17 December, Back Home

What began as a grand adventure ended abruptly on 6 Dec with the decision to drive back to Tucson so Louise and I could be with her mom, Dorothy Goodman, who was under Hospice care and declining rapidly.  It was the best decision we could have made, as it gave us time to say goodbye and allow Louise the chance to comfort her mother and help right to her last breath.  We will dearly miss mom, who passed away on 12/12/16, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas. The link below is to Dorothy’s obituary.  She was cremated and is with us until we can arrange a family graveside ceremony in Pagosa Springs, CO in early July next year.

http://www.evergreenmortuary-cemetery.com/obituaries/Dorothy-Goodman-4/

dorothy-rose   A friend sent this picture of a Super Dorothy Rose, which is so representative of mom.  Such a fitting remembrance.

We have no regrets about ending our ride early.  In fact, we feel as though our adventure was complete, with over 2,000 miles of riding and a touch on both coasts.  At this point we are uncertain about if, when and how we will resume the ride and complete the segment from Navasota TX to Gretna FL, but we very much want to have a slow, back country trip through that area.  There is no telling what treasures we’ve missed, so at some point we know we’ll return to explore that part of the country.

Thanks again to everyone who followed along with us.  It was great fun to be in the saddle again for 20 plus days exploring a new pathway across the country and blogging away.  I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Louise’s support during this journey; we really do have a special partnership that only gets stronger through our shared adventures.

Day 24, 6 December, East Coast Touchdown, 2000+ done, But…

We put our feet on the coast at St Augustine today, but not before a good soaking outside of the city from a last sweeping front from the storm system that has hounded us.  Our stop in St Augustine was far too brief, as it is an intriguing and historic city dating back to 1565.  Louise had visited the city years ago while in the military, but I hadn’t had a chance to explore it, so that’ll have to be for another time.  Some of the city highlights include the National Monument of Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College (a private 4-year liberal arts college) in the middle of the downtown, an old town area, lots of historic buildings with great stories to tell, and of course lots of seafood restaurants.  Because the roads in the area were pooled with water and have a bit of sand on them, my bike quickly got pretty coated with sand, which I worried would damage the gears.  As it was, when I braked I had a terrible scratching sound as the sand between the brake pads and wheel were grinding on the metal.  With showers forecast off and on in the area we opted to move a bit north and west to accomplish our biking goals for the day and managed to complete just 47 miles, but it did put us over the 2000 mark–yay!  Eventually we took the bike to a car wash and gave it a good cleaning to prevent further damage.  The driving around to avoid the rains and then set up for the return bike run really ate up a lot of our day.  We’re in Tallahassee tonight, which is just a few miles from where we would start riding westward back to Navasota TX.

We regret that we have to call this expedition a wrap as of tonight.  It has been great fun, very challenging due to weather, and another chance for us to work together on a grand project.  Unfortunately, Louise’s mom’s condition is declining and with such uncertainty we feel it best to get to Tucson directly for Louise to spend time with her mother and help her caregiver.  Mom’s caregiver is tremendously resourceful and with the help of the Hospice folks can manage, but we still feel it will be emotionally important, for Louise, her mom, and mom’s caregiver to try to be there as soon and long as possible.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this fun filled dash across the southern tier, offering encouragement and good conversation.  We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog as much as we’ve enjoyed putting our daily posts together.  It really makes it feel like this is a much bigger event than just two people plodding across the country, when we have so many friends vicariously traveling along.

Here are a couple images of our day, including several shots at the start/finish in St Augustine, Lion’s Gate, Flagler College main building, a shrimp boat coming in to harbor, me getting drizzled on in St Augustine and then soaked outside the city, and lastly, several interesting cattle with the most monstrous horns.

