Big Bend 2018. The Last Texas Frontier

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Motoman66, Jan 28, 2020.

  1. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    This Ride Report was first written in February 2018 but never published to date. This is a record of my 4 days trip to Big Bend Area in West Texas as seen by a European Rider.

    Here it goes :

    "February 2018 :

    For the last 6 years I have been working in the US and have been always surprised by the gigantism and the beauty of Natural US Wonderland. Long story short, I had been visiting Big Bend with family 4 years ago and was amazed by the wonderful views and roads for motorcycling. I was thinking : Kids in University, my wife visiting her elder parents, a long week-end ahead with days-off and a rain forecast in Gulf Coast. Take all those elements together and it sounds like all the star are aligned and I should do this Trip West to Big Bend. So let's go !

    First of all, lets go back to the decision process for this trip : I Was watching the weather forecast on the internet last Tuesday for next Week end ride (I usually ride on Week End with Houston Sport Touring Motorcycle Group, a vey nice meetup group leaded and organized by Bruce) and it was not looking good. Out of curiosity I checked Big Bend weather forecast. Hum Hum, Not bad ! On Wednesday I submit the idea to my boss / wife. I Did not get approval nor denial so I guess it is a Yes (at least in my mind ! )Thursday : checking again the weather forecast. Should I ? should I not go ? I do not know if we will be in the US for much longer in the future and my working visa expires in October, with possible extension to next march so go for it my Young Padawan.
    #1
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  2. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Thursday night : I Prep my bike with camping gears (a low budget tent for 4 purchased in a hurry during our last summer hiking trip to California with family) . I have the bike chain checked in the afternoon and get more tension on it. I Lub chain, fill gas. I am struggling to set my waterproof camping bag on the rear of my saddle but in the end it fits perfectly and is not moving a bit. A few words on my motorcycle : my Bike is a Versys 2012 Kawasaki that I got for 6000 USD with 300 miles on it. Best ratio USD / Pleasure on a motorcycle I ever had. It is powerful enough, punchy, light and fun in twisty roads. It has a ugly face that gives it some personality. I wish sometimes I will have a similar bike as light, with 1000 cc motor and 150 Hp .

    Remember the song Hit the road Jack ? Well, here we go, beginning of first long multi day ride ever.

    Picture Trip Report to BB1.jpg
    #2
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  3. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

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    Odo reading at start

    Attached Files:

    #3
  4. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Houston San Antonio. One long straight line. Not much to say. I Just followed Picture Trip Report to BB3.jpg

    during 100 miles a Suburban which I believe had a radar detector. I am doing a good pace. My first stop is in Seguin to fill gas.
    #4
  5. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    I Pass San Antonio. 30 minutes after leaving the Urban area, it starts to get very very windy and cold as I am climbing up in the Hill country. It is a typical Texas Winter weather. Strange but I start to notice at last a thin blue sky in the distance and it keeps me motivated as I start to wonder if I made the right choice to do this trip all alone. I Stop for gas in Junction and fill again. The Weather is getting better and I still have a good pace on the highway. The Speed limit is now 80 on I10 and I guess that with a safe margin you make great mileage. At the same time I notice a high fuel consumption of my bike at this pace. I pass Ozona and then 10 miles later check my tank level. I only have 3 bars left out of 8. I Stop at the next resting area and check on my phone for next gas station ahead : 70 miles. Hum hum, I believe I will not make it there at that pace.

    I start thinking : how ridiculous if I run on empty tank and have the motorcycle just stop running… and then, add all coming jokes from my grown up kids if that happens. I should better go back to Ozona. Tank is filled and here we are back again on the highway. I arrive at last in Fort Stockton but it is now getting late. I have been riding quit a lot so far and had no food since my early breakfast. I Just stopped for gas.

    Picture Trip Report to BB4.jpg

    My breakfast is long far gone as I am in Fort Stockton.
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  6. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
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    Houston
    I wanted to make it for this first day to Fort Davis and then down to Alpine. I have to change my plan. Lets go to Alpine directly. Finally I am arriving in Alpine at sunset, the gate to Big Bend area.

    Picture Trip Report to BB5.jpg

    Picture Trip Report to BB6.jpg
    #6
  7. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    upload_2020-1-28_23-32-46.png
    #7
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  8. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    I am really hungry and a junk food Big Mac never tasted so good.

    It reminds me of my students time when I worked in MacDonalds for a few months to get some money for Week End Ski Trips while at university.

