Monday, March 30, 2015

Long days (Revised)

We had a 72 mile day today and will have a 74 mile day tomorrow. Then we will have a rest day on Wednesday and I'll catch up on the blog.
We will be in Texas hill country tomorrow. Already seeing more green and flowers.
My calf is getting better. Dave is, however, having hip pain and some lower back pain. He took today off and will also take tomorrow off as well. He got a massage today, which hopefully will help. We have a fantastic massage therapist, Margie. Prayers for Dave's healing, the prayers are working for me.

We left the Seminole Canyon State Park under cloudy skies which stayed cloudy all day offering relief from the heat of Sunday. Dave started off with me but only did a few miles before he realized the low back and hip pain that he started having the day before was worse. He didn't take much convincing to take a day off so I knew the pain was pretty bad. He is usually quite pain tolerant after living with arthritis for quite a few years.

I ended up biking alone for about 10 miles since I didn't go the same speed as the people that I saw on the way. When I got to the Amistad Resevoir bridge, some deputies were waiting to escort bikers in groups across the bridge. Apparently they saw Bubba's tour was coming through the area and wanted to ensure our safety since the bridge is a long, narrow two lane bridge. How nice to sail down the middle of the bridge without fear of traffic and without needing to look over the bridge to the river far below! After the bridge I latched on with Dean and Judy and rode the rest of the day with them, which greatly relieved Dave's anxious feelings about me riding alone.

In Del Rio we had a great lunch at Rudy's BBQ. I had some smoked beef brisket which was good, but actually wasn't quite as tender as the brisket that one of the fathers of a graduating senior made in Sanderson, TX! 

We did an en masse shopping trip to pick up some sundries and I met Dave again who had driven with one of the support staff. 

We finished the day at Fort Clark Springs. This is an old fort facility that has been re-done into a private association. People can build homes or have apartment style living. Within the extensive grounds there is a large campground that had a lot of greenspace around it. I'm afraid many of our overnight stays are not places I can appreciate much since we often roll in just before dinner time, shower, eat and get a few things organized and fall into bed only to get up the next day early and do it all over again! However the setting was very nice, clean with nice showers and a bathroom reasonably close, all appreciated.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

80 miles, canyons, hills and flowers (Revised)

Too tired to write much so I'll post pictures. 3136 feet of climbing (and 4442 feet of downhill which means we often climbed again what we lost in a downhill). This was the first day of three days that Bubba says are the hardest on the Coast to Coast tour. The scenery was wildly beautiful and at the very end of the day we crossed the Pecos River which is the de facto boundary between western Texas and the hill country. Tomorrow we will leave the desert and we will be in the Texas hill country. Already the air is feeling a little more moist and we are actually getting condensation in the tents at night if the outside air is cold.

A new scent is in the air, thousands of blooming bushes that I found out are "Bottlebrush Acacia". It gets a little cloyingingly sweet, nevertheless I drink it in, and then usually just at that moment ride by a dead deer and gag, cough, sputter and then smell the Acacia again!

Evening primroses, everywhere!
Dry canyons, they all had names. Hard to believe they had water enough to create them.
Pecos River, we start into the Texas hill country  tomorrow and start to leave the desert.
Clapping for Don and Barb and below, Colleen and Randy.
Flowers in the campground. The desert has had more rain this year than in years so there are lots of blooms.
Bottlebrush Acacia
The ground around the tent sites at the campground looked like a rock garden with thousands of alliums (see below) and these little daisy like flowers that I don't know.

Rocky cliffs and immense landscape

55 miles
Really nice day of riding. We had a tailwind and lots of downhill after the first 20 miles so it felt easy. We are in the little town of Sanderson, at the school and the graduating class of 9 kids and their parents cooked dinner for us. Texas brisket cooked since 8 pm the previous night. Wow, so tender. Lots of choices of homemade pie and homemade ice cream for dessert. Wonderful!

The kid live in such an isolated area that date night at a movie is 130 miles away in Del Rio. They are also involved in sports and it's not uncommon to drive 275 miles one way to participate in a game. This as well as keeping a high GPA. All the graduating seniors have college plans. Six man football is big here.
We had a speaker who is a border agent talk to us after dinner. Then we went over and toured the station.
Wow, what a difficult job. The country around here is so desolate and yet they catch around 200 folks a year. They figure probably 300 are not caught.
About 85 percent in the Sanderson area are folks coming up to look for work and the other 15 percent are carrying packs of 50 pounds of marijuana through the desert. Amazing. I'm nervous about walking to the Porta potty for fear I'll step on a cactus, they go 50 to 100 miles at night with cliffs and bears and mountain lions! We appreciated the manner in which the agent explained the difficult job he does and the respect he shows to the people he arrests. He also sees a lot of the "coyotes" who get upwards of $5000 from each person. Then there are the other people in the pipeline who also demand payment so it can cost in the neighborhood of $10000 to come across.

