• Welcome to the Two Wheeled Texans community! Feel free to hang out and lurk as long as you like. However, we would like to encourage you to register so that you can join the community and use the numerous features on the site. After registering, don't forget to post up an introduction!

Big Bend; A new adventure. April 2010

Last week my riding buddies and I were finally able to execute a long planned trip to Big Bend to ride some previously unseen areas. The idea came up last year, vacation was planned in January, and finally the time for the trip came last Wednesday, April 14. Now time to share the ride. Here is a little teaser photo.

The trip west. Wednesday

The usual suspects began gathering around 0730 when Chris showed up with his Excursion and the borrowed trailer that would hold all of our bikes and gear for six days of riding. After three stops we were loaded and ready to head west at around 0900.

The weather was rainy with continued chances of rain. Forecast for Big Bend was for rain ranging from 50% to 20%. We were not deterred at all. It's a vacation, right? Heading west along HWY 71 the recent rains had everything nice and green and the wildflowers were in full bloom. We finally found a spot to pull over without having to turn the trailer too drastically and took some flower photos.

The trip west was the usual 9 hour drive to Study Butte with the addition of rain ranging from light mist to fairly heavy downpours. We arrived as planned at 6:24 p.m. We didn't have reservations anywhere, highly unusual for most of the trips I plan, so we just stopped at the Big Bend Resort/RV park and got a couple rooms. We probably could have done better on the rates but nobody felt strong enough about it to go looking for a better deal. The rooms were nice and comfy. We are on vacation and we are worth it. :-)

This is the weather that greeted us in Study Butte.

Not exactly ideal. We spoke to some locals about dirt road conditions and they confirmed what I had heard about from many ride reports. The bentonite clay that forms a good deal of the dirt our there is very sticky when wet. They had a saying that for every step you take you grow an inch. But on the other hand, when it stops raining it doesn't take long to dry. So, we were hopeful we would have some fun despite the weather.

We left the bikes on the trailer for security and drove over to the Starlight Theatre for some front porch action and for the best food in the area. Still blowing rain.

After a beverage on the front porch we made our way inside and placed our orders. There was a stir at the front door that drew our attention. People were getting up and walking outside and there was a strange glow outside where the sky had been dark and gloomy. We followed to investigate and were treated by the most beautiful double rainbow I have ever seen. Definately a good omen for the rest of our trip.

Following the show outside we were treated to excellent food inside. Perry and I decided to split the El Diego Burger. :eat:

A full pound of beef, two fried eggs, bacon, cheese, and all the trimmings on a home made bun. It was amazing. Everything a burger should be. Nice size for two but hats off to you if you can finish one yourself. Our appetites satisfied, we headed back to the hotel to settle in for the evening. The wind was blowing around 25 mph and my hope was that would help try out the roads we were planning on riding.

More photos and video to upload; Thursday's ride coming soon.
Last edited:
Thursday; Mud + rocks = fun

This morning the weather was clearing and it looked to be a very nice day. We rode along the side of the road toward the Chile Pepper Cafe and quickly found out about the mud. The tires sunk a couple inches into the goo and it all stuck to the treads. :eek2: Not good. The Chile Pepper was closed for some maintenance so we slung the mud off our tires onto the street and cruised over the Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe for her wonderful breakfast burritos.

Fully satisfied we discussed our plans for the day's ride. We had intended on riding north and crossing into BBNP via Terlingua Ranch and Marathon Rd. Our sampling of the mud let us know that Marathon Rd. would probably be impassable. On a good day it's a dusty and loose ride, when wet it would probably be a mess. So, we opted for entering through the west gate and heading over to Old Ore R. which we would ride both directions hoping River Road would be rideable by the afternoon. As we arrived at the west gate we were informed by the very helpful and polite ranger that ALL of the back country roads in the park were closed due to flooding and mud. Having been denied a ride around the park we put our heads together and came up with a plan for the day.

Backtracking through Study Butte we took S. County Rd. north and began our wandering for the day. Every low spot had some mud but cars had been traveling the road so we kept our hopes up. It wasn't long before the slick conditions claimed a victim. A little too much speed and this is what happens in mud. A 180 degree slide into the ditch.

