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Big Bend: Can't get enough! (lots of pics/videos)

The desert was calling. We answered. On Tuesday, April 1, five friends and I loaded up our dirt machines and headed west for the beautiful Big Bend area of Texas. Our mission: Four days of riding back country roads. Since then I've been collecting photos and videos from everyone to compile into a report. I still have one set to get my hands on, you know who you are, but I've got a day with nothing else going on so I'm starting on the report anyway. So, here we go! :rider:

Day 1:
We started gathering at first light. Pflugerville, my house :trust: , was centrally located for the group so that was the rally point. We had an Excursion and a 16 foot trailer to haul 6 full size adults, their bikes, and the gear. Plenty of room. :lol2:

How many does it take to tie down a KLR?

Loaded and ready to go. Four KLR 650s, one KTM 525EXC, and my DRZ400.

Lunch at Cooper's BBQ in Junction. A little pricey but good eatin'.


We chose the single vehicle plan to trim the cost of the trip. The Excursion had good range even though it was chugging along at less than 10 mpg:eek2: . Even so, it cost less than taking more trucks. First stop along the way was Alpine. The air was cool and a good breeze was blowing. Next stop, Terlinqua. We arrived around 6 pm. Perfect.

Standard procedure for us is to sleep in the desert. There is a primitive camp site in the national park that we usually occupy. This time we opted for showers, a real toilet, and eating in restaurants. We booked the large cabin at the Chisos Mining Company. Nice folks and decent accommodations for 6.

Our little pink house for the next 5 nights.


The views from the parking lot. You can see why they call this Easter Egg Valley.

With the bikes unloaded and gear stowed it was time to go in search of FOOD. The obvious choice for the first night was The Starlight Theater. A Terlinqua classic.

View from the front porch.

The food was fine. The drinks were cold. The band was good. The waitress friendly. All was well in the universe, as far as we were concerned. Tomorrow, we ride!
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Day 2: BBNP Loop

The plan for the day; eat, ride, refuel, eat, ride, refuel, eat, sleep. Sounds simple right? Well, that's the plan for every day out in Big Bend. The actual plan for today was to ride a clockwise loop around Big Bend National Park covering as much dirt as possible while staying on the roads. No problem. Bikes all checked out we headed for the first goal, eat. This was going to be easy since the Chisos Mining Co. Motel is right next to Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe, the traditional breakfast for a dual sport ride starting in Terlinqua. But, what's this? Closed? :doh: I suppose she gets a day or two off now and then. So plan "B" was consulted and off we went. Destination; The Chili Pepper Café in Study Butte.

Very good food, more formal than Kathy's since the waitress comes to your table (can anything in Terlingua be called formal?), and it was nice sitting on the front porch enjoying the cool morning. Typical breakfast choices to include tacos, migas, standard egg plates, all of it good. Lots of bikes this day, as you can see. We had a real nice conversation with the couple that was riding the BMW GS in the front of the photo. Didn't ask their age but I would guess pretty close to 80. The were from Oregon, IIRC, and were making their way back home from a 4,000 mile trip through Mexico. Obviously they were taking the scenic route. You meet the nicest people on two wheels. Breakfast done it was time to put on the game face......

We started by heading back into Terlingua to catch South County Rd. and followed it through to North County Rd. The morning was cool with the normal 10% humidity. Sweet! We were excited to get on the road so we rode. We made one stop at this crossing of what I believe was Terlinqua Creek and got a quick picture.

There was a brief side trip here that resulted in an unplanned stoppie and an ungraceful dismount. That's a story for later with the photos I don't have yet....calling David!

We made the transit of the county roads north of Terlingua without meeting a single vehicle on the road. I like it like that. After riding a few miles north on the blacktop that is TX118 we were back on the dirt. Taking it nice and slow past the houses we climbed over one good hill and back down to the valley that holds Ament Lake. We crossed the valley and started climb up a very loose rocky road to the summit and the pass that leads in to HQ area of Terlingua Ranch. This is the highest point of the road looking back west toward Ament Lake. A great view and nice place to stop for photos.

We stop at this spot several times during our wanderings so there will be more photos of this place. This is the view as you come through the pass into the valley to the east. Nice vista.

This was one of those days in Big Bend that was very hazy. It tends to wash out the color in the photos. Luckily we were only afflicted with this situation for the first day. The wind would change direction the next day and all would clear up.

Continuing on Ament lake road we made our way to the east and the intersection with Terlingua Ranch Rd. We took a left on the very well maintained hard packed road. We followed the signs continuing east to Marathon Rd. The road was still maintained but the surface got quite a bit softer. We'll just go ahead and call it sand. The way to deal with sand is to apply the throttle and shift weight to the rear. This works well on this road that's a full two lanes wide with sweeping curves. I try hard to not ride faster than I can see to maintain a safe margin. But then there will be a 90 degree corner with deep sand. This gets fun especially since there is a pile of old tires blocking the overrun area. :eek2: The trick is slowing down enough to make the corner without causing the front to plow sand and get crossed up. We all make it through OK, I know I had to go around a few tires but stayed on two wheels. I was eating dust in the rear but I could tell by the tire tracks that I wasn't the only one that took that route. I just can't say if it was someone in our group. :shrug:

In short order we made it to the intersection of US 385 and Marathon Rd. in BBNP. Time for a brake to stretch the legs and tell short stories.