Day 23, 5 December, Rain, Rain Go Away

Let’s just agree that today is Metaphor Monday.  When we woke this morning the ground was wet and the forecast rain was expanding further east like a fog filling the lowlands.  As we stepped out of the hotel the air was as thick and heavy as the fruitcake Louise bought in Texas.  Our fun today could have been measured with a short string on a long football field.  Actually, not quite so bad, but still not our best day.  The weather forecast was as dependable as a politicians promise, since it had changed from dry, to rainy and even worse.  It was interesting looking at a local online forecast that included a “mosquito activity index”.  Yesterday as I pointed out some of the pests that inhabit this part of the world I failed to mention two of our favorites: mosquitoes, the spreaders of lots of nasty diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Zika, and the very pesky gnats that buzzed around our faces until we got to drier areas.  The overnight forecast for our area includes rain, thundershowers, and tornadoes…yikes!

After all that, we still managed 102.4 miles today over some diverse terrain, high humidity with 82 degrees and a vexing flat on my back tire.  As I worked on the tire it turned out to be a niggling little piece of wire that likely came from a shredded steel belted tire.  With some luck and a short ride we’ll touch down on the coast in St Augustine and surpass the 2,000 mile mark.  It sorta  seems like a hollow conclusion to the trip when we have to go backwards to complete up to 1,000 miles of trail we bypassed.

We enjoyed a phone call from Louise’s mom today in which we exchanged a few words and heard that she is taking nourishment and gaining some alertness.  Her caregiver and guardian angel assures us she’s doing as well as can be expected.  Brother Ben will visit in a day or two, so we’ll gain a second perspective on her status.  In any event, we’re converging on a decision to shorten our trip and drive back through Tucson to spend a couple days  with mom and help in any way we can.

Here’s a couple shots to capture some noteworthy points of the day.  At the start of the day you can see standing water on the ground.  Within an hour of starting my ride my bike was coated in water and sand from the road.  Louise notice the presence of peanut farming at the LPF site, which began to demonstrate a more prosperous part of the state.  You have to look closely at the bridge over the Suwannee River that was made famous in the song by Hugh Laurie and composed by Steven Foster about the Swanee River.  Couldn’t get that damn tune out of my head all day.  Louise gave us a nice pose at Ichetucknee Springs Park and then a couple riding shots and some cypress trees along our route.  There’s a fun little group of voting signs we saw alongside the road and I want to comment some on that tomorrow.  Finally, I spotted two armored residents of Florida on my ride today–a live armadillo and a gopher tortoise grazing alongside the road, not far from its sandy den.  Louise was so jealous of my critter sightings.

 

 

Day 22, 4 December, Restarted in Florida

After driving 665 miles yesterday from Navasota TX to Defuniak Springs FL we were able to set up to ride away from the spreading storm system.  It was an exhausting drive, as the rains in TX were at times light, then heavy and finally around Houston they became biblical in proportion for about 2-3 hours.  It was very tense driving on I-10 and 12 in the torrential downpour, as all the vehicles were traveling at 45-55 mph with warning flashers on and wiper blades at max speed.  The ditches were full and there was standing water everywhere.  Finally the rains eased and by the time we got to the east side of Louisiana they stopped, but the forecast was for rain to extend halfway into FL today.  We understand that Galveston had received record rains, nearly three times the previous record, so we fell our choice to move east was the right decision.

Our ride today started with a lost hour, because we crossed over the east coast time zone line right before Gretna, our start point.  So, we had to work a little harder to get our ride done today, which meant I pedaled until 6 pm to complete 104.6 miles to Madison FL.  All the usual suspects were present today, with swirling winds since we’re on the storm boundary, occasional hilliness, and tight roads.  For a state whose highest point is only 388 feet, it was surprising how much up and downhill riding  there was today.  Still, I enjoyed the ride very much.  Adding to our challenges, I inadvertently left my cell phone in the truck with Louise mid morning when I shed some clothing.   It didn’t take long for us to both realize we were not in contact, so I finally found a Pilot gas station that had a public phone and called Louise and told her where to meet me.  With her uncanny navigational skills she managed to turn left instead of right and drive into Georgia while trying to get to me.  Not hard to do, as were not far from the state line, but we did lose a little time.  I did manage to pedal about two miles around the gas station parking lot while waiting.  🙂  After that, Louise headed off to an oil service station in Tallahassee to change oil in the truck, while I navigated my way through the city and out the other side.

