Day 70 – Alpine’s Curse: Headwinds on a Downhill (January 18, 2021)

Night 70- Alpine, Texas

This was another short day because the wind told us so. Up and out of our tents with the sun to find we were still in our RV campsite. While packing up we were visited and seen off by another roadrunner. I also caught a look at some wild garden thing this camp had that I missed during our late arrival.

Marfa was the original goal for the day, but I think we were warned or possibly cursed a few days before. When we were leaving the city limits of Del Rio, we road past a guy running from the opposite direction. Dressed in 70s sports gear and sporting a long braided ponytail. As he passed he just said “enjoy Alpine”. So we have been riding and wondering what he meant for a while now.

The elevation was pretty tame compared to the last 2 days. The road conditions were fine. There was more of a population than anywhere since Del Rio…. what did he mean?

Alpine was just about halfway down the road for us. We climbed for a bit of the morning, but the elevation leveled out. Then, as we curved towards Alpine, the wind arrived. This wasn’t fair. We had been climbing and pushing for days now. This was supposed to be an afternoon of nice downhill pacing. We were foolish. The wind slapped us perfectly head on. 20 mph wind, constantly pushing on you. Nearly strong enough to completely stop our roll on a decent downhill nearly 3 miles long. Why did I have to pedal on this slope? What curse did this guy put on us?

With the wind making my hat flop about, the sun got its chance at my face. The heat already drying our mouths and emptying our water bottles, this wind was just the cherry on top. It was a safe call as this sudden blast of wind also made some muscle pains spike into reality. Better not push it. So we called it an early day.

Instead of riding, we would use this extra daylight and decided to go shopping for sweatpants and sweatshirts to make those freezing nights and mornings a bit more bearable. There wasn’t too much luck, but pants were obtained and another cheap RV park would let us catch up on laundry and cook.

I’m not sure that we “enjoyed” Alpine. It’s pretty cool when you look around at the much more defined mountain/hills. We did see our first snow. At first it was at the top of a peak, then it was right next to us. First snow of the trip was in Texas. Never know what’s next. Have a good one everyone. I am still one day behind and hope today’s the day I catch up.

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Day 69 – Gaining Altitude in the Far West (January 17, 2021)

Night 69- Marathon, Texas

Another day in the desert, starting off with a pretty cold night. Learning how to deal with temperatures that steadily drop down to freezing by morning. Hills keeping the sun from warming things too quickly.

It’s pretty cold. We will be looking into ways to improve warmth other than hiding in our tents with later and later starts to the day. A frozen phone doesn’t help the typing either.

We got up from our putt putt lawn and move for the next patch of the desert. The canyons were cool, but now we were headed into open plains and in sight of the hills north of big bend. These long stretches of fields let us see cars coming and going for 10 minutes.

With good shoulders and open roads, it became a day of eye spy the wildlife. I’m sorry I couldn’t get pictures of everything that scampered past, but we did see a road runner and a coyote on the same stretch of road.

At one point we had a weird creature that looked like a pig, but it’s fur looked like a porcupine. The majestic collard paccary, or the javelina. Two adults and a baby. They just slowly wandered across the road and didn’t care much. But when one turned towards us it was clearly not a wild boar. They are just, I don’t know, too narrow? Still not actual wild boar yet.

The hills transformed as we continued to gain altitude. The rocky piles turned into larger shadows in the far distance. The hills between us switched between scraggly shale and crumbling mounds. The sides of the road were line with tons of tracks and pits left behind by pigs. The only animals we would see for the rest of the day were ranch herds and antelope.

It wasn’t a bad day at all. Just cruising right along. We got some burritos and settled for an RV park at the end of town. With this being the cross roads of Big Bend and the southern tier route for those who don’t like interstate highways, we fit right in.

I really want to get caught up with these because some days are so long and filled with little things that they can be easily glossed over by the next day. The sights, the people, the ride… it all just starts to blend together when I don’t get it out.

I hope these days were good for you all. Sometimes days don’t have to be 100% memorable. Just know they are how you got to the memories you do remember.

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Day 68 – Crossing Texas, one Tree at a Time (January 16, 2021)

Night 68- Sanderson, Texas

This day was pretty straightforward. The mornings were cold. In fact the nights were the coldest yet as it dipped down to the 20s. This was a real test of our cold camping gear since we are now heading into higher and higher altitudes. With 55 miles now ahead of us (left over from the original 85) to Sanderson, we were not in any hurry to get moving until the temperature rose and our gear thawed.

