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Day Three
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Kingsville, TX to Harlingen, TX
98 Miles

Getting out of bed this morning was even harder than yesterday.  I was tired and moving slow, and I had a tough time making myself eat a small breakfast.  I think Debra was a little concerned to see me wandering zombie-like around the room.  It's a good thing that I prepared everything the night before, because I probably would have forgotten a few things if I'd had to prepare in the morning.  I rolled the bike out of the room at 6:00, just as Craig was walking his out.  We waited a few minutes for a little more light, took some pictures, and headed south on the last leg of our journey.

Today was going to be a little different.  Earl Gander, the cycling coach at MMA, arranged to drive the van up to Kingsville with two of the cadets who would join us for the ride back to Harlingen.  We told him that we were going to leave at 6:15 whether he was there or not.  When the time came and they hadn't yet arrived, we loaded up our stuff and headed out.  About five minutes into the ride we saw them drive by headed to the hotel, so we called Debra and had her direct them to where we were waiting for them.  Earl got some good pictures of us there at the Whataburger before we took off, and I got one of him fiddling with the camera.  You can see some of Earl's pictures on the MMA Web site here.

A side benefit of having the cadets along was Earl riding support in the van behind us.  We were able to unload the extra weight of our water packs, and Craig got take the panniers off the back of his bike.  Less weight is always a good thing.  It's also a good thing that I put on plenty of sun screen before we left the hotel.  The weather forecast called for partly cloudy and warm--above 80 degrees.  And wind, of course.  I knew that the wind was going to be bad, but I underestimated it.  We were straight on into the wind for most of the ride.  The road was smooth enough and the shoulder wide enough to ride two abreast most of the way.  I took point on the inside with Craig behind me mostly out of the wind.  The two cadets traded riding point on the outside.  That left me partially sheltered from any cross wind, and I could maintain that pace the entire way.

There isn't much between Kingsville and Raymondville (75 miles) but two little towns, a luxury rest area, and 50 miles of south Texas coastal plains across the King Ranch.  We hit the rest area around nine or ten o'clock, and nobody wanted to leave.  The next 50 miles were to be in the sun and wind, with no rest areas or convenience stores until we got to Raymondville.  It was just work:  grind out the miles, stop every hour to refill the water bottles and take a bite to eat, and then back on the road.  The trip wasn't without its amusements.  I did manage to come up with a new cycling song:  The Hot and Windy Sore Ass Biking Blues.  That was about the limit of my creativity, though, as the only lyric I could manage was "My ass hurts."

I did get a few action shots that turned out surprisingly well considering how I took them.  I just held the camera over my shoulder and pressed the button.  Of the ten or so shots I took that way, these two are reasonably good.

I snapped this picture as we were rolling out from the Whataburger just south of Kingsville.  Even at that point, there wasn't much around.

I got this picture somewhere down the road before the rest stop.  This is how the road looked for most of the ride:  nothing but asphalt, coastal plains, and a few mesquite trees.

I realized along the way just how much Craig and I had come to depend on the next town being only 20 miles away.  It's not that we had to stop at every town, but it was nice to have intermediate goals.  Riding across the King Ranch, there simply isn't anything to look forward to except Raymondville, 50 miles down the road.  But the time passes, just like it did yesterday, and before we knew it we were through Raymondville and making our way the last few miles to the school.  Five miles away we turned east, for the first time that day putting the wind somewhere other than directly in our faces.  We only got four miles of that but we made the most of it, kicking up the speed and looking forward to the end.  The last mile was into the wind again, but we didn't care.

I wish I had a decent picture of the crowd that had gathered at the school to welcome us in.  As we turned the corner and passed through the gates, the marching band launched into the Marine Corps Hymn and I sat back with my hands off the handlebars and couldn't help but grin.

Debra and Mickie put together bouquets of red and yellow balloons and roses for each of us.  General Rollings, the President of the Marine Military Academy, was there with his wife to greet us, and assorted other staff and faculty also stayed around to congratulate us.  We stood around for pictures and to talk to people for a few minutes, then loaded the bikes onto Craig's Suburban for a ride to the hotel, a shower, dinner, and beer!

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