8/23/1997 - Witchita Falls, TX - Hotter-N-Hell Hundred - S.French
62 miles - 14.5 mph - 5 hours 15 minutes

There's a special time at about the 50 mile point along the 62 mile route. The road smooths, the day has started to warm up a lot, the wind is out of the east. We line up, Anne in front, me behind, and we start cooking. The speed picks up. It feels good. There's magic about now. We rolled into Shepard Air Force Base. Shepard is a nice break that leads to the end leg of the ride. Anne and I took a short break when we saw a line of F-16s. I left the course and biked over to them while Anne took a couple pictures. We roll into the finish area and completed the 1997 Hotter-N-Hell Hundred. This year we rolled right on to the car, packed up our bikes, and headed back to the Spur Hotel in Archer City. Tired of the "festivities" at the end, this year we decided to go on back and get our showers and head for home.

This year was another strange year. Saturday morning we awoke at about 5:30am. The alarm was set for 5:45am and Anne woke up first. Very strange! Anne _never_ wakes up early at home! We had breakfast scheduled for 6am downstairs in the dining area of the Spur Hotel. We got up and cleaned up, dressed for the ride in our biking shorts, Anne in her Big-F club jersey, me in my standard red T-shirt with the big sun-baked spot where the ride number hangs, and headed to breakfast. Michael was no longer working at the Spur, the lady at the desk said that he'd quit at the 1st of August. Bummer. We enjoyed watching the Texas Ranger's baseball game with him last year. We had a fine breakfast of muffins, coffee,juice, some fruit, other stuff. Alan was heartbroken when he couldn't find any hot tea, but when he asked they brought some right out for him. They had a big jug of Sparklett's water setup for us to fill our water bottles. Anne brought her Camelback that she had won as a door prize on the Bluebonnet ride in Burnet, TX last year. She filled that too. We headed out. It was dark and overcast when we left. This kept up for most of the morning mixed with fog and a very light drizzle. We drove into downtown to 6th street and turned right then pulled directly into a parking lot and parked. We prepared our bikes, took a lot of pictures, and started biking east on 6th steet over to Scott where the bikers were lining up. The line started at Scott and 4th street at the bridge. The tandems were first, then the fast 100 milers, the the "other" 100 milers, then the 62 milers (100Km), 50 milers, 25 milers, and then the rollerbladers and others. We rolled into the 62 milers and picked a nice position. No sooner than we stopped and relaxed that we heard SSSsssssss...... Alan's tire stem had sprung a leak and the tube needed replacing. Bummer. It was right at 7:30am when the ride was supposed to start for us. We dragged his bike over to the east side of the road and started changing it. About halfway through we heard a "Boom!". They had started the ride! Not to worry though, it takes _at_least_ 20 minutes before we might cross the starting line. It's been as long as 40 minutes (2 years ago). We learned then that the best thing to do is simply walk your bike until the speed picks up, and the wave action subsides so that you can make forward progress on your bike without having to stop a lot and get off. As we changed Alan's tire we saw Steve and Doris Brown go rolling by. I yelled to them and said Hello and they returned the fire. We never saw them again on the ride. Very strange. I expected that we would catch them as we rode before the 50 milers turned away from the 62 milers. Steve and Doris were doing the 50 mile course while Anne and I were doing the 62 mile course.

We got Alan's tube changed and got back into line and 20 minutes later crossed the starting line and out onto the ride proper. We had to roll slowly for the 1st 5 miles or so. There were a lot of crashes that required ambulances and EMS vehicles. More than usual. We attributed this to the weather. It was misting a lot, and pretty cool. The mist would accumulate on our sunglasses and make it hard to see. Also the blacktop felt a little slick. This might have caused some problems too.

We rolled on. Maria had gotten some new SPD clipless pedals and shoes and we were worried that she would explode past us and make it hard to keep up. But she tamed it down a bit and we rolled smooth as we passed the first rest stop and on to the 50 mile turnoff. This came on us sudden like. Both Anne and I were thinking that we would pause at this point and consider the 50 mile route since the weather was drizzly and cool. But as it happened we passed by the turn and heard Alan and Maria right behind us yelling "Have Fun! See you later!" as they turned onto the 50 mile cutoff.

We rolled on. The southern part of the ride heading due west was dominated by a long string of slowly rolling hills. Up one side, down the other, keeping a steady pace. We didn't much notice the road until we rolled into Rest Stop #2 the Gilligan's Island rest stop. These volunteers had setup the most elaborate rest stop we'd ever seen. They had the Minnow (the boat) built up where we went to get drinks and fruit. They had look-alikes for Gilligan, the Skipper, the Professor, Marry Ann, Ginger, and the Howells. They were "recruiting" people to help fix the radio. Anne and I went in to help and had a great time there. We also got into one of the long lines for the Port-A-Johns. There were 9 Port-A-Johns in a row. Anne started carefully watching numbers 1,2,3,4, and 5. As we queued we watched until we decided that nobody was in 1 and 3. When it came to our turn, sure enough, nobody was in there and nobody had been using them! Anne has those sharp eyes... Everybody behind us cheered.

We rolled on. The route headed north here and it was an easy ride. About the 40 mile point the fog lifted, the drizzle stopped, and the weather warmed to about 80 degrees. Wow. It became so clear and beautiful it was hard to believe. We felt wonderful and we rolled through Rest Stop # 12 and turned right to pick up the eastbound leg of the route. This directly into the wind. The wind is almost always out of the south, so this east wind was unusual. It was light at 5-10 mph and we had no problem grinding through it.

From here I'll pick up from the beginning of this story.

