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Desert Rats' Xmas in Big Bend

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The Maverick Trail

I finally have enough space on my hard drive to stitch a few pan shots together. But they are so inadequate.

One of the many lessons learned on this journey (afterall, that's what my trips are: to explore and discover) was that nothing can express or convey the expanse and vastness in places like the BB region. And I don't mean just the BB park. As a writer I try to convey not only what I see but how I see it; the mind's eye. I try to do the same with my photography, but my tools are limited. I need a good wide angle lens.

Nevertheless, both words and photography fall short of what exists down there (and other places). My ultimate joy is riding off-road through country like this. *That* is truly experiencing it. The only better experience is to live it; live there. I don't (yet), but I am grateful to people like Roger and Randy who do and truly know this country in all its flavors, all the good and all the bad.

I am just a visitor. But just like the dream I had as a kid of riding my horse around the country, riding a dirty bike around the country and getting out there off the driven roads is second best. And I sincerely thank Roger and Randy for being my guides and sharing their country with me.

So what I try to do here in my travelogues is to share it with others.

I have found that some roads capture me to the point of obsession. I must ride them, experience them. Just as Santa Elena captured me, so did a few roads (I use the term 'road' loosely). One is off the Maverick Rd. I found it on Google Earth. It climbs a short mesa which overlooks Terlingua Creek and Santa Elena.

I found the road but since the satellite image on Google Earth was taken, the split from Old Maverick Rd has been backfilled with desert debris. Nevertheless, it is still there; with an obstacle at the beginning. I predict that a small bike -80 or 125cc- could easily traverse the debris pile. Once over that, the rest of the trail is a piece of....... cobbler?

Next time I am there, that is a goal. I *will* get on top of that mesa. :trust:

SantaElenaMavrickRd1b.jpg


A view of Mesa de Anguila and the mouth of the Lady from the Old Maverick Rd.

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A view from up the trail on the cliffside overlooking the exit of the Rio Grande as it bends and the mountains to the north. The views from this trail are fantastic. My goal next time is for a perspective from the water, down in the bottom of the canyon.

SantaElena1.jpg


On my journeys and travels I like to approach and experience places as a blank slate. A huge white board where first impressions are painted and written all over it without the cultural and physical preconceptions. To me, this is how you experience anything in the moment, that first glimpse, smell, taste, melody. Because you experience it as it really is. Not a preconcieved construction in your mind which filters out many impressions, objective and subjective. Many people arrive with so many expectations they shut themselves off from really experiencing anything.

I arrive as a blank slate, but it is soon layered with impressions, stories, facts, and history. One of my favorite curiosities is geological history. If you look closely at the land you can often times read its history like a book. The cliffs of Santa Elena canyon are an open book.

SantaElena3.jpg


Now to go on to my future homestead in the cottonwoods. ;-)
 
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TS, I assume you were on the Sherpa. How did it fare?
I was riding Sherpie. A few lessons learned there, too.

1. Rear suspension sucks. I bottomed out a few times, once really hard. I know, it's not a 'real' dirt bike, but my options are limited because I am vertically challenged. So I hope to improve the rear suspension by reinstalling the stock links (previous owner lowered it with Kouba links) and looking into another shock or spring for the rear.

Another issue for me is not only am I short, but I weigh about the same as a big feather. When I sit on the bikes they barely sag. So what is too soft for most is stiff or just right for me. I will have to determine what will work for me on this bike.

2. It needs re-gearing. For the really gnarly stuff -rocky hillclimbs and decsents, water crossings, etc- first gear was like dragging an anchor behind me (as Ed aptly described it) but second gear it was not adequate. Many times the range between second and third was too wide; third gear would bog down and second was too low.

I'll have to determine how to change gearing by changing out a sprocket. I don't think changing both will be necessary. And I don't care if I lose top gear speed; I have a street bike. The Sherpa is my 90% dirt bike.

One time I let my chest get puffy was when four of us rode up a sandy bank from a dry creek bottom. I and the bike made it up easily and I had both feet on the pegs; no problemo. The others didn't have it as easy. As Roger said often, the Sherpas will go almost anywhere. (he has one, too)

On the other hand, I bit rocks three times going up steep rocky inclines. I would be 3/4's the way up, feeling pretty chipper and proud that I was going to make it up and down I'd go. While part of that was learning to pick the right lines, I suspect partly also due to losing grunt in first gear.

I rode it on pavement going up and down the road to the Basin, and then on a solo ride on several miles of the River Road (Hwy 170). She's a screaming ball of fun provided the winds are not too strong. I sure could use a decent windshield, though.
 
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TS, When you lay the Sherpa down, can you pick it up by yourself. That's the only drawback I have with the 650. It likes to go over, but I can't pick it up by myself. I am looking for something that doesn't weigh as much so I can pick it up if it goes over when I ride by myself.
 

Tourmeister

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Re: The Maverick Trail

On my journeys and travels I like to approach and experience places as a blank slate. A huge white board where first impressions are painted and written all over it without the cultural and physical preconceptions. To me, this is how you experience anything in the moment, that first glimpse, smell, taste, melody. Because you experience it as it really is. Not a preconcieved construction in your mind which filters out many impressions, objective and subjective. Many people arrive with so many expectations they shut themselves off from really experiencing anything.
Zen and The Art of Dual Sporting... It would make a great coffee table book... :trust:
 
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Re: The Maverick Trail

TS, When you lay the Sherpa down, can you pick it up by yourself.
Most of the time, yes. Once I was caught in a rut (pun unintended) and crashed to the side with my right foot caught under the rear wheel. Theresa was behind me and picked it up so I could get out from underneath (motocross boots are worth their cost!).

