We started a new day saying goodbye to two of our number - Dee and Michael - both of whom are clearly more intelligent than the rest of us as they signed up for the shorter option. Despite flat tires, getting lost and then getting deathly ill - Dee managed to retain his humor throughout. Michael, the guy you should want as your doctor, left us with great memories of his quietly effective sense of humor. We'll miss both of them.
Lesson learned - never underestimate a day! After our 140 mile climb over the rockies, we were looking at 93 miles from Taos to Raton, New Mexico as a "short hop". We started by climbing out of Taos - another long but gradual climb up a beautiful canyon. We then hit a second, short climb and reached the high point for the day elevation wise. This was followed by a breathtakingly beautiful descent through Cimarron Canyon State Park. We were spread out on the way down, so I was alone to enjoy a ride with mountains on both sides and a river beside me. The descent went forever, all at ego-stroking speeds between 25 and 30 mph. We regrouped for a great lunch at the point where the rockies meet the great plains (for whatever that's worth).
We continued to ride strongly after lunch, but about 10 miles from home the group hit a headwind and some of us just started to wear down. Even Karl - doing a 93 mile ride after emptying his body for a couple of days - was close to bonking. When Jeff says he's close to empty you know it's been a tough day. I was definitely tired, but actually felt pretty strong over the last few miles - all of which I attribute to good living! That said, when I got to my room and looked in the mirror I saw a tired face caked in salt.
And now we sit here at the Holiday Inn Express. I think I've said this before, but I have learned to love these hotels. I did have an epiphany today - realizing that I need to shift my strategy. I've been fighting to keep up with Jeff (our strongest climber by far) on the hills and fighting to keep up with Joseph (our strongest sprinter by far) on the flats. This basically identifies me as an idiot. My new strategy is to stick with Joseph on hills and Jeff on flats - still a challenge but a more sane approach overall!
This was our first of nine consecutive 100 mile (ish) days, across New Mexico and Oklahoma into Branson, Missouri and our next rest day. If averages prevail, most of it will be straight into a headwind. I think this qualifies this stretch as the "just grind it out and don't think too much" section of our trip.
That's it - have to download Glee now so I can watch it tonight and catch up with Sara and Sydney!