Big Bend NP- the Now'r Nev'r trip

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Phattyre-Phready2, Feb 24, 2012.

  1. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    West Texas
    I'm a self employed carpenter who does the interior woodwork in new homes. Between houses, I try to sneak in a camping trip from my WeeStrom. 2011 was the slowest year I've ever experienced in 40 years of carpentry and 2012 started the same way. I've gone into survival mode with no frivolous spending... which puts a damper on motorcycle touring. My son has been urging me to move to Arkansas and has even found several woodworking jobs for me there. He bought some land and we'll start me a live in shop or 'barndominium' this summer. :1drink

    Last spring, I was looking for a place to camp from my motorcycle within 300 miles of home. The whole state of Texas was under a fire ban, so I decided to check out Guadalupe Mountain NP. I'd never stayed there, mainly because they don't allow campfires ever. I was intrigued by the beauty of the desert mountains and not having a campfire literally opened my eyes to a star filled sky I'd almost forgotten existed to that extent. I began to wonder about Big Bend NP, another remote place I'd never visited. I live 380 miles from Big Bend NP, but I plan to move to Arkansas this summer, so if I'm going to do it...

    My immediate concern was all the border unrest you hear about on the news. I was pleasantly surprised to find out Presidio (nearest border crossing to the BBNP) hasn't had any murders since 1999! The Big Bend area has only 2 roads out with a strong presence of Border Patrol agents, so it's not a good choice for the Mexican Drug Czars. They're what's causing all the havoc in Mexico.

    Another consideration is weather... tent camping in February is iffy at best, even in the Rio Grande valley. The extended forecast shows a week of Indian Summer at river level in the BBNP with brilliant sunshine, highs in the 70's, lows in the 40's, beginning on Valentine's Day. I don't have a valentine, unless you're allowed to call your touring motorcycle your valentine?

    Gotta' get past my conscience, now. The last time I had Jessie in Arkansas, my son, Brad, did a long list of overdue maintenance and wouldn't accept a dime... even gave me a rear Michelin Anakee with at least 2/3 left! I sent an email to feel him out. His reaction was, "DO IT! It's Now'r Nev'r, right?" Hence, the title of this story.

    The Shinko 705 rear tire is beginning to show the wear markers after 8400 miles. Not bad for a $90.00 tire! I only got 11,300 miles from a $140 Michelin Anakee and couldn't tell any difference in handling. Taking the rear wheel off gets easier each time I do it and prevents having to leave the bike at the shop, not to mention the cost savings. Wildfire does the switch for me for a Jackson if I bring the wheel and tire. If you live near Lubbock, I highly recommend these guys!

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    I get everything packed the night before, much to my cat's dismay. She gets anxious anytime she sees my dry bag come out! When I overfill 2 bowls with food, she really gets agitated. She always does fine, although she won't leave me alone when I get home.


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    The Sunday before my Valentine's Day departure comes a 3" snow.

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    40 mph southwest winds the next day dispatches the snow by early afternoon. Every time I embark on a new motorcycle trip, I try to find paved backroads I've never been on, but there aren't that many alternate routes in this direction without adding mucho miles. I take the fastest choice... 4 lane to Seminole. This guy passes me doing 80... must've disabled the govenor?!!

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    At Seminole, I take 181 South to avoid the traffic on 385. A bunch of pasture land full of nothing, but little to no traffic.

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    When I reach 115, I turn right and head Southwest to Kermit for gas.

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    After filling up with gas and eating a sandwich at the City park, I take 118 south. Here's a pic of Jessie, my Valentine!

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    I ride through the Sand Hills that stretch east to west for over 100 miles! There's a State Park east of Monahans.

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    Note to self: STAY ON PAVEMENT IN THE SAND HILLS!!!

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    Just before Monahans, I turn right on 1217 south to 1776 and follow it southwest.

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    I pull off at the Pecos River to check it out.

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    I'm somewhat surprised to see any water, as dry as this part of the world is right now... they've had no measurable rainfall in over 2 years in the Big Bend region!

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    Looks like they had some rain here when we got snow a couple days ago? Probably not enough to measure.

