My goal this trip was to spend Thanksgiving in Del Rio with my brother, Berry, as well as ride across West Texas during a reasonably cool part of the year.
I flew into El Paso yesterday afternoon, picked up my bike at the bike shop, and woke up to a 32 degree F morning. The ride east out of El Paso was easy, quiet, flat, and sunny. Once through suburban El Paso, homes spread out and cotton fields and pecan groves became the norm.
I started with two spare tubes, one spare tire and two tire patch kits Ė this in response to the flat tire problems I had getting into Hood River, Oregon this past September. But by the end of the day, I had had double flats on both the front and the back tire, and was down to my last spare tube and the tire patch kits.
During one of my afternoon breaks, I looked at the tire I took off my back wheel after one of the flats, and started pulling out thorns. I pulled out thirteen thorns. This should have given me a clue of things to come.
By afternoon, it was sunny and pleasant. I spent the night near the Tiger Truck Stop at I-10 mile post 87. Not the most scenic or quiet spot, but I did get 76 miles in today, and had plenty to eat for dinner.
I woke up this morning to slushy Gatorade. I get a reasonably early start, and by 8:30am Iím in Kent, Texas. It consists of one small country store with gas pumps, way down below the I-10 enbankment that forms one side of the bridge that crosses the local road that ďcausedĒ Kent.
I have another multi-puncture flat tire. And Iím not quite sure what to call it when you get multiple punctures at the same time in the same tire. Flats tire or flat tires or flats tires. And between the multiple flats, the fact that my air pump seems to shred valves more often than not (only on my next trip did I find out my rims were for fat necked Schrader valve tubes while I was using skinny necked Presta valve tubes Ė thus the continuously split valve necks/tube junctures.), and the fact that these mysterious thorns, that would surely wiggle there way into your brain if you got one stuck in your finger, have made a multi-front attack on my tube, I find, at this moment, that I have 5 punctures and only 4 patches left.
The nice lady in the store and the guy in this photo help me make cardboard sign that says Van Horn so I can thumb back to Van Horn, where, I have found out, by using the 20 page West Texas phone book (yes it covers everything from (but does not include) San Antonio to El Paso), there is not a bike store, but a hardware store with a half dozen or so tubes. I also make a sign that says Kent, so I can get back.
Well, Iím not having much luck getting a ride the 30 miles back to Van Horn, until two really nice guys, Frank and Ken, who seem not to be having the best of luck either, pick me up, and drive me west to Van Horn. Frank and Ken were headed east from San Diego, where some family gathering had gone bad, when they pulled off in Kent at the store. So they ended up driving back over ground they had just passed. They even waited while J R, the guy in the hardware store, helped me find a tube that just barely wanted to fit on my rim and in my tire. And then Frank and Ken drive me back to Kent. They wouldnít take anything for their time or trouble. I felt bad. There was no reason I had to be out in the middle of West Texas. I have a pretty comfortable life. Yet these guys, and they were not driving a new Lincoln Town Car mind you, took the time to help me out. People are just nice, even the ones that may not be having the best day themselves.
Finally at 1:30pm, Iím on the road again. Iím heading south on route 118, away from the noise of I-10 and onward, with the crickets sounding, to the Davis Mountains. Iím pretty tired climbing up the grade, particularly with the clear sun, and hang it up a L.E. Wood Picnic area, half way through the Davis Mountains, clocking just 46 miles for the day.
It was too cold for me to sleep well, so I get up at 5am, and start riding, with frozen Gatorade. Itís dark and a tough climb, up and up, but after a lot of hard work, I hit McDonald Observatory just as the sun is painting the east horizon pink. Now the good part begins, a long scenic downhill into Fort Davis. I stop for a big big country breakfast in Fort Davis and tour historic Fort Davis. I head on to Alpine where I: do laundry, get a shower and clean up, find a bike store, and find out about goat heads.
