I got up about 5:15AM this morning to get ready for the Hotter’N Hell Hundred bike ride in Wichita Falls. My wife and I stayed at the Best Western Suites off of Southwest Parkway. This is a new hotel but the drive to downtown Wichita Falls takes about 15 minutes to where we like to park. My wife does not ride but she likes to travel here and shop while I sweat it out on the road.
After eating breakfast we drove downtown, parked the car and I assembled my bike and gear for the ride. I am getting too old for 100 miles so I pick the 75 mile ride by taking the Hell’s Gate leg in Burkburnett. We walked to the 100 mile Hopeful area to wait for the start at 7:05 when the national anthem plays and this year a single plane flies over trailing the plume behind it. In the years before the federal government austerity 4 jets from Sheppard Air Force Base would fly north over Scott Street. With the number of bikers it takes awhile for the various groups to get started and move through the start gate. My group started moving about 7:24. This slide show gives a flavor of the starting area.
I got off to a good start riding easily up the bridge at the end of Scott Street and heading out of town going west. But some other riders were not so fortunate. Around mile 6.2 everyone came to a stop and slowly rode forward in the left 2 lanes passing an ambulance attending at least 1 rider. I did not see any serious injury as I passed. Next we came to the first rest stop at Iowa Park. I stopped to take some pictures. It was a little dicey getting back riding because I pulled over on the right side of the road in the way of those stopping at the rest stop. I slowly eased through the bikers and resumed my ride. At the 12.2 mile point we encountered another crash on a 2 lane road. The ambulance, police or sheriff blocked the road so the riders walked in the grass past the problem. I could not see the people involved in the crash so I don’t know how serious it was.
Next up was rest stop 2 in a bend in the road before we headed to US287. I again stopped and took some pictures which you can see in the slides below. Moving on we came upon another crash at 25.2 miles. This one looked serious with at least one rider on a stretcher getting ready to be loaded into the ambulance. The bikers thinned out enough by that point that the traffic did not slow down much. Not too long after that the 100 mile route turned to the left and the 100K route went straight. More pictures in the slides below.
Reaching Electra I decided it was time to take a break after 31+ miles. I carefully laid my bike down to avoid the goatshead burrs and walked over to the rest stop tent for energy drink, refill my CamelBak and eat some food. I don’t know what kind of cookies they had but they were not the usual ones and I had 3 very good tasting ones.
So far the weather was very accommodating. In Electra checking my phone the temperature was a pleasant 88 degrees and the light wind was out of the SW. The route turns to the north in Electra so we enjoyed a tailwind for several miles until we turned right in Haynesville on SH240.
One of the challenges on this ride, other than the heat, is the road surface. While it is not full blown chip seal the road maintenance people like to use lug tire vehicles that spread the surface material out so riding over ribs in the road is common. On SH240 there were stretches of rough road but as we approached Burkburnett the road surface became so smooth it was almost like we floated over the road. My feet were complaining about the all of the vibration but once I unclipped from the pedals and shock them I got relief. After we left the rough surface areas my feet were okay.
From the crash at 25.2 miles I did not see any more for quite some time.
Usually when the routes comes to I-44 in Burkburnett and the ride turns south the wind is brutal but this year the light wind appeared to be from the east and did not really slow me down. By the time I reached Burkburnett Hell’s Gate was still open so I worked my way into the traffic lane so that I could go straight rather than turn left to take the 100 mile route. One thing I noticed in Burkburnett: they have a large police vehicle fleet for what I think of as a small town. Taking the southbound I-44 service road takes me to the intersection where the 100K/50M riders come to I-44. I joined them and continued south. Not long after that I looked ahead and saw 2 ladies stopped in the right lane and all of a sudden I heard this crash as another lady rode right into one of the stopped ladies putting both of them on the road. I pulled up to help the lady who rode into the other get her bike off of her. all the time she told the other lady how sorry she was. The 3rd lady tried to use her cell phone to call 911 because the hit lady was saying she was hurting bad but it would not dial but another lady arrived and said she would call 911. I moved around the crash and continued on.
The next rest stop offers snow cones so I always try to stop even if I don’t need to. Usually I need to though because of the wind. This year was a “don’t have to” but I stopped anyway. After getting a cherry flavored snow cone I sat down in one of the tents on a cot. I started talking with the man beside me. He told me he had not been riding much and selected the 100K route but wished he had taken the 50 mile one. We talked about the different location of the tents this year and I mentioned the signs about staying out of the grass because of the goatshead burrs. I asked where he was from and he said Iowa Park originally but now he lived in Dallas around the Irving area. Finishing the snow cone I snapped a few pictures and got back on my bike. Next stop: Sheppard Air Force Base.
Riding beside I-44 to the overpass that takes us into the air force base was not too hard thanks to the light wind not being in my face. At the overpass turning left takes us to the base. This street is nice ans smooth with a few downhill sections. Once I entered the base the route goes onto the runway area amongst some hangers. At that corner I could see an older biker laying in the street with his resting on the curb. Several people were attending to him. I am not sure how serious he was but I now understood why one air force person was running towards the guard stations we passed entering the base. As I entered the runway there were several airplanes displayed and a number of bikers were visitng with air force people and taking pictures. I took a couple in the slide show below.
I pulled into the rest stop on the base and was greeted by a friendly air force man who took my bike and parked in a rack while I went for cold liquids. He told me the building was open with restrooms and AC. I asked if I could take the AC with me and we laughed. After getting refreshed I left the rest stop and rode down the street lined with air force men and women cheering the riders. You can see their pictures in the slide show above. It is amazing see these military people and I am humbled as I ride through their cheers. I high 5’d one man and cheered them back as I left the area and rode onto the finish. At this point I was only about 5 miles from the finish.
Exiting the base I was greeted by a freshly resurfaced road that took us almost 2 miles before turning onto some back streets that take us to Scott Street and the finish line area. For a change I remembered to take pictures in the area just past the line.
Overall I am greatly pleased with my 74.23 mile ride. Thanks to good weather and the light wind I averaged 15.8 mph. Since I am away from my home computer I can’t enter the ride into the Golden Cheetah program but the Garmin Connect and RideWithGPS.com maps and metrics are good. My mileage for the week is 200+ and I should be well within striking distance of the 721 mile goal for August.
To make things easier this year my wife and I met at the parking lot where we parked at the start and she was there waiting for me. In the past we had problems finding each other at the MPEC because of the crowd and limited parking.
I think the temperature was around 93 when I reached the finish with clear skies and 11 mph SW wind. I look forward to next year.
— Ryan Gladstone (@RyanGladstone) August 24, 2013