March 24 - April 12: Texas

3/29 - Marathon (60 miles 1156 total)
60 miles from the indian lodge near ft. davis to the gage hotel in marathon, TX
cold cold cold (again). & when we looked outside first thing in the morning, SNOW! snowflakes were coming down & there was a light layer of the white stuff on the cacti out in the courtyard. you can see the wintry scene in this photo of marilyn boger & sari. this is the same courtyard that looked so sunny & summery in yesterday's photo.
we were scheduled to have breakfast at the trailer at 7, but it was too cold for michelle to fix breakfast outdoors, so we ate in the restaurant. at 8:30 we met, & michelle told us we could either sag or ride, but if we rode, we should be careful to dress warmly & ride carefully, especially on bridges. most of us left on our bikes around 9. i'd guess the temps were in the low to mid 30's.
to judge by this photo, you'd think sari was riding her bike to the ski slopes. in fact, those mountains in the background were all quite white.
further along, it got a bit warmer, tho' the temps never rose out of the 40's today. it was cloudy much of the day, but later the clouds broke up a bit, allowing some blue sky to show thru, as in this photo of sari. much of today's landscape was like this....flat, with mountains/hills all around the edges.
the town of alpine was about midway in today's route. i spotted this clever mathematical equation within a mural on the side of a building as i rode into town. it says a lot about the spunkiness of this community.
many of us stopped at an eatery in town called "bread & breakfast." it was obviously a town gathering place. the owner knew & chatted with everyone who came thru the door, & he was so nice to all of us. sari & i had a bowl of today's soup....potato & cheese, served with slices of homemade wheat & rye breads. delicious. lennis & frances were sitting at our table; the owner gave them 2 loaves of his fresh bread to take along for our supper this evening.
since some folks decided to sag at alpine, sari & i ended up at the end of the pack as we left town. all thru the day, & especially into the afternoon, incessant winds seemed to keep changing directions so they'd always be impeding our progress somewhat, never necessarily head-on, but usually irritatingly blowing against the front of one shoulder or the other.
the terrain didn't change much all day. this photo captures the straight roads, wildflower clumps, beautiful clouds, & land features that were common this afternoon.
the town of marathon was founded by someone who felt the area resembled the mountainous region of his favorite greek city, marathon. it's a tiny place, & seems to be dominated by the gage hotel, a group of several historic buildings. some of us are staying in the hotel itself, in rooms that are quite small, but quite elegant in an early western sort of way.
here's a photo of sari standing in our room. the brass sign on the door says "javalina gap." each room has its own early-west name. on the wall over the bed is a set of heavy leather chaps. on our floor, as on every floor in this hotel, is an animal skin. i've heard they're goat skins, & indeed we've seen quite a few goats as we've pedaled along lately....bigger goats than i see in iowa (texas-size goats, no doubt).
other riders are at 2 other houses nearby. michelle is using the kitchen in one smaller house to cook our meals. tonight's entree was a delicious lasagna, with a green salad & bread from the cafe in alpine. dessert was warm, gooey, just-baked brownies & blue bunny ice cream (made me think of home, as blue bunny is headquartered in iowa).
i need you bring you up to date on an important socks tradition that has developed on this tour. since i've neglected to mention it day-by-day, i hope i can get the details straight in retrospect.
at a map meeting in silver city, deb showed us a pair of socks that a local bike shop had given her. she decided that we'd start passing them from one rider to the next. the socks are white & have the acronym "B.I.T.C.H." on their cuffs. deb said that each rider who was awarded them would wear them one day, then wash them out before passing them on to the next rider.
marilyn dehaan piped up, "a real bitch wouldn't wash them out." deb immediately walked over & awarded the socks to marilyn that night, saying, "it was easier to decide whom to give these to than i thot it would be."
a day or 2 later, donna was was wearing the socks. when we asked why she had them, she said she'd earned them (tho' we really doubt it).
after the map meeting that night (i can't remember where we were), donna started a new aspect of the tradition by telling us she was assigning a new meaning to the socks' acronym, "Babe In Total Control of Herself," & passing the socks on to patty, who had a tough day. this is a stressful time for patty in general, as her son is with the marines on the front lines in the current war. patty is doing this ride in honor of all those in the military.
that evening in el paso, patty announced the new label for the acronym--Biking Into Texas Creates Havoc--& passed on the socks one by one to mary libbey & rita. mary had lost the front wheel of her bike that day (it was left behind when her bike was loaded onto the top of the subaru) & rita had fallen over backward onto the pavement when trying to get off her bike at a stop along the roadside early in the day. (mary has since received a new wheel from Terry Bicycles.)
after supper at van horn, rita & mary libbey said they felt the socks, of which they had each worn one apiece that day, needed to be reunited, so they passed on the pair to carolyn, who had helped fix several flats along the road that day. the new acronym label: "Bringing It To Carolyn Helps."
then there was that fateful day of gale-force winds on the route to ft. davis, when only carolyn & CJ finished the ride. at the map meeting the next evening, carolyn passed on the socks to CJ: "Buddies In Tough Conditions Hangtogether."
so now i'm up to date: this evening after supper here in marathon, CJ presented the newly washed socks to frances, explaining that frances was relentless in her efforts to make sure carolyn & CJ were always looked after on their long & difficult ride the day before. all of us have come to rely on frances' tireless efforts to make sure we're all cared for on the road.
here's a photo of frances with her socks, with the acronym now meaning, "Best In Thoughtful Caring Help."
as for tomorrow, we'll ride about 54 miles to another tiny town, sanderson. we'll be on state hwy 90 all day tomorrow... & the next day's 110 mi. michelle has scheduled breakfast for 8:30 tomorrow, which will give us all a leisurely morning.
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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