This is a guest post by Pixi, one of two co-adventurers who accompanied me on the 130 mile ride to the Mexico border.
In one of the last emails before the 3-day bike trip across southern Texas, André wrote to Blake and me:
“Okay guys. Yesterday and today I did some riding. Yesterday in 94 degrees, today in the low 90s in peak afternoon. The wind was comparable to the one we’ll have behind us. When I was against the wind the heat was unbearable because of the hard pedaling. But when the wind was behind me the heat actually seemed fine… And I was even wearing long pants!”
“Sounds awesome,” I wrote back.
And it did, even though I was freaking out in my head. I didn’t believe there was any way this trip was going to be that easy. Just the planning had already been stressful: getting time off work, finding a replacement bike after mine was stolen, and figuring out how to get it from Minneapolis to Texas. But, I knew deep down that this was what I had asked for. I wanted an adventure.
Despite the stress of transporting the bike in a bike box on the Greyhound, I arrived just fine. Blake and André picked me up at the bus station and we went back to Blake’s house to prepare for the journey the next day. André helped me put the bike back together and gave me a tour around some of Corpus Christi showing me what he meant by going with and against the wind. It was still hot in long pants, but I could feel the difference he talked about.
Early the next morning, we were picked up by Blake’s sister and brought to the dirt road where André had ended the kayaking leg of his adventure. After last minute sunscreen application and pictures we set off down a deserted country road full of excitement and anticipation. The South Texas roadside flora, so different from Minnesota, was fascinating and beautiful to watch go by. The trip was off to a great start as we chatted, joked, and greeted the cattle who watched us go by, while an overcast sky kept some of the heat and sunshine at bay.
Then, despite Captain André’s weather reports, it started to rain. We stopped to put our phones in plastic bags and turn on our bike lights. The rain actually helped a lot with the heat and I was grateful for it until I realized my brakes didn’t work as well when they were wet. But, we ended up keeping a good pace of about 9 miles per hour. By the time we rolled into Falfurrias in the early afternoon the rain had stopped.
André had already researched the town and knew that there was an RV park where we might be able to pitch the tent and bivy. He called them up and the owner told us we could definitely set up camp there for a small fee. They even had a laundry room to dry out our wet clothes, a shower and even a pool! About a half mile from the RV park, Blake got the first flat of the trip. But with a place to rest in sight, he just walked the bike the rest of the way. The owner, Arthur, was one of the nicest guys and very accommodating. He showed us the area where we could camp, chatted about how he ended up owning the RV park, and told us if we needed anything to just come to the office and ask him. He also recommended places to get dinner—including a good Mexican restaurant and a bad Mexican restaurant. We changed into dry clothes, set up camp and André gave us a class on how to change and repair a bike tube (By the end of the trip, Blake was an expert at this!). Still, I was almost disappointed at how easy the day had been. Where was the Adventure?
After dinner at the good Mexican restaurant we went back to the RV park and started a fire in the fire pit in the rec room. Well, André would say I made a fire and he just helped. It was still hot outside, even at that time of day, but the opportunity to have the traditional fire at the end of a long day of adventuring was hard for me to pass up.
We started earlier the next morning to try to beat some of the heat, silently wishing for more rain which never came. Leaving the RV park, we headed straight for a country road that we thought would have less traffic than the highway. The country road eventually turned into a dirt and gravel road. We stopped and André asked us what we wanted to do: bike back to the last intersection and try to meet up with the highway, or walk the bikes for a somewhat uncertain distance on the dirt road. Blake and I said we’d be fine walking (a short break from biking and the opportunity to move our legs in other ways sounded good, actually). André later told us that that’s what he probably would have done if he’d been alone, too, just gone straight on instead of backtracking.
The heat of the second day got harder to deal with as the morning went on. I started lagging behind. Blake, on his new bike with the skinny, yet highly breakable tires, was taking the lead. We kept up a 9 to 10 mph pace, even in the heat and gratefully stopped at the very first food establishment when we reached Hebbronville. After burgers and being in the air conditioning long enough to feel cold, André whipped out his phone to research possible camping spots. He found a mobile home park and while it was less likely we’d be able to camp there, he called them anyway. The woman who answered the phone was not sure if we could tent camp there, though. One of the employees at the burger joint suggested a park in the middle of the city, sure that no one would care if we put our tent there.
