Day 15: Sierra Blanca to McDonald Observatory

The GPS track from today’s ride is highly errorred. Basic stats: 108 miles, about 9:40 rolling time. That’s not the greatest distance I’ve ever ridden in one day, but it’s definitely the most ride time I’ve ever had in one day.

I’ve been riding pretty strongly the past few days, and I think I may have gotten a little overconfident. Plus there’s a whole lot of nothing for a long way from Sierra Blanca on, and my current location is really the shortest ride I was willing to contemplate. And finally, now that I’m back in Texas, I really want to get back to Austin. It’s irrational: I know I have almost as much distance between El Paso and Austin as I did between San Diego and El Paso. But being in the state has lit a fire under me to make as much daily headway as possible.

So I wound up overextending myself today somewhat. I knew as early as 3:00 pm that I was racing the sunset and might not win. I did, but only just. I hadn’t taken into account the headwinds, the fact that I’d be climbing out of the Rio Grande valley even before I got to all the steep climbing in the Davis Mountains, or the generally rough roads, which really slow me down and are fatiguing.

I am staying at a Warm Showers host, John and his family, who live on the premises of the McDonald Observatory. John works on the telescopes. Pretty cool. He also did some cross-country riding when be was younger. Gwen and I were lucky enough to catch one of the star parties out here some years ago, and John has offered to show me the 107″ telescope.

It’s a funny thing: everywhere I’ve gone on this rode so far, I’ve either been able to get cellular data or wifi at the end of every day. So while I’ve been homesick, I’ve still had that thread of connection, getting emails and comments from friends, calling Gwen when possible, and so on. The first transam bike route was plotted and ridden back in 1976, when it would have been vastly harder to stay in touch with the folks back home. I wonder if modern communications tools alleviate the homesickness or increase it, by splitting one’s state of mind.

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