A CannonRide Around the Bend (Big Bend Region)

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Shafter is a town and a ghost town from what once was a significant mine. More than 92% of the silver and 73% of the gold produced in Texas came from this mine. (32.6 M ounces of silver and 8,400 ounces of gold)
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    Not much there now.
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    Some freighter found rock that looked promising and showed it to Colonel Shafter at Fort Davis. Shafter had the rock assayed and pretty soon a small group of officers bought the land involved. They got a company with capital to develop it into a mining operation.
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    There turned out to be about 15 mines altogether in this region with more than a hundred miles of tunnels. Life was difficult for miners doing the pick and shovel routine underground for about ten hours a day. Air quality was poor and took out a lot of miners as well as explosions and people stepping into open shafts in the candle lit tunnels. Over time the company changed from a mercury process to a cyanide process which I'm sure proved to be healthful as well.
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    I think up to 300 workers were here and the town included a club house, hospital, and boarding house.
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    I think adobe needs to be plastered over or protected by wide awnings to keep it from deteriorating as a result of rain.
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    Even a little water produces some green.
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    The silver never ran out, but prices put the mine out of business back in the 1940s. Since we have improved and more efficient mining and smelting systems, this mine can be profitable again. The mine is back in business again. I wouldn't be surprised to see them process what was once waste rock as well.
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    They intend to take advantage of some of the previous work since using exisiting shafts (in part) is better than breaking new rock.
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    Someone thought about bringing the mine back into operation in the 1980s but the Hunt brothers stunt of trying to corner the silver market screwed that up.
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    It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
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    #81
  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Presido is a small town of about 4,000 on this side of the Rio Grande. Ojinaga is a town of about 20,000 on the other side. The gateway between the countries is part of a modern designated trade route called La Entrada al Pacifico. You will see highway signs with this route designation in the area.
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    The bridge in the middle is the border with border stations on both sides.
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    Nice looking street coming from the border.
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    Border station.
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    This town has something like a 43% poverty rate. Ojinaga, just across the river, seems like a thriving town by comparison. From speaking with a local, I guess there is a contingent of women who work in Presidio to support their deported husbands who now live in Ojinaga.
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    Nice looking church.
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    I found a good lunch at the deli counter of this grocery. Nice place.
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    Presidio has five cops. The border patrol station in Presido has 76 agents.
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    In fact, the border patrol wants to build a new Presidio station that is ten times larger than the existing one. They anticipate expanding to about 150 agents with 30 additional support staff. They would also get a surveillance equipment building, stables for horses, and a helipad.
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    By the way, I read in the paper where a Texas state trooper pulled a car over for a routine traffic violation the other day just west of Marfa (maybe by Little Reata?) and turned up 500 pounds of marihuana.

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    Although there are many fine people in Ojinaga and in this area, the fact remains that people have been smuggling (including heroin and marihuana) through there for over a hundred years. Pablo Acosta had a murderous grip on the trade in the area until he was killed. The organized crime and drug trade still goes on here, fueled by money from the US.
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    Officials have named the area (and Ojinaga) as part of a high intensity drug trafficking area that is in part enabled by corruption. This article describes allegations that the military command in Ojinaga was involved in bribes, corruption, people disappearing, executions and other issues. One book describes turboprops flying cocaine direct from Columbia to the tiny municipal airport at Ojinaga (the army guarded the airport). After an important drug figure was killed during an encounter with Ojinaga police, the entire Ojinaga police force fled to the US because two plane loads of assassions with automatic weapons and machetes were said to be coming to kill them. (The drug figure wasn't shot by the police, but instead was shot by another drug figure that had the government protected drug concession there who owed a lot of money for drugs he lost in seizures by US authorities. He killed the first drug figure to get out of paying the debt.)