On our way out of town we saw the bear again. Just wandering around the main (only) road. Felt kind of bad for him as it seemed his front paw was damaged. Just out here surviving.

And so we went. Climbing and soaring down hills. I don’t recall what our total climbing distance was, but we are now ending each day about 1200 feet above the last campsite.

It was the last hour or two of the day that would bring some amazing sights. We turned a major bend and the world opened up to the Sanderson Canyon. Hills of Rock, rounded out only by their own crumbling rubble and whatever may have been thrown onto them by the winds. By this point we were used to seeing deer all around, but just as we rounded into the main town, we saw deer and mountain goats far above them.

All in all, a pretty straightforward day. Our campsite would be shared with the other duo at an RV Park that featured a large patch of AstroTurf for tents. It was here, surrounded by this canyon that we would call it a day.

Sorry for the rushed post again, I’m nearly caught up with present day. The rides have been alright. We climb more and more, but the paths are so straight that you can see where you are going for miles at a time. I hate to say that it’s a lot of the same and you tend to zone out a bit and focus on pedaling to the end of the guardrail or the next tree.

So I’ll end this here and let the pictures speak for it a little more. I hope the days have been nice to everyone.

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Day 67 – The Opera House in the Desert (January 15, 2021)

Night 67- Langtry, Texas

We cut the day short. With towns only every 40 or 60 miles, we had an 85 mile day ahead of us. We were pretty battered from the day before and the cold morning kept us from starting off any time before 10.

So what was supposed to be an 85 mile day turned into a 30 mile day. We wouldn’t know this until we stopped for lunch in Langtry though.

The ride was a bit better than the day before. Seems the road conditions change with every new township or country line. But we were now entering more high desert land of Texas. Plenty of climbing on this day to help us train for what lies a month down the road.

Langtry is a gem. Just a little off shoot from 90. We almost didn’t stop, but the cliff faces looking at us from Mexico called for a closer look. The town isn’t much. A church, a handful of small houses and dilapidated structures.

Then there is the museum/welcome facility. A couple of buildings which had been preserved since the founding of the town. The saloon, “the Lilly”, was named after a famous actress Lilly Langtry. The founder of the town had built the saloon and his home “the opera house” and named it in hopes of attracting said actress. She would come to visit…. 10 years after his death. There was also a famous boxing match that took place here, right on the dried up Rio Grand river. In addition to it all, there was a nice cactus garden off to the side of the main building. A nice little stop.

But then things got more fun when we decided to stay. See, one of the attendees had mentioned that the community center building allowed tent camping on the property… so we checked it out. Then the cliffs. Then the other desert garden that was put together by the community center lands man. We would meet him later.

First we spend some time at the Rio Grand. Dry as a bone, but the cliffs all around made for a cool sight. I suppose we had seen a really cool river just a few miles before as well, oh well, you’ll see that in the pictures. Anyway, on our ride down I got to see a road runner. They are very different birds and one of my favorite animals. Aside from running, they just do a lot of things very differently. Like just walking around. It’s weird to say. You just have to see it.

When we returned to the comm center, the land keeper walked by and just threw out “did they tell you about the bear?” Without looking towards us. He just kept working on his garden. “What?”, “yup, we have a bear. You’ll see him.”

….okay, so there is a bear and we should expect to see him. Neat.

Then we did. Not 10 minutes later. He came running past the corner of the building. Just a little guy. Guess his mom was long gone, but he was around. Probably living off the locals’ trash and road kill, but here he was. Scampering right past us, not 10 yards away.

A bit later we were joined by another cycling duo. They were riding from Saint Augustine to San Diego before their spring semester started. But after meeting another couple from South Africa who had pulled in their camper for the night and shared a bottle of wine with us, we hung out in the cold and told our stories. Comparing notes and gear along the way, as is tradition. They were trying to get some miles behind them, so they took off pretty early in the morning.

I’ll admit I’m rushing it a bit now and just want to catch up with our current day. So I’m gonna leave it here. Sometimes taking a short day can become one of the most interesting days.

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Day 66 – Back in the Saddle (January 14, 2021)

Night 66- Comstock, Texas

After a failed post, I’m going to keep this pretty brief. I’m still two days behind at this point.

So we stayed with my brother for a while waiting on tubes. When it was seen that they were out for delivery, we decided to ride a short day and have Addison meet up with us at some point to drop them off.

