Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fort Hancock to Van Horn, TX (76 miles) 3/23/10

West Texas is between mountain ranges, also known as the high desert.  There are mesquite trees and creosote bushes, and many small bridges going over dry gullies, waiting for the rainy season.  We are riding mostly on small state and local roads, or the frontage road for Interstate 10.  The only traffic we saw was the many white and green Border Patrol vans.  We also saw Homeland Security helicopters flying around.  We are riding close to the border, and the army of security is ever present.

As we rode along, we were slowed down by one of the Border Patrol officers who asked us if we were US citizens.   We called out "Yes!" and continued on.

We have one rider, Shelley, who is a Canadian citizen.  Before she rode through, Amy Derwinski, our Sag captain for today, tipped off the officer to that fact, to play a trick on Shelley.

After Amy left, the officer soon saw Shelley coming.  He turned on his lights, his siren, and pulled out the vehicle in front of her to stop her!  He asked about her citizenship, and then asked for her passport.  When he called her by her name BEFORE opening her passport, Shelley knew that it must have been Amy that tipped him off!  I heard Shelley is planning some kind of retribution tonight!  :-)

For today's ride, we got our introduction to "Chip Seal" road surface that is so prevalent on side roads and shoulders in Texas.  Crews scrape the black top surface,  lay down tiny pebbles and then apply a sealant.  It makes for a pretty bumpy ride on a bike, but we'll be out of the state in only seventeen more days!

We rode many miles alongside I-10 on these Chip Seal roads.

We stopped at Sierra Blanca, TX, for a quick lunch.  As we waited for our order, an older gentleman and his adult son asked us about our ride.  When we told them we were on our way to Florida, the older man was speechless!

Just east of Sierra Blanca, we entered the Central Time Zone.  Since Arizona does not go on daylight saving time, this was the fourth time we have changed our clocks!  That meant that we lost an hour on a long day today. 

There were parts of our route that required us to get onto I-10 for 10 miles; there was no other way.  After all that Chip Seal, it was wonderful!  The shoulders were wide and smooth, and most of the truckers would move over when they could.  The last 5 miles was a great downhill where we flew on perfectly smooth surface into Van Horn at 25-30 mph!  Unlike the downhill from Emory Pass with all the switchbacks, this time it was straight.

Our ride tomorrow is from Van Horn to Fort Davis, TX, a 90 mile ride.  We will be spending two nights in Fort Davis for our day off.


El Paso to Fort Hancock, TX 47 miles March 22, 2010

Today is our first morning in Texas, and at breakfast we are greeted with Texas-shaped waffles! Patti Hall, my roomie last night, enjoyed making one.

Out in the parking lot, Barbara had her bike readjusted to her. Frankie had borrowed hers yesterday.

We had a lovely ride planned for us today, only 47 miles of flat, smooth roads. The first 17 miles took us out of El Paso city proper, and into the historic part of town. We rode the Mission Trail where we saw two mission churches, Ysleta and Socorro that were built in 1680. We stopped at the third, Elizario, but there was a funeral going on…they were carrying in the white casket when we rode up. As we rode away, I was grateful that we were alive AND were on this amazing bike ride…

 We stopped at La Calesa Restaurant for lunch where we had great Mexican dishes. I took the opportunity of our relaxing day to take photos of those who were there, and enjoyed the luxury of an hour-long lunch break.

The Fort Hancock Motel is remote, with only a gas station, “Angie’s Restaurant” connected to it, and not much else. However I heard her pies are to die for!

Fort Hancock is next to Interstate 10, and during these five days we will be skirting the Mexican border.

Before dinner, two self-contained cyclists, Bill and Diane from mid-California, rode up. When they saw our group, they were worried that there would be no rooms left, but they were in luck this time. We talked to them for a while, fascinating at the concept of being self-contained! It sure makes our ride seem like a walk in the park!

Tomorrow is a 76 mile day with some hills and 12 miles of I-10 freeway in two places. We will be on our way to Van Horn, Texas.