Big Bend Part 2

The second full day was a kayak trip on the Rio Grande.  I thought it was going to be in Santa Elena canyon, but it was out by Lajitas in the Big Bend State park.  One bonus was the fact that we would have the opportunity to stop by the ghost town of Terlingua.  Santa Elena canyon was muddy so the group didn’t plan a hike there.  There are a couple of options to kayak Santa Elena, one is to paddle upstream 3 miles and then float back.  The other is to do an overnight camp on the river.  Our 3 hour kayak trip in a two man inflatable kayak was perfect.  We did experience rapids and they were exhilerating!  We started the trip on a somewhat swift moving river and immediately crossed over onto the first bank and stopped on the Mexican side…legally?  We ate lunch on the Texas side.  It was so much fun watching everyone enter the rapids.  Everyone was hoping to make it through without flipping.  We all did!  You definitlely get wet!  The kayak guides had dry bags to throw your stuff in and those things stayed dry.  The weather was beautiful and the water was probably 75 degress.

IMG_3778

This was a great opportunity to get to know your new friends.  One of the most facinating things was our female kayak guide and her life off the grid.  She came from a family of park rangers and is married to the park ranger that runs the Big Bend State park.  They live on solar energy in the desert environment.  Solar energy does not provide enough electricity for things like air conditioners.  So how do they stay cool, especially at night when sleeping?  They spray themselves down with water, including the sheets and sleep wet!  WOW!  They bring in their water, which must be a task because the closest town is 100 miles away.   And here is the best part…no complaints.

Afterwards, we headed to the town of Terlingua.  This town was the place I originally thought would be great for my family to say in a hotel…on second thought, no.  I was reminded of my plans to stay in a boutique hotel in Venice beach, CA.  This was exactly the same idea.  Not a good fit for the fam.  Camping is MUCH better!

The town is really unique.  First of all, the big draw is the general store that has all kinds of interesting things.  Some of the group got great T-shirts.  (Day of the Dead themed…it is that time of the year) There were people on the porch playing guitars and hanging out.  I would describe the scene as straight up hippy….old school style with young people.

IMG_3785

We visited a local restaurant/bar and had wine margaritas and pork nachos.  Fun day!  Bill and I opted for dinner at the lodge instead of cold spaghetti and we both enjoyed a great trout meal and showers at the lodge.  We tried to watch the media shower that was obstructed by the massive full  moon.

Day 3’s plan was a hike in Boquillas canyon, crossing the border into the Mexican town of Boquillas and a dip in the hot springs.  I rode with some really cool people that were so much fun!  As we hiked into the canyon, we heard singing.  As we made our way to the bottom, we found Jesus…that’s right, Jesus singing.  Now who is going to tell Jesus that he can’t come to America illegally and sing to us 🙂

IMG_3797

IMG_1919

I chatted with our leader Regina about the issues we have with Mexico and the border, namely the dangers of drugs on the border.  She thought it was safe and spoke with some of the people in Boquillas who said here wasn’t an issue.  Truth?  I don’t know.  I have heard stories from my own neighbors that cautioned not to go off the trail that there are drug mules in the area and it was dangerous.  I can’t imagine, this is a really rough terrain area.  For MILES there is nothing but desert.  I guess if you are really motivated, you would find a way to do whatever it is that you plan to do.  I felt safe, even with very limited ranger support.

 

Advertisements
Big Bend Part 2

Big Bend Part 1

FINALLY!!!!!  It pays to persevere.  The stars were in alignment and I finally got to go!  I rented a jeep and took off for the 9 hour drive to Big Bend National park.  The alone time was very enjoyable and then turned a little scary as I went through the town of Marathon.  From Marathon it was 90 miles until the park and there is absolutely nothing around and no cell service.  No gas stations, hardly any cars, just vast open spaces.  Desert with mountains.  The desert has it’s own beauty.  There is alone and then there is really being alone.  I haven’t quite felt the sense of that until that particular stretch of drive.  It reminded me of how much we really need each other to survive.