    Back during a revolution in Mexico, Ojinaga was a key battle site between Pancho Villa and Mexican federal forces.
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    Some of Villa's leaders.
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    There were actually several battles in Ojinaga but the most significant one was in January 1914 when Villa defeated the federals chasing them across the border into the US. I think Ojinaga had a population of about 3,000 at that time. Presidio was a tiny trading center with Shafter being of more significant size.
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    General Mercado was the federal commander. He had a lot of troops and good weapons but Villas night attack and smart tactics led to a federal defeat.
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    This whole revolution thing gets pretty involved with who was on what side when and for what. Lots of guns came from the US. During this battle, US forces lined up on the American side of the river to protect things there. Refugees had been flooding into Presidio from Ojinaga for quite a while.
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    US commanders keeping an eye on things.
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    Once the federal forces were defeated they marched to Marfa. No one was sure what to do with them so the US loaded them on trains and sent them to El Paso where they were kept behind wire until the revolution got sorted out.
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    Villa knew the importance of the press. He hired a film crew to document the battle and had embedded reporters from the US. Since the attack was in the dark, the film thing had to be reenacted during the day.
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    I read in Hallie Stilwell's book that at age 19 she took a teaching contract in Presidio when all this tension was going on and US troops had to occupy the border. She used to carry a pistol with her to go teach school in Presidio.
    #82
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Thanks for tuning in! Looking forward to meeting you sometime. Very happy to share some of my dual sport GPS paths with you.

    I'm glad you enjoy the history that we get to explore as part of the ride. Makes for some interesting stops along the way.
    #83
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Continuing on toward BBRSP I make a stop at Fort Leaton. This is a state historic site. You can register to camp in BBRSP at this facility. Good idea to pick up a BBRSP recreation map here (nice big waterproof map of the 300,000 acre park with good info for DSers) since they were out of them at the park headquarters at Sauceda.
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    1847 Mexican War veteran Ben Leaton thought it might be a good idea to get in the trading business here after the war. In 1848 (the year Wisconsin became a state) Ben bought a structure here and went into business. Over time he fortified the place with heavy walls making it pretty defendable.
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    I think the local governments in Mexico were paying $200 each for the scalps of unfriendly indians. Ben was a bounty hunter for those scalps. He also traded guns and ammunition to the Apaches and Commanches for any stolen
    cattle they brought him.
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    The Hays expedition tried to get through the Big Bend region and damn near didn't make it. They went without food for twelve days and ended up at Leaton's store for a week or so buying food and trying to recover.
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    After Leaton died in 1851, his widow married Ed Hall who ran a business from the fort. Hall became indebted to Leaton's former scalp hunting partner (Burgess) and when Hall defaulted on his debt in 1864, Burgess murdered him. Burgess took over the fort and was then murdered by Leaton's son in 1875. Nice place.
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    Courtyard.
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    Part of the living area.
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    Old store exhibit.
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    Cattle pens.
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    I think I bought a bike in this kind of shape once. Think we can get it running?
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    #84
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Heading into BBRSP. It takes about an hour to run the 34 miles from Presidio to Sauceda (HQs) in Big Bend Ranch State Park.
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    A trickle of Alamito Creek running into what little there is of the Rio Grande near Presidio. The Rio Grande really chokes down to nothing in this area.
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    By international treaty, the water levels in the river are regulated and regularly measured.
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    I think I read that 95% of the river is diverted.
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    Before all the impoundments and diversions the lands along the river would flood and replenish making them excellent for agriculture.
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    Check out this watershed and then take consider what little water there is in the Rio Grande in this area.
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    Once you leave the pavement, it is still a long way to park headquarters.
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    But a scenic one. If it has been raining you may have to wait an hour or two for the washes to clear of water. They really surge. The road cuts through them.
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    Texas State Parks have a regulation that requires a DOT license. So here at BBR State PARK, dual sport motorcycles and four wheel drive DOT licensed vehicles are allowed to run the roads and primitive roads while ATVs and unlicensed OHM are not. The park staff seem pleased with the dual sport interest in the park. Very welcoming and helpful folks. When you check in you sign a briefing form regarding back country riding.
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    Don't take things lightly here. There aren't many visitors - especially in the remote areas.
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    Even the main road is a blast on a bike.
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    There is Wi-Fi at Sauceda.
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    Park headquarters. An old ranch.
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    The main ranch house is available as lodging. We'll take a tour later.
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    Park headquarters and store. Bring your own food or sign up for meals prepared at the park headquarters. Not much here.
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    There are many dual sporters that know about this park, the great riding, and the great facilities. Hopefully, after this report, a few more will know about the park and take advantage of this great opportunity. When I was out riding one day, a group of 22 dual sporters rode in and enjoyed a pre-arranged park prepared lunch meal. The park staff thought that was great.
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    Bunk house. 30 bunks with bedding (15 each side - males on one side, females on the other). Nice common area. Iffy marginal cell service for some. Showers/towels. Don't forget to bring extra fuel for your bike if you will be riding the back country.
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    They recently raised their prices. The bunkhouse is $35 a night.
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    Meals just went up $2 to $8, $10, and $12 - about the same as restaurant prices. Of course, the nearest alternative is an hour of rough road away (other than pack your own cooler). So basically all costs for park admission, lodging with bedding/showers/towel/Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner is about $58/day. Very reasonable. The meals are great too.
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    I think most people skip lunch when they are on the trail, but the park will prepare a bag lunch if you want one. If you are late for the evening meal they will leave a meal for you to reheat in the microwave.
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    Roads to Nowhere primitive road guide.

