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9.4.2 PAC tours across the country 94 Part 2


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.4.2 PAC tours across the country 94 Part 2

Our first full day of working came on day 2. This was a pretty short
day, so we served lunch in the parking lot of the motel. We worked
quickly and just barely managed to get setup before the first riders
arrived. This motel turned out to be the nicest one on the trip. Each
room was a suite, complete with refrigerator, microwave, and separate
sitting room. The pool and Jacuzzi proved to be quite popular in the
afternoon. The next morning we discovered that they even had free beer
happy hour by the pool later in the day.

But we were busy checking out bike shops and trying to find a place to
ride. While looking at maps, we saw some potentially interesting
routes, and asked about them at a local shop. They weren't of much
help, and recommended a supposed 30 mile ride, that turned out to be
on our next days route - and at least 60 miles. I wouldn't normally
complain about that distance, but we only wanted a 2 hour ride (to
finish by dark) and we didn't want to do roads we'd be doing the next
day, so we decided to check out my original idea. This road headed
into an Indian reservation, and appeared to climb a canyon. We didn't
make it very far though. After the first time we stood, I looked down
and screamed at John to STOP PEDALING NOW, as he was about to carve
out the bottom bracket shell with his right crank. The eccentric that
should have held for thousands of miles had slid an inch or so to the

We looked around the side of the road for repair tools and came up
with a large branch and some rubber material to cover the cranks while
we tried to hammer the whole assembly back into the frame. Of course,
we took a couple of pictures first ! This didn't work too well, so we
eventually removed the sync chain, so I could pedal us home without
the front cranks destroying the frame (or getting scratched). In all
my years of tandeming, it's amazing how many smart-alecs have hollered
out, "She's not pedaling." But despite the fact that John really
wasn't pedaling, and I was sitting in the back huffing and puffing and
struggling to get us back to the motel, not one person said, "He's not
pedaling." We passed by several PAC Tour riders on their way to dinner
- and I tried to point out something was wrong. We even passed Lon
with his video camera and got him to tape a few seconds of John being
lazy, but I guess the missing chain was too subtle.

Lon offered to lend us Susan's tandem for our ride the next day. Susan
offered to RENT it to us, $30 per saddle, plus mileage.

The next day, we rode from Yuma to Gila Bend. There was a road race
scheduled for that day and John and I had planned to enter the race
before our bike broke down. We had gone back and forth about whether
or not to race on the borrowed bike, since odds were that we'd need to
stop a dozen times to change seat heights.

At breakfast we decided we would race, but apparently my nervousness
about racing made John think I didn't want to race, and we ended up
having an enormous fight that started out about the race and ended up
covering every little problem for the last 6 months. Tandems have a
reputation for exaggerating any little differences and have been known
to end up in divorce settlements. This typically happens to a couple
who doesn't communicate well off the bike. For a couple that does
communicate effectively, tandems can really enhance a relationship
since they can work together as a team for a common goal, and really
share in the rewards. I have to say that this is usually the case for
us, but this time, we simply failed to let each other know what we
really wanted. We stopped twice and sat on the side of the road, while
I generally lost my cool. We got back on the bike, and I tried my
hardest to not work. I soft pedaled and even pulled my feet out
entirely for a while (Hey, John owed me 5 miles from the night before
anyway), but I actually found that riding this way is more painful,
since ALL the pressure is on my butt. On top of all this, we were on
this very small and cramped bike that left me even grumpier. I really,
really wanted to get off that bike - and would have given anything for
a single.

But to John's credit, he refused to take the easy way out and we
stayed on the tandem. But we hardly spoke for an hour. Then John blew
a shift. We'd been having a similar problem with the front derailleur
on our own bike, where we could occasionally overshift off the big
ring. John kept blaming the bike. When it happened on Susan's bike
too, I said that it had to be him ! Now, I suppose this could have
made things worse, but it actually served as an icebreaker, and we
finally started talking again. Had we been able to get off the tandem
and on singles, we might not have ever resolved the problem, but by
being forced to finish the day on the same bike, we had the time and
the proximity to work it out.

