El Paso - Orange
Also, please look at the 'song' inspired by this tour, The Biker's Lament
Hopefully, those interested in cycling, or marathon cycling, will read this with interest and entertainment, as 30 cyclists and myself trek across the state.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
The Oasis of the day is Langtry, home of Judge Roy Bean.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!)