I slept great and awoke to the sun just peaking over the Chisos and skimming the Ghost Town.
Sunrise on El Dorado
Firebase Tequila - dwelling of last night's rocketeers
The old graveyard in the light of day
After snapping a few pics I started the bike and made a circle through the town and over to Roger's place. He was gone of course but I surveyed his little bit of heaven and then motored on over to Kathy's for coffee and conversation.
The usual crew was there including my friend Ray whom we'd met last year. His wife Winnie wasn't there but it was a good time listening to the local gossip and humor. Of local interest was the construction of a new "justice center" which was combining DPS, the local sheriff's office and EMS. They weren't too happy about it since it was bringing state troopers directly into the town and they weren't looking forward to a continuous stream of rookie troopers who'd be trying to make a name for themselves. As Ray said, the sheriff's know the folks and have to live with them, but the troopers...
Kathy was busy serving great breakfast and prepping for the parade later in the afternoon. It wasn't long before I was starting to sweat and knew it was time to get moving. Said my goodbye's and motored back the motel to finish up the ride report before loading up and heading over to the Ghost Town Cafe for breakfast. I normally eat at Kathy's but needed a comfortable place to upload pics and the cafe had a/c and wifi.
If pigs could fly
The ladies working there ogled the bike outside and said it was "pretty" and the owner told me how she used to ride a custom chopper before having to sell it from an injury. The waitress and cook were arguing over music until one of them went to her truck and produced a cd for the cook. I ate a breakfast of biscuits and gravy to the muffled sounds of reggae from the kitchen while the photos uploaded for the report.
Four or five party-ers stumbled into the restaurant with obvious hangovers from the night before and ordered lunch. One turned to me and asked if I was the guy they'd almost hit with the rocket the night before. I laughed and said "yes" and they apologized, saying the bottle fell over right when they lit it... I told them it was fine and I'd spent many nights shooting bottle rockets at cars myself. The girl with them said they freaked when they saw me stop the bike at the cemetery right after the rocket went past and figured I was calling the sheriff. Too funny.
I headed up to the porch afterwards to snag a "Viva Terlingua" bumper sticker since my other one is now in Montana. Conversation on the porch centered on the terrible humidity since it had rained a couple of times... I was thinking WHAT humidity????
Terlingua S.W.A.T. team weapons locker
Doug loadin' his Lone Star
We watched a thunder head forming over the Chisos basin and they were hoping it would head towards town. I was planning on riding up to the basin and the rain shower looked great to me. Nothing like a little cool rain in the middle of 105 degrees. I knew the basin would be much cooler and I hadn't been up there in a while.
Main discussion centered on the two spikes protruding through the roof of the cloud... they'd shoot upwards and disappear and then do it all over again
Very little traffic and people at this time of year and today was no exception as I rode into the park from the west entrance.
I watched as the rain cloud moved north from the Chisos and it looked like I'd miss it. Darn. I was looking to cool down. Eventually the road wound it's way around until it looked like I'd be hitting it after all. Woohoo!
As I crested a rise, I began to doubt my desire to get wet. Ahead there was a solid white wall of rain coming straight at me, so dense you couldn't see through it. Crap. Just as I saw it, 4 cars came out of the white wall with headlights on, wipers going and worst of all, traveling at 70 mph in the 45 mph speed zone. They raced past me and I could see the debris from high winds blowing in front of the deluge and it was coming fast.
There wasn't time to stop and suit up and so I did a fast u-turn right as the biggest drops of rain began thumping me hard. I nailed it and outraced the deluge until I caught up to the cars and slowed a little. It looked clear down towards Santa Elaina Canyon so I motored up Ross Maxwell drive to Sotol Vista. I stopped to take a pic or two and the rain racer cars had just pulled in. As I stood looking over the valley, I overheard one of the ladies saying "Oh my God, I felt so bad for that poor guy on the bike. He had no idea what he was riding into! I hope he's ok". Eventually they realized it was me and that I'd turned after them. She began telling me how bad the storm was and said the wind was whipping from three directions and the rain was torrential. She was glad I hadn't ridden into it. Me too honey.
From there I rode on down to Castolon and got more water and a can of Jumex banana/strawberry nectar. While there, a man and woman with British accents came over to look at the bike and talk shop. The guy had had a BMW in years past and was about to do a 2 week motorcycle trip through North Vietnam.
Wished them well and headed back for the Basin again since it looked as if the storm had gone north. Thunderheads were forming over the mountains in Mexico above Santa Elaina behind me so it seemed like a good time :)
By the time I reached the main road, it was 4:30 and I didn't want to miss the 4th Parade so I turned west for Terlingua instead. By the time I reached the west gate I could see dust clouds blowing up from the storm coming from Mexico and barely beat the dust but got the brunt of winds blowing across the valley.
It was still early for the parade so I went on to the porch and sat listening to someone playing guitar, egged on by one of the porch goers who had a little too much to drink. Speaking of which, drinking seems to be the national sport of Terlingua, as it seems the folks around you either:
A.) have a hangover
B.) are working on one
C.) are recovering from one
D.) are planning one for later.
Some are probably, E.) all of the above.
One by one the folks disappeared from the porch and it was about time to head back for the Parade. I got to Kathy's a little early and immediately had a water balloon lobbed at me. Unfortunately it missed and I got roped into blowing up balloons for the parade marshall's car. Shortly after everyone zoomed off for Study Butte to queue up for the parade.
The afternoon was cool and overcast - about 75 degrees - and I was happy to be enjoying cool weather.