    I arrive at the hotel I booked on bookings (Travel Lodge Alpine). At first, the reception desk is located within a restaurant with a 60’s style camper architecture aside from the hotel. Ok I just thought, strange but who knows…

    Then starts the B......t at reception / restaurant desk :
    .“Sorry sir we changed our reservation SYSTEM and are not working with bookings.com anymore”.
    .Me thinking : So ? “Can you help?”
    .Answer : “No sir we are all booked for the night” .
    .Me : “Can you help me to get an other hotel ?”
    .Answer : “Well just go to the next hotel. You should find something” - in a very condescend tone, maybe due to my motorcycle gear :muutt -
    .In my mind : “What a F…k”. :dirtdogNo need to spend my energy and argue but the “SYSTEM ” excuse is the worst B......t I hear when things go wrong. I always remind when issue with System : Behind a system or computer you have people and management. For me this hotel issue was just BAD management issue.

    So I Arrive quit annoyed at the next hotel. Quality Inn. I Find a family there who got the same issue at the Travel Lodge and fortunately they got the last room. Lucky them Bad luck for me.:vardy

    It is getting cold and dark outside. The guys in reception are very friendly. They understand my problem and take the initiative to call other hotels nearby and finally get a room for me at 7 circle hotel on the other side of town on the exit road to Marfa.

    From bad luck I went to a very friendly mountain type, looking brand new hotel, with cozy rooms . Staff was very friendly and bed quality a must. I thought I was gonna sleep early but it the winter Olympics season now and I like winter sports. So I finish my day quite late watching ski and snowboards and finally sleep around 1 .



    upload_2020-1-28_23-55-34.png

    My Bike on 2nd day morning

    Attached Files:

    #8
  9. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
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    Houston
    Saturday. Day 2. I Woke up early but take all my time before leaving the hotel. I enjoy a hot shower knowing that I will be doing rusting camping the following two nights.

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    View from my room at sunrise

    After a Big breakfast, I prepare to leave the Hotel. I am Struggling during 15 mn to set my bag on the bike.

    Strange how motorcycle drives people to connect and talk. A guy with Canadian Manitoba license plate start asking me question about my bike and my trip. Roger and his wife are from Canada and here in Texas came for a few weeks in search of warm weather.
    This winter we had snow several time in Houston. So warm weather for sure when compared with Canada but this year in Texas has been cold. Roger mentions he is a cyclist and after a few minutes of chit chat I start giving him tips about cycling in Mexico (More on that later...). I Leave him my email if he plans to go to Mexico with his wife. It was nice to speak French with Canadian this morning. Funny as I always recognize French Canadians to their English accent.

    I finally leave the Hotel.
    #9
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  10. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Lets go to Fort Davis which I had no time to go to Yesterday evening.

    In the distance before arriving, I see the Observatory which belongs to the University of Texas (Long Horn Son !). The road to get to Fort Davis looks twisty and fun. I decide to go to the observatory. The next 16 miles are really nice road and the he final is awesome. I really have great fun on this road.

    I took some pictures on my way to Fort Davis and the Twisty road

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    Winter weather north of Alpine

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    upload_2020-1-29_0-16-33.png


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    Mac Donald observatory in the distance

    More info here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald_Observatory

    upload_2020-1-29_0-20-14.png



    #10
  11. RickCO

    RickCO Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2018
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Colorado
    Looks like a great trip.
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  12. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Taking the same road down from the Observatory and to Fort Davis.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-24-29.png

    For those who like History : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Davis_National_Historic_Site

    Used to be Far West Post (remind me of Cow Boys movies when I was a kid)


    Now next stop :presidio and the US/Mexico border. I stop for a quick photo in Marfa

    upload_2020-1-29_0-28-22.png


    Marfa quick Photo !

    I visited Marfa previously so I do not spend that much time today but I highly recommend a stop and to discover this town

    More info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marfa,_Texas
    #12
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  13. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    and then it is almost a straight line to Presidio. The road starts to be twisty before arriving. I really feel Big Sky Texas and emptiness of such big spaces . I came across less than 20 cars in 60 miles and it is Saturday !. The weather is great weather and it is getting warm as I get closer to Presidio.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-33-5.png

    Going to the Border!

    :-)

    When I Fueled my tank in Fort Davis before entering the Big Bend area, I Had a quick chat with a guy from Austin onboard a Yamaha RJ 1300 who has been coming to the area for years. I explained him my plan for the Presidential Day Week End. He said I will realy enjoy the road between Presidio and Lajitas.

