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Old 11-12-2010, 01:56 PM   #1
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Deliverance in the Desert - Big Bend

I chose the title of this report because it was something of a Deliverance moment in some respects...both for the folks we met and for me personally...I didn't get bent-over by any rednecks but definitely found some answers out in the desert. This is the first report I've posted in a loooong has been in the way - but since my riding partner selkins is busy with work, he's stuck with me starting the report and he can chime in as time permits. I know he got tons more pics than me and probably has a more effervescent writing style. I ride a beat-to-shit GS Adventure that I abuse relentlessly...and my writing (and riding) style could best be described as dark. So follow along if you want to see some Big Bend (and other) pics...or don't

The plan was laid last spring - selkins and I met in North Carolina to ride the BRP and while solving the worlds problems one night, decided that rather than leave his bike in the garage in Minneapolis all winter, he should bring it down to Texas, store it at my place (and I'd get some work done on it), and we'd work in a trip down to Big Bend in the process. Of course, after having to ride through Nashville, TN in early May while the flash floods were hitting (can you say 2ft water crossing on I-40 on a GS ), we could've agreed to meet on Mars and I'd have been game. So we set the date and the plan was set.

selkins was heading down from MN, I was heading from DFW, and we agreed to meet at the Gage Motel in Marathon. Of course, it's always nice when a plan comes together:

We met at 3pm, had another 2+ hrs of good riding time, however Scott felt that a better way to start the trip was to buy a six-pack of Tecate, park the bikes, and relax...which is exactly what we did. Took a few pics, split a few six packs, and ended up in the Gage bar with a couple of people buying us drinks...I'll let Scott fill in the gaps there Here are some pics of the Gage, and I'll return to my day and update more later.

Nice rack eh?

stay tuned, riding photos to follow.

Life is a participatory sport - say YES and let the adventure begin.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:13 PM   #2
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:50 PM   #3
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Old 11-12-2010, 04:08 PM   #4
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Looks like this one's off to a good start, might need to keep an eye on it.
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Old 11-12-2010, 04:12 PM   #5
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:16 PM   #6
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Ah, crap, Smugmug is in maintenance mode tonight. Hopefully I'll be able to add some photos tomorrow.

It wasn't quite Deliverance, but I will say that if I was in college, and if I was majoring in cultural anthropology, I could have written a term paper when this trip was done.
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Old 11-13-2010, 09:17 PM   #7
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Yeah, anyway, so my plan was to get one more, good ride in before winter blew in to the Frozen North. But it was already 25 degrees when I woke up on Oct 30 to start my way down to Texas. After casting an absentee ballot, I hit the road at a balmy 32 degrees. A leisurely Day1 got me to Kansas City by mid afternoon. Day 2 was a bit more of a haul to get me to the Motel 6 in Hillsboro (Outlet-Mall-Empire-of-Central-), Texas. A short ride on Day 3 got me down to my friend Karen's house south of Austin, where I parked the bike and hung with her and two of her kids for the day.

Karen and her daughter Kasey

Monday morning I whipped up my awesome pancake recipe for them (coyly forgetting to write it down for Karen), and then headed out to Fredricksburg, down to Kerrville, along the super motorcycling State Road 39 and then down to Utopia.

Between Fredricksburg and Kerrville

Typical roadside scenery in the Texas Hill Country

How many people get to say that they've seen Utopia?

Even the chicken fried steak is dreamy in Utopia

The hills, live oaks and clear, limestone streams peter-out after you leave Utopia heading south. I cruised down to Sabinal and hit US 90 heading west through Uvalde and then Del Rio. I rolled in to Seminole Canyon State Park, hard on the Mexican border, to camp under the Milky Way on a moonless night, with coyotes and desert tranquility for companions.

The tourist amenities thin out after leaving the Hill Country

These aren't for show in West Texas

A hell of a change from the Frozen North for my first night sleeping out

Morning and it was Election Day in this fair country. Lots of angry folks marching to the polls, and it was a pure pleasure to be about as far away as possible from polling stations and spittle-frothing talking heads. I started the day off right with a seven-mile hike out to the canyon.

(It's a flower, not a plastic bag)

A branch of Seminole Canyon, proper

Then it was the bike and the open road through el despoblado, the glorious wastelands of West Texas, with brief stops in Langtry - the fabled haunt of Judge Roy Bean - and a (perhaps abandoned?) weed-filled stockyard.

Yes, I have a more relaxed approach to riding than Darkrider. A few hours a day suits me fine, with plenty of time for engaging the local flavors. Sean generously accommodates my pace, and in recent years has even seemed to embrace the laconic touring style.

The Gage Hotel's superior courtyard - this alone was the worth the ride to hang here with our second six-pack of Tecate. Keep in mind that this gem is located in Marathon, a town of just a few hundred residents.

Later in the evening we repaired to the White Bison Bar.

