Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day #25 - 4/6/2011 - Langtry, TX to Sanderson, TX - 60 miles

You can see our route from Langtry, TX to Sanderson, TX HERE.
The night in the trailer was okay.  We both slept in our sleep sacks, not ready to trust the changing of the linens.  (One of the single beds was covered in animal hair.)  The night time temperatures dropped quickly and we were able to turn off the AC...it became absolutely quiet, punctuated by the occasional truck rumbling along US90, about 50 yards away, and the wind.

Up at 4:45am, we had our usual oatmeal and raisins, then moved out.  It was 60 miles to the next real town, Sanderson.  We were counting again on the winds to help us with the hills.

Before we hopped onto our bikes, we stopped to look at the night sky.  There were still a few lights nearby, but the sky was overloaded with stars.  I pointed out to Lani the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, the pointer stars of the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star…and then we were off.

US90 was empty at 6am and, without lighting, our bike lights were the only illumination to violate the darkness.  30 minutes out, we stopped and turned off our lights.  The glow of starlight was now the only illumination that prevented us from being in total darkness.  The incandescence of the Milky Way was strong, right overhead.  A meteor fell across Orion, which Lani missed, but then she saw her own meteor.

Until the pre-dawn sun illuminated the road, we couldn’t see the hills, but we could certainly feel them.  We covered 20 miles of rolling hills over the next two hours, biking in the highway to take advantage of the smooth tracks left by the innumerable cars and trucks that had worn down the coarse pea-gravel.  For the first 2 hours and 20 miles, we again owned US90...we were cycling highway demigods.

Finally, the dim glow of the early morning twilight gave warning that the rising Sun was near.
I looked forward to every sunrise and its unique palette of colors.
 And then, before too long, the sun appeared...
The colors and lighting change quickly at sunrise.  Normally, I use a 4X neutral density gradient filter to maximize detail, but I left mine back in Florida.  When I could, I would use natural objects, like the treees, to mute the intensity of the suns light.
We would continue to stop at the Texas Historical Commission markers that were along the road.  Like so many of the small towns along US90, their history was inextricably linked to the railroad.
Pumpville, so-named for the well and pumping station to service the steam-powered railroad engines, had its fate sealed when the engines went diesel.  It is now a ghost town, with an history that has been recorded only in brief.
Even as the morning passed, the highway remained almost exclusively ours.
The tracks in the road left by the cars and trucks - mostly  trucks - that came before us, created a pair of paths that were noticeably smoother than the rest of the road or shoulder.
 We frequently came across memorial markers along the road, usually marked by a simple cross.
One of the more elaborate memorial marker we saw...they always left me wondering about the tragedy behind the memorial.
 This memorial stood alone within an area of isolation.
As viewed from the road, this memorial seemed absolutely lonely, adding an extra layer of sadness to whatever had been lost.
Even in the isolation of US90 between Langtry and Sandover, we continued to meet other cyclists on the Southern Tier.  This is Paul Nelson from Eugene Oregon, on his way to FL, then Maine, with 6 months to travel. He is supported by his wife, who was traveling nearby.
Paul's wife was in an RV and provide close support.  You can find Paul's blog here.
 The only vestige of civilization we anticipated between Langtry and Sanderson was Dryden, Texas, but we knew not to expect much.  We had heard rumors about the only market in Dryden, how the owner despised cyclists and would not allow them to use the bathrrom in his store, or how  he would lock up if he saw cyclists coming.  I can't speak for certainty except to say that when we got there, the store was closed.  The official population of Dryden in 1988 was 13.
By 1929, Dryden had a population of 100 and boasted a church, community center, combined school and a hotel.  When the railroad closed its depot during the Great Depression, Dryden started to disappear.  With the only store closed upon our arrival, we looked for a spot of shade along the highway to make our sandwiches.  Visible in the background is the RV driven by Dan Aubrey's wife (next paragraph).
 While enjoying our PB&J in Dryden, we crossed paths with Dan Aubrey, traveling from CA to FL.  Dan was supported and carried only a day pack and water.  Dan and his wife lived in their motor home and have been on the move since 2002!
Dan Aubrey discusses cycling and life with Lani  With his wife only minutes away in the RV, Dan had the luxury of cycling as much as he wanted at any time..
Again, at 30 miles, my right leg began acting up, taking my breath away with paroxysms of pain.  The next 30 miles were difficult, both because of the leg pain as well as the increasing heat and the succession of canyon descents and climbs.  In the increasing heat, I drank about a half-gallon of Gatorade.  I began having doubts about my ability to continue.  By the time we arrived in Sanderson, we were both exhausted.  I felt like I could never bike again and was afraid of what was going to happen tomorrow.
Cactus Capital of Texas?  Okay...no matter...all I knew was that a sleazy motel wasn't far away.
I guess I should have just moved on, but I was pretty beat.  I walked to the office and the manager, a soft-spoken man originally from India who settled in Sanderson following a divorce, offered me bottled water or a soda.  He was used to seeing cyclists and asked me how much I wanted to pay for a room.  I cautiously ventured $50 and he countered with $42.50.  I should have pedaled away, but decided to take a look at a room with Lani...it looked okay and we moved our gear in.
Pretty dismal from the outside, but the room didn't look nearly as bad.  Is that good?

Biking to the only market in town, about a mile away, I passed the RV park where the Dutch couple, Gerda and Tenn,  had just arrived and were pitching their tent ($7 for the night).  Their tent was situated nicely between the shower/bathroom shed and the laundry room shed.  They seemed fresh and indestructible.

The market was small but had some fresh produce for a small salad and some bananas for tomorrow.  Back in the room, we rehydrated, re-fed, unwound and retired.

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