Continuing south on 385 to Dagger Flats were we headed east again until we came to Old Ore Rd. This is a fun road. Perry stopped to catch one short video.

There is a scenic overlook about half way through that makes a nice photo op. The hazy condition shows up here.

Perry contemplating the view.

Taking a left at the end of Old Ore on Rio Grand Village Dr. would take us through the tunnel to, you guessed it, Rio Grand Village.

Different riding styles.....


Me. I guess I missed the briefing.

Time to refuel and eat. This was about the midway point in our journey for the day. Gas was expensive, $3.86 IIRC, but still cheaper than folks are paying for diesel today. We snacked on convenience store grub and re hydrated with personal favorites.

Then somebody mentioned Hot Springs and a plan was made on the spot. We loaded up some cool drinks and headed of in the direction of the Hot Spring on the river.

Riding Tip: Always wear someting you can swim in under your gear. You never know what opportunity may present itself.

One of us who shall remain unnamed keeping up international relations. :trust:

They swim both directions down here.

The hot water felt good, would have been better if the air temp was 60 instead of 85, but it was good anyway. My favorite spot is just over the edge of the wall where you can move a couple of inches and go from hot water to the cold water of the river. Ah, that's good.

Refreshed we walked back to the bikes to continue the journey. This photo looks really out of place. It could be a Caribbean Island.

Now it was off to River Rd. running west. I had read in other members reports about the road maintenance so I was ready for the worst. I am happy to report the road was almost completed with it's maintenance. We saw some vehicles parked but no workers. Maybe the fact that it was already after 4 p.m. had something to do with that. ALL the rough spots had been smoothed over and filled in. The road was in very good condition. We rode without stopping to the intersection with Glen Springs Rd. We took that north to the intersection with Black Gap and headed west again. This is by far the roughest road in the park. Rocky with ruts you have to maneuver through and around. Finally the main attraction, the Black Gap.

The white Jeep entering the gap from the west was rented by a couple from Europe. He was contemplating an attempt, he had insurance after all. :lol2: He changed his mind and backed out, right into a large boulder. We started yelling and got his attention in time to reduce the damage to a little tap under the rear bumper. Just a scratch. We continued onto rejoin River Rd. west of the mine. The road was perfect so we moved on at a good pace. A little too good because we didn't stop to take any pictures.

I'll take this opportunity to say I am soooooo glad I bought the DRZ. My last trip here I was riding my '96 Tiger. Link This bike is a whole lot easier to ride in these conditions. I had little trouble with the sandy parts or the rocky parts. I was able to travel at speeds generally 2 to 3 times what I could handle on the Tiger. Anyone who rides a heavy trailie, the lighter bike is a blast.

We arrived at the Castolon Store to find it closed. Bummer but a nice break anyway.

Back on the bikes we continued west to Old Maverick Rd. This was a short run up to Panther Junction Rd and out of the park to Study Butte. We were back at the cabin well before dark. 200 miles for this little loop around the park. On arrival, Phil informed us he had acquired a flat somewhere on Old Maverick. Out came the tools and he got to work.

With so many KLR riders there was plenty of help, and a supervisor.

A good example of a field expedient bike stand.

Time still left for all to shower before heading out to dinner. We liked breakfast so much the consensus was back to the Chili Pepper for dinner. Upon our return we had a little visitor waiting for us.

David had to play with him a little. Feisty little fellow.

The day was done. That's it for the report today. Three more days of riding to follow. I hope this all turns out. I've been fighting the 'puter and have no idea if the videos will work. Everything is moving very slow. I can't get the videos to load.
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Day 3: Bones

The third day started with the same plan; eat, ride, refuel, eat, ride, refuel, eat, sleep. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. Had to take care of business first. The daily chores; chains, tires, oil, all checked and ready to go.

This works well.

A proper center stand is very handy though.

Now, before the squid comments start flying, we don't ride dressed like that. ;-) With the bikes taken care of it was time to move on the the first part of the plan, eat. :eat: We cranked up and took the 60 second ride down to Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe'. This time we weren't disappointed.

Awsome breakfast burritos preceeded by interesting conversation. If you haven't been before, don't go if you are on a schedule. That just isn't part of the operation here. The food is prepared fresh and doesn't come out 'till it's ready. It is worth the wait though. The conversation was provided by the gentleman in the yellow shirt in the middle of the photo. Called himself TJ. Said he grew up in Terlingua and now that he's retired he spends most of his time there. The story of the day included Oliver North, smuggling weapons for the Contras across the border labeled as frozen chickens, and a shootout with border guards that resulted in the closing of one of the old border crossings by the Mexican gov't. :wary: True? Who knows, maybe. It was a good story anyway. With breakfast tucked away nicely it was on to the ride. The loosley crafted plan was to ride around Terlingua in areas we hadn't already covered. First was the area north and east Study Butte known as Moon Valley. Like before we spent time riding and not smelling flowers. Scenery is ever changing around here and each turn brings a different landscape.

