Day 57 - Observatory to Van Horn
The ride off the top of the Davis Mountains and the McDonald observatory was fast, and winding. Wicked downhill made breaking necessary to keep my speed under 35 mph, a speed that is about the max for a fulluy loaded BOB trailer. The sweeping turns and straight downhill plunged me down 8 miles in record time, with only brief, and often painful uphill sections to battle.
As I exited the mountains and came out onto the plains I had sweeping views of the distance, a far cry from yesterday's near zero visibility from the snow storms. As I took a break on a little turnout I saw the welcome sign of another biker working his way up a hill, magically appearing from below. He was shortly followed by his girlfriend and we spent a few moments chatting and comparing notes. They were on their way up to the Observatory and I am sure they received the same wonderful hospitality from Dave and Debbie that I did.
Speaking of Dave and Debbie, these folks are what makes this trip and Warmshowers such a great experience. They put me up in their house for two days, fed me and took me on tours of the surrounding area. On top of that, since they are at a strategic spot on the Southern tier route, they have amazing stories of peddlers that have made their way up the mountain only to find a warm and comfortable place to stay. Thanks guys, I really appreciated your hospitality.
Shortly after getting back on the road, and about 2 miles from getting on I10, I ran into another group of cyclists. This group was made up of a father and his two sons, with mom 'sagging' the trip for them. I would guess the boys were in their early teens and all I could think of was what a wonderful experience for this family and for those boys. To peddle 3300 miles across the country with your dad is really something special. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them and can only hope that my efforts to convince my kids to come out and join me on one of the legs of my trip will be met with success.
Much is made of this stretch of road because Kent is really not much of a stop, with pretty disgusting camping conditions behind the old Mercantile, which is now closed. I was on a mission to blow by Kent, so I only stopped for a bit of rest and a snack and then it was on to the interstate. Here you need to go about 19 miles on I10 before you can get off and ride on a frontage road. Personally, I found the interstate a joy to ride on. The shoulder is quite large with a big rumble strip separating you from traffic, but more importantly, it is smooth asphalt. Wow, what a joy to ride on something so smooth, you really feel like your speed increases by a couple of mph. I made great time and the views of the plains and the distant mountains are pretty spectacular.
The biggest issue with this stretch is camping, so I opted to wait for the frontage road and camp a few miles outside of Van Horn. I found a bit of dirt road and clear sand along the barbed wire fence and after 65 miles plopped myself down in the dirt and just chilled until dark. As the sun set over the mountains, the sky lit up in brilliant reds, oranges and blues and made for a really sweet little place to watch the transition from day to night. I really do love that time right after the sun goes down and its counterpart, right before it comes up. There is just something really very peaceful about that time of day and it is so conducive to sitting, meditating and reflecting on your day and how good life is out on the trail.