Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sanderson, TX to Bracketville, TX, Oct 26

After returning to Sanderson from Alpine, we did a test ride on the bikes and decided to begin biking the next morning the 60 miles to Langtry where Judge Roy Bean made the town famous with his infamous methods of holding court and dishing out sentences for the guilty (often included buying a round of drinks for all the bystanders).  Since there was no jail, the method of punishment was paying fines.  There is a nice museum there to rest in and learn more about Judge Bean.  We dry camped (no facilities) at the community center.  The only bathroom was at the museum so we used the facilities at the 5pm closing time and when they opened the next morning at 8am.  That day we were off for the 60 miles to Del Rio.  Along the way we met a couple about our age who were biking from East to West across the same route.  It happened at a lunch stop so we shared information about our journeys. They were the first couple we have met anywhere near our age.  Since they are from British Colombia, we might see them in the future for a bike trip.  Biking into Del Rio was a bit exhausting as the temperature was 99 degrees, breaking a record high last set in 1917.  We needed a shower and air conditioning so we stayed in a motel and treated ourselves.  This morning we biked 32 miles into Bracketville where we will camp for the night.  It's a short mileage day for us but the next town is 45 miles away which seemed a bit much for us as Ann's elbow has not healed fully and the afternoons are hot.
Your comments are a joy to read.  Thank you for your encouragement as we head into Central Texas.
Here are some photos from the past few days.

 Richard was a fellow biker we met at Liz's in Alpine.  We took the train the 80 miles from Alpine to Sanderson while he biked, so we got to spend another night with him.  Then he showed up in Langtry after we arrived, as we started early and he started late.  We stayed in Langtry and he went on another 20 miles.  Now he is long gone, but we occasionally hear about "Richard sightings".
 Here is Ann cooking our dinner meal at our "dry camping" spot at the Community Center in Langtry.  It was OK, really.
 We love this sign, one of the sights along the bike route in this big state.
 The meeting of the mature bicyclists in Comstock, TX.  Don't let the OPEN sign fool you.  The place was not really open, as it was closed on Mondays and there we were on a Monday!
 Our first armadillo road kill.  We understand there might be many more.  Notice that it is a 9-banded armadillo.
 Ann stopping on the bridge over the Pecos River, one of the few river beds actually with water!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sanderson, TX back to Alpine, TX for Medical and Healing, Oct 23

A lot has happen since our last blog update.  We attempted to bike last Monday evening and the pain in her elbow was to much for Ann to think about biking.  The jarring from the road surface was the problem even though the wound appeared to be healing. The Dr. at the clinic had suggested an x-ray would be a good idea to make sure there was no damage to the bone.  Because of the pain, we decided to catch an Amtrak Train from Sanderson (no station there, you just wave your arms and the train stops) back to Alpine which we had passed through a couple of days earlier.  There we were picked up by our guardian angle, Liz, who took us to the local hospital where we had an x-ray taken by a technician who let Bill look at the films.  According to Bill and the technician, everything looked good.  Since the official results would be another day of so, we decided to rent a car and drive to Big Bend National Park, 70 miles away, for some recuperation time.  We had a great time in the park, which is the least visited park in the U.S. because of it's location (far away from everywhere).  It has some incredible scenery and hikes which we took advantage of.  Two of the hikes were along the Rio Grande River, the border between the U.S. and Mexico into the mouths of canyons formed by the river.  It's a beautiful place and we recommend it to anyone traveling this way.  In the meantime, we have stayed in the Casita of Liz's which is next to her house.  Last night we shared it with a young biker who, like us, is traveling the Southern Tier.  It was great to share stories of his adventures and stories.

*We have received the results of the x-ray and everything is normal and healing is coming along quickly.  Hope to begin biking again.  Today we will take the train back to Sanderson and give it a try.

