Date: November 26th
Time Pedaling: 3 hrs. 45 min.
Avg. Speed: 9.4 mph
Max Speed: 20.1 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,358.22
Weather: sunny, warm and windy 73 degrees (Sonora, TX) to cloudy, cool and windy 61 degrees (Ozona, TX)
Time of Departure: 11:45
Arrival Time to First Baptist Church in Ozona, TX: 5:00
Repairs: Luke’s pedal lost a clamp, Rob tightened one and added some zip ties. He bought some at the NAPA store in Ozona, TX.
Eureka! Okay, first things first. We stayed over at the Best Western in Sonora.
We are getting to know the people of Texas a bit better. The economy is strong for the most part but hinges on oil and natural gas, etc. Many Texans (and Louisianan’s) especially in smaller towns drive several hours to get to work. They will stay the week where they are and come back home after seven days and back again. This seems to be common place as many have told us this.
A so-called boom town will materialize as workers pile into one area to work. We are currently in Ozona and a woman we met named Elizabeth told us that there is an area outside of town that houses about 250 men. She also told us that in Midland and Odessa the hotels are fetching $250 a night because there aren’t any other places for the amount of people that have come in.
Elizabeth taught in Ozona for thirty years. The first few years she was a kindergarten teacher, then she specialized in working with dyslexic children. She is what makes small towns, small towns. Joyful and clearly patient. We can only imagine what a privilege it has been for the students that she has blessed over the years.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, back to Sonora. We left Sonora around noon. That’s right noon. The previous days ride had us still hurting and slow moving. The town itself seemed deserted. We pulled in on Sunday and there was a line at least 8 deep to get into the bathroom. There were vehicles all over the place. Fast forward to Monday and less than 20 cars in sight altogether.
Just to mention, we had to fix a trailer flat the night before in the room. We also had to repair clamps from Luke’s pedal. The culprit causing the flat was a tiny wire (truck tire blow out remains). It took some doing to locate it and remove.
We have not pedaled past the hill country. Our travels over the last couple of days has been about 65-80% hilly. The wind wasn’t too bad although it was gusting quite a bit.
When approaching the Box Taylor Road exit we saw that an SUV was on its side in a ditch. There were already several people and vehicles stopped, so we kept pedaling to the truck stop. There is an RV park at this exit and a truck stop. I have to think the RV park is for workers as it is in the middle of nowhere. This RV park is owned by an entrepreneur as is evidenced by the car museum near its entrance. Interesting to say the least. Who knows it may one day be a destination.
We talked to some friendly truckers at the stop. One trucker was nice enough to give us a book that had all the truck stops on interstates in the Country.
Sidenote: Truck drivers have been the most courteous of all the drivers we have encountered. They almost always slow down and move a lane over to give us space. Recently, a number of them have been giving small city horn beeps of encouragement even from the other side of I-10! We appreciate all of you professional drivers out there. Now, for all of the pick-up truck drivers…
We decided we would stop for the night in Ozona which was about 8-9 miles up the road.
We were pleased to make it to Ozona before dark. The town is in Crockett County. It is named for David Crockett. He, of Alamo fame. Did you know that he was a Congressman? He was. There is a speech attributed to him (possibly while serving in Congress) titled, ‘Not Yours to Give!’
It is worth a tumble in my humble opinion.
Sidenote: Crockett was willing to die for something that he believed in. In fact, he did. Our Country was made by people like Crockett. We still have men (and women) like Crockett living amongst us. I have met several on this trip.
If you are ever in Ozona, visit the town square and enjoy some of our rich history.
Our stay in Ozona was one of the very best in Texas. We stopped at a gas station named Stripes a few blocks into town. Luke and I walked over to a Napa Auto Store to buy a few needed clamps for his pedal.
Dakota and Gail were talking with a couple employees outside of Stripes when we got back.
One of the employees was named Tevin. He was interested in our story and he and Dakota talked about that. Upon learning that we would be staying (hopefully) at a local church, Tevin began calling people that he knew to possibly expedite the process. He was unable to get through but gave us directions to two different churches that would probably put us up for the night.
We tried the First Baptist church of Ozona first. We pulled up in front and were looking for a door to knock on when a lovely woman by the name of Elizabeth approached us. She wanted to know if she could help us. We asked her if she could tell us where the pastor lived. She could and did.
We had a wonderful time conversing with Elizabeth (then and later).
