These two days of riding to get to Laredo were a bit chaotic due to the recent fracking boom in south Texas. Leaving Eagle Pass, we traveled on a quiet road toward El Indio, intentionally taking time to appreciate the peace and quiet which we knew would end abruptly as we turned to head towards Carrizo Springs.
People told us that just a couple of years ago on this second stretch of road, one would at most see 5 other cars. Now, lucky for us cyclists, the road is filled with trucks and semitrailers, several passing us each minute. On land that was recently uninhabited, we saw all sorts of machinery and lots of RV parks.
|Look! An RV park!|
For the most part, the shoulder of the road was ample, so we weren't too afraid of getting crushed, but the sight and sound of all that traffic did make our ride a bit less pleasant. Apart from all the trucks, the other big eyesore on this stretch (probably also as a result of the fracking boom) was how littered the highway was with garbage. During most of our riding in Mexico, I would have to remind myself that I was south of the border, because it really looked like I could be anywhere in the southwest. One difference I did notice was that Mexico has much more litter on the road. I love you Mexico, but it's true. Up until this point, I would say highways in the United States are pretty clean, but after riding near Carrizo Springs, I can no longer attest to that fact. Interestingly (or not), the bulk of the litter on both sides of the border is the same: beer cans, beer bottles and beer boxes.
As populated as the area near Carrizo Springs has become, it is not much of a destination for vacationers or traveling cyclists, so we had hoped to just find a yard or park in nearby Catarina in which we could pitch our tent. Catarina is a teeny spot on the map, most widely known for a run-down, but cool looking hotel and restaurant that president Taft frequented. We rolled by the hotel, and it looked like people were working inside, but it didn't look like they were taking in guests. Down the road and across the street, we saw some folks bustling around so we pulled over and asked if they knew a place we could camp.
They are a family from San Antonio who is venturing to make a little money in the midst of the fracking boom by opening a little restaurant and bar in Catarina (the only bar in 50 miles--I think they just might succeed). It was Sunday evening when we arrived and they were fixing up their rental, getting ready to open to the public the following Friday. At first they shook their heads when we inquired about a place to camp, but quickly they looked at each other and offered us an air mattress in the apartment adjacent to the restaurant! Not only that, but they had some burgers on the grill--did we want one? How about some potato salad and pickles and carrots and chips and cherry pie? Yes, please! What a pleasant surprise! (We probably shouldn't be surprised by the generosity of strangers at this point, but we always are!)
|Charlie playing guitar|
|while Eric plays the harp|
Day 35: Monday, January 16 Catarina, TX to Laredo, TX Miles: 63 (1762) Flats: 0 (10) Elevation: 550 ft - 415 ft
The next morning, a south wind was blowing strong and Charlie wanted us to stay and keep him company, but we were eager to get down to Laredo.
It was certainly a struggle against the cool wind, but we pushed it stopping only for lunch and to admire the scenery:
Exhausted from fighting the wind, we had lunch and a nap at the first gas station we could near the junction of highway 83 and highway 35. For some reason, I romanticized the idea of riding the last 20 miles of highway 35 before it enters Mexico because I have ridden on the first several miles many times as 35 originates in my college town of Duluth. However, it was just a busy interstate and we were glad we only had to get on the freeway once to travel less than half a mile when our frontage road suddenly ended.
I don't know what I was expecting of Laredo, but it is huge! Highway 35 is the major artery for commerce between Mexico and the United States and it seemed like it to took us ages to get to downtown. We later learned that Laredo once served as the national capital for the short lived Republic of the Rio Grande, which was an attempt made at sovereignty around the same time Texas ceded from Mexico in 1840. So while there are theme parks named after the six flags that have flown over Texas, Laredo flies a seventh flag.
For lodging in Laredo, we again enlisted the assistance of couchsurfing.org and thus met our host Shawn who teaches at the Texas A & M International University. We met him at his house near downtown and celebrated our arrival by going out for tacos.