Day 51: May 12, 2007
San Antonio, Texas to Fredericksburg, Texas
Distance 55 miles in 4h 17m
Total Distance: 1,821 miles
Today's ride included Eric Santellana, US Marine Corps, and John Arnold, US Army. Both are amputees as a result of their service in Iraq, and they are both determined athletes. It was an honor and an inspiration to ride alongside them. We were joined by Mark Livesay, a '91 West Point grad, who lives and works in San Antonio. He told several of his co-workers about the ride and some of them pedaled all the way to Fredericksburg. Two of my West Point classmates, Tom Lavallee and Dana Munari, also biked with us. Both were fantastic athletes at school, and were members of the cycling team during for four years. Much of my time at the academy was spent rummaging through other people's care packages or trying to find places where I could nap without getting caught. Meanwhile, Tom and Dana were spending their afternoons cycling through the hills of the Hudson Valley.
Tom and his friend Renee drove all the way from Denver to San Antonio so they could cycle with me for a few days. Talk about a hardcore show of support!
It was a great day - even though I got a flat tire, the first one since Day 4.
Day 52: May 13, 2007
Fredericksburg, Texas to Vanderpool, Texas
Distance 74 miles in 5h 16m
Total Distance: 1,895 miles
Got to meet Allen Spousta and his wife Pat. Allen is a retired Navy officer who lives in Fredericksburg. And yes, we had kolaches for breakfast!
Today I discovered the meaning of Texas Hill Country. Lots of hills today, especially after Kerrville. No problem for Tom and Renee, since they ride bikes in Colorado. Being from Florida, I was definitely meeting my match on these hills as the day went on. The fact that we had been out the night before celebrating until 3am in one of Fredericksburg's bars didn't help either. Fortunately, my friend Jorge Sandoval, who I worked with in the Middle East, drove from Bay City, Texas, to spend some time with us. This made a huge difference since we were able to leave Tom and Renee's vehicle back in Fredericksburg and pick it up at the end of the day. Jorge also brought us supplies, kept us laughing, and most importantly, found us the last vacant log cabin in a picturesque resort area near the Sabinal River at Vanderpool. No TV, no cell phone coverage, but a place where I could have easily spent a few days relaxing.
And...I managed to get two more flats today, though it technically only counts as one because of a bad patch! Well, if nothing else, I am getting better at tire maintenance.
Day 53: May 14, 2007
Vanderpool, Texas to Camp Wood, Texas
Distance 40 miles in 3h 17m
Total Distance: 1,935 miles
Tom and Renee had to get back to Denver, and Jorge went home the night before, so I was by myself for the first time in several days. I walked around the log cabins and snapped a few photos. This is a really pretty area, and I'm glad Jorge found this cabin for us. As I pushed the bike out of the log cabin to start the day, my rear tire was - you guessed it - flat again! Okay, so now I'm getting a little paranoid about this whole tire thing, not to mention low on spare tubes. I pulled out my last spare, and inflated it as much as I could without breaking off the valve stem, a disaster I had managed to cause the day before. Didn't start the actual pedaling until 1pm. I knew there were big hills coming up, so maybe I was just trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible.
Definitely the toughest hills I have experienced on my trip. Probably the toughest I have ever cycled, except for some mountain-bike trips. Three hills which took me about 40 minutes to climb, struggling in my lowest gear at about 4-5 miles per hour. On one of the hills, I crossed from Bandera County into Real County. "Real"...as in: You Have to be a "Real" Idiot to Ride your Bike Over These Texas Hills - Bless Yer Heart.
I thought about Eric and John, the active-duty military servicemen who were injured in Iraq and had cycled with me on Saturday, and this helped to keep me motivated. I met several motorcycle riders along the way. They were quite friendly and told me that they had struggled to get their motor bikes over the hills, so that made me feel a little better.
I spent the night in my tent at a camp ground near the tiny town of Camp Wood, by the banks of the Nueces River. Before today, I hadn't done any camping on the trip. Luckily, I was able to stay in people's homes these past few weeks. But another reason for staying indoors is due to the unusually rainy season that this part of the US has been experiencing. The owner of the campground said they had received more rain in the past three weeks than they had in the preceding two years. Waking up in a tent in the middle of a thunderstorm is something I have done a few times in the past, and not something I'm eager to repeat.
Most of the campers had gone home at the end of the weekend, so I had the place pretty much to myself on this Monday night. There was even a hut with a TV, where I watched the Spurs basketball game (sorry San Antonio fans!)
It was a beautiful starry night, thankfully dry, and for a mere five bucks I slept like a poison-ivy covered Texas rock under the stars.
Day 54: May 15, 2007
Camp Wood, Texas to Brackettville, Texas
Distance 50.5 miles in 3h 34m
Total Distance: 1,985 miles
Woke up in my tent on the Rocky River Camp Ground feeling great. One of the first things I did this morning was to rip off the valve stem of my last good inner tube. This was not intentional. I just wanted to get the air pressure in my tires from 70 pounds per square inch up to the 90-95 range. I can definitely feel the difference when I am cycling with tires that are a little under-inflated, especially as I am trying to make it up these hills. Unfortunately, the small hand pump I am using requires a great deal of force to get that extra last bit of air into the tires, and by using too much force I destroyed yet another good inner tube.
