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2005 - El Paso TX to San Antonio TX - 600 mi / 975 km

This photo-post with commentary captures thoughts and stories during my solo ride across the south-western part of the great state of Texas:

- map below shows route in red, bottom blue part shows general change in elevation. Map was done "pre-Earth Google"

Day One - El Paso to Van Horn: 136mi / 228km

Today's trip is in two parts, one part cycling and one part hitch-hike to the next bike-friendly secondary road.

I'm off the plane and change into my cycling clothes at the airport - when I get to baggage claim my bike box is already there

It takes me twenty minutes to: re-attach handle bars, front brake, front wheel, bike seat - strap on my front bag between the handle bars (filled with tire parts, tools, high energy bars, cameras) - strap my back case onto the rear wheel rack (clothes and diary) along with my bike lock. That's it for luggage.

MILE 10 - Looking back to El Paso - El Paso is a border town, with lots of wide, wide roads with big turning radii for semis (tractor trailers).  The trip out of town is uneventful, and soon I am out on secondary HWY 20 with cotton fields and pecan groves as my scenery:

MILE 10 - Looking Southwest to Mexico - to my right and to the south-west, a mountain range of Mexico and (unseen but in front of it) the Rio Grande .  The highway I'm on is the closest paved route along the Mexican border for most of the trip.  Lots of border patrols watching out for "wetbacks" (the local name for illegal Mexican immigrants who swim across the Rio Grande for a better life in the U.S.):

MILES 10 through 60 - The Future - I'm cycling along Hwy 20 from airport 65mi/105km to junction with interstate I-10. Yes, get used to this kind of photo: long straight highways with lots of sky:

Along the way to the intersection with I-10 I pass through Fabens (pop 1200) with the Wildcats high school football team with a stadium that seats 8000 (no typo) - Every Friday night home game, the stadium is sold out.

I also have the experience of outpacing some mean-looking farm dogs whose farm gate was left open. Ahh, the positive aspects of adrenalin......

Once I reach I-10, I thumb a lift 71mi/114km to Van Horn. Reasons for hitching a ride:

  • because of late start to cycling (I landed early afternoon) I would be pedalling close to five hours in darkness
  • There were no secondary roads parallel to I-10 (and I-10 is limited access interstate highway).

Travis, from Tucson AZ, on his way to help his brothers and sisters who got washed out by Hurricane Rita, is nice enough to get me to Van Horn by nightfall - he has portable generators in his pickup

MILE 130 - VAN HORN - This is downtown Van Horn, looking like the highway with a mix of operating motels and service stations, plus a number of deserted and gutted buildings.  The town's population doubles every night due to people stopping in Van Horn for the night prior to driving on:

john madden, Van Horn Celebrity

Van Horn Celebrity

Major Van Horn Tourist Destination
Chuey's Mexican Restaurant 

John Madden (a rather large and portly ex-professional football coach, sports analyst and video game promoter) once stopped at this restaurant and mentioned the restaurant in both his weekly sport column and on Monday Night Football. 


For its part, Chuey's Restaurant:

  • Added a neon sign outside "recommended by John Madden"
  • Re-printed the menu to reflect Madden's favorite dish (chicken-based)
  • Used the entire back of the menu to describe the momentous occasion with JM in great detail
  • Installed a shrine inside the restaurant with pictures of Madden and the restaurant owners in front of a greyhound bus (John doesn't fly, but has a tour bus that takes him from game to game).
  • Festooned the entire dining room with all things football (framed jerseys, local football trophies, team logos etc etc)

I end my day by crashing at the local Best Western, which seems to specialize in noisy air conditioners for all its rooms.

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