Last year when I first mentioned to a friend that we planned to take
the tandem on a cross country tour, she warned me that it could be
difficult, since if we had differences, we couldn't get away from each
other, and it is certainly a concern. But what we learned from this
experience was how important it was to really communicate and that the
tandem doesn't always have to make a fight worse !

We were back to work on day 4. Gladys, Karen, John and I headed out to
the designated lunch stop to set up a delicious burrito lunch. But
first we tried to destroy Susan's tandem. The lunch van is a big Ford
van pulling a small trailer. We keep most of the lunch supplies in
this trailer. There are several bike racks on top of the van and the
trailer. Crew members kept their bikes on the vehicle they were in. So
our tandem was on the roof of the van. Susan's tandem also stayed on
the van - on the other side. She was either riding her single or the
other tandem with Lon that day. Anyway, as Gladys was pulling the
vehicle in toward the shelter, the handlebars snagged a low tree and
got tangled up before I looked up from what I was doing to scream
STOP. Unfortunately this tree was full of thorns, and we spent the
next 20 minutes attempting to free the bike from the thorny tree. We
finally got it down, and managed to setup lunch just before the first
riders arrived.

Riding in the van that afternoon was one of those truly torturous
experiences as we passed through spectacular scenery. John and I drove
Gladys crazy asking to stop to take pictures over and over again. We
probably sounded like people who had never left home with all our oohs
and aahs about the cactus and mountains and clouds and such. We
stopped in at the final snack stop to report on rider progress, grab
some snacks and head in.

We drove up through a breathtaking canyon, and then saw an absolutely
heartbreaking sign. My favorite ones show a truck on a triangle aimed
downhill and usually have percentages over 10. While this percentage
was only 6, the miles indicated were 12. Oh how I wanted to be on my
bike. But in less than a mile, something seemed terribly wrong as the
slope was decidedly up rather than down. Was the sign missing a slash
to indicate 1/2 rather than 12 ? I could imagine a few bummed out
cyclists ! The next sign claimed seven miles of downhill, but this
descent ended after only 2, with more tough climbing ahead. The final
truck on a triangle sign truthfully reported 4 miles of down, but
after being burned twice, I wouldn't have believed it.

After all the false descending, we reached the motel. John and I could
have predicted that it was on top of a killer steep hill and across
from McDonalds. Lon seems to have a sick sense of humor this way, and
ALWAYS finds motels on top of hills, and for some reason, they are
usually quite close to his favorite eating establishment.

We got in, checked the mail and found our new eccentric. So after
working on lunch for the next day, we played bike mechanic for a
while, and even got in a very quick 2 mile test ride.

Day 5 turned into one of our best rides in ages. It was only 88 miles,
but had over 8300 feet of climbing. As usual, most of the riders had
left before we rolled out. We took it easy for a while and warmed up,
but picked up the pace as the rollers increased. Riding every other
day left our legs fairly fresh, and after 4 days of riding, other
riders were starting to fatigue. We zoomed past quite a few riders on
these fabulous tandem rollers that we could fly down and use our
momentum to zip up the far side at over 30 mph. We caught quite a few
riders by surprise as we flew past on climbs, and joked that we would
need to reintroduce ourselves, since so many of them seemed to think
our names were Oh and Jesus. Fellow crew member, Roger Mankus reserved
the spot behind us for his own. Roger has a fair amount of experience
riding and drafting a tandem, and it showed. Staying with a big bike
on this type of terrain takes a little practice, but he was quite
proficient. Usually it means working your tail off on the downhill,
and eventually getting a little break on the climb. Let a gap form at
all, and all hope is lost.