BUT...... I've learned that just like with Olympic lifting, if the bike starts to go past a point, don't try to save it. In OL, if the bar overhead loses balance, you can really hurt your shoulders and back trying to save it. Just let it fall by stepping out from underneath it. Same with the bikes. This happened when I went down a rocky hill with a sandy 90 degree turn. I didn't make the turn and the bike started to topple to the right. I tried to save it and pulled a muscle in my back. I finally decided to just aid it down slowly and David helped me pick it up.

I can pick the Sherpa up but the Whee, only 50% of the time.

Zen and The Art of Dual Sporting... It would make a great coffee table book... :trust:
Hey, now that's a great title, Scott. I like that. I'll consider it for the book! After all, that is the theme.
 
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Homestead in the Cottonwoods

Leaving the Lady we rode N up the Ross Maxwell Scenic Highway. Our first stop was the Cottonwoods campground which is just above the river's floodplain. Pulling in I was awestruck and all I could utter was "Whoah!!!!!". A grove of giant cottonwoods with their brilliant yellow fall leaves twirling in the wind, several mountain peaks lit aglow by the sun and several green-leaved oak contrasting all the mountain and yellow colors just blew me away.

Cottonwoods1.jpg

Immediately I envisioned a small humble cabin in the midst of the grove, dwarfed by the trees and mountain peaks and me living there. I think I would never leave if I did.

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People treasure, steal, kill and die for diamonds and gold. But to me, what lay before me was more precious than any of that. I wished (and still do) I lived 150 years ago right there, in a little cabin in that grove. A horse would be my transportation and I'd be happy.

It was too beautiful and beyond words.

I think Roger saw all that in my face because he kept grinning and asking me how I liked it. I was reluctant to leave but we had a date with ice cream at Castelon.

There were very few campers there. Maybe two tents and one small RV. Otherwise it was wide open. I think it may be a good spot to camp and spend a day around Santa Elena canyon sometime.

David, you really have to visit that spot sometime. I think you'll like it.

IMG_6735.jpg
 
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Top of the world

Sotol1.jpg

Continuing north we rode up to the top of a ridge for a view that would knock your boots off: Sotol Vista. Many prominent geographical points can be seen from here. And the road is....delicious.

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Mule Ears. Series of dikes shaped and aptly named like ears of a mule or horse. They were formed by molten lava flowing into crevices then the softer surrounding rock eroded away over centuries. Resulting spires and ridges are called 'dikes'. Many of these are all over the park area.

IMG_6746.jpg

Carousel Mountain. One amusement and interest I harbor is the naming of landmarks and places. Most of the names there have been accepted and in place for hundreds of years. Most names derive from terrain shapes or events that occurred on or near the location. Unlike modern trends, few are named after people. That, by the way, was mostly a European introduction. Indians used names associated with weather, legends, terrain and shapes. They were more descriptive names. The Spanish tended to use names associated with religious figures as well as terrain and its habitat. The Europeans seemed to be perpetually afraid of mortality and used names of people. Perhaps that immortalized people to them, or maybe they were just more egocentric: "We have to stamp our mark on the land! It's ours.!" We still do that; look at street names sometime.

I named the peak "Tiara Peak" because it looks like a tiara that would sit on a king's head. Ed named it "Castle Peak" because it resembles a castle turret.
Roger informed us of the official name. But notice how all of us used names associated with people. ;)

IMG_6747.jpg

The views are incredible from this vista. If you look closely at the background in the first photo above, a panoramic shot, you can barely make out the 'v' of Santa Elena canyon: 14 miles away by air, 22 miles by road. Ed and Roger absorbing it all. I think Ed was on the verge of sensory overload by that time.

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One of my obsessions, or passions, is light and dark contrasts: shadows. The desert here is a most obliging host for that; anywhere, anytime of the day. And it changes so quickly.

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Sotol2.jpg

Now if you look closely at the photo below, there are what appear to be two roads. I'll let y'all figure that one out. It's my secret ;)

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I caught Roger preparing a sermon for us.

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And his majesty overlooking his domain. ;-)

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Thanks for the guided ride, Roger. And sharing it all with us.
 
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Moon Valley

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So what does one do in the desert on a daily basis? It all depends on what kind of person you are. For those entrenched in daily visits to shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and instant entertainment, you may find yourself bored within a few days. The nearest shopping center and fast food strips are 100+ miles away. Instant gratification here is of a different kind than what we are used to, and many don’t share the tenacity to make do with what is available or enjoy their own company for long periods of time.

Regardless, we are creatures of habit. Roger is settled in his own routine, which he shared with us. Having breakfast in the mornings at Kathy’s Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe near Study Butte satisfies his belly and provides a dose of gregarious gathering around the morning campfire to visit with locals and visitors.

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Because I’m not a morning person until I have at least half a pot of coffee (early morning communication consists of series of grunts), I usually chose to linger behind at the campsite and make my own breakfast. Stiffly crawling out of the comfy sleeping bag and tent was sometimes a regret. Although days were relatively warm, nights were usually near or below freezing and long johns became second skin. I was reminded of living in Maine winters, so I quickly adapted wearing layers over long johns and shedding appropriately.

