This post covers almost a solid 2 weeks or so of our latest cycling adventures. We have been falling behind on our written blog updates due to the lack of internet connection and the horrid riding conditions which generally leave us totally deflated at the end of the day. Until you ride straight into headwinds day after day for 8 hours a day, I’m not quite sure you will fully understand how physically and mentally taxing this journey has been. Just a day ago we were experiencing a full on 23 mph headwind. If i’m not mistaken, we were able to log about 4-5 miles in the span of 1 hour. We were working so hard yet going no where at all. We probably would have been better off just walking our bikes in those conditions. But hey, that’s just how the trip has been for us and I don’t anticipate the winds letting up. Okay, So I’m going to give you the update starting with our last day/evening in Kerrville, Texas.
We spent our last day in Kerrville mostly indoors, though Taylor did leave once or twice to take a walk outside and get some fresh air. Not once did I even entertain the idea of stepping outside into those sub 30 degree temperatures. Taylor said he was getting cabin fever or something like that. Cabin fever? We were living large! Flat screen tv, netflix, surround sound, snacks, comfy couches (drastic upgrade from our usual 4-inch bike saddle) and an endless supply of hot tea. What more could you ask for? I even baked us and the hosts some pumpkin/oatmeal cookies with pecans and raisins. It was a recipe that our host had left on the tabletop along with all of the ingredients. According to Fred (our host) they came out perfectly. Thanks Fred!
Before going to bed Taylor and I had agreed that we would be out the door by 8:30am the next morning. We woke up around 7:00. Meanwhile, Janice and Fred were already in the kitchen whipping up breakfast tacos. Bacon, egg, cheese, salsa and grated cheese…mmmmmmmmmmmmm…all wrapped in warm tortilla wraps. Unbelievably delicious! They even sliced up some fresh fruits for us served with a side of whip cream. Delicious!!! What I really wanted to do after breakfast was climb back into my sleeping bag, plop myself on the couch and throw on another documentary. Unfortunately, our unplanned vacation was over and it was back to our daily 9-5.
After three days off in Kerrville we absolutely dominated the hills that awaited us on our way to Leakey, Texas. It’s amazing what three days of rest will do for you. We encountered some monster hills but like I said, we cruised right over the mountains. We found a few nice areas where we were able to rest for a bit and take in the scenery. If you forget to take these short breaks it definitely takes away from the enjoyment of the trip. Just around 11:00am we stopped and grabbed a bite to eat in some tiny town which I’m not able to recall at the moment. Taylor ordered his usual chicken fingers and french fry combo. I took advantage of the all you could eat salad bar. In retrospect, a little protein would have been nice but I have a hard time turning down fresh greens. The neverending consumption of gas station food and fast food has taken a toll on my stomach. I’m not quite sure how Taylor does it. (Take a look at his typical lunch below)
We pedaled hard to Leakey, Tx which was about another 45 miles or so from wherever it was that we stopped for lunch. Temperatures got up to the high 70’s and possibly even reached into the 80’s for a moment. We pedaled harder than expected and with the warmer temperatures we ended up going through all of our water. We ran out of water a little ways before we arrived to our destination. We knew we were somewhere around an hour to get to our destination but we were thirsty and neither of us like being without water.
Darren: Thor! I’m out of water man. Taylor: Oh no, me too dude. Darren: Well how far away from Leakey are we? Taylor: I don’t know, maybe 10 miles or so.
Darren: Ugh, I can make it but this isn’t good.
Taylor: Well, let’s ride for a bit and maybe we can ask someone for some water
We pedal for about three minutes and come across a lady on a 4 wheeler who seemed to be part of the neighborhood watch crew. Taylor stops to flag her down and he turns on the charm.
Taylor: Well, good afternoon to ya ma’am! Hey, could you happen to tell me how far outside of Leaky we are? You see, we ran out of water and my buddy here is on the verge of severe dehydration.
Crimewatch lady: Well it’s only about 4 miles down the way. Ya’ll should be able to make it.