The plan was 40 miles. This would be a nice easy reintroduction after such along break. We didn’t even leave until noon. Little did we know that the first day after the cold weather would break that it would result in our longest 40 miles yet.

20 mile an hour headwinds and near toppling side gusts. A handful of hills that teased what was to come, but made exponentially worse by the road. If I were to liken it to sandpaper, I’d call it 2-grit. Marble sized stones, spaced out and stuck in the asphalt, made every hard pedal up a hill turn into a jarring stamping motion. Your hands getting equally battered as ever bump hit your front tire. That’s how 40 miles can take over 6 hours.

But at the end of the day we came to the small, near abandoned town where the sole gas station had some pizza and wings. Here we would meet up with Addison who had finally received my tubes. A necessary supply as we were heading into 400 miles of no chance.
It was nice seeing Addison again. It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten to just hang out and he is on his own adventure. It will be some time. With his departure, we only had 1 mile left to our camp.

The camp owner met us in the dark and showed us to our spot. In a thick foghorn-leghorn accent, he warned use to watch out for the chupacabra. Funny guy. Fortunately, it would be a very quiet night.

That’s it for this second attempt at the post. Now to find time and service to catch up to current times…. before I forget what happened. It’s really cold in the morning and I’d rather stay in my tent than try to find coffee. But have a great day everyone. Its good to be back on the road.

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Day 65.5 – A Quick Family Break in Del Rio (January 13, 2021)

Night- we took some time off

We had reached a major goal of the trip. While Del Rio isn’t a vacation spot for most people, it is where my brother and sister-in-law, Ashley Shableski live as Addison is currently in training as a pilot.

We had ordered some new tires to possibly help with my flats and Russell’s tread was quickly disappearing. These treads were just delivered to their house and we followed close behind. But not before asking Addison for a small favor. On entry, we had some really rough road and we had 20 some miles to loop around the base to the main gate. So we had him meet us down the road to take our weights from us. So we got to ride the last 2 hours pretty light. What a way to end another 80 mile day of pure heat. After waiting at the gate for 30 some minutes, we finally got to the house to wind down.

And that was it for the ride.

Just before we got there, someone offered to buy us extra tubes and have them over-nighted. A generous offer and needed since these new treads were not tested and it’s 400ish miles to El Paso. We had already planned on staying with the Shableskis for 3 days, so the plan was a go.

Well, we ended up staying for a week and a half. I’d give it 3 main reasons.

  1. I wasn’t willing to make my way into the desert without extra tubes and I had one. So we were waiting on those spares. Unfortunately, due to some shipping issues, they wouldn’t arrive until the day after we left…. it’s all good though, just a quick drive for Addison to deliver them, but more on that later.
  2. The polar vortex over the US was breaking up and Texas average temperature plummeted. After a long ride to Del Rio, this would be a fine time to get out of the cold and to heal before some serious climbing.
  3. I do like them. It had been some time since we could just hang out and that’s nearly all they had been doing because of covid. So we got to break up their monotony for a bit. We may have just played games, cooked, and played with the dogs, but I’d do it again.
    I don’t want to go into too many details other than that. Just a mini staycation during this long journey. We did get to take the dogs to the lake just a few miles out, so I have some pictures, but I’ll be wrapping all that up here.

Sorry for the delays in posting. We are 3 days from Del Rio now and I’m playing catch up on the campsite wifi. Hope no one was too worried. Stay tuned for a few more posts.

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Day 65 – The Grind Before the Rest (January 5, 2021)

Night 65- Del Rio, Texas

One more long push before a break.
Only 80 miles to Addison and Ashley. For once, we got our break early.

Walking up to one of my alarms is made that much harder in a nice bed and a room that is sealed shut from light. And after the day we had, was a little tired. So I may have hit the snooze a few times. My incentive not to is that Russell also hears the multiple alarms. So up I go to grab some breakfast and write in the main house where everyone else is already wide awake.

I cannot stress how nice of an experience we had staying with the Vanderweirs. The breakfast burritos and coffee coffee were an excellent start to another day of longer miles. It was a needed beginning to this day since there would be no refreshing ride along a river. Just a long ride on 90.

So we go, again.

The morning was pretty nice. Overcast would keep us cool from the sun for half the day. The downside was that the bit of mist blocked out the view of the ranges. Oh well, we would get plenty of that later in the day. So for the longest time it was just riding. Ranch to our right, farm to the left, open range to the right, wire fence to the left.

