Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nov 16 (Day 320) - Weather causes a change in plans....

The plan for today was to ride the ~65 miles from from Fort Stockton, TX to Iraan, TX. This would set me up for nicely for either a short, 54-mile ride to Ozona or a longer, 89-mile ride to Sonora tomorrow. 

Enter my favorite weather phenomenon - The Polar Vortex. While I thought I might have escaped this royal headache from the beginning of the year, it looks at though winter 2014-15 has other plans for me. I figured that I'd be safe from extremely cold weather in central Texas; I was wrong.

Polar Vortex pushing south!

The weather forecast for today was bad. North (cross) winds of 15-25 MPH would sweep down across Western and Central Texas. Associated cool air of 45-55F would make riding uncomfortable given the clothing I am carrying at the moment. I knew this heading out the door this morning, and I figured I could tough it out for the 65-mile ride to Iraan.  Looking at the same weather forecast from above (and cross referencing it with several others online), it became equally apparent that tomorrow's weather was going to be even colder than today's. 

The big problem today was cloud cover. It was everywhere. The I did not see the sun today, and as a result temperatures did not reach the low to mid-50's as predicted. Instead, they hovered between 40-44 for most of my ride. Coupled with the wind, I was really cold. My feet were completely numb, and I was in my Polartec mittens all day. Despite these conditions, my legs actually felt OK even after yesterday's 119-mile, wind-aided sprint to Fort Stockton. At ~52 miles into the ride, I decided to alter the plan for today. Instead of turning off I-10 and riding NE to reach Iraan, I would put my head down and hammer another 58 miles along the blustery freeway to try to reach Ozona today. It was really cold, but I realized that tomorrow was going to be even colder. I would rather do the ride today than in even colder conditions tomorrow. This resulting 110-mile ride from Fort Stockton to Ozona would push me to the limits of what I have been able to accomplish the year. To be be brief, the ride completely sucked. Cold air, wind, and big hills combined to batter me for the entire afternoon. I had a tough time keeping the bike in the road at times. The wind blew from the north the entire time save for the last hour when it decided to switch to blow a bit more from the east. Those last 10 miles were agonizing. When I arrived, the air temp was 40F and the wind was a sustained 22 MPH, gusting to 30 MPH, from the NNE to NE.  

Cloudy day in Texas

What I had planned for today (Dragon Buffet was where 
I started in Fort Stockton)

What I had planned for tomorrow

Skipping Iraan, I rode the 110-miles directly from 
Fort Stockton to Ozona.

Despite all my bitching about the cold, this ride would not have been possible without it. Why? Because there is no where to refill water (or food) along the 110-mile stretch from Fort Stockton to Ozona (without a very significant detour - i.e. > 10-15 miles). This is why I had to detour through and stay in Iraan on the westbound leg in May in the 97F temps. I simply could not carry enough water to ride 110 miles if it was warm/hot. I hardly sweat at all today, and I was able to make the entire 110-mile run today on ~60oz of water. I hardly touched my camelback after I had drained my bottles. So the same cold temps and clouds that made today's ride miserable, also made it possible. Kinda funny, huh? I will venture to say that a huge majority of cyclists in my position would have sat tight in Fort Stockton both today and tomorrow and let the Polar Vortex pass. However, I'm not a cyclist. I'm a birder, and the clock is ticking.

Tomorrow I will wait for things to warm up a bit and then do the short, 35-mile ride to Sonora. Right now there are 2 competing factors that dictate how my day goes. Temperatures are lowest in the early morning before it warms up, but winds will pick up as the day progresses. If I leave to early, I freeze on my ride. If I leave too late, the wind makes things much more difficult. Since tomorrow's ride is so short, I can wait until around 10-11 to leave and I'll be in in 3 hours, before the wind switches and strengthens from the east (headwind) mid-afternoon. All this strategizing is driving me crazy. It's never easy on a bike - especially in West Texas. 

230 miles this weekend - HELLS YES! That's a nice big bite out of Texas.


  1. That's nuts! Best Western had to factor into the decision too, right? What ever happened to your low-risk strategy? ;-) -Dave

  2. Really impressive, Dorian. With regards to your comment yesterday that during periods of heavy riding like this, there just isn't much to report on the blog: I find these entries to be valuable precisely because they give us a sense of the amount of hard, often hapless work you have put in this year. While your species list is certainly amazing, for me personally the most impressive part of your big year is the mileage total. When you crossed western Idaho and eastern Washington this summer, I remember thinking that it would take incredible dedication to ride 80 miles a day for a week plus with no birding whatsoever, just to cover ground. I guess this is the last major traveling period you'll have, and you've got South Texas to look forward to, so keep up the good work! You've already accomplished more than most people considered possible.


  3. I like the 'I'm not a cyclist, I'm a birder.' There is a massive difference. keep going Dorian. Can't wait for you to get the magic 600. All the very best,
    Gary Prescott (Biking Birder 2010/5)

  4. Being a cyclist first and a birder second I can appreciate the tremendous challenges you are going through.It's even more challenging being by yourself with nobody to either encourage you or discourage you to go on. The closest I came to experiencing what you are going through is when my brother and I were cycling through Alaska and we came to a pass where the winds were blowing 30 to 40 miles an hour and we were literally moving at 2 to three miles an hour for most of the day. This was called a tunnel affect as it blew through the pass. I wish I was there with you to block the wind and draft for you. Be careful and be stay safe.