We have a few impressions from today to share.  As we passed through Greenville today Louise spotted a life sized statue and sign indicating Ray Charles was born here and that his blindness started at 4-5 years old and he was totally blind by 7.  If you’ve not been to Florida it is essentially a very large sandbox, with beautiful beaches along the coast lines.  All that sand makes a great home for lots of ants and palmetto bugs (a genteel way of saying cockroaches).  The area we traveled in today is away from the beaches, with little sign of industry and poor agricultural conditions, leaving timber industry as the most apparent business.  While there have been small pockets of affluence, we mostly saw rather poverty stricken rural homes and declining small towns.  Notable in this part off the country is a large number of small churches in the country and towns; mostly Baptist, but including most other Christian groups as well.  This year northern FL has experienced drought conditions and we’ve seen a lack of water in the low areas.  Hope the current storm helps to ease the fire concerns.

It has been distressing here and back in rural Texas to see the amount of litter in the ditches, as well as around many homes.  Despite promotional campaigns, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and similar exhortations in FL, the rural and urban poor just don’t seem to care.  Not surprising, as my recollection is that the drive to clean up our environment has been a luxury of middle and upper income groups, starting as far back as the 1960s when we started having Earth Day events.  An anecdotal example of what I see as a poor person’s attitude toward trash is the amount of trash strewn around homeless encampments in major cities like Portland.  Perhaps some institutional incentives rather than hallow threats of fines are needed to deal with the problem, such as paying the unemployed to do more clean up around rural roads and neglected areas in our communities.

Tomorrow we push further east to put us within range of St Augustine on Tuesday.  There is some chance of rain and thundershowers for us tomorrow, but we should be okay.  Here are a couple shots from today.  An old school house in Gretna at the start, two random buildings–graffiti’ed shed and plantation style home, the new state capitol and old capitol, Spanish moss covered tree and me on a canopied street, palmetto trees, and Ray Charles statue in Greenville.

 

 

 

Day 21, 3 December, Change in Plans

The picture below pretty well tells the story.  We have heavy rain forecast for the area through Monday and probably will have water in low laying areas for awhile afterwards.  Our options include waiting until at least Monday to get going again, leap forward beyond the rain and work backwards, or call it quits.  In checking weather conditions along our route we need to get within 3 days of St Augustine to find dry conditions again, and that’s what we’ll do.  As soon as we can travel we’ll be on our way to Gretna FL to bike to St Augustine, then turn around and work backwards from Gretna.  Good news is I’ll get a day of rest, even if it means sitting in the truck for 11 hours.

Why this approach?  We have several pressures on our schedule.  First, Louise’s mom was entered into Hospice care this week (for the third time), so we are already prepared to scrap the remainder of the trip if her condition dictates.  We’ve already decided we’re traveling back home via Tucson so we can see her for a day or two, which means added days to our return plan.  Second, we have to be back to Camas WA by 25 Dec to meet our son at the airport, who is visiting for Christmas.  At over 3000 miles from FL to WA we’ll be tight getting back in time if we delay waiting on the weather.  So, we think our plan is proactive and gives us a chance to complete the journey, even if it is a bit unorthodox. Keep Louise’s mom in your prayers.  Thanks!

rain-shot

Day 20, 2 December, Here Comes the Rain

Rain loomed in our forecast for today, but luckily we only got a short bit of light rain during the middle of the day, which didn’t deter a couple hardy souls from the wet northwest.  The route and conditions today were pretty much a repeat of recent days, with rambling hills, wind in the face and tight road conditions on some of the rural roads we traveled.  In fact, I can’t recall more than 2-3 miles of level road out of the 100.2 miles we covered.  Through much of the day we were on roads with limited or no shoulders and while most drivers were patient and polite, several did pass pretty closely and one or two gave a honk of disapproval.  Even though the route we’re traveling is identified as the standard US southern bike crossing route, there is a decided lack of signage here in Texas to indicate bikes on the road or to remind vehicle operators to share the road.  Signage is so important to help acquaint local drivers of the potential for presence of bike in the area and other areas of the country we’ve traveled are getting far more progressive with biker safety, so I hope Texas will get on the bandwagon too.

