BIG BEND NP, TX w/TIGER LILLY - 12/10
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX W/TIGER LILLY - 12/10
TIGER LILLY GOES SOUTH, PART - 2E
So like most things good, it didn’t take much ride planning. I had been there before, Tiger Lilly had not. She hadn’t been to Carlsbad Caverns National Park either, so we would stop there on the way. We’d take her pickup, load the bikes and gear in the back and motor on 550 miles south of Santa Fe and get on the border at Big Bend NP. We don’t live far from the Rio Grande up near Santa Fe, NM. We were going to see what it looked like further down river where it runs between Mexico and Tejas and runs North instead of East or South. Tiger Lilly was going to ride her Suzuki DRZ400S dual sport and I would ride a DR650SE. Tiger Lilly works on her own bikes and had lowered her bike to fit her leg length better, put on some bar risers, added BarkBusters, a spare carry on fuel tank and her dirt gear. (See her future ADV tech report on how to lower a DRZ400S for people who’ve got larger brains and shorter inseams.) TL’s bike had newer Dunlop 606’s and so did my bike. Her bike, as usual, was spotless and well prepped. I didn’t do anything to my DR except change the oil and filter, fill the tires with some air, cleaned and oiled the chain and cleaned the mirrors a bit. The previous layers of dirt and grime on my DR, applied on other rides, stayed right where they were. It’s sort of like pancake makeup, push-up bras and big hair in Texas, somehow it all stays in place….:evil
Extra gear, water, food, GPS, maps, etc. would be carried in backpacks and/or bungeed to the luggage racks on the bikes. Spare tubes, tire irons, CO2 cartridges, camera batteries, lip balm, sunscreen, homemade oatmeal cookies, and other stuff necessary when putting yourself responsibly OUT in the desert and the mountains for 5 or 6 days.
We would visit Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, get a motel room somewhere along the way down into Tejas and then tent camp out in BBNP for a few days and do some dirt. So since we were taking a truck, I could take stuff that wouldn’t normally fit on the bike for a road trip. Extra drinking/cooking water, more food, lots of music CD’s, big cooler with ice (for food and cold beer), extra fuel, hiking boots, air mattresses, big sleeping bags, including a military surplus extreme cold weather modular system (ECWS) bag rated to -40’F. I brought it for TL to use. She thinks a night spent out in the open, (read anything not a motel room with hot showers and clean linen), is ALWAYS COLD, no matter what the season. I told her she would be sweating in this bag.
Tiger Lilly and I were going South in the week between Christmas and NewYear’s Day and were expecting warm days in the 70’s and 80’s in Big Bend with overnight temps in the 30-40’F range. Not bad for the end of December in the Rockies. I brought a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Crème and 14 bottles of Santa Fe Brewing Company “Nut Brown” and some Newcastle beer and she had some Crown Royal whiskey. TL brought her point and shoot pocket camera and I-Phone and I brought my Kodak Z1285 pocket point and shoot. We intended to document, photograph and write about Big Bend NP for an ADV ride report of the trip.
……..Oh, and she also had a lady-sized point and shoot, Kahr double-action only, 9mm auto with two magazines full of FMJ ammo…
The woman is an engineer, rides street, rides dirt, flies planes, worked in the oil patch in Canada, shoots guns, plays the guitar, sings, works on her own bikes, and is tough, fiercely independent and pretty easy on the eyes. In the words of Delbert McClinton, a “woman like that puts out a lotta’ heat”.
Don’t know Delbert McClinton? Well, I tell people that if the song writer Leonard Cohen had been born in Lubbock, Texas he would sound like and write songs like Delbert McClinton. The man is a West Texas legend. We played a lot of Delbert’s music in the 20 hours we spent coming and going in the truck on this trip. Try Delbert’s 2005 Grammy award winning CD, “The Cost of Living”. You’ll know I didn’t steer you wrong..
….and Delbert had a lot to say on this trip…..
FIRST DAY - 12/26/10
DOWN INTO MEXICO
There was casino out in Vegas,
Had a million dollars on the wall,
Got my imagination workin’ overtime,
I knew I had to have it all,
I knew I had to have it all.
The first day route took us out of Santa Fe, headed South on Hwy 285, headed for Cline’s Corners, Encino, Vaughn, Roswell, (yeah! That Roswell!),
then Artesia and into Carlsbad, New Mexico We stopped in Carlsbad at the Denny’s and had lunch. We both ordered club sandwiches and made sure we took pics of the food. It was edible. Then we went out a side route, 62/180, southwest to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Tiger Lilly was doing the driving and NO I wasn’t going to get to drive HER truck or play with the trigger pull of HER gun. She was in control of the forward motion, heater, A/C, seat, music volume and vents. I could mess around with the door handle on my side, the electric window on my side, the “eject” button on the CD player and my seat belt harness. If I tried to play with anything else, there was going to be gunfire inside a very small, confined space. The back seat of the extended cab truck was jammed full of gear and stuff, so the passenger seat was slid forward and my knees were against the dashboard. If the airbag on my side had to go off it was going to take both of my legs off at the waist. I was going to have to find something useful to do for 10 hours…so 2eddies was riding shotgun and playing music DJ, assistant photographer, navigator, assistant LoadMaster, story teller and cookie stealer. Her Sponge Bob Squarepants was riding the dash…
My BERIK dirt boot eyes had to ride out back in the bed…and BERIK was giving me the stink eyes! BERIK had his nose in the wind, but he couldn’t hear the music.