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After making breakfast I usually wandered down to the Desert Rat Pit, Roger’s campfire site on a well-chosen outcropping. I soaked in the solitude and scenery below and let my head warm up to a state of life, fed by fantasies of exploring every inch that I could see, on foot or on a bike.

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Of course, there was a road that grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. So every morning and evening my attention was drawn to it. It was almost, no, it *was* a visceral response. Like a hungry dog watching and yearning for a big juicy steak on the ground near by; not really able to lunge forward, grab it and chew on it, savoring each morsel as it was swallowed. I knew I had to ride that road.

IMG_6797.jpg

David was well acquainted with the Ridge Road (my name) having ridden it before and then again on this trip. I listened to his KTM 450 wind its way up the incline and on to the top of the ridge. His accounts of the road only fed my obsession with it.

But I waited.

The others rode in.....

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and we all geared up for a Roger Rat Ride to a place he called 'Moon Valley'. By then, the core group of Desert Rats on Two Wheels consisted of our Fearless Leader, Roger, David, Ed, Hardy and I. The five of us became a close-knit group of comrades. And I've never experienced such a great group of riding buddies until then.

We headed towards Study Butte and left the tarmac at the junction of Hwy 170 and 118, riding north on gravel roads. Shortly we entered a valley and we were suddenly in some other time and space warp. We realized then why the locals call this 'Moon Valley'.

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We stopped in the road to take the surroundings all in, which was almost overwhelming.

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The area north of Study Butte is an ancient bed of volcanic eruptions. Dark volcanic masses of igneous rock punctuate the terrain, uplifting from under the earth's surface. The volcanoes have long since eroded or been pushed asunder but the ash beds remain, imparting the white-gray landscape resembling a lunar scape. Ribbons of iron oxide skirt some of the hill bases and blocks of igneous rocks, called 'bombs', literally coughed up and out by the immense volcanic pressure contrast starkly with the soft white and gray.

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Here we were, standing on this 80 million year old limestone bed with a history bared before us that none of us can truly comprehend.

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Many fossils have been found in this area and petrified crayfish burrows imply that at one time this was the bottom of a shallow sea. Rumors claim that early NASA astronauts trained riding the moon rover here, but I haven't been able to verify that. I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

David must have hung back to take this photo* below before we turned around . I was too immersed in the landscape and my own private moon ride to notice ;)

DesertRats3-1.jpg

We left our own little lunar world and returned to tarmac to begin the hunt for blackberry cobbler and ice cream.

* Some of David's photos were downloaded on my laptop. With his permission, I'll post some of them with attribution and save him the hassle of fiddling with them. ;)
 

Tourmeister

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Just curious, did you fiddle with the exposure settings in that first shot of the Moon Valley, or perhaps do a little post shot tweaking? I like the contrast between the deep blue sky and the greyness, even if it is the result of some artistic enhancing ;-)
 
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Wow... Just WOW..... Those photos are simply amazing! Great shots Elzi, you did good girl!:clap:


TS, When you lay the Sherpa down, can you pick it up by yourself. That's the only drawback I have with the 650. It likes to go over, but I can't pick it up by myself. I am looking for something that doesn't weigh as much so I can pick it up if it goes over when I ride by myself.
Jerry, I just saw a DRZ400 in the "For Sale" section. That would be just the ticket if you're looking for something lighter and easy to manhandle.
 
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Just curious, did you fiddle with the exposure settings in that first shot of the Moon Valley, or perhaps do a little post shot tweaking? I like the contrast between the deep blue sky and the greyness, even if it is the result of some artistic enhancing ;-)
Thats what it looks like , when you slow down from warp speed and take it all in . All I can say is its awsome . Ten days of nothing but sun and blue sky . A high cloud did come by for about an hour one day . SEYA
 
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Just curious, did you fiddle with the exposure settings in that first shot of the Moon Valley, or perhaps do a little post shot tweaking? I like the contrast between the deep blue sky and the greyness, even if it is the result of some artistic enhancing ;-)
No, sir. No enhancements or changes, except to slightly crop one of the photos. That's what it truly looks like.
 
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Elzi, your photography gets better with each trip. :clap:

You keep this up and I will have to break out my camping gear. :eek2:
 

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I guess living here in the hazy Piney Woods of East Texas, I sometimes forget how deep blue the sky really is when there isn't so much "atmosphere" in the way ;-) It has been too long since my last trip out West... uh... May of 07? ... yeah, that is far too long!! I think you would have enjoyed the scenery in the Az desert where we were putzing around ;-)
 
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Cobblering in the Basin

Lured by promises of delicious blackberry cobbler, the Desert Rats ascended upon the park, paid their dues, and ran the maze like good rats do. Our destination: the Chisos Mountain Basin.

This was the first time for two of our pack to visit the Chisos and the well-known Basin. I was not prepared for the meandering uphill road through Wonderland. The park road winds through a canyon, bordered by green trees and an assortment of desert and mountain plants. The transition from the desert floor to the heart of the Chisos Mountains was like riding through a magical tunnel. Gaping the entire way up, I merely followed the rat trail but deciding that I would return another day to ride and experience it in graduation. And I did; it was my Xmas present to myself.

We pulled in behind the Chisos Lodge and parked the bikes along the curb. They were dwarfed by the cliffs overlooking the lodge.

