Live A Big Life Ride

living big to create opportunity

Day 23: March 27, Sanderson to Comstock

We had planned much of the last four or five days around the fact that on this day, Thursday, we would have favorable winds going the 90 miles from Sanderson to Comstock. This, as opposed to the gnarly winds from the East we had been getting non-stop, would ensure that we got to Comstock safely after riding through miles and miles of flat desert and no towns.

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We finally found a sign

The day started off promising, we got up and out of camp by 8:30am and started by flying through our first 20 miles, where we stopped in a “town” called Dryden (5 buildings, 4 of which were abandoned and boarded up and the one sold us Gatorade and nothing else) to rest for a minute. When we got back on our bikes the wind started up, and in the wrong direction,  and the long-mentioned rolling hills of Texas began coming our way. Up and down and up and down we went, the ups always taking way too long compared to the downs, and the wind preventing us from ever having a chance to stop peddling.

The one place with services in this 90 mile ride is a tiny town called Langtry, 60 miles in, where there is one small museum, and one motel/convenience store/ souvenier store/ diner. That’s all of those in one building. We were excited to see Frankie there, so we sat down for lunch and despite everything on the menu costing between $2 and $6, we spent $45 between the 3 of us. We ate a feast: egg/bean/potato burritos, home fries, homemade apple pie, Gatorade, water, and whatever else came within a 3 ft. radius of our mouths. Whatever, we needed our strength.

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Sharon Cash, the Langtry eatery manager and cook, who took our order and cooked our food with a cigarette hanging out the side of her mouth. She is a character to remember.

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The pile of food holding equipment that we relieved of its burden

The last 30 miles of this day were deathly. The wind picked up considerably and jostled us back and forth as it spun its way through the obstacle-less Texas landscape, and the hills got steeper and higher. We struggled heartily during this section; it was not fun. But finally it came to an end, in the miniature town of Comstock, where we found the one bar that was plastered with racist bumper stickers and we made fast friends with a threesome of motercyclists who were on their way west. We chatted with them, they even bought us a beer (“you need your calories!”) and gave us their business card and cell phone numbers, in case we wanted to hang out when we got to Austin, where they lived. It was the thousandth time this trip when we caught ourselves in a social situation we had never previously thought we’d be, and it turned out to be as great as every other one.

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Sonny, Cindy and Clayton, our new Harley riding friends

Frankie rolled in shortly behind us, and the three of us split a cheap motel room where the proprietor got drunk and fed us stuffed mushrooms and, unexpectedly, busted out a 6-pack of Reese’s Klondike bars and told us we needed to eat them. So we did, and they were delicious.

Day 22: March 26, Marathon to Sanderson

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Happy riding day

We had fresh legs when we woke up in Marathon for the second day and were excited to get back on the road. We stopped at our trusty local diner for another one of our power breakfasts, and went to town. 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, bacon and biscuits each, along with endless coffee = power. It wasn’t a very long day ahead of us, so we stopped every 15 miles or so to chat and reflect upon the endless miles of flat desert that we had been staring at, and kept on going.

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This Canadian Tuxedo wearing gem stopped to ask about our trip and give us some local knowledge on the upcoming terrain

55 miles later when we got to Sanderson, our destination, it was only 2pm and we ran into our two bicyclist friends from earlier days, Frankie and Nate, at the only convenience store in town. We wound up eating Starbursts and shooting the breeze for 2 hours outside the market, while Frankie drank his customary recovery drink of a 32oz. Pepsi. We found our RV Park campsite, refused showers because they cost $3 each and that’s ridiculous, discovered that the shack down the street was actually a TexMex restaurant, jammed ourselves full whatever they gave us, watched “Parks and Recreation” off the RV Park wifi, and went to bed.

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Frankie and Nate kept us entertained in the otherwise uneventful town of Sanderson

Days 20 and 21: March 24 and 25, Alpine to Marathon

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This is what we’ve been looking at for all of West Texas

Much of Texas, well much of the Southwest, is challenging for this kind of trip because there are great big distances between any signs of civilization, food, water, places to sleep, etc. One of those stretches is between Sanderson, TX and the Comstock/Del Rio area, where you go 90+ miles right along the Texas-Mexico boarder with no services. So when we didn’t make it to Sanderson from Marathon, and suddenly had significant worries about the potential of wind to turn our plans to mush, we decided that we needed some riding buddies for the upcoming stretch.

When we stayed at the Warm Showers in Safford, AZ, we stayed there along with a crew of 4 cyclists from Harrisburg, PA named Sharon, Richard, Tim and Cindy. They’re all between 55 and 65 years old and completely awesome, and when we looked at our map and got worried about getting to Del Rio alone, we decided to find them on the interwebs and reach out. Fortunately we got in touch with Sharon, who shared their plans and so we took that as a sign that they wouldn’t mind if we tagged along until we get to more populated parts.

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The view from our campsite in Marathon

So we rode from Alpine to Marathon, which is just over 30 miles, for another breezy (in the wrong direction) but short day.We stopped there because the Fearsome Foursome (our new friends) weren’t going to leave Marathon until 2 days later, so we waited around.  It feels so luxurious to get into places early and not spend 8 hours on the bike! But the slogan of Marathon is “Marathon: Where There’s Nothing To Do!” And that is the truth. We tried to get a late lunch but everything closed at 3, so we sat around until things opened back up at 5:30. And by “things” I mean “thing”, because there was only one open bar/restaurant, where we sampled more local beers and got a heaping plate of nachos.

