An Unexpected 100 Miles

by Stewart and Anne French

Hotter N Hell Hundred Bike Rally
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Wichita Falls, TX

Checkout the cool logo this year!

James Welker provided some the photos below. I've marked them with JW. Richard and Julie Blanford provided others. I've marked those with RJB.
Thanks, James, Richard, Julie!

As has become usual, we both took a half day off work and drove up to Wichita Falls, TX in the afternoon. It was hot, reading 102 on the outside thermometer in Anne's car. We had already decided that we were going to ride 74 miles this year. We could ride with the 100 milers then, at Hell's Gate, take the short cut south back into Wichita Falls to make it 74 miles.

We were 3/4 way there when we looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Richard and Julie right there behind us! We had reservations at the Comfort Inn just north of Wichita Falls (off Maurine). We've stayed at the Motel 3 times now, and it is very nice, and within biking distance to the start of the ride. Two years ago they had fancy little Welcome baskets in the rooms for us. They didn't have them last year, but they were back this year. An Apple, Orange, Banana, some crackers, candies, pop corn. It was very nice.

Once checked in, we all piled into R&J's car and headed over to the MPEC (Multi Purpose Event Center) JW in downtown Wichita Falls. This is the nerve center for the HHH with registration, vendors, exhibits, food, etc. We got registered, picked up our T-shirts and booty, then headed into the vendor area.

The new shirts were unique and very nice this year. An orange longhorn skull whose horns morphed into bicycle handlerbars. Very Cool. Anne liked them so much that she picked up a polo shirt too. We also gather up goodies for Alan and Maria and their two kids, Samantha and Ethan. There seemed to be lots more vendors and people this year. We saw the regulars, RBM, Plano Cycling, and there were new ones including REI. We wandered around trying the free energy drinks and bars and looking at all the people and gear until it was time for dinner.

For dinner we walked over to McBride's steakhouse for steaks and fish, then we walked back over to the festival grounds. We were just 2 minutes late to watch the end of the men's criterium. As we were walking, from a distance, we saw them sprint for the finish line. We saw the last 20 minutes or so last year, which was a lot of fun. Richard wanted to stay for live music by Monkey Shine but we had been sleep deprived by our 20 year old cat, Murky, and wanted a full night's sleep before the ride.

The Comfort Inn had prepared a full breakfast for us Saturday morning starting at 4am. We had coffee in bed, then walked over for breakfast. After breakfast we got readyRJB, pumped up the tires, met Richard and JulieRJB, loaded our junk into our front packs, and headed out with all the other people staying there.

It was dark while we rode to the start on Saturday morning. The police were already out controlling traffic on the route. We lined up with the 100 milers JW so we could leave earlier. Here's a photo of usRJB, another one of Richard and JulieRJB at the starting line. The people who line up with 60 miler, 40, and lesser distance riders end up having to slowly walk forward as the longer distance riders start. In the past it is taken 30 minutes or more to pass the starting line! Sheppard AFB performed a fly-over with trainers right before the cannon fired. We were close enough to the front of the start that we got into the smoke from the cannon when it fired. We figured out that the 7:04am mass start time was based on sunrise. At the start were partly cloudy skies, no wind, and a 30% chance of rain. The clouds kept the temperatures down all day with temps only reaching into the mid-80s.

The ride to rest stop #2 was crowded. We rode fast, hovering just below 20 mph, as we passed slower riders, and were passed in turn by the faster riders. We bypassed rest stop #1 aiming our sights for rest stop #2 and their fine festivities.

At about mile 15 there was a crash involving 3 riders. We saw a large crowd of riders JW slowing and stopping in the road ahead, with ride volunteers waving everyone down and yelling "Crash Ahead! Everyone slow down!". As the peloton slowed and stopped many riders (men) ran for the fence line to relieve themselves. That was an unusual sight. Then we passed the crash site. There was one man sitting on the ground in a pool of blood, rocking back and forth, rhythmically moaning while clutching his abdomen. We didn't see the other riders and never heard what happened to them. We sure hope they are okay. It just takes a short lapse of concentration and this could happen to anyone.

This year the theme at rest stop #2 was Snoopy and the Red BaronRJB. The Red Baron's plane had crashed into the ground with Snoopy on his dog house. It was here that people, including Richard and Julie, got their photos taken with the Red Baron in front of Snoopy. There was also the doctor's roadside shack. The "Doctor is in". Analysis for a nickel. The woman was giving everyone their analysis for free - "You're all Crazy!". This rest stop had huge amounts of fruit. There must have been 20 boxes of grapes, bananas, oranges, watermelon, strawberries, cantelope. It was the most fruit we had ever seen at a rest stop.