We have three big mileage days coming up. Sunday's ride is 84 miles with some elevation gain and loss. I'm hoping my calf doesn't get too sore. It has felt stiff and tight. Dave said that the massage seemed to help his should and calves loosen up so he was feeling pretty good.

We took our time and conversed for quite awhile at the rest stop.
I'm not sure what this yellow flower is. It's everywhere.
Bubba gave 'haircuts' to those who wanted it. Here Dean is getting a shave. About 10 guys "partook"!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Big Bend National Park

We did a driving tour of Big Bend National Park  in several vehicles that are on the tour along with some vans that Bubba rented. It is a high desert park and many wild flowers are blooming. I caught a glimpse of a pinkish colored snake and a bird that had a nest in one of the Torrey yucca.
One highlight of our time there was our first look at Texas Bluebonnets which I had not realized are lupines. The Bluebonnets in Big Bend are a subtype called appropriately enough, Big Bend Bluebonnets (lupinus havardii).
We went to Santa Elena Canyon and saw the Rio Grande which actually had water in it. Some of the group climbed a high trail to look down over the canyon. The valley floor looked like spring with trees with the bright chartreuse leaves. Quite different than the spring at home with temps in the high 80's. VERY different from overnight in the tents where we woke up with heavy frost coating the tents and our bikes. I was so glad for the closed cell foam pads that Dale found for us. Sometime during the middle of the night I realized that it would insulate better if I put it on top of the mattress and slept on top of it rather than having it underneath where it wasn't wide enough to insulate fully. Dave didn't take my advice and slept cold. I used two sleeping bags and slept with a hat on and longjohns. I knew I'd been hauling them for 1000 miles for some reason! Others hadn't packed for cold weather and looked quite worse for wear. Tonight isn't supposed to be quite as cold, about 46 or so.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Extreme headwinds

We started out in the teeth of a howling gale. The wind only seemed to get stronger the more we pushed. Finally we were down to making 5 miles an hour and Dave's hip started to hurt for the first time on this tour. We also wanted to get into Marathon to pick up the new phone at the post office before 4:30. So it was a welcome sight to see Bubba's RV and ask for a ride. I especially had trouble on my recumbent. The front wheel is only 20 inches and it needs a light touch at the best of times. In the wind, I was actually pedaling with my body at an angle into the wind. The trouble with that is that when a truck rolls by, it interrupts the wind for a brief time and kind of sucks you with it. Then when it rolls on we each were fighting to regain control of our bikes.
And it was cold, about 38 when we started out. Even at about 10 am when we quit, it was only about 43.
Just ahead of where we quit, the ride went through an absolutely gorgeous canyon and it made me feel so bad that we weren't able to bike it. However, the riders we met later said they didn't have any time to look around as the canyons created swirling gusts and riders needed to be always alert and struggling to control the bike.
The staff picked us up and brought us into Alpine. We had some time to sit and talk with the riders who had carried on. I so admire each and every person who carried on. They were all supportive of our decision not to ride however.
When I got into camp I was surprised to find that my calf had stiffened up and become painful with the little riding I had done. I was able to get a massage and kept ice on it. I also had some edema in the ankle. So I am really glad I quit when I did. The point is to finish, even if I can't ride every mile.
Tomorrow we have a rest day and we will be driven down to Big Bend National Park. I won't have a cell signal for much of the day, but I'll see what I can do for a short blog post. Say some prayers for healing for both of us, we could use it. Dave's shoulder is healing but slowly.

Dave and I switched phones so I now have the new phone which is charging overnight so here is a sunset photo, the only one on this phone. Gotta get snuggled in to my two sleeping bags, it's going to be a cold night. Finally wearing those long Johns I've carried to here!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shake, rattle and roll