None of the climbs were really bad, usually just long and gradual.
They were the type to just get into the rhythm and go, and we did.
Then we hit a descent that could have been a complete speed rush, but
unlike East Coast roads, where trees block the view, we could see
forever. After hitting 58 mph, we had to stop for pictures. We stopped
over and over again until we ran out of film.

Fortunately we had another roll handy and reloaded. Then we saw one of
the best signs of the trip that proclaimed "Animals on Road next 20
miles." I had to get a shot of the sign and the two cycling animals I
was riding with.

We beat the lunch van to the motel, so we had a little time to run
errands before getting back to work. John found a barber to fix his
haircut. I made him promise not to tell the barber that his girlfriend
did this to him, since he'd get teased mercilessly.

We reached the highest point on the trip at 9300 feet on Day 6. Gladys
let us ride down the hill from this point to the lunch stop at our
motel in Springerville. This was the shortest PAC Tour Day ever, and
we started serving lunch at 10 in the morning. Lon had tried to tempt
John into racing on a single, by offering him use of a bike. So I
began looking for someone to try the tandem, since there were no spare
singles small enough for me. Most of the people interested in tandem
were also racing, but Jim Smith decided to try it out, so we set the
seat heights, swapped pedals and went out for a quick test ride. Then
we were left with the rest of the afternoon to relax.

The next morning, I quickly learned that Jim likes to push bigger
gears than I do, as we headed out to climb over the continental divide
for Jim's first ever tandem ride. The scenery again was spectacular
and we had a special treat with a rainbow appearing on each side of
the road ahead of us.

The racers came zooming by us at around the second snack stop. For a
while, they seemed to be taking it easy and we almost caught back up
to them on a descent, but then they put the hammer down and tried to
hurt each other on the final climbs.

The race ended on a long steep hill that hurt me quite a bit. I could
just imagine how it felt to sprint up this thing to the finish line of
a race. When we stopped, we heard lots of comments from the racers
about how bad it hurt, but John seemed to like it and had a second
place to prove it. We quickly moved Jim's pedals back to his own bike,
and set the bike back up for John before heading off to lunch.

John and all the other racers talked about taking it easy for the rest
of the day, but the race seemed to continue all the way to the motel,
as we ended up averaging almost 20 mph for the day.

The next day was uphill for the first 78 miles, and Susan kicked us
out of the lunch van and made us ride to lunch ! Oh, poor us ! As we
rolled out of Socorro, NM, we both swore we saw a UFO hovering over
the mountains. I think sighting of UFOs is pretty common in New
Mexico. The scenery is pretty nice there. I suppose if I was an alien
from another planet, I'd certainly visit New Mexico !

Just before lunch we rode through a large lava field called the Valley
of Fire, definitely not a place to have a flat tire, since that really
was molten rock on either side of the roadway. The lava flows were
pretty impressive, but we had work to do at lunch, so we pressed on.

On the 9th day we rode from Roswell, NM to Brownfield TX. After a
short warm-up, we were joined by Lon and Susan on their tandem. This
was a real rush as we hammered along climbing hills at 25+ mph. Maybe
it was the high speeds that caused us to break the unbreakable fender.
Living and riding in New England, we consider fenders an absolute
necessity. Unfortunately we haven't been having great luck with them
on the tandem lately. We seem to break them regularly. We've gone
through three Zefals since February and decided to try some fancy
French aluminum fenders. The shop where we purchased these assured us
that we wouldn't break them, but here we were, with yet another fender
snapped off at the brake bridge. We removed the broken part, strapped
it on to the rack and resumed our ride.

Later in the day, we began to notice the really intricate metal signs
for all the ranches, and stopped for a few photos as we passed through
the town where they are made. Every light post in town was adorned
with one of these carvings, and all the businesses had them on

That evening as part of our crew duties, John and I headed off to buy
150 two liter bottles of soda. Apparently this is a common occurrence
in Brownsfield, Texas, because the cashier didn't so much as bat an
eye, or even ask if we were thirsty !

