Monday, October 22, 2007

West Texas road trip

Continuing on my quest to ride through all 254 counties in Texas, I went on a road trip to El Paso this past weekend. The previous weekend I went to the coast and added Calhoun and Matagorda counties. This weekend I added Midland, Ector, Loving, Reeves, Hudspeth, El Paso and Jeff Davis counties, bringing my total so far to 188.
The basic genesis of this trip was to visit a small restaurant and microbrewery outside of San Angelo in the tiny town of Eola. My friends who came through on a beer-fueled road trip had spent the night before they arrived in Austin at this School House restaurant/brewery/lodge and insisted I had to go some time. Since it was already 200 miles from Austin, I figured I might as well tack on a few more miles and visit some new counties.
I arrived at the restaurant at 11am, just as the owner Mark was getting the kitchen warmed up for the day. The place operates pretty much like a one-man band. Mark does the cooking, brewing, and has been doing most of the renovations to the long-shuttered school himself. He sometimes gets help if there's any sort of event there, but otherwise it's just him. On this day a local college student came in to do some painting. I sampled the two beers he had on tap- a pale ale and a brown ale, which were both good. The menu is very simple, and written on a blackboard. There was a special on brisket, but I just had a simple cheeseburger.
Leaving Eola about 12:30, I gassed up in San Angelo. I filled up again in Odessa after getting off the interstate, but was rather worried about where I might find gas next. I topped off (1 gallon) in Kermit and was very low when I stopped for the night in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. There were more campers there than I had expected. There were several RV's and most of the tent sites were taken. Fortunately there was one available for me. I unpacked the bike, set up camp and cleaned up a bit before a dinner of Cup'o'Noodles and a granola bar. I read the newspaper, fighting against the wind, before turning in. I don't usually sleep well in a tent, waking up every couple hours because the blood's been pinched off somewhere or some other discomfort. The wind made this night even worse though. The occasional gusts would make a racket which would rouse me from my light slumber. Sometime very early in the morning (4ish, I would guess) the wind really picked up and it almost felt as though the tent was going to be ripped apart. When I woke up for good, I laid in my sleeping bag worried about what it would be like to ride in wind like that. For breakfast, I walked to a picnic table under a tree hoping for a little shelter from the wind, but it barely helped. I gave up on waiting for the water to boil and just had it as it was for my oatmeal.
I headed out of the park and surprisingly it got colder as I descended from the base of the mountains to the salt flats. I made a detour to the nearest town, Dell City, to get some essential gasoline. When I pulled up to what seemed to be the only gas station, it was closed, but when I walked across the street to talk to a man standing outside the cafe, the owner of the gas station drove up and turned on the pump for me. From there it was pretty much a straight shot to El Paso and jumped on I-10. I stopped in Van Horn, then Fort Stockton to get Pecos County for the ABCs, Sonora and then Fredericksburg. I got to Fredericksburg right around sundown. I had thought about stopping and actually having dinner, but decided that since I was dirty and probably smelly from riding two days solid, I would just gas up, change to my clear glasses and get on home. I got home about 8:30, took a shower, sorted through the newspaper, watched 15 minutes of television, checked my email and went to sleep.