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Old 03-14-2012, 12:26 AM   #151
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Awesome report once again. Looking forward to riding some of your tracks this summer in Wisconsin. Maybe I'll get lucky and run into you!!!
Thanks! Always happy to share tracks and information about a ride. I host a few rides from time to time, maybe we'll see you on one of them.
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Old 03-14-2012, 06:27 AM   #152
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Absolutely fantastic RR, Cannonshot. One of the best I've ever read!

Love the history you are weaving in beyond the obvious. Your research efforts are to be commended.

I've been to the BBRSP area twice. Its strangely addicting. I have a constant yearning to keep going back. This is a mystery to me.

But it appears they need to change the slogan to: "The Other Side of Somewhere". Seems its getting crowded if you are actually running into other guests, and even groups of guests.

It lived up to is motto, when I had the opportunity to enjoy the whole entire park to myself, as the only guest on the Ranch.

Dang-it. We all should have kept our mouths shut. And now, you've really let the Cat out of the Bag! I can foresee a stampede headed that way. Your RR is going to be the Tipping Point.

STOP.....Don't go down there folks......You'll be shot, or worse, by a sweaty drug lord......Save your life.....Stay home!!!

HF

p.s. You're a brave man, Cannonshot.....very brave.
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:29 AM   #153
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Absolutely fantastic RR, Cannonshot. One of the best I've ever read!

Love the history you are weaving in beyond the obvious. Your research efforts are to be commended.

I've been to the BBRSP area twice. Its strangely addicting. I have a constant yearning to keep going back. This is a mystery to me.

But it appears they need to change the slogan to: "The Other Side of Somewhere". Seems its getting crowded if you are actually running into other guests, and even groups of guests.

It lived up to is motto, when I had the opportunity to enjoy the whole entire park to myself, as the only guest on the Ranch.

Dang-it. We all should have kept our mouths shut. And now, you've really let the Cat out of the Bag! I can foresee a stampede headed that way. Your RR is going to be the Tipping Point.

STOP.....Don't go down there folks......You'll be shot, or worse, by a sweaty drug lord......Save your life.....Stay home!!!

HF

p.s. You're a brave man, Cannonshot.....very brave.
Betcha thought I mysteriously disappeared after all that.

Digging out the history ahead of time is almost as interesting as the ride.

Let me point out that I felt safe in my travels in this region. I was just riding around looking at things and didn't look for trouble. I had an offer to ride on the Mexican side for a while in the area and I would have but it wasn't in the schedule I had laid out. Some say that if you go over to Ojinaga it is best to leave your bike on the American side. Leaving it on the street in Ojinaga is not recommended or it may be a little lighter when you go to leave. True about a lot of places I guess including some spots here in Wisconsin.

One local I talked to had some very strong concerns about the drug business in Ojinaga. It is sad that so many good people are forced to tolerate organized crime and all that it brings.

Again, the people you meet are generally pretty nice people as is true in most places I think.

One does wonder about some things though. That young fellow with the kayak on top of his car that was trying to run the backroads north away from the river, until I pointed out the road was blocked, may have just been a kayaker that liked to take difficult backroads with his car or may have been up to something else.

Best to be aware, but probably not much need to be afraid in most places.

Regarding BBRSP, it was kind of interesting to be one of only two people staying there at night. Very dark, very quiet, pretty remote. There were a couple of employees living elsewhere at the compound and I think one of them had law enforcement credentials and carried a gun. Keeping the road one way in and out keeps the place more secure I think.

And thanks for the nice comments!
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:55 AM   #154
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Continuing east on 170.

Continuing east on 170.


Nice path to travel.


Some interesting elevation further down the line.




The road runs along the south portion of BBRSP so there are a couple of loop rides down this way as well.


Magma was forced between rocks. We'll see some dikes that result from this in BBNP.


More agriculture along the river.


One of those shallow spots where you could drive across.


I think I could have stepped across without getting wet.


Horses lounging about on the Mexico side.




One challenge that people smuggling with planes had in this area was the elevation they had to clear once they left the river bottoms. One plane was loaded with fuel and bales of marihuana for a direct flight to Michigan. As the pilot tried to make a steep climb to clear the elevation, the bales shifted and he couldn't get the nose down. The plane stalled, crashed, and burned. Quite a fire with all the extra fuel on board.












