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
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
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!