I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible. I had a blast! I just want to give a few highlights and let you know where we diverged from the “potential vacation” posts you saw. (Not much.)
Friday night we were in Austin with Bart & Emily, who have hosted us for similar outrageous fun in the past. They’re great hosts! By the time we got into town they had a great dinner all ready for us… I think there was barbecued chicken, leftover brisket, dirty rice, and cornbread with Lil Smokey sausages in it. (Don’t ask.) Bart homebrews, so we had some awesome beer to drink on draft off the back porch, too. There was a caramel pecan porter that was like a dessert, and also a lighter one, I guess it was a wit? We went out late to see two bands play: Smoke and Feathers, followed by the Mother Hips, at the Hole in the Wall. Smoke and Feathers reminded me of a male-vocal Portishead, which was creepy but cool. They ALL had pretty impressive beards, too. There was a theramin! It was great. Mother Hips apparently have a Grateful Dead connection, and the lead guy kind of looked like my Pops. That was cool, too. Then we went back to the house and watched part of a Led Zepplin documentary. Great night.
Saturday we ate some Mexican food and hit the road. The Eola School was really cool! Just this one guy runs four businesses at once. He brews beer (was pouring a German blonde and a smoked porter – I don’t like smoke on my beer so we stuck with the blonde which was fine); he cooks burgers & fried foods; he offers hostel-style lodging (bunk beds, BYO bedding); and he’s renovating a historic schoolhouse building from the 1930′s, if I remember correctly. I give him full credit on all counts! It was well worth our detour.
Sunday we headed out into nowhere to visit the Chinati Hot Springs. It was a beautiful location several hours down a dirt road, with several clean, built-out tubs fed by natural hot springs, and rustic cabins with a community kitchen where we made our dinner and breakfast.
Feeling refreshed, we got up Monday morning and drove through Ruidoso and Presidio, through Big Bend Ranch State Park, into the towns of Lajitas, Terlingua, and Study Butte (one largish area) for the rest of our week’s activities.
Tuesday we hiked Lost Mines. It was a really great, scenic, steep hike of about 3 hours, out and back, to a peak with an outstanding panorama. It was moderately challenging and beautiful and well worth it. The Husband’s new gadget gave us altitude readings (not something we use in Houston! our local bike rides have elevation changes of 15-20 feet if we take the freeway overpasses) that explained why I was a touch out of breath.
Wednesday we rode some of the Lajitas trail system, which is a lot of the race course that we’re familiar with. That was nice to see; it was a casual ride (before people started showing up for the mountain bike festival), just the two of us, on familiar trails.
A few of our friends showed up Wednesday night, and the rest on Thursday. Thursday morning we got up early to do some logistics: we caravaned with some friends to leave a car at one end of our point-to-point ride in Big Bend National Park. We rode from the north end of an old jeep road down to a (different) hot springs right on the Rio Grande. This was our hottest day, in the upper 90′s, in the blazing sun with no shelter, and it was a rough and climby ride, and I ran out of water, so it was a doozy! But we had outstanding views, good company, and burning legs – it was a great day. And Tobin makes a mean margarita. The hot springs were less appealing than we had expected after such a long, hot day, but it turned out lovely all the same – these hot springs backed right up to the cold Rio Grande, so you could just hop the little wall (like a swimming pool and hot tub, but muddier) to change from hot to cold. It was a nice, relaxing day.
Friday we rode some more Lajitas trails, this time in a group, and then went back into the national park for a night hike to a waterfall. I banged my head on a rock but I survived and it was otherwise a beautiful evening with breathtaking sunset, as always out there.We went back to the cabin for a big community dinner involving burgers, chicken, sausages, bratwurst, mac’n'cheese, and beer. Ahem! Heavy. This was in preparation for Saturday’s epic.
We decidedly not to do the capital-E Epic ride on Saturday. We had been beaten by such hot temperatures, and were hearing such frightening tales of what the Epic involved, that we bailed in favor of what I’m calling the mini-epic. It was still a great, long, hot, challenging, FUN ride at just under 6 hours – the Epic would have put us well over 8 hours, I think. What a day! I was definitely weak out there at some points (like on the climbs! did I say we don’t have those in Houston?), but I really enjoyed the creekbeds, strangely enough, and actually had a real burst of energy at the end, and rode the last couple miles fast, hard, and happy. THIS is what we drive to the desert for.
Saturday night ended with all the necessary ingredients. We drank Real Ale Fireman #4 (thank you Real Ale for sponsoring the festival!), hung out with all our friends, saw some live music, danced, and hula hooped. The Husband grilled some delicious chicken and we collapsed in exhaustion.
Sunday, sadly, saw us making the Epic (capital-E), slightly hungover drive back into Houston. I think we made it just under 12 hours including stops. Sigh. For once I was not ready for our trip to end, even missing the little dogs. But! There’s always next year. See you in the desert!
(all photo credits to the Husband. good job Husband!)