Month: October 2010

Day 19: Comstock to Camp Wood

Started: Oct 6, 2010 7:57:15
Ride Time: 9:09:23
Stopped Time: 1:48:24
Distance: 111.22 miles
Average: 12.15 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 54.39 miles/h
Climb: 13101 feet
Calories: 5244

Another long day with not a lot to remark on. Got rolling with first light to get the hell out of Comstock. Made it into Del Rio in pretty good time. Had breakfast on the east side of town at a joint called Julio’s, where I had the migas plate, which included carne guisada and bacon. And beans and tortillas. Made up for a miserable dinner the night before, but sat like a rock in my gut for the next 50 miles. Apparently migas in Del Rio are not what I’m used to in Austin: just crumbled chips and eggs. Nothing else.

Del Rio was also the transition from Section 3 to 4 on my maps.

Once I had Del Rio behind me, I found myself out of the desert and into ranchland. A lot of game ranches as well as some cattle ranches. Flew through Bracketville, which is like a real town with a grocery store and everything—a rare sight in what purport to be towns, it seems. Stopped there for Gatorade and water. It was only 2:00, which was too early to knock off for the day, so I mentally committed to reaching Camp Wood by sundown. That was a pretty long stretch on top of the ~60 miles I had already ridden today: I knew I’d be racing the sunset again. Out on a long empty stretch of road, I got a flat. Great. And not two minutes after I fixed that, the same tire was flat again. This most likely means either that there’s something pointy embedded in the tire that I haven’t been able to find, or that I put on a tube with a bad patch. I was carrying some virgin tubes that Carlos in Phoenix very helpfully chased down for me while I was there, and so I finally broke one of those out. It held the rest of the way.

I also got chased by 5 dogs today. In fact, all but one of the dogs that has chased me has been in Texas. So far I’ve been able to outrace all of them, much to my own surprise.

Made it into Camp Wood with maybe 40 minutes of daylight remaining. It was my 6th century-plus day. I can get into Austin on Friday if I pull two more.

Day 18: Sanderson to Comstock

Started: Oct 5, 2010 8:02:56
Ride Time: 8:27:58
Stopped Time: 49:26
Distance: 92.65 miles
Average: 10.94 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 93.26 miles/h
Climb: 10775 feet
Calories: 4210

A long and unpleasant day of riding. I started in a town with nothing of interest (Sanderson bills itself as the “cactus capital of Texas”), rode through 90 miles of dull, repetitive, and un-scenic scenery, and arrived in an even less interesting town (Comstock bills itself as “between Amistad and Del Rio”).

But the thing that made today memorably bad instead of just forgettably bad was the headwind. I’ve been fighting headwinds for the past five days, but today’s was especially strong and unrelenting. I spent the entire ride cursing it in my mind. If that wind had been at my back instead, I would have easily made it the next 30 miles to Del Rio. Apparently the wind is always like this at this time of year.

So, not much else to say about today other than that I am beat.

Day 17: Alpine to Sanderson

Started: Oct 4, 2010 8:50:57
Ride Time: 7:08:57
Stopped Time: 1:19:09
Distance: 83.32 miles
Average: 11.65 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 25.67 miles/h
Climb: 2153 feet
Calories: 3630

Today I rode though some of the emptiest country I’ve seen on this ride—but empty in a peaceful way that I enjoyed. I would stop periodically during the ride today and just listen to the wind.

The day started out with my host from last night, Ron, fixing me a nice breakfast. I was a few minutes later getting rolling than I had planned, but it was worth it, and I wasn’t especially afraid of racing the sunset today.

The ride into Marathon was unexpectedly chilly, with a stiff headwind and what felt like a long, slow climb—but that might just have been the headwind talking. In Marathon, I stopped at the first café I saw for lunch, which was quite pleasant. Everybody there seemed to know what the Southern Tier is, and knew right off that I was riding it. Funny thing—in some small towns, it’s well-known, in others, not at all.

After lunch, I pushed on to Sanderson. That was the big empty part. During that leg, I noticed the rocks changed from dark red to limestone, reminding me of home.