No damage so we continued. This was the first time I had been riding in this much mud but quickly got the hang of it. Similar to riding in sand but keep the speed lower. You need enough speed to sling the mud off the tires but slow enough to keep from sliding in the corners. We were having a good fun time with it.

Phil's KLR has a fork brace that was shaving the mud off the front building up a nice wad under the fender.

As we would ride the dry spots the mud would fall off and get us ready for the next muddy section. All in all it was good riding. And the day was beautiful in the desert.

One without the bikes.

The fun continued and we found our way to Terlinqua Creek. I notice the change in color of the surface a little too late but wisely chose to stop when I did. The creek was swollen with water and there was no way I was going across. Chris made the same decision a little later than I and went a little further into the muck.

No problem. We rode west and at a rest stop found our first equipment casualty of the day. Perry's inspection sticker was coming loose and he notice the plate was hanging by one bolt. So, he took it off and stuck it in the tank bag. Problem solved.

By now most of the mud had been flung loose and what was left was dried in nice spots on the bikes.

This photo shows how we would plan our route. We look out and see a road and someone would say, "lets go there." Pretty simple and with the tracking acitivated in our GPS units we weren't too worried about getting lost.

A few more photos of the area. Chris on his KTM.

The next place to go, up a hill.

Perry heading off to take the challenge.

This hill would become my nemesis for the day. I tried twice and had slow get offs twice in about the same spot. There is a video of my last attempt but I don't have it yet. I'll post it when it becomes available. I drug the DRZ around and retreated to the flatest spot I could find and started to walk up. I can still do that. Here is the view from where I quit trying to ride up.

And looking back down at my humbled DRZ.

The parking lot up top missing one DRZ.

At the top we spied another road that went to a summit just a few hundreds yards further north. We slid down the hill with a plan to find a way to that summit. I walked down to the DRZ and set up for some video of the guys coming down. Phil first.

No problem. Perry was up next.

Oops. He fell just about where I did going up. No damage. Chris was next.

Once he got off line every bounce sent him more in my direction where I was at the lowest spot. He got it under control and rode on by. I climbed aboard and joined the herd to continue on to the other summit we had spotted. No problems up this road.

Nice views from the top.

The grin on Perry's face says it all.

At this point we started heading back south toward Terlingua. We got to an intersection, one went east and one continued south. We took the southern road which turn into two track and got more difficult as we progressed. While climbing a steep rocky section the line I had chosen led to a small rock ledge that caused me to bounce to the right where I commence to hit, and move, three good sized rocks. You can see where they had been set into the dirt and have been rolled over.

The last one caught me as I high sided to the left. I landed a few feet away from the bike with my left hip catching a sharp rock. OUCH! After a quick personal assessment I knew nothing was broken but that it was going to leave a mark. The bike faired a little worse.

A bungee cord from Perry and some straightening of the headlight bracket provided a field expedient fix that would hold for the rest of the trip.

While stopped for my mishap they noticed that Phil's front fender was a little "floppy". One bolt was left holding it on. Chris pulled out his bolt box and the boy's went to work while I stretched and rubbed my aches.

As we continued we came to some gates but they were all open. No signs. Then we came upon a spot were a chain had been across the trail but one of the posts had been pulled from the ground. There was a private property sign on the chain that looked like it faced away from us if the chain was hanging properly. Oops, we were on the wrong side. Thinking we were out of private property and back on the public side we contined on south. The trail turned into a road. We rode past a very nice house with a wonderful view only to come to a locked gate about 1/4 mile further down the hill. And of course we were on the wrong side of the gate. As we were riding back up the hill the homeowner was coming down in his pickup. Chirs explained how we got there and said we were lost. He said, "Yes, you are lost. I'll let you out if you promise not to come back and tell all your friends that this is not public." Deal! So take notice, this area is not public. Here is our track for the day. The southern half of the western track is the area in question.

As we rode on toward 170 every post on every gate and many that were matched up on sides of the road had the famous purple paint that shows the road is private. Apologies to the land owner that let us out. Our side of the bargain has been completed.

Some nice ruins on the way out.

Back to Study Butte for cool beverages, talk of the day, and showers.

Back to the Starlight for supper. We were a little early and walke next door to the Crisis Center to check out a historical marker. Below was a grated mine shaft, one of many that dot the area.

And some nice views of the country side.