This is the Colorado Canyon area along the river. US agents found a 3 acre marihuana grow on a terrrace above the river in the canyon on the Mexico side. You couldn't see it from the river, but you could see it from the high ground on the American side. It was quite an operation with plants timed for continuous harvest and with an irrigation system. It was guarded by Mexican soldiers. The agents reported the site and the Mexican government intially said the agents could be involved to help them locate it. After a while the word came down that the agents were no longer needed as the place had been raided and destroyed. Out of curiosity, the agents checked on it later just to see how well the Mexican authorities tore the place up. They found that nothing had been done at all to destroy the site and that the place was even better than it was before. Agents watched the place and found that the soldiers changed shifts by hiking out of the canyon on a three day cycle. When the soldiers were gone, the agents (in an off--duty status) floated down in rafts, climbed up to the site, and did as much damage as they could in the time they had. They threw plants and irrigation equipment into the river, planted a Texas flag in the field, and split.


Back in 1988 some people were on a raft trip through Colorado Canyon when they were fired on from the Mexico side. One killed in that ordeal. More details.











Overlook on the west side of the steep grade. Met a solo traveler from europe here. He said he took a float trip on the river. There was so little water they had to paddle most of the time.


Lots of rocks around.


Overlook on the east side. Lots of people stand on the rock in the foreground and have their picture taken.


The movie Fandango with Kevin Costner shot a scene here involving a Don Perignon bottle being buried beneath the rock.


I was going to bury a can of Blatz beer at the base of the rock just to burn some curious future explorer but decided it would be too cruel.








The tipi wayside. Easy to spot on the aerial imagery.
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:00 PM   #155
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Woah!

What a Ride Report. So much background, such good stories, and of course great pictures.

The Big Bend area seems quite rugged and remote.
I'm impressed that you rode around down there yourself.

The Big Bend area is still on my list of places to explore, but I have a lot more respect for the area now.

Thanks for the education.
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Old 03-14-2012, 05:06 PM   #156
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Contrabando Movie Set



This set was built along the Rio Grande near Lajitas.


A Jim Garner film was made using this set. I think he played a retired Texas Ranger.




Here is the music video that was shot here. I just saw it for the first time a few days ago myself. Shows a lot of the location.


In the movie Uphill All The Way there was a fierce shootout at this cantina. It was constructed in 1985. Roy Clark, Mel Tillis, and Burl Ives were in that picture.






Not much of the Rio Grande here.






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Old 03-14-2012, 05:09 PM   #157
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Woah!

What a Ride Report. So much background, such good stories, and of course great pictures.

The Big Bend area seems quite rugged and remote.
I'm impressed that you rode around down there yourself.

The Big Bend area is still on my list of places to explore, but I have a lot more respect for the area now.

Thanks for the education.
Q~
Thanks Questor! I know you'll enjoy your ride around here once you get to it. So many people seem to think a lot of the area.

One nice thing about traveling alone is that if makes it easy to engage local people and get them to talk about the area from their perspective. I get to learn a lot from those encounters.
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Old 03-14-2012, 09:08 PM   #158
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Great stuff. I love that entire area.

Sent from my phone, so this probably isn't what I mear ti blad.
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:28 PM   #159
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Thanks for sharing your trip. Some of your photos remind me of my solo wandering in the 4 corners area. I was headed to Big Bend on a recent Florida to Colorado ride but day after day of howling winds from the south had me detouring north.
You mentioned carrying your bike on a hitch rack. Can you say a little more about it and if you thought this worked well?
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Old 03-15-2012, 05:15 AM   #160
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Originally Posted by HighFive View Post
Absolutely fantastic RR, Cannonshot.

Dang-it. We all should have kept our mouths shut. And now, you've really let the Cat out of the Bag! I can foresee a stampede headed that way. Your RR is going to be the Tipping Point.

STOP.....Don't go down there folks......You'll be shot, or worse, by a sweaty drug lord......Save your life.....Stay home!!!

