Day 2: Marfa and the Texas Winds

I can say with some experience that riding along I-10 at 80mph with 40mph crosswinds among long haul truckers is something to be avoided if possible.

After a late start on Monday, in no part due to meeting my friend Jameson and Russell the previous evening it was time to get on up out of Austin. I had to repack and pare down my belongings (again) as the panniers weren’t closing up, so clearly I have too much crap.  Shedding of gear is an absolute must at this point, but I’m just not sure what to get rid of; do I ditch one of my jackets? Workout clothes? Do I need all those tools? I’ll struggle on for now, until it becomes unbearable. It’s getting damn close.

Out of Austin I took 290W, passing through Fredricksburg and Junction before hopping on I-10.  Fredricksburg was pretty for the short time I jolted through it, and of course I-10 was straight miserable.  It was a straight shot though, and I was pretty sure I could make my destination. Then the winds really picked up. Those “Strong Cross Wind” signs are no joke.

The DR gets insanely “buzzy” above 70MPH, and extremely touchy in a terrifying way; add some strong cross winds and, well, let’s just say it’s exciting.  At one point, immediately after leaving Junction I ran out of gas, the GPS indicating I was a mere 6.3 miles away from the nearest Phillips-Conoco fill-up station.  With a quick prayer and flick of the petcock to the reserve setting, I coasted into the station on fumes and then proceeded on towards Balmorhea.

Which was not to be.  The light was dying fast, the wind had picked up heavily but I was determined to make it, until I couldn’t. Sadly I have no pictures of these moments as I left my camera on by accident and drained the battery, and my grip was far too tight as I battled sudden crosswinds almost forcing me into the other lane to turn on the GoPro. Every few minutes I’d hold my hand up to horizon to estimate how much daylight I had left.  Sonora whizzed by and I had 45 minutes left, and I definitely wasn’t riding at night on my first night out.

Exhausted, I pulled into a small town called Ozona, and rented a decent (if not pricey) room at the Travelodge by a bearded woman (no shit) with the largest German shepherd I have ever seen, proceeded to eat the largest chicken fried steak I’ve ever seen at the Hitchin’ Post and passed out, 230 miles under my belt.

The next day I put on my pants, ate some free rehydrated eggs and headed towards Alpine TX.

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I-10 again, and mostly boring.  After about an hour I saw my first wind farm.  Oh shit.  Luckily, due to the time of day, the crosswinds were manageable, but I did have a few dicey moments.  Again, I ran out of gas, but this time on purpose; I wanted to see how far I could go on one tank.  The answer? 169 miles, give or take.  Far below the 350-400 I had initially estimated, though perhaps I was confused and meant kilometers? Who knows.  Add on about 10 more miles for the reserve and I have around a 180 mile range. Not bad I suppose, not great either.

Anyway. Pulled into Alpine, had a late lunch and checked the town out, before heading to Marfa, where I am staying the night at a little place called El Cosmico.  The staff is super nice, they have teepees, and you can camp out for $15 bucks a night, so what’s not too like? I’ll try and check out the Marfa  Lights tonight as well, and then tomorrow it’s off to Big Bend.

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  • Michael Gualano

    Hey Man! First off, my apologies for not making the ‘going away’ happy hour last week. Anyway, looking forward to reading up on how things are going, where you are and the amazing sites along your route. Most importantly be safe and enjoy every minute!

  • McQ

    A 169 mile range is going to prove very problematic later in the ride. Time to throw away gear and get a gas can

  • Uli&Dirk

    Hi Phil, have a great time on the road
    Greatings from Germany, Uli & Dirk