Crossing Texas would be easy for those who hated reading cue sheets.
We would stay on route 380 for days. Getting to Texas also meant we'd
be meeting up with or friend and fellow ultramarathoner, Nick Gerlich.
Nick planned to ride out and meet us for lunch and then ride half of
the next day as well. John and I traded jobs with Roger, so Roger
could ride with Nick after lunch and we could work the snack stops on
the caravan. It was a nice change of pace. After manning the first
snack stop, we stopped in the town of Post to get some ice, and check
out a Texas Main Street town. Later, we got some video footage of
riders. We did a little from the side of the road, the side of the
van, and even some with John sitting in the back of the van with the
tailgate open while riders sprinted up and tried motorpacing until I
sped up or slowed down too much for them.

Finding a good spot for the afternoon snack stop was a chore as
there's not much shade in this part of Texas and it was hot. The
humidity was rising as well. Despite the high numbers, the heat had
actually not been terribly unpleasant so far, thanks to the lack of
humidity, but that was about to change - dramatically.

Nick joined us for the first part of Day 11 from Aspermont to
Jacksboro. It's kind of depressing to have fresh legs join riders with
10 days of hard riding in their legs. Nick really hammered folks into
the ground, but we had a good time despite watching him pull away from
all of us. Roger resumed his reserved spot on our wheel as we cruised
to the second snack stop, but Lon got us into hammer mode speeding
into lunch.

After lunch, we got our first chance to ride with the Myers, the
couple most folks referred to as the tandem team in need of a tandem.
Mike and Nancy dressed like tandem twins - even off the bike. They
rode identical Cannondales and stayed together all the time. We had a
great time chatting about tandems (they are interested), brevets and
BMB (we had sort of met at BMB in 92). As part of their preparation
for this ride they had done three complete series of brevets, since
they had three different series within easy driving distances. It was
surprising to us that most of the riders we talked to did a lot of
their training on their own. Very few rode with a club or found
organized longer rides.

After 11 days of warm sunny days with tailwinds, it was time to pay.
Rain and fierce headwinds, along with lots of big trucks, creating
drafts that just tossed riders around mercilessly, made this day a
great day to be a crew member. Plummeting temperatures left many
riders unprepared and cold. John and I lent out all our rain gear and
warm weather gear until it seemed that we had clothes on half of the

About 10 miles before the designated lunch stop, we started looking
for a spot with some sort of shelter, but saw nothing. I convinced
Gladys to drive a few miles further and we were rewarded for our
persistence with an empty outdoor flea market, complete with
bathrooms. I knew riders wouldn't mind a few extra miles to lunch in
exchange for shelter. John and Gladys figured out how to operate the
propane stove and got water started for soup and hot cocoa. We had
prepared a great pasta salad for lunch, but it was hardly touched. The
soup, on the other hand was a great hit.

Riders had found all sorts of creative ways to deal with the wet messy
conditions. Many had gone on shopping sprees, and came in wearing all
sorts of assorted garb. Team DQ spent quite a bit of time in a Waffle
House, eating everything in sight, and then in a K-Mart filling one of
the riders credit cards with long underwear purchases. I continued
passing out clothing, until I was down to minimal attire, but I could
get back in the nice warm van after lunch !

Lon had scheduled a team time trial for Day 13. We'd tried to convince
him to do a team with him and Susan and John and me on tandems, but
they had to run the race. So instead, we had a team with us, Roger,
Eric, and Tim (with Tim being the only non-crew member). I was
actually pretty excited about this. Other than 24 hour time trials and
RAAM qualifiers, I have never raced, so this would be a great first
one. Lon had tried to balance the teams out fairly well. This race was
just for fun and the standings would not be affected by the outcome.
We all took it fairly easy riding out to the start, which was
scheduled to be at the first snack stop. But when we arrived at this
designated area, it was deserted, and paint on the road indicated that
we should keep going.


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