Deliverance in the Desert - Big Bend

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by DarkRider, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    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 time...life 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 :huh

    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 :evil ), 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:

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    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 :evil Here are some pics of the Gage, and I'll return to my day and update more later.

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    Nice rack eh?
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    stay tuned, riding photos to follow.
    #1
  2. fuhgawee

    fuhgawee Thats a road?

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. Souperfly

    Souperfly Adventurer

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    New Braunfels Tx
    :lurk:lurk:lurk
    #3
  4. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

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    northern Arkansas
    Looks like this one's off to a good start, might need to keep an eye on it.
    Jim
    #4
  5. AZ_ADV_RIDER

    AZ_ADV_RIDER Demons In My Helmet

    Joined:
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    818
    Location:
    Land of Sun, Sand and Thorns
    I think I hear banjos...

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    #5
  6. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
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    Location:
    The Frozen North
    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.
    #6
  7. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
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    1,495
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    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

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    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

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    Typical roadside scenery in the Texas Hill Country

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

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    Even the chicken fried steak is dreamy in Utopia

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    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

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    These aren't for show in West Texas

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

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    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.

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

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    A branch of Seminole Canyon, proper

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    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.

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    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.

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

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    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.
    #7
  8. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    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:

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    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:

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    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:

    http://www.rickshawroadtrip.com/

    Looks much more impressive with my fat GS blocking his way:
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    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:
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    Scott, I'll run play-by-play, you're in charge of color. :freaky
    #8
  9. PSS

    PSS Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
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    180
    Location:
    College Place, WA
    MORE, MORE!!:lurk

    I love west Texas & Big Bend.
    #9
  10. DocAxeYarYar

    DocAxeYarYar RideDualSport.com

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    Oddometer:
    791
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    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!
    #10
  11. Wolfgang55

    Wolfgang55 Long timer

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    &
    #11
  12. MotoBoss

    MotoBoss Bad Influence

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Heading to Big Bend Ranch State Park with ridedualsport.com in late December/January so looking forward to your report. Keep it coming :clap
    #12
  13. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
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    Location:
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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 :dunno
    #13
  14. mbabc

    mbabc Curmudgeon trainee

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    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Subscribed! Was there in February - not to be missed!
    #14
  15. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    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

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    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.

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    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:

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

    Shafter ruins:

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    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:

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

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

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

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    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:

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    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:

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    Here's the Ghost Town Cafe, proper:

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    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.
    #15
  16. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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    :lurk
    #16
  17. Agile Virgile

    Agile Virgile n00b

    Joined:
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    Location:
    The Woodlands, Texas
    In April I stopped off at a little eatery named India's. Good coffee, Pies, & Conversation. She's located on Tx 118 just north of Study Butte in Bee Mountain Plaza. If you happen to stop by say Hi from Virgil. Btw the breakfasts & lunches aren't bad either.
    #17
  18. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,515
    Location:
    northern Arkansas
    "Scott, I'll run play-by-play, you're in charge of color."

    So it's like you're Peewee Reese and he's Dizzy Dean?
    Great RR so far btw. No need to rush it to finish.
    Jim
    #18
  19. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    You're just waiting to let me insert some pics before you slap down the picture of my fat pig sleeping in the dirt aren't you...you f'ing f...:1drink

    Ok, let me try and finish this up. We left Marfa, routed to Presidio, then headed across 170 towards Terlingua. I always stop at this little church for a pic of my bike...figure a photo with such a religious background will keep me safe if a wild pig or such jumps in front of my bike while taking a turn too hot...of course, Scott fucked it up and got in front of my picture:
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    There's just something about the solitude of Big Bend country that's magical for me. I've ridden all over Colorado, Utah, and elsewhere, but Big Bend calls me back and I can't get her out of my blood:

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    Bumble bees are better...:evil
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    Scott, you forgot the movie site we visited on 170 going into Lajitas:

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    I may be a slacker, but it could be worse...:lol3 One word...WINNNNER!!!
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    And shit do0d, you forgot the obligatory pic in front of Kathy's:
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    Of course, we passed Kathy's when it was closed, but hey, when in Big Bend country, you get the pic.