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    Better version of the above map.

    I'll report on some riding and routes in the park in a bit. (Including pix of King Kong and Suicide Hills.)

    A "Cannon Shot" of sorts.
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    #85
  6. ducnek

    ducnek Satisfied customer

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    :jose

    Awesome info, history, and pics


    :lurk
    #86
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    I had enough daylight left for a 90 mile loop up into the NW corner of the park. I drafted a track (green) for the ride. My plan was to validate it on the ground (red).
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    Aerial view of the NW area of primitive roads.
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    Headed out from the lodge.
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    There are a lot of water barriers and arroyo crossings on the main road that keep it interesting on a bike.
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    Green must mean water, although it may not be on the surface.
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    My guess is that this is a nice looking waterfall immediately after a rain storm.
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    A closer view of the primitive road piece. Green was draft, red was actual. I rode it counter clockwise.
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    The surfaces are mostly rock with some sand or granular rock at washes.
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    Heading toward those mountains.
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    You need to watch the erosion, some edges are mild, some aren't.
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    Some soft spots. Not too troubling.
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    Cottonwood trees along Alamito Creek. "Coincidentally" Alamito translates to cottonwood.
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    Railroad down there too.
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    A guy homesteaded along Alamito Creek near here back in 1874. He did well until he drowned in a water hole in 1903.
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    Dropping down into the arroyo.
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    I guess the homesteaders got along with the Apaches OK. In 1889 a lone rider stopped at their place and he was invited to dismount and rest. After a while the visitor left saying he had a long way to go. The woman of the house had made a lunch for the rider so when she saw he left she sent her grandson after the man to give him the lunch.
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    Later that evening the family was sitting out on their patio having cocktails and watching Lawrence Welk on the flat screen when the ranch was attacked by a group of bandits. Apparently there were some wild rumors around that the ranch owner had his fortune buried on the ranch.

    The family ran into the house and one member was shot while trying to hold the door closed. The grandson that delivered the lunch to the visitor, who was now attacking with the other bandits, was shot through a window while crossing a room. Once the family was safe inside the house, the bandits split thinking there was a formidable force therein.
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    #87
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Thanks! Glad you are enjoying it and hope the info proves helpful to you.
    #88
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Across the tracks and into some foothills.
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    Easternmost track. Rugged and fun.
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    Nice views.
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    The rocks can roll around a little when you are braking on the downhills for some of the wash crossings.
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    For a bit this track kind of fades out a little in the creosote bushes. Have to look for it.
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    Most of the intersections are nicely marked.
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    This segment runs up a creek bed for a while. The bottom varies between hard rock and soft gravel. I wasn't seeing where the trail left the creek. I was seeing tracks in the creek and I did some bushwhacking next to the creek to look for where I thought the trail might be.
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    On one of my forays I stuck the 450 pound bike pretty damn good in the soft gravel. I noticed that even the front wheel would continue to sink until the bike had enough frame and swingarm components firmly on the bottom to hold it for a while.

    Somewhere in there I might have casually commented (@#$%&!) that I was no longer interested in finding where the trail continued but instead thought it might be best to backtrack out of there. :D

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    Of course, there was still the small matter of unsticking the bike. I found that trying to tug and lift the rear end wasn't working too well since I must have just shook out one of the significant fasteners that had been holding the luggage rack on. So much for pulling on that.

    I decided it was best to strip off my gear, drink some water, and sit down on the gravel bar and ponder some options. I surveyed materials in the area that I might use for some mechanical advantage.

    Since the sun was setting, I figured it was time to get back at it as I didn't want to screw around with this extrication project in the dark.

    I got on my hands and knees in the cool and refreshing water and dug out loose gravel until I got the rear end free enough to lay the bike over and drag it to something slightly firmer. I think I had a tow strap out for a while to pull in the places of best advantage. I started it up and rode to solid rock, got dressed, and headed out.

