Next morning, we left Del Rio in a thick fog and wearing three layers of upper body clothes. Within an hour we were down to one, and warm at that, as the sun burned off and temperatures headed for the 80’s again.
The next few days would be long with few, if any services. We hoped there would be food, but we had enough, with our emergency Power Bars, to make it three days, maybe. Water could be a problem.
Food. Water. The basics of life. It makes me mindful of all we take for granted most of the days of our lives. It makes the little disappointments and hassles of life seem silly when food and water are in doubt. I wonder what would happen if every young person were to go through a period of such doubt, as they do in many primitive cultures, a rite of passage? Perhaps our consumer culture would have less a hold on them.
The country opened up more as we rose toward the Rockies. Mountains were visible on the southern horizon, in Mexico, for the first time since we left the Great Smokies. We were ready for the mountains and for Big Bend country, just a few days away. But first we had to get across some very remote country, with few or no services, and no reliable information. People in Del Rio didn’t seem to know what was ahead for us. Even the cowboys in Del Rio were impressed with how big the country is, and cold we are told.
The first night, we camped on a small patch of grass in the lee of the Jersey Lily Mercantile, across the street from Judge Roy Bean’s saloon and billiard hall in Langtry. The sweet lady who runs the store let us put up our tent here after we arrived and discovered the RV park we were told was here is nothing but a bare and dusty vacant lot.
We were told this is hard country to travel in a car, let alone on a bicycle. I guess we knew that.
This little town, Langtry, is very nearly a ghost town. We went for a walk to explore it in the warm light of dusk.
We saw a man standing by his house. A small boy ran to the man when he saw us, stood close to him and looked. We waved. The man nodded. The boy looked up at him. The man said something to the boy and he looked back at us.
We were nearing the edge of town, so we turned back.
One abandoned house stood out. It was of large adobe blocks, pieced together with skill, three rooms in a row with large windows that never held glass, dirt floors. The yard and garden was filled with large prickly pear cactus and other rough plants, all with thorns. The adobe took warmth from a blazing red bank of clouds over the departed sun. A nearly-full moon rose in a steel-blue sky.
The town was quiet except for a worrying dog and a few crickets.
Saw a tarantula, our first, and a tiny bunny.
Sanderson is the town where the Wild Bunch robbed trains from hiding in Sanderson Canyon. More climbing out of Langtry, and a headwind made 60 miles seem like 80, but the landscape of the Chihuahuan desert, which we just entered, is spectacular. The towns are small and dusty with a few junk cars and appliances around abandoned businesses. But there are also brightly painted new businesses and saloons that could be in a century old painting, and beautiful churches
And there is always the landscape, there on the near horizon, shaping the sky and the light that falls on the town. I would think these towns were ugly were I to drive by in a car, but our speed allows so much more texture, color, form and creative humanity into our consciousness.
The little hidden clump of flowers and not so random placement of prickly pear and yucca and palm. The aquamarine door jams against hand-made dusty-red bricks and thick beige mortar. We leave with good feelings and a desire to return.
We didn’t eat enough during the day. We have become accustomed to having some kind of mid to late morning meal in a cafe. There was nothing of human habitation for the entire 60 miles. We snacked all day, but it just wasn’t enough. We went to a restaurant in Sanderson, and ate and ate and ate.
The next day to Marathon won’t be quite as long, but with much more climbing. I’m not sure where the Rockies officially begin, but it looks like we’re there; tomorrow will put us at 4,000 feet elevation.
We are feeling and enjoying the dryness and the cool mornings. I can’t imagine more wonderful December weather. I don’t think I will miss northern “Christmas weather.” Jesus was born in a landscape like this, and it was over such dry hills that the wise-men saw the star. We’re not following a star, but it sometimes feels as if we are on a pilgrimage, following a spiritual path.
Today Claire saw some mistletoe growing near the road in some brush. Braving rattlesnakes, tarantula, and scorpions, I cut it for her, and got my kiss. Now we have our Christmas decorations to add to our increasingly heavy load. I don’t mind mistletoe, it’s light and I plan to use it often.