Before I arrive in Giddings, hopefully this afternoon, I need to finish up on the ride into Laredo. It was taking so long to get something posted the last time, I postponed that part of the report.
Way back when, or it seems like way back when, in Alpine, I knew that my next big destination was going to be Los Ebanos, Texas. (Big destination is a figurative term, not a literal one.) On Mapquest, I checked the distance, chopped it in half and decided to stop for the night in Eagle Pass.
I rode into Eagle Pass, Texas at 3:30 in the afternoon. After stopping for gas, getting a cold drink and resting a bit, I decided that 3:30 in the afternoon was too early to stop for the day. Carrizo Springs was only 40 miles or so further on so I'd head there. That would make tomorrow's ride that much shorter.
How was I supposed to know that Carrizo Springs was located in the oil fields. Those of you who live around the oil fields will be familiar with what I'm referring to, those of you like me who don't live in and around the oil fields, not so much. Oil drilling and oilfield service work is booming in this country these days. How does that affect your average Honda Helix traveller, you ask? PRICES! Motel prices, along with a lot of other goods and services, are through the roof. I stopped a nice looking motel near the main crossroads in town, only to find out that their best prices for their smallest room, was $150 a night....before taxes! No thank you. The only other place in town that I checked was a seedy looking blue place that smelled decidedly like curry. A room there was only $89 a night. The 79 mile ride to Laredo was looking better and better.
Hwy 83 brought into Carrizo Springs and Hwy 83 took me out.
About 15/20 miles north of Laredo, Hwy 83 merges with I-35 for the ride into Laredo. I-35 is wallpapered with billboards, most of which are for all the various motels in and around Laredo. Most of the motel billboards have the prices posted. I'm seeing prices like $29.95, $32.95, $39.95. I think great, maybe the ride to Laredo was worth it. Besides saving me a lot of money, I'm 125 miles closer to Los Ebanos, tomorrow's destination.
The $32.95 price was for the La Hacienda motel at exit 3A. I figure that even I can find that, so that's where I head. Finding it is no problem but actually getting there is a problem involving a weird shaped block, cutting through a gas station and going halfway up a two frontage road that abruptly end with traffic coming straight at you....but I got there.
The nice lady behind the counter responds to my question concerning the price of a room with $64.95. Huh, but your billboard says $32.95 and up. I tell her that I wasn't interested in the up part. She then told me that, on all the billsboards along the highway, the posted price was for CDL drivers only. Huh, what the hell are they doing that I'm not doing. Do they sleep on floor and save the sheets? Wash up in a thimble full of water and save the shower water expense? I said no thanks.
Right next door was the America's Best Value, not exactly known as a high priced giant in the motel industry. Same thing. This time I took it, $64.95, but they did have a free breakfast! At these rates, the budget will be gone by the end of next week. It's too bad I'm not a tent and sleeping bag kind of a guy.
After the extra 125 miles today, I'm only 125 miles or so from the first cool stop of the trip, a human powered ferry boat ride to Mexico! Los Ebanos, Texas is a little hard to find. Supposedly, there's a sign on southbound 83 but I missed it. After asking directions from people who'd either never heard of it or a mailman who'd never been there, I found a sign. Left, 3 miles. Ok, here we go.
After wind through Los Ebanos, just making turns and following a road that appears to have had lots of traffic, through an area that looks like something directly out of old mexico, I first find several old stores and a duty free shop. All closed up, with an old west, grass growing up through the cracks, kind of feel to them.
This place must have been booming, just my luck, yesterday!
Beyond that is a rather large, for the area, brand new looking building, surrounded by a 8' chain link fence. It looks kind of like a small security facility for border illegal crossers. I'm sure it was built as a result of 9/11. We wouldn't want those pesky Arabs riding our human powered ferry with any high explosives and mayhem on their minds.
There are orange cones across the driveway and no one in sight, no cars in line like every other ferry I ever been on.
I park the Helix and walk through the gate. First door locked, second door locked. I cup my hands and peer through the windows. More orange cones but nobody around. I try another door. It opens, I go in. "Can I help you, sir" in a womans voice, comes from somewhere in the building. Yes, I 'm wondering the ferry but there's nobody around. YOU'RE IN A SECURE AREA AND IT"S CLOSED! she says with authority. Well, the door was open. WE'RE CLOSED! There wasn't a sign. WE DON'T USUALLY POST SIGNS! Then how was I supposed to know that you're closed! I can quickly tell that I'm not getting on this lady's good side, if she has one. There was a much younger guy with her, dressed in the same kind of security type suit, but I guess he knew his place because he kept his mouth shut and didn't say a thing. As a matter of fact, he barely made eye contact with me. THE FERRY IS BROKEN! How long do you think it'll be broken? IT WENT DOWN THREE WEEKS AGO AND THERE TELLING US IT"LL BE DOWN A TOTAL OF TWO MONTHS! Well, that's a little long for me to hang around. As I came in, I can hear a motor running down by the ferry, is this thing really human powered? They really pull you across the river? YES, THEY REALLY DO! Ok, thank you. As I left, I could see over the embankment a boat that looked like it held maybe 4 normal sized cars. I could also see that the river looks like you could chuck a stone across it. Not throw a stone with all your might but chuck one, underhanded, and hit the other side. No exactly the distance I was expecting but it would have been cool to do.
As I ride away, a light bulb goes off in my head.....How do you break down a human powered ferry and need two months to fix it? Did one of the rope puller people get mono? Hoof and mouth disease? What? Just hire somebody else. I'm sure you could find somebody qualified to pull rope in less than two months. Oops, I forgot, this is a government job. Good luck with getting it fixed it in "only" two months. This thing may never run again.
Request.....could somebody please ride this thing, if and when it ever runs again, and write about it in the DAY RIDES section, I'd love to see/read more about it.
From Los Ebanos (if you pronounce this as E-banos like I did, everybody will look at you like you're nuts. It's pronounced Eb-a-nos. Hey, I'm a gringo from Tucson, what do I know. I do know that banos means bathroom. Who am I to judge if they want to call their little town
E-bathroom.) it's only a short 335 miles to Giddings.
I gave some thought to staying in McAllen but decided to just have a late lunch at the TA truck stop on 281 (dreadful, avoid the place like a root canal unless, of course, you're fond of root canals!), then ride up to Falfurrias. I only see the chain motels there so it's on to Alice. (I was thinking about coming up with a joke about Alice not living here anymore but maybe another time.) Once again, I read the billboards coming into town. (I've got to stop doing that.) One of them advertises for the Alice Motor Inn. Now, that's a quaint, 50's sounding place. The nice lady says it's $89. The Scottish Inn is $59. Now, that's better. Smoking only. No thanks. The Best Western, $129. No thanks. Smoking only. NO THANKS I SAID! Days Inn, 89.95, $100.47 with tax. Damn, I getting tired of this crap, I'll take it...could you gift wrap it please? But they do have the best free breakfast that I've seen so far. A full breakfast, with eggs and bacon and sausage and biscuits and gravy and juice and....oops, I couldn't help myself.
Did I mention that exhaust problem that I'm developing? I thought it might be the muffler but now I think it's just some loose bolts. After I figure it out and/or get it fixed, I'll explain in my next post as I go wandering off, looking for Giddings.....by Helix!