An afternoon thunderstorm was rolling across the north parts of the area and provided another lovely display from the front porch.

Three of us ordered up the rib eye, yummmmm! We were too hungry to take photos. There was room for desert though and time to take a photo.

Left to right we have bourbon chocolate pecan pie, apple cinamon fluatas with homeade ice cream, and a lovely brownie sundae.

Fully satisfied we retreated to the front porch and conversations with locals about what was new in the area.

Only photos of us to protect the ones talking to us from any possible ramifications. :lol2: The converstion about the Terlingua Liberation Front was particularly interesting.

One local icon has changed. Doc's red scooter is dead and has been replaced by a yellow Suzuki SA50. Proper sticker on the headlight.

Too many adult beverages and you end up doing funny things.

Another day done. More to follow. Next we move west toward new territory.
New Territory: Big Bend Ranch State Park

We awoke to a lovely day with clear skies.

Santa Elena Canyon off to the south.

The bikes had been loaded on the trailer the night before and were ready to make the trek west. A little worse for wear but ready non the less.

This was the goal of this vacation. To visit and explore Big Bend Ranch State Park. I'd been wanting to get out here ever since they made the announcement that the park roads were open to street legal motorcycles. Now we were heading west on 170 toward the park to make it happen. The drive along the Rio Grande River was as enjoyable as ever. We went all the way to Casa Piedra Rd before turning. There is a road you can take a couple miles before Casa Piedra, Bofecillas Rd., but we went with what we knew. The roads going into the park are maintained but had become pretty washboarded and the going was slow in the big rig with the trailer. The 25 mph speed limit was not problem and most of the time we could only get 10-15 because of the road.

The cactus were blooming.

Phil got bored and wanted to ride the bike. It was slow going so he dicided to ride non ATGATT.

More scenery.

Chris felt something in the trailer and we stopped to find a tire going flat.

The tire was filled with slime and a Slime air pump deployed from Perry's KLR. I took pictures of flowers.

The pump was working.

The tire fix held long enough for us to reach park headquarters and get checked in to our camp spot.

We were given access to the compressor in the park's shop. We pulled the sheetrock screw that was causing the problem and applied a plug and glue to get a more permanent fix. Then on to our site. Los Ojitos.

With camp set up we had time for a ride before supper. WE hit the Oso Loop trail. About 6 miles long. I don't know why but I had a lot of trouble. I was very tired. Didnt' even think about photos. Must have been a little dehydrated. I was getting beat but made it through. Chris one photo along the way.

The Oso Trail ended at a corral and some covered tables next to this old chuckwagon.

The DRZ was ready to pull and Perry was ready to drive.

We tried each day to get back in time to shower before supper. With our camsites we reserved meals at the bunkhouse for supper and breakfast. We did not sign up for lunch since we really didn't know for sure if we could make the schedule so we just did our own lunches. Supper was at 6 and breakfast was around 7:45. The park staff took turns cooking and we never had to worry about getting enough to eat. Pretty good food too. The first night we shared with a photo group that had been there a few days so it was a little crowded. The rest of our stay we had the place to ourselves. Out the back window I saw these two javelina giving each other a good scratch. These guys were everywhere.

Back to camp before dark and enjoyed a nice sunset.

Phil had noticed his bike running hot so he tore into it to look for problems. He foung a broken hub on the radiator's fan blade. Perry dug out some JB Weld and the repair commenced.

In case you wondered, this is what a field stripped KLR looks like.

Our track for the day on the Oso Loop and our campsite about a mile from park HQ.

More to come..... tomorrow.
Saturday Morning

We had a few rain showers through the night which made for excellent sleeping and also served to dampen the trail nicely. The skies were still overcast as we made our way to Sauceda HQ for another excellent breakfast.

From HQ we rode south toward the Chorro Vista. A very nice and smooth rolling two track made it easy to enjoy the views without having to totally concentrate on keeping a perfect line.

Chris stopped in a nice spot to get some riding video.




The trail ended at a wide parking area.

And a short hike over the hill brought us to the vista, looking southwest toward the Rio Grande.

This called for a group photo will the proper set-up.

And the results....

The desert was in bloom after the recent rains. This is from the ocotillo cactus.

Time for soaking in the view.

As we made our way back to the north we took every spur on the map to explore the area. The first was to the Mexican Falls Trailhead. The rideable section was blocked off by a sign we became all too familiar with.