There are sections out here that have some of the deepest sand we would encounter on this trip. David was struggling with his KLR since there were few areas where he could get enough speed to float the front wheel and he doesn't carry the bulk to be able to shift his weight like the rest of us can. There are advantages to being heavy, some times. :lol2: Anyway this was after the fourth fall in about 100 yards....

My first site was of him lying under the bike struggling to extricate himself. The photo had to wait until I could help get him freed. I thought he had hit the rocks since he had a limp as he was getting up, but that worked itself out to be just a slight twist of his ankle. He was getting very tired though. But what can you do; you get back on and keep riding. So that's what we did. The road became very twisty like a roller coaster. Up and down small hills and winding around corners. We nicely spread out due to differing speeds and avoiding the dust. Suddenly I rounded a corner to find this.....

Perry had gone down and it didn't look good. We parked the bikes around to warn any traffic that might happen upon us, not likely since we rarely see anyone out on these roads but we did it anyway. Next we tended to Perry. By then he had his boot off and his foot was already swelling and turning a nice shade of purple. Sorry, no good pictures of the carnage yet. I think David has one or two. Diagnosis was at least two dislocated toes with possible fractures. All we could do was elevate the limb and make him comfortable.

Dave rode on to get with Chris and Phil as they would be waiting up ahead somewhere at the next intersection. We assesed Perry's bike: broken clutch lever and the bars had rotated in the clamps a little. We repalced the lever, made some adustments and the bike was rideable. The plan was for Chris, Phil and Dave to ride back to Terlingua and return with the Excursion. Chris and Dave would take Perry to Alpine, 80 miles away, and Phil would ride Perry's bike back to the cabin. We moved one of the bikes next to P and provided some shade with one of the jackets draped over the handel bars. We had time to kill so we moved on to accident reconstruction. The turn was a sharp right hander with a hump at the apex and off camber downhill as you exit. Nasty for sure. From what P said he began to slide coming through the turn and the brand new D606 suddenly caught causing a high side which pitched him off the bike. You can see the slide marks in the photo. His toe was pointing down and the bike landed on his heel driving his foot into the road surface. He was wearing light hiking boots that did not hold up very well to the loading and his foot took the hit. He had good bruising and abrasions on his heel and just above on the back of his leg. We were there for at least an hour waiting for a ride. Nice scenery though.

Finally help arrived. Being the jokers that we all are, Chris, Phil and Dave were hanging out the windows making siren noises as they pulled up. :lol2:

Some comments about having to bring the whaaambulance. Perry was loaded up and off to Alpine they went. The plan was to meet back at the cabin later.

This day's story will be continued later. I'm off to work :yawn: and will post more if I can. If not It may not be until Monday. Stay tuned.
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Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Bummer about Perry. What's the prognosis? Hiking boots offer less protection than MX boots and my ankle fractured in MX boots. It could have been a lot worse for Perry. I hope he's doing better.

Glad to see you enjoying yourself down there on the little bike. Fun, isn't it? Can't wait to get back down there around Xmas myself, back on the Sherpie.

Okay, more stories!!!! :clap:
(where's my popcorn???)
Mar 25, 2007
thanks man, now I have another bike to add to the list and another trip, to add to the list. sooner or later my wife is going to block this site.

great pics! I really want to do a trip like this eventually
Bummer about Perry. What's the prognosis? Hiking boots offer less protection than MX boots and my ankle fractured in MX boots. It could have been a lot worse for Perry. I hope he's doing better.

Glad to see you enjoying yourself down there on the little bike. Fun, isn't it? Can't wait to get back down there around Xmas myself, back on the Sherpie.

Okay, more stories!!!! :clap:
(where's my popcorn???)
Prognosis; broke big toe, broke bone in foot, two dislocated toes, a pin and a couple plates with screws. He's back at work today. Off the bike for at least six weeks. :doh: But he'll be back. :rider:

As far as boots go it's hard to say. :shrug: I'll opt for more protection. David went down many times on his KLR while struggling with the sand, his leg pinned under the bike on several of them. He was sore but nothing broke. But then again, no two falls are the same.

The saga will continue Monday. I only have a couple of minutes here before we head out for the rest of the day.
Day 3 cont.: We ride on, minus one.

With transportation available for Perry, we loaded him in the back seat with his foot securely propped up on the pillow splint they started the 80 mile trip to Alpine, the closest ER facility. Perry insisted that we continue the day's ride so we came up with our usual loosely formulated plan. Phil would ride Perry's KLR the rest of the day. We finished the route to pavement, rode north on 118 a few miles and made the hop over Ament Lake Rd. to Terlingua Ranch HQ. It was about 1 pm and we were ready for some lunch. We had decided on the Bad Rabbit at the ranch HQ.

The patio and band stand where they have live music on the weekends.

