Today, it was time to ride! I just didn’t expect it to be 90 degrees in this part of Big Bend National Park, out on the “Old Ore Road.” This is one of the least-traveled, most secluded, and most often hottest parts of this huge desert environment. In a new book, “Death in Big Bend,” several fatalities due to heat stroke are chronicled when unfortunate, and unprepared people, find themselves stranded on this 26-mile-long 4-wheel-drive dirt, rock and boulder-infested historic road. It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach 90+ degrees in January and February out here, but today was a departure from recent trends this winter. With that, I set out on a “shake-down” ride after a tune-up to my old Trek 7000 aluminum mountain bike, which included new shift-grips, new tubes and tires, and a new trip computer.
After about 4 miles of technical sand, rock, and rutted off-camber climbs and descents, I turned around and headed back to Jodie and the waiting Jeep. I had not figured in the 30-40 mph headwind that I would be fighting all the way back, and on a technical rock-infested climb, I stalled out. Usually not a problem, but I had not switched out my pedals to my mountain bike pedals, which I had cannibalized onto my recumbent last fall, so my shoes did not release from the clips and I planted myself and bike into a thorny mesquite tree, complete with a lechugilla cactus at its base. Nothing unusual out here, but it’s not only painful, but dangerous. Lucky this time, I came away with only a small loss of blood, and a larger hurt pride.
The trip home included a stop at the Stillwell Ranch, where I found that Jasamine, the girl I met on the bicycle two days ago riding from Florida to California, had stopped there for 2 days and had a great time. As the dust storm increased in direct proportion to the increasing speed of the wind, we rode the tailwind home, taking time to photograph a dust-filtered sunset over Santiago Peak. Another —— day in Paradise!
Out on my bike this morning for my daily ride, I came upon a girl just leaning her bicycle against a highway sign. Suspecting possible bike trouble, I stopped to offer help. She was talking on the phone…bluetooth earbuds. She politely signed off and greeted me. Her name…Jasamine. She informed me she was from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, cycling coast-to-coast from St. Augustine, Florida, to San Jose, California. She works for a bike shop in Minneapolis, and had pedaled about 1700 miles so far. Just had to spend a week in Austin to wait out the snow, and after two days in Marathon, was headed through Big Bend NP, then on to Terlingua, TX. I told her she should stop at Stillwell’s Ranch, RV Park, and General Store for the night and catch the free concert of cowboy music put on by the Whitfords in the Hallie Stillwell Hall of Fame Museum every night until March. She said she would head that way, and with that, she was off. What a great adventure.