But first we went down into the cave…
I hadn’t been in Carlsbad Caverns in decades, we each paid the $6.00 entry fee and walked down the slope from the Visitor’s Center towards the cave mouth and then down into the Earth. It’s certainly impressive. Everywhere you turn or look, there is something so old, so new to the eye, so geologically natural and yet so unreal.
We took more photos, but if you want to see more of it, look up Carlsbad Caverns on the ‘Net and feast your own eyes. Better yet, jump on your moto and see it for yourself. It took a few hours to go thru the long full tour and when we came up into the Sun again in the late afternoon, we still had time to drive further South. So we did…
We took a paved side road, 396, East out of the Caverns NP area thru Black River Village and connected back up with Hwy. 285 by Malaga, NM and headed down range, across the state line, towards Pecos, TX traveling thru the Permian Basin oil patch. Now Carlsbad, NM and Pecos, TX are both located on the Pecos River which actually has it’s headwaters near Santa Fe in the Pecos Wilderness high in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. I’ve wandered along it and fished it for trout for many years. The river is prettier up where we live in the mountains. The Pecos River runs into the Rio Grande further down SouthEast in Texas around Langtry.
We found a Motel 6 in Pecos, TX and grabbed our gear for the night. We ate in a nearby truck stop at I-20 and 285. The salad bar and entries were surprisingly good. I had the rigatoni pasta with meat sauce and it was so large a plate, I took most of it back to the motel room and had it for dinner two more nights. Day old pasta is sooooooo good!
SECOND DAY - 12/27/10
Sheree was a dancer, she was a schemer
We came up with a fool-proof plan
She would work it from the inside
And I would be her getaway man
Yeah, I would be her getaway man
In the morning, we made a quick stop at the local Walmart for a few items, including a tub of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for Tiger Lilly’s morning bagels.
Tiger Lilly showing how she spreads the cream cheese
Then pointed the truck Southeast on 285 headed for Ft. Stockton, TX. The countryside thru here is a little bleak. Lots of mesquite, sun-blasted sand and oil patch equipment pumping oil and gas out of the ground. We saw a lot of big drilling rigs, running 24/7, punching new holes in the dirt. The price of a barrel of oil must be up, what else would get a person out into this kind of country…
At Ft. Stockton, we turned South on Hwy 385, that’s 3-8-5 and headed for Big Bend NP thru Marathon, TX. Out here you better be watching your gas mileage since gas and watering holes are few and far between. Down around Marathon the landscape starts to get interesting, more hills, twisty pavement, more old volcano peaks, some big cattle ranches, but not many people. Out here you are either running cows, digging for oil, coming from/going to Big Bend NP, running drugs or people up from Mexico, US Border Patrol or DEA. “No country for old men“….
It’s 39 miles from Marathon, TX to the entry gate border of Big Bend National Park near Persimmon Gap.
You still have to ride a number of miles into the park before you get to Panther Junction. You can get gas there, use the facilities and hit the Main Visitors Center. It’s about a 10 hour ride from Santa Fe, but you change time zones, so we picked up an hour going from the Mountain to Central time zones. I had previously stayed up in the campground in the Chisos Mountain Basin, but this time we planned to stay on the Eastern side of the Park at the Rio Grande Village campground. We did stop at the Panther Junction Visitors Center to pay the Park entrance fees, pick up some maps and I talked to a Park Ranger about the dirt road conditions. Then we drove the 20 miles East to Rio Grande Village.
Now Big Bend NP was created in 1944 and is the least visited National Park and it is the 15th largest in terms of size. But the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is their busiest time, along with Spring Break around Easter. While in the Big Bend NP area, you should definitely also think about visiting the nearby huge Big Bend Ranch State Park and taking a pavement ride along the Rio Grande from Lajitas, TX northwest to Presidio, TX on Hwy. 170. Put aside a week, in the Big Bend area, to do it all. DON’T RUN OUT OF WATER OR GAS!
