Aspermont, TX to Abilene, TX – 68 miles
Today was the last leg of my Texas journey. After a decent sleep in the Bates Motel of Aspermont (really it was called the Hickman Motel and wasn’t all that bad), we were up at 5:00. After a morning gear check, filling up my bottles, and a quick breakfast in the Pony with Evan and Melanie, I was off at 6:30 AM to complete my ride. At that hour it is still pretty dark with some light on the eastern horizon. The good thing about getting out that early is that it was relatively comfortable without the sun beating down. I was racing the clock a bit here as my flight was out of Abilene at 1:30. So I pedaled away with Melanie behind me again to ward off all the semis doing 80 mph.
The ride was pretty uneventful with, unfortunately, the same nondescript scenery along the empty roads. I did see my first armadillo, although the poor bugger was lying along the side the road expired after succumbing to a bad outcome with traffic. Just cruised along with quick stops to fill my drink bottles. The roads were largely the “Texas rattle roads” again, although our course took us off the main strip for the last 25 miles onto what was the worst road surface of the trek. I think the idea was to stay on less traveled roads but it was horrible. It was like riding bad cobblestones, and I thought the “rattle roads” were bad! Finally this stretch ended when I descended onto the outskirts of Abilene. It was so weird pedaling into Abilene in that you felt like you were coming back to civilization. There were now typical shopping and food stores we are accustomed to. It was only two days earlier that I left Amarillo but it seemed much longer. We were all joking that one day out in the back roads and tiny towns feels like a week. It is kind of like the “Inception” thing for those of you who saw the movie. Anyway got to the hotel, quickly broke down and packed up my bike and a fast shower. After a heartfelt goodbye to Evan and Melanie, my wonderful support crew, it was off the airport and on my way back to New York.
I owe much thanks to Evan and Melanie for providing their very much appreciated support. Every stop, Evan was there quickly to bring me ice and water for me to mix my drinks and fill my bottles. Without Evan I would have surely melted away into the pavement. Melanie was my guardian angel, protecting my rear from generally courteous, but some obnoxious, 18 wheelers. Thanks for keeping me safe on those very hot and sometimes too narrow roadways and so that I did not become a statistic.
I truly hope this ride does some good and Congress acts to pass this pending bill to increase Alzheimer’s disease research funding. Every stop we made, people came up to us to say they had a grandfather, a mother, an aunt, or someone that was affected with this disease. Every family is affected at some level. Having my own father succumb to this horrible disease last year without any effective treatments is a difficult thing to accept. During my ride, I would check in online and people would post comments wishing me and the other riders’ safety while biking and success with getting this bill passed and our research. I found one comment last night that really struck home for me. The person wrote in “Hundreds of thousands of people have survived cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Yet not one person has survived Alzheimer’s disease”. What else needs to be said. The continuous efforts by our labs and, importantly, the workers in our labs keep us moving towards this goal.
Lastly, I want to applaud my fellow grunts, before me and after me, that have or will toil on the narrow, hot, humid, and dusty back roads. While out on the road melting away in the middle of nowhere, with not a person to be seen for miles and miles, I was thinking it would be so cool to pedal into a big city with a big signing event. But that is not what my leg from Amarillo to Abilene was about. Our role as grunts is to keep this show moving on its way to Washington. I hope that I, and the rest of you, have the opportunity to go down to Washington for that last leg of the ride to pedal in with the rest of the group to deliver these signatures to Congress. You have all earned it! Safety and perseverance to the continuing riders and our dedicated support crew. CU in DC!
-Dr. William Van Nostrand