Our first segment of travel was just outside Bastrop in Bastrop/Buesher State Park.  The 15+ mile park road was absolutely hideous, as they were doing lots of maintenance in the area and numerous hills had double digit grades up and down.  There had been several major fires in the park in recent years, which reminded us of the devastating fires in Tennessee.  It was a relief to get back on some Ranch Roads with slightly better conditions.  How’s this for a sign of the conditions?  It felt like I spent half the day like the truck in this sign.

img_6386

The terrain has been subtly changing over time and today we descended below 500 feet elevation and remained in a band between 150 to 400 feet elevation.  Instead of mesquite and brush we’re now seeing pine trees, live oaks, more farm fields for hay, and generally more open ground.  There are less deer around and a lot less road kill, so that’s a noticeable change too.  Around mid day we saw the first oil rig pumping and then saw a lot more sign of oil and gas business.  Louise spotted several classic longhorn cattle, which are always a treat to see.  In the area around Round Top we came across several communities with large antique show warehouses that appear to be used more in the summer months.  It was a classic sight out of the Antique Road Show program.  One place we saw had every old gas station sign you could imagine.

Local forecast for the next two days is pouring rain, thunderstorms and generally crappy biking conditions.  Don’t know yet what that means for our riding.  Could be that we’ll take a rest day or two and go from there.  Having lived in Texas and spent lots of time in this part of the state we know that when the rain hits it comes heavy and wouldn’t be safe for biking.  We’ll be cautious.  Down to two weeks remaining, we hope, so stay tuned and keep cheering.

Here are a few images from the day.  Quite the big bull, then two more longhorns, me pedaling uphill in Bastrop State Park, an oil rig, old gas station signs, and a classic Texas bar sign that said Beerz.

Day 19, 1 December, Rolling Thru Austin

Brrrr, this morning was very chilly with 32 degrees to start, so I was dressed snugly and shed clothes through the day.  The first half of our ride was a repeat of the up and downhill riding we’ve “enjoyed” the last couple days, but as we moved to the east of Austin the hills almost disappeared…ahhh.  Because we arranged to have dinner with Louise’s brother and sister in law, we planned a short day of riding and completed 77 miles by 2:30, which was very satisfactory.  Tomorrow we’ll continue east, with about three days left in Texas, then on into Louisiana, where we should hit the next big milestone–2,000 miles.  Tomorrow we should finish the 4th of 7 maps for the southern tier when we reach Navasota TX.  Be sure to check the Ride Plan for 2016 button, as we update that daily.

All across the hill country of Texas we have noticed warning signs by all the low spots in the roads warning of possible flooding during rain storms and there are normally flood gauges with one foot increments up to five.  In many places they designed the roads to cross rivers knowing that the roads would flood during rain storms.  Seems like such a bad plan to us.  Even though there hasn’t been any rain recently I encountered one dip in the road that had five inches of water running across it, so got a bit of water splashed on my feet and legs.  Just before we hit that low spot in the road we went past a home that had a large metal armadillo in the yard.  Louise stopped and got a photo of that and later saw her first roadkill, so had to get a shot.  We haven’t seen any live armadillos, as they are nocturnal, so this will have to suffice.  Once again today we did see lots of deer and had several run across the roads in front of us.