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    A whole bunch of nothing this direction... I suppose another reason I've never been to Big Bend?


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    1776 dead ends into 1450 and I take it west a couple of miles, then due south on 1776 again.

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    The terrain starts to change and distant mountains begin to appear to the south and west.

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    When 1776 crosses Interstate 10 west of Ft. Stockton, it turns into 67 and angles Southwest to Alpine.

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    The closer you get to Big Bend, the longer the stretches between towns become.

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    But the winds are light, the traffic almost non-existant and the road is smooth with a 75mph speed limit.

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    Almost to Alpine. Time for a fillup and check everything on the bike twice. 90 miles of desert to Study Butte!

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    Not just flat, boring desert like I expected!

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    Lots of arroyos and gullies!

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    Gotta' go for now. Next up... Study Butte.

    #1
  2. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer

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    Hey Phred,

    I'm along for the ride. Enjoyed the start of your RR.

    This RR sorta' struck a chord with me. I did the same thing last spring after finishing up a job and having a few weeks before the next one started. I was also looking for warm weather. Found it at the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon ....... 107 degrees in April! It sure felt great after a long winter though.

    I grew up in Arkansas, so that kind of heat doesn't bother me too much. Where does your son live in AR that there is plenty of work? NW AR? Building for Wal Mart money? :lol3

    Ride safe, hope the weather holds out for you, and thanks for posting!

    Rob
    #2
  3. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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    :lurk
    #3
  4. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Glad to have ya'll along for the ride, Road Damage and scarysharkface! My son's from SW Arkansas, but I didn't say there was plenty of carpenter work there... he lined up some work for me with his co-workers, one of which is a part time remodeler who has recently built several new houses with 2 more in the works.
    #4
  5. MikeyDo

    MikeyDo Adventurer

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    North Little Rock, Arkansas
    Fellow woodworker, although it's been a few years since I've done it for a living. Fellow lover of Big Bend as well! Went there on a family trip three years ago and loved it. In general, a lot of connections and good will going your way!
    #5
  6. inbred

    inbred Been here awhile

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    Can't wait to hear more about your sojourn. My wife and I laughed concerning your cat as we have one that could be her double. She also knows what it means to see us filling up two large bowls of food. Any way looking forward to your Ride Report.
    #6
  7. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    It's a sweet job when work is steady, which usually isn't the case. It's either feast or famine most of the time. Welcome aboard and thanks for the positive vibes, MikeyDo! Hopefully I'll stir up some sweet memories for you!
    #7
  8. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Good to have some cat lovers along! I just had a long post with 40+ pictures uploaded disappear?!!? I hit preview and went to the signin... the back button took me to an empty upload box! I remember now from past experience to not go too far before posting or chance losing it all. Oh, well... the second time usually comes out better.
    #8
  9. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    I had steeled myself for a long, boring stretch of flat, featureless desert between Alpine and Study Butte. The first 20 miles out of Alpine were actually quite fun! The road follows Moss Creek, then Ash Creek and is a welcome relief from all the straight miles I've just ridden.

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    So much fun, I almost forgot to take pictures. The road has been resurfaced recently and is super smooth.

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    There are many more trees than I expected.

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    I reach a shady little rest area and stop to stretch.

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    I've begun to notice signs of the volcanic activity that created the Big Bend. Those large lava rocks probably came from nearby...

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    In fact, they may have rolled from up there naturally and were just rearranged by TxDot?

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    Some of the peaks even look like volcanoes. Many actually were, just long dormant.

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    The road just keeps getting better... my kinda' desert, indeed!

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    That caprock looks much like what we have from Snyder to Amarillo.

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    The closer I get, the more obvious it is... [​IMG]

    this is much different than the South Plains caprock! Much more character here than our boring caleche formations.

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    This is indeed a long stretch to Study Butte... I've already lost this part of the post once, so I'll upload this portion and finish later.
    #9
  10. rgp332

    rgp332 Been here awhile

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    I,m in ,beautiful scenery !
    #10
  11. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    According to Indian legends, when the Great Creator made the earth and had finished placing the stars in the sky, the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, there was a large pile of rejected stony material leftover. He threw this material into one heap and made the Big Bend.

