Today’s distance / ???????: 29 miles / 46km
Average speed / ????: 8.3mph / 13.4km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 28m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3008mi plus 271mi (?) / 4841km plus 436km (?)
Ascent / ??: 385m
Descent / ??: 225m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N22.214.171.124, W126.96.36.199
On the road again after a two day break, I was in the zone. Pushing up the awesome hill up to Fort Davis on OK surfaces. Not perfect, but acceptable.
Highlights of the day were people centered. I met John and Karen Poole, an energetic couple who are cycling across the US in the same direction as me. They do about 100 miles a day. Amazing. John is just a shade over 60 years of age. Incredible. They treated me to lunch, and then even let me stay at their campsite at the Fort Davis State Park.
I also met a New Zealander, Alan Maxwell. Alan is a retired university professor, now living in Boston, after many years in research, presumably astronomy, with his frequent visits to the Fort Davis area. Thank you to Alan for dinner at the lodge at the state park.
No skating. Just resting. Like, sit and watch TV all day rest. And then upload photos. And then get stressed out because my website hosting account is suspended. Sorry for that. Just another thing to juggle as I try to skate across this jolly big state, let alone the US.
Rose’s place is just out of town. Nice wee place.
On Day 588 had a look around town. Courthouse with big gun.
In the evening Rose and I headed out to check out the famed ‘Marfa Lights‘. Great stuff. Mysterious lights that could be, but probably are not, car lights. Really quite random and mysterious.
They had me stumped.
Today’s distance / ???????: 50 miles / 80km
Average speed / ????: 8.6mph / 14km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 02m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2979mi plus 271mi (?) / 4725km plus 436km (?)
Ascent / ??: 400m
Descent / ??: 290m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N188.8.131.52, W184.108.40.206
I slept in till 7am this morning. I felt I needed it. Plus, at this altitude, it’s getting less hot in the afternoons. At 7am, a strong NE was blowing. Bit Ns and Es. Through the sky. That would be behind me, I thought excitedly as I gingerly extricated myself from my tent. My left arm was in a bad shape. I couldn’t lift it more than shoulder height without it hurting lots. And lots. Putting on my jersey was tough. As was putting on my pack. Or any other movement requiring moving my arm.
By the time I finished packing everything away, the NE had stopped blowing. I shook my fist at the wind. Darn wind. It is plotting against me.
I needn’t have worried however, it was downhill most of the way to Marathon, 20 miles away. By the time I got to Marathon, I had an average speed of 10.3mph. Downhill with a nice side/tailwind.
This 20 miles was perhaps the best 20 miles of Texas so far. Smooth silky tarry road, massive plateau all around.
Massive desert goodness. Up close and far away.
My arm continued to hurt, and the gash on my hip rubbed on my hip belt. I slackened the hip belt off, my shoulders hurt. Ah, what a pitiful creature I am. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. From Marathon, the road turned into the wind. Har har. Who cares? I enjoyed a good strong skate for the remainder of the afternoon.
Mirages flowed across the road, wild pigs waddled, wild deer bounded gracefully across the boundless terrain despite the fences.
I arrived in Alpine in good time. I made a stop at the local grocery store, happy to be able to buy some fresh fruit. Below, every human powered traveler’s nightmare.
I met Rose, my Couchsurfing host for the next few days, at the grocery store.
Today’s distance / ???????: 20 miles / 33km
Average speed / ????: 6.9mph / 11km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 17m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2936mi plus 261mi (?) / 4725km plus 420km (?)
Ascent / ??: 435m
Descent / ??: 140m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.12.04.0, W220.127.116.11
Thank goodness for Foo Fighters. Their new album. Echoes, Silience, Patience & Grace. Fantastic. It got me going this morning after another very early start to beat the heat of the day. The first hour was in silence as I brooded about my heavy pack, the slow chipseal road, and generally feeling exhausted after a couple nights bad sleep. I turned my MP3 player on, got the tunes flowing, and enjoyed the rest of the skate 20 miles to a picnic spot on US90.
I arrived at the picnic spot about 10:30am. John and his wife, both from Canada, were stopped at the picnic area for a brief break from the road. They were also on their way to the Big Bend Nature area. I was resting in the shade when John said that they were having brunch in their humble but comfortable camper van. He dragged me into the camper and piled a plate of big thick blueberry pancakes (more like very large piklets) in front of me. They tasted great, and I enjoyed chatting to John and his wife (please remind me of your name – sorry!). They filled my water bottles up with water and I headed out on my way towards Marathon. Little did they know that in less than 15 minutes, I would be back…
I headed down the road for about two miles before hopping off the road behind some bushes to dig a hole and attend to some urgent callings of nature. Burying the evidence, I got ready to hit the road again. No more than three minutes after getting moving, the westerly wind started blowing. Not your usual westerly. 40 to 50 mph. Gnarly stuff. Can’t skate let alone cycle let alone walk into it kind of wind. Blow this for a joke, I thought, and decided to skate back to the picnic area and spend the rest of the day resting in my tent out of the wind.