The pastor and his family lived across the street from the church and so we crossed and knocked on the door. You must remember that we hadn’t stayed in even once church in Texas over the course of 400 plus miles.
That changed. Lauren (Pastor Chris’ wife) answered the door while struggling to hold the big family dog back.
We told her who we were and that was enough. A few minutes later we were getting the tour of our lodgings for the evening (a rec building).
Chris and Lauren are what one expects in small town America; joyful, kind and committed to the community.
Chris is 6’5″ and bald but really is a gentle giant. Chris and Lauren both have infectious laughter. I made it a point to joke around just to hear them laugh.
Luke was able to play with their two sons for a while as we talked with Chris.
Getting back to Tevin…
I was talking with Elizabeth on the side of the church after our gear was unloaded, when Tevin came running up, clearly out of breath.
He told us that he had just spoken to another church and they had said we were welcome.
He had run about 4 blocks to tell us because he was concerned we may not have a place to stay. The very salt of the earth.
Elizabeth volunteered to give Tevin a ride home, to which he gladly accepted. She also offered to drive us to Subway afterwards.
Not only did she drive us to Subway, she also bought our sandwiches AND donated $20 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Not sure if Texas will be a place we call home, but if so, Ozona would be at the top of our list.
Thanks Chris and Lauren, Elizabeth, Tevin and all the kind folks in Ozona.
We won’t forget you!
Date: November 27th
Time Pedaling: 4 hrs. 25 min.
Avg. Speed: 10.2 mph
Max Speed: 24.0 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,403.49
Weather: sunny, cool and windy 61 degrees (Ozona, TX) to clear, cool and windy 36 degrees (Exit 320 off of I-10 in Texas)
Time of Departure: 12:30 (stopped at the Town Square and Stripes Gas Station)
Arrival Time to Exit 320 off of I-10 in Texas: 6:00
Repairs: Clamp on Luke’s Pedal was loose, Dakota’s cassette had a problem and she no longer has 7th gear. Slow leak in Rob’s front tire, we haven’t changed it yet. Luke’s pedal fell off. Gail’s trailer tire went flat, we changed it. When we got to our campsite, Dakota’s trailer had a flat.
Date: November 28th
Time Pedaling: 5 hrs. 28 min.
Avg. Speed: 11.0 mph
Max Speed: 23.9 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,464.24
Weather: sunny, warm and windy 70 degrees (Exit 320 off of I-10 in Texas) to clear, cool and windy 56 degrees (Ft. Stockton, TX)
Time of Departure: 10:28
Arrival Time to Budget Inn in Ft. Stockton, TX: 6:30
Repairs: Rob fixed Luke’s pedal, changed Dakota’s trailer tire, filled the flat on Gail’s bike caused by a thorn, and filled his front tire that was flat. (That was before we left camp!) Later on we changed Gail’s front tire and Rob’s rear tire.
We left knowing we had a challenging day before us. Our goal was to make it to fort Stockton which was over 60 miles away. That would be our record to date.
First things first though, as if we hadn’t dealt with mechanical issues enough, we had to change a flat inner tube before we began pedaling.
We only needed about 11 miles to get to the Rest Area and better choices for waste removal. The Rest Area was at mile marker 309. We were surprised when we got there to find no drinking water. Ouch! We were counting on this to fill our low supply. We weren’t completely out, just low and had 50 more miles of pedaling to do.
We met and talked to several people while there. A donation of $5 was given to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of Joanne Dinius who lost her battle with cancer. The donation was given to us by her sister.
We also met a wonderful couple from San Antonio on their way to New mexico. Their names are Glenn and Pat. They had an inspiring story to share with us:
As the years pass by we tend to let ourselves go a little. The weight begins to add up. The additional weight becomes a major hindrance. We begin to accept this as a part of life. Pat got tired of accepting it. With the encouragement of her loving husband Glenn, she decided to reclaim her life, one step at a time.
She walked out her front door and made it to the corner of the next block. She was in a lot of pain and didn’t think she could even do that again. But, she did.
The second chapter is still being written, but the first chapter ended with Pat walking her very first Half Marathon. To Be Continued…
We look forward to reading the rest of this story. Glenn and Pat are everything that is good about our journey.
We are better for having met them. Thank you Glenn for being such an encouragement, and Pat, the marathon awaits.
The Rest Area had a region map. According to the map we had just pedaled out of the Hill Country and into the Big Bend Country.
This was very good news to us, but it didn’t mean there were no hills.
