Trans-Texas Tour

El Paso - Orange

Biking Across Texas

Lawrence Walker is starting the 3rd Trans-Texas Tour this Sept 3rd, 1994. This is a fast tour across Texas, encompassing over 1000 miles of Texas roadways in 9 days. This was the third, and the last, of these tours.

Also, please look at the 'song' inspired by this tour, The Biker's Lament

This was my 3rd trip across the state on these tours. Even before I started this one, I was still wondering why I'm doing it again. Why do I want to ride 100 or more miles a day for 9 days? This is a question I thought about in great detail as my rear end told me that I've done more miles than a rear end should.

Hopefully, those interested in cycling, or marathon cycling, will read this with interest and entertainment, as 30 cyclists and myself trek across the state.

Day 0 - The Prologue

After a lengthy car ride into El Paso, we finally went out for a shake-out ride around the El Paso area. Lawrence led a leisurely pace around some of the more interesting areas of El Paso. We marked our official start at the monument that marks the intersection of Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico. We are truly at the most western point of our travels. After that, we went for a short tour of the University of Texas at El Paso.

On the other side of the campus, we rode up Rim Road. Rim Road winds up the side of the start of the Franklin Mountains toward a scenic outlook. The weather was suprisingly clear, and we could see several miles into Juarez, Mexico. Off to the east, we could make out the outline of Sierra Blanca, over 90 miles away, and close to the end of Day 1.

A rapid descent back into El Paso brought us to Sunset Heights. A pleasant historical district, and back into the hotel.

Milage for the day: 22.7 miles.

Day 1 - El Paso to Van Horn

The temperature was great. However, there was more wind than we would have liked. We rode over to the Plaza in El Paso for the beginning tour group photos, then headed out of town.

The first part of the route took us along the old Spanish Mission trail. There are several very old missions where the Spanish first settled in with the natives. It turns out it was a good place for flats. There were a few punctures, yours truly included.

Unfortunately, this area was where we took our first casualty. Gayla, from Houston, crashed in a pace line and broke her collar bone. She was rushed to the hospital, treated, and toughed it out in the van for the rest of the tour. As the days wore on, her perspective and the assistance she offered was a joy to have around.

The wind was unrelenting, but Gary Smith (Flower Mound) pushed a very strong pace. Despite the long distance today, we tended to take some liberal stops to rest up.

After the Spanish Missions, we got to ride on I-10 for some 30+ miles. Again, the wind was beating up everyone. Since we were entering the Sierra Blanca area, we were in a slow climb out of the desert valley.

Tumbleweed Man in Sierra Blanca

Finally, just before Van Horn, we got to make a long run downhill... but we still had to pedal it against the wind. It made for a long day in the saddle pushing against the wind all day.

Milage for the day: 119.6 miles

Day 2 - Van Horn to Ft. Davis

The day started better than the day before. There was very little wind, and was a cool morning. We turned south from Kent into the Davis Mountains. Of course, the wind started to pick up. The rest of the morning was spent ascending into the Davis Mountains, with few minor descents.

After about 30 miles of getting into the heart of the Davis Mountains, we got to Mt. Locke and the McDonald Observatory. From the visitor center, there is a 1500' climb to the top of Mt. Locke (elevation of 6791'). The climb contains grades as steep as 17%. Of course, suffering from lack of oxygen to the brain, Gary Smith, John Fussellman and I climbed the peak twice. We thought about doing it a third time, but that would have been silly.

Top of Mt. Locke

The rest of the ride, about 20 miles, into Ft. Davis was a nice ride of mostly descending from the Davis Mountains.

Ft. Davis has the unfortunate tendency to roll up the streets after about 5:00pm, leaving no open resturants and giving rise to the song The Biker's Lament

Milage for the day: 97.6

Day 3 - Ft. Davis to Sanderson

Another nice day. Ft. Davis has limited food in the morning, so we rode about 26 miles to get breakfast in Alpine. There we went east on US90 to head for our destination of the middle of nowhere.

A nice highlight of this portion of the tour was a stop at the Gage Hotel in Marathon. A very historic and beautiful hotel. Good food, too!

The rest of the day was spent going into the Sanderson Canyon area. Not much out there, but we did find the oasis in the desert. A little cafe out in the middle of nowhere in the 56 miles stretch between Marathon and Sanderson.

