The Washington Times - January 14, 2009, 04:34PM

By Nancy Sathre-Vogel, Family on Bikes

It had been a tough ride to Del Rio, Texas from El Paso.  Texas, for all its bright, friendly faces, can be downright unfriendly at times.  It was Christmas Eve. 

Four weary cyclists rolled into Del Rio looking for a night at an inn.  Even though our children are doing some extraordinary, it is important to keep their childhood alive.  Including Christmas and Santa Claus.


Davy on Christmas Morning (Photo by Nancy Sathre-Vogel)

As we pedaled the 400 miles from El Paso to Del Rio, we were bombarded by winds from every direction – north, south, east, and west.  We were surprised by a snow storm and endured freezing temperatures.  On top of that, we pedaled up hill after hill after hill.

But the challenges Texas threw our way were overshadowed by the friendliness of her people.  Once again, we found that day after day, road angels of all shapes and sizes stepped up to the plate to add magic to our lives.

We had barely arrived into Alpine before Dee and Glenn rolled out the welcome mat and made us feel more than comfortable in their home.  We slept in their travel trailer and drove their old pickup to see the local sights.  Davy and Daryl enjoyed playing on the farm with nine-year-old Sam and five-year-old Natalie.

One of the hardest parts of our journey is pulling ourselves away from new-found friends, but the time eventually came when we had no choice but to push on – to meet yet more new friends.  And it didn’t take long to do that.

Stan welcomed us into his papercrete home in Marathon, and we spent hours learning about strategies for building homes with recycled paper.

The deserts of Texas beckoned once more, and we heeded the call yet again.  By now were in true no-man’s land.  Private ranches lined both sides of the road.  Inhospitable barbed wire fences stood guard, preventing us from taking refuge from the interminable winds.  We were stuck.  There was simply no place to camp.

Darryl feasting at the Del Rio Ramada Inn
But that’s when Texas served up her biggest surprise yet – in the form of a carload of friendly faces.

It was nearly dark as the four of us sat by the roadside wondering how we would get through the night.  The wind was howling and the temperature was dropping rapidly.  With fences a mere ten feet on either side of the road, there was no way we could set up our tent.

One thing we’ve learned in all our travels, however, is that humankind is basically good.  And all people understand we have three basic needs – food, water, and a place to sleep.

Greg and MarthaLynn, along with their four kids, just happened to be driving by at that particular moment.  And they happened to see us sitting there by the side of the road.  And they wondered where we planned to sleep – we were, after all, in the middle of no-man’s land.  They turned around and came back to talk with us.

“We own this land right here,” they said.  “Why don’t you come back to the house and camp there?  And we’ll throw a hot dinner into the mix as well!”

Manager Tommy Zapata welcomes the Vogels to the Del Rio Ramada Inn

In time, we tore ourselves away from our newest new-found friends and continued south.  Mother Nature pulled out all the stops at that point and sent her entire contingent of Wind Warriors to fight us.  We pushed on, fighting headwinds until we thought we could go no farther.

And so it was that we finally rolled into Del Rio. Perhaps we were physically exhausted from dealing with cold, headwinds, and hills, but we were also exhilarated and in love with the people of Texas.  Even though the trip had been hard.

So I found myself in an ages old story.  Tired, hungry, with minimal resources and in need of a place for the night so that my children’s adult memories would include bits of childhood.

For us, it was a Christmas miracle.  We found our selves as the very warmly welcomed guest of the Ramada Inn, Del Rio.

Tommy, manager of the Ramada Del Rio, continued on with the tradition of southern hospitality we’ve come to expect in these here parts by opening his door to us and welcoming us to his hotel.  We couldn’t have asked for more.

A warm room, comfortable bed, hot shower and Christmas Dinner buffet were all welcome gifts, particularly for John and I.  For Davy and Darryl, Santa Claus found them even when we did not know where we would be.

Miracles indeed.

The Vogel Family, a group consisting of Mom and Dad, Nancy and John, and twin-ten year old boys, Davy and Darryl, are riding hard to cross Mexico in order to reach South America before the New Year.  To date, they haver reached many milestones and have set world records for Daryl and Davy as the youngest cyclists to complete the Dalton and Alaskan Highway.  Watch their journey here or at Family on Bikes.