Thursday, September 30, 2010

A New Fireball Fairwell Adventure!

It's been so long since we updated this blog... We are in the midst of another adventure and for anyone who still checks this every now and then we invite you to join us at where we are sharing the highs and lows of two years in Japan! There is only recreational cycling happening - but we are experiencing many other things!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Del Rio to Bracketville to Camp Wood

I forgot to mention a couple of things in the last post... when we were in Comstock we noticed that there was a big Border Patrol compound. Apparently there are more than 100 officers assigned to the BP station that regularly patrol the area. The store owner whom we chatted with for a while told us that the BP offices have done a good job of stopping the illegal immigrants and drug 'mules' from coming through the Comstock area and that the traffic has moved north to Sanderson (the place we stayed the night before). Unbeknownst to us, Sanderson is one of the busiest traffic spots along this section of the border...

A few days prior to reaching Del Rio, I had contacted a friend of mine (Rainey) who lives in Fredericksburg. He generously and graciously offered to pick us up in Camp Wood, 100 + miles from his house and host us for a couple of days. We just needed to reach Camp Wood which was 80 miles from Del Rio.

When we were going through Del Rio we stopped at the Bike Shop to pick up a spare tube for Taran's bike. We had run out of tubes 4 days ago and had our fingers crossed the whole time. We were not afraid of punctures cause we could repair them, but for some reason the valve stems had a tendency to break and those can't be fixed. We had tried in Alpine to buy a tube, but they did not stock the right kind. We were told that Del Rio would have them...guess what... they did not. There was nothing we could do but cross our fingers and head out.


The wind was very stiff and the road was very poor. It was very bumpy and somewhat hilly. It felt like a much longer ride then only 35 miles. We stayed at a former historical army base that is now a gated community for "leisure living". I was hoping it would have lots of cool amenities, but as it turns out because we were 'tenting' we were not entitled to use the rec room nor the bathrooms in the main building. We were sent to the tenting site that had cold showers only... With the nights getting warm, we debated whether to put up the fly. We were glad we did cause it rained during the night. As we knew we were being picked up by Rainey, we did not stock up on our regular fare of oatmeal, raisins and apples. Rather, we had purchased Mini-Wheats and went to the local store and bought milk and sat in the cafeteria type place at the store and ate breakfast...

Camp Wood 60 miles

We stocked up on lots of water for the trip to Camp Wood because there were no services in between. It was a hot 97 degrees cause the humidity was way up too. We were sweating bullets. About 30 miles into the trip, Taran got a flat... his rear valve stem had broken. We spent 30 minutes trying to fix and patch the stem to no avail. Traffic was very light...maybe one car per 30 minutes. I flagged down a passing truck...and they stopped. It turned out to be a lovely couple from near Camp Wood that were willing to help us out. We loaded up our gear and off we went to the Cooksey RV site. They told us many horror stories about people dying out in the heat. The nearest Bike Shop that 'may' have the proper tube was another 120 miles away! We had arranged for Rainey to pick us up at the RV site the next morning.

The Cooksey RV park was very nice. They had a river running right beside the park and it had reasonable amenities. Taran was able to trade a couple of books in the Rec Room. While I was chatting with the camp host he told me that it was possible a thunderstorm might roll in. This area had not seen any rain in 8 months and were desperate for it. He said that it was unlikely that it would reach the camp, but we could camp out in the shower room if we wanted to avoid the storm. We were lucky that we did. It rained 2 and a half inches and the lightening was less than a mile away. The only issue was that the cockroaches came out to play at night!

The next morning Rainey and his Dad came and picked us up. We drove back to his place. And what a place it is!! It's a house that was built in 1906 with 11.6 foot ceilings, hardwood floors and a lot of TLC sitting on 8 acres in the middle of the city. It's an amazing home/property. He's got 5 or 6 projects on the go, but the place is incredible...

The adventure continues!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sanderson to Langtry to Del Rio

The ride from Sanderson to Langtry was tough. The temperature hit 107 degrees and the terrain was fairly hilly. There was only one place along the way to fill up water and it was during the first part of the trip. When we were about 20 miles from Langtry we had to start rationing the water cause we didn't want to run out. When we stopped at a picnic stop an 18 wheeler pulled in. We asked the driver if he could spare any water and he gave us a gallon of cold filtered water!! What a treat that turned out to be!

When we arrived in Langtry, a town of about 40 people, we immediately went to the visitors center. It was Air Conditioned and very very nice. We didn't realize how hot it was outside until we went inside this place. We hung out watching the news in the visitors center for about an hour before heading over to the community center. The town allows cyclists (and others i suppose) to camp out beside the center. However, the toilets are only available while the CC is open. Luckily for us there was an election going on and the hall was open until 7pm. In fact, the people in the hall gave us soda pop and cookies and Taran was able to trade for a new book. However, the gal running the election was also a worker in the local store. The owner was away so the store was closed...

