Today, it was time to ride! I just didn’t expect it to be 90 degrees in this part of Big Bend National Park, out on the “Old Ore Road.” This is one of the least-traveled, most secluded, and most often hottest parts of this huge desert environment. In a new book, “Death in Big Bend,” several fatalities due to heat stroke are chronicled when unfortunate, and unprepared people, find themselves stranded on this 26-mile-long 4-wheel-drive dirt, rock and boulder-infested historic road. It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach 90+ degrees in January and February out here, but today was a departure from recent trends this winter. With that, I set out on a “shake-down” ride after a tune-up to my old Trek 7000 aluminum mountain bike, which included new shift-grips, new tubes and tires, and a new trip computer.
After about 4 miles of technical sand, rock, and rutted off-camber climbs and descents, I turned around and headed back to Jodie and the waiting Jeep. I had not figured in the 30-40 mph headwind that I would be fighting all the way back, and on a technical rock-infested climb, I stalled out. Usually not a problem, but I had not switched out my pedals to my mountain bike pedals, which I had cannibalized onto my recumbent last fall, so my shoes did not release from the clips and I planted myself and bike into a thorny mesquite tree, complete with a lechugilla cactus at its base. Nothing unusual out here, but it’s not only painful, but dangerous. Lucky this time, I came away with only a small loss of blood, and a larger hurt pride.
The trip home included a stop at the Stillwell Ranch, where I found that Jasamine, the girl I met on the bicycle two days ago riding from Florida to California, had stopped there for 2 days and had a great time. As the dust storm increased in direct proportion to the increasing speed of the wind, we rode the tailwind home, taking time to photograph a dust-filtered sunset over Santiago Peak. Another —— day in Paradise!