The wind was awesome when at my back. 10, 15, 20mph, I was up to speed in no time. I took advantage of the help at my back to take a look around. Momentarily, in the euphoria of actually not having to push to move, I forgot that I was skating on crunchy chipseal. I hit a loose patch of gravel, and I went down.
The following moments are all fairly well etched into my brain. A thump as my torso hits the gravely pavement. Plastic grinds as my MP3 player and GPS go clattering across the road. Then the icing on the cake. CRACK!
A sickening slap of plastic, the sound dulled as the polystyrene of my helmet dulled the blow to my head.
My first thought: I’m glad I have travel insurance, because this is going to cost.
I try to sit up immediately, concerned that a vehicle might crest the small hill ahead and not see me on the ground. The left hand side of my vision is not working. A great mottled mess if sparkling spots blurs any attempt to see what’s going on to the left of me.
I try to shake it off. This works to a degree and I scramble to get off the road and gather all the bits of electronics that are on the road.
I notice blood. Ripped t-shirt. Blood on my trousers. A quick inspection reveals a deep gash on my hip. Right where my hip-belt of my pack rests. Nice. That’ll be rather inconvenient for a while.
A quick scoot to the picnic area, and John is looking understandably perplexed. I leave in relatively good spirits, I return a bloodied mess.
The grazes are sore enough, but it’s the deep gouges I am concerned about. Jolly well that there were two RVs at the picnic area. It looks like I’m smiling in the above photo – it’s a grimace with a bit of a smile thrown in because I’m happy I’m alive. This place is in the middle of nowhere, with no water source. Amidst the chaos of the gale, I am given a couple of gallons of precious water to clean out my wounds. In my firstaid kit I have gauze and tape. A cycling trio at the picnic area kindly give me an extra gauze pad from their kit for use later. Thanks guys.
John becomes the nurse and helps pour water as I scrub the wounds out with dish soap and water. To call this a painful process is an understatement. Better a clean wound than a dirty one though…
I am certain that the TSG Superlight helmet was the difference between me skating away from this event and me being either dead or very near it. The helmet took an amazing blow, the impact absorption material doing it’s job – compressing and cracking. It makes me cringe to think what the outcome would have been if I wasn’t wearing the helmet. A massive thanks to TSG International for supplying me with the great helmet. So lightweight and comfy you don’t notice you’re wearing it – until you need it!
I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with John. I would have rathered go and sleep in my tent for the remainder of the afternoon. But it was a good thing. I’m glad John was there to unwittingly keep me under surveillance after the blow to my head. It was disturbing enough when at 6pm when I did eventually retire to my tent, I saw white flashes as I closed my eyes.
I drifted off to sleep scared and alone.
Today’s distance / ???????: 47 miles
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2913mi plus 261mi (?) / 4688km plus 420km (?)
Ascent / ??: 630m
Descent / ??: 270m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.08.50.2, W18.104.22.168
Another very early start. Tough to wake up early though. Not only is it cold and dark, but I haven’t been sleeping very well, and I have grown to greatly dislike skateboarding in Texas. I eventually dragged myself out of my sleeping bag, and was glad I did. The morning was crisp, the full moon was shining brightly.
I skated for 2 hours until I arrived in Dryden. A small all but ghost town, the store was closed. Not that I needed food. Just water. Distances are long along this stretch of US90 in south western Texas. 60 miles yesterday without any services, 55 miles today. Carrying enough water for a day and a half on my back is jolly hard work. Plus food. That equals an instant 15kg addition to an already heavy enough pack.
I was feeling in a standard sorry-for-myself mood, until I met three separate cycling parties on their way east across the country. The camaraderie between us human powered travelers gave me a well-needed mental boost.
I arrived in Sanderson, a small town nested at the bottom of a scorching canyon – Sanderson Canyon. I arrived there at about 12:30pm, and it was already hot. I was about to head to the grocery store, when I was called over by a couple in a camper van.
Sam and Kim Fry are a retired couple who have sold everything and are living the good life. Driving to all the nice spots in the country. Kayaks, mountain bikes, and other human-powered toys strapped to their car. On their way to Big Bend. Someday, I tell myself, someday. Someday I will travel like that. Forget this stupid board.