Langtry is the place that made Judge Roy Bean famous... For most of the last two decades of the nineteenth century Roy Bean was the only judge operating across several hundred miles of south Texas, a position he was appointed to after several months earning a living selling beer and whisky to workers building the trans Texas railroad between San Antonio and El Paso. He was the 'Law West of the Pecos', and mixed dispensing justice with selling liquor - the courtroom was also the local saloon and billiard hall. His reputation for colorful behaviour grew on account of his rough, arbitrary justice methods and particularly after the staging of a heavyweight boxing championship on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande in 1898, at which time fighting was illegal in many US states including Texas. Both village and saloon (the original 'Jersey Lilly') were supposedly named in tribute to the English actress Lillie Langtry with whom the judge was infatuated. They never met but she was to visit, in 1904 shortly after the judge died aged about 79 following a drinking spree.

Here's a picture of his place:

Langtry to Del Rio

The terrain is mostly hilly with a slight downhill grade. It was not as hot as the day before, only 95 degrees. We made sure to carry lots of water!! There was only one town between Langtry and Del Rio, a place called Comstock. The gal that owned the local store/gas station was very friendly and helpful.

We chose to stay at an RV park located a couple miles before Del Rio. It was a great deal!! It had a pool, a full kitchen with TV, a rec room with pool table and another TV, laundry facilities and a wonderful grassy secluded, protected, treed, quiet area to put our tent. All for 12 dollars. We paid 16 dollars for a place once that had absolutely nothing.... What a difference. We cooked in the kitchen and watched Hidalgo the movie. We both got a great nights sleep. However, the birds woke us up in the morning. There must have been 5000 birds of all sorts making a big racket at 6:30am!!

I knew Taran liked the place because he got up before me...which is an extreme rarity. The reason being...he could go and watch TV.

We're in Del Rio at the moment heading to Bracketville. There is a fairly stiff head wind, but we do not have to go too far today.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fort Davis to Marathon to Sanderson

As it turns out, Fort Davis is the highest 'town' in all of texas at an elevation of 5200 feet. I guess it's all downhill from here?? (not quite by a long shot!). The RV park was fairly cheesy but they did give us some camp stove fuel and bleach (to clean the water bottles) which was nice.

In the middle of the night, I thought I heard raccoons so I got up to rearrange the food bags so they would be a little less accessible by nocturnal creatures. Other than that, we both got a fairly good nights sleep.


The trip from Fort Davis to Marathon went really quickly. It was a gentle downhill grade most of the way and we made very good time...almost 15 miles per hour for the whole 60 miles trip. We went to the Library when we arrived and I quickly researched airline tickets for our ride home. We've decided that Houston (actually Katy Texas) is our final destination. My brother, Alan lives in Katy and he has graciously agreed to host us for a few days. After that, it's homeward bound!

We picked up some burritos at the only store in town and headed to the RV Park for the night. We heated up the burritos in the Microwave, put in some laundry and watched a movie on the 'outdoor' TV that they had beside the washrooms/laundry. That was a real treat.

When we went back to our campsite, we were unsure where to put our tent. They had these raised 'beds' that contained hard clay/dirt that looked like they could be for tents, but we weren't sure. When we asked at the front desk, we were informed that they were indeed for tents. We were warned that if it rained, it would all turn to mud! Rain was not really an issue, but the dirt/clay was so hard and the lumps so big that we decided to set up our tent elsewhere. Other than the occasional train that would blow it's horn when it went by, we both had a good nights sleep.

Marathon had a very cool Hotel in the middle of town. It was mostly a tourist town and it was very neatly laid out.


The first part of the trip was quasi uphill, but the second half turned out to be a gentle grade downhill. There was a bit of a cross wind, but not much. We arrived in Sanderson after a very quick 55 miles at around 2:30pm and headed straight for the Library.

Well, it's quinoa and spaghetti tonight with raw carrots and bananas. I think we may splurge on some chocolate milk....

Taran is absolutely sick of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I didn't think it possible, but it's true. We need to find something else that travels well in high heat that he will eat. Any suggestions???

We're off to Langtry tomorrow, the town that Judge Roy Bean is famous for...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kent to Fort Davis

Started off with a really strong cross wind turning into a head wind and finally a tail wind later on in the day. The terrain was very very hilly for most of the day. We struggled to make headway much of the day. We were rewarded with a significant downhill/tail wind section for the last hour and a half of riding. In fact, I set a new speed record...48.2 miles per hour!!!

We saw maybe 5 houses and 15 cars the entire journey. We did pass the McDonald Observatory (actually a collection of observatories). It was up on a big hill so we chose not to see it up close.