We did not have a reserved campsite, but it turned out it was not a problem. There were a number of sites available. The tent sites are $14.00 a night. We found one in the “No Generators” zone of the campground and started to unload our gear and bikes. The Rio Grande Village campground has a store, gas, water, bathrooms, showers, RV hookups and sells food, gear, ice, beer and wine. There is an ATM machine and Wi-Fi is available. There is next to no cell service in the park. It is also located close to the Hot Springs along the Rio Grande. Tiger Lilly made sure I understood that nearby hot showers, hot springs and dirt roads, in that order, were singularly important on this trip. I told her I understood. Nothing like a woman who wants to be clean and dirty on the same road trip….
We got the tents set up, the truck unloaded, put on our riding gear and took off on the bikes for the Chisos Mountain Basin. I wanted Tiger Lilly to see the mountains in the center of the Park and to ride up the fabulous road to the Basin. I was hoping we would see a bear or mountain lion or deer. “THIS IS BEAR AND MOUNTAIN LION COUNTRY! SPECIAL REGULATIONS APPLY!“, an official sign says. Last time I was riding in BBNP, in early 2009, we saw lots of deer and one very large, very beautiful, very well-fed mountain lion on this section of road! Made my trip! The road is twisty, narrow and VERY scenic!
The basin campground and Basin Visitor’s Center, hotel and restaurant are around 5,400’ and there are peaks all around you up to 7,825’ on Emory Peak, the highest peak in the Park.
Got to the restaurant a little before the 5:00pm opening time, so we sat out on the patio, laid back and put our boots up and took in the long view. TL took out her I-Phone and started to check the Internet, I began to take pics and remembered to thank my Irish lucky stars that I was still alive and able to come back up in these mountains on a dirt bike motorcycle again.
The Basin restaurant opens for dinner at 5:00pm and we went in and ordered a couple of cold beers right away. TL ordered the trout and I had the BBQ beef sandwich, both of which were very good. While we were ordering, I noticed the waitress had a foreign accent to her speech, so after the waitress took our order, I asked TL where she thought the waitress might be from. The Tiger Lilly thought she had heard a German or Austrian accent. I said I thought she was from Russia. The bet was on! The loser had to pay for dinner. When the waitress returned with our entries, I asked her where she was from. She quickly said “Russia.“. I asked her if she was a visiting student or had married someone in the park. She said she was married to someone working in the Park. Cool, smoked her! I just saved dinner money! Thank You very much! We ate our meal and then we settled on the shared carrot cake for dessert. The carrot cake is also highly recommended!
We rode the 30 miles back to the campsite in the dark. We were putting along at 55-60mph when I saw Tiger Lilly stick out her left boot indicating something ahead. She didn’t slow down…It is pitch dark down in Big Bend at night, just the stars overhead and our headlights, then I saw it! A havelina was standing right on the centerline. I saw TL pass it within a few feet. Shit! Which way is he going to go? The big pig looked straight at me and I thought, “this is going to hurt!” But at the last second, the havelina turned and ran for the opposite side of the road. That was close! Later TL told me that there were two more havelina standing on the shoulder of the road. I didn’t even see them….
We got back to the tents, talked for a while over cold beer and some short liquor and then TL got her stuff together to go get a hot shower, then we went to sleep. Tomorrow we ride Old Ore Rd.
THIRD DAY - 12/28/10
It all went smooth and sweet as honey,
We got it all and nobody got hurt.
Me and Sheree were counting the money
When that little gun fell out of her purse
Yeah that little gun fell outta’ her purse
The coyotes were calling each other all night, it sounded clear, great and wild…I woke up, got the stove burning and started to heat some water for coffee and breakfast. Scored some points by getting hot tea made for TL and handing it to her in bed. Then I got stupid and overplayed my hand and asked her how she had slept. She said she had slept okay but had cold spots in the sleeping bag I loaned her that made her feet and hips cold. WTF! She was in a three layer -40’F rated arctic sleeping bag on an air mattress 6” thick, inside a 4-season tent. The best sleeping bag that American taxpayer/military money could buy. The nightime temps were in the mid to high 30’s. How could she be cold? She should be cooking and well done in that bag by now. But women have different heating/cooling systems than men do. So I lost points. From the sound of her voice I had better figure out some way to make that bag work by tonight! But I had a back-up plan…
OLD ORE ROAD
We got ourselves together, ate breakfast, geared up and mounted up. Headed out to the nearby Old Ore Rd. for some “un-maintained 4WD” dirt road. Now in Big Bend NP they have paved roads and “maintained dirt roads” which can be driven in a high clearance vehicle.. They push a grader down them often and keep them two lanes wide in most places. An “un-maintained 4WD road” is NOT maintained and is often rutted, broken, narrow, eroded, nasty, and almost always just wide enough for one vehicle in two tracks. It is NOT single track. You are not allowed to ride ANY of the foot trails or single track in the Park with any vehicle. Your vehicle must be licensed and plated. No “non-plated” dirt bikes or ATVs are allowed to be driven in the Park.
