Two Amigos to Terlingua: LoneStar's Loquacious Tale
Day 1 - Kerrville to Terlingua
I've been antsy to do a ride anywhere interesting, so my friend Robert in Houston and I decided to head for Big Bend. It's been several years since I've been to the park and I always yearn to go back. Initial plans were for three of us to go, but at the last moment Robert's friend Chris was unable to make the trip.
Robert drove from Houston, trailering his 1150GSA to Comfort where I met and led him to my place off Hwy 16. We grabbed supper at Mamacita's in Kerrville and double checked the bikes for the next morning's departure. We were up early Thursday morning for an early start with temps about 40 and crystal clear skies. We waited for the sun to rise since I had no desire to play dodgeball with all the deer in the dark in the twisties.
Robert gets gassed up...
Prelaunch flight details... like "where's my helmet"
Have you ever seen such a clean friggin' bike?
The ride into Kerrville was "brisk" and with watering eyes we stopped at Whataburger for a quick breakfast. Lolligagging (and just plain gagging), we finally got on the road about 9 a.m. and ran through Ingram, catching 39 through Hunt.
aaaaah breakfast tacos
Robert checks in with President Bush before leaving
The chilly twisties led past Stonehenge and up to 41 where we could really open up and make time. Stopping for a gas top-off in Rocksprings, we flew on south on 377 for Del Rio.
Heading towards Mexico with no traffic and a gently warming sun, the terrain was beautiful and remote with rolling hills and few signs of humanity. The sky was crystal clear and deep blue with not a cloud from horizon to horizon. About halfway between Rocksprings and 277 we rolled through a mobile Border Patrol checkpoint - the first I've seen since I haven't been south in a few years. Continuing on into the ever flattening terrain, I got tired of counting the dead deer and blood patches on the road. Suffice it to say there were more than usual... Robert commented later in Del Rio on how much roadkill we had passed.
At the intersection of 377 and 277, a local law enforcement officer gave a friendly wave as he set up for a radar trap. I waved back and smiled as cheesily as possible. We turned south on 377 and made time until we reached the permanent Border Patrol station north of Del Rio. Slowing to about 30 we cruised past and then cranked it up for Del Rio. Crossing a finger of Lake Amistad signaled the arrival of Del Rio where we paused for a gas stop. The temps had warmed up and I removed the liner on my Belstaff Discovery jacket, also filling my Camelbak with water for the empty regions we were heading into from Del Rio west to Marathon.
Heading west on 90, we had to pass through another Border Patrol checkpoint, where we were waved quickly through. I breathed a huge sigh of relief at not being searched since I had hidden a small family of illegal aliens in my side case.
As we continued toward Comstock in the desert-like rolling terrain, I enjoyed the view of the hazy "El Mountaino's del Mexico" across the Rio Grande to my left. For those who don't speak Spanish (and those that do), roughly translated it means "El Mountaino's del Mexico"...
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We stopped at the Pecos River overlook for a breather and a chance for Robert to engage in teenage antics before heading on through Langtry, where we didn't stop to see Judge Roy Bean's Saloon and Museum or buy any souvenirs or take any pics or do anything (not that I'm bitter).
From Langtry (where we didn't stop), we cranked up the throttle in the strong sidewinds and made time for Sanderson. The terrain is wide and empty from horizon to horizon, and the land is beautiful in it's own way.
In these long stretches with almost no traffic or sights to see you have plenty of time to think. I began to think of how much I liked the cases on Robert's GSA and how I could adapt them to fit my 1100 GS. Then I had to think of how I could get them off his bike and onto mine without him suspecting me. I finally dropped the idea entirely, and began focusing on the three green ladybugs who were still holding onto my windscreen in the 90 mph wind. They had been there for a long time and many miles, having hopped aboard at the Pecos River overlook along with two flies who were busy licking my windshield. As I rode out of the overlook and began accelerating, the first fly came off at relatively slow speeds, while the second fly held on up to about 65mph - somewhat impressive - but possibly its tongue was merely stuck on some windshield goo. On the other hand, the green ladybugs had hunkered down and were well adapted to high speed travel. At 90 mph, they slowly moved into position just over the crest of the windshield and stayed put. In fact, they rode the entire way to Sanderson. Based on this, I have come to the conclusion that green ladybugs are more intelligent than flies. As I said, on long stretches there's tooooooo much time to think...