HF

p.s. You're a brave man, Cannonshot.....very brave.
+1 on all points.. The last three years, there's been lots of camp sites, no wait at the restaurants or gas pumps..
It's all going to change now.. Ha! Great RR. Did you get to eat dinner in some of the unique restaurants around Terlingua?
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Old 03-15-2012, 05:35 AM   #161
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I am surprised there is such heavy drug traffic around there. Your story telling makes it sound like smuggling is a way of life for decades around those parts.

Since there is so little population and the terrain so rugged, I am surprised the US military isn't deployed there to close the border. They could have a string of training bases all the way to San Diego if they wanted. A series of deployment bases similar to the fire base strategy we had in Viet Nam. That border could be closed if we wanted it closed.

I rode around the AZ border some that last two seasons. For sure there are lots of border patrol checkpoints and such, but not enough boots and equipment to seal it. Maybe it's not as big a priority as we read.
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Old 03-15-2012, 09:08 AM   #162
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Great stuff. I love that entire area.
Thanks John! Hope this is bringing back some pleasant memories for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBob View Post
Thanks for sharing your trip. Some of your photos remind me of my solo wandering in the 4 corners area. I was headed to Big Bend on a recent Florida to Colorado ride but day after day of howling winds from the south had me detouring north.
You mentioned carrying your bike on a hitch rack. Can you say a little more about it and if you thought this worked well?
I have a steel Versahaul rack that has served me well for a few years. It has a capacity of 400 pounds which the KLR exceeds a little. I usually haul a DRZ on it.

It is easy on, easy off, as far as handing the bike. They are low to the ground which means you have to watch those steep driveways at gas stations so you don't drag it.

When hauling on gravel roads, the bike gets a good dusting.


When I looked for a rack, I saw lighter aluminum ones. I decided I would rather have steel because of the properties of the metal.

The rack did show signs of cracking and metal fatigue from the severe rocking it took on some of the roads (like the main road in BBRSP). Rather than make it worse, I loaded the rack and bike into the back of my van for the trip home (and was reminded how much better the van rides without the rack on and the load more centered). A friend and I plan to do a little welding and bracing to get the rack back in shape again.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WildwoodMOCruiser View Post
+1 on all points.. The last three years, there's been lots of camp sites, no wait at the restaurants or gas pumps..
It's all going to change now.. Ha! Great RR. Did you get to eat dinner in some of the unique restaurants around Terlingua?
Thanks. I'll cover Terlingua today. Neat (and unusual) place. I hope all this inspires a few more people to check the area out and I hope the report makes it a little easier for them to plan their own trip.

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I am surprised there is such heavy drug traffic around there. Your story telling makes it sound like smuggling is a way of life for decades around those parts.

Since there is so little population and the terrain so rugged, I am surprised the US military isn't deployed there to close the border. They could have a string of training bases all the way to San Diego if they wanted. A series of deployment bases similar to the fire base strategy we had in Viet Nam. That border could be closed if we wanted it closed.

I rode around the AZ border some that last two seasons. For sure there are lots of border patrol checkpoints and such, but not enough boots and equipment to seal it. Maybe it's not as big a priority as we read.
I don't know what kind of traffic is running in the area today since no one is writing books about their current activities and we don't have access to intel summaries. I do know there is a heavy border patrol effort to thwart whatever is going on.

Indeed smuggling has been a way of life for as long as people have tried to regulate things in the area. They used to smuggle wax from candelilla plants kind of how they later smuggled drugs. Mexico controlled candelilla wax production forcing producers to sell in their system where profits could be directed as they saw fit. Many producers smuggled their wax to the US and sold it there as it was a better deal for them. Some of the descendents of wax smugglers became drug smugglers as it was the same deal only with a different commodity.

Way back when, the spanish tried to secure the area using the firebase (presidio) system. Didn't work. Remember the iron curtain in europe? Even with that fortification, there was still smuggling there.

I think the border has been tightened up considerably since the heydey of some of the smuggling I described from 25 years ago. But I also think that as you crank up the level of security you only screen out some of the smuggling. There will always be someone that will be able to work the system. This is especially true when there is corruption involved.

