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Day Three - Alpine to Del Rio: 203mi / 325km

DAY THREE ORIGINAL PLAN - ALPINE to SANDERSON - Distance 80mi/130km - Gradual downhill overall

and DAY FOUR ORIGINAL PLAN - SANDERSON to DEL RIO - Distance 123mi/200km - continued gradual decrease in elevation:

I decide that if I make Sanderson by lunch time that I would take a shot at going all the way to Del Rio and risk an hour of darkness at the end of the day. That would make it a 200+mi / 300+ km day, a new personal record (previous one-day record - 120 miles during my Tuscon AZ-El Paso TX trip a couple of years back)

MILE 0 - Leaving Alpine at Day Break

MILE 5 - Morning Mist

MILE 10 - Floating Mountain - mountaintop shrouded in fog.

MILE 20 - Looking Back...... - mid-morning progress, having passed through Marathon (Gateway to Big Bend National Park to the south)

and looking ahead........ next stop Sanderson.

But First.... A ride through 30 miles of Sanderson Canyon:

This is pretty exhilarating - I am zipping along for long long stretches at 20+mph / 30+ klicks - tailwind and downhill - pedalling is effortless. Scenary is pretty cool, too - eroded bluffs, sunshine, fluffy clouds....

Oh boy! A curve in the road!

Getting Closer... Ten miles to water and "The Cactus Capital of Texas".

MILE 80 - Sanderson - I make good time getting here - covered 80 miles in under five hours. I'm a bit behind schedule but decide to push ahead to Del Rio:

I'm about to head into probably the longest unserviced stretch of highway in Texas. I am already travelling pretty light, but I throw out three T-shirts (one of them my favorite) and a couple of pairs of socks to make room for more water in my rear carrying case.

I'm amazed at my fluids consumption so far during the trip - I've been averaging a pint of gatorade every ten miles (or about a liter every 20km) and yet there is no need to pee - everything I drink goes right through my muscles and evaporates into the air.

I leave Sanderson having consumed a gallon of water in one ten-minute session, plus I have all my water bottles topped up along with a water bladder - I reckon I would have just enough to get to Del Rio.

Mile 90 - onwards to Dryden

MILE 100 - Downtown Dryden - no life here, just broken and boarded up buildings with an old worn sign swaying in the afternoon breeze:

MILE 110 (I think) ANOTHER CURVE IN THE ROAD! Too much excitement



This kind of thing has happened to me before - I'm rolling along, feeling pretty self satisfied and !!BANG!!-phttphttphttphtt - not just a flat tube, but a blown outer tire as well.

Well, thanks to the innovative uses of Kevlar (bullet-proof jackets and the like) I have not one, but TWO folded up tires and FOUR inner tubes packed along with all that water I'm rapidly consuming.

I'm up and running (pedalling) in short order but now I'm further behind in my quest to reach the Amistead Reservoir and, beyond that, Del Rio by nightfall.

60-SOMETHING MILES FROM DEL RIO - You can't see it (use your imagination) but there is a flashing microwave tower next to a body of blue in the highlighted box - I can see where I'll end up - the Amistead Reservoir:

MILE 150 - Mini Grand Canyon - carved into the flat landscape - and the sun is beginning its rapid descent into evening:

AND WITHIN A HALF_HOUR: a beautiful sunset

FOLLOWED BY: the last light of the day

AND THIS PICTURE pretty much sums up the last five hours of today's trip:

I write pages in my journal about this end-of-day experience following the white line on the side of the highway - the main elements:

  • The night is alive with the sound of insects and animals that I spook (many sounds of living things crashing through bushes trying to get away from a one-light cyclops)
  • The sky is white with stars, formed of constellations I don't recognize
  • I have no sense of time and no sense of where I am relative to my goal
  • I have no sense of how fast I'm going, or whether there might be flat tire-inducing things like metal and glass - anything that is dark or shiny, I steer around.
  • Going up and down hills is sensed purely by the stress in my legs.
  • There are a number of times the line became a pure white smooth ribbon that I followed like a satin thread, the visible asphalt blurring into a grey circle against solid black as I sail down hills in darkness.
  • There would be the occasional break in the white line because of some country road that I couldn't see and I would swerve all over the place until the line re-appeared.

Every once in a while I would be blinded by oncoming semis who would flip their hi-beams on to see what kind of fool would be out on a bike on a desert highway in the dead of night.

Clouds gather and cover the moon - They thicken behind me and started spiking with lighting, these great flashes of light that light up the clouds here and there, the cloud mass like some restless creature with raw energy coursing though it. No rain though, and I am grateful for that.

Around midnight I'm at the Amistead Reservoir, a dammed part of the Rio Grande that has 67,000 acres of water and 540 miles of U.S. shoreline and fishing as a primary tourist attraction. I pedal across the bridge, the water turned silver by moonlight.

I make it into Del Rio at 1:30 am - I started the day at 7:30 am in Alpine and have been on the road for 18 hours - My butt hurts.

The bar at the Ramada Inn is still open and it's 15 minutes to closing. I leave my bike in the hotel lobby, plop myself down in my tired and sweaty splendour in a chair and order a Bud Lite. I'm not a big american beer fan, but this Bud is easily the best-tasting beer I've had in my entire life.

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