On to the Big Bend

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Things are about to become more difficult. Where we are going requires some precision planning. The Big Bend area is VAST and made up of desert with few towns and fewer gas stations, restaurants, and hotels. Reservations at the only three locations across immense area are an absolute must and difficult to get. Going from East to West one generally stays at the Grange Hotel in Marathon, the Golf Resort at Lajitas, and Cibolo Creek Ranch in nowhere just south of Marfa. If one location has no available reservations one basically has to wait until they do have. Adding to the challenge is the town where we begin, Uvalde, Texas is Oil Well Fracking central and all the hotels stay booked up with oil field workers from as much as 40 miles away. We have a serious discussion about our next step. We sit at the convenience store in Concan where we have some cell phone access and hammer out reservations for the next week. I come close to getting to go back to Neal’s but at the last minute we get a cancelation at the Holiday Inn Express in Uvalde. Rats! We are on our way. We leave the convenience store and go back north then east along winding roads. We cross the Guadalupe river and head for Medina and the Bandera, Cowboy capital of the world. I am disappointed since it doesn’t much different than the other small towns. We head back east along more ranches. One has dead coyotes hanging on a fence post. Evidently Wiley Coyote and cattle ranchers do not mix well. In a small town we take a lunch break at the Lost Maples cafe along side other birders and two bicyclists. Man, they are really hot pedaling up and down these hills in the Texas heat. The home made pies were just yummy. The cook beamed at our enjoyment of them. Time to head to Uvalde. It is so hot that I am glad we get there by 3:30pm and off the bike. That night we ride the bike a half mile down the road to Jack’s Steakhouse. It is not very good, but we meet another motorcycle couple traveling to the Big Bend. It is not his first trip there. Again we hear the warning: DO NOT PASS AN OPEN GAS STATION. Up early the next morning, we make two brief birding stops. One is south of Uvalde where the city is using a series of ponds to naturally filter and purify its waste water before the water enters the local river. Not many birds here, but something unnerving is the number of snakes we encounter on the edges of the water and in the water. We turn back on Hwy 90 West. Just a mile outside of town is a fish hatchery which is another birding hot spot. We have several new sightings including a pair of Bullock’s Orioles which have are almost orange red. A duck pond in the back gives up a few new ducks but for the most part the spring migration has past. Orioles generally take up the rear. Back on Hwy 90 we enter the Brush Country. Mesquite trees, Junipers, and buffalo grasses take over as we are on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. The road is straight and the temperature is rising. The good news is we don’t have far to go today. We will travel only about 90 miles. Our destination is the Texas-Louisiana border town of Del Rio which is also home to a large Air Force base. James and I laugh at the thought of some cocky fly boys being stationed here in hot sandy southeast Texas with nothing around to do. Highway 90 is also referred to as the Texas Pecos Trail and this is the Wild West. It is the beginning of the Butterfield Overland Stage Mail Route. Cattle drives started here. Native Americans were in plentiful supply here as well back then. For now the only thing that we see of interest is the many Scissor tail Flycatcher birds sitting on the fence posts along the highway. They are lazy. They sit along the road waiting for a car to come by and stir up the flies which makes for an easy dinner of for the birds. Del Rio, Texas is a bustling city of 36 thousand souls. We arrive early in the afternoon to find our hotel full of even earlier arrivals. They seem to be mostly a large family reunion with numerous children of all ages which are running up and down the hallways mostly barefooted. I am tempted to join them. The Rodeo is in town and everyone is abuzz about the professional bull riders. Dinner is at Chili’s where our young waitress already has a child and is also a student studying to become a nurse. She is excited to be going to the Rodeo tomorrow. James and I consider going too, but only for a moment. The cool motel room wins out over the hot dusty rodeo.