Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Updates.... Days since Austin

It's been ages since I updated this.... Between biking, sight-seeing, cooking, writting my journal, reading... itwas hard to find time to sit down and type up the things from my journals. I'll give you an short Reader's Digest version of it....

Let's see.... I got to Austin on the 26th of Feb. and spend the next few days there just harging out in UT Austin, checking out their graduate program in Photo Journalism. I was very impressed with the calibor of the studens and the faculty there, I was invited to sit in one of the classes, and even got a free ticket to see a movie about the Rwanda genocide with the class. I think the professor impressed me the most, being a war photographer for decades, she knew just about anyone, and anywho in the international circles, and we talked for hours.

After Austin, it was the Hill Countries. Which is where I was greeted for the very first time with the word "Howdy!" in Texas. I think I would of fallen off the bike, if that old cow hand was wearing a cowboy hat. That was just so Texas!

This is also the part of Texas, where I picked up my gun. :-) I had since upgrated to a can of high tech peper spray from an army surplus store. I found the water gun was a little hard to aim, when you were being chased by some son-of-a-bitches in full speed. (Yes, I learned that from experience). A spray can with a large cone of coverage should works out better. It's like upgrading a shot-gun, from a handgun.

After the Hill Country, it was Del Rio. Where I met John and Lyly, whom let me stay with them for tree days and fed me GOOD. It was very difficult to leave, and when I tried I managed to crashed their car and crack the bumper. Which they would not let me pay for it. I left their place in tears.

After Del Rio, I was very much distracted.... The route of Carbeza de Vaca, which I had followed since Florida was not well agreed on by historians after entering Texas, and many belived that he was all over the place in western Texas for a few year. ...and that was what I ended up doing as well. :-)

I biked up to Marathon,TX and hitchiked my way down to Big Bend National Park with two college kids in their VW van(ppl driving VW vans are way cool). They had this jar of almond butter which tasted so good with the few apples that they had. We finished it all off, by the time we got to Big Bend.

Big Bend was beautifull that time of the year, the bluebonnet were blooming along side of the road, delicate desert flowers dotted the deserts, butterflies and bees are all just buzzing around all over, and some of the priickly pears(if I were to spell this correctlly, the word "priick" gets filtered) are becgan to rippen. I could not help myself to devolved a few of them, after remembering reading how Cabeza de Vaca had followed the rippening of the priickly pears northward along with the indian tribes that he was living with at the time. I was so amazed by the color of my fingers, all stained purpled by the flesh of the fruit, that I couldn't help but to think that.... "Yeah..., that must of been the color of Cabezar's fingers, after all his days picking these priickly pears..."

It's at Big Bend, where I met Jim, whom gave me a ride in the back of his friend's truck and invited me to stay at his place in this little town name Terlingua. And that's where all the magic began....

There, in front of his porched I camped for the next 4 or 5 days, along with the other "Rubber Tramps". There we were, Suzy, Brat, Denise, Shawn and myself all camped out in front of Jim's porch, all travelers, all had been living in their vans and trucks(and a bicyle), all met on this day, in this dusty little ghost town. The place was small, but had this amazingly chaming community. I don't think we had a day gone by without something happenning. We were invited to a pre St. Patricks's Day party one day, and was in the St. Patrick's Day Parade the next... and they seem to have a party there everyday... The St. Patrick's Day Parade was great, it's one of those parade where there are are no spectators, because everyone is in the parade. Me and Jim was hanging out in the back of Brat & Denis' van and just waving to all the oncoming cars.... It was great.

This is also the place where I got my first job as a photo jounalist, thanks to Jim. One of my photos got published by a local newspaper, and I got interviewed for an article about my trip by another local paper. Didn't I said that this place was amazing!

There are just these amazing aray of people lving in town, a lot of artists, including this one beautiful lady that had been living in an school bus aliong Rio Grande for the last 20 years completely "off the grid", without electricity and running water. She paints hubcaps, which she sells in a local gallery. It's beatiful work, wish I had the money to buy one.

I left Terlingua feeling like leaving home, biking west again following the Rio Grande. It was the toughest day of cycling for me, being so remote of a place I was low on food and the hills were the steepest in Texas(18% Grade for a mile). The wind was so horricfic up the "Big Hill" pass that my vest got blown away. It's at the bottom of some canyon now....By the end of the day I was physically drained, and I was so hungary, I was drinking this can of tomato sauce I had, and ate this last half of a raw zukini I saved up for dinner on the side of the road, and I was still 20 miles from the nearest store. I underestimated the distance...