Darren: (mumbles to himself) Wrong response ma’a! How about you take us on that fancy little 4×4 and shuttle us to that lovely ranch of yours. Heck, I’ll take water out of the horse troff at this point. I’m desperate lady! Please! Besides, I noticed 4 water towers on your property, surely you have water to spare, no?”
Taylor: Oh ok, just 4 miles? Well I guess we can make it. Crimewatch lady: Ya, you’ll make it. Bye now!
I for one was hoping for a response more along the lines of, “oh no, you poor things you, why don’t you follow me to my house. It’s just right there a couple hundred feet down this rock road. I’ll fill those water bottles right up for ya. Ooooooh and I have some fresh cookies in the oven too. Do you guys like cookies? How about orange slices? I can cut up some cold oranges if you’d like.” Well, it didn’t quite go down like that but that’s fine. I’m just letting you know how I hoped things would pan out.
Anyways, I kid you not when I say this but once the lady left, I shook my head in disappointment and said, “God I need water, man am I thirsty, ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
We were only a few miles away so I knew we would be fine. At this point, I was a little ways ahead of Taylor so I turned around to head back towards him to make sure everything was alright. I see Taylor rounding the bend so I stop and pull over. A truck passes by Taylor, shot him a look and then passes me. He shot me a funny look, so I kind of cocked my head to the side like dogs do when they hear an interesting sound. You know? When their ears kind of perk up and all that. So this guy passes us and all of a sudden a 100 yards down the road he pulls a u-turn. He heads towards us, pulls off the road (meanwhile, I’m reaching for my mace) and gets out of his car. Conversation goes as follows:
Man from truck: “Hey, ya’ll thirsty?”
Darren: Ummmmm excuse me? (I heard him perfectly the first time, I just couldn’t believe this was happening)
Man from truck: Are you thirsty? I don’t see any water in those water bottles. Darren: Ya I’m thirsty! I’m dying over here. But wait, why is this happening? I’m confused. How did you know we needed water? Man from truck: Oh, well… I know everything. Darren: Okay….well what’s your name sir? I seriously can’t thank you enough. It’s a miracle that you stopped. I’ve had cotton mouth for the last 35 minutes or so and I’ve been snacking on trail mix and oatmeal cookies. (Horrible combination if you have cotton mouth)
Man in truck: Well, my name is Jesus. Jesus Rubio. I knew you all were thirsty and that’s why I turned around. Darren & Taylor: How is that possible? Jesus: (smiles) I’ve been around for a LONG time. I know these things.
Darren & Taylor: Well alright. Thanks again Jesus! You really saved us. By the way, how far is Leakey from here? Jesus: Oh you just got about another 6 miles or so, you’ll be fine!
Taylor and I spoke a bit about our trip,Team Tobati and then we were all on our way. I was so taken aback by what had happened that the last 6 miles flew by. Before I knew it we were at our motel which by the way only charged us half price after Taylor sweet talked the owner. Job well done Tay! When we arrived the two owners were outside enjoying the beautiful weather and having a beer. We joined them for a drink and like the robot that I am, I went immediately into my post ride stretching routine. We hung out with the owners for a couple of hours before we went into our room. We cleaned ourselves up a bit, took a trip down the block to get some Mexican food and then watched the Olympics. Our night ended pretty much once the Olympics did.
We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. It was a gift from God! Or maybe Jesus Rubio! Who knows? We had to make it about 65 miles to Bracketville, Tx but with the sun shining I was pretty excited for the ride. We had some pretty intense hills awaiting us but we weren’t worried.
A ways up the hill I saw that Taylor had pulled over next to the worst road kill of the entire trip. I’ll let him comment on it if he wants to. He wanted me to stop along side of him not because of the road kill but because of the incredible echo that could be heard along side of the mountain. I would have stopped if Taylor had pulled over anywhere but, directly next to the roadkill. It was horrifying! Honestly, after seeing what I saw, it gave me a little pain in my stomach and once Taylor told me what it was, I had a full on stomach ache. It was absolutely grotesque! I ignored Taylor and the roadkill and advanced forward until we reached the top of the hill. We snapped some photos, ate a snack and then continued on. Our 2,500 foot ascent was over but there were still a few sizable hills left at this point. After a monster climb we cruised down into the middle of nowhere.