So now I am down to my last two spare tubes, both with patches from earlier flats. I slapped the least-worst one of these onto my rear wheel, and pedaled through the pleasant town of Camp Wood. The town had a cheery feel to it - which was made a little cheerier with a burrito from Tony's Tacos. The library was open and I spent a few hours checking email, updating the journal, and researching lodging options for the upcoming days.
When a Texas map says "no services for 40 miles", this means no gas stations, no grocery stores, no restaurants...no nothing. At exactly 20 miles into this "40 miles of nothing" between Camp Wood and Brackettville, I got another flat! The glue holding the patch to the tube in my rear tire had worn through. I put another patch on the old one to see if that would help. Now I have patches on my patches. Not good. Meanwhile, there was no shade for me to stand under, and several uncatalogued species of Texas insects were busy chewing on my ankles. My new patch-on-patch technique also didn't work, so I ripped all the patches and glue off the tube, and started with a new patch. This worked okay for now but I didn't have too much confidence in my tubes or tires at this point. I decided to stop at a bike shop as soon as I made it to Del Rio.
A few miles after fixing the flat I noticed a police vehicle stopped by the side of the road. The Deputy Sheriff for Kinner County could see that I was having a rough day and he gave me a few cans of water, a can of fruit, and also a small donation. He told me how far I had to go to reach Brackettville (about 15 miles) and I was on my way. As I was pedaling, he and the Sheriff drove by me, and asked me if I would like a ride into town, or if I needed anything else. I told the Sheriff I was okay, and he said he would drive back to check up on me if I didn't make it into town before dark. Good people, I am getting used to encountering such helpful folks in Texas.
When I got to Brackettville, I discovered there was only one place to stay - the Fort Clark Motel - and it was full. As I was devouring some fajitas in the town's restaurant / gas station / convenience store, the Sheriff walked in and said I could spend the night on the couch at the police station if I had no other options. However, I pedaled over to the Fort Clark Motel - which was an old Army base that had been converted into a resort - and the manager had a spot for me in a small apartment which is usually rented out to families.
So, everything worked out okay but I almost spent a night in the Kinner County Jail. I was tempted to do so just to keep the story interesting!
Day 55: May 16, 2007
Brackettville, Texas to Del Rio, Texas
Distance 35.5 miles in 2h 29m
Total Distance: 2,021 miles
I knew I had a short trip to Del Rio today so I spent some time pedaling around Fort Clark this morning. The strategic location of this fort insured it played a significant role in Texas history. It protected the road from San Antonio to El Paso from the 1850s to the 1890s, and also helped to protect this part of Texas from Indian raids. Most cavalry units and many infantry units of the US Army were stationed here at one time or another, including the distinguished units of black cavalrymen known as "Buffalo Soldiers".
Lesser known were the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts, descendants of escaped slaves who settled among the Seminole Indians of Florida, and who later moved to Mexico to escape persecution. The US Army recruited many of these men for their superior scouting and tracking skills, and they served as an elite strike force to combat the Apache and Comanche warriors during the Indian Wars of the 1870s. Many of their descendants currently reside near Brackettville. Four of the scouts were awarded the Medal of Honor and their graves are specially marked in the Fort Clark cemetery.
Noteworthy officers who served at Fort Clark included General George Patton, who commanded the 5th Cavalry Regiment as a Colonel shortly before World War II; General Jonathan Wainwright, hero of Bataan and Corregidor; and General George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff throughout World War II. The Army's last horse-mounted unit, the 2nd Cavalry Division, was stationed at Fort Clark during World War II. Fort Clark was also home to a German Prisoner of War Camp. The fort was closed in 1946 and later developed into a private recreation and retirement community.
The ride to Del Rio was a short and easy one along the never-ending Highway 90. More rain was forecast for this week, and I am beginning to suspect that the hot Texas summers I heard about were just myths. Luckily, my father flew in from Florida this week to drive a support vehicle for the long stretch from Del RIo to El Paso, so this would be a good safeguard against the lousy weather which was expected. We linked up at Laughlin Air Force Base, right on the outskirts of Del Rio. I stopped at the base to ask their public affairs officer if he was interested in the cycling story, and he said he would be except for the fact that most of his office was deployed to Iraq. He gave me the names of some media people in Del Rio to contact.
Just as the first drops of a massive thunderstorm were starting to fall, we stopped for lunch at Julio's Corn Tortillas, a well-known Del Rio landmark. Dad and I just sat there, munching tortilla chips, and waiting for the rain to end. I guess the weather had decided my ending point for the day. If there has been a rainier month in recent Texas weather history than May 2007, I'd like to hear about it.
I was able to reach the Lakeside Sports Bike Shop before closing time and I related my flat-tire experiences to Jay, who recommended some sturdy new Armadillo-brand tires. They are heavier than the ones I've been using, but he insured me that flats would now be a thing of the past. That is exactly what I want to hear as I get ready for the 450 miles of cycling from Del Rio to El Paso - a stretch of real estate with only one bike shop along the way.