Lucly, there was Scott, an retiree living in Redford, who fed let me stay with him for the night, and cooked me the best tasting potato and egg dinner I ever had. In the morning, I met his beloved horses, whom he still races, and trvel on these long distance trips every summer. Sadly, I had to once again kept myself going...

Heading north to go back onto the Advanture Cycling route, I made the decision not to follow it again. I wanted to see some more less travel routes. I headed north towards the Guadalupe Mountains and the Carlsbed Caverns to see the bats.

That's where the miracles happened... Up the Guadalupe Pass was this hoorible climb
with monstous wind. The pass is so know for it's high winds, it even had this wind socks on the side of the road to give the drivers some ideas of the direction. The snow and hail was blowing horrizontally, and never reaching the ground. One guy feel so sorry for me, stopped and asked if I needed a ride, but I so wanted to toughed out, I turn it down.

That's before I realized I am low in ready to eat food again. This time I was scraping peanut butter out of the jar, in blistering wind. The lady who stopped at the rest stop to take a picture, just looked over strangly. I don't care, I biked on.

After a hour, I was on the top of the pass, exhaused. I came to this rest stop and asked this lady for directions. "It's not that far, just a few miles." I thanked her, and went to lie down on the picnic table. She rolled down her window again, and asked something I never though I'll hear, "Do you need any food?" I shamlessly said yes, and took the two homemade burridos, a bag of Scout Cookies, and the soft drinks from her. I thanked her, and we parted ways wishing ech other safe journeys. I was sitting there stuffing the food down my throut like there is no tomorrow, when the clowds parted, and the wind died down, and the sun lite up the whole mountain. It was gorgeous, it's like one of those movies like the "Ten Commenments" where the gods parted the clouds, and you know when everything is going to be Okay...

I biked in to the Guadalupe Mountain National Park in one of my best moods, when the park ranger handed me a note,saying: "You must be the guy heading towad San Fracisco"

Shocked, I open up the note, and it was from Suzy, the "Rubber Tramp" from Terlingua, whom had came by a day before looking for me. It was like this second mirracle. I was felling great! It was not just going to be OK, but it's going to be great.

I pulled myself into the campsite, and I noticed this familiar red pickup with a trailer in the back, and I know these folks! I had breakfast with them a few days back in Ft. Davis. and again for lunch when I ran into Kent and Kathy again a few days later, and now, again on the foot of the Guadalupe Mountain. I went and said Hi, and we were all amazed how we kept running into each other.(and the amazing thing was, I ran into them again 2 days later againg!)

As much as I like to stay in the Guadalupe Mountains, but I can't do much hiking there, because I don't have no decent shoes to hike in. I moved on to Calsbed Caverns, to see the famouse big cave. That took a day of ride, and I hitchhike my way up the cave before it closed. The cave was cool, but it's the bats that I came to see. I stay till sunset, when they streams out of the caves in tens of thousands. I stayed a nite in Mike's house, one of the park ranger who is also an advanture cyclist. It's always great to run into one of our kind. :-)

The next day, I headed west again, and made it to Hope, NM. Despite its name, the place offers nothing for me. The Wind was so fierced, I could not even stand straight the next morning. I stayed in the tent, behind their almost abandoned community center for the whole day, waiting it out, reading my new found book "The Zanzibar Chest". A book on the life of an photojournalist in Africa in the 90's. Fantastic book.

A few days later, biking trought some dangerous high passes toward White Sand, I ran into this TV reporter from Alberquqi who interviewed my for his piece on how dangerouse this road was. I don't think I made it onto TV, because I told him I had seen worse. I had.

I headed toward west again toward White Sand National Park, where I met Mark and Mellisa on their first bike tour. We camped at the park, and baked pizza on top of the san dunes for dinner. It was some good backcountry pizza we had, sun-dried tomatoes, and marinated chichen, and freshed brockly. The next morning, it was pancakes.

It was pretty amazing, that Mark and Mellisa was retracing the route of another Spanish Conquistador for their trip, and Mark was an mechanical engineer as well.

After White Sands, I was back on the Advanture Cycling route briefly, and rand into tons of bike tours, some twenty woman group heading East. They were more true to the route than I am, and I was more distrated by a local rodeo(team roping event) on the side of the road. Which I spen a few hours checking it out.

