Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tom Joad - Day 9, mile 2,059.6, Damn Texas is Big!

I departed Tucson, AZ this morning to a chilly, but sunny 38 degrees. I rode eastward again along Interstate 10, obviously the major artery for all eastbound/westbound traffic crossing through the southwest states. Besides riding through a light crosswind and some severe buffeting from the wind turbulence passing 18-wheelers cruising at 70 mph, the ride was relaxing and uneventful.

To most passers-by, the southwest desert looks the same as you cross it mile after mile. To the pseudo-trained eye, (I lived in this desert for 5 years), you notice subtle changes in the terrain and plant life as you traverse the huge, barren open expanses. Most noticeably from this trip was the Cacti, (many Cactus...).

I'd seen pictures of the huge Saguaro cactus from post cards and pictures, but had never seen one in real life. The Saguaro are the large two or three limbed cactus you saw in the Yosemite Sam cartoons. Beautiful in real life. Evidently these cacti only grow in the elevated hills of Arizona, where evidently some moisture is captured. Once you cross into the open flat lands where any remaining moisture is wicked away by the crosswinds, these giants will not grow.

I crossed into the New Mexico desert around 10am this morning to a warming 51 degrees. Oddly enough, the Saguaro cactus was nowhere to be seen, replaced the the smaller Nopales, or Prickly Pear Cactus. Eventually, the Nopales disappeared as well, leaving nothing but miles of sage brush and sand as far as the eye could see.
I entered El Paso, Texas at roughly 2pm this afternoon. A bustling metropolis of strip-mine workers, farmers, and shop owners dealing with the perpetual flow of tourists and migrant workers moving across the Mexico border over the Rio Grande River separating the two countries. A bleak existence at best, but these people seem to endure it well.

From El Paso I journeyed into the vast openness of western Texas. Miles and miles of open desert with little or no people in it. I resorted to doing trip calculations and distance-to-time measurements in my head, frequently talking to myself, and also frequently verbally questioning my own results. Any passers-by who could see my face through my face shield probably observed that I was readily chatting with myself throughout the long miles through western Texas. You do whatever is necessary to pass the time in an environment which lacks stimulation. I found my stimulation.

I decided to stop for the night in Pecos, Texas. Roughly halfway across Texas from my final stopping point in Denton, TX, and seeing my Aunts and Uncles who I haven't seen in a very long time. Tomorrow is the final push to Dallas, then Denton. This is the turn-around point for me. Any further trip logs will be retracing my footsteps back to Portland, OR and my anxiously awaiting girlfriend, who I miss dearly throughout these long miles. I do miss being home.

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