It wasn't there 2 years ago on this tour, so it was a very welcome site. Being in good spirits at the unexpected Oasis, we played a few little sprinting games with each other.

Finally we rolled into Sanderson. A small town the caters mostly to the railroad crews in this area. Next major town is 121 miles East and tomorrows destination: Del Rio.

We did buy some ice cream off a Swan's Food delivery truck which was delicious. The driver even gave us some popsicles for free! A real treat out here in the desert.

Milage for the day: 108.6

Day 4 - Sanderson to Del Rio

This day has historically been the hardest day of the Tour. Long miles, rolling hills, and headwind. The lesson of the day is "Pain". This tour was no different. There is only one real town between Sanderson and Del Rio, 60 miles out. Food and water are in short supply, which puts an extra burden on the SAG vehicles.

The Oasis of the day is Langtry, home of Judge Roy Bean.

The Law West of the Pecos

Besides that there really isn't much else to talk about on this day. I saw lots of my cleats and white lines, but little else. The desert scenery is all the same for nearly the entire 120 miles: cactus, yucca, rocks, and some scrubby brush.

The Pecos River Bridge is where we first actually see a draw or creek or anything with water in it. It is also the highest bridge in Texas. This part of the country was in a drought at the time, and the Pecos River was definitely lower than it has been in the past.

After many more miles, we begin to see an amazing site: A lake. Amistad Lake and Reservoir. This is the sign that we are getting very near Del Rio and the journey is about to end... almost.

I decided to take an extra loop. Instead of heading straight into Del Rio, I turned south and crossed the Amidstad Dam into Mexico. Highway Mexico 2 swings around and enters the west side of Ciudad Acuna. This takes a little trip into some industrial areas of Cd. Acuna into the tourist section. Having generally only seen some of the tourist-trap areas of Mexico border towns, the backside of Acuna was a pleasant surprise. Neat, clean workplaces, attractively landscaped streets - not the crowd and such from the places close to the border bridges selling trinkets to travelers that don't venture in very far. A quick affirmation of my citizenship, and I'm back in the U.S. with an extra 10 miles. Like I needed them.

All in all, it was a very difficult day with a few more riders taking the SAG wagon into Del Rio. I was pretty toasted, not just because of the extra milage.

Milage for the day: 130.7

Day 5 - Del Rio to Leakey

One of the shorter days. The wind has died down, and it was generally a pleasant day. Leaving Del Rio was relatively flat. After a northern turn in Bracketville, we started to enter the Texas Hill Country. We could also feel the extra humidity now we were out of desert terrain.

After a nice lunch in Camp Wood, we started to get into some more serious hills. We had a two mile climb followed by several roller coaster hills. It was starting to get late in the afternoon, and the slow climbs were getting very hot. Finally, we were rewarded with the switch-back decent into Leakey.

The heat of the day was quickly squelched by a cool front that moved in after dinner. We could see thunderstorms brewing in the east, tomorrows destination. We weren't sure what tomorrows weather would hold for us, but it will be cooler.

Everyone was still in pretty good spirits, but we were all feeling the milage. Still 4 days left, with some long milage days to come. We crossed the middle point of our journey today. Just an update on Gayla, she is still with us, helping out some in the SAG wagons and doing fine.

Milage for the day: 99.5

Day 6 - Leakey to Fredericksburg

The rain last night has cooled things quite a bit. Instead of upper 90's or 100's, we got to ride with temperature in the 70's. The humidity was up, so the morning climbs from Leakey to Vanderpool felt extra hot. Everyone was dripping sweat after the climb. It made the long downhill into Vanderpool nice and cool.

After Vanderpool, it became obvious that we were going to get some serious rain. The only bad part was the lightning. It wasn't too bad, but a couple of strikes just seemed a little too close. It was a cold ride in the pouring rain, but at least it made for a tailwind.

Everyone congregated into "The Store", a nice store in Hunt. It was a place to warm up and get some food. Eventually, we decided to get back on the road. Some people SAG'd in from Hunt. The cold rain was getting to them and there was a definite risk of hypothermia. It was still raining, but we decided to persevere. A short ride into Kerrville, and we made our last turn for Fredericksburg.

