March 24 - April 12: Texas

3/26 - Van Horn (76 miles 1055 total)
76 miles from the ft hancock motel in ft. hancock to the best western in van horn (silent h), TX
it was coolish this morning, so we picked up our hot cereal & other breakfast items at the table on the motel's veranda, then carried it all to our rooms to dine. with fond memories of yesterday's fascinating stops at the missions, i asked caroline, our cultural events coordinator,what ideas she had for today's special activities. she said, "counting sagebrush." that was a little discouraging.
by 7 everyone had left & headed east on state road 20. the road was a beautiful pastoral one with next-to-no traffic. here are sari & roma with the mountains in the background that were off to our right as we rode. since we had just seen a sign along the road pointing westward that said "port of entry, 1 mile," we assume those mountains are in mexico.
we rode thru a couple of tiny little towns that were no more than half a dozen small houses & some horses & chickens...& dogs. finally at about mi 22.5 we rode onto interstate 10, but only for 2-1/2 miles this time. as soon as we spotted a frontage road to the right, we walked across a dirt shoulder & got onto it. we continued on the frontage road for about 20 miles, tho' some bikers disliked its rough surface, so stayed on the interstate's shoulder.
here's a photo of roma & sari along the frontage road, having their first sandwiches of the day. as you can see, our road was very close to the interstate. we were making a steady climb upward all along this stretch.
roma went ahead after a while, & sari & i followed the frontage road to sierra blanca. our route sheet said there was a restaurant on the far end of town, so we stopped. most other riders had come & gone, but 6 of us had a snack, then back on the road.
quite a few riders again chose to go straight to the interstate because they didn't like the rough surface of the frontage road. we later learned that they had to deal with a very harrowing stretch where they had just a small space to ride in between the semis & a cement barrier.
sari & i, preferring a rough road surface to biking with semis, stayed with the frontage road. hoping to make the most of this day on the interstate, we started concentrating on the little flowers & other plants in this arid landscape. there were yuccas everywhere. we thot this one was particularly interesting; i didn't see any others with more than one trunk. the yellow flowers in the foreground of this photo grew abundantly along the roadside.
then we turned our attention to the construction going on alongside us on the interstate. all through this stretch, traffic was two-way, with a waist-high concrete divider between the 2 lanes.
we even became fascinated with the whole process of creating the new road surface & the huge machines that create it. this photo shows a section of metal rods that were held about 7 inches above the road's surface with yellow brackets. at first i couldn't figure out how these would fit into the scheme.
but before long, we came upon the huge machine you see in this photo. the machine was spewing a thick sludge of what i suppose is concrete down onto & through the metal roads.
in this photo you see to the right the same concrete sludge process going on, with the fellow above spraying it with water to make sure it maintains the right consistency (at least i assume that's why he's spraying it---i'm making all this up; biking along the interstate does this to a person). then to the left, behind that huge machine, out comes the brand-spanking-new pavement. it's magic!
just a bit later, we came to the spot on our route sheet where an "end state maintenance" sign was posted. at this spot we were to walk our bikes on a little gravel stretch to the interstate & across it to the east-bound shoulder. of course this was still the construction zone....which meant two-way traffic with the waist-high cement divider between the 2 lanes. there was no way in the world that we could walk out there & expect some miracle to occur that would bring 2 lanes of speeding semis to a halt at the same time so that we could lift our loaded bikes over that cement barrier & get safely to the opposite shoulder. we knew we had no hope of accomplishing that.
so sari & i decided to keep riding eastward on what became an increasingly pot-holed, deteriorating road surface. as we rode, we saw the interstate turning further & further away from us. yikes. before long, we decided to flag down one of the pickups that were driving toward us. a car stopped, with a pickup right behind it. we asked the fellow in the car if we could get onto the interstate going to van horn by continuing to bike eastward on this road. he said he thot so, but then he pointed to the pickup behind him & said, "ask the sheriff; he'll know for sure."
what a break! the sheriff said yes, we could continue biking eastward, tho the road would get even worse. he said when we got to the end of this road we'd turn south onto a bumpy dirt road that would take us over the interstate, then we could get back onto the right shoulder.
& by golly, it worked. sari & i were so glad we both have those institutional-strength continental top touring 2000 bike tires, 'cause it was a rough ride. but once we got back onto the eastbound interstate, we rode the last 10 miles, mostly downhill, into van horn. here's a photo of van horn (behind the semi) as we cruised downhill.
our best western here in van horn is nice. we walked down the street this evening to a local restaurant for supper. tomorrow will be interstate 10, part 2, as we again take to I-10 for many of tomorrow's 86 miles. but tomorrow we'll also have lots of climbing, reaching over 6000 ft at mcdonald observatory. becky, our weather channel guru, says winds of 30-40 mph are forecast, perhaps kicking up some dust storms. we will soooo deserve that layover day on friday. i'm not optimistic about finding a phone hookup at our next stop, so it may be two days before I can send another report...but I'll be back!
If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, feel free to e-mail me with your request, and I'll save your note and get back to you after the ride. Stay tuned....

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