I decided to get an early start today in the hope that I would be able to push all the way to Alpine before the afternoon winds set in. Because it was still dark, I dressed in multiple layers and a jacket and stepped out of my room to ride. I was hit with a blast of warm humidity. At 7am, the temperature was already in the mid-60s. I changed my clothes and rode off.
The first twenty miles were in the dark and fog. There wasn’t another vehicle on the road the entire time. I had the highway entirely to myself. But, I did have company. Large numbers of white-tailed deer were out feeding along the road. Given the silence of my bicycle, they were be startled as I rode by and I would see through the mist the flash of their white tails registering surprise as they ran to find an opening in the fences.
As the cloud started to lift, I road through an area that had possibly hundreds of Turkey Vultures. On one fence there were dozens each perched on a post trying to warm themselves in the first rays of the sun. I dropped a little Kansas on them singing loudly: “Carion my wayward son…” Their lack of interest indicated they thought it was a lame bit of humor as well. And, now, here’s your Vulture Fun Fact for today. Birds have no sweat glands and are unable to cool themselves through perspiration. Because of their size and dark coloring, Vultures absorb a great deal of heat and have developed a special method to lower their body temperature. It’s called “Urohidrosis”. In effect, the birds defecate on their legs and as the excrement evaporates it cools them. Personally, I prefer the AC I’m currently enjoying in my hotel room.
Parked next to a rest stop, I spotted a small car with two racing bikes mounted on the roof. I slowed down when the owner yelled out to me: “Traffic’s horrible this morning isn’t it?” Trey is a biology teacher from Kansas who is driving to Ft. Davis to compete in a road race this weekend – a terrific guy. We started talking about biking, gear, snakes, camping, etc. and the next thing I knew twenty minutes had gone by. While I wanted to spend more time with him, I needed to get in some miles before the afternoon sun hit. We agreed to try to connect at Ft. Davis State Park later this week.
At lunchtime I arrived in Marathon. It’s a small town, but with an nice commercial area, including the first good grocery store that I’ve seen in weeks and some excellent restaurants. I really wanted to stay at La Loma Del Chivo. It’s a very unique and artistic youth hostel; however, with Alpine only 30 miles away, I decided to push on.
For the remainder of the ride the heat picked up into the low 90s. I went through six bottles of water, including one that I dumped on my head trying to cool down. (Fortunately, I had enough that it wasn’t necessary to resort to urohidrosis.)
I decided to treat myself this evening and checked into a nice place in downtown Alpine called the Holland Hotel. It’s the type of hotel that communities used to have in the era of the railroad. This one was recently renovated and it’s beautiful. I also reconnected with, Don, my fellow cyclist on the southern tier. We separated paths before Austin and used a nice pasta dinner to catch up and compare notes.