We passed some border patrol officers who starred at us like, “Seriously? This time of the year? You two goons are biking western Texas? With these temperatures? AND you’re pedaling East to West?????? No one ever does that!” Well that’s how I interpreted their look. Maybe they were debating whether or not to stop us. Who knows?
After a solid day of biking Taylor and I rolled into Brackettville around 5:00pm. Not too much going on there. There was a gas station which I was very thankful for and a subway too. With temperatures dipping below freezing, Taylor and I searched for the cheapest motel. There were only two options which made our decision rather easy. We got dinner at the gas station (pretty standard for us) and found ourselves at the motel shortly after. I made Taylor go into the motel office which was located in the restaurant/bar area where there were actually quite a few locals. II was reluctant to go into the bar/restaurant area because I took a bit of a beating at the local gas station. Everyone stared at me as if I were E.T or something. I think it’s the biker shorts that gets people all worked up. Anyways, I didn’t feel like enduring anymore verbal abuse or awkward stares so I told Taylor that he had to handle the check in process. I waited outside and hung out with some dog named, Bonnie. She was a sweetie! She wasn’t judgmental about my apparel so we were quick to become friends.
Taylor returned with the key. We set up shop inside our room, ate dinner and bla bla bla. We had some pretty rowdy neighbors which made for a poor nights sleep. Taylor had fallen asleep without a problem. I’m a very light sleeper so I didn’t sleep well at all that night. We had a short ride to Del Rio the following day so I wasn’t really that worried about not having slept. Besides, if I had to guess I’d say I’ve been sleeping about 3-4 hours a night. Why am I not sleeping well? I’d like to know the same!
Taylor and I had around 30 miles to our destination in Del Rio. My trip however would end up being more than 36 miles. We left around 11:00am. We had plans to meet with our host at 3:00pm at a small coffee shop. I overshot my turn to the coffee shop by about 3.5 miles and found myself in the industrial park of Del Rio. According to my host I was heading straight for the Mexican border. I called Taylor to let him know that I had gotten lost and that I would be a little late for the meeting. No big deal! He was already at the cafe with our host enjoying his coffee and some small talk. Meanwhile, I was doing the Del Rio roundabout. I arrived about 15 minutes late. No big deal.
After meeting our host, Gina. We went back to her place and she got ready for work. She had to work the 3rd shift so we were left all alone in her house. What a great host for opening up her home to us even though she wasn’t home. I was in bed by 8:00pm. I was pretty exhausted since I didn’t sleep the previous night. I slept for close to 10 hours, it was glorious! I hadn’t slept like that since I had that horrible cold/flu back in Gainesville, Florida.
Our following two days consisted of absolutely nothing. We went from Del Rio, Tx – Langtry, Tx and Langtry, Tx- Sanderson. They were easily some of my least favorite rides. Taylor and I snapped some photos strictly for blog purposes but there was honestly nothing happening in either town and absolutely nothing worthwhile to mention. Most boring stretch of the trip without question. Langtry had a population of 15 and Sanderson had a population somewhere around 600. There was at least a gas station in Sanderson that made a pretty decent Cheeseburger. I guess that was the highlight of Sanderson. The motel we stayed in had a room full of different reptiles, I guess that was kind of cool too…not really though.
We left Sanderson later than we wanted to but that has become quite the normality for Taylor and I. Directly across from our motel was a gas station where Taylor and I ordered some mediocre breakfast tacos and split a fruit cup. We met a few game wardens who were in the area for some “top secret” operation. They couldn’t share the specifics of their operation but I sure was curious to know what three game wardens from different parts of the U.S were doing in Sanderson, Tx. Well, they were some cool guys and they were very intrigued by our cross country journey and the fact that we didn’t take a gun on our trip. I showed them my mace…they chuckled and didn’t look too impressed. We said our goodbyes and started our ride to Marathon, Tx. Two minutes up the road we hear, “Hey, ya’ll want a picture with the truck?” We both agreed but for different reasons. Taylor was excited primarily for blog purposes whereas I was excited because it meant another break. Breaks are my friends and they are always welcomed on this trip. I’d say we probably stop once every 1.5-2 hours. Our stops are generally under 5 minutes each but we usually take 10-20 minutes for lunch. It really depends on how much ground we have to cover and how hard the winds are blowing. Anyways, one of the wardens snapped our photo and we went our separate directions.