IMG_3712

I made it to the park and paid my $25 entry fee at the Panther crossing stop in the park.  I got my map and headed to the group campsite.  The group is Hill Country Outdoors and most people were arriving around the same time to setup camp.  I’m sure everyone had in mind to get their tents setup before dark.   I met up with some ladies who wanted to check out the lodge where there is a store and wifi.  It’s a .6 mile hike, you can drive, but who wants to use any more gas!  Our campsite had a fantastic view of “the Window” which is amazing at sunset and behind my tent was “Casa Grande”.

IMG_3724

IMG_3725

IMG_3726

We had bathrooms with flushable toilets and actually there was an electric outlet in the restroom.  They even had a spigot for water at the campsite, even though I brought my own water.  There were no showers but we had rented two rooms at the lodge for showers during our stay.  It didn’t get too cold either.  It was in the 50s at the lowest.  Dinner was at 6PM, frito pie.  The moon was full, so the dark skies were well lit and hid the many stars that you would normally see.

On day one the plan was to hike the Lost Mine trail.  We carpooled to the trail head and began our 5 mile hike.  We were given lunches to bring which consisted of protein bars, trail mix, crackers and fruit.  Hiking up the trail we were able to meet and find out more about the people in the group which was really enjoyable to find out a little bit about everyone.  I was so happy to find there are people around my age that enjoy this kind of adventure.  Once we climbed for a ways we had an amazing view of the valley.

IMG_3735

and then we lunched at the top.  Joe had binoculars and shared them so we could try and spot bears, but we didn’t see any.  It was fun looking.

IMG_3739

After heading back to the campsite we decided to rest then hike to the edge of the window to see the sunset.  It is a 2 mile hike.  A small group of us went and it was not a disappointment.   On the hike we saw deer and traversed the pretty trail.  At the end it was challenging to navigate the rocks and the water, lots of climbing.  And then the reward!  There is a pool of water that is low right now and falls off the edge I’m guessing into the abyss because you can’t see where it goes.

IMG_3771

The hike back in the dark was fun.  We got lost and we spotted eyes…everyone believes it was a fox, we made it!

Big Bend Part 1

Mid September dreaming about October

October is going to be such a great month that it is over shadowing September!  With things breaking down at home who wouldn’t dream about better times?  October for me is going to have two big events!  A trip to San Diego for a sales reward and then Big Bend!

San Diego comes first and I am excited to go with my colleague.  We are going to do an Amazing Race style event for prize money.  I’ve always liked that show, just wouldn’t eat anything weird.  So here is my chance for a mock participation.  I’m so excited!

Then comes a dream, Big Bend.  I’m going with Hill Country Outdoors since I couldn’t get one family member or friend to go.  We have a pre-trip meeting October 1, which is the day before I fly out to San Diego.  They have currently scheduled a kayak trip on the Rio Grande, which I want to do for $59.  So far, I see that there are 11 going on the Big Bend trip, maybe there are more.  I’ve stalked their profiles to see that the majority are women.  I’m happy with that. So I’ve probably mentioned my favorite TV show is Naked and Afraid.  I know it’s just for entertainment.  But to think about surviving is really cool.  We live in a modern world with conveniences that we have built.  It’s hard to imagine that we started with nothing and had to survive.  And there could come a day where that happens again.  Not to be crazy or anything, I do enjoy modern conveniences, however, there is a price to pay for it.  And that price can be expensive and stressful.  For a few days, I’m camping and for the record I won’t be naked.  Not exactly my dream plan for visiting Big Bend, but do-able.  I am a little concerned about being cold at night. I’ve discovered there is no electric hook up.  So no electric heater fan…bummer!   And there is a little concern about bears, so I might be a little afraid.  Plenty of people camp at Big Bend, and I guess if it’s my time it is.  I’d rather not get eaten by a bear though.