Sam and Kim treated me to lunch in their camper, and filled me up on water and snacks for the road. I left them and found a bridge to sleep under. Snoozed for three hours, and took an hour to get my pack re-packed. My mind and soul was not in the mood to get out from the cool shade of the bridge for more of the insidious gradual uphill.
Now don’t get me wrong. The surroundings I am skating in are incredible. Very nice. Big and desertish. Just don’t travel here on a skateboard. That’s my advice. Call me a flacid girly blouse if you will. But I am finding it tough. So tough I hardly notice the scenery. A bit of a waste, even…
After the break under the bridge, I carried on for another 10 miles, and set up camp just across the train tracks. Quiet and still. The perfect desert campsite.
Until 3am when the freight train comes rolling by and shakes the ground.
Another crappy night’s sleep.
Today’s distance / ???????: 49 miles / 79km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 05m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2861mi (plus 266mi) / 4605km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 680m
Descent / ??: 520m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N29.57.05.8, W22.214.171.124
Gradual, insidious uphill all day. Too shallow to really visually notice that you’re going uphill, but steep enough to slow you down enough to make you think that you are weak and flacid for going so slow on what seems to be a flat road.
I started the day early. 4:30am to be exact. About 1.5 hours before sun up. That’s the full moon in the panorama above.
A jolly good idea on my part, as the day heated up to be another scorcher. It was cloudy and cold until 10am, but once the clouds burned off, it was hot hot hot.
I slept in the shade at a picnic area for three hours from midday to three. A couple of motorists stopped at the picnic area while I was snoozing…I wonder what they thought of this vagrant passed out on the bench…
I pushed on after the snooze, and made it to within about 15 miles of Dryden, a small ghost town, before the sun set into the horizon.
Six hours of skating on smooth-ish but not perfect roads, a total ascent of almost 700 meters, and an extra 10kg of water and food on my back in addition to the already heavy pack made for a solid day. During the day I cursed myself anew for trading the bike for a board. I managed to stuff those thoughts down and bottle them up enough to sleep an OK sleep for the night.
Today’s distance / ???????: 42 miles / 68km
Average speed / ????: 7.3mph / 11.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 48m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2812mi (plus 266mi) / 4525km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 410m
Descent / ??: 285m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N126.96.36.199, W188.8.131.52
A late start and a strong headwind promised not a fantastic day of traveling today. The road surface was the standard chipseal, but low traffic volume allowed me to skate in the smooth tar tyre tracks facing oncoming traffic for a smoother ride.
Dan and Beth, mobile homers, fed me lunch at an RV park near Lake Amistad. I had wandered into the RV Park to see if there was a picnic table out of the sun where I could eat lunch.
Spaghetti and meat sauce was much preferable to my planned beans and tuna tortilla wraps. Thank you!
Lake Amistad itself was nice enough, a beautiful blue lake surrounded by dry, desolate country.
By late afternoon the strong headwind had died down, and I enjoyed skating at least two hours into the night, skating in the cool of the evening. Days are hot here. Very hot. Too hot. I might have to make a habit of skating in the morning and evening, and taking the midday hours off.
I arrived at Seminole State Recreation Park at about 8pm after skating about two hours in the dark. Traffic is very light here on US90. One 18 wheeler every ten minutes or so. The moon was awesome tonight. Massive orange ball rising from the horizon.
Just an exciting quick wee update here…
You’ll notice that in the Key West to DeRidder file, there is a huge chunk of info missing. This is because I didn’t realise that the track would loop ontop of itself once the cache on the GPS unit was full. That means that about 600 miles of GPS data is missing. The same case for the Europe file also, I think. There are all the waypoints I put in however, so I hope that will make up for the lack of actual track log.
Today’s distance / ???????: 27 miles / 43km
Average speed / ????: 6.9mph / 11.1km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 54m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2770mi (plus 266mi) / 4458km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 170m
Descent / ??: 190m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a
Smart boy, Rob. I stopped yesterday on the crest of a small hill. A short downhill slope to start the day is always preferable to an uphill.
I felt much better after a good nights sleep. I set the timer on my wristwatch to 20 minutes. I started early. 7:30am. At about four to five miles an hour, I should make it at least to the beginning of the next county by lunchtime.
About 2 hours into this process, I began noticing what seemed to be freshly raked dirt roads along side the main road. At the ‘beginning’ of each of these roads, were large tractor tyres.
Curious…the tyres were attached to some sort of chain and pole setup.
Further down the road, I see a Border Partol vehicle rolling silently and slowly along the side of the dirt road, with the driver intently scanning the dirt for something. Footprints. Yes, these dirt ‘roads’ are actually a device for tracking possible illegal immigrants into the US from Mexico. I guess if the Border Patrol agent sees any large disturbance in the dirt, they can assume that a group has passed across the main road during the night. Once the patrol has checked the dirt, the dirt is ‘raked’ again for the next day.
