Day 18: El Paso, Texas to Sierra Blanca, Texas

We got a nice welcome to Texas in the form of a huge tailwind on Monday, which had Tony going 22 mph at times. I was a mile or two behind at all times, taking in some of the least inhabited country in Texas (after we left El Paso and its traffic behind) . We put in a lot of mileage on farm roads, and passed by a lot of places that Texas has seemed to forget since the interstate came through, with windowless old buildings with signs that say things like “Gas is going up, Save 4 cents.”

And we got held up a few times because Tony got four flat tires. One thing we are learning is that the Continental Contact Reflex tires donated by our sponsor Salvagetti are awesome and could carry you over miles of roads made of nothing but sharp glass and thorns. Those tires are on my bike. The tires that Tony has had on his bike have not fared so well.

At one point, Tony got a flat, replaced the tube with a tube we had patched in the hotel the night before, and we discovered that the Slime patches we had bought at a Wal-Mart (to conserve our supply of real patches) were not working. He removed the tire and the tube. I dug out one of our two remaining tubes with no patches and gave it to him. He got the tire off, I said here, I’ll fix it. We assumed the tube was leaking because the patches didn’t hold (only partially true).

I put the brand-new tube in and after pumping it up, we discovered that air was coming out of somewhere, fast. We removed the tire and the tube. We found a small thorn buried in the tire, just barely poking out of the inside of the tire. Tony found the leak, I patched the tube.

Tony put the patched tube in and pumped it up, only to find it was leaking again. We removed the tire and the tube, and found another thorn, even smaller and more invisible than the first. We patched the tube again and replaced it. It held for the rest of the day, but that was about an hour of our otherwise great day.

During one of the stops for a flat, we did get to chat with a border patrol agent who had done a cross-country ride, from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, a few years ago with a youth group. Our border patrol folks in the U.S. are either really friendly, or instructed to chat with everyone they see near the border, because we have gotten to talk to a lot of them. Good folks, all, so far.

We did one 1,000-foot climb and merged onto I-10, and had to stop at a border patrol checkpoint. We were the only people on bikes. There was one lane to exit the border patrol checkpoint and merge back on to the interstate, and some jerkass trucker decided he couldn’t wait 8 seconds for us to get out of his way and squeezed by us at about 35 mph. The good thing is we finished one-third of the entire route yesterday, and in 1,033 miles, that’s about the worst thing someone in a vehicle has done. A big thanks to the automobile drivers of southern California, Arizona and New Mexico for not hitting us with your cars!

We ended the day in Sierra Blanca, Texas, a small town just off the interstate with one hotel, two restaurants and almost no Verizon coverage. And everyone kept warning us about the snow that was coming that night.

We got passed by a tractor today, a first on the trip. Let me tell you, a guy on a fully-loaded touring bike is actually a bit of a challenge for a tractor to pass on the highway, especially when we have a tailwind. This guy must have been going 18, maybe 19 mph.

There was so little traffic on Highway 20 that I was actually going to ride next to this guy and chat with him, but when I pulled up next to him, he was having a pretty good conversation with himself, so I just kept riding.

I mean, so little traffic that I was taking self-portraits of myself while pedaling at 18 mph.

We are seeing this way too much. New tires for Tony when we get to Alpine, Texas!

A lot of people don't know that this saying originally was, and still is, a slogan to discourage littering.

Waiting in line at the border patrol checkpoint.

This is the place you come to spray paint your girlfriend's name if you live in El Paso.


3 responses to “Day 18: El Paso, Texas to Sierra Blanca, Texas

  1. I’m Joe E.’s cousin- do you need a place to stay in Houston? We are SW of the city….

  2. I love your interaction, or lack thereof, with that guy. 🙂 Thanks so much for the camera info!

  3. Cafe pic rocked. Maybe Salvagetti can send some tires for Tony’s bike to one of your next stops.

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