After 55 miles of relentless headwinds we snailed our way into Marathon, Tx. It was a neat little town. They had a few hotels/motels/hostels and we we actually found our way to a free cyclists hostel after visiting the tourist center; a small shack with several flyers of things to do in the local area.. The hostel was simple but functional. The outside was perfect! Outdoor kitchen with a sitting area and a fire pit. Oh, and lets not forget about the outdoor upstairs lounge area located on the roof. Stumbling across this hostel was great! It was so different and so unexpected which made it all the better. We actually made a friend by the name of Blaine. Blaine was in town for a couple of months to work/intern with the local town photographer. We ate some delicious pasta which Blaine was kind enough to prepare. Taylor and I tended to the fire and took care of the music for the evening. We probably hung out for a solid 4 hours before we went to bed. Great night! I forgot how enjoyable it is to sit around a fire and hang out. Blaine, It was very nice meeting you. Hope you are well and have made some new friends in Marathon.
We left Marathon around 8:00am with intentions on traveling about 80 miles to the McDonald Observatory. Today we were yet again facing 25 mph headwinds. I knew from the very start that 80 miles was highly unlikely and that we would probably fall short of our destination. At one point Taylor and I looked at one another and just broke out in laughter for a solid 30 seconds. Rather than complain or acknowledge the utter absurdity of the wind conditions, we simply laughed. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we could have pushed the bikes faster than we were biking. For the first time this trip, a concerned citizen stopped and offered to take us 20 miles into the town of Alpine. She knew how brutal the wind conditions were because it was blowing her big SUV all over the roadways. Imagine us on bicycles! We felt a bit guilty at first about accepting the ride but when realized that we had only traveled about 8 miles in the span of two hours we didn’t really have much of an option if we were going to make it to the McDonald Observatory. We still had another 50-60 miles to go once we got to Alpine. Had it not been for this lovely lady there is absolutely no possible way we would have made it to the observatory that evening.
With the help of Mindy we were back on track. We slowly made our way up several mountain passes. It was one after the other for the entire ride.I was actually forced off the bike and walked some of those hills. At this point we had a little over a 1000 miles until our end destination. Walking the bike was much easier on the knees/legs so I walked up the steeper grades and pedaled everything else. The observatory sits atop one of the highest mountain peaks in the Ft. Davis area, I’m pretty sure we were close to an elevation around 6,7000 feet. Our host found me about .5 miles from his house and gave me directions. We arrived to his house and were greeted by a family of deer. You’ll see the video of them. It was very cool! We met our hosts John, Cie and 1 of their 3 children. John is an astronomer/computer technician at the observatory. John was a fascinating individual and one of the brightest individuals I had ever met. He gave us in depth explanations of the geology of the surrounding area and also gave us a private tour of the telescopes. It was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip. That evening Taylor and I both agreed that we would take the following day off. I was more tired than I had ever been and John suggested that it was probably the elevation change that had me warn out. I didn’t feel too good on our off day but the following morning I felt much better.
We left the Mcdonalds observatory close to 9:00am. From the very get go we started out our morning with a mixture of ascents and descents. A few miles into the ride I had a minor malfunction heading down one of the hills. One of my bungee cords snapped and got wrapped around my rear brake and caught up in my spokes. My rear brake immediately jammed up on me and my rear tire began to skid. I was fortunate to not lose control of the bike and quickly came to a stop on the side of the mountain. Taylor was actually able to record some of the aftermath of my mishap. Thankfully there wasn’t too much damage done, a bent spoke and some messed up brakes but that wasn’t going to stop me. I simply disconnected the rear brakes and we finished out our trip.
