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
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