We shared the dining room with a couple that was camping at the RV park. If you are able to catch it when it's open it's a good choice for lunch. I had the BLT and onion rings, yum. :eat: We took full advantage of the iced tea and air conditioning. This is the view from the throne in the men's facilities. ;-)

Nice. The other diners left, we finished our meals and we had just received a refill on our drinks when an older gentleman dressed in very western attire complete with crumpled straw hat came into the room. He told the waitress/cook that she could go ahead and leave. He walked over the the huge AC unit that had been supplying the cool breeze to our table and shut it down. :-( We had been there almost an hour so we asked if he was closing up and if we needed to leave. He said for us to stay as long as we like and that he just had some chores to take care of. He noticed our attire and asked if we were enjoying our ride as he sauntered over to the cash register and started running totals and counting the money in the till. We talked about our morning and our plans for the week. He started talking about his life in the area. Turns out he is THE owner of Terlingua Ranch. We talked for about 45 minutes. He told us about the history of the Ghost Town, which he used to own, the mines under the town, and told us about some places we should ride while we were here visiting. :thumb: The owner's permission to ride. It doesn't get any better than that. The afternoon was looking good.

We wanted to explore places were we hadn't been before so we rode north of the camp and took just about every side road to it's end. We stayed away from the ones where it was obvious there were cabins or trailers. Most of the roads lead to a cul-de-sac, some ended in creek beds. This was a nice one at the base of a mountain.

Looking back toward the pass to Ament Lake.

Finishing up with this area, we took the hop over to Ament Lake, again. Of Course we had to stop at the summit. Great view with the breeze. Phil took his perch and I took pictures.

Back on 118 we rode south a couple of miles to North County Road. Winding through the hills, we took a right at Solitario Rd. and headed into unknown territory. For this part of our ride we had no maps, no GPS, no directions, just the sun and the terrain to keep us oriented. Once again there were numerous short roads heading off the main road that would end at a cul-de-sac. This was just one of them. Now my desktop photo.

I had to take one of Perry's bike to show where it had been without him.

The most prominent terrain feature in the area is the eastern edge of The Solitario. A very large ring left from the collapse of a volcanic dome. From our vantage point it just looked like a wall that would keep us from going to far west. We chose roads that would get us as close to the base of this barrier and turned left, south. The roads became less traveled and thus more fun. Eventually they turned into dual track jeep trails and then into what appeared to be dual track so narrow that they must have been for four wheelers. Too narrow for a Jeep. We kept heading south. The riding was slow with deep washouts and tight turns. Coming down a long washed out section and across a rocky ravine, we turned sharp to suddenly come upon a locked gate. The end. Now the fun part. Turn around and go back up. There was enough room to turn but that left us at the bottom of the rutted, rocky hill. Phil had no problem, even on a borrowed bike. I stalled in the roughest part, put the foot down only to fine the washout and slowly rolled onto my side. The rear tire levered up into the air so the engine kept running. I grabbed a hand full of clutch, lifted the DRZ onto it's wheels, slipped the clutch and rolled up to where I could climb back on. The rest of the hill was no problem.
David was last to try. He fell in the same section I did. Phil had run down to help me so he was there to assist David who was stuck under the KLR. Phil picked up the bike and held it while David climbed on and restarted. Me, I took the video. :trust: Someone had to.

We decided to back track until we found a road that looked like it might lead us to the southeast and back to Terlingua. The shadows were starting to get a little long but we were able to make our way with only a couple short dead end detours.

Great scenery the whole way. We arrived back at the cabin about an hour before sunset to find this.

Perry was enjoying his pain meds and felt pretty good. He gave his report on the damage and we looked at X-rays to make sure the doctor knew what he was talking about. The toe was pretty much shattered and the dislocations were good ones. They had moved a complete knuckle sideways. :eek2: He would have to wait on orthopedics until he got home. He had an offer from one of his Friends to drive to Terlingua and pick him up in a motor home but Perry would stay for the rest of the trip. They fed him a burger in Alpine so the rest of us washed and loaded up for dinner at the Starlight. As always, it was good.
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Day 4; New territory.

Today we would be riding to a place we hadn't been before. More so than previous days. We had no information other than what we saw on the map and pictures from the google satellites. We loaded Perry into the Excursion and drove down to Kathy's for breakfast. Kathy was getting to know us already. The first day she learned a couple of our names when Chris thought she said Chris instead of Bruce and helped himself to my burrito. With my ears I didn't even here her. He was several bites into it when he noticed it was spicier than what he ordered. :lol2: And then she called his name, again? All the commotion got her attention and she offered to make me another one of what I ordered. Anyway, this day she learned Perry's name and was picking up on the rest of them. Breakfast done we hauled Perry back to the cabin and mounted our trusty steeds. We took our usual route north and over the pass to Terlingua Ranch HQ, on to Marathon Rd.

Then there were five....

Phil's KLR underside

I took this to show the beating that the underside of the bikes take when riding the back country out here. He still had the stock "guard". You can see the gouges and broken bits, as well as the JB Weld repair to the side cover that was the first order of business when we arrived back in October on our last trip. Lesson: install a proper bash plate. Even if you don't ride hard, the front wheel will kick up rocks and you risk damage.

