VAN HORN, Texas — I wasn’t able to update this blog on Saturday night because I was dancing with Sister Silvia of the Adorers of the Precious Blood.
The nuns that I knew were stern, no-nonsense authority figures. In the seventh grade, one took me into the hallway at St. Ambrose School in Godfrey, Ill., and delivered an uppercut to my jaw for talking in class.
Times have obviously changed.
Members of our cross-country bicycle caravan met Sister Silvia on Saturday night in the border town of Fort Hancock. She was an organizer of the annual fall festival for the parish of Santa Teresa Catholic Church.
Fellow rider Dolores and I were on the cooking rotation for Saturday night, but there was little to be had in the couple of small stores in Fort Hancock. We would have been hard-pressed to scrape together a decent meal for 14 people. So we decided to attend the festival at Santa Teresa, where homemade Mexican food was abundant.
It was a highlight of our bike trip.
This vibrant, dark-haired woman welcomed us to the party, introduced us around and even took to the microphone to make an announcement in Spanish about a group of special visitors who were bicycling from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. The parishoniers, almost all of them Hispanic, cheered us on. We suddenly became the toast of the festival.
Sister Silvia loves to dance and tried to get us all onto the dance floor. I’m a terrible dancer, venturing onto a dance floor only once every few years after sufficient alcoholic lubrication.
But Sister Silvia was insistent. “It would be very rude,” she told me, “to leave here tonight without dancing.” What’s a person to do? So I got onto the dance floor and stumbled and shuffled about while Sister Silvia did her best to direct me.
It wasn’t until we were taking our leave that I learned that Silvia was a nun. Derrick and I had sought her out to thank her again for the good time. She suggested we send her a postcard from down the road and gave us her address. I was puzzled by the “Sr.” before her name on the address and asked if it meant “Senora.” No, she said, it’s Sister. “You’re a nun?” I asked, hardly concealing my surprise.
A lucky set of circumstances put us on Saturday in Fort Hancock, across the Rio Grande from the Mexican towns of Francisco Sarabia and Rinconada de Gallegos, whose lights could be seen from Santa Teresa’s festival grounds.
We were scheduled to have a layover/rest day in El Paso on Saturday. But we decided to push on into Texas because we might need an extra day down the road because of bad weather, sickness or some other unforeseen problem.
We rode out of El Paso on Saturday morning, skirting the Mexican border along Delta Drive.
The ride of 55.36 miles was uneventful, and a blog post about it would have been dull reading.
On Sunday, we rode 67.33 miles from Fort Hancock to Van Horn. We had the option of riding on Interstate 10, which has a wide, smooth shoulder. But 18-wheelers whiz by every few seconds. Or we could ride on a parallel frontage road, with no traffic but a rough, chipseal surface.
I tried the frontage road for a few miles but went back out onto the Interstate. The close-passing semis were sometimes a bit unnerving, but the ride was smoother.
We passed a milestone on Sunday on our transcontinental journey. We’re now more than 1,000 miles — 1,045 to be exact — on a trip of 3,160 miles.