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... errr, fueled 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"...
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
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
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
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.
Approaching the Basin
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.