We soon turned off the pavement and started to ride Old Ore Rd. North towards Telephone Canyon and the intersection with Dagger Flat Rd. about 26 miles away. Tiger Lilly was doing fine and enjoying her new lowered setup on the bike. Her feet could now touch the ground! We kicked it up the dirt road, having fun! After a few miles, I wanted to stop at the “Ernst Tinaja” primitive campsites and then walk northeast up the arroyo into a very cool, narrow canyon. So we turned off Old Ore Rd. and rode ¼ mile East into the camp sites and parked in the parking area. We changed into our hiking boots for the walk up a ¼ mile into the arroyo.
The rain water, that runs occasionally and furiously thru the canyon, has cut into the stone floor and walls and revealed many colorful geologic layers, some filled with fossils of marine life.
The various layers are sharply bent, curved and smoothed out.
Take your camera and take your time here. Keep your eyes out for fossils and fabulous color!
Further up the canyon, several deep pools have been cut into the bedrock marble layer, some are filled with water. I wondered about animals who, when trying to get a cool drink in the desert, fell in the steep walled pools and could not get out. The deep pool walls have scratches in the rock where some frantic, exhausting, drama played out.
After wandering around in the canyon we walked back to our bikes and sat down for a snack of TL’s homemade “one is a full meal” oatmeal cookies and some water. Then it was back dirt riding! We kept heading North along a tall ridgewall of stone up towards Telephone Canyon, in arroyos filled with sand or gravel, up and down hills, on ridgelines winding our way up the tracks. Tiger Lilly was behind me, riding hard. I came around a curve down inside an arroyo and looked for the way up and out of the sandy bottom. At the last moment I saw the track up, but it had a large pile of watermelon sized stones lying at the foot of it. Not good! I quickly flicked the bike over left and hit a dirt ramp up and around the big rocks. I quickly glanced over my shoulder back at TL, wondering if she saw the easier way up in time. What I saw was scary! TL and her bike were flying sideways in the air and then I saw the cloud of dust when they both hit on their right sides! That hurt! I stopped, got off my bike and hurried back to them. TL said she was okay, but her bike was lying with the wheels uphill. We both had a brief, uphill struggle while we stood her bike up. Nothing broken on rider or bike. Good! But it probably was going to leave a large, colorful bruise on her hip. She had seen the large rocks too late and while trying to avoid them had gotten crossed up, airborne and went down. Thanks to her body armor, we rode on…
We got to the Telephone Canyon trail cutoff and stopped to cool off and have some water. It was hot and my first layer t-shirt was soaked with perspiration. Once I had my jacket and helmet off, the sweat started to evaporate and had a very nice cooling effect!
Tiger Lilly was fine and had a pocket full of ready to go, so we continued on Old Ore Rd. towards Dagger Flat Rd. Good riding and fun, filled with equally good scenery and long distance, big, blue sky views. We finally got to Dagger Flat Rd. and turned West for a few miles until we hit the pavement on Hwy 385. We stopped for some more water and to take a break on the side of the road. Nice to ride dirt in the desert!
Tiger Lilly with the Chisos Mountains in the background.
Then we turned South on the pavement and headed for Panther Junction. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to pee and change into our bathing suits and put our riding gear back on over them. Tiger Lilly and I were heading to the Hot Springs near our campground and rode 17 miles East from Panther Junction and then turned off on the short 2-3 mile dirt road to the parking area for the springs.
This is a unique spot. The old small border village of Hot Springs, TX was founded in the early 1900’s and had a post office, general store and a motel right on the Rio Grande and the border with Mexico. There is a shallow ford over the river there and trade was had with nearby Mexican villagers. People wanting to come to the hot springs “to take the waters” also could drive in and get a room. Then walk down a ¼ mile trail to the springs located right next to the Rio Grande. Today, there are empty buildings in the townsite, and the hot springs building is gone, just the ruined foundation walls for the spring are there. The hot springs 2-story building was swept away in a big flood years ago. The spring gets 105’F water from deep underground and you can rest your dusty, weary bones and/or jump over a low wall into the cold river if you want to. Mexico is just on the other side of the river. Here are some pics…
Post Office and General Store at Hot Springs
Tiger Lilly loves hot springs!…and so does 2eddies!…We took a nice long soak and then got dressed and went back to our campsite a few miles away to get a cold beer and make dinner. Back at the tents, that cold beer tasted mighty good. We had ridden some nice dirt tracks, seen some countryside, soaked in a hot spring and cold beer was now available. Bring on the food…TL had cooked a ham before we left Santa Fe and I had some rigatoni pasta leftover. So we grabbed two more beers and some heated baked beans and raw baby carrots and had dinner by candlelight. Tasty! Life was Good!
We talked and after the dinner and beer, we drank a few fingers of Baileys and Crown Royal and stared at the stars overhead looking for meteorites.