In Sanderson, I checked into a hotel, got cleaned up, and went directly to the restaurant in town for food. There I met a group of three Southern Tier riders heading west—the first westbounders I’ve met. We traded tips on what the others were about to encounter, places to stay, that sort of thing. It was great getting to just chat with them and share the experience. They told me that at the pace I was going, I could probably knock out the part east of Austin in 10-15 days, which is encouraging.

Austin is now less than a week away, and I am hot to get there. Following is my fairly conservative estimate of where I’ll be stopping over the next several days:

Tue: Comstock
Wed: Bracketville
Thu: Leakey
Fri: Kerrville
Sat: Wimberley
Sun: Austin

Day 16: McDonald Observatory to Alpine

Started: Oct 3, 2010 12:35:07
Ride Time: 3:20:14
Stopped Time: 1:02:03
Distance: 45.29 miles
Average: 13.57 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 104.86 miles/h
Climb: 3618 feet
Calories: 1533

When I went out and looked at the trike this morning, I discovered the rear tire had gone flat, and judging by the wear on the tire, I had been riding on low pressure for some time. So add that to the factors that slowed me down yesterday.

Despite a solid night’s sleep, I was way too beat to put in a long day’s riding today. Which was fine. I got off to a late start at about 1:00 pm because my host John gave me a tour of the telescopes, which was fascinating. John’s job is on the engineering side—keeping the telescopes working properly. I had never appreciated how much engineering goes into making those things work, but the numbers are pretty astounding. The 107″ mirror by itself weighs 9000 lb, and needs to be removed and re-aluminized once a year, which is all done on-site using a motley array of equipment that includes ultra-low pressure vacuum pumps and wading pools. The whole suspended telescope assembly weighs 109,000 lb, and needs to be able to align on and track stars accurately. This can all be done with surprisingly little equipment, but even the slightest mechanical imperfections will affect astronomical observations.

John’s academic background is in geophysics, and he was able to tell me the life story of every mountaintop we could see up there. I’ve never had a strong foothold in geology, so I couldn’t quite keep up, but it seems like a great place for someone with an interest in that. Despite that background, John seems to be a tinkerer at heart, and loves the opportunity to work on those big machines. I had a great time getting the tour from him, and also just chatting with him and his wife Deb. And also visiting with their many pets.

So, like I said, off to a late start. It was downhill all the way to Fort Davis (which made my wrecked legs happy), where I got soup and a sandwich at the local hippy-compliant grocery and contemplated my next move. Alpine was the only town it was reasonable for me to try to reach. There were a couple of Warm Showers hosts there, who I called. One was not able to accommodate me; the other was, but it sounded a bit like I’d be imposing. Still, we agreed that I’d stay with him. He wasn’t going to be home for hours, so I had plenty of time to get to Alpine.

I took that time, riding slowly, and still arrived in town well before he did. So I rode around for a while. Came upon a shop serving ice cream and raspas. Got to talking with a guy there, Ron, who had also ridden the Southern Tier on a recumbent. There was a music jam happening at a little covered space a couple of doors down. Lots of folks were hanging out. Ron introduced me around. Someone put a beer in my hands. I met Ron’s girlfriend Emmie and her old friend Esther, who was from Austin and happened to be with Max Nofziger. I had seen him and thought “that guy looks exactly like Max Nofziger.” Small world.

I wound up inviting myself over to Ron and Emmie’s place, which is where I am now.

I know that other cyclotourists have said they have more fun on tours when they ride short daily distances and get to just hang out. I still enjoy putting in long miles (up to a point), but I know what they’re getting at.

Tomorrow will probably be an 80-miler that will put me into Sanderson. If I can manage it, I’ll ride to Del Rio the day after that: it’s well over 100 miles, but it’s mostly downhill. It’s also a milestone because it’s the end of Section 3. And Austin is in the middle of Section 4.

Jam in Alpine TX

Jam in Alpine TX

The blonde woman toward the back, Phyllis, organizes this twice a year. I just happened to be here on the right day. One of the musicians was local celebrity Bake Turner, who played on the Super Bowl III winning Jets with Joe Namath back in the day.

The 82" telescope

The 82" telescope

This one is much older—construction was begun in 1939—and to my eyes, more interesting. Also interesting is the fact that despite having less light-gathering ability, this produces better images than the bigger one