After a while you could hear sirens in the distance which signalled movement. The 12 of us who had gathered to watch waited with white-knuckled excitement I'll tell ya.
More and more folks began to show up and lined the road from the Chisos Mining Company Motel to Kathy's. I finally realized most of the population was probably IN the parade. Doh!
Eventually the parade got close enough to see the horsemen, fire department, law enforcement, atv's and cars, all weaving and circling behind the slow moving horses.
As they approached, the two lead riders charged up the hill and reached the top waving flags - it was quite cool to watch. Kathy in the old Parade Marshall's car - which had belonged to her dad - made big circles in the road honking and waving. The rest of the gang showed up with sirens blazing and it became a fiesta in short order. The crowd swelled and the music started. The EMS personnel began serving food - which by the way this parade is for - to support the local EMS - and the party got started. I chatted with a few folks and paid for my plate, enjoying the circus going on around me. What a hoot!
All good things must come to an end (for me at least) and I had a room booked in Marathon and a dance to get to. It was about 7:30 and was dark and cludy to the north so I knew I needed to get going to make the dance before it was over.
With a tinge of sadness I fired up the bike, getting thumbs up from some folks around, and headed for the park entrance. A front had moved in from the west and north and I knew it would be darker sooner than normal. I had hoped to be there a little early to get a shower and get to the dance for the fireworks show when it started. I knew it wasn't gonna happen, but still wanted to get there before dark if possible. It's about 60 miles through the park at 45 mph before you can open up for the 45 miles to Marathon. I didn't relish the thought of riding in the dark, but even less what I was about to go through...
Shortly after I reached Panther Junction and turned north, I got hit with violent stomach spasms and cramps - probably the worst I've ever had. I tried to continue on, but in a few hundred yards I was sweating profusely, trying not to throw up and feeling very dizzy. There was no place to stop and I struggled on until finally reaching a pull-out. I was barely able to get off the bike as I had become weak and the stomach cramps were very intense. I felt severely nauseated and sick and began to wonder if I was about to spend the night on the desert floor. It was that bad, and I was praying hard, believe me.
Laying over the seat of the bike, I watched as the drops of sweat hit the dry ground near my footpeg. As they did, suddenly 6 or 8 black beetles came running out from under the creosote bushes, swarming the wet spots on the ground. I did not relish the thought of spending the night on the ground.
Just great. Violently ill, alone on the edge of the road, with 30 miles behind me and 70 in front with darkness falling. After a while, the cramps subsided some and I was able to begin to think again. I was shaking, weak, and soaked with sweat but got the bike started and headed north. My goal was to try and make it to Marathon, or to just stop at the park entrance if I couldn't go on and wait for someone to come by.
The light was fading and the clouds made it darker. The park ranger station was empty as expected but I finally made it out the north entrance and got the throttle seriously on. The cool wind helped but I still was having smaller stomach spasms and was very weak. 44 miles to go, as quickly as I could.
It's nothing but open range land between the park and Marathon, and I had no idea what large game would be crossing the road in the dusk. As the light got so dim that I could barely make out shapes, sure enough, a mule deer bolted across about a hundred feet ahead and I grabbed hard, but he went on across.
By this time my face shield was covered in bug splatters and it was getting hard to see. A ways down the road I hit a rabbit who'd been sitting in the middle of the road - I didn't see him and he didn't move... (sorry Hollin :( ) Just after that, I saw a dark shape move to my left and I hit the brakes hard and swerved... only to realize it was a spot on the face-shield that looked like movement in the low light. Let's just say that was a long hard ride to Marathon. I felt so poorly, I was glad to see the flashing red light for the Border Patrol checkpoint. I knew Marathon wasn't too far away. I must have looked pretty bad as the Patrolman passed me through pretty quick. I had driven from Panther Junction all the way and seen not a single car. Would've been a long wait for help.
Approaching Marathon, the mountains to the west were a faint silhouette in the distance. Fireworks were exploding off to my left against the mountain backdrop, presumably from the dance, so I guess I got to see them after all, just not as I'd have preferred.
Still feeling queasy, I arrived at the Inn and got my gear into the room. All I wanted was a shower and to rest a bit. As I turned on the water, the shower door fell off. Crap. 10 minutes later I had rigged it back on and enjoyed the cool water. I tried to drink a glass of ice water, but it caused further spasms.
Didn't feel like it, but changed clothes and went back out to ride down to the dance. There seemed to be a steady stream of diesel pickups rumbling past toward the park. It's a few miles down a single lane road to the park, and about 600 yards out, both sides of the road were lined with truck after truck. Headlights revealed couples dressed up walking together hand in hand, folks carrying coolers and chairs, all drawn towards the music from the darkness ahead.
It was almost 11 pm by the time I got there and got parked near the main gate behind a couple of DPS cars. The country music was playing and the crowd was dancing on the pad, illuminated by a few light bulbs. In the cool evening air, kids rushed past playing in the dark, families sat in chairs picknicking and enjoying the scene.
I watched and wandered, shooting a few pics here and there, but mainly just taking in the sights and atmosphere. The night air felt great despite the tinges of pain in my stomach. Fireworks popped in the darkness behind the stage to the squeals of kids.
What a nice night it was, even feeling lousy.
The long day finally caught up with me and I headed back to town. I sat on a bench in the dark on Main St. and listened to fireworks across the railroad tracks until finally heading over to the Inn and crashing.
Not sure what caused the stomach spasms... breakfast, a snack or the donated foods prepared for the parade. Possibly the heat releasing something from the plastic of the Camelbak into the water? Who knows!
Life's an adventure right?
More tomorra amigos!