Then TL went and took her hot shower while I took a look at the maps for tomorrow. Before sleep, I gave TL another sleeping bag to place under the bag she already had and suggested she put her jacket over her feet to eliminate any cold spots. Tiger Lilly was now sleeping on a 6” air mattress, two folded layers of polyfill sleeping bag, 3 more layers of arctic sleeping bag and bivy sack and had stuff piled above her feet and she was in a two layer tent! Hopefully she would stay warm and cozy. Anyone else inside all of those layers would have self-ignited and burst into flames! The night was reasonably warm and clear. And when my head hit the pillow, I went out like a light.
If you haven't already, you need to marry that woman. Nice report; very inspiring. I read both of yours. Well done. I want to go next time- I'm in Albuquerque....(!)
I'm usually in T or C, about wk notice.
I told you Tiger Lilly was tough, fiercely independent and armed! :eek1
More to follow tomorrow...:lol3
Looks like TL had a great time.. gotta love those hot springs too after a long day in the saddle. :thumb
Big bend np w/ tiger lilly 12/10
FOURTH DAY - 12/29/10
That’s when she told me about her lover
And I knew I was in a …terrible mess.
She took the blame, he took the money,
And I took a bullet in my chest
Yeah I took a bullet in my chest.
Woke up well rested and got coffee, tea and breakfast going. TL woke up and I handed her hot tea again in bed. She was excited and happy. She had slept soundly and had stayed warm! Cool! Big points there! Let’s ride!
Today we would ride the River Road west from Rio Grande Village towards Castolon in the Southwestern corner of the Park. The River Road winds it’s way along the Rio Grande, generally speaking, along the southern border of the Park. I didn’t know how far we would go. There were a number of ways to loop back East to end up at the hot springs, but at some point, if we didn’t turn back, we would have to ride all the way to Castolon and then probably come back on the pavement looping north of the Chisos mountains.
Another rider had told us that he had just ridden the River Road the 2 days before and encountered some “flour sand” about five miles East of Castolon. That got TL’s attention since that kind of dust was a pain to ride in. It’s the consistency of talcum powder. If you hit it at speed you instantly create a huge cloud, can’t see thru it and will probably do a face plant Ride too slow thru it and you can lose the front end and can do a face plant. If you do do a face plant in it, it does even out your complexion and skin color and can add to your overall attractiveness. If you do do a face plant in it, you should also keep in mind that facial dermal abrasion, at this level, at your favorite dermatologist, normally costs big money and you just sand-blasted off a couple of epidermal layers for much less!
The River Road itself is considered a “maintained 4WD” dirt road, but we would also be on some other sections that are “un-maintained 4WD” dirt roads.
Below the Elephant Tusk, a very tall volcanic plug in the Chisos Mtns.
We rode the pavement West from the campground and shortly turned off onto the River Road and dirt. Tiger Lilly and I went about 10 miles and then turned NW on a poor, long, alluvial graveled section headed 7 more miles to Glenn Springs. This thick, gravel section was tricky and deep, but if you let the bike have it’s head, stayed in the track and kept on the gas, there were no real problems. The bike would squirm around in the loose stuff and keep going. We were both up on the pegs and riding toward Glenn Springs.
Glenn Springs is another desert marvel. There is a small spring fed stream with open, but shallow flowing water, a few big cottonwoods and green dense growth in the middle of nowhere. The local flora and fauna must love it! We stopped, peed, had some water and took some pics and enjoyed the oasis.
BLACK GAP ROAD
The next section West was Black Gap Rd. and it would take us from Glenn Springs back to the River Road after about 9 miles. Now let me say that Black Gap Road is an “un-maintained 4WD” dirt road and it has some steep, downhill sections coming from Glenn Springs. It is rutted, rocky, sandy, gravelly, nasty 2-track in places. It also, not surprisingly, goes thru the narrow Black Gap, about ½ way thru, where the fun level really goes up. Careful there! Of course, TL did not know this when we were standing around Glenn Springs oasis soaking up the late morning sun….
We saddled up and began our way across Black Gap Rd. You start sort of on a plateau coming from this direction, but you then have to drop off down into a valley. The way down is steep, rocky, rutted, and you need to be careful on the pegs and with your brakes. I got down okay and stopped to watch Tiger Lilly’s progress. She came down it fine, but when she pulled up alongside of me, she was spitting nails! “Are you trying to f____cking kill me?”, she said. I could tell that this last downhill section had gotten her full attention. I said, “No, you’re doing great, no worries.” Seeing her face, inside her dirt helmet, I was pretty sure that my comments were not having the desired calming effect on the Tiger Lilly. Then I remembered that she had her “point and shoot “ pistol in her backpack. The only thing to do was put my bike in gear and get out of range. I didn’t hear any gunfire, we both knew going back up that gnarly hill was not an option.