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    I had no doubt I could manage the situation even though I was solo. But I had taken the precautions of bringing a SPOT device, water, briefing a ranger, and leaving a map/route and tracking link under my wiper. I also had a very GPS competent friend, who had my draft tracks and riding schedule, keeping track of me on my SPOT tracker page. There were several bikers back at the lodge who probably could have assisted in the morning as well. And as I noticed while I was on my hands and knees in the creek digging out the bike, there was plenty of water nearby. I was also close enough to have been able to walk out to a road (following the GPS track) after it got dark and cooled off. As always, best to ride in a group of three or more. Although I didn't try it and never rely on it, this area may have produced a cell signal - or maybe not.

    About three days later I ran into this gentleman, a fellow ADVer, and stopped and chatted with him. His group was going to ride the same area.
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    I told him about the trouble spot where the trail is hard to find coming out of the creek and suggested that he come in from the other direction. When I ran into him a couple of days later in the national park, I asked how they made out. He told me they did come in from the other direction and they still had a problem locating the trail near the creek. I think he said they came onto my tracks and rode them out.
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    Anyway, the ride out (after getting stuck) was nice and the riding induced breeze felt pretty good after messing around in the creek.
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    This old corral site is near a spring and is left over from the cattle days.
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    I jumped a bobcat out of this spring. I assume the cat had an ambush set up waiting for some prey to come in for a drink. Man can those cats move.
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    I had to remind myself not to brush against vegetation that leans over the trail. Back home we just blow right through it. On the desert most things are kind of prickly. I scraped one of these prickly things on my neck.
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    Looks like a nice place to hunt.
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    By this time I wasn't taking any crossing for granted. I moved out smartly when I crossed this one. :lol3
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    Eventually I got out to a good road and worked my way back toward Sauceda headquarters. I met some park staff coming out on their way home and stopped and chatted for a bit. It was dark by the time I got back.
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    #89
  10. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Yeah! Another CannonRide! I've been too busy lately to stay up to date with RRs. I check back in to find I've fallen behind another Cannonshot lesson by 6 pages.
    #90
  11. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    The corral and pictures remind me of the TV show "High Chapparal". My wife and I have ridden Big Bend NP, but have not been to BBRSP. We may have to try some of that. Thanks for the tour.
    #91
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Hi Dave! Thanks for checking in.

    I really liked BBRSP so I decided to stay an extra night. I that think there are 2 - 3 days riding on the roads and primitive roads in the park.

    There was a DS group there for a four day weekend (probably 2.5 days riding) when I arrived.

    In my opinion there is a greater quantity of more challenging paths in BBRSP than there is in the BBNP. But I wouldn't say one location is better than the other as they each have their own attraction.

    I really liked the bunkhouse set-up. For a while it was just a guy photographing plants and I staying there. Very quiet, very comfortable, very convenient.

    I have another loop in BBRSP that I will cover and a long loop that I rode while I was based in BBRSP that runs along the Rio Grande going west and comes back via Pinto Canyon.

    Counting the 319 mile Chispa-Pinto route outside the park that I will cover next, one could easily fill three full days of riding based out of BBRSP.

    I'm sure there are others that have more experience there than I do that could offer some insight further down the line as well.
    #92
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Chisa-Pinto Loop. If you start in Presidio it is a 250 mile run. If you ride out of Sauceda in BBRSP it is about 320.
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    Heading back out of the park toward Presidio.
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    Looking toward Presidio and Ojinaga, Mexico.
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    As I mentioned, at one time Presidio was a tiny trading center. Shafter, the mining town to the north was much more substantial. Back in the day, we had customs inspectors mounted on horses that would ride the border and collect taxes on the huge herds of cattle being driven into the country (import). Often these collections were cash (silver) and involved big bucks.

    One agent, Townsend, was based in Presidio. When he collected customs money he had to get it to the government mailbag that was carried on the stagecoach in Shafter. Bandits knew when the stage came to Shafter and they knew that the customs agent had collected about $7K in taxes recently (a huge sum) so they planned to ambush him and steal the money.

