August 29, 1998 - Witchita Falls, TX - Hotter 'N Hell Hundred - A.French
63 miles 14.5 mph average

This year's HHH started out with the hope of "cool" temperatures. As we packed to go Friday afternoon in 100 degree weather, we caught the weather channel and it showed Wichita Falls in a balmy 83 degrees and pouring down rain. We dodged in and out of some very small, very heavy, cloudbursts on the way but by the time we got there (2 hours, 15 minutes later), the skies were clear and it was back in the 90's.

We picked up our packets about 3:15 and headed out to Archer City. Just after we settled in our room, Richard, Julie and RonMon arrived. They dumped their stuff, grabbed a quick Rum&Coke, and we went to explore the town. Well, ok, both blocks. The gas station Billy swept has lost its overhang, the picture show is gutted as usual, but the Texasville has reopened as a catfish and steak cafe and there is a great 5 and 10 next door. We dropped in to browse a bit and shot the breeze with the woman running it who was a fresh slice of Texas. She told us how the town had lost its doctor last year (it now has just a nurse practitioner), and the reform school for boys housed in the old hospital has now been converted into a bed and breakfast. She gave us a recommendation for a great fish dinner at "the lake" ten miles away but we decided to pass on the fried foods prior to the ride.

But Ron and Richard just had to see the old hospital, now B&B. We skirted the mud and made our way to a large brick building with no sign and they went up to knock on the door. Richard knocked and then dove into the bushes, since it had the look of being a private residence. The woman who answered, Ceil, was gracious and confirmed that it was the B&B we had heard about. She gave us a tour of the McMurtry titled rooms, including the tile floored one where the hospital used to do surgery (they got the blood out of the grout successfully). We met her partner, Mary, but left without convincing them to let us try the homemade biscuits they were planning for breakfast the next day.

When we got home, I found this article in the Dallas Morning News Today section of the Saturday paper:

"Whatever Happened to Jacy Farrow?" was the title of last year's book by Archer City native Ceil Cleveland, childhood friend of author Larry McMurtry. Many have speculated that Ceil was the model for Jacy in Larry's novel and Peter Bogdanovich's movie, "The Last Picture Show."

What Ceil is doing these days is partnering with her sister, Mary Webb, and opening the Lonesome Dove Inn in Archer City. The bed and breakfast is located near Larry's well-stocked Booked Up bookstore and its maze of book-laden annexes.

"At Larry's suggestion, we also accomodate writers, artists, actors, book buyers, booksellers and plain old book lovers with basket lunches at noon on request," says Ceil, who lives full time on Long Island in New York.

Her sister, Mary, is in Archer City and runs the business full time.

Milking the McMurtry oeuvre for all it's worth, the Lonesome Dove Inn offers the Terms of Endearment Suite, the Comanche Moon, Desert Rose, Cadillac Jack, Evening Star and Buffalo Girls rooms as well as the Last Picture Show TV room.

By this time we were starving so we went back to Wichita Falls (turn left at the State Hospital sign) and ended up at Bennigan's for the variety. A few drinks and tasty meals later, we all helped Ron with his healthy dessert, then split up so Ron, Richard and Julie could go into town for their packets while Stewart and I went back to Archer City.

Well, the normally quiet Spur Hotel was anything but this year. Our room on the second floor seemed to be the target of kids with bullhorns in the room next door and someone jumping rope above us. Granted, we crashed early planning to be up at 5:30 but at 11pm, Stewart finally pounded the wall and got the kids to pipe down.

The continental breakfast at 6am was just right for the ride: cereal, oatmeal, coffee, juice and bananas, and we met up with "the Richards" as we drove out of town. We parked again at the church on 6th street and biked/bladed to the starting line. Julie was planning to do the 25 mile roller blade route and remarked that the streets were bumpier than the trail blading she'd been doing. She joined the bikers at the end of the line and we waddled up to the 60K point. The starting gun sounded and there was no sign of motion for blocks ahead of us as the masses of cycling humanity craned their necks to discern any activity at all. A TV camera crew nearby caught the "action." 20 minutes later, we were able to climb on to our bikes, only to slow again at the bridge a block after the starting line.

The ride itself was really good. The temperatures were moderated by what felt like a slightly cool breeze, although it seemed to be always in our faces. The second rest stop had a Lost in Space theme this year, complete with moon pies. Richard took one spill which Ron described as artful, an over-the-handlebars full 2 1/2 forward roll, landing on his feet, never having touched the downed rider in front of him who triggered his dive.

It was primarily an easterly wind and after the 15 mile stretch east, the turn south was a short-lived relief. We flew for a few miles, then the wind shifted and was back in our face. Sheppard Air Force base was a welcome sight, treed and so close to the end, and with the ever-popular high-fiving kids. We skirted the F-16s and then saw two huge jack rabbits cavorting in the lawns of the military housing.

At the end, we grabbed several free cokes and decided to have a power bar for lunch since all that was available at the rest stops was bananas and oranges (although we found out later the big one we skipped toward the end had cookies), and the MPEC meals were fried or fatty. Neither of us had brought cash, but I found I had a secret stash in my belt bag, so we went in to the MPEC and found the Richards, buying up $20 Adidas bike shoes. Ron and Stewart commiserated on an inner thigh cramp that happens them at the 50 mile point every time. We got some BalanceBars (pretty yummy) and said our goodbyes, went back to the Spur for some very refreshing showers, and made it back home by 5:30. A very tiring but nice 62K, and although it didn't really feel that bad, the car read 103 degrees on the drive home.