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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    I pretty much covered the bunk house set-up at the park. You can also camp in the desert campsites. Some of the them aren't very developed.

    Or you can stay in the elegant ranch house at the headquarters.

    This charming park employee was doing the cooking while I was there. She was a great ambassador for the park. Very nice.
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    Ranch apartments.
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    I think the superintendent lives here.
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    As I mentioned, some group may want to rent the Big House (not big house as in prison though) for your stay. I think a group of DSers will be doing so in January if I understand correctly. Three bedrooms, three baths, up to eight people.
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    Screened in porch.
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    Lots of tile around. The floors are tiled.
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    Living room.
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    Built in 1908. Remodeled in the 1940s.
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    Cowhide rug.
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    Dining room.
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    Kitchen.
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    Fireplaces in the bedrooms.
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    This old water tank in the yard is now a patio of sorts. Nice place to have a fire and sit out of the wind.
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    They had to stop watering these pecan trees in the back yard. The moisture in the soil was deteriorating the adobe house.
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Thanks Bob! Glad to see you along for the ride.
  3. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    Absolutely fantastic Cannonshot! Got to do this ride after you contribute your tracks :killen to us here??

    Do you think that an 1200GS and enduro sidecar can make it around and about?

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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    I added this entry to the post with the description of the Chisa-Pinto Loop. Thought some would find it interesting to think about when they rode along the river there. :lol3

    Let me add that the Lomas de Arena crossing is just off this path as well. It was a well used crossing for smuggling drugs into the US and guns into Mexico by vehicle. I don't know the current status of this crossing but imagine it is under the watchful eye of the border patrol. A couple of smugglers ran a truck load of marihuana into a ditch on the American side one time. A few days later other smugglers had to go find and recover the load all the while prepared to shoot it out with US authorities in the event a police ambush had been set around the abandoned truck.
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    It used to be just a quiet crossing for drugs to go out. In fact, the enterprise in Ojinaga had someone keep fuel barrels near here to refuel vehicles. When the barrels were empty they were replenished in Ojinaga. The ranch on the US side had locked gates, but the drug people had keys so they could run the ranch roads to the nearby interstate highway where they used to be able to just disappear. The guns thing started after a shoot out at the crossing between Presidio and Ojinaga. No one used to check for guns coming into Mexico at Ojinaga - some say because of government protection. Then a drunk and boisterous runner got into a point blank shootout with a young Mexican customs agent after the runner drew down on the the agent who wanted to inspect his vehicle. The US border folks then figured they needed to start checking vehicles going into Mexico for guns themselves. Hence, the illicit gun importing for the Ojinaga folks moved to this crossing.
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  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    I think it would be fine for nearly everything but the most extreme stuff. I wouldn't think it would be a very fast ride on some of it though. I'd watch for the soft stuff in some of the wash/water crossings and weight/traction issues might be something to think about in some places. But I don't ride a rig like that so I am only speculating. :D

    And yes, I will post a GPX for people to download to use for a ride or in planning their own trip. It will likely be posted on this page but I'll post a direct link once I get the file done.
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  6. back2thefuture

    back2thefuture Adventurer

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    Cannonshot, I'm in awe of your license plate.......
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    Mine isn't nearly as cool.
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  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    My license number seems to change a lot . . . James Bond style. :D
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  8. back2thefuture

    back2thefuture Adventurer

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    ROFLMAO !!!!!!! hilarious. GOOD JOB.:clap
  9. hoser54

    hoser54 just havin' fun

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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!!!
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    I am moving base camp from BBRSP to the Chisos Basin. Along the way we'll take in Farm to Market Road 170, Lajitas, Terlingua, Study Butte, and enter the national park. It is about a 119 mile run with much of the route being incredibly scenic along the Rio Grande.
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    Starting out.
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    It was a nice cool morning and I was in no hurry. I got behind a federal plated truck that was running four tracking dogs down the road. Two of the dogs had tracking collars. Eventually I got a signal to pass. It looked that they were trying to run a bear to collar as I know there is some interest in some kind of mexican bear species in the park. I guess they could have been trying to run a lion, I didn't ask.