We had a great ride down and out of the Fort Davis mountains. We also had minimal winds which was a welcomed surprise and were able to put in some serious riding all the way to Valentine, Texas. We had thought there were some services in Valentine but it seems that we were misinformed. We ran out of water and with no services in sight we decided maybe we should knock on a few houses to see if we could refill our water bottles. Before we had a chance to do so, someone stopped behind us and started chatting with Taylor. They were a friendly local couple who were concerned and wanted to offer us a place to stay and some waters. I love that!
Shortly after the couple left, this other lady came by to see if we were alright. She asked if we were hungry…I smiled and the lady told me to “wait a minute.” She came back with two bean, rice and cheese burritos, a bag of tortilla chips, 2 baggies of red velvet cupcakes and a couple of cold sodas. So nice! Then, ANOTHER lady comes by shortly after and says, “Hey, are you alright? You weren’t gonna camp on the side of the road were ya?” I responded, “well actually we were considering that, we don’t have the energy to pedal to the next town and it’s already getting a late. She replied, “absolutely not, you’re coming with me! I live two blocks down.” So, Taylor and I walked alongside of her to her house and that took care of our accommodations for the night. The ladies name was Jvoti, a very sweet hippy lady who had grown up in Western Texas but moved away to Hawaii for well over 10 years. She use to work at the Big Bend National Park and boy did she have some cool stories. She cooked us dinner, let us wash up and provided us with a bed for the evening. We talked all night about a thousand different things and finished our night watching the Olympics.
The following morning we were off early with a long solid ride to Ft. Hancock planned. From Ft. Hancock we made our way to El Paso. El Paso was huge! We were in El Paso for quite some time and apparently had barely made it out of the East side. I called our host, Mike, to tell him that we wouldn’t be long. He asked me, “where are you guys”? I told him that we were at family dollar getting some snacks and hydrating. He asked for the address and then told me he was going to call me back. He called me back about 5 minutes later and told me to, “stay put.” He was already out running errands and told me he would pick us up. Apparently we had a lot of city driving to do and he was in his pick up truck so ya, he picked us up. Thanks Mike! He spared us an extra 15 miles or so and brought us to a beautiful lookout overlooking El Paso and the city of Juarez, Mexico. We made it to his house, met his wife, three kids and ate a fantastic dinner which was followed by a big bowl of ice cream.
Mike was a great guy. He took a look at my bike and noticed a few imperfections with my real wheel. He tried to work on it and fix it himself but told me that it was a little out of his league. He was nice enough to bring it to the bike shop the following morning for me while I was doing school work. Once his son brought the tire back from the bike shop he actually put it back on for me. I had no idea any of this was going on. I couldn’t believe it. I had planned on riding to the bike shop in the morning but I woke up to a much appreciated surprise. Thanks again Mike! Mike’s wife also whipped up some crepes, french toast and chocolate chip pancakes with all the fixing on the side. We only had 40 miles to do from El Paso – Las Cruces and Mike promised us that we wouldn’t have winds. He said we may even have a tailwind and he also promised us beautiful roads. He wasn’t lying. We had the best conditions of the trip so far. Mike actually rode out with us and we met a few of his of friends from church who rode out with us. They probably went about 15 miles out with us and then Taylor and I did the last 25 by ourselves. The conditions were so good that we did the 40 mile ride in under 2 hours. We were flying! We averaged well over 20 mph the entire trip. We left around 2:30pm from El Paso, Tx and made it to Las Cruces, NM. We had a host named John who was waiting for us there. Once we arrived he insisted that we shower up so that we could go get dinner. We wasted no time in getting ourselves ready and were on the way to the Golden Corral. It was a buffet style dinner which was perfect. Between the two of us we ate 6 full plates of food. We both left feeling horrible. I thought my stomach was going to rupture. I was uncomfortable for most of the night but after a few hours in the fetal position and a cup of hot tea my stomach finally settled. The following day we had our first day of interstate traveling as we would be making our way to Deming, New Mexico.