My plan is to rent an SUV and carry my stuff so I can escape if I need to.  I plan to buy a new tent.  That’s all I’ve got so far.  And I really want to do the kayak trip.  It says class 2 rapids, but I know that water conditions change.  They are renting out two rooms at the lodge for showering.  And they will be providing meals with a rotation of people participating in meal “delivery”.  All stuff I’ve done with girl and boy scouts.  I recently renewed my passport.  Hope it gets here before the trip.  We are right on the Mexico border so it’s good to have it in case there is a reason to go.  So looking forward to view the beauty of the dessert, mountains and the stars at night.

big bend stars at night

Mid September dreaming about October

Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Hamilton Pool is another Texas treasure!!!  This natural wonder is located just outside of Austin to the West.   You have to make reservations to go and there is no guarantee that you will be able to swim because of bacteria levels which are tested daily.  Reservations are from 9-1PM and 2PM-6PM.  This is my own opinion, but I think there are bats in the “grotto” and I would think that the unsafe bacteria specifically ecoli might have something to do with their poop.  That’s just a guess.   It’s worth the risk to make the 3 hour drive because you can still enjoy the view of this beauty which is quite spectacular.   And there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Determined to go, I made the reservations months ago.  Even if I had to go by myself. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, son, daughter and friend went with! Your reservation is by the carload and since we have smaller vehicles, it was worth it to rent a minivan.  I looked at this day trip as a mini vacation and treated it as such!  We were comfortable!

FullSizeRender (21).jpg

We began the 1/4 mile rough terrain to the water.  It really is steep in some places and rocky, the rocks aren’t even.  There isn’t anything to hang on to.  People lug their coolers, chairs and floats regardless!  There is no wheelchair access, which makes me sad because for people with disabilities this would be a huge challenge to go see and some would never go.

IMG_2930

The vegetation kept the hot Texas sun away.  There are lots of mesquite trees and cypress as you get towards the water.  I’m standing on the “beach”  here taking my first picture. This is where we laid out some towels and I called it our base camp.  The beach is rocky crushed rock with good size stones.  Outside of the stunning beauty of the cave like curved roof with water gently falling into a clear green massive pool, I noticed these three very large catfish at the water’s edge.  They hung out there the entire time!  First things first, I wanted to explore!  You can walk in the cave all along it to the other side.

hpool1

hamiltonpool1

I thought bats were coming out of the swallow nests, but they aren’t.  If you look closely, you can see the muddy nests with a hole in the middle on the ceiling.

bats

Here is a view of the beach from the other side…

beach

Sometimes the water that falls is quite massive, on a day like today, it was picture perfect for standing under.

hamiltonpool5hamiltonpool8

Under the waterfall is the rock where people jump in.  I swam around the pool.  At first I thought it was going to be freezing because the water temperatures are in the 60s year round.  It was cold at first, you quickly get used to it.  Even though the water looks clear along the edges, it isn’t as it gets deeper.  Still it’s a very pretty green.  Looking up at the water falling is pretty cool as you see the droplets take the plunge.  I could have spent the day here, however my crew is not the chilling type.  At least not here.  I’m guessing it’s because there is no cellular service.

The idea was to eat here, bringing in food.  However, for this group it was a better idea to go out to lunch/dinner.  We ended up going to Canyon Grill which is on lake Travis.  We had another amazing view and great food!  Fantastic day ! ❤

laketravis

Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Cyclists stick together

It’s a sunny Sunday in Texas and early enough in the morning before the blistering heat. About 1030AM I air up the tires to 120 and set off for the lake.  There is hardly any wind. At the lake, there are some people fishing, dogs at the dog park and the usual walkers, joggers and a couple of cyclists.  My goal is 20 miles.  This route includes a 2 mile loop around the lake.  I was on lap 4 when an explosion occurred behind me.  A burst of wind blew on my feet.  My back tire immediately went flat.  I was startled!  Fortunately there was shade from a recently planted oak tree.  I took out my spare tube and CO2 cartridges and began replacing my tube.  There were two fisherman in front of me.   Upon examination of the flat tube, a split at the seem was visible.  I got to the point where I needed to fill up the new tube with CO2 just enough so that it wasn’t completely flat.  That’s when the CO2 pump failed.  As soon as I put on the CO2 cartridge it discharged at the threading and you can’t touch it to stop it because it instantly freezes.  I had a full cartridge and two partials…all no good now.  I thought I would at least get the tube and tire on to walk it home.  A man who was walking came by and asked if I needed help.  He didn’t have his tools, but offered me water.  I was grateful and told him I’d be ok.  I kept working on my tire, it’s so hard to get the last stretch of tire over the rim, but I kept trying.  I went on with this for at least 30 minutes all the while fighting an attack by Texas ants.  It’s so weird, you can sit or stand on a spot that appears clear, then they come up through the ground and start attacking.  There really isn’t a place on the ground in Texas that is safe from ants.