When we reached 385 in the park we turned north and rode out of BBNP. The first highway on the left is RR 2627 which runs to the border and the Mexican town of La Linda. That was the plan, see where it goes. It was paved but scenic.

We stopped at the Stillwell RV Park and Store for information.

We learned that the border was in fact closed. We suspected as much from satellite photos and ICE information. The story: The town was built around a mine that provided ore to the steel industry. Population was around 400. The bridge was there to allow the ore to be trucked to US steel mills. The death of the US steel industry was the death of the town and the closing of the border crossing. There was a dirt road called Stillwell Crossing Rd. that shows in the Roads of Texas that we inquired about, notice the name. :trust: The ranch had been sold to investors several years ago and about three years ago bought my the Mexican cement corporation CEMEX. They closed public access to the road. :doh: Oh, well. We'll ride to the border anyway just to see it. It was worth the time. Very scenic ride through the hills and canyons down to the river. Here is the bridge.

The ghost town of La Linda.

Chris thinks he can get through and is advised against it. :lol2:

On a hill overlooking the end of the road sat a travel trailer with permanent power drop, a pickup truck, and a picnic table with a steel cover for shade. At the table sat a man and his dog who watched us the entire time we were there. :wary: I wonder who he pissed of to get that lonely assignment.

How many "deals" were arranged at this old pay phone. Would be nice to find an old recording device and listen in on history.

The Rio Grandee

East of the bridge was a path that led down across a large sandy beach to the river. The abandoned mine sits on the ridge.

As close as we could get to Mexico on the bikes.

Chris and Dave com template riding across a low spot in the water.

Phil resting on the bank.

I was a good place to play in the sand.
Chris and his KTM.

We rode back to the north, waved at the guy watching us, and wondered what was next. We stopped at the entrance to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

This place is run by Texas Parks and Wildlife. We read the plaque with all the political mumbo jumbo and decided to ride in anyway. The road was paved for about a mile and ended at the park HQ. The signs all said register here, entry only by permit, blah, blah, blah. We looked confused so the only guy working in the shop wandered over to talk to us. He told us about the land use permits that are not available on site. Closest place to get one was Alpine. We acted disappointed enough that he asked what we were wanting to do. The answer, "Just ride the road and see what there is to see." :rider: He shrugged, said as long as we stayed on the road and didn't stay past dark we could ride. :clap: Good man! He said the road was 18 miles and ended next to the river. We all shook his hand, thanked him very much, and off we went. This is what the park is named after, the Black Gap.

The road was fun to ride with great scenery.

Adobe ruins at the river.

The place was some what modern since it had a concrete cap on the walls and cement plaster on the walls. It was obvious that it had suffered a fire, probably burned the roof off which let the weather in. The death of an adobe structure.

While hanging out at the ruins we saw a small private jet flying very fast following the river below the ridgelines. DEA or smuggler? Who knows?

Having seen what we could see we rode out, waved to the guy at the maintenance shop, and made our way back to the Stillwell store to regroup, refuel, and refresh. The store is the ONLY place to refuel on this trip. All that taken care of we rode back to BBNP and stopped at the entrance center. A plan was hatched on the spot. A test of sorts. Which route was faster: 385 to Panther Junction and then west to Study Butte, or Terlingua Ranch and over Ament Lake Rd then south on 118 to Study Butte. Dave, David and I agreed to ride the highway, at a reasonable speed to enjoy the scenery. Chris and Phil would blast their way through the ranch, were reasonable, keeping the speed down around populated areas. Looser buys the beer at dinner. :zen: So, off we went. We cruised along at between 55 and 60 heading south. Yes I now the limit is 45 but you feel like you are parked going that slow. The park was beautiful since the haze had cleared out after the first day. Sorry no pictures, we were "racing" after all. I can't say for sure but I know Chris and Phil can ride real fast when called for. At the intersection at Panther Junction, Dave informed us he had to make a pit stop and that he would catch up as we head west, which he is quite capable of doing with his sport bike background. So David and I moved on west into the sunset. As we rolled past the Panther Junction gas station we noticed a park ranger parked there. Good to know where they are. Going west we kept the speeds between 50 and 55 just soaking up the views and hoping Dave would catch up. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, no Dave. Well, we were on a mission so we continued on. If he didn't show at the cabin we'd go back and find out what happened. All was good until the approach to Study Butte when we got behind two motor homes and a cager who was in full looky loo mode, traveling about 25 mph. :yawn: Sure enough as we came up on 170 west his left turn blinker came on. Waiting for the turn what do you think we saw; Chris and Phil behind a car taking the sweeping turn lane onto 170.:eek2: We made the turn on the bumper of Mr. Tourist and as soon as he got straightened out he pulled to the shoulder to let us pass. A friendly wave and a thank you and suddenly we were right behind Chris and Phil since their four wheel escort was oblivious to what was at stake. We all turned into the parking lot at the hotel and rolled up to the cabin in formation. Except Dave. After several rounds of claim and counter claim it was decided that Dave, wherever he was, was the loser. :lol2: Five minutes later he arrived. His story; after the planed pit stop he was rolling west and sure enough Mr. Ranger had pulled out in front of him. Mr. Ranger goes the speed limit of 45. Dave would not be catching up with us. Anyway, we had ridden another 200 mile day.