    ---Ross A. Maxwell, The Big Bend of the Rio Grande ---

    Big Bend is about rocks. Giant pillars made from rocks, mountains hoisted out of rocks, deserts strewn with rocks, and river bends cutting through canyons of rocks. Some of the rocks were born at the birth of the North American continent, some during warps in the earth as tectonic plates shifted position, and some from lava extrusions of horrendous volcanoes. However formed, Big Bend's rocks present a giant jigsaw puzzle of daunting complexity that geologists have yet to fully piece together. I am no geologist. But Kathy and my geologist son, Michael, are dedicated students of Big Bend rocks. From their explanations, I can visualize a rough geologic history in the rock formations as I hike and drive around the park, although I admit that Ross Maxwell's Indian legend telling how Big Bend was formed fits my brain just fine.

    Gary Clark. Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone (W.L. Moody, Jr., Natural History) (Kindle Locations 92-95). Kindle Edition.
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    118 eventually does turn into a long straight stretch and I'm deep in though about Big Bend Rocks. WARNING: INCOMING CAGER IN WRONG LANE! POSSIBLY TEXTING WHILE DRIVING!!! Luckily, they wake up as I'm just about to head for the ditch and move back into their lane. WHEW!!! They're all out to get me... they're all out to get me...

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    Arkansas hay farmers were able to sell their hay for triple their normal price... it was shipping to drought stricken Texas. No grazing here!

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    Even goats would starve out here in this drought!

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    I've been seeing signs that it may have rained here last weekend. You can smell the wild sage!

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    I would happily don my raingear if it would break this drought!

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    Surely not?? Perhaps the traces of moisture I've been seeing are melted snow?

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    It's gonna' dry up and blow away it it doesn't rain soon.

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    Getting close to Study Butte and the scenery begins to improve.

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    A big pile of rejected, stony materials...

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    I believe this is the first house I've seen since the outskirts of Alpine, over 80 miles ago!

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    I somehow forget to take any pictures of Study Butte? Those distant peaks must be the Chisos Mountains!

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    I finally made it to the Park... now the fun part. It's 22 miles to my intended campsite at Cottonwood Campgrounds if I take Old Maverick road, a 14 mile strecth of high clearance, back country road, or 36 miles by pavement with a strictly enforced speed limit of 45.

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    I take to the dirt!

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    Not far in, I come to a badland canyon and feel the urge to pee into it! I stop and walk the short distance, do my business, zip up and start taking some pictures.

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    I'm so wrapped up in the view, I barely notice a pickup pull up behind Jessie. I look and it's a Ranger, motioning for me to come to him. I get a big lecture about damaging the delicate desert ecosystem by walking out there. Good thing he didn't see the erosion I caused! I yes sirred him a couple dozen times and he let me go. A definite case of Barney Fife Syndrome... and to make matters worse... he has a radar gun!
    #11
  12. arraflipper

    arraflipper Been here awhile

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    Got to love it busted for walking on the dirt, hope you wiped your boots off. Don't want to steal any dust you know.

    I am hoping to see the park next winter, so am really enjoying what you have shared so far. Well other than radar guns and touching the dirt. hard to wait for more pictures and general knowledge from you being there.

    You are moving to find work and I am trying to get away from work. Guess I should feel lucky being in a small fam community, has given me enough work that I have been turning some down all the time.
    #12
  13. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Welcome, arraflipper! I'd read on a forum that the 45 mph speed limits are strictly adhered to... the radar gun confirms it. I've found that National Parks are sticklers to the rules. But you know what they say about rules!

    Work is picking up for me, finally. That's just a small factor in the decision to move. There are several other factors, such as the FUN factor. Every road in Arkansas is a good motorcycle road... even the interstates are tree lined and hilly. There are rivers and lakes everywhere and 2 National Forests! The kicker... that's where my pride and joy lives... The Natural State!
    #13
  14. arraflipper

    arraflipper Been here awhile

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    I have been looking around thinking of moving or at least finding a place south for the winter months, next year. I have never spent much time in Arkansas, but had a friend tell me how pretty it was in the Buffalo River area. So have been doing a little looking there also on the internet.