    Ok, so I've caught up...we stayed at the Chisos Basin Lodge, and had to suffer through views like this all evening:

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    These little guys were approaching the bikes...I'm convinced they were a little turned on by the girth of my bumbly bitch:
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    They scurried down the road when they caught a glimpse of my AWESOME helmet (it just screams, "I ride a too-big-bike on too-difficult-roads and fuck up my too-frail-body :huh ):
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    We ran into town for dinner...well, actually, because we heard there was a wet t-shirt contest at the Ghost Town Bar that night.:evil Unfortunately, we realized that there was nothing in the t-shirts worth sticking around for, so we grabbed some grub and headed back to Chisos after dark.

    I'll let Scott catch up now...at some point he'll post my bike sleeping and admit the mechanical issues that plagued him...so I'll leave you with a couple of more to emphasize what I love most about Big Bend: 1) a lack of cars
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    And ample space to snap pics of great friends co-conspiring to further damage our bodies/bikes when the sun rises:
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    You're up Scott, bring out the sleeping beast pics. :freaky
    #19
  20. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    So much for me being the slacker...eh Scott :wink:

    I'm going to throw the rest of my pics up just so I can have an excuse to spend some more time today reliving the adventure.

    Ok, so we stayed in Chisos Basin and the next days plan was to ride over to the west side of the park, then back across to the Canyon and find some dirt enroute.

    Weather and scenery looked pretty good for day 3:
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    Snapped these at the Sotol Vista Overlook:
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    Pulled out heading to Castolon and had to turn around when I caught a glimpse of this not-so-little fella crossing the road:
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    Nice antique gas machine at the visitor center in Castolon:
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    Old machinery used in the big cotton farm in Cottonwood:
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    Then it was on to Santa Elena Canyon...of course the road in the foreground (canyon in background) of this picture reinforces my conclusion - riding in Big Bend doesn't suck:
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    Once we got to the Canyon, we took a break to hike for a while:
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    And yet again, Scott showing his WINNNNERR technique:
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    View from the trail looking out of the canyon and back into Big Bend:
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    Of course, as is always the case on trips with Scott, he was glued to his phone while I took in the scenery :rofl
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    After we geared back up, I ran back to the visitor center for a gallon of water so we'd be ready to ride the Maverick Road from Santa Elena Canyon back up to the west end of the park...it also gave me a reason to strap yet more weight onto my bike, which made dumping it in the sand that much easier :huh

    Entrance to Maverick Road:
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    We came across this little fella...looked like he'd had a bad day a while back:
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    Scott struck a pose:
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    Stopped at Luna's Jacal on Maverick Road...pretty interesting story and amazing to visualize the guy living in this house:
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    I'll let Scott add color on the rest of the road...needless to say I opted out of photographing my bike laying on its side...I know bad advrider form :evil

    After finishing Maverick, we headed back into Terlingua with the plan being to pick one of the Chili Festival locations to camp for the night. The original Terlingua Chili Festival is right in town and is billed as more "family oriented"...the CASI Festival is about 10miles east of town in the desert and is billed as a "drunken brawl". We chose CASI :freaky :
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    Of course, we pulled in and started looking for camp spots...stopped to ask a nice gentlemen (who looked like he'd been drinking for at least 3 straight days) where we should camp, and Scott's bike died. Go figure, my fat pig gets dropped in the dirt, yet it's the spiffy newer 12GS that craps out. Anyway, while the locals at CASI pitched in their collective wisdom on how to get his bike running again, I held my tongue (although the WD-40 into the injectors won the prize for most creative):
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    I'll let Scott fill in the rest of the mechanical story - needless to say it's really interesting and fortunately, didn't involve any WD-40.

    We hung out at CASI that night because Scott's bike was incapacitated until after repairs were completed mid-day the next day. I ran back into town for a 12pack, picked up 2-bags of ice for our friendly "hosts" (the folks that let us leave our bikes next to their camper, invited us to dinner, and told us where to go to maximize our "CASI experience")...let's just say when at CASI, you don't want to miss Wally's Pole & Grill!

    Ok, that's enough play-by-play for now...Scott, we're waiting for color...:deal
    #20