It seems goat heads are these pesky bushy weeds that have been providing the multiple
small, eat-to-the-center-of-your-brain thorns, that have been attacking my tires and tubes. Iíve been
looking for cactus as a cause. And these thorns eat their way through car tires, too. So everyone
here is into Slime Ė something you put in your bike and car tubes to seal up goat
head thorn holes. (Well, you would have thought they might have mentioned
this on the specialized bike map I have Ė perhaps???) They even sell pre-Slimed bike
tires, which I, of course, buy!! I eat dinner with two college students at a local brewery/restaurant, and spend the night in an RV camp. Only 49 miles today. I have some concern about how I am going to get to Del Rio in time for Thanksgiving.
I make another 6 am dark start, and see the 7:30 am sunrise on a relatively flat road to Marathon. I have a great breakfast in Marathon in the Gage Hotel Ė a pretty swanky place for this part of Texas. I havenít been to Marathon in more than 12 years, and I remember it being old, dry, dusty, flat and empty. But things are looking up.
I blast out of Marathon and have a fast flat 50 miles on a slight decline almost all the way to Sanderson. The only landmark on my bike map on this stretch is the county line Ė so I stop and take a picture of it.
At the Town and Country Gas and Go in Sanderson, Enrique tells me about the Dryden Plain, a really flat stretch of ground about 15 miles ahead where his family has a farm. After filling up on food, I push up and down the hills Enrique told me about that precede the Dryden Plain. Itís dark when I finally hit the Plain, and I quickly cover the last five miles to Dryden.
Enrique had told me the little store in Dryden had re-opened, but he thought it was only open until 6pm. Itís obviously after 6pm when I hit downtown Dryden Ė which consists of one old wooden gas station/country store that now houses the post office and the newly reopened store. Luckily, the store is open. I go in to get a drink and some food and ask if it would cause any trouble if I laid my sleeping pad and bag on the concrete pad outside the Post Office loading dock next door.
The store owner offers me his goose neck trailer as a place to sleep. Yeah!!! Itís out back. I donít know what a goose neck trailer is, but see two travel trailers out back and figure one of those must be a ďGoose NeckĒ brand trailer. Fortunately, I figure out one trailer houses the owner, and one houses the help, and the big flat bed to the right with the goose neck is the goose neck trailer. Five Star Accommodations. Flat, off the ground, no thorns, no ants, no rocks, no highway noise. Thank you, Thank you, Mr. Store Owner. He comes back and says Dryden is booming these days with retirees. I slump quickly off to sleep.
106 miles today.
Iím tired from the ride yesterday. And I have 102 miles to go to Del Rio. It doesnít seem good. I make another 6am start, hoping I can get to Del Rio or some reasonably close point at a reasonable hour so I have some time with my brother Berry on Thanksgiving. Iím in Langtry by 10am, but hurting from yesterday. I must have looked pretty tired sitting in front of the Judge Roy Bean Saloon because some visitors offer me food. I rest a long time, and then head east again.
Iím working hard now because itís sunny and hot, and the terrain is a series of ups and downs. Iím definitely straining. On the good side, at the Pecos River, on a hill with a scenic pull out, I get to see, from an excellent vantage point, two Union Pacific trains passing each other on a curvy part of the climb up and out of the Pecos River Valley. I wonder how they ever got the Southern Pacific built and kept it running. The Southern Pacific, now owned by the Union Pacific, follows Route 90 from El Paso to Del Rio, so I follow the SP right of way most of the way (except for the Davis Mountain portion of my route). I don't see much ďrevenue potentialĒ for a railroad between El Paso and Del Rio.
By the time I hit Comstock, I just canít go on. And figure I can hitch a ride the last 30 or so miles to Del Rio. Except, I seem to have stopped in early afternoon when everyone else is sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner. So not only am I not getting picked up. Iím not even seeing anybody on the road.
Finally 2 hunters and their sons pick me up in their truck and drop me off at the Rte 90/277 junction just north of Del Rio. I ride the last five miles in to my brothers house. Tired but with a big smile and no flats. 77 miles. Not bad for a hot day after a 106 miler.
Itís great to see my brother. I only get to see him once or twice a year. Also, he has prepared a feast of all my favorites. Cheese, crackers, diet cokes, nuts, and red wine as starters, and a deliciously grand turkey with stuffing. MMMMMM. One of the best Thanksgivings Iíve ever had.
Thanks Bro. :-)
It was also good to see speedy again, the little speedster stray dog that Berry adopted.
Last Update: Aug 20, 2006