Anne and I and Alan and Maria decided to go on the HHH this year. Anne and I went last year and met up with Richard Blanford. We had reserved two rooms at the Spur Hotel last year, and when the ride was complete we reserved 2 room for this year. Alan and Maria took the other one. We decided to drive separately since Anne and I wanted to leave a bit early and walk the town of Archer City, and Alan and Maria had an early commitment Saturday evening. Since Alan and Maria wanted to do the 50 mile route while Anne and I wanted to do the 62 mile route, it made good sense. Archer City is the place where they filmed Larry McMurtry's "The Last Picture Show" and "Texasville". It is a very small Texas town about 20 miles southwest of Witchita Falls, Texas (about 2.5 hours northwest of Dallas on the Oklahoma state line). The Spur Hotel is a small hotel with 11 rooms, a dining room, and a very nice lobby. It is located in the center of downtown Archer City.

Anne and I took 1/2 day off work and packed up and headed out about 2pm heading over to Alan and Maria's house. We picked up their bikes (they don't have a car that can easily carry the bikes) and headed up Preston Road, then state highway 380 west, then northwest on 287 toward Witchita Falls. We arrived at the Multi-Purpose Event Center (MPEC) in downtown Witchita Falls about 4:00pm. The place is very crowded with bikers from everywhere. We took our signed release forms and headed for the pre-registration area around the north side of the building. The lines there were non-existent. We picked up our numbers and went into the main part of the exhibit hall to pick up our T-shirts, water bottles, and packets full of goodies. The lines in here were longer, but only took a few minutes to get through. Then we wandered around among the vendors looking at seat covers, and tasting "Power Gel", a concentrated concoction made to resemble "Vanilla Bean" and "Banana Raspberry" but really tasting a little like artificially flavored Elmer's glue. It is supposed to give you quick energy and replacement electrolytes. Yuk. We had also picked up some Goo. A similar product. We ate it at the 50 mile rest stop. It was much better than that other stuff. Or would we have liked flavored Elmer's at that point?

We headed back to the car and drove out to the Spur Hotel arriving arriving about 5:30pm. We settled into our room (# 11) on the 3rd floor at the top of the stairs. Not 10 minutes later Alan and Maria came rolling in and checked into their room (# 4) right across from ours. We decided on lunch in Witchita Falls at the Olive Garden. I called them to make a reservation, but on HHH eve, they wouldn't take reservations. The wait was 45 minutes to an hour. I had my name put on the waiting list and we headed out. We arrived at the Olive Garden 1/2 hour later, walked in, and heard my name called _right_then_. Wow! We couldn't have gotten luckier! We all ate Pasta and later Anne developed the theory that pasta with marinara sauce is the perfect pre-bike ride evening meal. We'll try it again sometime and see.

When we arrived back at the Spur we worried about raining. We had left our bikes on the car for the night. Anne and Maria went out and bagged the seats to protect them from getting wet.

Things we remember:

  • 2 HumVees coming through rest stop # 12. Military types. We couldn't figure out what they were doing there. Cool looking though. There were a lot of HumVees around, military and otherwise (you can tell by the color).
  • Shirley, the front desk person at the Spur, let us come back and shower at no extra charge as long as we were out by 3pm. Wasn't that nice? Alan and Maria finished, checked out, and left only 30 minutes before we arrived back. And we ran into them driving away from their house when we came back to drop off their bikes. This trip was loaded with perfect timing connections!
  • Texasville Cafe closed. This was a small restaurant across the street from the Spur Hotel. We had planned on having dinner there Friday night.
  • We didn't get a chance to walk the streets of Archer City. Next year.
  • Alan and Maria got stopped by the police on the way back. Doing 76 mph in a 70 mph zone. Uh huh. They were doing at least 90 mph between Bowie and Archer City on the way in on Friday night. Didn't get caught then. He let them go with a warning.
  • We _still_ haven't seen the "Falls" of Witchita Falls. We say this every year and add "Maybe next year."
  • When the sun came out and the humidity blew away, the colors became extreme and the visibility expanded. We could see the large fluffy clouds against the blue, blue sky. Their shadows were fully formed rolling across the grassy plains. We could see miles and miles to far-off water towers, oil rigs (lots of these spread all over, those low elbow looking things that pump up and down continuously), small towns, houses perched on hills, windmills, and sitting cattle clumped around trees.
  • Some of the fields had been harvested and turned under. The ground was adobe colored (Anne assures me this _is_ the color). Anne pointed out that we were in Clay county, that's why.
  • There was a little girl at Gilligan's Island sitting in the sand wearing latex gloves. Her little fingers weren't in the glove's fingers but she was picking up clams and putting them in a basket.
  • We started looking for high and low ride numbers. We saw a high of 8580 and low of 90. Turns out that there were 8658 people registered to ride. We saw this in the Dallas Morning News Sunday paper. Anne went to talk to the woman who had on the 8580 jersey number. She had registered the night before at 9pm.
  • We saw the Mud-brown Witchita river at about the 60-mile point. It looked completely clogged with mud. We had never seen a river this color before. Were we still in Clay county?
  • At the start there was a woman carrying a box on the back of her bike with a tiny dog in it. It was sitting there looking at everything, perfectly satisfied to just sit there and ride the ride. We never saw them again.
  • We asked a little girl sitting on her lawn chair in front of her home: "Where are we?" She said "Burkburnett!". So now we know how to say it right.
  • Anne was reading the HHH story in the Dallas Morning News. She reads me the story of three members of the Plano Cycling and Fitness club. They rode 173 miles from Wylie, TX to Witchita Falls, then 100 miles around the route (their _easy_ day) then 173 miles back home. We decided that they're out of their collective mind!
  • We reserved three rooms at the Spur Hotel for the 1998 HHH. I suspect we'll have no problems finding takers for them.