Lest you doubt my ladybug story
gasserup (Robert checks in with Pres Bush once again)
By Sanderson, the terrain had gotten more interesting. Stopping for gas and a stretch, Robert said there were some great brisket tacos in Marathon, so we tanked up and flew like the wind for lunch... leaving the three green ladybugs behind to possibly interbreed and create a biblical plague in the region.
Arriving in Marathon, we pulled up to the taco place to find it closed and a couple of sad faced patrons sitting outside. Starving now, we found the French Grocery which had cold deli sandwiches. I bought one with chips and a $2 bottle of ice tea. Outside at the lunch tables, we were swarmed with flies and one immediately did a swan dive into the ice cold bottle of tea before I even had a chance to take a drink. Dang. Attempts at fishing it out did no good so I let it drown and grumbled through my meal. The flies had their revenge.
The mountains on the horizon called us south on 385 towards Big Bend National Park. The road down to the park is a beautiful ride in itself, watching the terrain change with greater and greater ridges and plateaus arising.
The wind was fairly strong and the ride was great. We stopped at the park entrance sign for obligatory pics and then continued on in the ever increasing beauty. The entrance fee booth was closed with a sign directing us to a secondary office for passes. That too was closed so we headed on into the park with no passes, brazenly riding from the north entrance through the park and out the west side like the dangerous law-breaking hooligans we are... yeah baby yeah.
Dos amigos... Does this jacket make me look fat?
Unsuspecting tourists ask Robert for a pic
I've been to the park twice in the past, and it is one of my favorite places on earth, but you still forget what a beautiful and magical place it is. The ride towards the western exit was just great, filing me with the rush of beauty and intangible feelings the place creates.
West out of the Park
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As the sun swung low, we reached Study Butte and turned onto 170 west for Terlingua and World Famous Roger's place. I had met the World Famous "Uncle" Roger briefly and by chance in Silverton, Colorado while returning from Montana. He had come over to my fully laden 1100GS, probably just to see the fool who was going to ride it over Cinnamon Pass. We got to chat for a minute or two in which we both realized we knew Robert. Poor Roger, little did he realize he'd have me at his place a few months later.
Robert led me to Rog's place and we pulled in to find him tinkering with his newish DR350. We set up tents as the sun was getting low, kicked off gear and prepared to watch the sunset.
World Famous Roger surveys his kingdom
Tradition dictates that all must go to the porch of the Starlight Theatre and watch the red light of the sunset on the Chisos. So we did. We were eventually driven off by several fat howling tourista women and headed for the balcony of the High Sierra bar at the El Dorado Hotel, where we ate great Mexican food and watched the full moon rise, all the while listening to the coyotes in the dark.
Robert parking his bike
Robert still parking his bike several minutes later
Chisos gettin' red
R & R hangin out
The Starlight Theatre
Eventually we heard loud music to our right and ended up in the dark at "Passing Wind", a tiki bar, propane powered volcano, pirate ship, dock, submarine and statue of liberty shrine built by one of Roger's friends from NY. I had seen it as we drove into town but little did I suspect I'd be standing next to the propane volcano in person. What a hoot.
Passing Passing Wind
We finally headed for our tents and settled down in the brilliant light of a full moon.
Day 2 - Riding the Park on porkers
I awoke to the beautiful light of predawn glow over the mountains and got geared up to ride.
This is exactly what it looked like thru my blurry morning eyes
We went with Roger to Kathy's Kosmic Kafe and drank coffee by the fire ring in the morning cold, followed by a great breakfast from Kathy. Unfortunately a couple from Holland who didn't understand english ate Roger's home-made biscuits with gravy and eggs even though they had ordered an egg McMuffin. I felt bad eating my biscuit breakfast while he had to wait. Not.
Morning at Kathy's
Robert with tales of adventure... Kathy ain't buyin' it
World Famous Roger checks email...
Finished with his work for the day, he gets back to serious bizness...
