One of the things I have noticed on this entire trip in Texas is the 99% absence of billboards. I am so happy I can see the things I am seeing, without having the view obscured by advertisements. One thing that once again caught my attention, was the dreaded white bicycle that was posted on the side of the road. To go one step further, the police painting of the body was still visible on the highway.
|A reminder of the dangers of the road.|
|A very deadly reminder|
The first half of the trip, was uneventful, and took me to Alpine, a town of about 5000. All the amenities there went to waste, (like a Dairy Queen), because I just didn't want to stop on such a short ride. Alpine was a college town, home of Sul Ross State University. Not only was it SRU, but it reminded me of good old Slippery Rock, with a row of modern dorms up on a hill, overlooking campus. As soon as I got through town, the climb let me know that I was going through my first mountain pass. It turns out it was Piasano Pass, and it included three pretty good climbs, with small dips to give me a break. I went right past Piasano Volcano, (inactive), and the Twin Peaks, which dominated the scenery. The wind was either not blowing, or at my back.
One of my major concerns on this trip has always been how the wind was going to treat me in this long stretch of West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It may be to early to call myself lucky, but after listening to the horror stories of the riders heading the other way, I have had a great trip. There is still a long way to go in this stretch, which is known for unforgiving extremes.
The road through the pass after I left Alpine, and all the way to Marfa, was a beautiful, smooth ribbon of asphalt, the kind I take for granted in every other state, but is so hard to find in the great state of Texas. As I came out on the west side of Piasano Pass, the landscape totally changed. Even though I am still in what they call the high desert (the Chihuahua Desert to be exact), the ground went from rock, dirt, and prickly pear to flat grasslands with only an occasional mountain in the distance. This stretch of about 20 miles to Marfa, is the home of the famous Marfa Lights. A phenomenon of lights out in the desert that occur about 20 times a year at night, that no one can explain. First documentation occurred by cowboys in 1883, and the area has enjoyed putting out about 25 theories and letting the tourists speculate. I'm not a big believer in stuff like this, but the most reasonable explanation is a meeting of cold and hot air layers that somehow bend the light and cause spheres of light to shoot across the plain in different patterns. (Any ideas on this, Tirzah?)
The grasslands are totally brown because of the dry conditions, but a small miracle did occur with all the clouds. Pam had about a minute of large raindrops at the campground in Marfa, and while I was riding, I got hit by one, yes, one drop of rain on my left forearm.
We had to stop in Marfa because supposedly there is not even as much as an abandoned building for the next 74 miles of desert, until we get to Van Horn. Lets see if my good luck holds up, or if I just shouldn't have mentioned it. Also, elevation wise, I went up another 600 feet or so, and really didn't notice. It was only really uphill in the mountain pass.
|Many of these towns have a nondenominational Cowboy Church|
|Sunset at our campsite|