I called around in December 95 looking for a place to stay. Every hotel and B&B in the Wichita Falls, TX area were booked up! So I got us on a waiting list at the Spur Hotel in Archer City, TX, about 20 miles soutwest of Wichita Falls. In May they called and our number had come up! We got two rooms, both with twin beds, one room for Anne and me, Richard Blanford, a friend from TI, took the other room. We left Dallas at exactly 1pm on Friday and drove the distance in 3.5 hours. We first drove into Wichita Falls to their new Multi Purpose Activities Center (MPAC) and registered for the ride. The MPAC (I'm convinced) was built in large part due to the HHH held there every year. The MPAC is _much_ nicer than the non-air conditioned Agricultural Center where it was hosted last year. There were bikes and cars and people everywhere. We parked and headed in to the pre-registration desk. The lines were pretty short and moved quick. We got our paperwork, including our T-shirt numbers and helmet sticker numbers, and headed into the exhibition hall where we picked up our T-shirts and bag of goodies. The exhibition hall was filled with booths selling biking stuff. Richardson Bike Mart was there and Plano Cycle and Fitness and lots of others. Anne had bought a cool seat cover and I went in with a mission of finding one for myself. I found one with white and red stripes. It would make my bicycle very easy to find among the hundreds at the rest stops along the route. We walked around a bit in the crowds and eventually headed back to the car and drove out of Wichita Falls toward Archer City. It was only about 25 minute drive since those backroads now have a 70 MPH speed limit (thats nuts by-the-way!).
The Spur Hotel is located in downtown Archer City, a very small town the seat of Archer county. It had a town square with a small courthouse and maybe 50 businesses spread out around the courthouse. Probably half of the businesses were closed and empty. The town had a sleepy feel to it, past its prime when the oil bust hit. As we drove toward it we could see those small oil pumping rigs everywhere. This was a recurring theme that I don't remember from the rides in the past. At one time on the ride I could see 17 pumps spread across the landscape from horizon to horizon. The Spur Hotel was booked up for the night with all their 10 rooms filled. Actually they had filled 11 rooms with the hotel attendent, Michael's, room also booked. He stayed up most of the night catering to the HHH visitors. The hotel itself is an old 1920 vintage hotel renovated. It was very nice. We checked in and brought our bikes in out of the rain into the lobby with the other bikes of folks from Denver, Baton Rouge, and Corpus Christi. We talked for a while with these folks and Michael, the 18 year old desk manager, waiter, bus boy, had a spaghetti dinner in their dining room, and went for a walk around town. It takes about 20 minutes to walk all the way around the town square, one end to the other. I noticed that there were a lot of buildings with name "Booked Up" on them. Some were empty, other were full of old books on tier after tier of bookshelves. Turns out that the movies made from Larry McMurtry's books "The Last Picture Show" and "Texasville" were filmed here! These bookstores were Larry McMurtry's book collection and store. He apparently has bought up lots of the businesses in this little town and has been collecting old rare and collectible books and stashing them here. We found the building that was the movie theatre in the movie, now just a hulk after having burned years ago after the movie was complete, the gas station featured in the movie, also now closed and boarded up, and the "Texasville" bar and grill. After our walk we crashed in the parlor and watched the Texas Ranger's game. Turned out that Michael was a true Rangers fan and joined us there where we talked baseball off-and-on as he tended the front desk until the games was over (we won). Richard showed up about 9pm, we talked for a bit, then went to bed.
The next day we woke up to overcast skies and weather reports predicting rain for the day. It had rained off and on Friday and we expected the same for Saturday. Fingers crossed we drove into Wichita Falls, through numberous rain showers, to the MPAC parking areas. We prepared our bikes and rode over to the start of the 100K riders. They lined them up with the 100 mile racers first, tandem riders next, 100 mile rally riders, 100 K riders, 50 milers, 40 milers, etc starting from the bridge just before the starting line stretching back block after block after block through downtown Wichita Falls, 10,000 riders. Actually, the biggest jersey number I saw was 9989. It was a _really_big_ crowd. Last year it took 40 minutes from the time the gun went off until we actually crossed the starting line. The organizers must have gotten a lot of complaints about it because they opened up the 2-lane starting point to 3 lanes this year and it only took us 20 minutes. But we also chose to do the 100K this year, 50 miles last year, so we lined up closer to the front than last year. Anyway, when the gun went off I got off my bike and started walking it forward through wave after wave of slow forward movement until it started moving smoothly, then I got on and started pedaling.
The ride went clockwise again this year heading west out of Wichita Falls. The 25 milers turned off first to the north, then the 40 milers, then the 100 mile and 100K bikers turned off to the south while the 50 milers kept on west. We went south for a while turned west then north then the 100 milers turned off to the west while we continued north. At about the 30 mile mark we turned east to discover that the wind was 10-12 out of the east and south. The rest of the ride was basically into the wind (and uphill I think). I remember that last 10 miles as being really nice going through Sheppard Air Force Base. We crossed the flight line where a lot of F-16s, F-15s, B-52s, and some other prop planes were sitting, all of them grounded due to a safety problem and some recent crashes that the F-15s and F-14s were experiencing. We turned into the base housing complex where we high-fived all the kids that were standing along the side of the road cheering us. Then we worked our way back into town to the finish line. It was a great ride!
We drove back to the Spur Hotel to get a shower (they didn't charge us! Mighty nice of them). It rained _hard_ on the 25 minute drive to Archer City. We were so lucky to have a dry ride. I'll never forget the thunderstorm we rode through at the Possum Pedal 100 last year and vowed that I'd _never_ bike in the rain again! So far I haven't had to.
Things I remember:
o My rear tire shredded at the Peach Pedal and while fixing that I discovered my rear wheel rim was disintegrating. At the same time I'd been having problems with my rear wheel hub not free-spinning correctly. I had Richardson Bike Mart order me a new rim and hub, it arrived on Monday, they laced it up and gave it to me on Thursday before we left for HHH on Friday. I was a bit concerned about having a new rear wheel but it rode beautifully and I had no further problems with the hub.