I was on the pegs riding some fun track and then I went thru a sandy, curvy bit of road and down into a shallow arroyo that was little tricky. I got on the other side and managed to avoid a big rock sitting by itself in the track. I briefly looked back to make sure Tiger Lily had gotten thru the arroyo and the tricky curves. She did, so I continued on. I went a few hundred yards and looked back to see where TL was. No TL! WTF! I stopped and quickly turned around. I found her standing by her upright bike holding it up. She had gotten thru the tricky bit but somehow had hit the large rock sitting in the track. She had gone down hard and while traveling thru the air had apparently also hit a thorny bush branch which had zipped across her nose end to end. Her nose was bleeding and she was once again spitting nails, very pissed at herself for hitting the big rock and then letting her bike take a nap. I went to grab her bike for her so she could catch her breath. She definitely did not want any help at the moment and told me so and held on to her bike! The bike was okay, but TL was going to get another nasty black and blue…
But the Tiger Lilly is very brave, strong willed and doesn’t give up, so we rode on….into Black Gap.
We got back up on the pegs and later I ran into a deep, sandy arroyo stretch and came around a corner and saw the narrowing Gap up ahead. There was a big entry step up and it was over three feet high and the entry was covered with loose large, sharp, pointed rocks. I stopped 20 yards from the step and got off and got TL stopped before she hit it. We both walked up to check out the track. It was awful! First there was a big, high step up out of deep sand. It had “BREAK YOUR LEGS HERE!“ written all over it!
Big rocks blocked 90% of the track width. There was a small ramp up from the extreme right of the step, but once on the narrow ramp, you had to make a quick, sharp left, then right in order to avoid more big boulders. Then further up the narrow Gap, someone had concreted the whole track and placed large stones in the cement in order to get some purchase for 4WD vehicles. The rocks placed there looked like half-buried cobblestones and would not help a motorcyclist one bit.
To me it looked more like a carrom table set at a high angle like a pinball machine.
I could just see myself hitting the good line and then bouncing from one obstacle to another until my bike decided to take a nap and crashed against the rocks. We were a long walk from help and I didn’t want to stop riding just yet. At the moment TL was not a happy camper…this stretch of “road” was waaaay out of her comfort zone! The Tiger Lilly could shoot me here in the Gap, take my water and food and ride or walk out… And leave my sorry, no-good Irish carcass for the coyotes.
So Tiger Lilly and I decided the better part of valor was to “walk” the bikes up the nasty bit under power, with me driving alongside and she pushing and stabilizing. We took off our helmets, jackets and packs and walked back down to the bikes. We got her bike up okay and then did mine. We both were sweating bullets and were huffing and puffing and looking for some place up ahead where we could pull off on level ground and take a break. I knew someone would be coming along soon and there was no place in the Gap for us get off of the road right there. I was watching her hands, making sure TL hadn’t got her gun out, while both my hands and hips were tied up, busy trying to walk the bikes out of trouble. She’s smart though, ….better to shoot me AFTER I helped get her bike out of trouble…
We managed to get up the hill without crashes and mounted up and rode a little further up the hill out of Black Gap. Up top it was level, with fine views and TL stopped on the side of the road.
We stripped off our gear and started to drink some water, when from the other direction, came a Toyota FJ 4-wheeler. Two guys rolled to a stop next to us and asked if we had seen a wallet lying on the road. These two men had been backtracking all morning on the road looking for the driver’s wallet. They had been where we had just parked, the night before, photographing the sunset. We told them we hadn’t seen a wallet. Then they parked their 4WD and began looking on the ground all around us.
We helped them look and found nothing. It was Big Bend afternoon hot and they introduced themselves and we discovered they were Big Bend NP aficionados and had traveled extensively ALL over the Park, hiking, rock climbing and photographing. Jesse has had his pics used for a Big Bend Calendar and his buddy “Quicksilver” began to give us a running commentary on what things could be seen in the distance from our present location.
Meanwhile Jesse walked back to his truck, he was ready to continue looking/driving trying to find his missing wallet. When he got to his truck he turned and shouted back to us, he found his wallet! It was stuck under his seat and he had missed it while searching the truck before. He was a happy camper! He was so happy, he asked us if we wanted a cold beer. Are you kidding? I started walking quickly towards his truck in case he changed his mind. Jesse opened up the back door, dug around and handed over two cool, Shiner Bock beers. I handed one to Tiger Lilly and she instantly became a happy camper/moto maniac again! One minute you are standing around with a hot, hurt, pissed and tired riding partner, in the middle of nowhere, wondering if your riding partner is going to start using her “point and shoot” automatic pistol, throwing lead around and then some stranger drives up and hands you cold beer! I was going to tell TL that it took a hell of lot of pre-arranging to get that beer into her hot, gun-toting hands, but thought better of it. Better to enjoy that Irish luck again and get that cold beer in me where it would do some good!
Then, rested and refreshed, we rode the last few more miles of Black Gap Road and once again connected with the main River Road.