Love to all,  Bill and Ann
 Train depot in Sanderson.  Not even a bench to sit on.  The Amtrak was an hour late, but we were glad to see it when it came.  Depot is considered the 10th most endangered train depot in the US.
 Liz's new Casita in Alpine.  We were the 2nd guests to enjoy the cute place.  We loved it!  Thanks, Liz.
 And here is Liz at her home next door.  She is the most amazing Guardian Angel we have ever met, and we know quite a few.
 Santa Elena Canyon, with the Rio Grande River coming through.  We waded a creek and walked a neat trail on the right/US side of the river, up the canyon.  The left side of the canyon is Mexico.
 Ann is walking up the trail that goes into the canyon.  When we took the photo we did not realize there were such fun clouds in the sky.
 Bill on our Basin Loop hike in the Chisos Basin area of Big Bend National Park. The lodge and restaurant is here, so we celebrated Bill's 67th birthday with a nice lunch.   Below is a photo of the Rio Grande River with the Mexican town of Boquillas in the background with the Sierra Del Carmen mountains in the far back, all on the other side of the river.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sanderson, Texas Oct 19

We are still in Sanderson, TX as Ann recuperates from the biking injury she sustained on Saturday.  We went to the local medical clinic this morning and had the elbow checked out by a PA who cleaned up the area and put on fresh bandages.  He suggested an x-ray if the pain in the end of the elbow persist.  She has good movement of the joint with no pain except when it is bumped.  He also prescribed some antibiotics to prevent infection and, more importantly, dispensed some dressing so we could change the bandage once or twice a day.  When the bandage was removed, the wound looked much better to me than it did on Saturday.  It wasn't as open and appeared to already be filling in some.  This evening we will take a ride around town on the bikes and, if all goes well, we will take off tomorrow for Langtry, 60 miles away, on our way to Del Rio.  There is a hospital there where Ann can get an x-ray if we feel it is necessary.
Here are a few photos to see the country and what we are doing.

Here we are in Marathon taken by a fellow who was running the half marathon.  He and his wife were from San Antonio, TX.  We drink a quart of Gatorade whenever we get close to a place that sells it to replace those electrolytes and fluids.
 We see a lot of ranch signs like this along the way.  Some are really original names and others reflect the Spanish influence.  Most of the ranches are 25-50,000 acres in size.  It takes a lot of land to support a cow here.  (this is for you, Lupita)

 This morning after a visit to the medical clinic, we took a walk on a path around town.  The desert has its own beauty, but we miss the green of the Pacific Northwest.  Notice Ann's elbow wrap. 
Bill is inspecting (carefully) a Saguaro Cactus in front of the house in which we are staying in Sanderson. 

A little bit about Sanderson, Texas, in Terrell County.  It is located about half way between El Paso and San Antonio on highway 90.  The closest stop light from here is 65 miles.  It is a town of approximately 800 people with 140 kids in school from K through High School.  The average rainfall is 13 inches.  This past July it rained 11 inches in one week!  Terrell County is the 10th largest county in Texas with a land mass of 2300 square miles (about the size of Rhode Island ) and has 2.3 square miles of land for each local citizen.  It is nestled in a canyon surrounded by low mountains and as the locals say, the sunsets are beautiful with no two of them looking the same.  The county is bordered by 56 miles of the Rio Grande to the south, with Mexico on the other side of the river. Sanderson is the Cactus Capital of Texas.  We understand the real estate is quite reasonable for anyone wanting to relocate here.

Bill and Ann, hopefully on the road again..........

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marathon, TX to Sanderson, TX Oct 16

