Today, I was on the road by 9am after downing a couple of belly bombs at McDonald’s and doing my laundry. Rather than the hot windy conditions of yesterday, today was cool and…windy. Unfortunately, the beautiful scenery of the county roads traveled over the last few weeks is giving way to a more urbanized landscape. I rode on the shoulder of I-10 the entire day, being buffeted by big rigs speeding past.
After thirty miles, I stopped for lunch in Sierra Blanca a town whose claim to fame is that it was once home to the nation’s largest sewage sludge dump courtesy of New York City. After Congress banned dumping sewage into the ocean in the late 1980s, the Big Apple had to come up with another method of disposing its waste. Eventually, Sierra Blanca was selected as a site. Over a six-year period, New York transported 250 tons of sludge each week to this little town of less than 500 people.
The town, like many others I’ve past through in the last weeks is nearly dead. Only a few businesses are still in operation. One of them is a local eatery called “Curly’s BBQ”. The décor of this place can best be described as “1970s junk”. The interior is adorned with old license plates, framed law enforcement patches, (two) plastic Frankenstein heads, stuffed animals, wind chimes and other assorted items. Reverently displayed on one wall is a neatly framed, autographed photo of country singer Reba McEntire.
I decided to have lunch here and pulled up a seat at a table adjacent to five other men who had stopped in on their lunch break. One was a Border Patrol officer and the others were local mechanics. They immediately started asking me about my ride prefacing each question with “Sir”. I assume this was on the account of my Mennonite elder status (cf. previous blog) or it could just be that polite respect is a way of life here.
It was interesting speaking with the Border Patrol officer about his job and operations in this area. The Border Patrol has over 200 officers assigned to the region around Sierra Blanca – almost four times the population of the town. The violent drug cartels in Juarez (directly across the border from El Paso) are causing Mexican citizens to flee for safety in the U.S. As a result, the Border Patrol is being kept very busy at the moment.
For lunch, I tried Curly’s Special consisting of five roasted poblano chilies covered in shredded brisket and melted cheese. It tasted far better than I expected when I walked in and the heartburn it provided helped to keep me warm for the remainder of the ride.