Yesterday, I met a few of the Team McAllen folks at the Burger King for a long ride. Dutchman wanted to try for a century, the Major is always up for a long ride, and 3 other strong riders were game for anything. It was a beautiful day, as the rain had blown out, leaving us with a cool but sunny day, perfect for an afternoon ride. We decided to head northeast to Hargill and points beyond, which was fine with me, as I've never ridden into Hargill proper.
The ride to Hargill was a basic Rio Grande Valley ride. Start in urban McAllen, quickly head into rural farmland, and just as quickly feel like you've left most of civilization and may not be able to find a place to buy water and food. As an added bonus, on the way out we threw in 5-6 miles on US 281, which is a major highway with lots of traffic. The rumble strips on the side of the road made it really fun. About 35 miles into the ride, we reached Hargill.
Having never been to Hargill, I didn't know what to expect. What I saw were a few houses, and a very small store that we thought was closed. No lights, no signs, few windows, no gas pumps, and no people. One of us pulled on the door...and it opened. The store was lit by one 8 foot double fluorescent, and did not appear to have air conditioning, but they had drinks and food, and a reasonable excuse for a latrine. Photos of the Hargill crossroads and a sign on the outside of the store follow. Note -- I'm surprised that there are no spelling errors or misuse of apostrophes on the hand-painted sign. That is a rarity.
Since I was planning on a century, I was focused on hydration and energy during the ride. I had two bottles, and drank constantly. Gatorade in one, water in the other. On the way out, I ate a ~250 calorie Clif Bar. In Hargill, I had ~225 calories of peanut butter cookies. And on the way back, I had some Fig Newtons. One of our fellow riders didn't do that...maybe he forgot, or maybe wasn't quite ready for the century. He bonked! It happens, and we weren't going to leave him out in the south Texas farmlands, so we changed our route, reduced our speed, and made sure we all made it back in alive, regardless of miles. As we rolled near McAllen, I realized I wasn't going to have 100 miles by the time I made it home. Crud, crud, crud.
Fortuntately, there's a simple but frustrating solution that I learned early in my cycling life. I've ridden the Shiner GASP / BASH a couple of times, and each time as I approached the finish I would see riders heading the opposite direction. The first year, I was brand new to cycling and didn't know why they were doing this until a more seasoned buddy explained it: the official ride length is 85 miles, and they were heading out to do a 7.5 out and in to make a full 100. Until yesterday, if I wanted a century, I've always ridden a route that gave me a century. Yesterday, I fell short, and had to add on miles near my house to make the full 100. If you've ever had to do this, you know that these are the worst miles you'll ever ride. It's like sprinting to the finish line, only to have the race organizers pull up the stakes on the blow-up archway and move it another few miles down the road. Regardless, when the day was done, I had finished 105 glorious miles.
The link to the ride data is here, and a screen capture of the map is below. When you look at the map, the little loop in the southwest corner represents two painful, century-completing, 6 mile laps around Granjeno near my home.
I usually ride early in the morning. Yesterday we started at 1pm. I put sunscreen on my face, neck, and ears. I forgot my arms and legs. Here's what my upper arm looked like this morning. I guess my 1/4 Mexican blood didn't keep me from burning. Live and learn...