This land is beautiful and cruel. Cacti and creosote dot the ground and bloom from the road's edge to the far horizon. Long, sharp spines flare from the waxy stems, ready to draw blood.
So far, fighting wind, rain, and heat on US 90, we aren't impressed. My KTM Adventure LC4 enduro seems a match for the landscape, and Christian rides comfortably on his Agusta MZ, but these roads are so long and straight. The fun must be hidden elsewhere. Finally, we arrive in Del Rio, an Air Force town, where the jet fighters that streaked the horizon throughout the day are based. Population: 40,000, many of them servicemen, and a fair portion of those are venting some steam in their cowboy hats and boots, dancing with the ladies in the bar across the street from our rooms at the La Quinta Inn. The map still shows a full day's ride to Big Bend National Park and, unfortunately, the dot of Del Rio appears to be the only major oasis along the way.
The first test of our mettle comes the second morning. Just out of Del Rio, we cross the Amistad Reservoir. Christian signals a stop at an overlook for some photos on the rocky shores of the blue-green lake. Rolling the bikes onto some rocks beside a boat ramp, we take the shots, and I start the KTM and move her back up to the lot. But the MZ won't crank. After some uneducated speculation about the cause, we use the KTM to jump the MZ, which gives the battery enough juice to flush a small flood, and it rumbles to life. Later, we learn that the fuel line should be turned off, even for very brief stops. Hot and frustrated, we push forward.
I have to wring sweat out of my T-shirt at every stop. As we head toward the afternoon sun, the road seems endless. Thoughts of an air-conditioned room are little comfort as I watch the heat-wavering horizon remain constant for hours.