A Traveller ’ s Tale :
Stranded in West Texas by Alexander Devers
I left Scotland in early March 2022 to cycle across the United States on the Adventure Cycling Association ’ s Southern Tier route , which begins at San Diego , CA and ends at St . Augustine , FL . It had been an ambition for years and plans had been in place for some time , but Covid-19 meant the trip was delayed for eighteen months .
I had been granted a three-month sabbatical from work , and this is the maximum stay allowed under the US visa waiver scheme , so in theory , I had plenty of time to complete the trip and even spend two weeks in Phoenix , playing music around St . Patrick ’ s Day .
After negotiating the Emory Pass in New Mexico , the highest point of the route with an elevation of 8,168 feet , I enjoyed thrilling downhills towards Las Cruces and then into Texas , stopping at El Paso . A couple of days later , I was riding long , empty stretches of road , with very few services along the way . Welcome to West Texas !
I set out one morning from Van Horn , heading towards Marfa . I was aware of a niggling problem with my bike , but a visit to the wonderfully named Higginbotham Brothers Hardware Store helped to assuage my growing anxieties around being stuck in the desert , at least for the moment .
The journey thus far had taught me a lot about bike touring . Most days are filled with the rhythmic pounding of foot on pedal . I had developed a useful routine : an early start and being on the road around seven a . m . made all the difference . Easing myself in , then building up momentum as the morning progressed . On this particular day , I was blessed with an incredible tailwind and the 75 miles to Marfa flew by , with the highlight being bumping into a mariachi band in Valentine , who were returning home from a tour of Texas .
There is a cycling website called ‘ Warm Showers .’ This is an incredible fraternity of people who are passionate about bike touring . The aim of the site is to connect cyclists and promote accommodationsharing . A host may offer a place for a
touring cyclist to camp , or offer a spare room , a couch or a bed and , of course , a warm shower .
My Warm Showers host in Marfa didn ’ t disappoint . He showed true Texan hospitality by welcoming me into his home ( I brought the beers ) and then taking me out to the distillery there , where we ate , partook of the fine sotol , shared stories of cycling and chatted about his six months of living in Scotland . After some drinks , he remembered that there was a soccer match that evening , so he asked what size feet I had .
Before long , with ill-fitting boots , I had joined them , playing soccer with other members of the community under the warm , orange glow of the retreating sun . Although I was the oldest player that day , coming from Glasgow , Scotland , a soccer-crazy town , I was able to benefit from a good knowledge of the game and I more than held my own .
As I settled down to sleep that night , I reflected on the lovely sense of community there . It was evident in the group which I met . They were kind , welcoming and seemed to be enjoying life in Marfa .
The next morning , I made for an early start , aiming for Marathon , where I hoped to have a rest day . Rest days were something I planned for every six days or so . I was only a mile or two out of Marfa when I had a stark reminder of mother nature ’ s habit of putting us mere mortals in our place . There was a vicious headwind . Wind is the most hated adversary for cyclists . Hills are one thing , but as they say : what goes up , must come down . Wind , on the other hand , has no such confines . I found the West Texan wind to be both my ally and nemesis .
On this day , I realised that getting to Marathon would be an epic journey , not helped by the aching muscles after the previous night ’ s soccer game . We won ’ t mention the effects of the beer and the sotol . I mean … what was I thinking ?
After what seemed to be a lifetime , I made it to the town of Alpine , resting for an hour or so and stocking up on calories . One of the best things about such a cycle tour is the opportunities one gets to do people-watching . I was struck by some of the interestinglooking people coming and going in that town . I wanted to speak to some of them , to hear their stories and hear about life in Alpine , but alas , I couldn ’ t stay and had to make the final push towards Marathon . Despite the unforgiving heat , I pushed on , musing that the landscape was almost as dry as Queen Elizabeth ’ s fanny .
On the final leg of my journey to Marathon , I received a call from my Warm Showers host in Marfa , who wanted to meet me at the end of the day , to go for a swim at Post Park , just a few miles south of my destination . I checked into my accommodation at La Loma Del Chivo , a beautifully bizarre collection of living spaces : all handmade , most from recycled materials , each one has unique features . This was to be my home for the next two days .
But on the day of my planned departure , it was clear that there was a problem with my bike , and I asked a passer-by for some advice . Within an hour or two , there was a
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6 Big Bend Real Estate Guide • August 2022