We were up early this morning to eat in a local cafe and see the people running the marathon, in Marathon, being driven out 26 miles to begin their run.  We love the breakfast burritos here in the southwest and we both had that for breakfast. 
The ride to Sanderson was 54 miles with not anything along the way.  We had extra water and ate lunch at a covered picnic area along the way.  We were coming into Sanderson watching for the address for the house we were going to be staying in tonight when suddenly Ann's front tire hit Bill's rear pannier and down she went on a gravely surface.  We had just passed a service station and several people came running to help.  Ann was face down with both arms outstretched but the brunt of the fall was her right elbow.  As we helped her to her feet, that was the only apparent injury.  After taking the bikes off the road and walking back to the station, we went to the washroom and cleaned the wound and with the help of a local lady who had a BIG first aid kit. We pulled the skin together and put a tight wrap on it. There was no medical clinic open so we did what we could.  The wound is superficial but the skin is opened a bit.  We will see how it looks after a re wrap as this happen about two hours ago.  We may take a day off here and see how it looks.  Everything works and there is no pain on moving the elbow.  As always, it could have been worse.
There is a lot of open country out here and tomorrow is another 60 mile day with no services along the way.  We generally average about 10 miles an hour counting in stops for water, wildlife viewing, picture taking, etc. so that generally runs us into the afternoon as daylight doesn't come until around 8 a.m. here.
By chance the local library was open in Sanderson and while Ann is resting, I am doing some grocery shopping and blogging.  Here are a few photos from the past couple of days.  Bill

 We found this big guy in the road looking for a victims to pounce on we guessed.  A Tarantula!
 We stay in this unique, in more ways than one, hostel in Marathon.  It's called La Loma de los Chivos (Goat Hill).
 Windmills are always a fascination.  this one was in Marathon.  They are very common in this part of the world.
 Some times we co our computer time where we find one available.  This one was in a workshop at the hostel.
Yes, there are buffalo out here.  A small herd, but they seem well adapted to the dry grass growing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Van Horn, TX to Marathon, TX Oct 15

 Here is the fence/wall between the US and Mexico, taken just at dark with a Border Patrol guarding the end.  Warm Showers hostess, Mary, drove us to the end of her ranch property to see it.  There are lots of opinions about the wall here along the border!
This is a Border Patrol vehicle pulling tires behind it to smooth out any footprints in the dirt.  They are trying to prevent illegal persons from crossing the border.  We see lots of patrol cars on the highway we are riding.
Last night we spent in Marfa, a town that has mysterious lights in the distant sky across the desert.  We stayed in a motel and could not bike the 8 miles to the viewing location on bikes, in the dark.  Marfa claims to be the 2nd highest town in Texas at 4800'
On our morning ride, 8 miles out of town, we came to the observation building.  For a town that is quite small, this is a big deal.
Notice the port-a-potty behind Bill.  From Alpine to the next town we kept seeing them and I thought, how nice to have ammenities along the road.  When we saw the Mile 20 sign we guessed it was for a marathon.  How fun, as we were headed to a town called Marathon!

As we entered the town, we were greeted by this banner.  All 2 hotels were full and there are runners all over the place.  We decided NOT to take a day off biking to run the marathon!  We are staying at a hostel called Loma de los Chivos (goat hill).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ft Hancock, TX to Van Horn, TX Oct 13

We have just checked into a KOA Campground and they say we have 45 minutes to use their computer so we thought we would add a couple of photos and comment on the journey. 
Last evening we stayed with a warm shower host, Mary Miller, in Fort Hancock which gave us an inside picture of the lives of people in that area.  Her property borders Mexico.  First thing she did was drive us to see the "fence" up close.  It was approaching dark and a bordar patrol came to see what we were doing.  Mary said the fence cost 5 1/2 million dollars for each mile.  It is very controversial to everyone in the area.  Her family grows cotton and alfalfa for a living.  They also raise deer and plant them in a large area they have leased.  Hunters pay for the right to hunt on the land.  "Just another way to make money," she said.  They hire about 8-10 people to help on the farm.  Some of the workers live in Mexico and come over the border each day to work.  Everyone in the area speaks Spanish and most of the population is of Spanish background.
We left there early and biked 70 miles today to get to Van Horn.  All day we battled a steady head wind and quite a few uphills.  Tough day.  Plus Bill had another flat even though we put in liners to prevent flats.  There are a lot of "goat heads" in the area and one slipped around the liner we guess.
Here are a few photos from the past few days:

Rio Grande, the river that is the border of Mexico and the US.  It even has water!  Most rivers are dry.

We had more pictures to share, but the computer only wanted to post just one.  We never understand! 
So it is time to sign off and try again another day. 

