Day 29 – Still Upwind to Brackettville

Route 90 east

Route 90 continues to have a wide shoulder, though the surface (chip-seal) is a little rough. As I've gotten further east, traffic has picked up steadily. Click on any image to enlarge.

21 April 2011 (posted the following evening). It’s not like I wasn’t warned about the wind not always being out of the west here in Texas! Ellen Martyn had been pretty clear on that front: count on headwinds. Well, I’ve got ‘em, and they’re doing me in!

I was only pedaling about 32 miles today, so I spent a while this morning dealing with some software issues and spam problems with my blog. Needing more cash, I went out looking for a bank. On the way there, I passed my friend from the pool yesterday, John Seniff, and asked if he wanted to get some breakfast. He hadn’t eaten yet, so the two of us met a few minutes later at iHOP (used to be International House of Pancakes) and had a leisurely breakfast and conversation about everything from religion to passive survivability.

Laughlin AFB

Not far out of Del Rio, I passed Laughlin Air Force Base, and saw dozens of these trainers doing practice landings. I'm guessing that pilots graduate from these prop planes to more expensive jets as they gain experience.

By the time I got back and dealt with buying a piece of photo-management software I’ve been using for the past month (Adobe LightRoom) and had some exchanges with Jon at our office about controlling the spam comments that had been posted on some of the earlier blogs (120 comments on the U.S. Postal Service blog, for example, that were mostly about selling pharmaceuticals!) and checked out of the Motel 6, it was 11:30 am. That was just about the time I started my second leg of yesterday’s 60-mile ride—after an early lunch in Comstock.

I had the same wind today as yesterday—even stronger it seemed! Those 32 miles came pretty hard! With about six miles to go, I was sitting at the only little roadside picnic area I passed today talking with Jerelyn on the phone, and I saw a bicyclist go by. It was odd that he hadn’t stopped to say hi; my bike was quite visible. (I had placed it in full view, leaning against a picnic table, hoping that someone with a cooler of sodas would stop by!)

Trees along Route 90

True to a comment someone made, trees have begun emerging as I've biked east from Del Rio--mostly mesquite, though here I'm leaning my bike against an oak tree.

Union Pacific freight train

While resting under those oak trees, one of the many Union Pacific freight trains that I've seen from Route 90, zoomed past.

Seeing the biker was great, because it inspired me to get back on my bike and try to catch up to him. I wouldn’t have, except that he stopped and was walking with his bike for a few minutes to get some respite from the wind. We ended up riding together and chatting for perhaps four miles.

Ben Green is his name. He’s from Baltimore where he owns a couple comic book stores, and he and a friend are taking 2-1/2 months to bike across the country. They started in St. Augustine, Florida and are following the Southern Tier route. So what was he doing biking east, into the wind today? I didn’t quite understand that, but he and his friend somehow have two vehicles and they do some sort of leapfrogging. He said both of his vehicles sustained hail damage last night, with large hailstones denting the vehicle roofs and actually cracking a sunroof.

He had just a tiny rear bag on his lightweight, carbon-fiber bike, and after a while we said goodbye and he moved on at a faster pace than me—to Brackettville, where one or both of this vehicles were. I think he figured we’d meet there, but I called my Pinto Paradise Bed & Breakfast host, Rhonda Marquart, from the Dollar General store just as I got into town and never made it into the center of town. She had offered to pick me up with my gear and bring me out to her B&B—about five miles out of town. (That was an important factor in deciding to stay here!) While she normally charges $100 per night, she let me have a room at half that—seems very reasonable.

Pinto Paradise Ranch B & B

This is the guest house at the Pinto Paradise Ranch Ben & Breakfast. The tractor is under the overhang because of possible hail this evening.

The only problem was that I didn’t get into town where there are restaurants and buy something for dinner. I’m going to have to make due with the assortment of snack foods I have with me: nuts, granola bars, and some peppered beef jerky (that I had bought as lightweight “emergency” rations). She’ll bring breakfast over at 7:30 tomorrow morning then drive me back into town at 8 am. I think I should survive!

The B&B is at their ranch, though she and her husband are kind-of winding down their cow-calf operation (raising a crop of calves each year). They lose money at it, apparently. Both she and her husband, Charlie, teach in the local school. I have free reign of the ranch property while here and staggered down to take a look at the creek after arriving. It’s an actual creek—with water in it! It’s plenty deep for swimming, so I wore my swim trunks, but the bottom was pretty mucky and I decided to stick to a shower at the guest house.

Swinging seats

With my laundry hanging on the fence in the hot breeze, I'm sitting on the swinging bench writing my daily blog and connected to the Internet with my AT&T "personal hotspot" from my iPhone. Quite a nice spot!

At the creek, I got a glimpse of a bright-red bird that I thought might be a vermilion flycatcher, but I didn’t get a good enough look at it to be sure. Right here, though, where I’ve been sitting on a porch swing writing this blog, I just got a great look at one of these gorgeous birds! When I first saw it, I ran in and got my binoculars, so I could really see it—such brilliant red! Unmistakable! In fact, I was checking the Sibley app on my iPhone and played the flycatcher’s song, and the male flew right over to check out the competition! Is that cheating in the birding world?

Creek at the Ranch

I'm told that the water level is down three feet from usual and that the water is usually crystal clear. Now it has an odd milky-blue tint.

Creek at the Ranch 2

Another shot of the creek, just behind the guest house. I wish I had a full day to explore this place--even better with a really good birder! I thought about staying two nights, but that wasn't a possibility, as family is coming in for Easter weekend.

As I was watching the vermilion flycatcher and bluish bird caught my eye: a blue grosbeak!

To top off what’s becoming a great evening, Rhonda and Charlie just brought over a full plate of dinner: wonderfully seasoned grilled wild turkey wrapped in bacon, butternut squash, cucumber salad, and a mixed salad! So I won’t have to break into my beef jerky after all! I had a great chat with them. They’ve seen over 80 species of birds here. The creek is spring-fed and always runs, though Charlie said it’s three feet low right now—the lowest it’s been since 1951, apparently!

Rhonda and Charlie Marquart

Chatting with my hosts Rhonda and Charlie about birds, water, and water politics. I gather that the "Kinney County Water Wars" are getting pretty heated. Ranchers are being charged very high rates for water (not based on actual usage), and it's putting them out of business.

Rhonda mentioned on our drive out here that she’s had trouble getting the word out about their B&B. I’m their first guest in a month. I plan to e-mail her and suggest that they promote the place through birding networks. It’s full of birdlife.

Hooded oriole

This photo doesn't do it justice, but the male hooded oriole is a brilliant orange. Even non-birders would be impressed with the outrageous birds here!

And just now I got a great look at a hooded oriole—another new species for me. Again, when I played the song, both the male and female flew over immediately, the male quite agitated. He’s still sitting on the fence chirping in my direction! What a birding spot!

Translucent lizard

I happened to notice this almost translucent lizard or salamander on the window screen before going to bed. It looks like a cave salamander that has lost its skin pigment. Anyone know what it is?

Well, dinner beckons. If I’m not too tired, I may watch a movie tonight.