We got cleaned up and loaded Perry into the Excursion for dinner. We opted for the restaurant at the High Sierra Hotel. We had a tip from a local that they had the best burgers and steaks in Terlingua. We made Perry climb the stairs to the second floor so we would have a nice view, sorry, and claimed our table. We started outside on the "deck" which had a definite spongy feel to it as you walked around. Firefighters get nervous on spongy roofs so we moved inside and sat next to a window which almost had the same view, plus the wind wasn't blowing so it wasn't as cool. We were not disappointed at all with the food. Burgers, steaks, fajitas, it was all good.
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Day 5; The Longest Day

We saved the longest day for the last day of riding. This time we would head west to places I have been before but others hadn't. :trust: When we are camping in the desert, on the east side of BBNP, this ride plan has just a little to much pavement for some. It's well worth it to me. It's the best of both road and some REALLY good dirt, in my humble opinion.

Morning routine, load Perry in the Excursion and head to Kathy's for breakfast.
By now she knows all our names and some of us what we like to eat. It was good as always.

Back to the cabin and time for morning bike checks. Houston.....we have a problem. Phil has noticed that two of his spokes had come loose from the nipples. I take a closer look and point out the huge dent in the rim on the opposite side from the loose spokes. Chris says, "Oh yeah, I noticed your wheel wobbling yesterday when we were on the highway." :-P No worries, with Perry down for the duration we just happen to have a parts bike. :trust: So, the mechanics get to work. The back wheel and almost new tire comes off Perry's and onto Phil's.

With the mechanical work done we were ready to ride. With the laid back schedule at Kathy's and the time to do the repairs it was almost 1100 by the time we got on 170 heading west.

You will see this view again. We rode through Lajitas, nothing has visibly changed there since last visit in October. Now the fun road ride starts. 170 is a great motorcycle road. There is an historic rest stop with steel and concrete tee pees, we didn't stop this time. One section has the steepest grade of any state highway. And curves and hills and scenic views. Choose your pace wisely. Either ride fast or look at the scenery, DO NOT TRY TO DO BOTH. That will get you into trouble. But don't worry, if you ride the speed limit and pay attention to the curve warnings you can have a fun ride and look enough to enjoy the vistas. This is what we did. Only on minor interruption to our ride. We were past the curviest and most hilly parts when we came up on this.

There in front of us were four riders on big cruisers, traveling 10 mph below the speed limit on a straight, although hilly, section of the road. Note the rider in the tail gunner position with the orange safety vest on. RANT ON: If you are going to ride slow, please don't impede traffic. We crept up on his right in line to pass. He would move over to block! :rolleyes: We would back off and he would take up position in the middle of the lane. This is not considerate behavior. If that was you, sorry we interrupted your slow ride. RANT OFF We waited until we could see far enough ahead to pass safely and made the move in the oncoming lane.

Seven miles east of Presidio, this was the first target. Casa Piedra Rd.

I was in the back of the pack at his point, I was also the only one who knew were the road was. :lol2: The leader had his GPS running but blew right past. I stopped and waited for their return. First David, then Phil who went back to where Chris and Dave had stopped to wait for us. Only took about 15 minutes.

Regrouped we head north on Casa Piedra toward Marfa. The road skirts the western edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park then continues on across ranch land. It's a county road that is well maintained, about 2 and a half lanes wide, smooth and fast. There is loose gravel and some sandy spots but you can usually see around corners enough to keep a pretty good pace which is exactly what we did. I took the opportunity to practice power sliding techniques I had been reading about in a thread on this forum. Lots of fun! Toward the end of the ride we came upon a railroad crossing with some deterrents to trespassers, and Dave doing a little melodrama. :lol2:

After getting back on pavement it's about 25 miles of pavement on RR 169 and US 67 to Marfa were we arrived at about 1330. Lots of antelope grazing alongside the road as we came into town. We tried to get lunch at the Pizza Distribution Co., I have read good reviews and it smelled wonderful, however there was a 2 hour wait :eek2: so we opted for faster food at the local Dairy Queen. While there we had a nice conversation with a DPS trooper breaking for his lunch. He rode dirt bikes as a kid so was interested in our machines and our ride. Nice guy. After lunch a quick ride around the square and a wait on a freight train...

Then it was off to Pinto Canyon.

South on RR 2810 is a nice ride through open plains. Once again I took my highway position in the rear of the pack. I told you that you'd see this again...

I really like the DRZ for riding trails and she does pretty good on the highway at reasonable speeds. She cannot keep up with the KLRs on the highway. I can plod along at 70 without much trouble but they tend to run away after not very long. They didn't leave me behind. I'd just plod along and eventually they would slow down enough for me to catch up. We were back together when we hit the dirt again.