We're staying at an RV Park tonight and hoping that the wind will die down a bit. If we're lucky, they'll let us stay in the Rec Room!

Van Horn to Kent

The trip to Kent was marred by heavy cross winds and two flat tires. One of the flats was on the trailer and one was on Taran's bike. When we went to repair Taran's tube, we found that the valve stem was broken and therefore useless. We reached in to get a new one and promptly broke the stem on that one as well. We now do not have any tubes for Taran's bike and the next bike shop that has his tube size is 4 days away.... We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Kent turned out to be a one store town. Camping is allowed behind the store, with no washrooms, shower, water, picnic table...nothing. The water that was available came out of a tap in the store with a sign above it that said "non-potable water". The store clerk said it was well water and he drank it all the time. He also said we could use the abandoned house across the street from his house. (there are only 3 houses in the whole place). The house was in fairly good shape but did not have electricity or any furniture. The plumbing worked fine. There were only two problems with this place... It was 40 yards from a major train crossing and once it got dark, the mice came out to play. They made a lot of noise, but did not bother us directly.

It was not my favourite fact I think it was probably the worst.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sierra Blanca to Van Horn TX

There are 3 or 4 posts previous to this one that are brand new... I've finally caught up!

It was our plan to go 71 miles to a place called Kent but events conspired to foil these plans!

As we were leaving Sierra Blanca Taran mentioned that he had a sore ankle. He said that it had hurt a bit yesterday as well. We had gone about 10 miles when Taran again said his ankle very sore. We got off and took a look at it. It had a slight swelling and a small bruise. We wrapped it up in a tensor bandage and kept going. Although the tensor bandage helped, it was still bothering him quite a bit. We decided to stop in Van Horn (35 miles) instead of going to Kent.

There were a number of choices in Van Horn to stay at, but we chose the Eagles Nest RV park. It had a rec room, laundary and nice bathrooms (with showers). I got some ice and placed it around Taran's ankle. We were there fairly early, so we just read our books and generally just hung out. At around 7:30pm it started to rain...and rain. Luckily I hadn't put up the tent yet. It stopped raining a while later. At about 8:30 just as I was about to go out and put up the tent, it started to rain again. I went over to the owner and asked if it would be okay if we bunked down in the Rec room. He agreed. Thank goodness, because it was quite the thunderstorm, complete with lightning.

The next morning Taran's ankle was not any better so we decided to stay an extra day. I spent a couple of hours cleaning the Rec Room in order to 'repay' the owner (Bill) for the use of the Rec Room for our stay. He was very appreciative. In fact, he offered to cook us dinner and kept giving us soda pop.

He also offered to let me use the office computer. I went in to use it and it was at this time that I learned that Bill really liked to talk. He told me a lot about himself and his life experiences. He also drank a lot of beer and smoked non-stop. He was a really nice guy. During dinner, we met his kids Bill jr, Megan and Cassie. They were very cute. They brought some of their toys out and Taran played with them for about an hour and a half.

Around 9pm, the kids went home and Taran and I again bunked down in the Rec Room. I stayed on the couch and Taran got the floor! We're currently at the Van Horn Library and we're heading to Kent very soon.

Tournillo to Sierra Blanca TX

It's approximately 65 miles from Tournillo to Sierra Blanca. We struggled in the wind, but finally arrived at about 5:30pm. The cycling map listed the "Town Camp" on Main Street as the place for us to pitch our tent. The "town camp" is located right beside the local high school with one picnic table and two fire pits. (not anywhere near Main Street) The bathrooms (no showers) were under construction and therefore not available for use. We followed a hose that was on the ground to see if there was going to be any water...luckily there was.

The site was grassy with good tree cover which was nice. We prepared dinner and just as we were finishing the groundkeeper showed up to water the grass. I talked to him about the bathrooms and after a bit of cajoling he agreed to leave the womens washroom open all night for us to use (it had one functional toilet). There was also a drain in the washroom so I took a spongebath in the washroom. Taran again did not wash.

At around 8pm, some kids showed up to play basketball (the court being right beside the camping area). I went to make a quick phone call and Taran ended up playing basketball with the kids. At around 9pm, extremely bright lights came on to light up the basketball court (and our tent). The lights went off around 10pm and the kids left shortly after that.

We were happy it was a Sunday morning because there wouldn't be a bunch of kids hanging around the schoolgrounds watching us pack up. ..

El Paso to Tournillo TX

Following the downhill run out of El Paso, we thought we were a lot closer to the road we were to take East. Unfortunately we had read the map incorrectly and learned that we had an additional 10 miles to go...more than what we bargained for! We again experienced a cross wind and struggled to make good time.

