We were told that under the law Texas highways cannot have a grade greater than 15%, so if one does (cough, cough), it is marked with a 15% sign.
As we rode into Lajitas, there was a sign that said, “Big Hill, 30 miles ahead.” We’d been warned by Adventure Cycling as well as every tourist and map, “The Big Hill” was coming up. I was nervous because the Surly is heavier than the Synapse…
The day started out lovely, as we took the “river road” along the Rio Grande. Somehow, when I read that description in the ACA information, I envisioned a bucolic wandering river with abundant green and loveliness. Well … yes and no. Immediately adjacent to the river, the land was lush and green. But it didn’t extend far, and the river itself was pretty sparse. And the tree cover I’m used to when driving/riding along Virginia river roads – no. Just no.
The first few hills and rollers were warnings of what was to come. By the time we reached “The Big Hill”, I had already walked part of FOUR hills! This one was a monster on top of that. I rode as far as I could, and then I walked. Fortunately, I had thought ahead and brought slides to put on in place of my bike shoes. These are some photos of the terrain and the climb (and these are MY photos).
The first photo gives you an idea of the type of natural sculpture we were seeing. I thought it looked like an Egyptian hieroglyphic bird.
The green ribbon is the river. The mountains on the far side of that green are in Mexico. Build a wall here? Why?
Starting to climb:
Looking back from about half-way up. In this photo, Mexico is to the right of the photo.
Looking ahead and wanting to cry:
That doesn’t look bad, you’re thinking. Wait a minute – to give you perspective, I’ve drawn a circle around one of our riders.
Finally, at the summit. Mike was waiting there a while for me, but as always, he was very patient and kind.
The downhill after that climb was terrifying and fun. Eventually we stopped at a place for lunch and I decided to go for a hike with our leaders rather than ride on. Mike wanted to ride so we parted.
We hiked into a slot canyon — a terribly dangerous place if there’s any rain anywhere, but totally dry on this occasion. It eventually led down to the river, but there were some boulders that were taller than us and we weren’t sure we’d be able to climb back up them, so we returned to the top. One thing you have to accept out here — if you get yourself in trouble, there probably isn’t anyone going to find you for a while and there is NO cell service!
After that day, the motel beds in Presidio were a welcome treat for the night!