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We probably looked like a group of desperadoes coming in from the long hot dusty trail, which in a sense we were. Only we rode bikes rather than horses. Regardless, our waitress seemed to take us in stride and was friendly as we all ordered cobblers with ice cream and coffee. No beers, no whiskey, no stealing women and children, or shooting holes in the glass walls. We were pretty harmless Desert Rats, although we once in awhile heard the echo of Clint Eastwood-harmonica and twanging guitar.

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While waiting for food and coffee to arrive, I stepped out on the front deck that overlooks the basin bowl below and the basin rims beyond. The views were awesome, and I did feel as if I were in a bowl. As long as it is filled with blackberry cobbler and ice cream, I don't mind.

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Having our fill of vittles and good coffee we rode back to base camp and the ritual of sitting in a close rat circle behind David's trailer to block the wind. Steve and Clayton joined us at some point. Steve rode his Wee Strom and Clayton, if I recall, was torturing little white balls with sticks on a desert floor somewhere nearby.

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Later, we sauntered down to the Rat Circle to enjoy a campfire and sacrificial story telling. Because the camera was on the tripod while I shot the full moon, I sneaked a video documenting the ritual and an expounding of campfire BTUs.

hehe. Sneaky Rat I am.

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Because I'm such a cold weenie and this desert road riding is such hard work, I was usually the first to excuse myself and crawl into the tent. Trust me; planning on how to remove outer clothing and immerse yourself into a warm cuddly sleeping bag in short a time as possible to avoid shivering is an art. I had plenty of opportunities to master it.

Sometime in the middle of the night, several times, I heard my buddies out there yipping and chorusing on the desert floor. Sometimes close. It was like a lullaby to my sleepy head as they sang me back to sleep.

Under a bright desert full moon.

IMG_6878-1.jpg
 
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Elzi, your photography gets better with each trip.
I practice what my Dad taught me: bracket, bracket, bracket. ;) I have ~ 1600 photos from the nine days. Not just because I bracket most of the time, but because I want to, and try to, capture almost everything I see there.

At some point on a ride later in the week I muttered to Ed, "I can't take anymore photographs. I'm burned out."
I lied.

I thought of you several times, wishing you could mentor me on macros. My few attempts were 90% failures. But those that did work are fantastic.

So get your camping gear out and get out there with us sometime!!!! No more excuses! :mrgreen:

I guess living here in the hazy Piney Woods of East Texas, I sometimes forget how deep blue the sky really is when there isn't so much "atmosphere" in the way ;-) It has been too long since my last trip out West... uh... May of 07? ... yeah, that is far too long!! I think you would have enjoyed the scenery in the Az desert where we were putzing around ;-)
Big Bend area suffers from pollution and haze, too. Some days worse than others. The day of the dust storm was bad, but that was our most awesome ride!!!! (our Double Secret Dual Sport Ride ;) )

Scott, my first love affair was with the Arizona desert, outside of the Tuscon area and then north up to the Mother Canyon. I was barely 18 yo then. Similar to the transformation experienced by Ed Abbey and Joseph Krutch, I was smitten for life. It just took me a few decades to move down to the southwest.

BTW, a polarizing filter on the camera lens helps to filter haze, enhancing contrasts. We can see it with the naked eye but capturing it with a camera is difficult without a polarizing filter. I hardly ever remove that filter off the camera anymore.
 

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BTW, a polarizing filter on the camera lens helps to filter haze, enhancing contrasts. We can see it with the naked eye but capturing it with a camera is difficult without a polarizing filter. I hardly ever remove that filter off the camera anymore.
:tab When I was still using the Nikon SLR, I had the same filter on most of the time. However, I now carry a 6 Mpix Canon Elf about the size of a pack of cigs. No filters for it. The trade off is that when I was carrying the bigger camera, I took fewer pics because it was such a hassle to carry everything, get it out, take the pics, put it away, etc,... The Nikon took fantastic pics! The Canon takes acceptable pics :shrug: Time is always the enemy. Good pics take time for me. I have to really think about what I want to capture, how to do it, what the light is like, etc... When riding with other people, I get to self conscious about constantly taking so much time and holding up everyone else.

:tab What are you using?
 
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The trade off is that when I was carrying the bigger camera, I took fewer pics because it was such a hassle to carry everything, get it out, take the pics, put it away, etc,...
Time is always the enemy. .....
I 'see' photos, images, all the time I am out on a ride or hike. I know instantly what I want in the frame; the composition is instantaneous. I routinely bracket for exposure; most times. Usually two shots are enough. And sometimes just one does it. I don't mess with using the LCD monitor and rely almost completely on a viewfinder that gives me a preview with set exposure and focus. I'd like to think I'm quick, but I know I'm not as quick compared to a simple and smaller point and shoot. But there's always a trade-off.

When asked I always tell someone to choose a camera that is convenient. Or they won't use it. I compromised with a Canon Powershot IS3. Not a full DSLR, but is more compact and has many more features than a point and shoot. I keep it in my tankbag, retrieved it and have focused and shot with one hand while the other hand is pulling in the clutch on the road.

I've added an extension tube which can accommodate filters and lens extensions (a wide angle lens extension is on my wish list). My biggest gripe is no cable release; I used one often on the old Nikon SLR I have. Instead I have to use the self-timer which is better than nothing and I use it exclusively for tripod and low light shots. And the sports burst mode rocks!

There are times I wish I did have a smaller point and shoot to use and I am considering a smaller Canon for carrying on the Sherpa. David's Canon (S650?) did a good job and I'm considering one like his. And it has a viewfinder.