There were still plenty with long inclines. Some of these inclines were nearly two miles long. They weren’t very steep, but just the same, wind and gear and inclines equals much effort.
Sidenote: The Hill Country of Texas is beautiful. I’ve read accounts of the boring monotony of this land and have to disagree.
Even now, there are flowers in bloom. There are various types of yucca, along with prickly pear cactus, cedar scrub and Texas Live Oak trees.
The granite cliffs and domes marked by the erosion from wind and water.
I became quickly entranced by this Country and many days later feel it no less enthralling.
We struggle to climb the hills while we battle the winds. I can’t help looking over the land as we top the tall rugged hills: Will we see David Crockett in the distance? Perhaps a pioneer family heading west? A Comanche tribe? They are part of the land, the wind. They are part of our wonderful journey across the Texas Hill Country.
We lost about 40 minutes near Bakersfield when I thought it would be a good idea to walk our bikes through 25 feet of desert greenery. The idea was to ride a frontage road and get a closer view of a rock formation.
The goat-head thorns disagreed with me.
We quickly undertook changing the two newly acquired flats. I lost count but Texas means business when it comes to flats.
Pesky wires and our newest friend, the goat-head thorns account for almost 100% of our flats. They don’t really discourage us. They are a part of life on the road.
We had to dig deep to make it all the way to Fort Stockton. We had pedaled about 45 miles the previous day. We dealt with hills, flats, wind, crosswinds and fatigue. Deal with it is just what we did.
We dragged ourselves into Fort Stockton at about 6:30. Tired legs, tired bodies, wind-whipped and hungry, but victorious.
We took lodgings at the Budget Inn and ate at Mi Casita. Both were lovely.
Date: November 29th
Time Pedaling: 26 min.
Avg. Speed: 6.6 mph
Max Speed: 10.9 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,467.16
Weather: sunny, warm 77 degrees (Ft. Stockton, TX) to sunny, warm 77 degrees (Ft. Stockton, TX)
Time of Departure: 11:10
Arrival Time to Comfort Suites in Ft. Stockton, TX: 3:00
Repairs: Rob changed Gail’s rear tire, patched some inner tubes, and Dakota found the tiny wire in the trailer tire from two days ago.
Today was a much deserved rest day.
We hadn’t had one since Louisiana (the Burleigh home). After knocking out 60+ miles yesterday, it was definitely needed.
We basically traveled from the east side of Fort Stockton to the west side (hotel to hotel).
We did stop and take some pictures at the Visitors Center in town.
We then headed over to the Walmart for supplies. Once again Walmart did not have any 16″ tubes on the shelf for our trailers. This has been a common theme.
We should be fine to get to El Paso with the spares we have (or, at least Van Horn).
They had plenty of food and nice people. We talked to several folks including a couple from South Bend, Indiana who relocated to Fort Stockton.
We decided to spoil ourselves a little and are staying at the Comfort Suites in town that has an indoor pool and Jacuzzi.
Wonderful. A nice time of rest and catching up on the site.
We went to send a Happy Birthday out (for tomorrow) to a warm and wonderful person…my Mother-in-law. She uses words like, dear-heart and precious. She is a one-of-a-kind. Our love to you Dear-heart!
Date: November 30th
Time Pedaling: 2 hrs. 24 min.
Avg. Speed: 9.7 mph
Max Speed: 17.2 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,490.62
Weather: sunny, warm 82 degrees (Ft. Stockton, TX) to (Rest Area mile marker 233)
Time of Departure: 12:30
Arrival Time to Rest Area at mile marker 233 on I-10: 4:30
Repairs: 2 tires have slow leaks
We left our comfortable lodgings shortly after noon. We weren’t in a hurry because our goal was only to make it to the Rest Area near mile marker 233.
Our stay in Fort Stockton was enjoyable and restful. The comfort Suites indoor pool and hot tub worked wonders for our tired family. We played Marco Polo in the pool and then Bananagrams poolside.
We had many pleasant conversations with people from all walks of life.
Bryce Sage was one of them. He is encouraging and quite intelligent.
A member of the staff (sorry not sure of the name) had seen us on the road on Sunday. That must have been near Junction, seemingly a month ago.
Checking tires and fixing flats in the room offered little help for the flat trailer tube we had in front of the hotel. We are taking a beating in the way of flats right now. A serious beating. One of the trailer tires has 3 patches on it right now. One of Gail’s trailer tires has 4 goat-head thorns in it right now. We are not removing them until it flattens completely.
