El Paso to Del Rio
The scenery surprisingly continues to be better than anticipated. Our
preconception of Southeast Texas had been a flat, dry landscape. However, there have been many hills and even mountains and, although there are some brown, dry areas, always a great amount of green foliage. In addition, large outcroppings of rock protrude from most of the mountains creating an abundance of photo ops.
Winds generally have been favorable. Most of the time there is a light wind from the west which makes our pedaling slightly easier. However, when winds have originated from the east, they have been extremely strong and treacherous. On one recent leg, headwinds reached 37 mph with gusts to 47. If that was not bad enough, a cold rain accompanied the wind for the last 10 miles. Fortunately, it was only a short 34 mile leg and conditions were much improved the following day.
The Ft. Davis area of Southwest Texas is quite sparsely populated, making the sky one of the darkest in the state. For that reason, many years ago, the University of Texas chose that location for the site of the McDonald Observatory, the 5th largest telescope in the world. Although they spy on the wonders of deep space, the skies were overcast when we visited so the deep space was limited to a 3,000' ceiling. They did have an excellent restaurant, however, so our visit was not in vain and we departed quite satisfied.
The Texas roads leave much to be desired for bicyclists. They generally consist of tar and 3/8 inch gravel. While this composition is economical and long lasting, it presents a very rough surface for riding. They likely were the result of the dentist lobby as the texture jars your fillings. One positive is that the shoulders are nearly the width of the main vehicle lane so there is ample room to ride safely. In very rare cases, and I do mean very rare, the shoulder is actually smoother than the road. It never lasts very long, however. Then there are the teasers of a nice, smooth shoulder for only a half mile or less before becoming the course, rough pavement again.
We have found that the white line separating the main road from the shoulder quite often is the smoothest as the paint helps to fill in between the stones. Incidentally, we are talking about the strip on the side of the road and not the one in the middle. Regardless, the stripe is only 4-5" wide so it is difficult to keep our wheels on it.
So far, we have climbed over 47,000' with 27,000 of those hard earned feet occurring since El Paso. Even when the maps show a general descent with few hills, we have climbed more than 2,000 or 3,000' over the course of that day.
And if that isn't bad enough, tomorrow we enter what is known as the Texas Hill Country!
Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.