Roger was still tinkering on his 350 so Robert and I headed into the park for a ride. After paying for a pass like the non-hooligans we are, we headed down Old Maverick Rd for Santa Elena Canyon. Riding the dirt road was a blast and we stopped at "Luna's jacal" for a few pics.
We don need no stinkin maps! Ok, yes ma'am...
Old Maverick road to Santa Elena Canyon
Easy Stretch of Old Maverick Rd
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Reminds me of that motel I stayed in in Cody...
Towards Santa Elena
Would GS's in the desert be considered pigs or javelinas?
Approaching Santa Elena
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Finally reaching the canyon entrance, we parked next to a couple of GS's from Canada. One was well used and set up nicely with spare parts bolted in various places.
Mouth of Santa Elena canyon. Mexico on the left and Tejas on the right...
A rider on an XR650L pulled up and made a few comments about how limiting our GS's were...
Robert and I smiled politely then poured M&M's in his gas tank and let the air out of his tires when he headed off up the hiking trail.
Not really. Except for the M&M's part.
We snooped around the canyon and hiked up for fun. Great canyon and hike. Got a chance to talk bikes with the XR rider a bit. Asked him if he liked M&M's.
The Rio Grande with Chisos Mountains on the horizon
As we left for the Basin, the XR rider was stopped at the entrance to the old river road and wanted to know if I wanted to ride the road with him that day. We had talked a bit in the canyon earlier and my plans were to ride the old river road the next day if Roger hadn't had something else planned. Turns out he did so maybe next time bud!
Painting at Mule Ears overlook
Arriving in the basin was fun - a great ride in. I grabbed an ice cream sammich while Robert bought souvenirs for his lovely wife Gay and granddaughter Hailey.
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Approaching the Basin
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The Basin Road
Heading back west from the basin we rode the dirt Grapevine Hills road to its end and then back. Robert went on to Terlingua while I rode both Paint Gap and Croton Springs roads to get a little more dust on me. Nothing difficult but it sho' is fun and the terrain is awesome.
Robert reads an urgent fax from Pres Bush
I made it back to Terlingua late in the day, stopping at Kathy's for a Coke and she fixed me up even tho she was officially closed. What a gal!
This would sell for a million in California
This for 3 million
I uploaded a few pics and then headed on to Roger's for a shower before observing the "Starlight Theatre at Sunset" ritual. Terlingua was having a reunion of miners and descendants that weekend, called "La Historia" I believe, and there was a crowd around the theatre area.
While taking pics in the cemetery, suddenly a woman in hiking boots and tie-dye hippie shirt stood up from behind a grave. A muffled man's voice shouted from somewhere below "Boy, we picked the right spot to dig! The ground sure is soft here!"...
You don't ask questions in Terlingua unless it's "Where's beer?" or "Where's gas?".
Roger was nowhere to be found so Robert and I retired to the High Sierra for another quiet evening of Mexican food and moonrise. Sitting on the patio, two Harley riders rumbled in looking somewhat desperate and asked if there was any gas around - we pointed to Study Butte and they gleefully took off. Roger found us and told us that BeemerChef from ADVrider was in town and they had been talking a bit before Rog was roped into serving food at the miner's reunion fandango. BeemerChef rode by in the dark with his dog in the sidecar. We talked until too late and finally made it back to our tents.
Another 2 amigos tag team report!! I just read your amigo's post a few threads ago, thanks for posting.. sounds like a great friendship and riding buddy :thumb
Great pictures, thanks for sharing. Ride-on!
Thanks GB and Bo!
Bo, checked your site - hope we cross paths sometime :thumbup
Very nice report! Thanks:D
I will move there in the next year...
Just look for a cheesy sign that says:
And know that you are welcome...:freaky:D
Everybody down there is weird.
It's a great place!
Vance dude - I'm there man! What time's breakfast :D
Kathy's opens at 6:30 a.m. :dg
Why in the heck are we posting ride reports when we could be heading back for breakfast :D
Day 3 - 170 and South County Rd
The night was filled with the sound of barking coyotes and other barking things... The next gorgeous day arose, started of course with breakfast by the fire at Kathy's. My back was sore despite my new expensive (did I mention expensive) Big Agnes air pad, but once moving was fine. Robert and I had planned to ride to Presidio on 170 and Roger had gotten the cruddy Mexican gas out of his DR350 so he wanted to ride with us. He also suggested riding the dirt roads off South County Rd when we returned from Presidio so we had our day set. I had been jonesing to ride dirt so I was quite pleased and decided to attack the old river road in the park on the next trip.