I really want a medium-format Hasselblad :mrgreen:
 

Tourmeister

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I 'see' photos, images, all the time I am out on a ride or hike. I know instantly what I want in the frame; the composition is instantaneous. I routinely bracket for exposure; most times. Usually two shots are enough. And sometimes just one does it.
:tab I have often wished that I had a bionic camera eye that could snap the view I see with my eyes. Too many times, I have been zinging along and see a "shot" and then in the next instant I am already moving on. If I could just snap the shot right then, when and as I see it, I would be so happy. Get home, plug the USB cable into the back of my head... download...

I really want a medium-format Hasselblad :mrgreen:
:tab We might have to start a fund for that :lol2:
 

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:tab I have often wished that I had a bionic camera eye that could snap the view I see with my eyes. Too many times, I have been zinging along and see a "shot" and then in the next instant I am already moving on. If I could just snap the shot right then, when and as I see it, I would be so happy. Get home, plug the USB cable into the back of my head... download...
Same here. I'll be riding along and smitten by an awesome view, only to turn around and not be able to capture the emotion. Maybe that's why they are called "memories" and not "thoughts."
 
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:tab I have often wished that I had a bionic camera eye that could snap the view I see with my eyes. Too many times, I have been zinging along and see a "shot" and then in the next instant I am already moving on. If I could just snap the shot right then, when and as I see it, I would be so happy. Get home, plug the USB cable into the back of my head... download...
:rofl: Too funny! I have often voiced the same fantasy, along with the flash drive I can insert into my brain and remove. (I 'compose' many essays/posts/etc in my head when riding)

I mentioned the bionic eye idea to someone on the trip (don't remember who) and I got a very weird look. When I mentioned the brain flash drive too, he stepped back. ;-)
 

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(I 'compose' many essays/posts/etc in my head when riding)
:lol2: I do the same thing, kind of writing the story as I go along, noting things of interest and how to work them into the narrative. Then when I sit down with my pics later, I start going over the story in my head and it all comes back to me. My biggest problem is trying to figure out what to leave out so I don't write a freaking book :doh:
 
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:lol2: I do the same thing, kind of writing the story as I go along, noting things of interest and how to work them into the narrative. Then when I sit down with my pics later, I start going over the story in my head and it all comes back to me. My biggest problem is trying to figure out what to leave out so I don't write a freaking book :doh:
I have the same problem. What I find helpful is to leave it for a day or so, proof it and edit out the extraneous, or edit for conciseness.

Of course, I haven't been doing that in this thread. :lol2:
But I am for the upcoming book :shock:
 
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In interest of the original Desert Rats, I located the triple secret desert base site on the map. :trust: Now to do further recon on status. Guess I need to make a run up to the Terlingua lodge...........
 
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TS, Love your pictures & story that goes with them. I've been to most of those places, but you bring a new view to them. All your ramblings would make a great book.

I'm glad to see others use a viewfinder. After a crash & killing my HP camera, I went looking for a new one. Most do not have viewfinders any more. Cannon was the only one I could find. Just try to take an action short in the sunlight with one of the little screens. I ended up with a SD600, great little point & shot camera.

Rear suspension sucks. I bottomed out a few times, once really hard. .................................

On the other hand, I bit rocks three times going up steep rocky inclines. I would be 3/4's the way up, feeling pretty chipper and proud that I was going to make it up and down I'd go. While part of that was learning to pick the right lines, I suspect partly also due to losing grunt in first gear.
One of the most important things you (or anyone) can do is correct your suspension for your size & riding style/ability. You need to seek out a good suspension tuner in your area. And I underline good. Your 250 can take you any place you want, with practice. More than likely your suspension caused you to fall not the lack of power.
 
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Central Texas
TS, You've met the photo/ride report challenge well. The Big Bend photos are some of the finest I've seen. They make me want to drag out my old 35mm slides taken about 40 years ago with an SRT 100 Minolta camera. Forty year old slides will probably be faded out by now though. That was back when I camped with wife & 1st born. Today however I will leave the camping to you kid out there. I prefer not having sand in my food & bedding plus I like having a commode close by.

Thanks for the story.
 

Squeaky

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:rofl: Too funny! I have often voiced the same fantasy, along with the flash drive I can insert into my brain and remove. (I 'compose' many essays/posts/etc in my head when riding)
If there's a way to rig it, maybe a mic in your helmet that feeds to one of those little memo-recorders? Hit a button on the bars, record a thought or two, and keep moving. Offload it all later and transcribe.

Not that I'd know how to rig something like that up, but there's LOTS of gadgety folk on here... :trust:
 
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TS, Love your pictures & story that goes with them. I've been to most of those places, but you bring a new view to them. All your ramblings would make a great book.
That is my project for the next 3-4 months. The daunting part is what essays/posts to include and choose photos. Any travelogues will have to be considerably shortened for such a book with photos. Pages with color photos are expensive to print.

I'm considering the Canon SD670? The next model up from David's camera. I checked his out; its a good one for photographing on a dirt/dual sport bike.

One of the most important things you (or anyone) can do is correct your suspension for your size & riding style/ability. You need to seek out a good suspension tuner in your area. And I underline good. Your 250 can take you any place you want, with practice. More than likely your suspension caused you to fall not the lack of power.
That was mentioned during the trip. Next weekend I intend to reinstall the stock links on the rear (it was lowered by previous owner), ride that and see how it goes. The shock or spring can probably be replaced with a better one. I know from the forums that many Sherpa owners replace both fork and rear springs.