As we approached Austin the traffic picked up, yet many roads didn’t have bike lanes and it seemed like the drivers weren’t giving me much room.  After a couple near misses we finally opted to bypass a bit of the city riding and moved to the east side of the city and resumed riding.  While riding in the city I did pass three riders with all their gear packed on their bikes and they were headed west.  They seemed pretty cheerful and I didn’t have the heart to tell them about the hills facing them west of Austin. I have such great respect for those independent riders who plan a longer journey and depend on their resourcefulness to get through the trials of the trip.  Still, I wouldn’t trade places and give up my great crew chief, who takes care of all my needs.  Had a note from a young lady from the UK who has been following our blog.  Last year she supported two friends on a ride across the US and is reliving that experience through our story.  It is so cool that we have vicarious travel companions from all across the US, Denmark, Malaysia, Italy, Portugal, UK, and Australia.

The photo opportunities were a little sparse today, but here are a couple shots.  Louise took a few shots at a vineyard and others at a olive oil orchard, but sadly the shots didn’t turn out as hoped.  Below is me bundled up at the start, then a couple shots on hilly roads, one of which has a flood gauge at the bottom, a flooded road and a couple armadillo shots.

Day 18, 30 November, Where Easter Island meets Stonehenge

Well it finally happened this morning about 10 am at the intersection of hwys 187 & 39 just south of Hunt, TX, with the temp at 52 degrees and a cold wind blowing from the north.  Yes, we semi-officially passed over the half way point!  Other than that key point it was mostly a miserable day of biking with hills, hills and more hills, along with the north wind into our face or across our path most of the day.  I can say that not all hills are created equally.  Through most of the day we had lots of short, choppy hills with no roll out to take advantage of the energy exerted to get to the top.  This was exhausting at times.  By mid afternoon we passed through Fredericksburg TX and suddenly the hills were more widely spaced with long roll outs and more gentle climbs and at the same time the wind subsided.  Finally I was able to bang out a faster pace to net a ride of 91.3 miles, bringing the total to 1573.9.  Just a comment on road grades that I’ve noticed.  You are probably aware that railroad grades are no more than 2.2 percent climb and interstate highways are a bit higher, but generally engineered to reduce climbs and descents.  Rural roads, such as the ones we’re traveling on aren’t as well graded and typically follow the contours of the land.  This is likely a financial decision, as the cost of removing or adding more soils to level out those country roads is cost prohibitive.

One of our first sights of the morning was in the town of Ingram at their Art Center where they have a field of sculptures, including an Easter Island head and a rendition of Stonehenge.  Seemed pretty well out of place, but very interesting and honestly, here in Texas they are know for doing things BIG.  The state is huge, ranches are massive, everybody drives a big truck or SUV and many of the people we’ve seen along the way are supersized.  Thinking about ranches, we saw “for sale” signs on several ranches that indicated acreages of from 1000 to 3000 and 5000, which are modest here.  Thinking about most of the rest of the US owning a farm or ranch of several hundred to a thousand acres is relatively large.

Throughout much of the day we rolled through ranch country with lots of tall fences to keep in their critters.  There were also large areas with normal fences that deer and other animals easily cross over or through.  Main species include white tail and mule deer, with several exotics that also have been introduced.  We saw deer everywhere, so many that we stopped trying to count and photograph them.  Both of us had deer cross the road in front or behind us and Louise watched as one was struck by a fast moving truck and knocked into the ditch…sad.  I stopped and watched a group of turkeys feeding in the brush just off the road and could here the thoughts in their little heads that “Thanksgiving is over so move along”.

From Kerrville we rode through Fredericksburg, where Volkssporting (popular sports) got its start in the US in 1976 and then to Johnson City.  This is LBJ and Lady Bird country, with lots of signage to recognize our past President and First Lady.  Tomorrow we’ll head for Austin to work our way across that city and in the afternoon we’ll take a break and head a little north to have dinner with Louise’s brother Ben and SIL Mary.  The weather looks reasonable tomorrow, but rain looms in the next few days, so we need to push through TX as quickly as possible.

Here are some images from today:  Ingram sculptures, a view along the Guadalupe River, boots adorning fence posts, a holiday decoration in Fredericksburg, a massive whitetail buck that Louise watched, several turkeys, one of two Mexican eagles feasting on a porcupine, a longhorn and a brahma, buzzards waiting for a meal on the road and several shots of Tom climbing hills.