No pasar. There was much grumbling but we always complied with the signage. It was a short hike, maybe 1/2 mile to the falls overlook. No pictures of the falls since we were on the same side of the cliff as the falls, which were dry, of course.

Looking across and down into Fresno Canyon we could see ruins of a ranch house. That would be our destination this afternoon.

Back on the trail to another spur. This one was called Mexicano 2. The trail went on but was blocked by rocks across the track. Once again we complied and turned around. Chris is considering the possibilities in this photo.

What could have been.

We found out later, talking to the park manager at HQ that the trail was closed to protect some nesting birds. We talked to the manager a lot. One of the deals with back country travel here is to file an itinerary with the park office. Ours was very flexible so each day we would update with our plan for the morning and the afternoon, then check in as we finished each section of the ride. That way they knew we made it OK.

The next challenge for the morning was taking on one of the "unmaintained 4x4 trails" called Javelin on the map. I think it's a typo and they really meant Javelina but who knows? First point of interest are some cattle pens with this shelter for camping. Cozy yes?

This is a sign of warning and potential fun.

Chris and Phil rode pretty quick but for me it was mostly second gear around 20 mph. I need a little extra reaction time to adapt to trail conditions. A couple examples of the trail.

Lots of vegetation hanging over the trail. Sometimes it wants to hitch a ride.

Towards the end of the trail we came upon this huge steep hill. Chris and Phil staged at appropriate spots to capture the carnage and Perry and I made the attempts.

Keep in mind it never looks as steep in the photo as it is when you are trying to ride up. Here are the videos.

Perry first.

Now Bruce.

Not quite as smooth as Perry but I kept both wheels on the ground and stayed on the bike so it counts as a successful climb. ;-)

Everyone on top.

On the way out towards camp for lunch we ran up on these guys guarding the trail. The ranch has a herd of around 80 that roam free range. We were told they were having the spring round up next week.

This is a sign that we were always glad to see. If you look close you can see that motorcycle used to be included at the bottom but has since been painted over. So, motorcycles are allowed. Thank you Texas State Parks. :clap:

After lunch at our camp we made our way east of HQ to make the run down into Fresno Canyon. There are very few loops that are rideable, except Oso Loop and the Javelin Trail. Most of the trails are taken to the end then turn around and ride back out to the main road. Fresno Canyon starts out as easily drivable in a high ground clearance SUV and proceeds to get more difficult the further you get into the canyon. When the trail gets to the bottom it goes into the river bed for short sections then will climb out while switching from one side to the other. Most of the jeeps stayed in the river bed for easier travel and the trail had several washouts that would be very tough in a four wheel vehicle. Bikes had less trouble.

Here is one of the washouts. Notice Phil taking video while riding one handed. :eek2:

The video. He drops the camera when he needs to clutch.

Twin bikes.

A little deep mud along the way.

Finally we came to the end of the trail. Boulders blocked the riverbed, we could have gone around but once again we gracefully complied. :-P

More flowers.

A couple hundred yards down the trail we started seeing signs of man's inginuity.

Then the ranch complex. Some inconsiderate cyclist left his trashed inner tube hanging at the entry on the fence. C'mon people, pack out your trash.

Perry said, "what do you think is under here, the crapper?" I said, I don't think so.

You better use a stick to flip it over. Good advice. :eek2:

He never rattled, just wanted to be left alone. And we respected that. :hail:

Phil wandered off while we were annoying the rattler. We went to the next building to see if he was there.

Yep, that's Phil.

It's a shame to see how much work went into making this place very nice for it's time. Now it's nothing more than ruins. Reminds me of many of the verses in Ecclesiastes, working all your life only to have it go to ruin after you die. Rock walls with planters.

A terraced garden with fountain in the corner.

Here Perry is pointing to the Mexican Falls area where we first saw the ranch earlier in the day.

We returned the way we came riding north. There were a couple of jeeps working their way through the canyon. We passed them on the way down and again on the way back. They were having to move very slowly not making near as much progress as we could on the bikes. Two wheels is definatley the way to see more in less time. We would see the jeeps again.

Back in camp for showers and dinner. Here is an example of the type of chow that we were fed. Always a southwestern flair. Tonight was stir fry pork and beef with fixin's.