We made a quick run to Study Butte to drop off a battery charger at CycleTek and ran across BeemerChef and his sidecar sidekick. After a short discussion of the amazing, stupendous and incredible merits of the 1100GS we were off and heading for Presidio.
He looks fairly content... dreaming of how delicious that last Harley rider was?
TX 170 (river road) was one heck of a great ride. I hadn't been on it since 1980 and had forgotten what a fabulous road it is. We stopped at "the Hill" for the overlook and took pics before heading on towards Presidio.
I managed not to fall to a horrible shrieking death and also realized what a chicken I am when stumbling around in mx boots on the edge of precipices.
Looking west from "the hill" towards Presidio
World Famous Roger's DR350 buzzed along with the Beemers - he'd ridden 470 miles on it in one day down in Mexico a couple weeks back I think. Buns of steel!
Roger led us to some great spots along the way.
"Trust me Roger, nobody'll eeeeever see these pictures"
For some reason this reminds me of an old Star trek episode... the one where the green lizard guy tries to kill James T. Kirk in hand to hand combat?
We decided to turn around before reaching Presidio much to my horror. My tank had just enough fuel to get to Presidio where I planned to refill, but since we were heading back to Terlingua instead I knew it would be extremely close on gas.
I was in the lead on the return, blasting back down the roller coaster 170 to Terlingua when I rounded a curve and almost ran over a group of Harley riders. They were traveling at about 20 mph and were obviously new to riding. The curves and hills were intimidating to them and they seemed intent on defying the laws of physics, riding through turns without absolutely zero lean... and I have to admit they were doing a great job of it.
I grumbled and sniveled at having to putt along for several miles behind them, but in reality doing so probably kept me from running out of gas before reaching Terlingua :D
They eventually pulled to the side and we passed and waved. I'm exaggerating my grumbling since I love to see new riders to the sport. Ride on guys!
At any rate, my fuel light came on umpteen miles from Terlingua and I began the usual sweating, panic and hyperventilating. I slowed down and began to pray. After that I began to figure out how we'd be able to get Roger's gas tank off and dump fuel into the GS when it finally died. Finally reaching Lajitas, I saw no gas station (there could have been one there but I was afraid to turn my head since the additional drag might use the remaining fuel) and continued on, attempting to shrink my huge body into a small aerodynamic teardrop shape. Needless to say I was unable to. After the longest 12 mile ride of my life, we reached Roger's place to my relief. Fearing I couldn't make it to the Study Butte store for gas, I raided my 2 MSR emergency fuel bottles and dumped them in the tank. Being the highly organized, top notch world adventure rider that I am, I ALWAYS carry spare fuel no matter where I go. Except on a short ride to Presidio. When I do that ride, I leave them safely tucked away at Roger's place where they are most valuable.
Showing no signs of my earlier stress, I swaggered about like John Wayne, collecting my gear for the afternoon ride while Rog and Robert got their bikes and gear together for the afternoon boonie ride.
Robert had been coveting and drooling over Roger's DR350 so Rog suggested Robert take it for the afternoon ride. World Famous Roger then jumped on his Super Sherpa (not just a regular Sherpa but a "Super" Sherpa) and we were off for gasoline. Thank God.
We rode Fulcher road over to Study Butte for gas, an easy dirt road with one small river crossing and then returned to Terlingua the same way. Roger then pulled onto South County road to lead us into the nether regions with Robert in tow and me getting last place. Nice. White powder dust and two riders ahead. Awesome.
I rode almost the entire thirty mile loop standing on the pegs, convincing the other two what a skilled Baja competitor I was. Truth is, I was merely trying to get my head up in clear air so I could breathe. After a few miles we stopped at a fork in the road for a breather and pics. I was purple from holding my breathe for 9 miles so it was much appreciated.
What this place needs is water...
Don't think it made much difference...
