Day 27 – Hot, Hot, HOT!

Sanderson Visitor's Center

Just after starting out this morning (with the air still cool enough to warrant a jacket--though I wasn't wearing one), I came across this very nicely landscaped visitor's center.

19 April 2011 (posted the next evening). After I got to Langtry, Texas, I dropped off my stuff at the trailer where I’m staying—a WarmShowers host who lets people camp for free for charges for the use of his spare trailer—and biked into “town” to visit the Judge Roy Bean Visitors Center.

They have a weather station there and the temperature hit 104 while I was visiting! But it’s dry heat, you know; doesn’t feel a bit warmer than 100! I think my body’s not acclimated to the heat. By the end of the day (after about 65 miles) I had crusted salt deposits on my face and neck. It’s really something else! Fortunately, I had a tailwind pushing me along. Tomorrow, I’m not going to be so lucky, with an east or southeast wind forecast. I think I’m about 60 miles from Del Rio.

Sanderson Visitor's Center

Another shot of the visitor center gardens. Illustrations were painted on rocks partially buried in the ground.

Route 90

There was a nice shoulder along Route 90 and almost no traffic. Nice biking!

Crossing the RR tracks

Route 90 parallels the main east-west rial line most of the way. I took this where the highway crossed over the tracks.

The biking was uneventful. Traffic has picked up slightly on Highway 90, but it’s still very light, and the shoulder remains in good shape. There is more up-and-down here—but nothing like hills (and mountains)  climbed further west! Every ten miles or so, there’s a little picnic area with a couple picnic tables and a roof to provide shade (I suppose it would shed rain too, though there’s apparently little need for that function around here!).

Route 90 picnic area

One of the picnic areas along 90. Great places to rest in the shade for a few minutes!

Ladder to cross the fence

At some of the picnic areas, they have these convenient ladders for climbing over the fence to use the "facilities" in the great beyond. I guess they were tired of having to replace sections of damaged fence!

When I was stopped at one of those picnic areas, two German men drove up, and I chatted with one of them: Karl Hamburg, from Bonn. He does a lot of mountain biking at home, as well as running, but he and his friend are on a driving trip in the U.S., seeing some of the national parks and other features of the area. Yesterday, they were in Big Bend. Before that, Arches National Park and Bandelier in New Mexico (I think that’s a state park). He liked that fact that I have German panniers on my bike!

Karl Hamburg

The German fellow, Karl Hamburg, whom I chatted with.

Later, while climbing out of a deep valley that the highway crossed (Lozier Canyon), a couple men driving the other way in a pick-up truck stopped. They’ve been biking the Southern Tier route east to west, but with the heat, headwind, and all the news about wildfires, they got nervous and decided to drive the stretch between Del Rio and El Paso. Before they changed their plans, they were going to be staying here with Keith and Marcia Mann tonight (where I am) and knew that I would be here too, so they had been looking for me biking east.

John Mulcahey

John was clearly disappointed to have decided to rent a truck and drive a 500-mile stretch of the route; I can relate to their decision, though.

John Mulcahy parked the truck (a rental from Del Rio) and we chatted for about ten minutes. I could tell that he had a lot of regret about “chickening out” of this section of the route. He said his biking companion had gotten really nervous; I’m sure it was a hard decision for them. I tried to ease his concerns by telling him that I had skipped a 45-mile section between Hatch and Las Cruces, New Mexico, due to high winds—but no wildfire threat. They shouldn’t feel badly for being prudent and cautious.

John was sorry that he didn’t have a cold drink to hand me—well aware, as he was, of what it’s like to be biking in this heat. I was pretty well set with water, though it was downright hot by then!

Dryden, Texas

The only "town" I passed all day was Dryden, which has clearly seen better days. Most of the buildings were abandoned and falling down.

Another shot of Dryden

Some abandoned buildings have abandoned cars to go with them.

"Store" in Dryden

This was the "store" in Dryden, though I don't think there could have been more than about $200 in inventory on the shelves! apparently, two factors destroyed many of these West Texas towns: the railroad discontinuing station stops, and Interstate 10, which most people travel on today.

Lunch stop along Route 90

By mid-afternoon it was blazing hot, and I sought out some shade at this abandoned house along 90. It looks like it might once have been a fairly nice place.

Road cuts

Riding past these sedimentary-rock road cuts, I was oh so tempted to stop and look for fossils (of which there are apparently lots), but with the heat and the fact that I didn't really want to be carrying rocks, I held those urges at bay!

After meeting Keith and unloading my gear in the trailer, I biked down to the Visitor’s Center—really the only “happening” thing in town. It’s a well-cared-for visitor’s center, with the carefully restored buildings where Bean practiced his frontier “law west of the Pecos.” I recall seeing a movie years ago about this colorful individual; it was great to learn a little more about him. He was infatuated with a famous English opera singer, Lillie Langtry, and many speculate that he hoped to lure her here. He named his saloon/courthouse the Jersey Lilly, and some suggest that the town was named after her (though others say that’s not the case).

Judge Roy Bean's courthouse

Judge Roy Bean's saloon and frontier courthouse, where he meted out justice as he saw fit--pocketing most of the fines.

Interior of the saloon

The interior of Judge Roy Bean's saloon/courthouse.

Along with the historical buildings and visitor’s center, there’s a nice cactus garden. I walked through that on the concrete walkways—though perhaps not lingering as long as I might have had the temperature only been, say, in the upper 90s!

From there, I biked down toward the Rio Grande, where I could see some interesting-looking cliffs in the distance. The Rio Grande separates the U.S. and Mexico, and the cliffs appear so inhospitable to travel that the U.S. Boarder Patrol doesn’t even appear to patrol the area, and I didn’t see any sign of a fence. Keith mentioned that there’s really nothing on the other side, in terms of occupied land in Mexico, so there’s very little pressure to cross over.

Rio Grande Gorge

A dense, apparently almost impenetrable, gorge separates the U.S. and Mexico here. It was spectacular--despite the heat!

Rio Grande Gorge

Looking the other way along the gorge. It would have been fun to climb down and look for birds--I could hear many in the thick vegetation.

Langtry decay

Langtry, like many other towns in these parts, has seen a dramatic population drop. From a high of around 500 residents, today there are just 18, including my hosts.

Another abandoned house

Another abandoned house in Langtry. It's sad to see a dying town. The visitor center is about the only happening thing in town.

Back at the Manns, I showered in my trailer and chatted for a couple hours first with Keith and then with both him and Marcia (when she returned from a Bible group she participates in). Keith was going to get his guitar and a banjo he has, so I may go out and enjoy the starlight with them—and play a little music.

Later: Indeed I did join Keith and we played some reasonable-sounding music together. He is good enough on his 12-string guitar that he can play along with the few songs I know: Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek, This Land is Your Land, etc. It made for another late night, but was fun to do something very different. And, I must say, it was amazing to be out there playing music and looking up at the night sky. I can see what attracted Keith and Marcia here from Burlington, Vermont!