I'll talk with Cliff and see what he suggests (and that I can afford).
Thanks for the feedback, Chris.

Thanks for the story.
Thank you!
I'm not done yet..... :trust: :mrgreen:
 
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If there's a way to rig it, maybe a mic in your helmet that feeds to one of those little memo-recorders? Hit a button on the bars, record a thought or two, and keep moving. Offload it all later and transcribe.
I've pondered that over the last year or so. A good voice recorder (digital) compatible with a mac is ~$200 or more. And I have no clue on how to set it up to record inside my helmet.

But that would be the ideal system! I had some interesting and amusing conversations with myself while on the road for two weeks last year. Including composing a song about riding on the road for hours, which is exactly what I was doing. I had to keep myself awake somehow.
 
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Feb 21, 2005
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Terlingua
Hey Elzi... sorry we missed you. We only came out of the boondocks one day and you and Ed were MIA when we visited Roger's place that evening. I see you had that machinegun camera roaring again! Great pics. We only rode our bikes two days, and never left TR on them.

Uncle Roger... it was great to see you again and I really enjoyed getting to visit w/ you at the Chili Pepper and again down at your place. Thanks for the hospitallity.

Hardy and all the rest of the guys... it was great to meet you all even if I can't remember all your names! I swear the poor memory has nothing to do with Knob Creek.

Randy
 

Tourmeister

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:tab I have a voice recorder (Olympus DS-2000) that can be set for voice activation or push to talk. It is about 3/8" thick, about 1-1/2" wide and maybe 4" long. If you get the right mic for it, you could easily have this sitting in a pocket while riding. I tried it at one time by hooking it into my communicator mic but that just did not work well. I was trying to make it so that I could hear myself in the earphones while speaking (like your phone). I found that not being able to hear yourself really messes with your head because you are never sure if the voice activation has kicked in :doh: Back when I had time to explore roads when I was looking for good tour routes, I kept it in my tankbag where I could get to it real quick. I would note the road numbers, my thoughts about the road, etc,... Then I downloaded all that to my PC so I could have an archive for later reference when planning trips.

:tab It uses a USB cable so data transfer is fast. I still have all the original packaging, instructions, software, etc,... It came with an 8MB SmartMedia memory card, but I bought a 64MB card for it. It will hold 22 hours of commentary on 64MB card in long play mode and 10 hours in high quality mode. A long comment usually ran about 30 seconds. So you can get a LOT on here ;-) I have not used it for several years but it still works. I just put fresh batteries in it to make sure. I use rechargeable batteries in it normally though (AAA). Batteries last a LONG time. There is a 3V DC socket in the side of it if you find the right size adapter. It is yours (TS) if you want it.
 
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Hey Elzi... sorry we missed you. We only came out of the boondocks one day and you and Ed were MIA when we visited Roger's place that evening.
We were in Pinto Canyon late and then stopped to eat in Presidio on the way back. I was bummed when we returned and discovered I'd missed you, Rod and Anne. :(

Next time, I hope?

I swear the poor memory has nothing to do with Knob Creek.
Huh? :ponder: What did you do.......?
 

Tourmeister

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Well... I did say you could have it if you want it... as in no charge ;-) I figure I'll get more use of of it by giving it to you so I can keep reading the reports :-P PM me a shipping address and I'll get it to you.
 
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Round Rock / Austin TX
It's really a pleasure to see a little of Big Bend through someone else's eyes for a change. Thanks for doing such a good job sharing your experiences.

Most of the locals mentioned I'm proud to consider friends of one kind or another.

Some of the other locals will curse me when I'm on my bike and buy me beer when I'm in civilian clothes. It's just one of those places.

We've enjoyed hundreds of hours and thousands of Big Bend miles over the last decade and it is still a destination of choice every chance we get.

Visit Big Bend and enjoy it any opportunity you can make!!!!

Any help you need with any Big Bend questions, any time, just ask.
 
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A Desert Rats' Xmas in the Basin

I crawled out of the bag and quickly donned layers before losing heat to the cold inside the tent. This ritual became a game which I mastered within a few days: the sheepskin I brought to keep my outdoor chair warm was a rug next to my bag and mattress, warm layers piled together, right side out on top of the sheepskin covered by down vest, hat with gloves in mesh pocket overhead, thick wool socks (if they weren't already on my feet) rolled up next to my sandals.

I slept in long johns which were rarely too warm. So while on my back, I slid my upper body up and out of the bag with lower body still warm inside, pulled on one to three more layers, then pulled each leg out of the bag and slid it into sweats or polar fleece pants. Socks and sandals followed, then hat and gloves. Down vest topped it off if needed.

Then out of the tent to see what I could see. And the views out of the tent were awesome. Roger's right; waking up to this every morning is like having a feast laid before you.

Since I'm a hypersensitive receptacle for sensory input, I feast on the changing light as the sun rises (and sets). Rainbows of light chasing shadows across the desert floor and creeping across the mountains, colors constantly changing on the faces of ridges, mountain and ridges silhouetted against the skies. It is a feast that one can never tire of.

The waning moon rose later and remained higher in the sky before the sun chased it over the western horizon. I hungered to see Big Bend under a full moon and my wishes were granted this trip. It hung high over the desert awash with rose-tinted early morning sunlight.

Desertmorn1.jpg

And the desert sands began to gleam a golden color as the sun rose higher over the Chisos.