There were 2 small towns we would pass through. Riding through the first we were looking for a place with a restroom. We wouldn’t find one until the far end of the town, but we would be greeted by the neighborhood dogs. If you check the pictures you’ll see I got a shot of two scary ones in hot pursuit.

We stopped around the halfway point to scarf down snacks and to rest. Watching traffic roll by we made it a game to lock eyes with everyone since they all looked at us while passing.

At one point and rv pulled up and almost rolled the thing infront of us. Never spoke to them, just watched them pull off onto a 3 foot shoulder that dropped at a 45 degree angle. While it would have made a an interesting middle of the day, I’m glad they didn’t so we could just ride.

As we got back on the bikes, the clouds parted and the sun was here to stay. 40 miles left, with a proper lunch break in about 10 miles. Bracketville was the only other town besides Del Rio. So it was that or nothing.

I’ll sum up the ride. We rode a lot. Up and down rolling hills. Other than the wind farm, it was quite a lot of the same. Until we met up with Addison at 25 miles out. I had shared my location with him to pull it off, but he could have just parked on 90 and waited anywhere. Plan was to give him all of our weight and ride a bit faster the rest of the way.

Off we zipped. Our average speed increasing another 4 to 6 mph, we got to the main gate of Laughlin AFB with a pinch of daylight to spare. Being escorted by Addison, we just rolled up, handed them our IDs and waited…. for a while. They had us roll off to the side while it was all sorted. Maybe half an hour? It didn’t really matter except for how bad I had to pee and the cold night was setting in. Too bad all my shirts and jacket were already at Addison house…. patience is key.

We eventually got our papers and sprinted to the house. Careful not to blow out our legs since they had stiffened up from standing around for 30 minutes in the cold. That wouldn’t matter too much as we planned to hang out with the Shableskis for a few days.

So that’s where we are. 2,900 miles down the road and 2/3rds of the way across Texas. Time for a bit of a break to hang with family. After the last few days, I’m sure our legs will thank us. The next chunk is no cakewalk either. More Texas desert to come and then more desert after that.

I’ll probably post some shorter stuff the next few days, but we won’t be moving for a bit. Stay tuned. I’m going to grab coffee and a snack. Have a great day everyone!

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Day 64 – The Lone Star State (January 4, 2021)

Night 64- Knippa, Texas

Okay, so yesterday was a few things.

It started cold because the desert.
It became the hottest day so far, because the desert.
It was of the longer days at 85 miles because we want to get across this state.
It was a rough day on a rough surfaced road.
It was a pain in the neck because of 3 flat tires.
And it was one of the the longest days, mentally, because of all the above.

It wasn’t all bad though.

We took off towards downtown San Antonio with a bit of a cold breeze, but never a real wind. Looking at the map, somehow it was faster and shorter to ride to the Alamo than it was the default route Google gave us… so now I can remember the Alamo. It was cool, but what really made the morning a nice start was the river walk…

It was so nice. There was only a handful of people around. Not that we were going fast or anything. In fact I slowed down quite a few times to take pictures. By that point the sun was really warming up and we stayed cool riding along the water and between the buildings. I could enjoy the San Antonio area.

As we passed the commerce road, things started tapering out and the road opened up. We would pass through a few distant suburb complexes, but other than the odd gas station, this was it.

Open road for the next 60 miles. We had three hills to climb. Each a few hundred feet, but the rest was just a climb. And so we went. Just pushing miles with the hot sun to our left.

Original eta was 6. We wouldn’t arrive at our host until 8:20. We did stop for 20 minutes to cool off under a pavilion and a rest room stop later in the day… but then there were more flats for me.

The sun was setting and we were climbing our last hill when I got my last flat. My front tire. For the first time in weeks, I got a flat that was an actual puncture! I was so excited. I COULD EASILY PATCH THIS ONE! I just wish it didn’t cost us the last bit of light before descending put last hill… and 20 miles to go.

That last hour was numbing. The shoulder got tighter. The light was gone. The surface shook our bikes and bodies. I passed the time spotting deer and spooking them with various noises. It just felt like forever.