Late that night, after more Micheladas (a sort of beer-based bloody mary) than I care to recall, a mother / daughter pair came marching in from the patio, straight to our table and asked if they could buy us some drinks. Sean and I were in no position to refuse (or at least articulate a coherent refusal), and from there preceded to a fascinating exploration of the daughter's various and disturbing neuroses, and the mother's mid-life career malaise. The evening could have gone in many directions.

selkins screwed with this post 03-25-2011 at 02:44 PM
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Old 11-14-2010, 06:24 PM   #8
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After our long night of not "eating the apple" in the bar at the Gage, I woke up feeling like I'd been manhandled by this guy:

But nothing a little riding won't fix. We headed for Marfa to grab some breakfast. About 5 miles out of town we came across this site:

This guy goes by the name Rickshaw and he's walking from San Diego to Miami, FL to set the world record for distance traveled with a rickshaw. Go figure...nice chap, sat and talked to us a bit about politics and such, snapped a few pics, and we were off in search of grease. If you're interested, here's his blog:

Looks much more impressive with my fat GS blocking his way:

After a suitable supply of grub in Marfa, we headed south for Presidio as temps went up. Stopped at this graveyard/marker for Cibolo Creek Ranch:

Scott, I'll run play-by-play, you're in charge of color.

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Old 11-14-2010, 07:44 PM   #9
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I love west Texas & Big Bend.
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:47 PM   #10
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Deliverance in the Desert

Great ride report! I love Big Bend and will be going back in January for the RDS B.U.T.T. ride at Big Bend Ranch State Park, are you venturing into BBRSP?

Thanks for taking us along your ride!
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:55 PM   #11
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Old 11-17-2010, 05:59 AM   #12
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Heading to Big Bend Ranch State Park with in late December/January so looking forward to your report. Keep it coming
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Old 11-17-2010, 01:25 PM   #13
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While Darkrider and I try to find time for the next posts, I'll just say we did NOT ride BB Ranch State Park. We did chat with this cool rancher dude at a bar whose family gave 25k acres of land that was the core of the park - which was cool. Also, we talked to another rider who said the BBRSP roads/trails were all pretty straight and unscenic
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Old 11-18-2010, 05:07 AM   #14
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Subscribed! Was there in February - not to be missed!
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Old 11-18-2010, 12:11 PM   #15
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Darkrider = slacker

So, I guess I'll take the next shot at updating this glacially slow ride report.

Yeah, the evening with our curious drinking partners ended with no casualties, and the next day we made a big "C" shape with our ride, starting off heading west toward Marfa with the sun rising behind us, casting long shadows ahead

Riding the 50 miles from Marathon through Alpine and into Marfa is, well...really cool. Desert and scrublands with surrounding low mountains and a sense of wide open space. Then, about 15 miles past Alpine you wind through some hills and small buttes and find yourself on the broad and relentlessly flat grasslands that surround Marfa. If you want a sense of what makes Marfa iconic, all you really have to know is that whenever Hollywood wants to portray a landscape that is simultaneously awesome and hypnotically monotonous, this is where they come. Think: "There Will Be Blood," certain shots in "No Country for Old Men," and most iconic of them all, "Giant."

Anyway, hard to capture by a sub-amateur photog such as your's truly.

So, anyway, we drag our somewhat hung-over selves into Marfa for a suitable breakfast of huevos rancheros, and then head south to the border town of Presidio.

Inside Carmen's Cafe, Marfa:

I'm easily distracted, and the semi-ghost town of Shafter distracted me:

Shafter ruins:

Cool Shafter graveyard. If you've ever seen "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and the showdown sequence at the end. Well, that's what this graveyard was like. Mostly simple piles of rock with white, wooden crosses. Totally cool:

One significant monument off to the side, that included the full genealogy of what was clearly a dominant Shafter family line, included this:

Finally, on the way out I spied this. Deliberate irony? Forlorn wish? Hard to say:

From there it was down to Presidio, a sizable border-town with its fair share of derelict and curious facades:

Yeah, in case you're wondering - I'm one of those folks that gets a kick out of urban decay.

The river road that runs from Presidio southeast to Lajitas is a very popular riding road...I guess that's all relative though when you're about as far away from a population center as possible in the lower 48. I don't believe we saw any other bikes for its roughly 50 mile length, and only a handful of cars. Here are some scenes:

Lajitas is just a few miles west of Terlingua. For those to whom that name is not familiar - among chili lovers its the home of the Terlingua International Chili Cookoff. As it happens we were there when it was going on. But more of that later...

We did stop in town for a lunch of the Ghost Town Cafe's finest:

Here's the Ghost Town Cafe, proper:

Let me say now that I'm a native Texan with no small fondness for chili and for spicy foods. This was some pretty spicy chili, but to be honest I had no idea that over the next 12 hours I would come to think of it as a flaming ball of lava, seeking to work its way out of my body. 'Nuf said.

So, with the lava ball just beginning to familiarize itself with my gut, we rode up late in the afternoon into Big Bend National Park and up to the Chisos Basin. But, I'll let Darkrider take the tale up at this point.

selkins screwed with this post 11-18-2010 at 12:33 PM
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