Keep in mind the smuggling goes beyond simply crossing the land border line between Mexico and the US.

At one time there were a lot of local drug lords. Over time these operations have gone from local entities to a system of large regional cartels. The huge amounts of money involved not only enable them to buy protection, but to also buy important facilities (like transportation/shipping stuff) to enable their trade. There are still local operations, but they are part of the larger cartel.

The whole smuggling and border protection issue is pretty complex from what I can tell. There are some eye opening books around that discuss it.
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:11 AM   #163
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Thanks for doing all the research! I am really enjoying the report and am learning some interesting facts.
I have been making at least 3 trips a year for the last 5 or 6 years . I have learned more about the history of the area in the last few days from reading your report than I have in all those trips.

I have learned the good roads and the great places to eat but the History, not so much.

Rock On !
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:21 AM   #164
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Thanks for doing all the research! I am really enjoying the report and am learning some interesting facts.
I have been making at least 3 trips a year for the last 5 or 6 years . I have learned more about the history of the area in the last few days from reading your report than I have in all those trips.

I have learned the good roads and the great places to eat but the History, not so much.

Rock On !
Thanks Don! I like doing the research and sharing some of the history. Easier for me to do it and share a very condensed version for people riding in the area than for everyone to try to search it out themselves.

Frankly there are more stories than I could reasonably cover, and it is sometimes difficult to cook down a complex event into a few sentences and a picture, but it seems to work out OK in the end.

I think I mentioned before that when I was riding in places in the past, I would see some curious things and wondered what the story was behind it. Now I research the area ahead of time, go looking for even more interesting stuff, and end up with a pretty rich experience when I take the ride.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:44 AM   #165
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Lajitas

Before we pull out of Contrabando, I should mentioned that the movie set is named after nearby Contrabando Canyon which has been a historical smuggling route. Contrabandistas would use this route to smuggle cattle, booze, and other stuff into the US. For the return trip they would pick up materials in rail towns and smuggle it back into Mexico. The Mexican government hired fiscales (river guards) to try to curb some of this. To keep down corruption they offered fiscales (in addition to their salaries) half of the contraband they captured. The smugglers figured out how to beat these guys too.


Lajitas used to be a significant portal between the two countries back in the day.


It was also on the commanche war trail. Commanches used to come through every year and raid in the area and further into Mexico. They would haul their stolen loot back to their home range in the US. This went on until they got a serious ass-kicking in 1875 back in their home territory. I'll cover more on the commanche raids and their mile-wide war trail that passed through the area further along in the report.


By some accounts, Lajitas was never much of a place. They got electric lights when someone put in a generator in 1949.


In 1977 a wealthy developer tried to transform the place into a high end community. In the end it didn't take to extent he expected and I think he lost out pretty significantly.


To some extent, that goal was accomplished.


Golf club.


There used to be an army post here to patrol the border on horses. Now there is a lodge on the site.




Lajitas ferry.


Lajitas crossing.


In 1912 some cattle guy brought some cattle across from Mexico and paid the duty on them. After the customs officer thought he had everything covered, the cattle guy brought more cattle across that he had stashed until he could sneak them across to try to avoid paying the tax. Customs found out about it and put the habeas grabbus on his entire outfit - right down to the chuck wagon - until the guy could prove he was clean in court.

Texas Rangers chasing outlaw in Lajitas in 1917.


There is a mall of sorts in town.








Lajitas translates to something like "little flat rock". The crossing on the river here was the best in the region because of the flat rock bottom.


Not a lot of food available in the national park so for some it is best to top off a cooler at one of the stores in the area outside the park.

Not sure if this is the same as the old trading post, but if it is a US official left a message here for a nearby Mexican drug lord. I think it was about negotiating a deal for surrender.


There is a fine visitor's center here in town.


They cover a lot of the natural history of the area such as geology and plant life.


Many of these visitor centers have a fine selection of books about the area (as does the store in Terlingua).


I should mention that for a while Lajitas had a goat (actually a series of goats) that drank beer. It was kind of a tourist attraction. One of the goats is stuffed and on display at the store in Terlingua.


The road out of town toward Terlingua.
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