Day 17. 1,117 Miles. Canyons, Colors and Connection.

It’s a beautiful morning in Valentine Texas, population 134. I now know two people in this town — Smokey and Manny — and it turns out they own the land that Prada Marfa thing is on. It should be Prada Valentine, but whatever. These hipster tourists don’t know the goddamn difference and probably have no idea where they are. Anyway, I wake up just ahead of sunrise, feeling great. Slept well, with the exception of a couple trains and some small commotion that sounded like someone lost their dog. Pack up and head up to our gracious hosts’ house for the aforementioned father, son and Holy Spirit of breakfasts. Praise jeebus cause I’m hungry as hell. However hungry it is that hell would be.

Smokey is cooking up eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast. Damon and I are sipping some amazing coffee. I felt in my heart walking up that the coffee was gonna be bomb. I like my coffee like I like my women… bomb. While she’s cooking, Manny asks if we heard the noise last night. I affirm and inquire what it was all about. Turns out that after their rest stop party, Border Patrol picked up five or six Hondurans overnight. That makes much more sense than a lost dog. Manny says that the illegals — I’d prefer to call them refugees — were 16 and 17 years old and had walked 50 or 60 miles through the desolate and thorn-infested mountains, after having been unknowingly abandoned overnight by their Mexican escorts, known as coyotes. Apparently, the wall has not been built in this area. Manny tells it all. If they have no arrest record here they probably will get to stay. Immigration is clearly a touchy subject along the southern border and really throughout the entire nation. It’s a complicated national issue for sure, but on a humanitarian level, what an ordeal for anyone, especially a teenager to have to go through. I wonder out loud what a horror show their lives in Honduras must be that they felt the need to leave their home and go through such a difficult journey just to escape it. No one wants to leave their homeland unless they feel they have no other choice. It strikes a compassionate chord that I feel is the proper path in today’s vitriolic red and blue and whatever incivility.

I’ve already started eating as Smokey says grace over the meal, and in it she’s prays for unity in our country. I liked that part most. I’m fairly certain Damon and I have differing politics than Manny and Smokey (shit Damon and I have differing politic views ourselves), but it’s important to engage dialog and civility over viewpoints. I’m not suggesting not speaking one’s mind; I’m not advocating against calling out falsehood and mistruths; I’m talking about choosing discourse that respects differences and allows for meaningful growth. Paying attention to process or method or manner in which I speak my mind. Let’s call all this tolerance for short. We can ask the Dutch about it later. Connecting with new people is one of the greatest aspects of these long bicycle rides; its very easy for anyone to live in their own bubble and point a finger at “those people”. Being out on the road, exposed, vulnerable and and in need is a fantastic way to get out of my comfort zone, and I relish in it. It helps me better understand the universal human experience, thereby improving myself as a human having a human experience. I now love being uncomfortable, awkward, weird, etc… If everyone got a little more uncomfortable every now and then, it might just help out with Smokey’s prayer for unity.

As we eat breakfast together and inside, (omg) inevitably the wonderfully insightful conversation moves on to pandemic discussion. They’ve had family get very sick from coronavirus and present their thoughts and experiences on remedies. Some wild as hell. I’m really glad they worked for them. I preach the vaccination gospel once more. They might find that crazy… I dunno — the microchip that’s not in my brain doesn’t afford me the luxury of getting caught up in all that. Do we agree on everything? Definitely not. But I feel great, knowing each of us is willing to leave space to allow ourselves to learn a little bit. And that’s a good start in time when you can’t even fucking hug people anymore.

The food and conversation is fantastic and afterward we roll out for the morning 30-35; I’ve got a belly full of home cooked fuel and a heart full of new friends on earth who don’t think just like I do. I’m glad we understand that civility might be paramount to headline issues at this point. I would love to get politics completely out of government, but if we can’t do that let’s at least put people over politics.

With nothing but miles on road 90, Damon and I yap as usual for the first 30 miles aka all morning. We talk about Smokey and Manny and health care and human connection and the impending effects innovation will have on society. About cancel culture and fascism and the Constitution of the United States of America. Eventually, we loosen up into less intense topics and get back into what Damon calls “Environmental Expectations”. Meaning we’re expecting a whole lot out of this mega hyped artsy town known as Marfa Texas. Population 1,981. About 10 miles ahead. It’s funny because it’s true. In my mind, there’s something. But in reality, we’re far from anything. Oh way. Some cute lawn decoration art. Damon gets a falafel. I’m happy for him. We hit a gas station and move on, underwhelmed and now convinced that the next town — Alpine Texas — is gonna be the one.

A few miles up, I get the 411 on the Marfa Lights phenomenon I had been hearing about.

We are still on the same road as yesterday. As usual. This is different from other turn free weeks I’ve had like the C&O/GAP trail or the Natchez Trace. Highlights thus far include a couple trains, some wildlife in the form of deer, a lazy dog in the middle of the road that starts to run with me when I approach. But wait, what’s this…

… a complete bend in the road!! Exciting. It’s actually Paisano Pass, so this might qualify as a switchback. Though it’s not much of a pass in comparison to last week’s 8,228 foot Emory Pass, it is a beautiful pass nonetheless. The canyon country colors illuminate vividly in the natural sunlight peaking through cloud cover and I feel ecstatic as we arrive into Alpine — a sort of gateway into Big Bend country.

Despite a population of 5,905, theres not much going on here either though. They do have a mural to their volunteer firefighters, yet it looks like a hotel just burned to the ground. Ha. We’re tired. We find a place to sleep across the street from that, and so just that.

About tonycaferro

Entrepreneur, Citizen, Marketeer, Fire Fighter / EMT, Bicycle-Tourist, Booking Agent, Youth Mentor, Activist, Agitator, Coffee Addict, Foodie, Social Media Nerd, Amateur Film Critic, Son, Brother, Uncle & Rust Belt Representative. Follow me on Twitter @dtr45
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