Guadalupe Mountains Texas

West Texas: Mountains, Mesas & Miles – Part 3

July 2009

Part 3 of 4: Beware of the Dog

Friday, 29 February 2008, marked the end of seven days and 4,448 miles in the saddle for me. My trip began with my 31st Iron Butt Ride, a Bun Burner 1500 run from Miami Beach FL to Del Rio TX, covering a total of 1,568 miles in 34 hours 26 minutes. It ended with my 32nd Iron Butt Ride, a SaddleSore 2000 run from Carlsbad NM to Miami Beach FL, covering a total of 2,126 miles in 43 hours 51 minutes. Most of the remaining miles were spent riding through some of the most historically rich locations and incredibly scenic landscapes the Lone Star State has to offer.

Van Horn TexasFrom the northern terminus of Texas 118 in Kent TX, it was a short 36-mile hop down IH-10 west to Van Horn, where I stopped for an early lunch of green chicken enchiladas at the Sands Motel & Restaurant, which was made famous a couple of years ago by a Tommy Lee Jones film that accurately depicted the relationship between many Native Texans and their Mexican counterparts, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”. Then I gassed up in what author Larry McMurtry has called “…one of the grittiest towns on the whole length of the 10” and continued riding westward to Sierra Blanca–a town which Mr. McMurtry must surely have missed. There, I once again exited the safety of the interstate and headed north on Texas farm-to-market road FM-1111.

Near Dell City TXExcept for a couple of boundary jags, FM-1111 runs almost straight north from Sierra Blanca for 40-plus miles, where it then terminates as a “T” into US-62/180. And there is nothing–and I mean nothing–on that lonely stretch of road except roadrunners, jack rabbits (or were they jackalopes?) and scenery. At the “T”, though, civilization again manifested itself in the form of what looked like an old Route 66 pump-n-puke with a rusty trailer and scattered junkyard behind it. I didn’t need food or gas, which proved to be fortunate, because when I pulled in to check the place out, it was obvious it had been closed for some time. The “Open: Come On In!” sign was meaningless, so I assumed the “Beware of the Dog” sign was as well.


As a long distance rider, I have learned to never miss an opportunity to pump or piss. I saw no reason to make an exception here, so I walked around to the side of this abandoned oasis and commenced to drain my lizard. I was just about to shake the sprinkles when from behind I heard a sound like what a wolf might make if you tried to take his meat. So I turned around slowly–still holding my meat–and there not three feet away was a snarling black beast that looked to be half Rottweiler and half horse. I am six feet tall, but this devil dog’s snout was almost even with my chest! Scenes from “The Omen” came to mind… Fortunately though, my wits returned and I decided to speak calmly and gently as I would to any friendly mutt, and that did the trick. The Hound from Hell stopped growling, and soon his tongue was sticking out instead of his fangs. As I slowly looked away, he slowly walked away, eventually folding his lengthy legs and lying down in the shade about thirty feet behind my bike. Not knowing whether the roar of my drag pipes might re-awaken the demon in the dog, I quickly put my pecker back in my pants and my butt back in the saddle, and prayed the bike would start on the first try. It did. I hit first fast, popped the clutch, hauled ass and never looked back.

Dell City TexasShortly thereafter, I stopped for a brief meeting with a couple of turkeys in Dell City. And while there, I decided to make nearby Carlsbad NM my destination for the evening. Continuing my ride east on US-62/180, with the Guadalupe Mountains looming ever larger on the left, I soon came to the Texas Salt Flats, where the extensive gray-white surface salt deposits left by intermittent lakes offered a Kodak moment I might be able to pass off as Bonneville.

Guadalupe Mountains TexasFrom there, I followed the highway right to the base of Guadalupe Peak, whose 8,749-foot elevation is the highest point in Texas, then through a small set of twisties over the pass and on towards the Texas-New Mexico border. Forty miles more took me past the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, back down to the Chihuahuan Desert basin, and right into the friendly little Pecos River valley town of Carlsbad. There, the Ocotillo Inn offered spacious rooms with king-size beds at bargain rates, plus a bar and grill with stiff drinks and steak plates priced to fill your belly without blowing your budget.

I had all the makings for an unexpectedly great evening. But my 2,000-mile ride back home would start before sunrise the next day, so I was forced to call it an early night. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow … and that’s where we’ll pick up next month.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!