There were rain storms to our southeast at rest stop 2 and rain storms JW directly in front of us heading north toward rest stop 3. Lightening, thunder, sheets of rain coming out of the clouds way up there and falling toward the ground being blown by the wind. Although we worried a bit about getting caught up in the thunderstorms, all the rain missed us the whole day!

We smelled bar-b-que at two mid-point rest stops. At the first bar-b-que rest stop we got in line and got Hot dogs and sausages. Stewart ate his and part of Anne's. They were very good. Anne got a giant piece of watermelon, ate it all spitting seeds all around her. Here's a photo of us JW that James took at one of these stops.

Pickle juice was very popular this year. We had to be very careful at the rest stops. You could pick up a cup thinking it was gatorade only to find pickle juice running down your throat. At one of the rest stops there was a pickle juice guy yelling "Must be 18 to get pickled!". He was the best salesman of pickle juice that we saw, walking around with a box lid filled with cups pouring pickle juice for anyone that wanted it. His day job was as a probation officer, he told us.

We must say something about the homemade cookies. At various rest stops (we can't quite remember which ones!) they had homemade chocolate chip and other secret homemade cookies. Richard got a lump of glued together chocoloate chip cookies that he shared with Julie and us. They were still warm. The secret homemade cookies looked like large chocolate and vanilla buns. But when you broke them open they were filled with cherry filling or peanut butter. They were delicious.

We ran into James Welker. His riding buddy, Dave, had cracked up the week before and wouldn't be able to ride for a couple of months. James was here alone, and trying to decide on the 75 mile or 100 mile. We later saw him again on the 100 mile route, making the same decision we had made!

Everything was very green this year. In the past HHH views tended to be tan, dry, wind-blown, dusty. Not this year. There was no wind for the first 30 miles, then a tail wind out of the west all the way to "Hell's Gate". Anne noted that we had averaged over 19 mph for the first 60 miles, at Hell's Gate. It was only 10:30am and we both felt very good. The wind had shifted out of the north. If we headed home (on the 74 mile route) we would have a tail wind all the way in. We just couldn't see taking that route, as good as we felt. Also, we never figured out where to turn anyway when we arrived at Hell's Gate. They just waved us on to the 100 mile route, continuing east.

The wind had shifted again, 20-30 mph out of the southeast, very strong. It was very hard biking south, but the turn west toward Wichita Falls was like magic with our speed increasing over 20 mph. There was a wild dust storm JW at about mile 75. We could see if far off in the distance with dust lifting off a freshly turned field and blowing across the road. It was huge and very striking. Worried about her contacts, Anne squinted and held her sunglasses in close as we rode through the dust as fast as we could. There was an unfortunate rest stop positioned right there in the middle of the dust storm! We didn't stop for it, but some people did and got sand blasted.

Richard really looked forward to the impromptu bar-b-que and free beer at about mile 98. It seemed that a group of locals setup a bar-b-que, had cases and kegs of beer, and provided free food and drink to anyone who wanted it under the shade of a large metal building. Richard and Julie stopped and Richard celebrated mile 98 with them.

We finished the ride about 2:05pm, almost exactly 7 hours after the start. That shaved 1.5 hours from our time 2 years ago. Our overall average speed was 18 mph. This was very high for us, more than we've ever done at _any_ bike ride. There were a lot of reasons.

There were low, heavy clouds at the finish line JW. It looked like serious rain was coming! And the wind really started blowing. Here's James at the finish line! JW We talked for a while with the people from the local NBC affiliate Channel 3. They liked what Anne said so they wired her up and did an interview for a few minutes. They were responding to a critical Dallas Morning article and wanted to see what some of the riders thought. We had ridden 9 times in the HHH and they were very interested in our opinions on how it had improved. It was to show that night on the 10pm news, but we didn't stay long enough to see it.

Anne noticed a live Long Horn steer at the end of the ride, standing in the shade up by a building. It had some sort of saddle on it and people were standing all around. Maybe they were taking pictures or giving rides? We never quite made it over there. We'll look for it again next year. Here we are resting at the MPECRJB, along with Richard and JulieRJB.

At 4pm Saturday afternoon the Comfort Inn hosted a free bar-b-que. We felt so good after the ride that we decided to pack up and head home Saturday evening. We dropped by the bar-b-que right as it opened and had fine bar-b-que with many other HHH riders. The bar-b-que was not catered, the cooks were an older couple that worked there. They made fine brisket and sausages, along with some cole slaw and tater salad. It was delicious and just exactly what we wanted before driving home.