    These mounted customs agents had some courage. Townsend decided to load his horse as he normally does for a routine patrol and then leisurely strolled out of town in a different direction as if he was heading out on a routine patrol for which he would have not been carrying the money. Once he got clear, he hauled ass for Shafter and delivered the money thus saving himself a hi-jack and perhaps even his life.
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    The Presidio area has some of the oldest modern history around the region.
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    Mexican cattle sometimes wander across the river. More on that problem later on.
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    Heading from Presidio toward Candelaria on pavement. There are dirt paths next to the road that the border patrol drags to erase tracks so they can check for fresh footprints later on. Lots of border patrol around here.
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    Ruidosa. Not much here.
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    The very scenic and entertaining Pinto Canyon run goes from here toward Marfa.
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    We'll ride that from Marfa back to here later in the loop.
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    It looks like this at the turn off.
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    Not much in Ruidosa.
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    I hope it is front wheel drive. Half off, quite a bargain.
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    I would guess that the Ruidosa Cantina started to go under about the time the border tightened up a few years back. The casual rural local cross border traffic probably slowed down.
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    Looks like someone is slowly working on an adobe building.
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    Maybe a church?
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    Looks like adobe bricks produced on site.
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    Left out in the rain?
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    Candelaria. Not much here anymore either.
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    There have been some farms in the river bottoms over the years. A guy named Russell used local labor to raise grain on the bottoms and then sold it to Army forts in the area.
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    Back when we had border trouble after WWI, the Army used to fly air patrols along the border.
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    Navigation wasn't so good. Neither were airplanes. A couple of pilots burned up some bearings (after losing ther navigation bearings) and set their plane down in Mexico in this area thinking they were on the American side of the Rio Grande. Wrong river. They got captured in Mexico by a gang member named Renteria and his boys.

    Candelaria
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    Renteria was a horse thief and robber that sat on a guy during the Brite Ranch raid while one of his fellow bandits cut the guy's throat with a pen knife.

    San Antonio de Bravo (Mexico) across the river.
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    Anyway, the bandits send a message to the store keeper in Candelaria that they wanted $15,000 for the two US pilots by a certain time or they would be killed. Long story short is that the local ranchers loved the air patrol because of the protection they got so they raised the money right away. They had to do a swap for the pilots one at a time for half the money at a time using an intermediary. After the first swap, the intermediary overheard the bandits say they planned to kill them anyway so he drew down on the bandits and he and the pilot grabbed horses and rode back to the US by a different route to avoid the ambush. This saved the ranchers half their money. I guess they gave $1K to the intermediary for his work.
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    Once everyone was safe and sound the Army went into Mexico after Renteria and his men. Planes were used to search ahead of the troops and drop messages to guide the pursuers. A plane got shot at by Ruidosa so it turned and attacked with machine guns picking off Renteria, his white horse, and probably some of his pals. Some other bandits that surrendered to the Army, even though they weren't part of Renteria's outfit, were turned over to civilian scouts who took them into a canyon and shot them.
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    By the way, one pilot not related to this incident said that when he was patrolling for bandits he had a hard time distinguishing between good-guys and bad-guys when he saw groups of riders on the ground. He said one method to find out was to shoot a few rounds from his machine gun in their direction. If they rode off into the brush they were cowboys, if they shot back they were bandits.
    #93
  14. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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    Interesting action. :lurk
    #94
  15. K_N_Fodder

    K_N_Fodder Long timer

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    Too cool, very unexpected to see some of my old buddies in your pictures :) You managed to run into at least two of the best dual sporters from Austin you could ever meet.

    Justin
    #95
  16. zandesiro

    zandesiro In rust we trust....

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    #96
  17. Pantah

    Pantah Red Sox Nation

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    Location:
    India Wharf
    Fascinating 3 days in BBRSP. I'll remember how you unstuck yourself in that creek. Good lesson there for all of us. Unload; sit down and think it over; take your time to plan. I bought a 250 for that exact reason. 300# is a lot easier to deal with.

    The park looks pretty big and those loops seem long. What did you do about fuel? I though the brochure said there was no fuel in the park.

    Thanks again. One of your best rides.
    #97
  18. Texas T

    Texas T Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Basking in the warm glow of the Arizona desert
    I was pointed to this thread by a fellow Two Wheeled Texans member and I read the entire RR last night and this morning. One of the best RR I've read in quite a long time and very informative as well. Thank you for the effort.
    :clap
    #98
  19. Mudclod

    Mudclod Mojo Moto

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,579
    Location:
    Killeen, TX.
    Great report man, I have so many friends that have ridden there (like the one's pictured above) but I can't get more than a weekend off at a time here lately...one of these days!
    #99
  20. M38A1

    M38A1 Type-A Introvert

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2006
    Oddometer:
    323
    Location:
    Central Tejas
    A tip of the hat to you on the excellent ride report!

    The crowd you ran in to was from Two Wheeled Texans and they were having their annual Uncles Around the Bend BB ride. I chuckled when I saw a couple pictures of JT and greeneggsandham.

    Looks like you had a wonderful time.


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