    Looking forward to seeing the next set of pictures and learning more about Big Bend.
    #14
  15. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Other than some washboard, Old Maverick Road is a piece of cake... when dry. I've read that most of the backroads are betonite clay based and are very slippery when wet.

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    I'd considered staying at one of several back country campsites... free is good right now! But when camping from a bike, a table, toilet and potable water are worth the price, not to mention the security of nearby campers.

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    The Old Maverick road runs alongside Terlingua Creek under some cool formations on the east side.

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    It's tempting to stop and take pictures every mile or so... one great view after another! But daylight is getting short and I still have to find a campsite and setup camp. I'd been seeing a knotch in the cliffs to the south and know it well, even though I haven't been here before... Santa Elena Canyon!

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    Old Maverick road dead ends into Ross Maxwell Scenic Byway. The canyon is pulling on me like a giant magnet, but Cottonwood Campgrounds are 7 miles in the opposite direction.

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    One more quick picture, then head for Cottonwood CG, which is conviently located less than a mile from the Castolon Visitor Center and store. Another plus for paying to stay in the Cottonwood Campgrounds.

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    I come to the Santa Elena overlook and shoot a quick glance in that direction. I grab brakes and turn in... I'll set up camp in the dark if need be. I'd read how in early spring, sunsets line up with the canyon for some spectacular starburst shots. Of course, you need a good SLR and some know how to get those shots. Let's see what my point and shoot will do?

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    Not too bad... would've been better if I'd put it on intelligent mode instead of anti-blur, which is the setting I use when riding. I begin to use that mode later in the trip... it uses light filters, a necessity here.

    No time to read the signage, so I take some pics.

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    I ride east on Ross Maxwell with the Rio Grande visible on my right in several spots. I resist the urges to pull off and finally reach Cottonwood Campgrounds. It's a green oasis in a colorless landscape... looks so invititing! Even though it's a Tuesday in February, all but 3 of the campsites are taken. I take #3.

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    I quickly set up camp, thinking it will soon be dark. But when the sun sets behind 1500' cliffs, dusk lasts for an hour! The campsites are well spaced... the airstream is my next door neighbor in #4. And another plus for Cottonwood CG... no generators allowed! That's Cerra Castellan in the distant background over the tent.

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    Time for a highball appetizer... Captain Pepper!

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    I'm too tired to cook after setting up camp, so I gobble a turkey sandwich... I pre-made six, so now I'll have to eat out for lunch once. I brought all the food I'll need... just gotta' stick to the plan.

    The sun sets behind the Sierra del Carmen, down Mexico way.

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    #15
  16. texasroadstar

    texasroadstar BBB

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    Enjoying you RR Phattyre. Sorry I couldn't make it this time, I see I'm missing out. Your right, it takes forever to get from one end of the park to the other at 45 MPH. The Law means business and they've got plenty of rocks to hide behind.Ha! Ha! Enjoy yourself and be safe!
    #16
  17. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Good to have you onboard, BBB... wish you and Sal could've come along! If I didn't do it now, it would've been a couple months... too hot then. It's so hot here, much of it closes from April to November, including the Castolon Visitor Center and store. You'll have to come check out the Arkansas acreage Brad just bought.
    #17
  18. sandsman

    sandsman I ride more than some and less than others.

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    One of the best kept secrets. I was there in 2008 for the week of Thanksgiving. Good weather, I stayed in the Chisos Basin campgrounds. Every morning when I got up, I would look at Casa Grande and tell her that I was gonna climb her. Finally I did, a group of us took about 4 hrs to climb it from the backside. The park did not encourage it though. I hope to go back and visit this year......
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    This is from the top of Casa Grande, and I had cel service up there, called my mom!
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    #18
  19. Phattyre-Phready2

    Phattyre-Phready2 Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the Casa Grande summit pic, sandsman... how did you talk the NP Rangers into letting you try that?
    #19
  20. MikeyDo

    MikeyDo Adventurer

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    On the subject of law enforcement. Watch for unmarked white pickups in Pecos County.
    #20