Our cross-country cycling trip along the Southern Tier has been filled with its fair share of challenges, but none quite like the one we faced on day 17. We started our journey in Marfa, Texas, with our sights set on Marathon, Texas.
Bad. We had 55 miles to cover and most of this was increasing elevation. We are used to this by now, so we figured we’d have no problem handling it.
Worse. When we arrived in Marfa, Texas yesterday, the weather was nice: it was sunny, and the temperatures reached 72 degrees. Overnight, a cold front moved in and it was 38 degrees for our start and never got above 50 degrees for the whole ride. Our hands and feet were cold and our legs never felt like they got fully warmed even after hours of cycling.
Worst. The winds were particularly brutal on this day, making the first 32 miles of our ride incredibly difficult. We had to fight against the wind to make any progress. There are days where we can cover 20+ miles in an hour. It was disheartening to see that after the first 30 minutes we covered three miles. That plays mind games with you because at that pace, you are going to be riding for the whole day.
Combining the bad, worse, and worst means today’s ride was a real test of our endurance and mental fortitude. Indeed, we came across a group of riders with the Adventure Cycling Association. The conditions were so bad that 7 out of the 11 riders in their group had to be picked up by the support van and taken to destination. Some of them had been blown off the road entirely, while one was blown into a ditch. We were relieved to hear that no one was seriously injured, but it was a stark reminder of the difficulty of the ride.
Despite the conditions, we pushed on, determined to make it to our destination. We took a break in Alpine, Texas (the halfway point) and had lunch with Tom and Rick. Alpine was another cool artsy town with plenty of murals.
About five miles outside of Alpine, the elevation began to decrease, which was a welcome change, but the mental and physical fatigue had already set in. We were both exhausted by the end of the day, and we both agreed that it was the most challenging day we had faced yet. At least that challenge was rewarded with a trip to Big Bend National Park.