Thursday, February 25, 2010

Departing Marathon, I head east. Next stop is the Alamo, but forward progress is tough due to a rare southwest Texas blizzard.

From Texas

My new friends on their touring bicycles remind me of my friend Arden who rode his touring bike across North Dakota with studded tires. Makes me feel like a wimp in my big comfy van.
From Texas

Bike touring gets you access to the best campsites, like the home team dugout at the local baseball field.
From Texas

Boz, are you cold or just auditioning for the Blue Man Group?
From Texas

Ice on the van.
From Texas

Today I'm in San Antonio and the weather has improved a lot. Temps this week are supposed to be back in the 60s.  More later.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm in Marathon, Texas, this morning. I spent the last couple days in Big Bend Nat'l Park. Great place, I wish I could have spent more time there but I always seem to show up at the extreamly rare times when the place is crowded. This time it was spring break.


I still managed to camp a couple nights and a go for a nice hike. Two guys on bicycles joined me at my campsite the second night and it was a nice change to have some company. They are riding to Austin after getting dropped off in Big Bend and making me wish I was on a bicycle trip too, but my turn will come soon enough.

Hanging out with the neighbors...
From Texas


At 7825 feet, Emory Peak is the highest point in the Chisos Mountains.  It's a 9 mile round trip from the visitor's center with 1000 feet of climbing in the last mile of trail. 
The hike to Emory Peak. This was the easy part.
From Texas


From Texas


This deer walked out of the woods along the trail and then led me up the hill for 50 yards or so.
From Texas


Nice cut-iron sign.
From Texas


From Texas


The trail to the top got tougher as I got closer to the peak.
From Texas


At this point, there is no trail but you simply find your own way up.
From Texas


The view from the summit.
From Texas


From Texas


From here I'll be continuing east.  I'm thinking about visiting the Alamo before making my way to Louisiana.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Photo I took last night of the Marfa lights.  Four second exposure, camera on a tripod. 
From Drop Box
Link: Marfa lights.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where does the time go?  Has it really been nine days since the last update?  I guess it has.  I left the van in Van Horn, Texas, and headed to Mesa, Arizona, on the KTM.  While there I did not ride a bicycle or hike with a backpack at all.  It can happen.

So now I'm finally heading south to Big Bend.  Pictures to follow in a week or so.  Meanwhile, here's a couple pictures  from the past week.

I saw several of these along New Mexico highway 9.  Maybe the Border Patrol has slow times?
From New Mexico, February 2010


From New Mexico, February 2010

The road goes on forever and the party never ends. (Robert Earl Keen) 
From New Mexico, February 2010


From New Mexico, February 2010


If you look at the Verizon commercials: I'm heading where they have no coverage.  Be back soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just a quick update, I spent some more time in the Guadalupe Mountains National Forest. While there I hiked to the top of the highest peak in Texas. No Everest, but it is 8717 feet above sea level. The directory said it was "strenuous" and I lugged my 35 lb backpack up with me, training for an up-coming hike.


I thought I might catch a couple Hobits on this trail! (Lord of the Rings reference)
From Southern States

Set up tri-pod, run down the hill, turn and walk... Click!
From Southern States

Views from the top of the hill.
From Southern States

From Southern States

From Southern States

From Southern States

Lunch on top of the mountain.
From Southern States

These chunky little birds where eager for crumbs. It's a Rufous-side Towhee, in case you where wondering.
 
From Southern States

Monday night I slept in my tent instead of the Autohome, due to the buffeting of high winds that seemed common at the park. I was able to put the tent in a more sheltered location. That night the temperature dropped and fog rolled in, when I woke up it was 25 degrees and everything had a layer of ice.
From Southern States

That's no way to treat a cactus!
From Southern States

For now, back on the road.
From Southern States

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Texas!

I visited the VA hospital in El Paso to address my blood pressure.  And at the end of the visit, the doctor said not to worry about it so much.  It's not that high. Turns out that worrying about something can cause your BP to increase and I have been worrying (ironically) about my high BP.  So no more checking it 2-3 times per week.  I will continue to do the other things I mentioned in a previous post.

Meanwhile, in El Paso I stayed at the Fort Bliss RV park.  "No," they assured me, "we don't allow tent camping."  But I was fine.  Score one for the Autohome.  Bolt your tent to the roof of your van and now it's an RV.  It was a funny sight, my van parked amongst the giant RVs, mobile mansions, cruising castles, portable palaces....  I wanted to take a picture but the 70% chance of rain turned into a 100% chance I'd get soaked if I took a picture.

From El Paso I headed east, stopping at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Here, I once again qualified as a tent and camped in a nice spot.  Snow that afternoon turned to rain by morning.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get in and out of the Autohome when it's raining without letting a lot of rain in.  

One picture: while heating water for dinner, I took a quick shot.  Dinner was great, sitting in the door to the van with snow piling up.
From Southern States


Hollow Mountain
The next morning I headed over to Carlsbad Caverns.  I had been there once before but didn't have the time to spare to see the cavern.  Have you been?  It is a destination worth seeing.  You can take an elevator to the "Big Room" or walk from the surface.  Either way, you end up 750 below.  Why do they call it the Big Room?  It's 8.2 acres of open space, over 350,000 square feet.  375 feet from the lowest point to the highest point, in just one room.  It is huge and well worth the $6 admission.  Best deal the Park Service offers, I think.  I actually went back the next day to take an extra tour.  There I learned a lot about the cave's history.  Including how two rangers volunteered to be inside the cave while Project Gnome detonated a 3.2 kiloton nuclear bomb  1200 feet below the surface, and just 30 miles from the caverns.  Reportedly, they noticed nothing.
From Southern States

From Southern States

From Southern States

From Southern States

 This picture taken looking straight up at the stalactites.
From Southern States

From Southern States

This picture taken on a hike in the nearby  Guadalupe Mountains

From Southern States

I headed south, thinking I was going to Big Bend Nat'l Park, but I stopped in Van Horn, Texas, one of my favorite west Texas towns.  There really isn't much here and I picked a cheap hotel from the surprising number of options, based on proximity to one of the surprisingly few restaurants.  I thought it was one I'd stayed at before, confirmed by the lady checking me in who thought she recognized me.  I had stayed here before, on my way home from Christmas in Mesa, 2003.  Guess I made an impression.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Truth or Consequences, NM

Oh, if only they would let me choose, truth, or consequences. I've been here a week and have had a great time, relaxing, meeting new friends, finding ways to be useful. But at some point, I managed to loose the license plate from the Ducati. Truth is, I probably didn't tighten the bolts enough. (The bike was too far back in the van and the plate was rubbing on the door so I'd taken if off before I got here.) The consequence will be determined, I need to contact the state of Washington and find out how I can get a new plate.

Another truth: despite eating right, sleeping enough, relaxing most of the time, exercising a lot, meditation, herbal supplements, wishing on stars, etc., my blood pressure is higher than it's ever been. Scary high. So getting seen by the VA hospital in El Paso is a priority.

I'm hitting the road on Tuesday, heading south. I hope these pictures can hold you over till the next time.

Sitting around a fire is a practical way to spend time in New Mexico.
From Southern States

From Southern States

How to make sitting around a fire better: poke it with a stick!
From Southern States

The town of Hatch, NM, Chile capital of the state.  There were at least three stores displaying this many chiles.
From Southern States