US-90 West Texas

West Texas: Mountains, Mesas & Miles – Part 4

August 2009

Part 4 of 4: Coming Back from Carlsbad

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.

As is often the case on a “ride day”, I woke up long before my alarm was set to go off on the morning of Wednesday, 27 February 2008. The coffee maker in my spacious yet inexpensive room at the Ocotillo Inn of Carlsbad NM was well stocked with tasty Colombian java, and I managed to take in the entire caffeine cache before packing up, firing up, and heading out into the clear but icy cold pre-dawn darkness. Moments later, I pulled an ATM slip at the South Y Shell to mark the start of my long ride home at 6:07am MT.

Van Horn TexasHeading southwest on US62/180, it was a short ride to the New Mexico-Texas border, and the sun was in my mirrors by the time I began the climb up and over the pass through the Guadalupe Mountains near Guadalupe Peak. The sunshine radiated welcome warmth, but not enough to ward off the painful chill that was working its way through my gloves and into my fingers. Soon, though, I made the turn south on Texas 54 and had a barren but awesomely beautiful Chihuahuan Desert landscape to help me keep my mind off the cold for the 55 remaining miles to Van Horn. There, I made a return visit to the semi-famous Sands Motel & Restaurant, where I took time to thaw out and enjoy a hearty West Texican huevos rancheros breakfast.

Davis Mountains TXWarmed up inside and out, I gassed up and headed southeast on US-90. And for the next hundred miles or so–through Valentine, Marfa, across the desert basin and on into the Davis Mountains–the radio in my mind was alternating Marty Robbins cowboy ballads with Nelson Riddle’s instrumental theme for Route 66. I had to turn the music down, though, when I crested the peak of a winding foothills twisty going a bit too fast, and caught the attention of a Texas State Trooper coming the other way. I watched his gray and black cruiser spin around in my mirrors, and knew that a blue-light invitation for a roadside chat was imminent. Fortunately, however, the trooper and I were able to reach a “Good Ol’ Boy understanding,” so no citation was issued.

Big Bend National ParkA few miles more brought me to Alpine, the seat of Sul Ross State University, and the commercial “Hub of the Big Bend.” There I turned right on Texas 118 and looped south to Terlingua … through the Big Bend National Park, … then back north on US-385 … once again enjoying the magnificently immense and seemingly timeless panorama of towering mountains, rocky buttes, majestic mesas and painted desert floors described earlier in this series.

Sanderson TexasIn Marathon, I turned east on US-90 and emptied my reserve making it through the cactus-covered canyons to Sanderson. A hundred miles later I skirted Judge Roy Bean’s Langtry … crossed the Pecos River … then the ink-blue waters of the Amistad Reservoir … and finally left the setting of “No Country for Old Men” behind me as I rode on through Del Rio, out of West Texas, and into the South Texas Brush Country.

Night had fallen by the time I reconnected with IH-10 in San Antonio … and with it fell the temperature. So when I stopped to gas up in Seguin, I bundled up as well, adding my glove liners and a couple of extra pullovers under my jacket. That kept me (barely) warm enough to endure the remaining 246 miles to my evening’s destination in Beaumont, where I checked into the Best Western Jefferson Inn at 12:27am CT.

Perhaps a bit fatigued from fighting the freezing cold the night before, and knowing I would set no records with this ride anyway, I took my time getting up and going Thursday morning. After an enjoyable breakfast conversation with two retired Canadian gentlemen touring the continent on their Ultra Glides, I finally headed east on IH-10 at 8:38am CT. From that point on, it was a long cold ride to Jacksonville, where sometime after 10:00pm ET I turned south on IH-95 and headed for home. I pulled an ATM slip at the SoBe Wachovia marking the end of my third SaddleSore 2000–and seven good days in the saddle–at 3:58am ET.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!