Pinto Canyon

Dave and David

Pinto Canyon runs through a private ranch but is a public county road. Many of these roads go private from time to time with change of ownership. Ask locals that you meet for updates. Exiting the ranch.

Since we were being tourists we decided on a trip to Chinati Hot Springs. A short 6 mile run from the exit of Pinto Canyon.



Elevated cool water pool

Large salt cedar tree

The shade was free and nice.

The managers let us fill our water bottles in the kitchen if we wanted. He said the water was laced with natural occurring lithium. Makes you feel good, he said. Since we were riding we declined. :lol2:

Next stop Ruidosa. This is the topless bar.....no roof.

The old adobe church

And the store. A welcome stop for refreshments.

This is Rusty. He runs the store and take care of his 80 something year old Mom, the owner.

We met last October when Perry and I were riding this loop. He had just started the wall behind him in the photo. He uses empty aluminum soda/beer cans as the bricks. The white circles are taped over wine bottle embedded in the wall to allow light to show through. Once he has the stucco applied the taped will come off and the colored light will fill the room. Very creative. Several walls around the store are built using cans. This is the front porch, notice the low wall.

Chris bought a six pack of Dos Equis (sp?) and we invited Rusty to share a brew with us. He was thrilled. Said we were the first customers to stop by all day, it was about 4:30. One catch, TABC doesn't allow consumption at the store. He led us around to the back yard and the patio he had built.

The walls and seats to the right are constructed out of old tires filled with tamped earth and then stucco to cover. The planters and the arch on the entryway were the same can "technology" use out front. Very nice. Of course Rusty had done the tile work too. This is the tire wall going on around the property.

A couple of friendly questions got Rusty talking. He talked about life on the border, smugglers, government agents, and most interesting, his family history. Turns out Rusty's mom was the last living resident in the area that is now the Big Bend Ranch State Park. His grandfather owned 52 sections of land in what is now the park. He had struck it rich in cinnabar/mercury just before the breakout of WWII. Then as quick as it came it came to a screeching halt with the invention of non-corrosive primers in 1942 and the collapse of the cinnabar mining industry. He didn't say how much if any of it was left in their hands. He told us about the ghost town that was established as his grandfathers mining town north of Lajitas. He told us all bout the roads in the area. A couple that are on the map but he warned us not to even think about it. He doesn't use them unless invited and he's friends with the owner. We looked at he clock and we'd been chatting for over an hour and a half. We had a long way to ride with the sunset chasing us so we said "hasta la vista" and took off toward Presidio. We needed gas to make it back to Telingua so we stopped in Presidio. Now the question...What's wrong with this picture?

Chris had lost the front counter shaft sprocket bolt. We had been going 70+ most of the 37 miles to Presidio from Ruidosa. Lucky it all held together. Also lucky that there was an Auto Zone around the corner from the gas station. :clap: It only took about 10 minutes of digging in the bolt bins to find the correct metric thread and length to put it all back together. :clap: More time lost though. I knew we would not get back before dark. I don't like riding in areas that I know after dark. Less visibility equals less safety. But, what are you going to do? You keep riding and make adjustments to make it as safe as possible. We stopped at the rest stop with the tee-pees to regroup just before dark.

It was just getting dark as we started toward Lajitas. This section of the highway is low and follows the river. Then it got gross. The dusk caused all those little and big flying critters that live along the river to take flight looking for their evening meal. :eek2: Open face MX helmets and flying insects make for a wet sticky mess. It really felt like we were getting into a rain shower, we were getting pelted that much. One in particular hit just below my nose and the wings were fluttering up into my nose. It stopped as we climbed up the little hill into Lajitas. Riding in the dark, looking between the bug splats on the goggles, we made out way to the cabin.

The mileage count for the day was slightly over 300. Clean up was definitely called for before dinner.

Chris and Phil swapping tales.

We wanted something different so we opted for La Kiva. We loaded Perry into the Excursion and got there in no time.

Different is a good way to sum it up. The food was really good. Service? It was different. ALL drinks had to be personally ordered at the bar. Even iced tea or water. That was different for sure. I had a margarita. The bartender was pouring the tequila and stopped where he should have, looked at the bit left in the bottle and said, "oh well, this one is gonna hurt a little," and then he drained the bottle into my glass. He added a few drops of Cointreau and twisted a lime. :eek2: $3.50 I only needed one. ;-) The clientel.... different. Our late arrival has us sitting down for dinner around 9:30. It was a younger more lively crowd than at any of the other places we ate. This is were the spiked hair and the skimpy clothing comes late at night. And we found they were going to have a live band.....from Austin. So, we had to stay for that. The Rockland Eagles who apparently are regulars in the live music scene around Austin. I really couldn't tell ya if that's true or not. :shrug: They played a type of hard rock/heavy metal music that sounded pretty good to me, regardless of how strong a drink I had. The show went on 'till around 1:45.

