____ SAG stands for Support and Gear; a term used for the vehicle that shadows a group of touring cyclists from one destination to another. I have done plenty of self-supported cycle tours and this was my first experience of SAG Wagons; added to which, I was the driver of the support vehicle. Although not built with the SAG job in mind; the Mack turned out to be perfectly suited to the job which was more than could be said about me. A day of cycling would cover about 50 to 70 miles, the Mack would do that in about an hour and a half at most. This means there was a lot of sitting about and waiting; waiting at the lunch location, waiting at the afternoon tea location and waiting for the intrepid adventurers at the night halt. I would set-up a table with food and drink at a suitable picnic spot, rest area or lay-by and wait. Sometimes they were grateful for the service, sometimes they had gone into a restaurant along the way and didn’t need what I had prepared and sometimes they changed their route on a whim and didn’t come past their feeding station. You can imagine how annoying that could be.
____ The tour started at El Paso and was scheduled to arrive in Austin on Day 14; about 600 miles away. Day One was to Fort Hancock and the hospitality of the local community church, who let the group overnight on the premises. Due to constant rain on Day Two, this stop turned into two nights. After that it never rained again on the whole trip. The kindness and generosity of a local church featured again at Sanderson; other nights were a mixture of hotel, motel and rental cabins. Some, good quality. Some expensive. Some dire. Some cozy and some were “Warm Showers”, which is a network of touring cyclists who offer hospitality to fellow touring cyclists on a reciprocal basis. But every night, Cheryl and I stayed in the truck; parked somewhere close by.
____ The Bicycle Boot Camp at El Paso did the world of good to Cheryl’s stamina. Daily trips of up to 40 miles in the week before the tour let her keep-up with ease. The group consisted of some very capable riders but she was never dropped and often led the way. Main man on the trip was Rick; in fact it was called “Ride with Rick for Parkinsons.” Bicycle riding is reckoned to help off-set the effects of Parkinson ’s disease and Rick has been out and about on his bike for the last six months. I didn’t have much time to judge for myself if it is an effective way of dealing with the mental and physical symptoms of the disease but it seemed to have advantages for his carers. Instead of wandering-off and needing constant watching; Rick rode on the front of his recumbent tandem, peddling away all day with a variety of helpers doing the riding on the back. I never asked him if he was happy with his situation but I know that if it was me who had Parkinson’s then I wouldn’t want to be taken around the country on a bike. Just lock me up and let me fade away. But Rick’s carers really cared and were a happy bunch often riding into the darkness as the early night-fall of December cut down the daylight riding time.
____ The route started out on flat desert terrain; following Interstate 10 eastwards. Fort Hancock, Van Horn and Kent before cutting through the Davis Mountains and visiting the MacDonald Observatory on route to Alpine and US Highway 90. The SAG Wagon was essential on the long stretches of service-less road; near-ghost towns and a dry un-forgiving climate but with a tail-wind and gradual descent, all the way to Del Rio. The first week of riding gave the crew the fitness that they needed for the second; traversing the Texas Hill Country through the towns of Uvalde, Leakey, Hunt and Fredericksburg before Johnson City, the terminus of the tour for Cheryl and I as we returned westwards across Texas. All in all; an experience that was sometimes enjoyable and sometimes frustrating but most of the time it was watching the road for the appearance of eight cycle tourers.
|The Southern Tier Cycle Tourers Route from El Paso to Austin in Texas.|
|From right to left. Jill, Rick, Cheryl, John, Paul, Kristina, Anders, Leigh-Anne. At the start in El Paso.|
|At the double overnight stay in Fort Hancock.|
|Floods were no problem for the Mack but a detour for the bikers.|
|Rock-climbing as I waited in a picnic area beside Interstate 10 at Sierra Blanca.|
|Low cloud at a lunch break rest area.|
|More picnic tables on US Highway 90 on the way to Sanderson.|
|C R England wreck that was being recovered by Mike, our host and pastor at the church were we had stayed the previous night. The rig had run so far off the road that it took them four days to get the site cleared.|
|At Rudy's in Del Rio, diesel for the truck and brisket sandwich for me.|
|Replica Stonehenge and Easter Island statues at Hunt in the Texas Hill Country.|
|Nimitz Hotel, Fredericksburg. Birth place of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of US Naval Forces in the Battle for the Pacific during World War Two. A Statue and Museum to a true hero and gentleman.|