A cyclist stopped by and asked me if I needed help.  He said he had an air pump in his truck.  Again grateful, I told him that would help!  He returned with the pump and at the same time the walker had made another round and stopped to offer assistance. Unfortunately the air pump was for a mountain bike and not the presta valves for the road bike. Still both men helped me get the remaining 4 inches of tire over my rim which helped me get the bike into rolling condition.  I was offered a ride and more water, even a phone in case I needed to call someone.

This is amazing to me.  There were a few people that passed and of course the fishermen in front of me, it’s the cyclists that stop to help and even offer water.  I really didn’t think anyone would offer to help.  This was a pleasant surprise to my older eyes.  At this point in life, taking care of my business on my own is what a strive for.   Having the tools, and a spare tube on my bike along with replacement practice is preparation just for this problem.  With the hotter temperatures, it wasn’t wise to fill the tubes to 120.  They needed to be filled between 100-110.

Another lesson learned.  You need to be prepared if you go out and ride. The cyclist that helped me mentioned he runs a lap around the lake and rides 4.  It’s great exercise.  I am amazed at how many people don’t pay attention to what is going on directly in front of them.  They are looking back, sideways or even down and just don’t see a cyclist coming towards them.  There is plenty of room to stay on the right side, however people walk directly in the middle of the path.  Many oblivious!  LOL!

I walked the 1.5 miles home in the heat with my clip in shoes on which is awkward.  I could have asked the family for help, not today.   What’s the rush?  Getting home will just take longer.  Instead, I looked more at my surroundings.  Maybe there was something I was suppose to see or that the walk was an opportunity to think about something I was suppose to think about (Like next time figure a way to check the CO2 cartridges or get an air pump to include on the bike).  Who knows!  It was hot and I feel as though my shoulders were sunburned through my shirt!  Once home, I filled the tire up with air and will complete the remaining 10 miles soon.  A new tube and additional CO2 cartridges have been ordered!

flat

Cyclists stick together

FINISHER Day Two

Day two of the MS150 starts early!  We get up at 5:00 AM. What-a-Burger delivered at 4:30 am breakfast.  I’m a breakfast person, I don’t think I ate enough the night before and was starving.  So I get up, pack my cot and sleeping bag and go eat.  Our ride marshall said to put your bike at the start so you can be as close to the start as possible.  I did.  Our start was delayed to 8:00am.  After a breakfast taco and some coffee, I put my luggage on the team truck and chatted with the team.  Around 7:30 I went to the start and talked with the people around me.  It was cold and it rained a little, 50 degrees and I had my rash guard on that was keeping me warm.  They finally let us go, I was in the third wave. Leaving LaGrange we began on Hwy 71.  There were two options the challenge route which normally goes through state parks or the express route.  Being that it is my first time, I opted for the express route.

The hills were challenging.  The head wind rough!  It made for a slow ride.  Day two is 66 miles with a lot of hills.  Lunch was in Bastrop where my in-laws live.  I rolled into the stop and enjoyed a turkey tortilla roll up and had lunch with a few team mates.  I took off with one of the guys and stayed with him for a while. The road was familiar because I’ve been on it so many times with my family.  After lunch their were two rest stops that were at least 1/4 mile off the road which was not worth it!  Most rest stops are right off the road. After riding for so long, my thought is that there is no way I’m doing more.  I needed to stop to stretch.   So stretching I did.

