Old Ore Road
“If it were hotter out, we’d be soaking in that pool,” said veteran guide Mike Long, who, along with his wife, Crystal Allbright, was leading our thirty-mile bike ride down Old Ore Road. The dirt trail, once a route for miners to ferry silver and zinc out from the Dead Horse Mountains, is popular among two- and four-wheeled explorers alike, not least for its side trips; the pool in question, known as Carlota Tinaja, was a water hole we’d stopped to investigate. The hollowed bedrock was filled with rainwater and slimy algae. I figured Long was kidding.
On the other hand, I could imagine feeling desperate enough out here to jump into the green gloop. Long, who owns Terlingua outfitter Desert Sports, was pedaling with Allbright on a tandem bike with 29-inch knobby tires, and they’d been kicking my butt for the past twenty miles. And though they’d invited a friend along, a winter Texan who owns a bike shop in Ontario, to ensure I didn’t get dropped, I was nearing my limits. The south-to-north traverse, with a two-thousand-foot plunge in elevation, doesn’t translate into epic downhills (as my guides cheerfully pointed out), and for every adrenaline-boosting swoop and dip, there was a grinding climb. Winded, I imagined the ocotillos as my fans, cheering me on with their spindly arms. Thankfully, the views across Tornillo Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande that crosses these badlands, offered a distraction, as did the white-banded cliffs of Sierra del Carmen. Happy that my companions were still in my sights, I focused on the cold beer that awaited me, a winning alternative to a stale splash.