Down El Paso way things get pretty spread out. People got no idea where in the world they are. They go up north and come back south. Still got no idea where in the world they are. -Talking Heads, “Cities”.
After a late start out of Tyler and Mallory’s — and mucho gratitude for an awesome breakfast — we’re coming up on El Paso. As I’ve previously detailed, ad nauseum, my disdain for riding through cities — primarily because of the border walls surrounding them that we call suburbs. I almost always prefer to stay rural and go out of my way to avoid suburbia. It takes a lot of time and navigation to go anywhere near suburbs or cities, not to mention the typical lack of bike infrastructure and traffic frequently found zipping around suburban plazas and strip mall. In the case of El Paso De Norte, the ACA route has an option “to avoid city traffic congestion” – it’s called the Anthony Gap Alternative. Which, incidentally, just became the name of the genre-defying musical ensemble I’m starting when I turn 65.
The alternative is five miles longer but worth it. Anthony is apparently a town located both in NM and TX, population 9,360. There’s also a gap in the nearby Franklin Mountains called Anthony Gap. We go past that well-named town and through that well-named gap. It’s scenic and quiet. All is well. Then we make a right turn and few miles later…
Tay-Haas!! Sort of. Apparently even after Texas was admitted to the union, this part of it was so remote that it was still Mexico for a while. Maybe that’s why El Paso is also still on mountain time and operates on the national power grid. In my opinion it still is Mexico anyway. Either way Damon and I are amped to be in another state. A big ass state. We’ll be here for a couple weeks, going end to end. The condition of the shoulder goes from gravelly to paved right at the border. Nice!
A few miles in we jump on a road called Loop 275. Walk Purple Heart Blvd. Not much of a boulevard if you ask me. But why would you ask me that? Anyhoo. It’s a four lane highway that runs through a military reservation, so basically it runs through nothing. We have a nice wide shoulder, but it’s got Texas portions of debris all over it. Lots of gravel, nails, tires all over this smoothly paved shoulder. There’s black garbage bags with animal parts hanging out of them in the side of the road. Multiple bags of this. Not just one. I’m not shitting you. Does Texas have a DOT? Because someone has the nerve to paint bike lane signs on this thing but only clean the motor vehicle portions of the road. Save the money for paint and clean this goddamn shoulder every once in a while. It’s rush hour around the outer ring of El Paso and we get a Texas-sized dose of traffic volume. Like tons of cars. Non stop. One after the other zooming by. It’s loud and the entrance and exit ramps are more a threat to our lives than they were on I-10. As we attempt to cross an entrance ramp, I give the right arm signal and look over my right shoulder at a pickup truck a good ways back. He’s just coming up the entrance ramp. I go to make my move to get over to the right and he does not yield. The pickup increases speed and zooms around me like the impatient asshole he apparently is. Because his life is more important than mine. I barely avoid nearly certain death by game of chicken with a redneck in his natural environment. I’m thankful for the previous lessons provided by Tucson Ted.
Shortly after not having a physical termination, a mechanical issue rears its ugly head. I hear a click click click click in my front wheel. Hopefully it’s not a busted spoke. Doesn’t sound like it. Pull over. Sounds like a rock or something stuck in my fender. No ma’am. This little spiral fuck is trying to be the end of me. It is jammed right into my tire. I contemplate the possibilities of roadside surgery. Maybe it’s not surgery. Maybe it’s chess; I’m thinking three moves ahead. I think. Whatever, yo. Option 1: remove via leatherman tool, it comes out and no further problems. We ride as scheduled. Option 2: remove and my tire goes flat. I then have to repair it as rush hour traffic whirls by and the daylight hours dwindle. It’s still a good 18 miles to the next hotel or campsite. Option 3: leave it in and offer a sacrifice to a seven headed tube deity later. Hmmmmm.
I go with numero uno. And que suerte! No problemo, hasta la vista highway!! After about 12 miles, we exit the 275 and are now along a frontage road for maybe 8 more. At a traffic light I look at Damon and see that his face matches my current emotional status. Some intense shit just happened. Nails. Glass. Gravel. Rocks. Wires. Tires. Pipes. Stranded motorists. Dead animals. Semi trucks. Pickup trucks. A greatest hits of shit. We are both surprised to not have a flat or a busted wheel or not have our internal organs busted open all over the road. He sees it in my face too and says “that was some final boss shit”. I’m not much of a gamer, but I catch the reference and agree wholeheartedly. Welcome to Texas.
I don’t like riding in the dark while out on tour. But here we are, the sun starts setting as we weave through the outskirts of El Paso. Then it sets. And now it has set. And it gets dark quick as fuck right away out here. We make a couple wrongs turns with only my back light working. Finally we find a cheap motel 6. It will have to do. We check in and everyone is maskless, despite the signs indicating the opposite is required. I handle the interactions to cover for my unvaccinated pal. Fuck the pool is closed and they don’t have breakfast because of covid, but no one is covering their mouth and nose? We level up our way to room 112 for much earned calories and sleep.