We decided to scope out the Catholic church in town, which ended up having no yard space to speak of, and then the city park, on the way to ask the mobile home park owners in person about pitching a tent. We eventually found a mobile home park and André confidently walked up to what appeared to possibly be the office, or just someone’s house, and knocked on the door. The door was answered by a man who happened to be the son of a woman who owned a different mobile home park across the street. Her son pointed her out to us, saying we could probably camp over there, that all the neighbors who lived there were really good people and even invited us over for a BBQ later. We thanked him and went across the street.
His mother, Lupita, said we could set up our tent in an area that wasn’t being used. At first she charged us the same $15 for the night that we had gotten charged at the RV park, but later gave us back the money saying we should use it for dinner. Her husband brought us some plastic chairs to lounge in and we took a siesta in the shade. Later, they offered to hook up an extension cord so that we could charge our phones. But when none of the electrical boxes seemed to work, a neighbor connected the extension cord straight from his mobile home. Their hospitality was incredible!
After dinner, Blake and I decided to readjust our seat heights, as both of us had started having knee pains. When it got dark, another neighbor came over and offered us a flashlight. Everyone was so nice. Now the question is, would André have gotten the same hospitality in both these cities if he had been alone? I think he would have. We just ended up meeting the nicest people in these small towns.
We got up extra early the next day to beat the heat on our longest day of the trip. We got everything packed in record time, went to the nearby gas station to fill up all our water containers, and took off before sunrise. We knew from descriptions from our new friends that there were several large hills on our way to Laredo and one bridge, but also that it was mostly downhill. Whether it was the ease of our route, the seat adjustment, the cooling breeze we got most of the way, starting to listen to music on my phone like Blake had been doing, or a combination of all these factors, this day felt like the easiest of all three and I was leading most of the way. Even when I ended up getting my one flat of the trip, the three of us worked together very smoothly to replace the tire roadside.
We rolled into Laredo before we knew it and then the most difficult part started. When we got close to the city there was a lot more traffic than before and the shoulder of the road was filled with debris.Trying to navigate between the danger of passing cars or getting a flat tire was difficult and a little scary. Captain André’s leadership skills really came out to help us navigate the dangerous road.
After lunch, André tried to figure out the route to the border crossing and Blake worked on patching his latest flat as best as he could. We followed André, biking through the downtown, going the wrong way on several one ways until we finally found the right bridge for pedestrians to cross over into Mexico. Here we stopped and André made us take several pictures of the three of us. Then André put his hand to one of the columns, choosing the spot where he would officially begin the next part of his trip into Mexico. We went to a park in the middle of town to wait for Blake’s mother and stepfather to pick us up. Proud and exhausted at finishing our trip, we then had dinner and beers with them in celebration before heading back to Corpus Christi.
I am so glad I went on this trip. It was challenging and so much fun! I really believe anyone can do this. I didn’t really do any training at all. I only did one 25 mile ride beforehand. I can’t wait to see what other adventures I will get to be a part of in the future. Thanks, André, for letting me be part of this one!
Some notes to interested travelers:
- Having the correct bike fit for you (seat position, etc.) is very important and does make a huge difference in how tired you get or how many aches and pains you have when riding long distance.
- Although I had fears about packing my bike onto a bus it was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The policy on Greyhound is that you have to take the bike apart and put it in a bike box in order to have it as a piece of checked baggage. I thought I might have to pay a fee for it being larger than their 62” total height/width/length limit, but I ended up not having to pay anything extra. I may have had to if it was over the 50 lbs. limit, though. I also had the fear that with my several transfers, on a crowded bus there wouldn’t be enough room under the bus for my oversized box and I would have to wait for the next bus to my destination. This never happened either.
André’s note: does anyone have a question for Pixi?