot day, I can pour water on my waterproof Keenes to cool my feet.  Later I can hose them down.  They don’t stink or grow things.
  • The pedals I’m using are Forte Convert Mag XL – a wide aluminum body. Long spikes on the pedals provide a secure platform on which my feet do not slide.  However, I need to be careful not to whack my shins.
  • I cannot say I notice any degradation in speed or efficiency, either climbing hills or on flats.  Descending, my foot has slipped off a pedal once or twice.
  • I lost a day of riding because I didn’t tighten these pedals enough and stripped the thread in the crank.  Because platform pedals are bigger than my Speedplay pedals, they have a longer lever arm, exert more torque on the crank arm, and thus need to be tightened more.

We’re about a third of the way through this transcontinental.  I’ll post an update of my experience near the end of the tour.



Ruidoso, New Mexico

Monday Evening 18 September
Day 9

Today was hard.  Only 105 miles, but over 6000 feet of climbing through the mountains of New Mexico.  But oh, what a beautiful ride!  Long straight gentle climbs through horse pastures into Lincoln County, home of Billy the Kid. A fast descent into lunch, then steeper climbs on winding roads into the Sierra Blanca mountains.  Everyone’s legs were trashed.

Seattle Gary and Stig Man caught me on a fast downhill just before lunch. I tried to sit in the back like a slacker, but Gary waved me around and we all took turns rotating through an echelon.  On the last few climbs into Ruidoso, Maitland Ian caught me and we rode together.  Amazing how that guy can climb after training on 30 foot hills in Florida.

Also, a full day of climbing provide a great test for my platform pedals.  I’m liking them a lot.

Waukegan John
Waukegan John
Fast Larry
Fast Larry
Dr Don
Dr Don


Socorro, New Mexico

Sunday Evening 17 September
Day 8
Tucson Phil Going for the Record

Long day today, 155 miles, perhaps the longest of the day.  Lon thought it might be boring so he decided to make it a time trial.  That’s 155 miles riding at lactate threshold for whoever is fool enough to tackle the challenge.  Pactour has been doing this for the past several years.  This year crowned a new record, Tucson Phil, age 67, with a time of 7 hr 44 min.  For the math impaired, that’s an average speed of just over 20 mph, riding hills and a crosswind.

Pictures tell the story of the rest of this day.

Dr Jon
Dr Jon

Springerville, Arizona

Saturday Evening 16 September
Day 7
Train Approaches Winslow
Train Approaches Winslow

We’ve reached the point where everyone forgets what day it is, or how many days we’ve been riding. Just follow the routine: Wake, eat, ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Lawyers, tile layers, real estate moguls, doctors forget about work, just ride their bikes.

High Plains Ranch
High Plains Ranch

Riders said today was tough.  I thought it was easy.  Of course, I only rode 70 miles, they rode 120.  One of the benefits of working crew is being able to cherry pick the sections I ride on the days I ride.  I chose to skip the part where everyone else rode into headwinds on I 40 and a bunch of people got flats.  Instead I rode mostly alone along long quiet stretches across the Arizona high plateau.  With thirty miles to go, Spokane Bob caught me and we rode into Springerville together trading pulls.

Lon Haldeman
Lon Lets Loose
Lon Lets Loose

Lon and his wife Susan run this tour.  Lon was the first competitor to win Race Across America in 1982.  I remember watching him on ABC Wide World of Sports thinking that guy must be crazy.  Today he shared a story about that first race as we saw St. Johns in the distance.  He said, “That’s the first place we stopped to sleep on the first Raam.

I asked, “How long did you sleep?”

Three hours.

How far had you ridden?

Six hundred miles, thirty six hours.

I thought, this guy must be crazy.

Susan Notorangelo
Susan Cooks Potatoes
Susan Cooks Potatoes

His wife Susan is no wimp either.  She was the first female to win Raam.  A couple years later, she and Lon set a transcontinental record on a tandem which has yet to be broken.  Susan has decided to enjoy life and given up hard core cycling. She says we might see her riding downhill on a sunny day with a tailwind. Today she was cooking potatoes in a solar cooker she got from Captain Jack.

I’m thinking, this lady’s not Crazy.

Other Riders
SD Charlie
SD Charlie

Looks like SD Charlie has recovered from his desert ordeal.  He looked happy riding off the front today.  He stopped for a quick bite of lunch before heading down the road.

Spokane Bob rides a smooth wheel.  We traded pulls coming into Springerville. Actually he did most of the pulling, even though he had already ridden 100 miles when he caught me.  He’s also very gracious, saying as we rolled into Springerville, “Thanks for letting me ride with you.”

Spokane Bob Hits 7K