South County Road was a lot of fun - soft white powder dust and loose rock the deeper you got into the mountains. Roger was familiar with the roads or it would have been easy to get lost. As we got several miles back in, the road got much rougher and less maintained with some fairly steep downhills and large loose rock. The GS did great and was a lot of fun in the rough stuff.
World Famous Roger and Robert - "Los Dusty Amigos"
Non-famous LoneStar, the dusty gringo
We eventually reached a river crossing on Hen Egg road that was too muddy and had to be negotiated by dropping off the bank, running up the edge of the creekbed about 30 yards to dry loose river rock, crossing through the shallows and then coming back down the other bank to the road. There was one single track on an off-camber slope that was filled with powder sand and led back onto the deep sand road. Roger had some trouble getting up the other bank on the Sherpa. I got part way up on the pig before it finally sank to its side. Robert and Roger were able to push as I feathered the clutch and got it up through the soft silt and onto the road. Robert was able to motor on up on the DR. A couple seconds to straighten my brake lever, as it had gotten crammed into the bank and bent backwards, and we were making dust again.
The road led on through the remote landscape, past a couple of ranches until finally reaching 118 and heading south for Terlingua. Roger rode the little Sherpa like a Busa on the highway until we reached Kathy's Cafe for ice tea and pulled pork sandwiches. Mmmmm baybay! Kathy asked if I enjoyed my ride, laughing at my dusty "white" black t-shirt and the dust-sickles hanging out of my nose.
The ride was a blast and made my day. The GS continues to amaze me at it's capabilities just as it did in Colorado and Wyoming in some pretty tricky stuff. No, it's not an XR but is far more capable than a lot of folks realize. Great bike that can haul you at 90 all day in comfort and then take you on some rough stuff. Awesome.
We were a little pooped out by the end of the day but of course were able to struggle up to the Starlight porch for sunset. Heading for the porch, we passed the cemetery which was now packed with white plastic tables and folks eating barbecue and other sundry items. The miner's convention "La Historia" was having a barbecue in the cemetery so the crowd was all there.
The previous two evenings we had been driven from the porch by the teeming masses so we made haste to the Starlight and indeed found the porch almost vacant. Not only that, but the hallowed two-seat bench directly in front of the theatre was vacant. Woohoo! A Dos Equis went down very well as we watched the sunset and the crowd down in the cemetery. As the festivities continued, a photographer came walking back up to the porch and we talked a bit. I'd seen his Speedotron flash units set up in the theatre and turns out it was James Evans who has done a couple of books on Big Bend.
Shortly after, live music started at the Boat House and the miner's convention slowly moved across the dusty road to an ever increasing fandango. "La Historia" quickly turned into "La Hysteria".
Exhausted from lifting a Dos Equis and watching the crowd eat, Robert and I, joined by Roger now, headed into the Starlight for a meal. Disappointed by the lack of nachos on the menu, I grumbled and stuffed my face with soft chicken tacos. Robert had a hamburger shaped meal. Finally ready to crash, we fired up the GS's and slowly rode past the dance party at the Boat House. Several folks yelled incoherently at us from the dancing mob, but my tent called even louder.
Depressed at the thought of returning the next morning, Robert and I sat in the moonlight, listening to the band back in town and waiting to see if we'd need to rescue Roger. He eventually appeared, claiming that his truck had been blocked in at the Boat House and he'd been unable to leave. Sure Roger, we believe ya.
Robert decided to sleep in the camper so all his gear would be packed to leave early in the morning. Ha! I half-heartedly got the bike ready and finally got some sleep to the sound of barking coyotes and barking spiders.
Day 4 - The Exciting Return
I awoke groggy and sluggish to the predawn glow and began getting the tent and gear loaded. As I stumbled around trying to stuff my tent into my socks or something stupid like that, Roger headed for Kathy's while I slowly progressed. Robert had loaded all his gear the night before so his bike was ready to go. By the time we got to Kathy's for final breakfast, it was later than I wished but we enjoyed the morning.
While sipping coffee, a skinny cowboy with a blue spray-painted cowboy hat wandered up to order breakfast with a dark haired woman. He obviously knew Kathy well, ordered breakfast and as we sat by the fire he asked where I was from and what I did. When I mentioned photography the woman perked up and turns out she is on a grant photographing mining towns or such.
