Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Van Horn, TX to Fort Hancock, TX
67 miles (2768 total miles)

Today was an easy day. We started out, after breakfast at a nearby truck stop, at 7:40 and stayed on I-10 all day. We arrived at Fort Hancock at 3 pm, which was actually 2 pm since the time changed soon after we started out. We went 67 miles in 5 hours and 40 minutes of bike time, a nice 12 mph average. It was, of course, mostly downhill or level and I-10 had a nice shoulder surface all the way. We had a calm wind in the morning and our usual head wind after noon, often very gusty, but overall, it was very manageable.

Not many highlights today - one of the drawbacks of being on a highway, I guess. We had to dodge some road work signs and cones, but not much actual work was being done on the road and the 2 workers we saw were not put out by our being in their work area. We stopped at a 'scenic overlook' but found out you had to climb a mountain to get the overlook, which we didn't feel like doing. But we did climb up as far as they had steps and got a shot of the mountains across the highway. We saw a phenomenal flowering bush there as well and got some pictures of that. Later in the day, we passed a picnic area that had little tipi-style covers over the picnic tables - it looked very nice. We are close to the Mexican border again (it was further south the last few days), and we saw another immigration checkpoint on the east-bound side of the highway. The traffic was shunted onto the frontage road on that side and went through one by one; it was quite backed up. The traffic wasn't bad today, but we could tell it was getting heavier as we get closer to El Paso. We're only about 60 miles from it now and will get there tomorrow.

We saw 2 more rabbits today and saw 2 animals that looked like pronghorn deer to me. They were right by the side of the road but ran off when they saw us approach. I got a pretty good shot of them as they got up to the railroad tracks. Yes, we're next to a railroad track again today and saw a number of freight trains go by. Other than that, we mostly saw mountains, lots of mountains, close up and far away. We had a stopover town, Sierra Blanca, at about midpoint today, where we had a very nice lunch. Near the town is the mountain called Sierra Blanca, which is whitish-looking from some angles, darker from others. It's almost 6,900 feet high. We started today at about 4,600 feet in Van Horn and dropped very gradually to about 3,600. A little past Sierra Blanca on the south side of I-10 was an impressive range called the Quitman Mountains. After that, we had a nice descent to a flatter plain with mountains around the edges. It had several arroyos, which I think is Spanish for 'mostly dry river that fills up very, very fast when it rains'. Or something like that. The soil seemed to be a sandy/rocky mix, but it was astonishing how many bushes and flowers grew in it.

We're still trying to decide whether to make another easy day of it tomorrow and stay on I-10 or try the more 'scenic' (you know what that means by now) Hwy. 20. A nice gentleman we were talking with this morning at breakfast, whose name we stupidly forgot to ask (if you're reading this, Mr. Tru-Value, please email us your name), didn't seem to think 20 was a great idea, but I-10 will be awfully busy in El Paso. Maybe at dinner we'll ask around some more. Or we'll just try 20 and pop back over to I-10 if it's too awful. It does run along the Rio Grande, which I think would be interesting to see some more.

The view from the scenic overlook (part-way up)

Another view from lower down

Looks like we could have camped here if we didn't stay too long

The fabulous flowering bush at the scenic overlook

A close-up of its flower

We're in a new time zone - 2 hours behind Eastern now

Those Texans sure know how to travel

Some of the mountains we passed by

An interesting plant we've seen before, once with a big yellow flower

Some great yucca plants by the tracks

Sierra Blanca, still far away

A train passes by

Our 2 Pronghorn (?) clamber up to the tracks

A church in the town of Sierra Blanca

A car parked next to an antique store - don't know if it's for sale

A view of the town as we were leaving it

The Sierra Blanca at the closest point that we got to it

The Quitman Mountains, possibly

May be part of the Quitmans, but impressive in either case

We saw several patches of flowers by the road

The Immigration Checkpoint

Some Border Patrol cars at the checkpoint

Cars backed up waiting to go through

More gorgeous mountains

One of the tipi structures at the picnic rest area

Views of the flat area we were in at the end of the day