The Daily Gazette
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Hell on wheels

Pictured: The Davis Mountains (top) and a photo of chipseal.

The happiest, most sublime bike ride I have ever made was on this tour.

An exaggeration, you say? You've been whining about heat, cold, headwind, dust, the desert, cold rain, the hills.

Yet, on a cool, overcast day in West Texas, coming out of the Davis Mountains, flying downhill and slowly cycling up, through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery, I experienced what some call "flow."

Flow is effortless, with a sense of being at one with space and time. It is a precious and a rare experience, possible only when all of the elements come, together and are sustained and effortless.

This was my experience in the Davis Mountains until I hit the chipseal.

What is chipseal, you ask? Rural, poor counties in Texas pave their roads with gravel, overlaid with tar.
Chipseal makes a very rough noisy surface. It is hell
for cyclists and hell on bikes. You feel like your fillings will shake lose, and your jaw will dislocate.

Tires disintegrate on chipseal, any loose fitting will fall off.

I hit the chipseal east of the state park I was riding through, close to the town of Alpine. And, it was the worst kind, new chipseal. I slowed down to a pathetic 8 mph, and felt like I was cycling through molasses.

My idyllic ride was over. I had lost the flow. And, worst of all, I've learned that the roads in Texas are mainly paved with chipseal. The older the paving, the better. Cars have had a chance to wear down the surface.

Now, leaving west Texas for the hill country, I'm hoping that we're ahead of the paving season.

Read all of Pat Rush's blog entries on her cross-country cycling trip here.

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