Simple, but must be effective. These areas span for tens of miles, and if they continue past Del Rio, I would imagine hundreds of miles.
One Border Patrol agent told me that once I get into the next county, the road surface changes and it becomes much smoother. I took this information sceptically. I cannot believe or rely on anything anyone tells me about the roads here. It is very difficult for anyone to imagine what it is like to be traveling on a skateboard. A person will tell me that there are no shoulders when there is plenty of room. Another will tell me that the road is good asphalt, when really, it is rough chipseal. A person told me, “Yeah, all the roads in Texas are asphalt.” I pointed to the pavement in front of us. “Yeah, like that.” It was chipseal I was pointing at, not the asphalt concrete that I was referring to.
True to his word, however, four hours of slow progress was rewarded with the smoothest, silkiest asphalt I had every skated on…at least that’s what it felt like after the last couple of days.
“By hook or by crook, I will make it to Los Angeles by skateboard!” I yelled. Why? Who the heck cares?! No one has done this on their own before, and that in itself will be worthy enough reason. In the immortal words of Sir Edmund Hillary, “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.” Adapted to my situation, I certainly am not traveling the way I do for any higher reason than to have a go at it. Any other offshoot of the adventure (entertainment, awareness for Lowe Syndrome, cultural awareness, the sport of skateboarding), is just that, an offshoot.
Elated, I arrived in Del Rio at around 2pm. I stocked up with supplies at the local HEB supermarket, and got a hold of Mes Morgan, an Air Force trainee at the Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, and also a local Couchsurfing.com host. We arranged to meet at 5pm at the public library.
Wes met me in his truck, still wearing his flight suit. This guy flies airplanes. An amazing thought. He was flying an airplane today that costs 6.5 million dollars. On his own. He admitted that that thought was just as crazy when he did his first solo flight.
With the tortillas I had bought at HEB and some chicken and other goodies in his fridge, he cooked up enchiladas for dinner. Great stuff.
Wes’s flatmate Travis is also a pilot in training, but he also rides a longboard. A very nice Fibreflex board.
Today’s distance / ???????: 37 miles / 60km
Average speed / ????: 6.7mph / 10.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 38m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 2743mi (plus 266mi) / 4414km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: 360m
Descent / ??: 260m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N184.108.40.206, W220.127.116.11
At the risk of tempting fate, I will name this day as the toughest day on the board ever.
It all started OK. Comments from a shop assistant yesterday indicated that the road improved once I got to Kinney County. Well, she wasn’t wrong. Brand…spanking…new…chipseal. And not your usual chipseal either. This is the true representation of “Bigger In Texas”. Big, rocky, gravely chipseal.
I was looking forward to smooth riding. When I hit the Kinney County line however, my hopes were shattered. I was hoping for two easy days to Del Rio. No way would that be happening. The border patrol checkpoint guards told me that the road surface was the same rough pavement all the way to Bracketville, 20 miles away. And possibly further than that too.
Four hours and 20 miles later I could just see the outskirts of the small town of Bracketville. I had grown more and more despondent. The rough road and effort of pushing past the rolling resistance had taken its toll on me. I picked up the board and threw it into the grass on the side of the road. For the last four hours I had timed 20 minute intervals whereby I would battle on for 20 minutes and then take a break.
I kicked my board further to the side of the road, dropped my pack, and sat there with my head hung low.
A passing State Trooper traffic officer pulled up. Must have been alarmed by this apparently down and out traveler. The news was not good. “How much further on this surface? All the way to Del Rio, Sir. That’s about 35 miles,” he said. “This county upkeeps the US90 pretty good. You’ll have no problems with it, for sure.”
I thanked him, and he drove away, leaving me once again alone. I turned away from the road and cried. Shouted. Screamed.
But you had tougher roads than this in Tajikistan, remember? Remember that time on that high pass? You got through that OK!
Ah yeah, but at least I had a pass to head for. A goal. A tangible result. A reward. Here, there is no reward. Just the promise of more crap road tomorrow. More pain. More frustration. Skateboard is a stupid way to travel. So totally impractical.
It took more tears and more frustrated screams to finally convince myself to push on. At least the wind was at my back. At least there was a town just up ahead…
In Bracketville I stocked up on water (5 litres) and food enough to last me a dinner, breakfast, and lunch. If it was indeed 35 miles of the same tough road, then I would need it. I headed out of Brackeville and set up camp after struggling on for another 3 miles with the now very heavy pack.
I was happy to be off the road at last, and resolved to enjoy the peace and quiet of the campsite for the 12 hours from sun down to sun up the next day.