    And so right he was. I fill my gas in Presidio. Here I feel like being in a movie. It really looks like a desert town, very few people in the street, some abandoned buildings and it is the first time I have the impression of poverty in Texas. Life must be harsh here for its people during summer hot weather. Nevertheless people are very friendly and I have as a lunch some dry meat I buy at the gas station. I did not take picture of town.

    I now start to drive east along the Rio Bravo.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-36-35.png

    Rio Bravo Grande !

    Being married with a Mexican wife I have to say Rio Bravo (I guess you know who is the Boss now !). On the US side and in my youth western comic books, it is Rio Grande. Lets forget semantic and get back to the ride. What a wonderful road. It is Twisty Up and down with wonderful views to stop by. It is also a tricky road with some curbs to be taken at 20 mph or less. There is absolutely no visibility behind some curbs so I take it in Relax mode and use cautious, taking it easy. I now think on retrospective that is the best way to enjoy Big Bend. No matter that is full of curbs which could be ridden at sporty pace, here it is like Time stopped. You have to enjoy the views. What a ride ! I stopped like 15 times over the next 50 miles to take pictures.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-38-17.png

    Feels like I am in Mexico

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    Desert is Beautiful

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    Big Bend State Park

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    On my way to Lajitas

    It is really warm now. Those roads in summer time must be Hell. But now it is one of the best I have ridden in the US . Probably the best and it is better in my mind than Twisted Sisters ride in the Hill Country of Texas.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-44-7.png

    Desert Road to Lajitas

    #13
  14. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    I Finally arrive in Lajitas and after a few pictures

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    I am on my way to Big Bend National Park.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-47-14.png

    At the park entrance.

    it shows full for campgrounds. I ask the Ranger if there is possibility at the Lodge. He tells me he does not know. Nightfall is 2 hours away.
    Well I will give it a try. On the way up to Chisos mountain, I remember the first time we visited during summer time with family back in 2014. I like this place which is much cooler in the middle of the desert.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-51-3.png

    Chisos Mountain Welcome


    I arrive at Chisos Mountain. A sign shows again campground is full. I ask a guy at the reception of the Lodge if there is any room. Yes there is one, but for 160 USD ! :(My first intention was not to spend on Hotel l as I brought the tent for camping. I tell the friendly guy to hold for me the room for 20 mn while I check physically the campground. He was really helpful and tells me “ok no problem”.

    I ride around the campground. A park ranger woman is collecting the fees and checking status for the night at each campground spot. . I put on my best smile and explain her my situation.

    Lucky me : somebody did not show yesterday and had a 2 days reservation. I pay right away (for those of you who know the National Park System Payment it is really easy going) and put my tent on the spot. This tent is a low low low low low budget tent (will not say Brand) we bought last summer just for 3 nights outside camping during our trip with family to California.

    First time in my life I struggle to put on a tent (and I have done it plenty of time !). It Looks like some people in the manufacturing plant did not follow the right Shape when cutting the textile. The Tent looks asymmetrical and looks like this

    upload_2020-1-29_0-56-16.png


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    View at sunset from the Tent

    A
    nyway, once everything is set, I stop by an other camp spot and start chit chat with a biker on BMW GS 1200. He is from Canada but originaly polish. Nice talk. I am now writting in the Lodge Restaurant. 2 Tecate XX lager Mexican Beer and one loaded Potato got me a lot of inspiration for writing.

    upload_2020-1-29_0-58-37.png

    Writing Motivation tools !

    This is the first time I am writing a travel report in English. I am just reflecting on my trip and this first experience of a Multi Days solo motorcycle trip. I have a very low Internet signal. I get to speak with one of my kids and confirm that everything is OK. Finally I go to bed. My motorcycle back protection serves as my mattress. Today was a great day in my motorcycle experience.


    #14
  15. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Northern Colorado
    I enjoyed your report and photos. I lived in El Paso for a few years and wanted to get down to Big Bend, but never did. Your report has motivated me to put it on my bucket list for places to visit.