We would have steak, stir fry, and beef enchiladas for dinner. Breakfast was eggs with ham, eggs with sausage, and very nice omelets on the last morning.

After getting stuffed with good food it was nice to relax in the big comfy chairs in the bunkhouse.

We got back in camp early enough to check out the spring that our camp was named after. An oasis in the desert.

Over the hill the creek had been flowing due to recent rains.

And there was a dam to try to save as much of the water as possible.

We were treated to another lovely sunset.

And with the clear skies, Phil broke out his 10" telescope and we got to have a little star party. The end of a great day.

Our tracks for the day.

More on the way. :trust:
Sunday: El Solitario

For our last day of riding we planned to ride to El Solitario. Google Map The most interesting goegraphic feature of the park. The road east from HQ is some of the best maintained and therefore smoothest in the park. Temptation is to go fast. Remember the posted speed limit is 25 which is way slow on the bikes. A couple curves can catch you off guard with too much speed as you are power sliding through the off camber corners. Be careful. :trust: The last roadside exibit gives you a nice overlook of the area.

We followed the road north to the rumored locked gate and found the rumors to be true; no public access from this side.

WE got off the maintained road as quick as we could at the Los Alamos residence. We turned just past the house and went through the gate to get to the trail. This was nearly disappearing two track that went though several washouts and dry creek beds, past the Los Alamos camp, then joined up with the road east of Jackson Pens after a couple miles. Very nice, not too difficult. We took the eastern most trail down toward Tres Papalotes. An abandoned line shack next to a water well.

A very deep water well. They gave the pump a go but got nothing.

We rode farther south to the trailhead then had a miscommunication as to which trail we would take next. Chris said go past the first trail on the right, I though he said take the first trail on the right. So that's what Perry and I did. We ended up on top of a high saddle with a mine shaft protected by a steel net to keep jeeps from fallling in.

In the valley below we could hear and see Chris riding up and down the road trying to figure out where we had gone. We waved but he couldn't see us and we don't roost enough for him to follow our tracks.

Perry and I rode to the shack in hopes that they would see us. I was starting to feel some trouble brewing in my back. I have occasional kidney stone pain and it was beginning to show itself. We heard their bikes up on the hillside but could not see them until they moved. So, we took the trail that led up into the caldera from the collapsed lava dome. The jeepers call this the trail to nowhwere.

We rode into the caldera over a saddle.
Last edited:
The Caldera

The trail wound around the side of the moutain finally reaching a turnaround.

And we rode back out.

Here you can see the shack down in the valley beyond.

Perry and I rode to the shack to rest while Chris and Phil rode up the other hill to where the mine shaft was.

By now the pain was getting worse so I downed some Tylenol and tried to rest some for the ride out.

It wasn't much help. There were a couple more trails Chris and Phil would try while Perry and I would haul butt back to camp where I had some better prescription drugs to relieve my situation. The most direct route took us back toward the main road via Jackson Pens where we came across this guy beside the road.

He was really enjoying that mineral block so he just gave us a quick look and went back to licking his block. We rode on. Chris and Phil took the trail from Paso el Solitario back to the Los Alomos residence. They said this was the most difficult trail they had ridden. Impassable for jeeps. Somewhere along this trail Chris hit this rock.

And Phil collected this cactus.

This is why you have to wear good protective clothing. The cactus and the brush, every bush has sharps of varying lengths, hangs over the trail everywhere and you are constanstly getting slapped by it. I was wearing my old Joe Rocket Phoenix 3 jacket and First Gear Mesh pants. Hard armor on knees, elbows, and shoulders. Armored leather gloves. The sharpies would try to grab but never penetrated enough to stick. Without my arms would have been pretty shredded.

I made it back to camp and dosed up with some proper pain meds. Problem solved but with narcs on board my ride was done for a while. Perry snagged some fire wood at HQ to warm up lunch. The KLR comes in handy.

Lunch was good. Jalepeno sausage wraps.

I sat under the shade and read a book while they rest headed off to explore some more trail spurs north of the HQ. By 5:00 I had recovered enough to ride into HQ for showers and dinner. After dinner Chris noticed his front had gone flat. He had bent the rim on that rock. Not bad but enough to cause a slow leak. He was running the Tubebliss system on the front and the bead wasn't holding air.