The good news is that we made it about 20 miles before my rear tire went flat. The culprit was a wire once again.
We may try a few different methods to combat the flat situation:
- Check the tires more often while pedaling (the strategy Gil uses).
- Possibly changing routes so that truck flats won’t impact us as much.
- Possibly getting rid of one trailer.
- Possibly moving to kevlar tires as we haven’t had a wire flat with the one kevlar we have.
Flats are a frustration. They are a part of the 80-90% mental struggle you face when riding your bike across the country. They build character not only in our family as a whole, but in me as well. Who can’t use more character?
Sidenote: We didn’t train the two weeks prior to beginning our journey. We didn’t pedal, at least. I did talk to my family about what I had read. I had read that this journey (or similar) would be 80-90% mental. Negotiating mentally with yourself is the key, one pedal stroke after another. Dakota and Gail have been giant killers in this regard. Through aching bodies, fatigue, heat, cold, the hill country, it has been one pedal stroke after another. I’ve said it before, I am proud of them.
A few miles later Dakota’s trailer tire had a flat. It is holding air so we are leaving it well enough alone. When we are able to get on the internet we will be ordering tubes sent to the El Paso Walmart.
We made it to the Rest Area well before dark even with changing 2 flats. The water is on so we are able to replenish our supplies. Our next stop for water may be about 80 miles (2 days out).
We are holding up here for the night.
We have a lot of pedaling in store for tomorrow.
Good night friends.
Date: December 1st
Time Pedaling: 2 hrs. 47 min.
Avg. Speed: 10.9 mph
Max Speed: 16.9 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,521.12
Weather: sunny, windy, warm 83 degrees (Rest Area mile marker 233) to (Toyahvale, TX)
Time of Departure: 10:30
Arrival Time to Balmorhea State Park: 2:00
Repairs: 2 tires have slow leaks, Dakota’s trailer tire was low and when inflated exploded. That leaves us with a blown-out inner tube for the trailer.
Our stay at the exit 233 rest area was comfortable. We filled our water bottles before heading out. We were anxious to get going as we were considering staying at the Balmorhea State Park for the night.
If you are in west Texas plan on the wind being a factor. It was. It has been for much of the riding we’ve done past Austin. The hills are also a constant factor.
We were only going to do 30 miles if we camped at the state park. So, we figured it wouldn’t be so bad. As it turned out, at least 10 miles or so were relatively flat! Awesomeness, plain and simple. We decided that we would pedal a short day (30 miles) and give the state park a try. It wasn’t too far out of the way, and enjoying new experiences (when we can) is definitely part of the experience. Just ask Luke about shooting that shotgun (wink wink).
We arrived at the state park in Toyahvale at about 2:00pm. We set up camp as quickly as possible and then headed for the artesian springs swimming pool. This little gem of a place just a couple of miles off of I-10 is a treasure. The water is 72-76 degrees year round. The pool is 1.75 acres and is used by scuba divers that travel from far and wide. Dakota and I didn’t allow the absence of scuba gear stop us from diving down to 18-20 feet. Admittedly, I could have used a tank or two.
The water is clear and you are able to see catfish along with pupfish searching for food. The pupfish nibble at whatever they can and were wearing a mole on my side out. I had to cover it with my arm to defend myself. My wife had a sore on her leg and they were nibbling on that. She wasn’t hip with that.
Luke accidentally went off the diving board. He was on the edge carefully building up the courage, when he lost his balance and in he came. He was actually encouraged by it, but not enough to do it on purpose.
It was getting chilly as the sun was setting so we got out and dried off. On the way back to our site, we noticed a group of people watching something. It was a bobcat that was next to a pond trying to catch an American Coot for dinner. We got to see it leap in the air as one flew up. No go, the bobcat hunched patiently awaiting its next opportunity.
During the night we could hear the coyotes howling. The stars were about as magnificent as they were when we stayed at Carol Montgomery’s. We ate an instant rice, ramen noodle, and dried soup combination. We ate it all. We drank some coffee. We read together as a family.
Date: December 2nd
Time Pedaling: 4 hrs. 40 min.
Avg. Speed: 8.7 mph
Max Speed: 19.5 mph
Trip Odometer: 1,562.00
Weather: sunny, windy, warm 82 degrees (Toyahvale, TX) to (Boracho Station at I-10 Exit 166)
Time of Departure: 12:05
Arrival Time to I-10 Exit 166: 6:30
Repairs: 2 tires have slow leaks.
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