Day 21(Monday, May 9):Alpine, TX to Marathon, TX– 32 miles
May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Never a dull moment…. Life seems to be conspiring to keep us on our toes.
Shortly after sending yesterday’s missive out, Brewster County started evacuating the town of Alpine a mere 2.5 miles to the west of our motel. The evacuees relocated to the Civic Center. The fire moved quickly and one of our original lodging choices, the Ramada Inn, was not only evacuated; it also became temporary housing for firefighters.
I called the police; they said Alpine was evacuating. I looked around at our motel; nobody seemed riled up about anything; they were all staying put. We packed our bikes in case the winds pushed the fire further into town and then tried to stay calm and listen for updates on the fire status.
The fire grew from 150 acres, to 3,000, to 4,000 acres by the time we went to sleep with our clothes on and with the TV at low volume in case another Emergency Broadcast Warning was issued. Two folded over threadbare towels served to darken the TV screen so we could sleep. I awoke at midnight to check the status of the now named Gage Holland Fire. It is named after the ranch the fire started on, caused by an errant spark from one of the many passing trains. The fire now encompasses 10,000 acres and is 0% controlled. I rest uneasily through the rest of the night.
We wake early, check chihuahuan desert the fire status: it is moving north and winds are calm. Time to move on.
We pack quickly and ride out of town, heading east, before the sun rises.
Charred remains of grassland on both sides of Highway 90 greet us for the first five miles of the trip, remnants of the last fire that blew through here a month ago.
Nonetheless, our ride is beautiful. The endless panoramic vistas never cease to amaze me. It is truly incredible out here.
After a short 34 miles we arrive in quaint Marathon, named in the late 1800’s by Captain Albion E. Shepard, who said the surrounding hills reminded him of Marathon, Greece. The ride was a gentle ascent for 15 miles and then then a gradual descent off the mile high Chihuahuan desert plateau that we have been on for the last few days.
We are still at 4,040 feet elevation despite the descent.
We see three stationary trains on our route; there is no train traffic in either direction. Is it because of the continuing fire up in Alpine?
As we arrive in Marathon, I look off to the north and see a billowing plume of smoke about 5 miles distant. We soon find out it is yet another new fire, started a couple of hours ago, about 8 am. It is, as of yet, unnamed.
We visit the Texas Historic Landmark Gage Hotel, but the bikes would have to stay outside the front entrance, so after some photo opportunities, we continue on our way to our final destination, the restored 1940 Marathon Motel.
It is cool, shaded and quiet. We sit in rocking chairs in the walled adobe courtyard, waiting for our room to be ready. We continue to travel without reservations; thus it is always an adventure arriving at our final destination for the day.
In town we encounter another cyclist, Jamie from Madison, Wisconsin. At the age of 39 this is his second cross-country bicycle trip. His first used the Northern Tier route; he actually says the Southern Tier is more difficult. Furthermore he started in Florida 3 weeks ago!
We are impressed; it turns out he is staying at the same motel so there will be more time to compare journeys.
I need to check the situations of the now various fires; there is also the Schwartz Fire, burning for 2 days, about 20 miles east of here. Jamie saw a minimum of 75 fire personnel and vehicles deploying at a rest stop near there. A local woman here told us she would not go towards Sanderson. Time to do some research before we go out to dinner.
I hear train whistles, a good sign. The rails are once again busy.