 

 

 

Day 17, 29 November, Into the Hills

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday we had winds pushing us all day and today it was just the opposite.  We left Del Rio at 7 am heading north east and spent most of the day with light head or crossing winds as we began the climb toward the famous Texas Hill Country.  Despite some sore legs and lagging energy after yesterday’s effort I still managed a ride of 100.5 miles with Louise’s diligent support, which puts us about 18 miles short of the halfway point of the trip.  In addition to the wind and gradual climb, I encountered coarse road surfaces, which really puts a continuous vibration through the bike.  As a result, I’ve had to tighten screws on several bike components over the past two days that were loosened by the constant vibration.

The sights of the day were fairly monotonous, although it was interesting that we started out in a fairly green and lush environment around Del Rio, which is at a lower elevation.  They’ve had fairly heavy rains apparently, which has been great for the growth of grass.  As our route moved north into higher elevations the scenery grew a bit more brown, but still more thick with plant life than is typical for the area.  Louise was eyeballing all the mistletoe in the mesquite trees along the road, but so far hasn’t found any to cut to bring home.  Much of the day we rode past ranches with exotic African game, as well as cattle, sheep and goats.  The Texans love their hunting farms and their hunting style is a bit different from what I’m accustomed to.  They have feeding stations where they dispense “deer corn” and then have hunting stands nearby to shoot from.  In most other states this form of hunting with bait piles is not allowed.  Along the route there were a large number of deer killed along the road.  This is sadly a normal condition in this part of Texas, as the rural road and highway speeds are very high and the deer are attracted to the grasses growing along the roads.

Other sights today that we noticed included a large array of about 20 or more acres of solar panels and also a few wind turbines on the horizon.  With all the sunshine and wind in this part of the country, those are great options to provide power to rural users.  While in ABQ with our son we noticed that he had recently added solar panels to his roof and will soon be diminishing his power bills.  It surprised us as we traveled across AZ and NM that more homes didn’t have solar panels.  We have friends in OR who recently installed panels and despite the lesser sunshine they have dramatically reduced their commercial power use.  Would expect to see more homes in this part of the world with solar panels.  Why don’t they have them?

It is interesting to see that this is clearly a Republican state, with all the Trump/Pence posters in front of ranch entrances and on many vehicles.  I’ve been curious about why there is such a strong support for the President-elect here and surmise it to be a mix of the fact this is a consistently Republican-voting state, but also might include the issue of border security and federal tax structure that is burdensome for small businesses, such as the ranches out here.  We’ve both noticed the huge presence of border patrol vehicles all across the southwestern states and think about the cost that represents.  Sad but necessary I suppose.  Having a Political Science undergrad degree I’m always curious about the motivations of different segments of our population, so  would love to have some conversation with a few locals to find out exactly what their concerns are and why they supported Mr Trump over some of the other Republican candidates, such as Jeb Bush or their own senator.  As a segue, I wanted to mention that our daughter, who is in the Air Force, told us the military sent out an order the other day for military members to cease making comments on Facebook, etc., about the election outcome, as the UCMJ (military law) prohibits troops from making derogatory comments about the commander in chief.

This morning we passed Laughlin AFB just outside Del Rio, which is and has been for a long time, a flight training base for student pilots.  As we moved away from the area we still heard the sound of aircraft flying overhead and when we carefully looked into the sky we could see single and two ship groups practicing some of the basic maneuvers of flight.  It reminded me of my short stint in pilot training at Williams AFB, AZ 40 years ago when I had 39 hours of flight training up through several hours of solo flight in a 2 engine jet trainer.  Unfortunately, physiological problems kept me from completing the training (puked in the airplanes too much), so my career turned to flight support and Louise and I were both pleased with that option.

Well, that’s enough chatter for today.  Our attention has shifted slightly in the last 24 hours, as we’ve found out that Louise’s mom is having a bad spell.  We hope she will regain her vigor quickly and ask for your prayers for her rebound.