Desertmorn2.jpg

David was usually the first one up and about and graciously started the big coffee pot. Some mornings we had both his pot and mine going. A few of us were hardcore java junkies (me....). The others trickled out from their sleeping cocoons and went to Kathy's Kosmic Kafe for breakfast. I hung out at base camp and made my own. It was my time to absorb the morning changes in all their glory. I would either sit and contemplate things while enjoying breakfast and coffee, or meander around and explore.

One of my little buddies:

IMG_6792.jpg

While the rest of the crew was gone, I decided my course of the day and prepared.

To be continued.....
 
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Huh? :ponder: What did you do.......?
I deny all charges and accusations! Actually, I didn't do anything. Since we had planned the day around visiting some of our local buds around Terlingua, we transformed the Excursion into a rolling Party Wagon. After lunch at the Chili Pepper we meandered down to Lajitas, saw a couple of freinds down there, came back to The Porch, handed out some Xmas presents and partied w/ some of our freinds there. Then we invaded Roger's place. Got to see Hardy running around in his longjohns. From there we went to the Starlight for dinner and then on down to La Kiva to party w/ some other freinds. Got back to the ranch at midnight.

Randy
 
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TS, it was great to meet you and the gang at Kathy's!

Hey Randy, wish I had had time to stop by, but I was the leader and my followers were more often that not in front of me.

Someone tell Roger to shave his beard or identify himself. I didn't recognize him!
 
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TS, it was great to meet you and the gang at Kathy's!

Hey Randy, wish I had had time to stop by, but I was the leader and my followers were more often that not in front of me.

Someone tell Roger to shave his beard or identify himself. I didn't recognize him!
Hey Tony! Blast it, I didn't even know you were out there or I would have tried to hook up w/ you. Shoulda made Cedar Springs one of your rides! You know how lonesome I get out there.

Randy
 
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Desert Rat's Xmas in the Basin

Chisos3.jpg

The days began to blend together. It wasn't long before I lost track of days. Sense of time was quickly shed once I was on the road heading down there. One time when stopping to fill up the Sherpa's gas tank at the local store in Study Butte, I asked someone inside what day it was. She smiled and shrugged: "Don't know! And don't really care." I empathized remembering the many days in the woods of Maine that bore no name or numerical date. Many days and weeks over several years were seamless, punctuated only by the sun and moon or weather changes.

I found myself subconsciously slipping back into that mode of timelessness. There, it is called 'Terlingua Time'. It is quite comfortable and I can adapt to that quickly. Whereas most people used to living in the city can't seem to. I tried to explain this to one of my fellow riders that lives in the city. I think he understood, but I caught him unconsciously stuck in the expectations and constraints of 'city time'. People don't hurry down there; there's no need to. So don't expect them to, especially for your sake.

After the others returned from breakfast I was reminded that it was Christmas Day. That had mixed responses from me. My family is elsewhere, I live alone and I'm not religious. Thus I don't subscribe much to everyone else's expectations and observations of that holiday. I've been known to go off somewhere alone, such as the Oregon coast or the woods, and enjoy my own solitude. It was my present to myself.

This year's present was to ride up to the Chisos Basin alone and take it all in unhindered, on my own time. Gearing up, packing camera and water in the tail bag on the Sherpa, a book to read and my journal, I was ready to roll out. The others had their own plans and I rode part way to the park with Ed who had decided to do a similar solitary ride.

Passing the empty park station at the west entry, I rode the now familiar Maverick Road to the Basin junction. There I began the seven-mile drive to the Chisos Basin. The road winds up through Green Gulch to Panther Pass, then descends down into a basin within the Chisos Mountains. The bottom of the wide canyon which the road dissects is shrouded with green vegetation in contrast to the relatively barren desert floor.

IMG_6974.jpg

Shortly after the road junction desert plants typical of the Chihuahuan Desert mingle with woodland plants such as pinyon pine, oaks and junipers. The road is like a magical mystery tour: cacti and succulents growing under pines and junipers, sparse grasses filling in holes on the canyon floor. On each side and in front are massive jagged stone ridges, their bottom skirts bejeweled with green trees to contrast the colorful and stark stone cliffs.

IMG_6942.jpg

It reminded me of a scene in the Lord of the Rings movie where the Ents, a race of giant trees, befriend the hobbits. And more appropriately, the Rockman in Harry Nilsson's The Point. Rockman attempts to explain to Oblio, banished because he lacks a pointy head, that simply because one does not have an apparent or visible point (on the top of their head) they are not in fact pointless. (the moral of the story is "The point of The Point is that everything has a point, even if that point is to be pointless.")

No, the giant stone cliffs didn't talk to me, but their whispers of grandeur could not be ignored.

IMG_6991.jpg

Green Gulch was heavily grazed by sheep and goats raised by ranchers in the 1930's and early 1940's. Overgrazing and several years of severe drought in the '40's and 70's nearly denuded the lower canyon. The toll on the oaks and pine was devastating. Return of normal rainfall and protection against domestic grazing have allowed mountain vegetation to gallantly recover. Because of the more protected terrain and cooler micro-climate in the Chisos high-country, the canyon has fared better than lowland areas of the park which suffered the same fate of overgrazing, farming and drought.

