Date: March 22nd, 2017

From/To: Hedley, TX/Amarillo, TX

Daily Mileage: 70 miles

Total Mileage: 1375 miles

Conditions: Overcast, cool breeze, little to no wind

No wind? I couldn’t believe it. I was waiting all day for it and it never showed up. Who would’ve thought. Whoever is in charge of the weather must’ve decided I suffered enough the past few days, so thanks for cutting me a break.

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Todays trek, from Hedley, TX to Amarillo, TX.

Amarillo has been a long awaited destination. From here I head north, towards Colorado. I love Texas but I’m certainly ready for something new.

I woke up around 9:00AM today. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the winds, but I was ready for whatever challenge came my way. I had spent some time last night talking to my friend, John Nitti, another tour biker who has biked all over the country in the past. I was put in touch with John through my cousin Rob, and I accredit John with the idea of making this ride a charity effort. I needed to talk to someone who’s been though similar battles across the Great Plains and John was the perfect person. He gave me some advice that I’m using now. He told me to start off the day by going 5 miles on the bike. No music, just to focus on warming up. After that, he said to get off and do some stretching, push-ups and other movement to get the blood flowing. He said that’s when he would turn his music on. “The key is to reward yourself, and find ways to do this throughout the ride,” he told me. He gave me confidence that I was going to get through this, it was a good conversation and I’m glad to have someone I can vent to after these rough days. Luckily today wasn’t one of them. I started off coasting down Highway 287 and I felt like I wouldn’t stop for anything, then I saw the buffalo.

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Like the longhorn and his herd from the other day, the leader of this group stood dominantly at the front of his herd. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I crossed over the road to get a closer look. 
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As I tend to do in all circumstances like this (I think I got it from dad) I had to look up information about wild buffalo. I was amazed at what I found. 

Because the great herds were nearly gone before any organized attempts were made to survey populations, we may never know just how many buffalo once roamed North America, although estimates range from 30 to 75 million. “The moving multitude…darkened the whole plains,” wrote Lewis and Clark, who encountered a herd at South Dakota’s White River in 1806. Source.

About 20,000 years ago, ancestors of the bison made their way across the Bering Strait land bridge during the latter stages of the last Ice Age. Moving south through Alaska, these huge beasts reached the more temperate climates of North America in the Great Plains country, and there they flourished. Not far behind them came our own human ancestors, or more specifically, the humans who would eventually meet the boats at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. And for the next 10,000 years, until the invasion of white people from across the Atlantic, humans and buffaloes co-existed in a way unimaginable to their cousins from Europe. What developed on the Great Plains of North America was a culture inextricably linking the Native American tribes and the buffalo. This massive beast that could weigh as much as 2200 pounds meant not just survival but a happy and flourishing life to the people who depended on it…As the railroad made it way west, these beasts were considered a nuisance to western progress, and they were hunted down to the point of near extinction. By 1886 one scientific survey could find fewer than a hundred free-roaming buffalo in the United States. Conservation of the buffalo came slowly. In May 1894, Congress enacted a law making buffalo hunting in Yellowstone National Park illegal. Similar efforts have been made across all of North America. Today, approximately 500,000 buffalo inhabit North America. Source.

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At one point these buffalo started to run off alongside the road. I quickly started pedaling to keep my pace with them. I was riding with the buffalo, and while I only saw a few, they ran as I’m sure they once did in their most abundant times. It only lasted about 30 seconds, but I was right there with them, watching as they ran across the Great Plains of northern Texas. It was truly something special, something I’ll probably never experience again.

That made my day, or so I thought. I was also planning on meeting a local news station out on the road around 11:00AM. They told me they’d drive out from Amarillo and find me wherever I was at that point. I was making good time when they found me, I was already 2/3 of the way done with the trek. They drove passed me on the other side of the road, then turning around to pull over in front of me on the westbound part of Highway 287.

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A quick media break on the road. 