At the last rest stop I knew I needed water, but it was only 15 more miles.  I’m like, yeah I can do that.  As I approached the finish, our team ride marshal was with me.  He is an amazing guy, so positive, uplifting.  I’m like please tell me this is the last hill, he says well maybe there is one more, but it’s a baby hill.   Any hill at this point is too big.  I admire his positivity.  As we round a corner I see the city and the capital.  At this point it was a couple of miles and my heart was like, yeah this is it!  We turned many times and finally hit the finish.  There is a bubble bistro at the finish and it horse shoes around to dismount.  The biggest deal is the picture of you and your bike in front of the capital.  I had to work for this picture.  My team tent wasn’t in front of the capital, but I took my bike there anyway and got a pic thanks to a stranger willing to take it with my phone.

ms150capital

I went to the bubble bistro and met Jeff.  His story was amazing . He was diagnosed in 2008. Wheelchair bound and at the time all of the 4 available medicines didn’t work for him . Now one of the fourteen meds work.
He is not only out of his wheelchair , he did the ms150 full for the first time ! He said he was so inspired by the cyclists ! He told me that they are working on meds to repair nerve damage , this will help others as well. Ms is the number one neurological disease that receives fund raising and that benefit can help other neurological issues ! That is my hope for people like my mom!!!  I encourage you to never give up!

jeff

FINISHER Day Two

FINISHER – Day One

What a weekend!  What an experience!   At sunrise my team began the MS150 start at the Wood Group.  The biggest concern was the weather later in the day.  We had a ride marshall on our team who said we would have a tail wind the entire first day.   The sky was overcast and the temperature comfortable in the 70s.

ms150 start

I cycled with one of the ladies for most of the approximate 9 miles it takes to get to less traffic congestion.  As we started to get out of town, which was really suburbia and near my house, the scenery around the two lane road is pretty.  It’s lush and green and there are still many beautiful wild flowers out.  The cycle traffic merged in from Rhodes stadium.  We were on the Tully stadium route, and must have been slightly in front of most of that group. Along the side of the road and into the small towns like Fayetteville, people were on the side of the road cheering, ringing cow bells and playing music.  The first rest stop was about 20 miles in and then stops were spaced 8 to 12 miles apart. Lunch was in Bellville at 47 miles, by the time you reach Bellville, it’s more like brunch time.  The wind wasn’t really a tail wind, it was more like a cross wind.  Houston is pretty flat, however as soon as you get outside, there are some rolling hills.  I clinched and held on tightly going down the hills because the cross wind was powerful and it would blow in short swift bursts.  It was nice meeting up with the team and chatting at the lunch stop and with them at rest stops as well as meeting other people.  That coconut water from Goya is the best.  It’s the one in a small can with bits of coconut in it.

After lunch the wind really picked up and the sun came out, temperature and humidity rose and the hills were a little more steep.  The last two rest stops were tough getting out of, my toes were numb.  I’m pretty sure because of the tightening to hold on for the wicked cross wind.  As I rolled into La Grange I couldn’t feel my toes.  As soon as I got off it was better.  I looked at the mileage…94 miles for day one!

I found our tent and they had my bedding setup.  I went to the shower trucks.  The women’s line was much shorter than the men’s.  After a short wait, I went into a steaming hot truck where there are lines of individual showers with curtains.  There is a hook on the outside where I hooked my plastic bag and towel.

tent

After the shower, I went back to be with the team, eat, drink and rest.  The Wood Group had the best bathrooms ever!  They were portable, flushed, had a sink and were even air conditioned.  We had a band right in front of us that was playing great music.  I would have loved to dance, however I had no more energy.   The storm rolled in around 9-10PM.  We had an emergency plan, but didn’t need it.  The wind really blew in and cooled the temperatures 30 degrees.  The sleeping bag was perfect!  I turned down ear plugs only to regret it later.  I had “the motor” behind me snoring all night!

No neighbors behind us!

lagrange

 

 

FINISHER – Day One