The rain had lightened up and we made good time. The rain had almost cleared by the time we got into Fredericksburg.

Unfortunately, Pete, from Houston, crashed in Kerrville in some gravel. He broke his shoulderblade and got some road rash. He's going to be okay, but it is unfortunate that we have two injuries this trip.

Milage for the day: 92.4

Day 7 - Fredericksburg to Austin

Another cool day, another rainy day. We rode through Lukenbach (Yes, there really is a Lukenbach, TX) on into Blanco. It was around there, we started getting rain. We kept on riding through the rain. There wasn't much else we could do. After a while, you just start making jokes about it.

We pulled in to Mike's Cafe for lunch just off 290. They have a great buffet where we pigged out again. The rain stopped while we had lunch. We donned our wet gear and started out again.

We went up through Bee Cave (near Austin) and the sun started to cast a shadow, something we hadn't seen for the last couple of days. The traffic was getting worse, but wasn't as bad as expected.

Gary Smith had his second just-in-sight-of-town flat tire. We waited for him to fix it before finishing the ride. Tomorrow, we start our longest two days.

Milage for the day: 91.4

Day 8 - Austin to Navasoto

Since it was a long day, we got an early start. It was still dark by the time we left. It was nice being out of the hills, and we even had some tailwind.

We made good time to Bastrop, though we did have a couple of dog sprints. After a good breakfast in Bastrop, we headed on out east. We rode onward, and took a little detour through Smithville. Nasty roads through there, since they were recently grooved. We started to get pretty spread out that day.

I rode through La Grange, just stopping for a Coke before continuing on to Round Top. It was a pleasant ride to Round Top, where I caught David and Lisa just as they were finishing lunch. The Round Top Cafe made for a great lunch stop, and it a very pretty place to look around.

I rode with John Fussellman into Brenham, the land of contented cows and Blue Bell Ice Cream. Just as we got into the town, we got hit by...

MORE RAIN! No problem, it made it a nice stop to have a pint of ice cream. John had and extra pint, just to tide him over for the next 40 miles.

After the the ice cream, we rode the rest of the way into Navasoto.

Milage for the day: 136.4

Day 9 - Navasoto to Orange

This time, we got an even earlier start. The first hour or so, we rode with lights in the dark. Again, we had to ride to our breakfast. After a couple of hours, we reached Conroe for a "healthly" breakfast at McDonalds.

Most of the ride we were just making miles. We had a long day, so we rode fairly consistently. Our rear ends were getting tired, and we were taking "butt breaks" at regular intervals.

We stopped for lunch at Moss Hill. Not too much there, but we were able to have a nice lunch.

From lunch, we just made miles for Beaumont. Again, with miles to go we just made time. We were getting tired, but we continued on. We had a quick Coke stop in Beaumont, and made for the last leg of the trip.

The last miles seemed to go slow, but we went on. Our butt breaks got a little more frequent. Finally, we could see the hotel, and made a last sprint for the finish. It was over, our journey was complete.

Milage for the day: 159.4

Some comments about the ride...

There were several people who praised the virtues of A&D Ointment as a way to allow their behinds to withstand the miles in the saddle. Use it early, often, religiously!

One rider commented on the patience of the resturant staff at serving 30 hungry cyclists. George Whalen, the mechanic and SAG driver, said that was nothing compared to SAGing for 30 riders for a whole week! He is probably right, we tend to get a little testy at times.

We gave one waitress (in Leakey) a shock while we were getting breakfast. She heard us talk about lunch. She threatened to quit if we were coming back for lunch! She had never seen a large group of people eat 2 or 3 complete breakfasts at a sitting before.

Everyone had a great time (even those that were injured). There is talk of a future Trans Texas Tour again, but it never came to pass.

We got a big kick out of the milage sign in Orange: El Paso 857 miles. Texas is sure a big state, especially by bicycle.

Some statistics:

    Total distance:         1058.3 miles
    Calories expended:      42,332 calories per rider
    Pints of Blue Bell:       52.9 pints per rider
    Beers:                   604.7 per rider or 1511 CASES of beer for the
				entire group (not including those
				consumed by our mechanic!)

David Cathey, Montagar Software Concepts