Updated: Apr 18, 2019
What's the saying? 5th time's a charm?
In late March, 4 of us took a run at the Caprock Trailway. We rode in reverse of the typical direction. As many have discovered, the best riding is starting at South Plains and heading East until Quitaque. The surface is in much better condition, you are dropping down most of the way into the canyon, and you get to experience clarity tunnel. That's not the way we went. No good reason to ride west-bound other than I had seen the South Plains side of the route way too many times (See Caprock v1-4) and I just wanted to see the other side.
We camped the night before at the State Park and drove to Estelline to start the ride. This was also the first time bikepacking for the three others in our group. After some time getting everything situated on the bikes we rode off. Our goal was to reach Turkey then find a camp. Most of the ride was uneventful and smooth with a couple exceptions. This route is long and straight and for the most part, flat. Riding with friends to keep some conversation going helps. There are a few spots that provide nice views or park signs explaining some historical importance of that section. One section had been washed out by recent rains and flash flooding and we had to hike a short chunk. Not sure if it was conditioning, the headwind, or the heat that hit us about 8 miles before Turkey. We all felt it, the pace slowed and we took a few breaks as we pushed on through.
In Turkey we steered off the trail and into town aiming for the Allsup's gas station for refreshments and some food. After a brief shopping spree we found the trail again and ended up camping on the edge of town. I was pretty beat and realized I had not been eating and drinking enough for the last 30 or so miles and it caught up with me all at once. I ended up eating what I could keep down and laying in the tent waiting for the nausea to pass. The rest of the group was tired but for the most part, intact. We made meals, washed up and chatted into the early evening when the weather changed. Somewhere near dark the wind kicked up and temperatures dropped about 20 degrees. Over the course of the night we were assaulted by some pretty high winds, the kind that try to lay your tent down flat while you rest inside.
The next morning we woke to the sound of dozens of dirt bikes revving their engines and swarming all around us. It turned out to be a motocross event of some kind and our camp area was in close proximity to their race route. We took care of breakfast, packed up and rode out by around 9. We knew the forecast was not in our favor. Our original plan was to pass Quitaque and the State Park and keep riding West to South Plains. We were riding at one stretch at a pretty good pace and... well... have you ever seen a cat jump straight up into the air when they get startled? About 10 yards ahead and to the right of me a healthy sized bobcat leaped straight into the air then shot up the hill to my right. Seems we scared the crap out of that cat as we got close on the bikes. It must have been hunting in the high brush and didn't hear us approach due to the wind. We weren't sure how it was really going to play out with the 25-30 mph headwind pushing against us. By the time we reached town we changed course and went North straight into the park.
3 of the guys were on mountain bikes of various flavors and I decided to take 'El Camino' which was a blessing in the rough areas and a curse on flat roads in a headwind. Either way, I finally conquered the Eastern half and I can say now - I have ridden the entire trailway.