April 9, 2001 - Sierra Blanca TX 86m***

In West Texas, if it does not stick you, sting you, burn you or bite you, its a rock.

         slogan on business card from the Sierra Motel (www.sierrablancamotel.com)

Well, I can definitively tell you that you cant effectively ride a bike in 50+mph winds. More on that as we get past 2:30PM.

There are two maps above because I was supposed to ride from Las Cruces to Fort Hancock today. I got back ahead of schedule on day 6 when Bryan and I made it past Lordsburg to Deming. Ended up spending last night at the Marriott at the airport in El Paso and struck out for a 120 mile ride to Van Horn today. Never made it.

The day started fine. 10 miles of cruddy El Paso industrial neighborhoods, followed by a 30 mile ride southeast along TX20 between an irrigation canal and some RR tracks. No wind, cloudy, 16 mph or so.

(See Bobs bike?) For only the second time since the start of the trip, I was riding downstream. The first time, yesterday along the Rio Grande, the wind more than nullified any benefit. I went by a lot of abandoned farm homes, indicated by a clump of trees in the middle of the field.

Consolidation? Virtually no traffic (a car every 5 minutes or so). Then off in the distance I saw a speck on the side of the road. Another biker?

No. It was Willie from California. He was in bad shape out there in the middle of nowhere. I said hi, he asked for water. I gave him all my water (a bottle and a half of a mustard colored substance over concentrated with Revenge endurance drink mix, 500%+ of the MDR of any known vitamin or mineral). He asked if he should shake it up before he drank it. I told him it made no difference. I also gave him a bag of sunflower seeds (5 servings of 130 calories). He said he was glad they were the kind you dont have to break open. He didnt wave bye, I think because he was holding all this stuff. I wonder what happened to his body chemistry.

Willie was actually the second vagabond, destitute traveler met on the trip. On day 2 I met a guy on a bike, who said he was walking the bike to Yuma to attend an affair. I asked him about it and he pulled out an old newspaper with an article about the Yuma county fair. He also said he was going to collect his food stamps. He had enough money to buy cigarettes, so I guess he was OK. He didnt want his picture taken, but he let me take a shot of his bike.

I met a 3rd later today. More on that upcoming. The 2 lane ended at the 10, the most dangerous piece of road Id seen.

4 lanes crammed into 2 with a concrete barrier in between and terrible shoulders. Imagine a semi whizzing by at 55 or 70mph, with me right next to him. They were grinding up the other half the road, but I chose that side instead.

The supervisor (guy in the white pickup at the left who watches everyone else watching the grinding up machine) warned me about the upcoming dust storm (dust storm?) and suggested I hole up at the next rest stop.

Instead I got on the shoulder of the 10 post construction, and started heading up to past the 5,000 foot level in the Quittman mountains. It was a 20 mile 8-10 mph grind. Then the wind hit. Heres some wind shots.

Visibility steadily declined. Cars slowed down and turned on their headlights. I went by a semi that blew over and this u-haul that had blown across opposing lanes. The nice sheriff that suggested I hole up in the next town told me that there was a 10 car accident just east of Sierra Blanca, that they were likely to close the interstate, that all the schools were closed early and other stuff like that. He did not offer me a ride the last 4 miles into town.

I was only able to make it because I had a big frontage road to myself. Alternately walking, scottering, keeping my feet out of the clips and going slowly, I blew around all over the place. Standing required a stance. Then I saw an Indian and a horse hunkered down on the side of the frontage road.

My usual Hi revealed that this was a not too talkative woman. I later learned in Sierra Blanca, from Julie, a nice lady who would have no reason to lie to me, that she (the Indian, was known as the donkey lady. She rode her donkey once a month from Alpine TX to El Paso, TX (this is perhaps 250 miles) and back to conduct some unknown business. I cant think of how to embellish this.

Got to Sierra Blanca around 4PM and wandered about for a bit hoping the wind would either change directions (come from the west instead of the south) or die down a bit. Heres downtown (note the dust), the sign for the hotel I am currently in, the local train depot, and the obligatory plaque.

Second doesnt get you a Stephen Ambrose book. Sierra Blanca has 1 grocery store, 2 gas stations, 2 small motels (Im at the second one on the downtown shot), and one restaurant/gift shop. I went to the restaurant/gift shop for dinner, where Julie explained the locality to me.

And where the local little girls basketball team was having a celebratory dinner. They were impressed with my technology (working on this at dinner), so I took pictures of them with the camera and the computer, and we passed them both around.

They only have 4 girls on their team, but they have to dribble now. They used to be able to carry the ball. They said Bye Bob, and on the way back to the hotel I took this.

This is right next to the (dilapidated) grocery store. I had seen it earlier, and Julie told me that the guy was a little wacko. Apparently hes a little upset that 5 miles east of town they were going to put a low level radioactive dump site, and 10 miles west of town they are importing and covering the desert with sewer sludge (treated) from New York. Most people in town think these bring economic benefits.

Thats it for now. The next few days are the most desolate of the trip. Dive joint hotels 100 miles apart. Because I didnt make Van Horn, I need a real long day or a real short day to get back in sync.

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