Here are some images from our day.  First is a shot of two primary flight training aircraft from Laughlin AFB, then mistletoe in a mesquite tree, several shots of me going up and down hills, a deer crossing in front of Louise, sheep watching her drive by, and several exotic animals on hunting ranches.

 

Day 16, 28 November, Gone With The Wind

Yeehaw!  That’s a Texas exclamation that can mean many things, but for us it means we crushed the road today with 150 miles of riding!  It was an awesome day with 20-35 mph winds from the west all day pushing us along at a great clip and supposedly there were some gusts that were well above that.  The Greek God of Winds, Blow Hardemus,  🙂 was really working in our favor today.  I believe he helped out on portions of the northern tier ride as well.  Also helping out was a descent of nearly 3000 feet enroute to Del Rio.  For about 30 miles of the route I enjoyed comfortable shoulders, while the rest of the journey was on roads that had new chipseal applied in the last year, making the surface a bit rough.  It gave a constant vibration through the bike to my wrists and seat, but otherwise was a decent riding surface.  Our mantra for this ride has been “strength, stamina and willpower”, but we may need to add “windpower”.

As we got going on this segment we anticipated there wouldn’t be much to write about.  On the contrary, we saw some very interesting sights.  Right after starting the ride Louise observed a coyote crossing the road right behind me, but her photos were poor due to the early hour.  Other than a couple deer, our animal sightings were minimal, except for numerous herds of sheep, cows and goats.  At one historic point Louise found that just off the road was a spot on the rail line where a member of the Butch Cassiday and Sundance Kid gang attempted to rob a train in 1912 and was killed by a Wells Fargo agent on board the train.  In the town of Langtry, named after the British Actress Lilly Langtry, we stopped and visited the museum dedicated to Judge Roy Bean who was noted for being the “Law West of the Pecos River”.  It is a fascinating story and the basis for several western movies.  The old saloon Judge Bean owned and used to administer stern justice still exists and is in reasonable condition.

Speaking of the Pecos River, it seemed to have a fair amount of water in it and would be joining the Rio Grande not far from the photo below.  If you remember, the Rio Grande is pretty much a dry river much of the year, so the Pecos coming from New Mexico provides most of the water flowing to the east.  According to signs near the river, it is the subject of much folklore and lots of historic events.  Several famous authors of western novels have often used the Pecos River as a key component in their stories.

As you might imagine, much of the time my mind is wandering while riding, so here are a couple musings of an idle mind from today.  Much of the western riding has given me some long vistas with roads running to the horizon.  For a biker, seeing the road for 10-15 miles ahead or more can be either focusing or spirit breaking.  For me it has been more positive than negative.  In the next thread of thinking I reflected back to our ancient ancestors, homo erectus, who began standing on two legs to see longer distances to spot danger and prey.  So seeing longer distances was a good thing and ultimately our ancestors learned to walk and run upright, developed larger brains, and with larger brains developed tools and advanced down through the ages.  My next thread of thought focused on humanity today and I wondered if our brain sizes have plateaued with the advent of the internet, google, wikipedia and so on.  After all, we are becoming reliant on electronic media for our answers to many questions instead of visiting a library or doing real research to learn the answers.  And then there is the craziness of following tweets from celebs and others as if that is important and accurate information instead of opinions or clearly erroneous information.  From there I thought about the degradation of media reporting and lesser skills of teleprompter-reading broadcasters compared to the likes of Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley from several decades ago.  Anyway, you can see how an idle mind can wander in a lot of directions.

Tomorrow we start working toward the hill country on our way to Austin in a couple days.  We’re well ahead of schedule and feeling strong.

Images below show a silhouette  of the ubiquitous windmills and then the sun rising to the southeast, next is a distant shot of me by a truck working up a hill, two more windmills, one of many sensors we observed along the border zone, tumbleweeds in action, one of many goats we saw along the way, us at the Judge Roy Bean museum, the eroded bed of the Eagle Nest Creek near Langtry, me crossing the Pecos River and then a side shot of the Pecos River bridge.