Spending the day in Fort Stockton

Angela was in no shape to ride on Friday so we booked the room for an extra night and she slept. I went for a ride, taking the ZR-7s. First stop: Pecos, and the West of Pecos Museum. The 50-odd mile ride up US 285 was hot and dry, but fast. The speed limit is mostly 75mph in spite of it being a two lane road (with wide paved shoulders) and there are effectively only two intersections along the way, both with Ranch Roads (one grade separated, and one a T.) I noticed a mountain range looming in the distance to the west, just barely visible not for being low over the desert but for being so distant it was a blue nearly the same as the sky. There were also plenty of oil wells there, each with a pumpjack (a.k.a. Big Texan, nodding donkey, and about a dozen more aliases.)

The West of Pecos Museum was surprisingly good, though it could use some descriptions and narratives. They have the materials, though, and I loved the old building-side saloon sign in one of the rooms. The saloon was built first, standing 2 stories with the wall extending somewhat further above, and the three story hotel was built later, sharing that wall. While renovating the hotel to become the museum the plaster in that room cracked, revealing the old, forgotten sign.

After lunch at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurant I headed for Mount Locke, cutting back across the desert. It was south of I-10, after turning onto Canyon Road, that I had a truly humbling experience. I’m riding across desert when the road turns and pushes into the mountains. The road runs the valley floor, and it’s generally a broad valley, but with a high and clearly visible walls above various-height of talus. At one point, having come to a rather sharp turn (not particularly so compared to the ones of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but quite so here where roads may go straight for many miles) I found myself abruptly in a moderate-width valley of that sort, with the upper reaches lined by rock formations that were approaching hoodoos, and I suddenly felt very, very small in a way that was quite pleasant and awe-inspiring.

I reached the McDonald Telescope Visitor Center at Mount Locke (incidentally, on the highest elevation paved road in the state of Texas) and spent a small amount of time there. This is the location of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (or HET); a very large and rather unique telescope which has a 9+ meter aperture. Paving stones in the forecourt of the visitor center give a sense of the size and design of its reflector. Heading back I stopped at various pull-outs to take photos and just be. One, just below the visitor center, was remarkable to me, as a large valley spread out ahead of me, and an Aeromotor windmill somewhere between a quarter and a half a mile (about 400-800 meters) from me on the valley floor occasionally squeaked as the weak wind caused it to rotate.

I returned via Alpine, Texas, which was surprisingly hilly. I would later learn the nature of this region – it’s part of the same reef uplift formation that contains a rather famous cavern in a neighboring state.