74 miles.
Since we are at the western edge of the Central time zone, the sunrise time wasn't until 8 am. We got on the road while the sun was barely up and it was at such a low angle I could barely see anything when we were headed east. That was scary because cars wouldn't see us either. Fortunately we quickly got on US 90 which headed in a southeast direction which made it much easier to see.
The road all day and for the next 6 days will be US90. However we found out today that the road maintenance varied from county to county. We started out in an area with somewhat big pebbled chip seal. It was an older surface so the cars had mashed most of the pebbles into the surface of the blacktop which made it tolerable.
Then we got to Jeff Davis county and the road was awesome! Very smooth and easy to ride on. We continued to the little town if Valentine. The story is that Valentine was named because the railroad reached that point on Valentine's day. We mailed a postcard from the post office so it would be postmarked Valentine, TX.
We had a lunch of burritos made by the high school travel club. They have the lunch for us as a fundraiser for a trip every three years. A few years ago they went to Italy. This is a tiny, mostly boarded up town so that is impressive.
We continued on and when we entered Presidio County the road turned to bone jarring chip seal.  27 miles of that stuff! Plus it was a gradual uphill that didn't make it easier. In the distance we would see a mirage, but instead of looking like water, it looked like smooth road. But no, it never materialized. Always just ahead...
Finally started a nice long downhill so we picked up speed. And the wind was mostly a tailwind so we tried to just get into town. We had to dodge a few tumbleweeds too, it's the wild west!
Finally came to a large sign announcing Marfa. But the landscape looked tha same. Where is the town?! Finally another 5 rockin' and rollin' miles later we see up ahead, wait, is that a mirage? It looks like smooth road. We gratefully found out it was cement road. We came down the hill towards the cement road and passed a deputy that had someone pulled over. We politely waved and got into town where we headed straight for the Dairy Queen. We found out after some other riders joined us, and later at dinner that a particular short stature deputy had pulled numerous people over and told them they had to be on the shoulder all the way over to the edge of the grass!
The roadway was only barely rideable where the car tires had pressed the chips down somewhat into the tar, the shoulder is loose gravel and goathead thorns; not rideable.
Last year Bubba had dealt with this same deputy and thought he had managed to show him the Texas state law to let him know that the roadway, by definition, is to the white line and that we have the right to be on the roadway as far right as practiceable. He pulled several of our riders over with lights and sirens. It must be his once-a-year busiest day for him.
We also went outside of town after sunset to see the "Marfa lights". We think we may have seen them?? They are unexplained lights that have been appearing in the prairie since the 1800's. The town erected a veiwing area about 9 miles out of town. While we were there a tour bus arrived full of people!
Tomorrow is supposed to be windy and cold. When we leave it will be in the high 30's and we'll have a headwind. Oh joy. Luckily tonight we are indoors at the Marfa activity center. I'm so glad that Bubba found a different place to stay other than, "El Cosmico" campground with it's two toilets and outdoor showers!
Shorter day tomorrow, 57 miles. We will have a rest day Friday and will be driven to Big Bend National Park.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tailwind, some downhill, some up, beautiful finish

72 miles. We got an early start today because the school wanted their gym back by 7:45. We had lights on at 5:40 and breakfast at 6:30 at the church across the parking lot from the school. That meant that even though we left almost last as per usual, we were on the road at 7:15. The light is really pretty at that time of the morning.

The area here is in a drought. We see all kinds of signs that there has been water, but not currently. One farmer that Wayne talked to isn't planting anything but cotton as the farmers are being severely rationed on their water. Normally he plants several fields in alfalfa.

We did quite well for the 70 mile day. We had some climbing during the first and last parts of the day. The downhill at the end was quite spectacular, the pictures don't do it justice.
Here some various pictures.
We finished up the day just over 900 miles total. Most others who have ridden the whole way are over 1000 miles!
Before dinner we had open bar with Bubba buying the beer and wine. It may have made the lesson on how to create a dollar bill bow tie a little more difficult than it should have been!

Monday, March 23, 2015

El Paso to Fort Hancock

57 miles today that felt easy even with a crosswind so we must be getting stronger. We did a few hills and even routed through downtown El Paso, but we left quite late, 9 am so the traffic was ok. We got into an area of pecan groves, they must be late leafing out because they almost look dead. The pecan growers are serious about protecting there crop, lots of warning signs. The only thing left on the trees now are some open seedheads.
The farmers are dicing to get ready for planting. Lots of irrigation channels. Must be quite a science to get water where you need it.
The towns look dried up and blown away. Really hit hard when the railroads became less of a way of life.
All of us had some barking dogs come out from a particular farm. One guy, (our yooper) from the Upper Peninsula of MI actually chased the dogs back to the farm and then had words with the owner who said that he couldn't control them. Whereupon Dan asked him who was the master? He then reported them to the sheriff. We are now back on a national bike route, the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier.
For us, moseying along at the back of the pack, by the time we passed the dogs they seemed to be rather half-hearted. Another farm had a herding dog, a blue heeler and that dog came out after one of our riders on a trike. The rider took care of that with some stern "no" commands.
Tomorrow is a 72 mile day. Bubba arranged for another motel night. We will cross into central time tomorrow. It will also be our last time using the Interstate on this tour.
Dave says his shoulder feels ok while riding but it does make it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. My calf was a little tight but I'm icing it and that really seems to help.

Wayne Andresen has a blog at if you want another point of view.

The cottonwood had some burn scars on it.
Dean, Don, Judy, Barb, Dave aka "Coach" under a great old cottonwood.
Don't mess with Texas or their pecans.
Two different schools, two different ways of storing the bikes. Above is tonight's school.
A fairly large man made lake.
A much smaller man made lake with camping facilities.