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Just in case we’d forgotten where we were

The next day, Wednesday, we took a day off in Marathon so that we could leave with the Fearsome Foursome the next morning. We did some good things: a giant breakfast at the one diner in town that was open, we made a big fire at our campground and logged onto wifi and streamed American Hustle, which was good, at dinner at the other open place in town (Anita’s Restaurant, which was actually just the back room in some lady’s house), got s’mores makings and ate a lot of s’mores! Days off are great.

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Sunrise in Marathon

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Rest day activities

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The “get that damn camera out of my face” look I’ve come to love and ignore

 

 

Day 19: March 23, Marfa to Alpine

You will note that there are no pictures in this blog post because the day was so heinous, no moment seemed like a Kodak Moment.

We had fully intended for the headline of this blog post to read “Marfa to Sanderson”, which was 110 miles, but MAN were we in for a different kind of day. We woke up on Sunday morning in Marfa and it was absolutely freezing cold and howling wind, like just ripping across the desert landscape at 35-40mph. We figured no worries, packed our tent (because it would have blown away) and headed into the building at our tent site for some coffee. “We’ll just sit here for an hour, two tops, and wait ’til the wind dies down and head to Sanderson,” we reassured ourselves. WRONG. 9am passed, then 10am, then 11am, and the wind was just obliterating our plans before our eyes. Finally just before 12noon we got hungry, decided to get some food in town, and then bike the shorter distance of 70 miles to a different town.

Well, breakfast took forever, which was just as well because the wind didn’t slow down at all and was still whipping at 25-30 mph. Finally by 1pm we decided we must get on the road, so we started heading East. It was the most challenging and frustrating day of riding of our trip, and the landscape was flat! Every peddle was a total struggle, and we both admitted later that we were a millimeter from turning back around and coasting back to Marfa at least 10 times each. We were crawling down the flat road at 6, maybe 7mph, which by the way is the speed at which we had scaled steep mountains.

27 miles and over 4 hours later we arrived in Alpine, TX, no where near where we had intended to stay but where we decided we must end such a miserable day of bike riding, we found a local motel and checked in. We found some local eateries, received comments from strangers on how red our faces were from the wind, and put together a new game plan for continuing across Texas.

Day 18: March 22, Van Horn to Marfa

We failed to account for the fact that we had just crossed into the Central time zone and when our alarm went off in the morning in Van Horn it was pitch black outside. We’re talking no hint of sun. So we snoozed for a bit before finally deciding we would pack up camp and get a cup of coffee before we hit the road. It turned out that our dreamboat KOA campground had a full service cafe just steps from our tent site. We hadn’t intended on getting a full breakfast but since it was still dark out and we couldn’t go anywhere, we figured why not. We ended up getting an absolute monster of a breakfast: giant pancakes, eggs, bacon, and lots of coffee. The husband-wife team who ran the cafe were super sweet and very excited about our trip. With breakfast crushed and the sun above the horizon, we hit the road for Marfa. There are no services at all between Van Horn and Marfa so we packed a ton of water and some snacks. The snacks turned out to be totally unnecessary since our huge breakfast powered us all the way there.

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There is one town between Van Horn and Marfa called Valentine. All its businesses are now shuttered though.

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An art installation called Prada Marfa is about 35 miles away.

 

 

The ride was mostly pleasant except for the unbelievably poorly paved roads for the last 3o or so miles. I never thought much about pavement quality until this trip — now it’s all I think about. We had heard that Marfa was an anomaly in west Texas: a cool, artsy little town, full of great restaurants and galleries. Having stopped only once, briefly, on the 75 mile ride there, we were both ready to get out of the saddle once we got to town. The first thing we saw when we rolled in was a sign that said “Planet Marfa Beer Garden, OPEN!” Simultaneously, Sophie and I jammed on our brakes and headed for the entrance. We found an awesome courtyard with a bar in the middle full of cool art of all kinds. We ordered some local beers, a plate of nachos, and set up shop, happy as a couple clams. After that we wandered the town a bit, finding a bunch of cool spots including a pizza place/contemporary art gallery. We had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life and then wandered into the back to check out the art. Super weird and awesome.

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A local art gallery

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Advice column in the local rag

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Eventually we went and found our campsite for the night. It was a spot called El Cosmico where you can rent furnished RVs/Airstreams, tepees or tents or bring your own. I am reasonably certain that 80% of the people in this place were from Brooklyn, specifically Williamsburg. It was that kind of joint. I totally loved it. We set up camp, showered, and headed out to check out the nightlife in Marfa.

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Our campsite at El Cosmico

We hit a couple bars, saw a local cowboy band play, then headed to Restaurant Cochineal where I had made reservations for dinner. When I called the day before, the only reservations they had available for 2 people was at 9pm. I couldn’t believe it but I took it as a sign that it was going to be a good meal. Turned out I was right, it was awesome. One of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ever. After dinner we decided to head back to camp rather than explore late night Marfa since we had 110 miles planned for the next day. If only we had known…

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A local bar. Hipsters abound.