The show over we got "home" around 2:30. I had no trouble getting to sleep that night.
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All good things come to an end. We had 4 good days of riding and covered a little over 800 miles. A lot of dirt and a good bit of pavement. One injury but it always could have been worse. We are already talking about the next trip, and even some next year. Stay tuned......and thanks for taking the time to read through the loooooooong posts. :rider:

Perry, get well and I hope you enjoyed reading this. You're welcome. ;-)

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Mar 25, 2007
:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
great write up, my boss may not thing so as I've spent a lot of time yesterday and some this morning reading from start to finish. I kinda wish there was more. Glad you guys made back safe, and I look forward to some day having my own write ups on similar trips
Feb 16, 2008
Liberty Hill
What a great trip!

Was I dreaming or were there some pics of the Terlingua Ranch HQ and restaurant? My wife grew up on Terlingua Ranch and her parents ran the place for many years. As a matter of fact, one of my daughters was christened on the patio outside the restaurant at the Terlingua Ranch HQ.

We were back there this summer...beautiful country. Nice write up. I bet there's lots of people pulling out the maps and scheduling vacation after reading this thread...:clap: :clap: :clap:
Great report :clap:
You going to join the Desert Rats down there over Xmas? :trust:
and....I'd like to find that route of your's on top the hill....... I'll show you the Reed's Plateau route.
I can't get any vacation during the xmas season. 23 years with the department and there are still too many with seniority in my position. :giveup: The way things are going I might be able to draw that time of year a couple of times before I retire. AFter that it won't matter. :zen:
May 5, 2007
San Antonio
Re: Day 4; New territory.

When Doug and I was there at that spot. We were drinking a bottle of water and eating a snack when we heard a bike start up. Down off the hill came the guy you are talking about on an XR400. He pulled up and asked if we would like to sit in the shade and have a cold beer. You get one guess what my answer was. We followed him up the hill there was his nice cover with chairs, ice chest full of beer and a table with a cage on it with four rattle snakes. He was a nice guy, but different. He would slap the cage often with a fly swatter and say sing to the snakes and they would all start rattling. I said he was different, but the beer was good and cold. He worked for a local ranch and live there. Nice guy living a simple life.

Good report, sorry for your accidents.

On a hill overlooking the end of the road sat a travel trailer with permanent power drop, a pickup truck, and a picnic table with a steel cover for shade. At the table sat a man and his dog who watched us the entire time we were there. :wary: I wonder who he pissed of to get that lonely assignment.

How many "deals" were arranged at this old pay phone. Would be nice to find an old recording device and listen in on history.
Jul 23, 2004
West Houston
Bruce, Reading you RR and setting here considering the next bike purchase. The roads in Big Bend, are they too umimproved to ride a DS like a BMW 650 or 800? The KLRs have more power but are heavier than your 400 Suzuki. Which is the better choice in the unimproved roads in BB? I am trying to figure out how much DS to opt for and of course how much pave road capability to give up.


Forum Supporter
Feb 24, 2008
Austin, Tx
Thanks for the bump.
I had not seen this report before. Thanks for the effort of placing the pics and describing the ride. Hope to make it for Feb.
Bruce, Reading you RR and setting here considering the next bike purchase. The roads in Big Bend, are they too umimproved to ride a DS like a BMW 650 or 800? The KLRs have more power but are heavier than your 400 Suzuki. Which is the better choice in the unimproved roads in BB? I am trying to figure out how much DS to opt for and of course how much pave road capability to give up.
Nice to see the old report come back to life. :-) All of the bikes you've mentioned would do fine on the roads in the the park. The heavy adventure bikes like the 1200GS, the Stroms, and the older Tigers can have problems coping with the sandy sections. Especially if you are there when the roads haven't been maintained in a while. HERE is a trip I took out there on a '96 Tiger which convinced me look for a lighter dual sport. You really need to consider how much highway you plan to ride in your dual sport adventures. If you are hauling to where you are riding and just need a street legal bike to get between trail sections then I'd recommend that you go light. If you plan on riding the bike across country on the road to where you plan to ride some dirt roads then the heavier bikes are the way to go.
Feb 4, 2009
Frisco, TX
Larger bikes should not have any problems.. for any bike... just stay on the throttle, sit back and use your butt for balance and your feet to steer.

There is only one spot in the entire area that I would consider it deep sand, and its not really sand, its more like deep silt with rocks under it... that is in Terlingua Ranch.. and a 2005 Tiger handled it just fine.

Nice to see the old report come back to life. :-) All of the bikes you've mentioned would do fine on the roads in the the park. The heavy adventure bikes like the 1200GS, the Stroms, and the older Tigers can have problems coping with the sandy sections. Especially if you are there when the roads haven't been maintained in a while. HERE is a trip I took out there on a '96 Tiger which convinced me look for a lighter dual sport. You really need to consider how much highway you plan to ride in your dual sport adventures. If you are hauling to where you are riding and just need a street legal bike to get between trail sections then I'd recommend that you go light. If you plan on riding the bike across country on the road to where you plan to ride some dirt roads then the heavier bikes are the way to go.