We arrived at "Hidden Lakes" Campground at 5pm and were sorely disappointed with the situation. There were no showers, no potable water and the campsites were mostly sand. You could however purchase water from the 'office'. The Lakes turned out to be tiny manmade "fishing" holes, no swimming allowed. Also, when we drove up a fellow came out to meet us and said "that will be 8 dollars per vehicle". I suggested to him that this seemed a bit odd. I begrudgingly paid the 16 dollars.

The camp was dusty and noisy. I struggled to have a spongebath...Taran chose not to wash. We had purchased some ground beef at a store prior to our arrival, so our spaghetti was very good that night. The next morning the campstove would not work so we could not make any oatmeal. We ate apples, oranges and granola bars for breakfast and got out of there as fast as possible. The wind was unfortunately against us which made it very difficult!

Las Cruces NM to El Paso TX

We typically get away be 8:30 or 9am, regardless of how hard we try to move faster. Unfortunately, the wind was pushing across our path most of the way to El Paso. A cross wind is not as bad as into the wind...but it's still makes it difficult. We experienced lots of dust, but the roads were really quite good. Unfortunately we did not see any sign saying we had passed into Texas. I was hoping to take a picture of it.

We had arranged for a warmshower in El Paso with one of the people from the bicycle tour we met at the Black Range Lodge. Patty and her husband Roy live on the West Side of El Paso. El Paso has built up around a mountain...kind of in a horseshoe shape. We had to climb a few hills to get to there place. Roy met us there and was extremely generous is helping us prepare for the next 'leg' of our trip. He drove me down to the local supermarket and bicycle store to get supplies. He also lent us some of his tools to tune up our bikes. When Patty got home from work we all sat down to an excellent lasagna dinner!. We again got to sleep in separate rooms that night...what a treat....Taran typically hogs the bed or tent.

The next morning Roy and a friend of his George accompanied us up a long steep hill out of town. We could have gone through downtown El Paso which was flat, but the route Roy took us on avoided all the traffic and stop lights. When we got to the top of the hill, we bid adieu to George and Roy and enjoyed a 6 mile downhill run!

Arrey to Las Cruces NM

The trip from Arrey to Las Cruces was uneventful. We were heading into a lower elevation and flatter land so there were many more farms. The typical crops in the area are: Green Chile, onions, alfalfa, and Pecan trees.

We arrived in Las Cruces at 3:30pm. We had arranged to meet Kathleen at the warmshower host in Las Cruces (Matt) at 6pm (Matt wouldn't be there to receive us until then). We decided to head over to the local indoor swimming pool to have a shower. The staff at the pool were more than happy to let us use their showers. Although Las Cruces is billed as a tourist town, it was not bicycle friendly. We had to be careful during our ride to Matt's house.

Kathleen picked us up at 6pm as promised and took us to a very nice Italian Restaurant. They told us we could order whatever we wanted. They were so very kind. We had a terrific meal and Taran even got to take some of the pizza he ordered with him. Afterwards, on our way back to Matt's, Kathleen and Eric offered to take us to a local healthfood store to pick up some Quinoa and anything else we might need.

When we got back to Matt's place, we sat and chatted for a while before heading to bed (in separate bedrooms!!). Matt is a graduate student in Geology. He is also an avid cyclist competing in Team events. His fiance was actually out on a stage race out near Kingston and Hillsboro.

Kingston to Arrey NM (continued)

I was abrubtly sidetracked writing the last post... I'll continue it here.

Dick worked in California and was known as the "dumb farmer". He was assigned projects that no other construction worker/engineer could handle. He even worked on the fixing part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As Dick told us stories and his personal history, he would would offer new things to Taran and I. Here's how it progressed:

- The Tenting area is behind the Gazebo.
- Feel free to use the barbecue to cook up your dinner.
- You can sleep in the Gazebo if you's off the ground and has a roof.
- You can sleep in the rec room - there's a mattress in there.
- Do you like cake? There's some cake in the fridge in the Rec Room
- How about Ice Cream.? There's some in the freezer in the Rec yourself.

It turned out to be a great deal at 7 dollars.

The most amazing story he shared with us involved GOLD. Legend has it that many years ago the Spanish mined the mountains in the region for gold. They used local Indian labour (slaves) to extract it. Once it was ready for shipment out of the region, they released the Indians. Apparently many of the Indians decided to "get even" and attacked many of the mines that held the gold. According to Dick, "there's gold in them thar hills". He and a group of his friends purchased 'mining claims' and are aggressively looking for gold. The average age of the group of friends is 70. One guy was getting ready to weld new parts onto the back hoe. The other fellow we met had just come from the "site" and had been dynamiting holes in the rock.

According to Dick, President Johnson (if I recall properly) had secretly extracted tons of this type of gold to finance the Vietnam War. Also according to Dick, JFK was killed because of this gold (not sure what the whole story is there though).

An interesting experience to say the least!