They got out to greet me, and soon we were set up for an interview and some action shots of me riding on the road. After the interview, they asked me what I was doing when I got into town and I mentioned The Big Texan. I soon was off on my way once again, and I received a text from the reporter saying she had reached out to the owner of The Big Texan, Bobby Lee, and notified him that I was coming. Now the pressure was really on. I breezed through the remainder of my ride, and before I knew it I was in Amarillo, and my destination on GoogleMaps, The Big Texan Steak Ranch, told me I had arrived. I’d been talking up the 72oz steak (with sides) challenge for the last few days, and now it was time to put my money where my mouth was (or in this case lots and lots of steak). I was nervous once I saw the sign off the service road I was riding on, but I knew I was going in there on a mission and I wasn’t giving up without a fight (or likely a puke bucket). There was another news affiliate on scene to interview me, and when he heard I was taking on the big challenge he laughed a little, and decided to follow me into The Big Texan to see this though to the end (more pressure..).

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A zoomed in view of the entrance to The Big Texan. Cliche, but very accurate at the same time.

Once inside I was already a sight to see. I was pushing my bike along side me, dressed in biker shorts, and behind me stood a man with a huge news camera. Clearly something was going on. I asked for Bobby, and someone went and got him. I introduced myself and told him I was up for the challenge. He was impressed I was going for it, and then told me one in six men finish the challenge, and about three attempt it per day. It’s a right of passage indeed. Some would say it’s the way to prove you’re a true Texan. I was escorted to the giant cafeteria room they had set up for all customers, with all sorts of mounted beasts wrapping around the walls. I sat at a table on center stage, above me was a timer set at 60 minutes, and above that, some massive bull horns. It was a wild place, and I knew I wasn’t getting through it without a fight.

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Bobby Lee and I standing with a 72oz steak on ice.
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A poor quality shot, but even holding this steak made me realize how challenging this would be. I didn’t lose faith.
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Bobby then walked me over to the grill, and showed me the steak being prepared. He asked the cook to pick it up to show me how large it was. I didn’t know what to think!
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The rules of the game.
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Stage 1: A feast that could feed a large family. At this point I was still hungry. That didn’t last long. 
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Stage 2: Working my way through the first part of the steak. My confidence was still high.
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Stage 3: Reaching the halfway point. Starting to feel really full. I was told by an employee to “Keep the knife busy.” I finally knew what he meant. The longer you wait, the more full you get. It’s a time trap. 
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Stage 4: Struggling by this point. I had a camera in my face, and everyone working or eating was cheering me on at this point. 
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Stage 5: I decided to cut the remainder up in small pieces. BBQ sauce was the secret. It helped the steak go down easier, but in moderation. Too much BBQ sauce would make me sick.
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Stage 6: The last few bites were the most challenging. I got them down, then struggling to eat the shrimp and baked potato. It was amazing to see such a small amount of food and feel as though I couldn’t finish it. I was down to 7 minutes left and finally finished the challenge. The room went wild!
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Victory! I couldn’t stand up and I felt like my stomach was going to explode. It was pulsating, and I thought something was terribly wrong for a while. I’m now on the victory wall, and I’ll forever be honored there with the likes of speed eaters, among those the respected Adam Richman! 
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Someone captured my post interview with the news reporter. I clearly could only think about one thing, not puking on TV… I will own up and mention I did throw up (just a little) after the interview. But that was after the contest had ended, and wasn’t against the rules.
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I finally saw a rattlesnake! It was in a cage at The Big Texan though so it doesn’t really count. 

 

After my stop at The Big Texan I somehow climbed back onto my bike and rolled 5 more miles into town in search of the post office. I had been meaning to send a post card to mom and dad from the JFK Memorial Museum in Dallas, and I now had a shirt and certificate from The Big Texan I needed to get off my hands. I have to carry everything with me, so souvenirs don’t make the list. After I wrote my message I put everything in a package and sent it home. I then found my way to La Quinta down the road for the night. The Wifi was pretty awful, and I had three blog posts to write tonight so I found a Starbucks down the road and made my way there. I spent a few hours writing these blogs. It’s a time commitment, but I enjoy reflecting on my experiences and putting things down in print so I can always revisit these memories. I enjoy passing along lessons and experiences and helping you to live vicariously through them. It’s worth the time, and it means a lot to hear from people who enjoy my stories. Keep following along, always feel free to reach out for additional questions, comments, and/or concerns regarding my adventure. And as always:

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt