April 10, 2001 - Sanderson TX 87.9m**

Ive made it to somewhere you never want to be and they call it Sanderson, TX. Im in the Desert Air Motel, across from the 24 hour Town & Country/Phillips 66 Truck Stop (here the sound of idling semis in the background? I will, all night. Why dont they turn them off when they go in for their Chicken Fried Steaks?) There is also the sound of some dog baying in the distance, perhaps across US90. Louder than the semis. It cant be being beaten or it wouldnt have the energy to be that loud. It must just be desperate for something – water maybe, perhaps a trip out of town to anywhere.

My rooms the one with the open door. This is the best motel, of 4, in town. Trust me on all these things. I rode through town twice, about 6 blocks of boarded up buildings. Theres a flyswatter on the TV. The magazines in my room ( Ill list the article titles on the cover so you can verify this) are:

        Time, June 9, 1997 You called us slackers. You dismissed us as generation X. Well move over. Were not what you thought.

        Sport, April 1996 Hang Time! On the road with Penny, Shaq and the Guys, Final Four Forecast with Dick Vitale (Dick says the winning team will need 1) Strong Guard Play, 2) A 3-point shooter, 3) Defensive Personality, and 4) Star Power. He mentions Umass, Connecticut, Kentucky, and UCLA but makes absolutely no prediction.

        Travel & Leisure, June 1996 50 Great Beach Resorts

        Life, May 1998 Exclusive: Raising the Septuplets

Barry DeGraff owns the place and manages it with his poodle, Libby. Say what you want about Barry (he goes by his middle name, Scott), but he does have the best motel going around here. Unusually enough, just as I got back to my room, I noticed a lanky, dirty guy in a more colorful baja bob jacket and jeans, climb down out of the tree in the middle of the parking lot, and start walking east on US90.

The town has only one restaurant – its for sale. My room is $30 and it comes with a Kleenex but no shampoo (most of the places Ive stayed at have neither). The truck stop, however, sells any kind of beer they have, by the bottle or can. No imports, not even Mexican, but some unusual cheap brands Ive never heard of. I picked MGD. If Im not out of here by 7AM tomorrow Im sure to become an alcoholic.

The prior day ended poorly. Bob didnt make it to the only nearby restaurant until after 9. They closed at 9 but gave him a salad.

This day, day 10, started interesting. Less than 2 miles into my ride, an eastbound freight train pulled up on the tracks next to the road (1 block south) and stopped – with an open box car right in front of me. (glow is from morning sun in the lens.)

Now I kind of promised myself no rides, just biking, but Im on an adventure and a ride in a boxcar classifies. Living large. Traveling in style. Off to points unknown, free and easy. I was sorely, sorely tempted. But I rode on to breakfast at McDonalds and listened to the train horn wail as it pulled out without me.

Editors note: Dont feel too sorry for Bob. While boxcar rides on freight trains is way up on the list of things he always wanted to do in his life, along with flying in the Concorde and riding a bike across the USA, he already did it once, in 1997 along the Salton Sea to Yuma with Bryan. He also took the Concorde to/from Paris with Lisa on their honeymoon in 1996, and is currently in the process of riding across the USA.

I didnt catch a sign to Alpine on the way in from the west, but on the east side they had the best Ive seen.

Thats the sign for the McDonalds where I had breakfast in the background. Then I left town (view below)

and rode the 33 miles east to Marathon TX.

Heres a historical plaque 10 miles east of Alpine (I dont photograph all of these and dont show you all I photograph. Youve missed the Marfa Mystery Lights (with car park area), a plaque to the last guy killed by Indians around Sierra Blanca, numerous plaques announcing when counties were formed, other plaques identifying old buildings, etc).

Note the bullet holes in the plaque. Very common in Texas. People must hate the plaques, I guess. At any rate, got to Marathon where I had lunch and wrote this:

Its noon. Im sitting outside at the soda fountain in Marathon TX. Insides full. 32.5 miles through rolling hills so far, averaging 13.6 mph. About average. Picked up the local paper – some headlines

Marathon Bank Opens

Marathons first bank in 68 years opened on Monday at the corner of North Avenue D and West Highway 90, our towns major crossroads. TransPecos Bank says the sign above the door, and just to the right. An ATM will be installed and operational within two weeks.

Am I Gad to See You

Sixto Aguilar doesnt like to talk about it much, – he considers it his job – but in nearly two years of running a wrecker service from his service station at the east end of Marathon, hes pulled hundreds of wrecked and disabled cars from various points in the environs, and scores of strangers have told him: Am I glad to see you!

Some of the emotional ones, in dire circumstances without water and sometimes fearful until he arrives that they might die in the desert, even say to him: You saved my life.

(accompanied by picture of Sixto (left) and his son, Sixto Jr, outside Shell station)

To Our Readers

This week Marathon gets a new bank and a new newspaper. The Marathon Gazette, a monthly, is a publication for Marathon about Marathon – including some items from the wider world which may be of interest.

Marathon Library Wins New Grants

(Got $2,500 from the state. Used for videos audio tapes and new heating/cooling unit)

I read the newspaper in Alpine at McDonalds this morning. They were concerned about their airport closing (the city was taking it over and the operator abandoned it 2 days ago), gangs in Alpine (mentioned a gang like incident, but theres only 4,200 people in the whole town, how hard can it be to manage this), and the environment (state looking for low level radiation dump).

About this time my food came and Andy from Abilene joined me at my table. There was no room for him inside, and there was an open chair at my table, so hey, why not. He proceeded to tell me about his life (geologist from Abilene, did his senior survey work in Marathon, liked the place, bought a subdivision here that he has never and will never make any money on). I asked him what all the stuff about the Big Bend was and he told me about the big bend in the Rio Grande, and the national park their, and thats what brings all the tourists. Did I know where Abilene was? No. Did I know where Taos was? No. Did I know where Colorado was? Well, he told me, the Rio Grande starts up there and its a real pretty river until it gets to Mexico where the Mexicans (Juarez down) dump all their untreated sewage into it, and from then on you cant go in it. He talked about some disease 3 years ago and was amazed they still run river trips on it down here.

A couple came up and Andy started talking with them. At that point I decided to move on, and my glasses fell apart. The lady, Katie, said she lived a block away and had a repair kit and would fix them, so I walked to her house with here. Shes from Houston, been here 2 years, and is opening a bed and breakfast built around a big organic garden. Marathons getting more popular, and the time is right. Theres no good fruits in stores, its all poisoned and grown to travel not to eat. Stuff like that. She fixed my glasses, I took their picture and left.

(Note that when Im only going 86 miles in a day, a lot more happens to me.)

I left Marathon headed 53 miles to hell, I mean Sanderson. This is the Marathon plaque, and what the road looked like:

US90 here heads through the Pecos Valley, and I crossed the Sanderson Canyon (which seems to be the dried up riverbed) 4 times. This was rolling hills bordered on both sides by higher rock cliff/hills). Stuff to look at riding along. Like flowers, multiple kinds, mostly yellow.

Companions along the ride also included birds almost all the way, drifting around randomly looking, I think, for small moving creatures on the ground. There were two kinds. Black with black leading edges on the wings, but whitish feathers, and brown. I tried about 10 times to take a picture of them. This is the best I could do.

Hard to get the timing down on this digital camera. Saw a couple of the brown ones on RR trax and managed to zoom in on them.

They look like vultures to me. Maybe buzzards? Whats the difference, anyway?

Riding into a headwind most of the day, but mostly downhill, I continued to average 14+ mph. Then I got to where I am now. Started writing this. Took a break to have dinner at the only restaurant (Jeannies Kountry Kitchen) where I had something called Tampiqueno (6 oz steak, enchilada, taco, beans, rice, flour and corn tortillas) for $7.95, and went back to the Desert Air Inn. There are many other entertaining details about the restaurant and town (I note that Mexican men all give their food to their women), but this is getting a bit long.

Across the street, at the Boarder Patrol Station (Ive passed maybe a dozen of these), they were loading Mexicans onto a bus.

(They were on the bus by the time I got my camera.) Of the 4 kinds of police I see (local, county (sheriff), state (trooper), and border (patrol)) the Border Patrol outnumbers and is much better funded than all the rest combined. Lots of new SUVs and busses.

Thats it. 121 miles to Del Rio tomorrow. Supposed to be difficult riding (very hilly). Ill be leaving early.

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