Friday 18th March.  Day off in El Paso.

We had a good relaxing start to the day as Mike had generously let us have the use of the house while he was at work. The first job was to mend the puncture on David’s airbed – one leak was duly found and patched. We then planned the next few days on the bikes and wondered about the level of remote desert that we were heading into.  Still, it has to be done if we are to get to the Texas Hill Country. We then had an enjoyable time catching up with home –  talking to the children, David’s mum and and with friends via the wonders of WhatsApp.

About 11.30 we wrenched ourselves off to do something with the day and cycled to downtown El Paso – about 10 miles away.  We stopped at an outdoor shop and stocked up with more water bottles as preparation before heading into the more remote desert areas.  The route wiggled through the hills then down into the downtown area.

We visited two free museums – the History Museum and the Museum of Art. We learnt something about the history of the area and the complex interactions between indigenous tribes, the Spanish and Americans.  The art museum had a beautiful exhibition of modern ceramics and some interesting pictures by Texan artists. We skipped through the latin-american rooms that were dripping with religious artworks – beautiful in their own way but not what we were in the mood for. 

The Theatre at El Paso

Opposite the museum was the El Paso theatre – a lovely modern building.  After our dose of culture we got something to eat and found a delicious ‘healthy eats’ place that showed that the US can do lovely healthy meals.

As we came out of the cafe we were unlocking our bikes when a person passing by asked us where we were travelling to.  Mark Lynch is an Irishman who is cycling the Southern Tier in the other direction to us – starting in Florida and heading to San Diego.  Like us, he had hardly seen another touring cyclist and he too was having a day off in El Paso (also visiting hte same 2 museums).  What a coincidence that  our paths should cross when neither of us was cycling with loaded panniers.  We had a good chat and exchange of information. It would have been great to spend the evening with him but we were committed to having dinner with our hosts.  Culture and then multiple invitations for the evening!! 

We had an ‘interesting’ cycle back,  I was sure we could take a more direct route back and google maps showed us what looked like a reasonably straightforward route. It started well enough but then we turned onto a road that was like the M25, flanked by the M6, the M1 and the railway line. Once we were on there, there was no turning back as a multiple array of spaghetti junctions weaved down and up and over.  There was a very wide shoulder and no signs saying ‘no bicycles’ but we were definitely the only cyclists on it!  Come to that we did not see any other cyclists all day, it’s really not a mode of transport in the US. We put our heads down and pedalled hard and eventually we managed to get ourselves onto a saner road….but by then my phone was running out of battery and finally died.  Luckily we were near enough to work out how to get back!  I’ll never complain about the Komoot routes again, even if they seem to be ridiculously long winded – it was for good reason!

We arrived back with our host family just in time for the evening meal.  Mike’s daughter-in-law is from Honduras and produced a delicious Honduran meal.  The family are Mormons and we were joined by 3 ‘Sisters’, young women who were doing their 18 months missionary work in the El Paso area. We regaled them all with our travelling tails and they sweetly prayed for us.

After the Sisters left another friend arrived and a Ping Pong competition commenced! David was beaten but not humiliated.  I ducked out pleading complete ignorance of the rules!

A nice family end to the day before hitting the road again.

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