Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Marathon Day - or not!

I have to admit to a bit of confusion when I logged into the GPS tracker earlier today. Having expected Mark to head east from Marathon yesterday, I was more than a little surprised to note that he'd headed north again and was back within a hundred miles of where he'd set out from on Sunday! Oh dear - surely all the years Mark spent in the Geography department at HSD had given him better map reading skills than that?! It was therefore a bit of a relief to read the explanation in the web diary today. It seems that the threat of stormy weather to the south and strong headwinds had prompted the decision to move further north.
Although the Yellowbrick server seems to be having a few problems at present which are affecting the way we see the GPS tracker, Mark definitely overnighted yesterday at Fort Stockton and earlier today things were looking OK weatherwise up there.... cold but fairly calm at 9am.
The forecast for the rest of today in SW Texas as far as wind speed is concerned does not look too bad either. This map is from the US National Weather Service (NOAA) and shows that wind direction will be ESE (remember that winds are named by the direction they come from and on this map the 'tails' are up-wind) The speed of the wind will be in the region of 5-10 knots - unlike further north in Oklahoma and further south along the coast. However, by tomorrow evening it looks as if the winds will have picked up a lot......

It would be good to see Mark a bit nearer San Antonio by then. ...and under cover as it is likely to rain !

The unsettled weather is all to do with a centre of low pressure and the cold front shown on the map below....There is a huge amount of information available on the NOAA website. I have hyperlinked the wind direction and strength maps into the graphical forecast maps for the 'south plains'. If you link to the page, you can get very detailed information about a host of weather elements in the area for the present and for some time in the future.
But to get back to yesterday's route........... It was interesting to read the title of yesterday's web diary posting - "In the wilderness of west Texas". Until the last couple of days I wouldn't really have though of west Texas as 'wilderness' but if you zoom in on the road between Marathon and Fort Stockton, you certainly see wilderness! It's not the barren, desert sort of wilderness, it's just mile upon mile of ranch country which looks geographically unpromising...... until you chance on a gem! I wonder if Mark knew that yesterday he cycled through one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States? Or that the black cattle which he was probably seeing plenty of were Angus crossbreeds from his home country? The ranch is the 300,000 acre'La Escalera' (Spanish for 'ladder') ...
...and if I haven't managed to tempt you to follow the link to the US Weather Service, then you simply have to follow this one! It is a wonderful website - informative, colourful and evocative. Here is just a sample of some of the lovely images it contains...

And if you can spare 30 minutes, sit back and enjoy this lovely documentary, shot on the ranch over two days in 2005 which I found on Google video. Complete with 'Big Country' music, it is a wonderful record of ranching and the environment in this part of Texas.

The 'La Escalera' website has also answered a question which has been puzzling me for a few days. Here and there in ranch country Texas I have been seeing patches like this and wondered what they were ......... and I am now thinking that this might be the explanation.

20 miles north of La Escalera, Mark ended the day at Fort Stockton

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