This is the weakness in this system. Had he been running tubes and got a pinch flat he could have stuck a new tube in and kept going even with the bent rim. He aired up and it gave him enough for us to check out one more spot after dinner; Cinco Tinajas.

Cinco Tinajas is a series of pools carved out of the river bed as it goes through a canyon. A hike of about a mile from the parking area led to the river. A little poke at our LEO bretheren :-P

I stayed up top while the others chose to go to the river.

The view of the canyon from above.

Perry trying to get around one of the deep pools.

And Perry wading out after sliping in up to his neck. :doh:

On the way out Chris thought he should be riding on this trail so he did the best he could.

Back in camp we had another desert sunset and this night enjoyed a nice camp fire.

Tracks for the day, minus what Chris and Phil rode when we split up.

A few more photos on the way out coming up next.
The drive out

We loaded up the bikes the night before and broke camp at first light in order to make it to our last breakfast in time. The entire staff was there milling about and they had prepared some fantastic omelets for our last meal with them.

Loaded and ready to roll out. A word about the loading method. By loading in a zig zag fashion the rear tire of one bike acts like a wheel chock for the front tire of the next bike in line. Straps come off to the sides pulling slightly forward and one on the rear to keep from bouncing. This is the most secure load method for bikes I've ever seen without chocks fastened to the bed of the trailer. Solid as a rock.

A few shots of the scenery on the way out. It always looks different heading the other way at a different time of day.

We took the Bofecillas Rd. just to be different. When we reached 170 we were rewarded with a shredded tire on the trailer, not the one that had the previous flat.

Phil communed with the local crowd while we assessed damage and began to gather tools for replaicing with the spare.

And repairs commenced.

The ride home was generally uneventfull. We stopped in Alpine to replace the spare knowing if we didn't we would need it. Next stop was Ozona for fuel and food. Then home before dark. A great trip. Here is the total of our tracks in the park. There are around 170 miles of open road in the park. Chris logged a little over 200 miles in our wandering there over three days.

One last comment. The crash that damaged my head light left a nice mark on my left hip. At first it was just a little red mark but I could tell there was deep bruising as it was nice and swollen. A had a limp for a couple days. Here is what it looked like by the time we got home. Pretty colors.

Wear your gear! All the time. Thanks for coming along. :rider:
Feb 1, 2007
Ten Sleep, WY
Man those roads look great, very nice report. I'd sure be curious what the history of that abandoned ranch house was. Like you said, somebody put in some serious time there. Love the picture of the two of you "supervising" the tire change on the trailer :)
Dec 22, 2008
Nacogdoches, TX
Very nice ride report, and I really like the short videos. Riding DOWN hill on that crumbly, rocky road had me squeezing the chair cushion without hands...lol.
Jul 19, 2006
I too suffer from the dreaded kidney stones. Next time you feel one coming on, get a gallon of water in you as fast as possible. That mass of fluid will dislodge it 9 out of 10 times. When you go to the ER, they give you pain meds and hook you up to an IV which basically does the same thing.

Great report and nice pictures.
Good advice on the stones. I had lithotripsy done a couple days after we got home and have passed most of the one on the left side since the trip. It was scheduled before the trip. I have a couple on the right side that are gonna get it next. :trust: The two times I ended up in ER I was unable to pass anything. They do have better drugs though. My pain comes from the kidneys before the stone has dropped into any of the plumbing. The pressure builds up and then they'll shift a little and the pressure is relieved. I had one 30 years ago removed by surgery and went this long without any troubles. I'm hoping the lithotripsy will fix me up for another 30 years.
Feb 5, 2008
Clear Lake City
Great RR, we were there exactly 1 month before you, the weather was absolutely perfect, 40 - 70 and not a cloud in the sky!!!!! We are planning to go back in the fall, maybe around Oct.
Jun 19, 2011
Brady, Tex
Last week my riding buddies and I were finally able to execute a long planned trip to Big Bend to ride some previously unseen areas. The idea came up last year, vacation was planned in January, and finally the time for the trip came last Wednesday, April 14. Now time to share the ride. Here is a little teaser photo.

Hey Big Red, I spent 20 years working that area as a Texas Game Warden. Very pretty country to ride but watch out for the longhorns.