Best to you all,  Bill and Ann

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Las Cruces, New Mexico to Fort Hancock, Texas (Oct 12)

TEXAS.....................WE ARE HERE

We are in a small town about 50 miles east of El Paso this afternoon  called Fort Hancock. The library serves both the community and school.  The librarian is very nice and offered us an hour to use the computers before they close for the day.  Our host in El Paso, West Cosgrove, biked with us this morning for an hour to get us out of the city.  It was a big help as the traffic seemed daunting to us.  We are having to watch our stops as the distances between places to get water and places to stay are spaced far apart in this part of Texas.
We met our first bicyclers this morning that were traveling from east to west.  It was a young couple on a tandem, pulling a bob(trailer), and their friend on a single bike.  We swapped lots of names and places that we liked to stay and things to do along the way.  This all took place on the road, thankfully in one of the rare shady spots.  We wished we'd had more time to "talk shop".

One thing we have not stressed is the amount of agriculture we see along the way, all irrigated of course, from the Rio Grande.  The big crops now are cotton, and pecan trees.  There are acres and acres of both of these.  Just outside of Las Cruces, there were hugh dairy farms with what appeared to be 1000 plus cows.  Alfalfa is another crop that is about as popular as cotton to feed the cows and to send overseas.  In the eastern part of New Mexico, chili peppers were the predominate crop.  It's nice to be able to appreciate these crops and animals as we are going at a slower pace and can "smell the flowers" so to speak.

We had our third flat yesterday, second for Bill.  Mine was on day one.  It occurred right before El Paso, so once it was fixed we went on into El Paso directly to the bike shop and bought liners for the tires.  Bill put the liners in all 4 tires and maybe that will help keep out the goat heads, wires. staples, and glass that is frequent along the roadways.

No photos this time as the computer has a block for the pictures.  We will send a few next time.
 Bill and Ann

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Silver City to Las Cruces, New Mexico October 10, 2010

We made it over the highest pass on the trip, Emory Pass, 8228 feet, in the Black Hills of New Mexico.  For 18 miles we climbed 2600 feet in 3 1/2 hours.  Now the highest point of the Southern Tier bike route is behind us.  Could it be all downhill from here?  We think not!
We have been mostly camping during the past few days but are staying with Ann's relatives in Las Cruces.  Tomorrow we will enter Texas at El Paso.  Then we will begin the 1000 miles of Texas!
Bicycle news:  Bill's rear tire started to unravel so we used our trusty spare we had picked up on day two of the trip.  We picked up another tire today to be ready for the next tire event.  Otherwise the bikes and their operators are holding up well.  One reason is the temperatures have cooled from 50 degrees at night to a high of 85-90 during the day.  Much better than 110 we experienced earlier.

Now for some pictures to document the last few days.  Since we are still learning how to "blog" our photos are not all in order.  Bear with us.

                                           Biking the canyon to the top of Emory Pass.
                                  Bill on top of Emory Pass looking out over all of New Mexico.
       Along this part of our route, we passed fields of chiles.  The town of Hatch claims to be the Chile Capitol of the World!
                                    Here we saw the washing of the chiles right after harvest.
 Pecan orchards are also frequently along the way.  Here is how they irrigate, flooding the orchard and letting it soak in.
 Pecan orchards with New Mexico hills in the background and alfalfa in the foreground.
 Chiles hanging on display for sale.

Camping, desert style.  This is getting up early in the morning to begin biking before it gets too warm.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Safford, AZ to Silver City, NM

From Safford, we climbed a couple of small peaks then ate lunch in Three Way at a Ranger Station.  Following lunch we started a gentle uphill for several miles.  Along the way, we encountered thousands of big grasshoppers on the side of the road, so numerous you couldn't avoid squashing some of them.  They would jump and hit us in the chest and get caught in our spokes.  Then we saw our first rattlesnake nestled in a depression of a rumble strip on the shoulder of the road.  We very carefully took his picture and went on our way.  We were fighting a terrific headwind which made going uphill even more difficult.

