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Monday, August 30, 2010

Hotter than Hell 2010 - Part 1 The Journey to Hell

After months of training Friday morning finally arrived.
It was not the usual Friday morning, the one that comes with a 4.30 am alarm call in Beverley, East Yorkshire.
The one that would be followed by dressing in the hours of darkness before cycling to work, comforted by a warm sensible coat.
Hardly the sort of Friday that would inspire the other two wheeled urban warriors that I look up to.
But this Friday was different.
This was 'The Friday Morning', just as the following day would be.............
'The Saturday'.

Rather than having the androgynous voice from my alarm repeatedly reminding me of the time I was woken by 'Le Patron' (My Brother Paddy) at a more civilized time of 6am reminding me that my domestique duties applied to more than cycling !!! As if I had forgotten.

By 8am the Mule Trailer was loaded and other Mules had arrived for the Journey north to Wichita Falls. So fleet of Hoof our wagon wheels did turn, taking us up Highway 45 Towards Dallas and Fort Worth.

We met up with Paddy's father in Law 'Joe' at The H3 Ranch which is located in the famous Stockyards area of Forth Worth.

For me personally it was a special experience.

Forty four years ago my father came to the USA with the British Air force and we were located in Fort Worth, Texas. I was only 6 at the time but went to school there for three years.
Its too long ago to remember everything but I do recall being very happy and having the opportunity to travel around America.

I also remember that my school class used to sing the British National Anthem every morning after there own, I really appreciated that and think the other kids enjoyed the novelty of it too.
Its often funny how things like that stick in your mind.

As I sat in the H3 Ranch drinking my Buffalo Butt Beer I wondered if my late father had visited the same hostelry, he may have even sat in the same seat.
I smiled knowing that he would have approved at my choice of beverage.

He also loved to cycle and like me took it up seriously later in life.

Joe a willey old Texan is not unaccustomed to such bar
He was the sort of man you listened to.
He spoke of bygone days when this particular part of Fort Worth was heaving with stock men bring their cattle to market.
With business done, dollars were exchanged for bouts of hard drinking and gambling followed by by the more expensive attractions that came accompanied by soft words and scented beds.

Although the piano had been replaced by a modern sound system, you could almost hear the faint tunes still reverberating within the floorboards.

With our victuals duly completed we left Forth Worth and headed north.
As we pulled our Mule Trailer out of the stockyards and onto the open road there was a real sense of poignancy.
Soon the air got drier and the temperature rose.
Lush greens were replaced by yellows and browns.
There cactus, nodding donkeys and buzzards all things I wanted to see.
This was Saturdays cycling terrain, hot dry prairie land.

Hotter than Hell

As we got closer to Wichita falls we also saw other Bikes, first only one or two, then dozens, then hundreds, until it reached a point that practically every vehicle on the road seemed to be part of some cycle carrying convoy.

Wichita Falls opened its arms to all of us and we were soon ensconced in our Hotel 'The Holiday Inn Express' on Kell Boulevard.
Like over excited children on Christmas Eve we were ushered to bed by wise words and the prospect of having to rise at 4am.
No sooner had I shut my eyes then it was time. 'The Saturday' had arrived and we all made our way to the start.
This year saw over 13,000 entrants and with so many cyclists for some it would take over an hour and a half to get over the start line.
We were positioned within the 'Scorchers' which meant we were meant to be able to complete the ride between 4-6 hours. It also meant that we could cross the start line within a few minutes after the official start time of 7am.
It was ironic that within the 13,000 people we ended up being stood next to a lovely couple from Kansas who were next to us in our hotel. I already knew from watching 'The Wizard of Oz' that people in Kansas are keen at cycling.
It was also apparent that some non scorchers had infiltrated our starting area and they were highly unlikely to cycle at the required pace.
Just before 7am I took off by helmet to the US National Anthem and did so with pride.
6 fighters jets flew over and a canon was let off to start our ride.
We were off........
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow

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