We stopped at the intersection, not far from the Mariscal Mine and Fresno ghost towns.
Tiger Lilly and I decided to head back East on the River Road towards Rio Grande Village and to stop at the Hot Springs. It was about 21 more miles back to the pavement and then a short ride down to the Hot Springs turnoff. Maybe 25-26 total miles into the Hot Springs parking lot. We figured we would get there around 4:00pm. So that is what we did. More dirt, great scenery, riding gravel and sand filled arroyos, flat hard-packed ridgelines, curves, and up and down hills, following the lay of the land and the River Road. Very tasty!
Then we sat in the hot water of the spring and soaked the late afternoon away.
After the soak, it was time for more cold beer and food. It had been another good day riding for both of us. That Tiger Lilly is tough and she was ready for more tomorrow.
FIFTH DAY - 12/30/10
Takin' it deep down into Mexico
No turnin' back once you go down that road
Just one place for a desperate Desperado to go
Take it deep down into Mexico
Delbert McClinton, “Down into Mexico”, Cost of Living, 2005
Our third day of riding would be mostly on pavement. We would ride over to Castolon, going around the Chisos Mountains on the north side and then riding south to Castolon via the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. After stopping in Castolon, we would travel a short distance over to Santa Elena Canyon, then walk into the border canyon for some hiking. Then ride out via the dirt Old Maverick Road North to the Western entrance of the Park at Maverick Junction and hit pavement again.
We got going and enjoyed the scenery with more time to look around us and sink into the Big Bend mountains and countryside. We turned South at Castolon Junction. This paved road is twisty with one spectacular vista after another. The pavement surface is smooth with many places to pullover and take pics or jump off and go hiking. It goes on for 35 miles before you get down to the Rio Grande valley floor at Castolon.
There is a store there with food, water and cold beer, BUT NO GASOLINE. There is a Visitor’s Center and the Cottonwood Campground is nearby. The campground has fresh water and pit toilets, but no store or showers. The nearest gas is in Study Butte, TX, just 3 miles OUTSIDE the western entrance to the Park at Maverick Junction or go way back up at Panther Junction. DON’T RUN OUT OF GAS OR WATER!
We stopped at the store in Castolon and we wandered around the old cotton farm equipment and checked out the view of the river valley and the nearby cliff gap where the Rio Grande pours thru Santa Elena Canyon between Mexico and the US.
Tiger Lilly was on her toes and thinking, she grabbed a single cold beer in the store and a bag of chips. Both hit the lunchtime spot! We talked to a few folks out front of the store and I went into the Visitor’s Center to look around at their history exhibit of the town of Castolon.
Then we geared up and rode down into the Cottonwoods Campground to see what it looked like, then went on to Santa Elena Canyon. When we pulled into the parking lot at Santa Elena we were both surprised to hear our cell phones beeping, telling us we had messages. This was the only place where our cell phones seemed to work while in the Park. There is Wi-Fi in a few places, but no regular cell service. So we got out of our gear and started walking into the canyon via the trail. It is worth seeing, the cliffs on each side of the canyon rise straight up and the Rio Grande cuts right thru them. It’s cool and dark inside the narrow canyon, papyrus grows thick and there is a nice beach and lots of fossilized marine life in the rocks along the trail. It’s a nice place to have lunch and it is a place to put in or take out your boat, raft or kayak. You can fish there too. It can be breezy in the canyon and can blow the beach sand around. After a snack and water, we hiked back out of the canyon to our bikes. Here’s some pics…
OLD MAVERICK ROAD
At the parking lot we made some cell phone calls and then got back into our jackets and helmets. We headed North on a dirt road called Old Maverick Road. It is a “maintained” road and can be driven in a high clearance 2WD vehicle. It is relatively smooth and wide, but winds around the terrain and in and out of some arroyo crossings. We took advantage and kicked up the speeds. We both had great big rooster tails of dust marking our progress. I was doing about 65mph when I passed a parked US Border Patrol truck with a couple of uniforms sitting in it on the side of the road. The US Border Patrol doesn’t enforce speeding or traffic rules in the Park, US Park Rangers do that. I didn’t slow down. I could see TL’s dusty rooster tail behind me, so I knew she was moving fast and was okay. The Old Maverick Road is about 13 miles long and was a hoot!
When I got to Maverick Junction I turned off the bike and waited a few moments for Tiger Lilly to pull up. She was also having a blast zooming up the dirt road. We now had a choice. We could ride West out of the Park and go to Study Butte or Terlingua, TX for a cold beer/food or ride East back up to the Chisos Basin and get a beer and something to eat at the restaurant we had been in our first night in the Park. We decided to go to the Chisos Basin. It would be 4:30pm when we got to the restaurant patio and near sunset when we ate dinner there. While we were riding up the road, TL suddenly pulled off the road, out of gas! She switched to her main tank reserve and fired the bike back up. When we got to the Chisos Basin restaurant parking lot, TL filled her main gas tank from her carry-on spare tank. DON’T RUN OUT OF FUEL OR WATER!