    I did see some javelinas out doing their thing though.
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    Stopped to look at some old indian art work in the park.
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    Along Farm to Market Road 170. When I mention crossings along the river, often I am referring to low water spots where vehicles can get across. Some crossings had bridges or ferries.
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    Lots of cover to make the approach to a crossing. A big drug lord had the concession in Ojinaga some years ago. It cost money (payoffs) to gain the protection you needed from the government (army, police, etc) to operate. The guy in power lost much of his power when he lost too many loads to seizures in the US. When you lose a load, you still have to pay for it. Lose too many loads, you may not be able to recover. This led to someone else who had money to pay for the concession taking over. The new guy invited the old guy to help him deliver a truck load of marihuana to the river near Redford. Since the old guy no longer had the concession, he was vulnerable to someone making a move and catching up on old grievances. Sure enough, people were waiting for him at the river so he ran for his life. He got shot in the spine as he fled. As he crawled on the ground pleading for his life, the others drew gasoline from a truck and poured it in a circular trench they scratched around the guy. After piling brush on top of him (still alive) they touched it off and watched him burn while they drank beer. What a business.
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    There were a lot of drug business related killings in Ojinaga when things were more in the open about 25 years ago. Stolen vehicles and weapons were brought to Ojinaga from the US to trade for drugs. By the way, airplanes by specific type were sometimes ordered to be stolen and brought to Mexico for smuggling - often paid for in drugs. Authorities were paid off, some drug lords and their people carried police credentials, and many in the business were openly armed with assault rifles. Gunfights in town could be heard in Presidio. No one wanted that violence in the US. A border patrol agent was seriously wounded near Redford and in a separate incident two narcotics agents were sprayed with automatic weapons fire as they waited for a load of drugs to cross at Redford.
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    In the end some criminals in Mexico figured out that they were best not to start killing police in the US. One drug lord put the word out to just drop the load and run if they were about to be arrested while smuggling. The county sheriff here in Texas sent an envoy to talk to the drug lord in Ojinaga to tell him he didn't want bodies showing up in his county.
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    I need to point out that the terrible criminal element that operated in this area is not representive of the many fine people you meet along the way - then or now. There have also been some reforms, at least at the highest levels of government, though it is widely thought that corruption is still widespread. Prior to some reforms it was estimated that at one time about 1/3 of all tax money was lost to corruption contibuting to chronic poverty for too many people. Some believe that it is too deep of a culture from the past and there is too much money involved to overcome some of these challenges to the extent that is needed - even today. One estimate I read is that the drug trade pumps $30-$50 billion dollars of foreign currency a year into the Mexican economy - second only to oil.
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    Redford school.
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    One Ojinaga drug lord kept a drug warehouse in the city across from an elementary school where the teachers held drills to teach the children to get down on the floor if there was a shootout at the facility across the street. He also kept a warehouse out in the country just across the river along the road to El Mulato. Marihuana was cured, processed, and stored in these facilities. Although not processed here, herion was handled as well. As a side note, when the South Florida Task Force really squeezed down the cocaine smugglers over there, Ojinaga became the largest cocaine depot in North America. Twin turboprops brought in plane loads of cocaine from South America to ranch airstrips and even to the municipal airport in Ojinaga.
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    Not so much was smuggled across the border here. Most was redistributed to other drug lords (as part of a business agreement) to smuggle all along the Mexican border with the US. Cocaine was typically flown in 1,800 pound loads and then off-loaded to underground steel tanks that were sealed and covered over. A 1,500 gallon tanker at the ranch airstrip would refuel the smuggler's plane and off they went. Later the stuff was dug up as it needed to be distributed. For a while as much as 5 tons of cocaine a month (1/3 of US demand at the time) was coming through Ojinaga. Just for warehousing, the local drug lord got $1,000 - $1,500 per kilo fee. Sounds like a lot but it costs a lot to buy the government protection needed, maintain your own enterprise, and provide money to people in need. Many drug lords understood the value of doing what the government could not by taking care of people in need. It was also useful to help out some ranchers with their water systems, etc, so that they wouldn't notice when someone was smuggling across their ranch. All this was happening right around Ojinaga.

    Looking across to El Mulato. Note the agriculture in the river bottoms.
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    The connection to cocaine smuggling through Ojinaga came about when a state trooper was doing routine checks along a highway. Back during that time there were high gas prices so it was popular for trucks to convert to propane. Smugglers filled the truck's propane tank with cocaine and simply drove the trucks into the US. Many of these went through the Lomas de Arena crossing I mentioned earlier. Anyway, the trooper had just converted his own truck to propane so when the 19 year old smuggler's truck stalled as he pulled up to the checkpoint, the trooper looked things over a little. Even though a small tank was installed inside the big one to connect to the pressure gauges and vent gas if someone checked, the trooper figured out it was a smuggle job. After getting a warrant the cops found 246 pounds of coke with a street value of $50M. From there, good police work over time started to unravel things as far as the scale of the Ojinaga operation at that time. By the way, the cops also found a similar truck parked in front of the kid's apartment with 263 pounds in it. Neighbors reported a lot of trucks like that being around regularly. An informant reported he observed one planeload of cocaine being subdivided into seven of those propane tank loads for smuggling into the US.

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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    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.
  12. HighFive

    HighFive Never Tap-Out

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    Absolutely fantastic RR, Cannonshot. :clap One of the best I've ever read! :deal

    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. :eek1 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 :thumbup

    p.s. You're a brave man, Cannonshot.....very brave.
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Betcha thought I mysteriously disappeared after all that. :D

    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. :dunno

    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!
  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Continuing east on 170.
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    Nice path to travel.
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    Some interesting elevation further down the line.
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    The road runs along the south portion of BBRSP so there are a couple of loop rides down this way as well.
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    Magma was forced between rocks. We'll see some dikes that result from this in BBNP.
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    More agriculture along the river.
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    One of those shallow spots where you could drive across.
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    I think I could have stepped across without getting wet.
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    Horses lounging about on the Mexico side.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

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    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.
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    Lots of rocks around.
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    Overlook on the east side. Lots of people stand on the rock in the foreground and have their picture taken.
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    The movie Fandango with Kevin Costner shot a scene here involving a Dom Perignon bottle being buried beneath the rock.
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    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.
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    <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xY5bKAHWHHQ" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME>

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    The tipi wayside. Easy to spot on the aerial imagery.
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  15. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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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~
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    This set was built along the Rio Grande near Lajitas.
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    A Jim Garner film was made using this set. I think he played a retired Texas Ranger.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Not much of the Rio Grande here.
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    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.
  18. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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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.
  19. MrBob

    MrBob Certified Geezer

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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?
  20. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    +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?