Charley’s ride across America 22. Desert angel, Roy Bean, and the hardest day


Day 42 March 10. 28 miles,   2:45. cool. Long hills. End in Langtry Tx.

Day 43 March 11.  60 miles 8:00. 90 degrees, uphill, 15k wind in the face. Hardest yet. End in Sanderson

Total miles 1835

Dear friends and family,

I started the day Friday with the sobering road sign “ next services 89 miles”.

That will get your attention when traveling at 8-10 miles per hour on a good day. 

I was told by bikers heading east that there is a place to stop at 30 miles, but not on the map. It’s called the Wagon Wheel store. Even has about six rooms and a small store. Only problem is Jessie runs it by himself, does not have a phone, and is only open if or when he feels like it.

Big question:” will Jesse be there and open?” 

If not, suppose I could put up the tent behind the store, feed myself and preserve water for the next day. Didn’t seem like a great option, but certainly better than trying to make the distance in one day.

Thirty miles wasn’t a hard ride, and when I pulled up to the Wagon Wheel store, Gregg was waiting outside. Said he talked to a passerby that said Jessie will be back in a couple hours. It was 60 miles to the next stop, so we waited.

Sure enough, in pulls Jessie in his red pickup. 

You boys need a place to stay? “ he asked

“ Sure nuff”, we both answered.

“ Well, I think I’ve got a couple of working rooms, but they’re not cleaned yet”

“ Let’s clean them up and you can stay here”

So, Jessie, Gregg, and I changed sheets, swapped out clean towels, wiped and swept everything down and we had rooms for the night.

Jessie said he had to take a friend to the pharmacy, but then would be back later.

Around six, Gregg and I were outside chatting when that red pickup pulled in. 

“ Thought you might be hungry so I picked you up some dinner” he said as he handed us two bags of KFC full dinners. 

“They might not be that hot because I saw a guy on the road who ran out of gas and had to get him to and from the gas station”

We both remarked that he sure was helpful to which he answered “ Yeah, they call me the desert angel round here”

“ I bought this place to flip and make some money, but I couldn’t sell it, and now it’s kind of grown on me” he stated with his big smile.

After checking in with Jessie I walked to the center of Langtry, population 12. There was the Judge Roy Bean museum. Judge Roy Bean was famous for dispensing justice in his own saloon. He thought viewing court cases made people thirsty. Also, when there was a fine to pay, it would typically be to buy a round for the bar, and enrich himself.

Old Judge Roy was enamored with the British actress Lillie Langtry. He would often write to her and tell her that he named the town for her ( he didn’t, it was named after someone with the railroad) and she should come visit. She finally did come, in her own private rail car. Downside is that the judge had died a couple of months previously!

I knew when I went to sleep that I had a tough ride coming. The forecast was for temps in the 90’s, headwinds of 15-20, and lots of climbing.

I set the alarm early, for 0500, so I could stretch, drink coffee and be on the road at first light. Gregg gets on the road before light, but I can’t see well in the dark, so first light works for me.

I woke at 0430, anxious for the days challenge.

Took my time drinking my coffee, eating an extra helping of oatmeal, and filling six water jugs.

It was light enough at 0645, so westward I headed. I thought if I could really move fast before the wind came up too strong and the sun too high in the sky, then maybe I could get ahead of the hard part.

Turns out that the hills started right away and kept me moving slowly. About 1000 the clouds parted and the big westerlies picked up. Temp was about eighty already.

Now my pace was glacial. I found that my ambition to get miles behind me didn’t happen. Occasionally I would glance at my watch, see my speed at four miles an hour and compute how long I’d be out here. Too long, way too long.

When a semi would pass, it would interrupt the headwind enough to allow me a few fast and furious pedal strokes to bring my speed to a rocketing seven.

I stopped at a deer processing store for a Gatorade and the woman told me that my buddy ahead of me said to let me know he was hurting badly.

I passed Gregg about a half hour later as we ever so slowly sweated down the highway shoulder.

This was the first day that I counted every mile down, lost in thought only for minutes at a time.

After a full eight hours I saw three bicycles stopped at a shady overhang in Sanderville. Gregg was one of them.

He explained that he felt heat stroke symptoms coming on, so stuck out his thumb and beat me to town.

Beat was the right word. We both were. I was happy to arrive after ONLY eight hours- on a bike, in 90 degrees, uphill.

The other two were doing the Southern Tier heading east, and enjoyed the downhill with the tailwind.

Off we went, Gregg and I, to find the Baptists, but that’s a whole other story.

Love to all,


We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.