Tiger Lilly got off the bike and headed into the Gift Shop looking for a souvenir. I took a turn in the shop and then told her I would grab a couple of chairs on the patio. I had my feet up for a few minutes when TL came out on the patio with the restaurant manager in tow. He had two very cold beers in his hands and TL had two frosted mugs ready to go. The woman’s charms work miracles! Very nice! Saluto! We drank our beer and admired the big view. We were leaving tomorrow so TL got on her I-phone and the WiFi connection to get the internet NOAA weather reports for Santa Fe. Snow! Very Cold! Blowing conditions, etc. We would have to be careful going back home!
First beer in temporary storage, we walked into the restaurant and ordered a meal. I had the chicken salad and another beer. TL had a “well-done” buffalo burger and another beer and we had pumpkin pie.
After the same very nice Russian waitress took our order, Tiger Lilly said she was ready for another bet to cover the dinner costs. I was feeling good and cocky, so I said, “sure, what’s the bet?” I figured I had it covered, no matter what, and would win another free meal. Then Tiger Lilly said, “Alright, you’re supposed to be so observant. What color underwear do I have on today?” Give a woman a chance and they hit you right between the eyes and kick your butt five ways from Sunday! I choked…What color underwear? What color underwear? I had seen some pink ones at some point while she was changing into her dirt riding pants, but I couldn’t remember which day that was….Was it today? My brain was racing, busy getting the morning memory files and trying to quickly get an instant mind-video replay of the color of the undies. I tried to outwardly maintain my male composure. What f__cking color were they? She had me dammit! How could I NOT remember the color of her underwear? …..She was sitting on the picnic table top in the morning, …..she pulled off her tights…..and then pulled on her armored BMW pants…. DAMN! The instant replay in my head was defective, it didn’t have the right date stamp! No, not the fictional, fantasy files! , ….No, not the files from other women and their underwear! ….The reality file from this morning, ….this morning, you idiot! Hurry, time is running out…! The buzzer is going to go off….!
I took a shot…maybe it would keep her head down….”They were pink or green!” She smiled, “you lose, …they’re black!” DAMN! DAMN! “BLACK?” “BLACK!” How could I NOT remember that they were BLACK?
I took the dinner bill and paid….The Tiger Lilly laughed hard…
We rode back to the campsite, some 30 miles, and finished off the last of the Bailey’s and some more of her whiskey…talked, wrote notes to TL’s diary for the ADV ride report,
watched more stars and then slept….
SIXTH DAY - 12/31/10
Well, for one thing, there were a whole lot of guys
That would have liked to have been in my shoes.
But the upkeep on a woman like that
Will give a poor old boy the blues.
Still the pleasure was worth the pain
of everything she put me through
And I consider myself one of the fortunate few…
Delbert McClinton, “One of the Fortunate Few”, Cost of Living, 2005
We didn’t want to leave, there was so much more dirt to ride and the weather was warm and clear. But Tiger Lilly had to be back in Santa Fe for the Governor’s Inaugural Ball on New Year’s Day, 1/1/11. The first woman Governor of the State of New Mexico was going to be taking office and the Tiger Lilly wasn’t going to miss that! So make coffee and tea, have something to eat, take a good look around, savor it and then break down the campsite, load up the bikes and then our gear and head North, back the way we came.
When we reached Vaughn, NM, late in the afternoon, there was snow on the ground, the road got icy and the wind was blowing hard.
We crept back into Santa Fe, it was a few degrees F above zero, the wind was blowing, it was bitter cold. We unloaded the bikes and gear, had a cold beer, downloaded the trip pics to the computer and started the stories….We both live at 7,000’ in the Rockies, it was Winter here. It was the last day of 2010 and it was good to still be alive!
Live Out Loud! Thanks for riding along with us! We hope you enjoyed it!
Want to know more? Here are some links to Park websites and to Tiger Lilly’s other ADV Ride report…
Happy New Year and Thanks Tiger Lilly! That was a great Ride! Next time … BAJA….soon! HASTA! :clap
Somebody's gotta add a Delbert link
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Delbert Video - I'm starting a rumor
Hey! That's perfect! :rofl :lol3 :clap
Thanks for that!
Sorry pard'ner, but keep lookin', :wink:
The Sun Also Rises redux
Brilliant writing Ed. Lost Generation on wheels.
Fun with your photos
This may not be acceptable behavior - if so, forgive the ignorant - but I appreciated the reports that you and TL posted about this trip so I figured I'd have a little fun with your pics. I hope you like.
Next time I have 400-1000 road trip pics that I need photoshopped I'll send them to you. You made TL and the background desert look real good, but I haven't had a tan like that since I fell asleep on a beach and burned off all but one layer of skin! :lol3
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