I get distrated easily, in case you don't know that already. I got sick of the route, and went off to Truce or Consequences for the hot springs. The hosel was great. Met Jessica, a planning her trip on to the Pacific Crest trail this summmer, and had dinner with Mike, a three time fellon, with some great stories.(which will no doubt find its way on to these pages later).

After a few days of rest in T or C hostel, I moved back to the official route, and did some more hills and stay at the "Black Ranch Louge" with Pete and Cathrine who ran the Bed and Breakfast place. He's and landscape architech, whih a love of bamboos and fresbee, and she is an ex Hollywood assitant direcor, now an expert on bale-house expert. For $5 I slep on their trampaleen, and used their kitchen, showered, and filled myself up on their freshly baked breads. Pete was such a nice guy to talk with, wish I could of stay there longer.

After that, I headed toward Gila Cliff Dwillings, an indian ruins in NM., where I ran into this Advanture Cycling group going east. Camped with them for a night, and passed along my "Zanzibar Chest" book, to a fellow African traveller. It's always amazing to meet people who had been to Africa, each one that I had met, are all just so captured by that continent, we are all so hunger to go back, and when we can't, we tried to read more about it.

Next stop, ... Pheonix. Where I went and hanged out with Matt. A guy I met at the "T or C" hostel. He's a vegan, and a raw foodist. I got invited to a raw food pot-luk in Cottonwood, AZ. Where we dinned with a bunch of New Aged crowd, where the evenning lecture featured a "Feng-Shui" expert. The raw food diet did not go well with my system, which is on a eat anything and everything mode. For some strange reason I was getting heart burns from it. System shock...

Next thing I did, I went to Tucson by bus, where I when to check out their famous photography school at UA. It had a great program with fin art photography, but unfortunatly, not what I am looking for. It's such a cool place, everyone is on bikes.

Staying at the Roadrunner Hostel, I ran into Dan. Whom I had met back in Austin, who is bicking around the U.S. We decided to bike up to San Diego together, but we got distracted. We rented a car, instead, and headed North to see the West!

We drove around to Walnut Canyon, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelle, Hubbell Trading Post, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Valley of the Gods, Moab,Arches National Park.... by this time, we were sick of indian ruins, canyons, arches, or just about anything coming out of the ground. By the time we got to Capital Reef NP, and Bryce Canyon, we just kept on driving....Then we hit Zion, which rejuvinated us briefly for a day, when we did the Bight Angel hike.

We headed to west to Vegas, and spended two days there, and that's when Dan's luck ran out. Lossing $140 to the casinos, and I lost $9 too. but we did have a buffet dinner that couldn't be beat. It costed some 20 bucks, but we stuffed ourself good.

After that, we went to the Great Canyons, save the best for last, we thought. But the canyon overdose, had not passed. We got out of the car, took a look of it, not impressed, and hop on the car and drove back to Pheonix. I would not even have a single pictures of the place, if not for some overly enthuastic lady wanting to take a picture of us, seeing that I have a camera in my hand.

We are sick of them canyons, Lady!

We do had some favorites. Mtn Biking in Moab's Slick Rock Trail was one, canyoneering in the Natural Bridges NP was another, Monument Valley sunrise was just beautiful, Canyon de Chelle was Awsome.....

After the side trip, we just wanted to see some ocean, after a 5 day, 400 miles dashed through the mountains, and a never ending fart blowing from the west. We are here in San Diego, two blocks from the beaches.

I am tired, and much more depressed than I expected(with the end in sight). Everything just looked so damn Californian! There is no more Winn-Dixie, only Albersons; there is no more boiled Crawfish, only burrito with those weird green tortillas; no more roadrunners crossing the roads, just damn squails; no more tumble weed, no more cactus, either.... and there is no one bothers to wave at you in this state either...

I think I just might keep going ....

There is only 500 more miles to go till SF, with should top off my trip odometer to 5000 miles by that time. and I thought it'll just be 3000. :-)


At 1:28 AM, Blogger Thomas said...

Man your journey sounds amazing!!! Glad you got to see Big Bend in the spring with the flowers; I really want to go back at that time of year. I hope you grow to enjoy California a bit more - it still has a special place in my heart after my first bike tour. I can't believe it's been over three months since I finished my coast to coast, I want to be back on the road!

Cheers from Scotland,


At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Lawrence!

How come you didn't send me this blog! I've been wondering what's up with you. I had no idea u trekked across the southern United States! Seriously, you'll look back on this when you're old and gray and smile with fond memories! I'm a little bit ashamed, though. It sounds like you ran into some wonderful people. I don't think you'll find that many around here, huh? You better email me soon!



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