    Ride safe,

    TaZ9
    #15
  16. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Thank You. Worth the Ride and the vastness of Texas really shows here. Since then I have been back again by car with family and camped in Fort Davis. The Night Stars at Mac Donald observatory is a must.
    #16
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  17. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    Continuing from Day 2 : Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 6.41.04 PM.png

    Starting day 3, I woke up early and left for Rio Grande village. I Stopped by to take pictures of Chiso Mountain main rode. It is a fresh morning as there was some light rain during the night. The Sun is quickly rising and a bright sun soon warms the atmosphere. This is a gorgeous place.

    upload_2020-1-29_18-48-4.png

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    I stop for gas at Panther Junction, the only gas station in the national Park and fill tank. Distances in Big Bend are important and it is better to fill at any opportunity. I Arrive in Rio Grande village and spend 1 hour charging my cel phone. I have a tuna sandwich for breakfast. I am on Budget and just by myself, so I do not care that much about comfort right now.

    upload_2020-1-29_18-49-44.png

    Such a good bike !

    I have an issue with my helmet camera : memory is full from previous day trips and I have no way to erase files with me. Lucky me, a lady gracefully loaned me her chromebook with usb port to connect my camera and erase the files. I am reflecting now on people’s reaction and fears because the lady at first was reluctant for me to use for a few minutes her chromebook ( I really felt that she was thinking that I was a hacker going to corrupt her chromebook in the middle of Big Bend !

    As she needed the plug where I was charging my cel, I guess she accepted. It is funny how we came to depend on Technology while a few years back nobody cared.

    I had some interesting discussion about Big Bend and National Parks with her and other people while waiting and at last, I set path to Boquillas Canyon .

    upload_2020-1-29_18-52-21.png

    What a nice road ,twisty curvy and beautiful view of the canyon in the background. It is a short distance from Rio Grande village and worth the ride. I am sure the hiking inside the canyon should be great also.

    On the road back I see a sign for Border crossing between Boquillas canyon and Rio Grande village. I am a curious person so I decide to have a look.

    upload_2020-1-29_18-53-45.png

    Having a look !

    I take a ½ mile gravel road and discover a Border Crossing office right on the edge of the Rio Grande (remember you can almost cross walking the River). Some Us tourists are crossing to Mexico. I ask the Border lady officer if they have Rest Room as I need a pit stop. She Tells me OK cross the border gate but come back right away. I just have an internal lough as I think “hey, will it be funny to have my passport stamped just for a pit stop” but the officer is smart and understand the situation and I guess I am not the only one who have ask for the Rest Room at this Border Post. I ask if there is a bridge to cross the river to Mexico but no, only tourist can cross by “canoa”.

    upload_2020-1-29_18-56-10.png

    Boquillas Crossing

    I will discover other alternative a few minutes later.

    Between Rio Grande village and Panther Junction I stopped at Hot spring.

    upload_2020-1-29_18-58-39.png

    It is a short walk to the river and it is really hot under the sun. With my leather pant and motorcycle jacket I am in a Sauna. I Took some nice pictures there. Climate is completely different from Chisos mountain. There are a few tourists in the Hot Spring pool which is at 105 F and alongside Rio Bravo water is cold. Some people are swimming and crossing over. In some places when it is the dry season I am sure you can cross walking, bicycling or motorcycling.

    Nobody cares here in this remote place for wall, security, narcos or undocumented people.

    upload_2020-1-29_19-0-39.png

    Hot Spring !

    It is a peaceful, Zen area and it should remain that way. I have a feel of serenity there.


    Attached Files:

    #17
  18. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

    Joined:
    May 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Houston
    upload_2020-1-29_19-7-9.png

    upload_2020-1-29_19-7-45.png

    Free River !

    upload_2020-1-29_19-8-32.png

    Hicking in Motorcycle Gear :gyro

    There are some “artesanias mexicanas” promoted for sale on a rock ground but I never saw the seller. An abandoned house looked like at some point in the past there was some tourist activity
    here.

    upload_2020-1-29_19-11-58.png

    Artesanias

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    Trail to Hotspring

    I wanted to stay more time but it is already over 14;00 and I need to get to my next destination: Santa Elena Canyon.

    On my way back to Panther junction I Fill gas and take Ross Maxwell scenic drive to Santa Elena Canyon. It is a very nice road but with limited speed ( I will come back on this later in my RR).

    upload_2020-1-29_19-16-25.png

    Between Hotspring and Panther Junction

    Attached Files:

    #18
  19. roberts

    roberts GS'er

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2002
    Oddometer:
    465
    Location:
    Texas
    Thank you for the great report! Big Bend is my favorite area and I always enjoy trip reports.
    #19
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  20. wheelbender6

    wheelbender6 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2013
    Oddometer:
    458
    Location:
    Houston area
    There are many that consider west Texas to be pass-through land. I couldn't disagree more. Big Bend is such a great retreat from congested Texas major cities. Thanks for the great pics.
    #20
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