Then we made it. Turned twice and we were home. And home is how it truly felt. Our hosts, the Vanderweir’s, were incredible. I nearly cried. A close family full of individuals. It really seemed like they all had their specialties and hobbies. The dad was our contact and the cyclist. Just an excellent bunch with a little bit of everything to talk about. So calling it a night knowing we had an early morning was pretty rough. Waking up was going to be tricky because we got the art/clubhouse out back. Pretty well sealed up, we were warm and it was dark.

So here I am now. Eating breakfast burritos and waiting for the morning sun to warm things up before we take off. 80 miles to Del Rio. A long and very straightforward day. No Alamo. No rivers. No cities to navigate. Just the road to Del Rio.

Have a great day everyone. I’ve had my warm drink to the day, have you?

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Day 63 – The Windy (as in, Wind) Way through Texas (January 3, 2021)

Night 63- San Antonio, Texas

I’m not sure what I want to write about today. Waking up in a hostel and talking to the owner about the industry and hostel community was cool. We had a pretty late start in the day and rode straight to McDonald’s. When sitting outside we were told we couldn’t because of the virus… so we stood off to the side at our bikes. Sorry we don’t have a car.

The ride was pretty annoying. Just heavy winds and spotty construction on all of the offages. I guess they were putting in a new overpass and had to move everything.

We rerouted as soon as we could to cross through some suburbs. More greenways and bike paths for a good chunk. Then we hit the undeveloped “country”. Long stretches of straight roads followed by 90 degree turns around Square lands.

Finally we arrived at our destination. A friend of my brother’s from one of the drum corps he marched with. We showed up a bit early as he and his girlfriend had run out to get dinner so we just hung out in the garage.

Not too long after they arrived and we all chilled on the back porch, socially distanced of course, and just had a nice night. Drawing connection between band ad this trip, and hearing some slightly different questions for once. The layman ask the same handful of questions which we pretty much have a script for now. The cyclists seem to already know and ask more about us as individuals. So this was a nice change of pace.

Today we begin part one of crossing the middle of the state on our way to Del Rio. Just a casual 85 miles. Here is hoping there isn’t wind. Have a great day everyone!

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Day 62 – WTALOT III: Hill Country (January 2, 2021)

Night 62- San Marcos, Texas

The longest day and the latest day.

And a whole lotta Texas.

This day we planned on riding 100 miles. Speaking for myself, I’ve only completed one “century” ride before and that was just last June at a sanctioned event in New Jersey. This day would be my second longest ride of my life. I’m glad I’ve been nearly every day for the last 2 months, because centuries hurt. The time it takes mean keep up with your metabolism longer. It’s a trade off. You ride faster, you ride for a shorter time. We rode slower for a few reasons, but we would be on the road for nearly 9 hours of pedaling.
Why put ourselves through this? Partly for our own achievement, but also to make up some time after resting and enjoying NYE. We had a host and a will. Now we just had to ride.

Which brings me to the next chapter of the “whole Lotta Texas” story. The newest chapter is titled “we found hill country”. We haven’t climbed over 1000 feet since December 17th going into Florida’s highlands. Today we would climb 2500 feet. A laughable height compared to the mountains to come, but a mean wakeup during such a long day and after such a hiatus from anything resembling hills. So that was one reason we rode so slowly.

We still managed about 11.5 mph pace and only had one flat (this time it was Russell). We are both looking forward to the treads we had delivered to my brother. Just a few days away now.

Our day ended after a dinner stop at another Buc-ee’s. By ended, I mean 30 more miles in the dark. It was nice though. After a bit of back road riding, we have 20ish miles of route 80. A road that had a full lane of shoulder, just as paved as the road. The worst part (other than the dangers of night riding, if any) was the rolling hills and temperature. After riding for 15 miles at a nice temperature, we would ride down into a gully and get slapped across the face with a cold breeze 10-20 degrees colder than what we’re just in. Suddenly your eyes water and your fingers freeze. This was followed by pure confused and frustrated yelling into the void.

The sky was clear and we were nearly done. No matter how bad the day was, the evening rides are some of the best. There is a strange “second wind” that comes when the day’s wind stops and traffic dies down.

So we roll in to our host. The yellow house hostel. We are greeted by a small group of people who have stayed in the hostel during the pandemic as they switched to an apartment setup. The hostel remained “open” only for bike tourists. So here we are, sleeping on an indoor stage, packed away as a pseudo living room during the 2020 fun times.

I’d say it was a good day. So I hope you all have a good day today. Coffee in my belly, I’m going to go remember the Alamo.

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