It’s bitterly cold outside of my paper lodging in Marathon as the sun just begins to brighten the horizon. Eventually I drag myself out and start packing; there’s a layer of ice on the gear I left outside. In fact, this whole town was covered in snow just two weeks ago. It’s supposed to warm up today with highs in the fifties. There’s something like 175 miles of US 90 between us and Del Rio with almost nothing on it, save one town called Sanderson, about 55 miles up and another called Comstock, about 145 miles up. We’re planning to hit the coffeeshop on the way out; they have great coffee and smoked salmon on the menu.
Walking back from my first shit, I realize my back tire has gone soft. It was inevitable, I knew I couldn’t go coast to coast without one flat. It must have happened yesterday and has been slowly leaking all night. Pull it off, find the hole in the tube and a tiny piece of wire in my tire. Patch it and reinsert and I pinch the tube and give myself another flat. What the fuck, stupid unforced error; this must be what it’s like being the other Williams sister. The pinch is on a seam, I attempt to patch anyway. During all of this I discover another piece of metal wire in the tire and perform a a second surgery before dropping my second deuce. The dual patches appear to be good so we bid adieu our wonderful accommodations at La Loma del Chivo and hit the cafe like Mike Tyson hit Robin Givens in the 80s.
Im really enjoying the coffee at this place. For some strange reason this place is open 7am-2pm, serves breakfast all day, but not lunch all day. The vegan power wrap Damon was itching for — and to which I was going to add smoked salmon to mine — is on the lunch menu. We settle for whatever breakfasty thing that wasn’t that and I leave a third dump before heading out, my tire a little soft but still holding air.
It’s the fourth straight day on this same road and to be honest, US Route 90 really isn’t offering much to inspire my thoughts or writing. It’s a bit warmer and the wind, while in my face, isn’t as strong as yesterday either. We ride through a thing called Lemons Gap and through Sanderson Canyon. Across a couple different counties. There’s a few disinterested cows, deer and rams. A railroad track with no train. Oooohhh a historical marker!! Fun wow. I’m glad I like riding a bicycle and I just pedal pedal pedal through the open canyon landscape.
About mile 45 and I hit a rest stop while Damon pushes on. These rest stops don’t have any services, it’s basically a covered picnic table and a garbage can. No water, no restrooms, nada. One sip from my thermos and I’m confronted by the fact that last night’s refried bean burritos have much to learn about patience, grasshopper. I jump back in the saddle to knock out the last ten miles into Sanderson, but instead get to commemorate a four poop day with my first ever Texas roadside movement behind a weird cactus bush-like plant. With movements that rival most any city’s philharmonic orchestra, I most certainly know I’m alive and well.
Feeling about ten pounds lighter, I get through the 55 miles of zero services into Sanderson, population 837. Twice the people as Marathon but one quarter the things; this is the only location with water and toilets and phone service for about 145 miles. They have two motels and a gas station store — so it will have to do. No groceries. Their one restaurant is only open two days and today is not one of those days. We are about as far from the typical gas-station-every-few-miles world that is typical across the US and A.
We’ve stocked up as best we can. Peanut butter. Bananas. Ramen. Various boiled water meals. Protein bars. We hole up in one of the two hotel rooms and handle back-on-the-real-world business in this little oasis of existence, the Desert Air Motel. Our next few days will find overnight temperatures rise back into camp-able limits and at some point we will finally turn off of US 90, but for now we’ve still got 121 miles to Del Rio, our next chance at civilization.
The bed is comfy and satisfies my four pillow standard. I awaken to a soft rear tire. It’s not even that soft, but it’s not full anymore. This is definitely the slowest leak I’ve ever experienced. I decide to simply pump it back up and ride on; hopeful to make the bike shop in Del Rio. We fill up every container we have, including our backup gallon container. I’d estimate we’re rolling out with almost 3 gallons of water on us, net additional weight, 24 pounds. For those of you no longer kneeling before the kings feet, that’s about 11 liters and 11 kilograms. Why does metric gotta be so lined up like that?
I stop in the gas station and amidst maskless customers and vaccination ridicule score two of the best breakfast tacos of my life. Tortilla and all made on the spot and it’s authentic, except the guy has blond hair and blue eyes. Maybe he’s one of those white Mexicans, like Miclo from Blood In, Blood Out – at least this guy is wearing a mask as he makes fresh tortilla, egg, potato and chorizo. All for $1.29 each. Thats damn near Mexico prices and we are damn near Mexico.
Fueled up on tacos, we hit our fifth straight day on US Route 90. This one is full of rolling declines and inclines as we drop down into and climb up our of canyon after canyon. We’ve also got a full on direct headwind of about 15 mph sustained, as we come into this ghost town called Dryden. Fuck this headwind.
We ride upwind downhill. We ride upwind uphill. The headwind does not subside, and our course all day is due southeast and directly into this wind. It is a game changer. We’re only going 8 mph downhill. This shit is difficult as fuck and so we take lots of stops. We talk about hydration while we down bottles of water one at a time. Plenty of people throughout history have died for simply not carrying enough water. Six million ways to die, choose one. We’re feeling confident in our supply, but I’m still concerned about where our next water is coming from.
As we run low on water and lower on energy, we score some water from an unknown source in a town called Langtry. Thanks Jerry and your Wagon Wheel. We’re already feeling completely exhausted but decide to push on. This headwind is relentless. A couple miles up and my front tire goes flat. Daylight is running thin and so I do my best pit stop tube change out. We are really going to need that bike shop in Del Rio a couple days down.
As the sun is setting, we come up in Seminole Canyon State Park. Their campgrounds are closed and their bathrooms and water are after are cut off, but we cruise in the dark and set our tents up in the day use area anyway. The wind is howling even more than during the daylight. Peanut butter bananas get crushed under a sky that must feature at least a thousand stars. We are lowing water but this is really an amazing view.