Then we traversed over a tough peak of 6,295 feet.  The ride over the mountain was taxing to say the least.  We camped on the mountain in an isolated campground and awoke to thunder and lightning and spotty rain during the night.  Leaving the campground at daylight, we reached Buckhorn after 25 miles and ate breakfast in a Mom & Pop grocery store, then kept pedaling until we reached Silver City, just after the Continental Divide, at about 4:30 Mountain Time.  We were hosted overnight by Robert and Jenny in Silver City and treated to showers laundry, and a spaghetti dinner. 

We needed a day to catch up on e-mail and phone calls so will spend the day here, with a Warm Showers Host.  Silver City is an old mining town of about 11,000 people, setting at a little over 6,000 feet in elevation with a nice climate.  Tomorrow we will tackle Emory Pass, 8,226, which is the highest point on our ride.

                                   Rattlesnake in road
                                   One of thousands of grasshoppers in the road
                             Long road in New Mexico
                                           Crossing the Continental Divide as we enter Silver City
                                      Colorful mural in Silver City

Phoenix, AZ to Safford, AZ

                                The Good Luck and Bad Luck at the Casino!

After a great visit with long time friends Dan and Sue, we were on the way to our next stop which was a casino on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation where we pitched our tent in the RV section.  During the day, we rode through the reservation which comprises around two million acres of land.  Just as we arrived at the casino, someone asked how far we were going.  Thinking he wanted to know the big picture, we started to explain and he said, "You aren't going far on that bike," pointing to Bill's rear tire.  Flat as a pancake.  There was a large industrial staple in the tire.  As Bill was working on the tube, we checked our messages on the phone and there was a call from a fellow from REI in Bellingham.  Turns our Bill had bought a $2.00 raffle ticket for a new REI Half Dome Tent while helping daughter Jill on her Bellingham Traverse just before we left on the bike trip.  Guess what the message said, "You are the winner of the Half Dome Tent."  Wow,  bad luck (flat), good luck (tent) and there we were at a casino.  We weren't tempted to try our good luck at the casino, but did have a big buffet that night.

                                    Ann's college roommate from the past, with her husband, Dan
                                              Hardy bikers stopped for a rest along the road.
                                  Cotton growing in fields as far as the eye can see as we pass by.
                      Biking in the early morning with an ominous sky.  We love clouds that block the sun.
                                                  Grass shining in the morning sunshine.

After crossing through the Apache Reservation we arrived in Safford with 71.5 miles under our tires, one of our longer days in the saddle.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Phoenix or Bust

                                                A lone Saguaro Cactus greets us at sunrise.

As the title suggests, we are in Phoenix, AZ,  but did it the hard way.  Sounds like a repeat story for us with all the adventures we have had along the way.  We left Wickenburg early and made good time, averaging 12 miles an hour.  Along the way we snacked on some light food we carried and stopped at 9:30 a.m. in Peoria at a nice bakery/cafe with 42 miles on the odometer.  Feeling good about ourselves, we called Ann's college roommate, Sue Buskirk, and set up a time to meet them at the end of the Arizona Canal Bike Path in Phoenix, about 20 more miles to go.  Sue and her husband, Dan, had offered to pick us up earlier but we thought we could make the purposed meeting okay.  Well, things went pretty well until we reached what we thought was the bike path.  It was a great bike path, but it went along a dry canal and we ended about one hour later in a gravel pit.  We asked a fellow beside the trail where we were, he informed up we were about 4 miles to the north of the bike path we should have been on.  So here we were in the middle of the day with the temperature hovering around 106, now several miles from our planned meeting place.  We biked until we found a McDonald's, called Dan and Sue letting them know what happen and drank two large cups of liquids until they came to rescue us.
Is was a welcome site to see them, be invited into their home, catch up on kids and the last few years of events, then enjoy dinner and a pancake breakfast this morning.  We will take a day off and start again early in the morning to work our way out of Phoenix and to the open country and mountains beyond.  Hoping for cooler temperatures!