Switchbacks wind up to Panther Pass, the highest point on the road: 5,679 feet above sea level. Because of the extraordinary micro-climate of the Chisos it is a biological island in the Chihuahan Desert. A few plant and bird species can be found only in this special biological habitat. I was too overwhelmed at absorbing everything on a grand scale to really observe the small details like birds and other little creatures. 'I guess I'll have to come back again; and again', I thought, smiling.

IMG_6979.jpg

I pulled off the road and stopped to just turn around in a complete circle and absorb the vistas. Like a cyborg on reconnaissance, I even used the camera's zoom to check out details on the cliffs.

Chisos1.jpg

When confronted with the warning sign for bear and mountain lion, I paused to wonder. Cougar? Panther? Puma? Panther is the zoological term for any big cat, but Panthera is the genus name for leopard and jaguar. Or do they mean the jaguarundi, a smaller cousin of the cougar which roams southern Texas and Central America? No matter; watch out for big cats.

I would have liked to spot a Mexican gray wolf, but they were hunted to extinction generations ago. The icing on the cake would have been a black panther, or shall we say 'black mountain lion' (cougar). Any large cat can be black, or white. Many generations ago black panthers, all jaguars, roamed the southern stretches of the US. Natural changes in habitat and encroaching humans chased them south into the jungles or they were hunted for their hides. Black pigmented hair, melanism, is more common in jaguars (a dominant gene) than the other cats. But black cougars have been documented in this country (my sister and BiL saw one in NY). Like the mythical white buffalo, a black cougar would be a treat to see.

Finally reaching the ridge of the Basin, I stopped to admire the vistas below and around me. What a sight! I was on the rim of a big ancient giant bowl! Surrounded by rockmen!

IMG_6960.jpg

Look closely at the winding road here: (wheeeeeeee!!!!!!!)
IMG_6982.jpg

By that time my stomach was growling. A bowl of cobbler with ice cream and a tall sweaty glass of iced tea were swimming in front of my eyes. I rode down into upper basin to the lodge where the parking lot was full. I would have thought people had better things to do on Xmas day than be at the Lodge!

I found a buddy to park the Sherpa next to: a baby blue BMW with a side car. It was an older model but was in excellent shape.

IMG_6986.jpg

Sitting outside on the deck I ate apple cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream and enjoyed a glass of iced tea. It was sunny and warm and the most beautiful day to do whatever I wanted. And I did. I basked in it all. Smiling.

Self-portrait:
IMG_7012.jpg

Ed joined me later on while I was sipping a coffee; the warm sun made me sleepy and I wanted a jolt to stay awake for the ride back to camp. We geared up and headed back. The Basin and Maverick Roads melted away under our wheels and we arrived back in time to join in the holiday meal festivities.

Ed made cornbread and David, the Camp Chef Extraordinaire, fried a turkey. The dinner was outstanding!! Feasting in chairs outside we decided to wait a while before desert: Dutch over Black Forest Cobbler. Steve and Clayton had picked up ice cream earlier in the day, so it was all complete.

The center of action:
IMG_7018.jpg

Camp Chef Extraordinaire, David:
IMG_7027.jpg

Hardy and a masterpiece:
IMG_7023.jpg

Topped it all off with a few glasses of Desert Antifreeze around the campfire and I would say, in all, it was a heck of a good day.

Near the end of the day I felt like I had missed something all day. I did; I hadn't ridden any desert dirt other than Roger's road and I felt like someone had yanked a lollypop out of my mouth.

The next day would make up for that: Pinto Canyon Road.
 

Tourmeister

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I seem to recall that only a few years ago a man was killed by one of the big cats in the area. Word was that it was a mountain lion.
 
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I seem to recall that only a few years ago a man was killed by one of the big cats in the area. Word was that it was a mountain lion.
Jaguarundies would be too small to kill a fit human adult. A cougar on the other hand is another story.

Not a pleasant way to go. One reason why I'm not in favor of hiking unprotected in such areas. If you know what I mean........
 
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Years ago while hunting near Fairfield I saw a large black cat trot across an opening one morning . I wasn't very good at sitting in a box waiting for Bambi to step out so I was half asleep and didn't realize what it was till it was gone . I didn't know what a treat it was till reading your story .

I wait patiently for you to add to this thread each day , it helps to lessen the shock of being back in this world and work after being on Terlinqua Time for ten days . Almost as good as being there . Thanks ... SEYA
 
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
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39
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terlingua tx
A big thank all of you that showed up to share my little bit of paradise. To those that didn't make it, there is always next time. By then I'll have more double secret roads to add to the list. Most all the roads have names thanks to the 911 system, but very few have signs on then. Tim I have not been able to figure out as yet the road you ask about. Guess I'll have to keep riding around until I stumble upon it. Looking forward to meeting more of you in Feb. at RTR. Roger Rat
 
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Fulcher Road

One of the great things about a huge place lke Big Bend is that you come across small pieces of it that are great fun in their own right. Fulcher Road is one of those little gems. It became a regular short cut back to camp in the afternoons. A short mix of rippled, packed gravel, curves that beg for powerslides, loose livestock, and one water crossing.

We all enjoy TexasShadow's words and pictures so much, but rarely is she on the other side of the camera. I had the idea to sprint ahead of her and set up at the water crossing to document her fun in the creek. You can almost see her grinning right through the helmet.

Here she is on the approach:

img013.jpg


img014.jpg


Deep water for an area in a drought!

img015.jpg


img017.jpg


Good form on the exit, on the gas!

img018.jpg


img019.jpg


I am chomping to get back there! :rider:
 
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