As we talked shop, two quiet Canadians tourists had wandered up looking quite out of place and somewhat nervous, seeking coffee and breakfast. The cowboy had been talking about some clear Mexican liquor that they'd been drinking at the fandango the night before and shortly disappeared to the RV park, only to return with a half empty bottle of clear liquid and no cap. He insisted the two guys from Canada have a drink and they obliged him, probably afraid not to. Later when Robert and I stopped for lunch in Del Rio we had a good laugh about the incident, thinking about the two guys fearfully swigging God-knows-what at 7 a.m. when they had only come for coffee and breakfast.
With hugs from Kathy and many thanks to Roger we gassed up in Study Butte and headed north on 118 for Alpine in the crisp air. It was a beautiful ride in a strong headwind with no traffic until we eventually passed a rider on an old Triumph Scrambler. He was going slow enough that I thought he was on a bicycle til we passed him, his tan leather jacket inflated like a balloon from the wind. Eventually we hit Alpine and headed east on 90 towards Marathon and then Sanderson.
Mentally I had calculated that my tank range of 200 miles should get me to Sanderson just about on empty. What I didn't count on was the strong headwind and high speeds. By the time I was halfway between Marathon and Sanderson, the tank indicator showed 2 bars and I began to get that sickening feeling. Shortly after, 1 bar appeared and then the yellow fuel light came on. Shortly after that, the last bar disappeared and I looked at the map in the tankbag. I guessed maybe 25 miles left until Sanderson and I knew my range was 19 miles or less when the fuel light comes on. Crap. Being the world class adventure rider that I am, did I mention I always carry 2 MSR fuel bottles of gas? Indeed I had them with me, only problem being that I had forgotten to fill them in all the excitement of Study Butte. I dropped the throttle to about 60 and laid on the tankbag to reduce drag, coasting as much as possible. I watched Robert become a speck on the horizon far ahead as I putted along, attempting to coast and transform my body into an aerodynamic ladybug shape. Eventually I passed a sign that said "Sanderson 20". That was the longest 20 miles I've ever ridden, finally putting into town and the gas station on fumes. I celebrated with a horrid cup of coffee.
From Sanderson to Del Rio, we stopped for gas and grabbed lunch at the local Wendy's. Mmmmm. Chicken sandwich-like substance. Mmmmm.
From there we headed north on 277, entering the Border Patrol checkpoint. I had my ear plugs in and knowing I would be unable to hear the guard, debated whether I should attempt to remove my helmet and plugs. Figuring I would be machine-gunned down for making a move for my helmet, I simply yelled "WHAT?" when he asked me a question. He asked it again and I yelled "WHAT?" again. Disgusted he waved me through. Whew! Once again I had passed through a checkpoint with a small family of illegal aliens in my sidecase. Woohoo!
377 to Rocksprings was uneventful but the shadows were lengthening and the deer were beginning to plan their attacks. We stopped for a coffee break in Rocksprings before catching 41 to Hwy 27 through Ingram and Kerrville.
Meticulous German engineering and not even a cup holder... grrrr
I felt the same way...
Safely back at El Rancho Poquito, Robert got his truck packed up and loaded, no doubt anxious to get away from me and back to Houston. I unloaded my gear and began winding down.
The trip was great and Big Bend is a truly beautiful and inspiring park. Robert is great to ride with - a top notch rider, always funny and full of stories. Terlingua was fun and Roger was kind enough to let us hang out there. Thanks again Roger! You da man!
Adios Amigos... til we meet again
How come no one commented on this guy? I enjoyed it... albeit a bit late. :lol3
Thanks for the great report and supurb photos. They brought back many memories of yesteryear when I lived in the area. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks guys :D - I almost forgot I had written this
Big Bend is a great place to ride and experience the "individualists" who live there. Absolutely love it...
TC - Texas and Montana - my two favorite places - where'd you live? Alpine?
hey there Lonestar,
I lived in Marfa, Tx for a few years then Dallas-FTW area. Lots of great people and great times. Marfa wasn't big back then. It wasn't discovered until after I left.
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