Day 56: May 17, 2007
Del Rio, Texas to Langtry, Texas
Distance 63 miles in 4h 36m
Total Distance: 2,084 miles
Today is my 41st birthday. I guess I can no longer tell people: "Just think of me as two 20-year-olds."
I thought that after pedaling 2000 miles on the bike I would finally start to feel like an actual cyclist. Some days I do and some days I don't. Facing the toughest stretch of the trip, with rain forecast every day for the next week, I am looking remorsefully at the pillow in my Del Rio hotel room, wondering if I should stick around here another day or so to see if the weather situation improves.
Joe Hyde, another Aggie (I keep running into these Aggies - they are everywhere!) interviewed my father and I this morning. He is a native of Katy, Texas, near Houston. I passed through his town with several other Aggies on my way out of Houston. Joe is also an Air Force veteran and was a B-52 pilot in the Gulf War. He now resides in Del Rio and is the publisher of Southwest Texas Live! Magazine (http://www.swtexaslive.com/). He gave me several back copies of the magazine and I learned a lot about the local history and events in this part of the state. This is a great resource for those seeking ideas about things to do and see in the area.
I asked Joe about the nearby military installation, Laughlin Air Force Base, and he talked about its role in World War Three, which very nearly started in 1962. In that year, U-2 spy planes from Laughlin flew over Cuba and identified missiles that the Soviets had placed there. This was probably the closest that the US and the USSR came to direct confrontation during the Cold War. Seems almost like ancient history.
Before leaving Del Rio, I also managed to get an interview with Rosa Delgado of the Del Rio News Herald.
On the ride from Del Rio to Comstock, I noticed there wasn't much in the way of facilities - or people! This is something I would have to get used to in the coming week. I rode over the Amistad Reservoir, a large body of water that feeds into the Rio Grande. It also serves as the border between the US and Mexico.
We stopped at the Comstock General Store, which is about the only thing to stop at in Comstock. The owner is a lady named Miss Holley. She and her husband moved her after retirement to open this store. She is well-travelled and has a very cheerful demeanor. Miss Holley and her husband lived all over Latin America in the 50s. She has many interesting stories about life in South America as an expat in those days. She and her family were in Cuba when Castro seized power in 1959. Not a story I expected to hear in Comstock!
Throughout much of the afternoon, the rain was steady but thankfully light. It wasn't a bad ride. Shortly before reaching Langtry, we passed over the dramatic canyons of the Pecos River. The first bridge to pass over here was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1890s, and was an engineering marvel when it was constructed. The new bridge stretches 273 feet above the river, and is the highest highway bridge in Texas.
I spent my 41st birthday cycling through some of the most remote and desolate landscapes I have ever seen in the USA. Sparsely populated, that's for sure, but the scenery was quite stunning.
The ride from San Antonio to Fredericksburg.
Photos courtesy of Renee Hausman.
Me and Tom Lavallee and take a break with Eric Santellana, US Marine Corps. Despite losing a leg in Iraq, Eric is a competitive athlete and cyclist. He rode 55 miles with us from San Antonio to Fredericksburg. Semper Fi, Eric!
Tom Lavallee, Dana Munari, and I went to school together. They both spent four years on the West Point cycling team.
Fixing a flat tire on the road to Fredericksburg. My first of many flats for this week!
The old-fashioned general store and gas station in Waring. They even had Dr. Pepper made with the original formula!
Ed Acevedo is joined by his father, Frank, who will drive behind him in the support vehicle during Ed's stretch through the Transpecos and West Texas.
(LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
My log cabin in Vanderpool, Texas.
No TV, phone, or internet. Just mandatory relaxation.
Sabinal River, near Vanderpool.
The bike takes a break at a picnic area on the road to Leakey.
Real County...I had a Real slow day trying to cycle over these hills.
On the road to Leakey, Texas.
A couple of hills help to make sure I don't get bored.
Main Street - Camp Wood, Texas.
My $5 bed and breakfast near Camp Wood.
I had the whole Rocky River camp ground to myself!
The rules are simple at Tony's Tacos in Camp Wood. Follow them and nobody will get hurt.
I used the library computer to check email and update the journal. I also ate a Power Bar when the librarian wasn't looking.
Getting ready to depart Camp Wood, population 850.
The "40 miles of nothing" between Camp Wood and Brackettville. I got another flat tire right about the midpoint.
Flash floods are common on some of these low-lying roads. Bring extra socks.
Fort Clark, near Brackettville, was once a major US Army installation and home to many cavalry units. It is now a retirement and recreation community.
After pedaling exactly 2004 miles, I crossed into Val Verde County, Texas.
Border Patrol checkpoint near Del Rio.
My father and Miss Holley, the owner of the general store in Comstock.
Seminole Canyon, near Comstock, Texas.
One of the protein-rich centipedes of Seminole Canyon tries to escape from my grasp.
Your Pecos River history lesson for the day.
Pecos River Bridge - the highest highway bridge in Texas.
Here's the sign...
...and here's the view.
Goats heading down to the river.
7pm goat meeting.