June 28, 1998
Ashley suggests not going straight to San Antonio but instead going through Austin by way of Highway 90. It is an excellent suggestion, as the scenery is most enjoyable. It only adds 60 miles to the trip, so I call that a real bargain. I see the campus of the University of Texas, and tool around downtown a bit before getting on I-35 into San Antonio. I had already expected to stay in a motel in SA, but I hold out hope that I cold find camping. The nearest campsite turns out to be 20 miles outside of town on the south side (and therefore even more out of the way), so I look for a cheap motel. Ironically, with my usual desire to end my day on the far side of the city I am staying in, I pass by all the cheap motels and head across town, only to find that the nearby Six Flags and SeaWorld attractions on the west side of the city keep motel rates up. I head back east and get a cheap (for SA) motel and after showering I head downtown to go see the Alamo and the Riverwalk complex.

The Alamo is a bust, with hordes of tourists (damn them) making progress through the area next to impossible. I attempt to purchase a postcard to send to some friends without internet access who want to keep up with my progress, but it is literally impossible. I make it in the front door of the shop, and to a postcard rack, but then the crowds become so thick I can not even make it to the sales counter. It takes over five minutes for me to exit, yet the exit is only 30 feet away. I am amazed at the locations parents will stop to scream at their kids. It appears that one of the two traffic lanes in and out of the shop is blocked by a woman berating her kids for wanting too many trinkets. Ten people on either side of her can do nothing but stop and wait for her tirade to end. I exit, postcardless, and hope for better luck at the Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk is a complex of shops and restaurants located along the San Antonio River in the heart of the city. It used to have more curio shops, fifteen years ago or so, but now it is 90% restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood. I eat at a Mexican place, and overall I feel it was a good meal. I take my time, strolling along the riverfront from end to end, getting some leg stretching in, but I still wrap up by 6pm. A day on the road that wasn't a Keystone Kops affair, how refreshing :-)

June 29, 1998
I leave San Antonio by 8am, and dodge rain showers for the first ten miles or so. Not too far outside of the city I enter some hills, and start climbing in altitude. One thing I learned from a recent trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains that rapid changes in altitude and ear plugs can be painful. When you put earplugs in, there is a small amount of air trapped in your ear canal, and when the pressure outside the earplug decreases, it causes the air inside to expand. Since the plug isn't going to compress that much, it creates a rather painful condition as the pressure presses on your inner ear. These hills weren't that big; I just thought I'd pass on some tidbits about surviving the road.

I am glad to be in some hills, just for the scenery, but even with this Texas soon becomes mindnumbing. The distances are amazing. I keep myself amused by creating limmericks such as:
The Road to El Paso (sung to 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall)
Five hundred thirty two miles to go,
Five hundred thirty two miles,
Open the throttle,
Cover some ground,
Five hundred thirty one miles to go.

The terrain is odd, a sort of yellowed ivory in color, and largely rock with the fairly steady undergrowth topping off at four feet or so. The hills are abrupt, with steep vertical faces that lead to tops that have been sheered off by the swirling winds that remorselessly blow me toward either side of the road. Come out from behind of a hill onto a plain and I know I need to brace myself. Occasionally the gusts are enough to create a sickening feeling of being on ice, where my front end no longer passes back the road's texture and I take deep breaths afterward.

I-10 is a speeder's paradise, an American Autobahn. Speed limits are only so they can say "I told you so" when they scape you out of your car. I am at 5 grand steadily, which is probably 85 to 90, and the road is smooth. I pass cars here and there, and sometimes I am passed as well, occasionally with a ferocity that makes me check to see that I am indeed in top gear. Tickets? I was passed by a state trooper who was going 30 to 40 miles an hour faster than I was.

I make extremely good time this morning and blow through my scheduled midday stop with gleeful abandon well ahead of schedule. The morning intermittent overcast I have had since San Antonio has kept the temperatures down, and I am quite comfortable, even feeling cool when I hit cloud shadows. I eventually stop in Ozona, in the heart of Crockett County, and eat lunch in a park next to a Davy Crockett monument and museum. It is noon, and only 91. I decide to not stop for my midday break until I get to Fort Stockton, only 140 miles down the road and my initial end of the day destination.

I leave Ozona with a postive attitude and am immediately faced with the possibility I've made a mistake. Within 20 miles I leave behind the rolling hills and hit the beginnings of the Texas desert. The heat climbs quickly, and while I am still comfortable when I am moving, when I stop for gas I feel how sharp the heat will become. An hour and a half after leaving Ozona I hit Fort Stockton, where I know I'm no longer in cozy traveling conditions, as a bank thermometer reads 102. The air is definately drier, and the heat is a burning dry heat, like being in front of an oven. Even at low speeds, the air coming through my partially opened facevisor burns my eyes.

Coming into town I see the campground I plan to stay at. Oops. Being from the East Coast, I made an unfortunate assumption, that there would be trees to provide some shade and relief from the heat, and this proves false. Any camping I do here will receive the full strength of the desert sun and my tent will soon provide a nice place to do some baking (myself included). I find a gas station and inquire about local conditions, as I know I need to pull off for a few hours. I am told that yesterday it hit 113 (later I find out it was two days ago) and today it'll come close (actually 106 or so). I ask about how quick does it cool off and am told it'll be 95 at 11pm or so, but then it starts cooling off so that it'll be in the low 90's at sunrise. Dismayed, I am faced with three choices, either pressing on to Pecos (60 miles up the road), pressing on to Carlsbad (140 miles up the road), or staying here for the night. On the way in I had spotted motels for $18 a night. Pecos probably offered the same, but I knew I needed to get in from the heat for a few hours. I didn't want to go all the way to Carlsbad, so I decide to get a room in Fort Stockton. Since camping would have been $12 or so, and since I will be eating in (beans and rice), it comes out to about the same but with the added advantage of airconditioning.

So I stop for the night, having covered over 350 miles today, which was my goal. I find that the heat is deceptive. I felt cool and comfortable while riding, but after getting a chance to unwind, I realize I am toast. I am sunburned and probably windburned as well, and my lips are chapped. I see from the Weather Channel that tomorrow will be worse. At least I am heading north and I will get to Carlsbad early. Hopefully inside the caverns it will be cool. I know I will need to camp, as not only do I miss it, I know that the tourist attraction nature of the area will keep motel rates up.

I have mixed feelings about how much motel staying I am doing. When it is as cheap as tonight ($20), I have few qualms, and I know I really had no choice in San Antonio, but I've only camped two nights out of the entire trip so far, and my average cost per day reflects this. On the other hand, the area I am going into is seeing record breaking temperatures that has even the locals complaining. I have used this day to restock on several items I need, and to catch up on my writing and email, which in Houston I was either too tired or too busy to do, so it has been worth it tonight. Hopefully I will run into more state and national parks (I overestimated their frequency, along the SE coast they are very common) and I can return to camping.

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