Sunday, 2 November 2008.
Now that I am running out of major sights to see along my way, this is becoming a run for home. I've been gone two and a half weeks now and it would be nice to sleep in my own bed for a change. Looking at the map, I think today will be another hard run to get as many miles down as possible. I'll stop if anything catches my eye, but I don't see anything on the map that makes me want to stop ahead of time.
After leaving Albuquerque, I don't stop for anything but gas and snacks as I make my way out of New Mexico and into Texas. It fascinates me how different the terrain and vegetation are in just a few hours drive even though I never noticed the change as it was happening. Today was the first time in quite a few years that I've seen tumbleweeds blowing across the road. The wind was pretty vicious all day, in fact, and it made riding difficult at times. When you are constantly counter-steering to fight the crosswind and you catch up to an 18-wheeler that blocks you from the wind, you find yourself suddenly steering toward the truck. Once you regain control you're already getting past the truck, and the wind coming around the front end of the tractor pushes you hard toward the median. Nothing but fun right there. And this went on all day.
By the time I reached Amarillo, I was beat. I had only ridden 300 miles, but I was ready to take a break. I decided to stop for gas on the east side of town and then look for somewhere to sit down for dinner. That's when I spotted the Big Texan Steak Ranch. "Home of the Free 72 oz Steak." Sounds like my kind of place. I went in to look around and was greeted by a nice little old lady who has apparently written a book about the place and was autographing copies for sale. We chatted for a bit and I told her I was thinking about taking on the challenge - turns out the 4.5 pound sirloin is only free if you can eat it (AND a salad, roll, baked potato, and fried shrimp) in an hour. No bathroom breaks, no getting up from the table, just eat. She told me she didn't think I could do it. She said that I seemed to be a very confident person and didn't have anything to prove to anyone, so I probably wouldn't get the job done. Of course, I took that as a bit of a challenge and started making a few phone calls. I called my wife who thought it was crazy but a neat idea. Then I called my daughter who, of course, told me to go for it - especially when I told her she could watch the whole thing live on the web-site. Last I called was my friend Suzy to ask how many of our geocaching friends were online. When I explained what I was going to do, she got online and started sending phone calls and text messages to everyone she could think of. By the time I sat down to eat, there were over two dozen folks online to watch me eat myself into a stupor. And that's in addition to a regular Sunday night dinner crowd AND two school buses full of teenagers who arrived just as I started eating. What a show THIS was going to be. (If you look at the steak in the picture, you need to realize that those are "regular" sized grill marks on that steak. Once they had filleted it open, the darned thing was nearly a foot and a half long!)
It actually turned out to be a lot of fun. People constantly came up to the table to take pictures or just stare. Some folks would come up to wish me luck and some of the teenagers would occasional start chanting my name just to be funny. I didn't talk to people much because this stupid steak was just a monster and I knew I was going to have to eat fast before my body figured out what I was doing to it. I did pretty well, too. At half an hour into it I had finished about half the steak, as well as the salad, potato, and shrimp. But I could tell I was going to be in trouble soon. I still had over two pounds of steak to eat and it was getting cold, which seemed to make it tougher to chew. I could also feel my stomach expanding. A LOT. If you look closely at some of these screen shots, you can actually see me getting bigger around the middle. With about ten minutes left to go, I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish. I stayed with it as long as I could, but when it got to the point where I'd urp every time I tried to swallow another bite I knew I was done. I let the waiter know that I was done.
The drama wasn't over yet, though. It was a huge effort trying to just get up from the table. Then I had to stagger to the other end of the building to find the men's room. To my horror, all the stalls were occupied when I got in there! It took several minutes before I was able to relieve a little of the pain that was fast setting in to my guts. I went back to the table and collected my consolation prize t-shirt ("I TRIED to eat the whole thing!") and made my way toward the exit. (You pay before you sit down for this meal.) It was now after dark and there was no way I was riding that bike more than a couple of blocks to the nearest motel. I was a little worried about being able to get a leg over the seat! I found a Motel 6 that looked like it would have comfortable bathrooms and settled in for the night. I wasn't as miserable as I thought I'd be and I had a lot of fun, even if I wasn't able to finish the steak. A couple of calls and checking the forums let me know that everyone watching had fun, too, which was the real goal. This wasn't something that I am likely to try again, but it was another once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'm glad I decided to try on this trip. (I only rode 307 miles today for a total of 5800 so far).