dropped us off in downtown El Paso. It has been colder the past few
days than anything we have yet experienced on this trip. Even though
it's dry, it is very windy, and the temperatures are staying in the
It was really cold last night when we found a spot to camp. Just
outside of McNary Texas, within shouting distance of the Mexican
border, we found an apparently uninhabited stretch of knolly
scrubland, perfect for finding concealment not far from the road.
Within minutes of stopping, I had on every bit of cold weather gear I
had with me, and the temperature continued to drop. We had a quick
dinner of peanut butter sandwiches, and got in our warm sleeping bags
shortly after dark.
We have heard coyotes howling in the dark many nights in the desert.
Last night, when they spoke up in protest of a passing train right
after we laid down, we were a bit unnerved with how close they
sounded. They could not have been more than 100 yards away. Indeed,
when morning came, we found frozen scat within fifty feet of our
Sometime later in the night, I was awoken by a persistent sound. It
seemed some sort of off-road vehicle was driving back and forth, the
rough sound of the engine growing and fading, then growing again, over
and over. As I laid there, the realization slowly dawned on me that a
helicopter was circling nearby.
With each pass, the sound grew louder and louder. I had been cacooned
in my sleeping bag, shut off from all outside light. I drew back the
drawstring and pulled my head out as the sound became a roar and the
helicopter passed directly over us, not 100' off the ground. To my
horror, the inside of my bivy sack lit up like Monday night football.
We were directly in the beam of a searchlight.
Dwight - uh, Adam, are you awake?
Adam - of course.
Dwight - so, they see us, huh?
Adam - obviously.
Dwight - so, what do we do?
Adam - what CAN we do?
Dwight - hmm...
Adam - yeah
I pulled back the cover of the bivy sack, watching the helicopter as
it circled, keepig it's light trained on us. Presently, a second light
floated into sight, and a disembodied voice call out "¡bueños nochés,
Dwight - uh
Adam - good evening!
The speaker continued in English, "What are you guys doing here?".
From there, a suprisingly friendly Border Patrol Agent proceeded to
quiz us on our names, where we we coming from, our destination, and
our homes. He decided the two guys wrapped up like mummies laying
beside two bicycles loaded with gear were not, in fact, border jumpers
who had decided to stop for a nap, 500 yards across the Rio Grande, in
17 degree weather.
He concluded with, "well, we're looking for two guys out here, but
you're obviouly not them. You guys go back to sleep."
17 degrees showed on the thermometer when we woke this morning. My
fingers hurt trying to stuff all of our gear, wet with melting frost,
into their respective bags Cold to start, and it stayed cold the
whole day. All day long we rode in jackets and gloves, and still our
fingers and toes never warmed up. Tonight's not supposed to be as bad,
we look forward to a low of 35.
We have gone around 75 miles today, putting our total at 950. We
should (knock on wood - a precious commoditty around here) pass 1000
miles tomorrow on our way to shelter at the famous McDonald
Observatory, right outside of Fort Davis!