Even someone blessed with the gift of gab, can find it hard to fill in an interesting blog post this deep into West Texas. So, today, for the first time, we’ll do a “twofer”.
A surprise and hidden “gem” at the Davis Mountain State Park wasn’t discovered until we had awakened the morning after the Star Party. Part of the attraction of this fairly small campground is the construction of two bird watching “blinds” that allow the bird watchers to view the bird feeding areas without the birds being aware of their presence. Was Cathy excited? Oh Hell YEAH! And the excitement only intensified when she scored at least two, and maybe three more species for her “life list”! Add to that, the chance meeting with a very nice native Texan fellow bird aficionado to discuss birdy things, and the day is already a Hit. I had to remind her several times that the purpose of the trip was a Bike Ride, but the departure time from the park was substantially later than planned. Always important for me to remember the “Prime Directive: Happy Wife; Happy Life”.
We had one other stop to make at the Fort Davis Historical Preserve to complete our interest and education portfolio of this part of Texas. From an historical perspective, the general route of our bike ride follows the original “El Paso to San Antonio Road”, hacked out of the mountains, rocks, trees, shrubs and desert with backbreaking work of man and animal. It was hotly contested territory, however, with America, Mexico, and the Apache and Comanche Indian tribes all claiming possession. The Native Americans had been pretty happy and successful raiding each other and the Mexican settlements that had been in the region for many years. The upstart Americans started placing military forts at intervals along this important artery of trade. Fort Davis was the central fort for this region, and garrisoned several other outlying forts with men, supplies and material. Most of these forts, built just prior to the American Civil War, were garrisoned by the “Buffalo Soldiers”. This was the term applied to black soldiers by the Indians of the time. They had proven themselves very capable soldiers and cavalry troops. The Civil War made these posts a lesser priority and the troops were called out to fight engagements with the Confederate Army in various battles in Texas. With the end of the war and the discovery of gold in California, the need for the Road and protection of its travelers became high priority again. Fort Davis and its outlying forts were re-garrisoned and more cavalry troops added, again primarily “Buffalo Soldiers”.
In addition to their primary job of escorting the mail and freight across this dangerous territory, the soldiers were also called upon to dig in and place telegraph poles and string the wires up on them. They were also the primary road repair and maintenance force. In short, it was very tough duty in a very inhospitable environment.
From Fort Davis, on the Southern Tier route, it was back up over the mountain and down the other side. Sounds easier than it was, and harder than it looks in this picture. I’ll give you one thing, it was wonderfully picturesque. And quiet. And practically traffic free. OK, that’s three things. But all good.
I had thought that going down the other side would be mostly coasting. Remember that “Wind” thing. Samey same here. I tested it at one point and just stopped pedaling going down hill. Wind trumps gravity, sometimes. It was a totally lovely ride tho.
The camp grounds we had expected to find at Kent weren’t there, so we proceeded on to Van Horn to the very nice Mountain View campground. It was as well kept as any place we have stayed on the ride. Down side, Interstate 10 on one side and the ever active Union Pacific on the other side. Slept through it all. I found that the one day of canoeing was more stressful to my new hip than over a month of bike riding. Lesson learned.
It really tried to rain while we were at Mountain View camp, but the air was so dry it soaked up the raindrops before they hit the ground. Pretty though, especially at sundown.
I rode directly out the gate at the campground and on to the wide, smooth shoulder of Interstate 10. Texas, as does Colorado and some other western states, allows bicycles on the Interstates in specified areas. This is one of those areas. Some people cringe when I talk about riding the Interstates, but I feel much safer there than on the high speed two lane roads with the high speed limits. The main drawback is the noise, as the trucks are the primary users of these roads. I was planning on a 78 mile day, and the weather was a plus, with cool early morning temps and light winds. That always changes tho as the sun heats up the atmosphere.
Another “milestone” reached as we crossed into our third time zone since the beginning of the trip. That always feels significant.
We rely a lot on our Adventure Cycling map information, but the businesses they list aren’t always still in business. Again, a planned camping spot didn’t pan out, so Stella provided us a lift down the road to the first one that Google found for us. MIssion Campgrounds, a very large but, as last night, very neat and tidy spot to call home for the night.
All’s well on the Southern Tier.
Thanks for coming along.