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Desert Rats' Xmas in Big Bend

Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Good water run Elzi. Looks like y'all saved some of the best for last.
There is no best, nor last. It was, is, all good, all are best, and will not be the last.

Such as this:

I just finished going through the photos from day five: Pinto Canyon and Ruidosa. But this cold is kicking my butt and I'm going to bed. Story and photos tomorrow.

Thanks for the water photos, Ed :clap: I got soaked! I thought Roger was going to fall off his bike from laughing so hard. Or I was!
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Pinto Canyon


Today was full of anticipation. Riding the Pinto Canyon Road in Presidio County.

Photos and accounts of riding this road had intrigued me for some time; it was of the top two roads I intended to ride this trip in the Trans-Pecos region. I was rewarded with a challenging ride and an eyeful of rugged rimrock and desert landscapes. It's one of those roads that you can't just ride once; it calls you back time and again.

Pinto Canyon and the road that traverses it are full of character and history, natural and cultural. It is named after the the brilliant colors of its jagged cliffs and which change in the daylight and shadows like live paintings. To the northwest, Pinto Canyon divides the southern edge of the Sierra Vieja, the most southern end of the Rocky Mountains in the US, and old volcanic Chinati Mountains to the southeast. Two prominent peaks of the fourteen-mile long Chinati range are the Chinati caldera -7,728 feet above sea level- and Sierra Parda -7,185 feet. These two peaks, which are close like conjoined twins, dominate over the Pinto Canyon Road horizon to the east.



A few miles north of Hwy 170, the road gradually winds up the Rio Grande basin drainage and then in between rimrock of Cerro de la Cruz (4,452 foot-summit) on the west side and Boulder Canyon which drains the canyon area down to the southeast. Further north, the road and the canyon dissect the bottom of a large caldera in the Sierra Viejas and Catherdral Peak (4,695 ft) in the the Chinati Range. One of the roads two stone bridges spans a deep narrow ravine running down from the caldera.


The road continues to climb and wind north, running up along the ridge that eventually connects with an outcropping of the Marfa flats, the remnant prehistoric bottom of a large sea before the continental drifts caused numerous faults to uplift the region to the south (the Big Bend area) and west (Rocky Mountains). Where the land flattens, so the dirt ends and pavement begins eventually ending in Marfa.


The first stop riding north from Hwy 170 was to absorb the mountains and ridges. The road on this gradual climb was well-maintained gravel. Shortly after riding out of a curve I spotted two horses in the road. I slowed by bleeding speed with the clutch pulled in, gradually put my boots on the gravel and killed the engine. Turning my torso slowly so as not to startle them, I dug out the camera and even more slowly turned back while pointing the lens at them for a photo. Pointing a camera with a big lens at a wild animal may alarm them; off they run for their lives. These two horses were as curious about us critters on two weird turning legs as I was about them. Ears forward they held their ground while we staged a standoff: who was going to move first?


Returning the camera to the tailbag, I started the bike and gradually moved forward, careful not to scare them. Startled animals are unpredictable and no telling which way they would run. The bike and I were still smaller than they were, I didn't care to run into a thousand pound body with kicking hooves. They didn't seem to be in a big hurry, so as I inched along in first gear, they trotted alongside us. Further up the road were a few other horses near a windmill off to the right . The two strays jumped the gravel on the side of the road and joined their hoofed buddies.

We were concentrating on the road whose elevation increased more sharply, curves became tighter and the rocks in the road were bigger and flat. For some reason I still don't know, I happened to glance in the left mirror and saw a familiar big blue KTM. David joined us for the remainder of the ride up to the flats.


On one steep incline, I was grinding up in first gear when the rear tire slipped and down I went. I thought I was doing fine on the hill climb and was feeling good about making it up when - whoops! This same scenario was repeated twice more on hill climbs during this trip: three-quarters of the way up, confident I'll make it to the top and - wack! I stopped on the way down and took a photo of the incline looking up (I think it was the right one; there were many). What the photo doesn't show are holes in the ground filled with loose flat rocks. The kind that bite you.


Rimrocks, mountain ridges and crags gave way reluctantly to sublime mesa top country: flat and green, covered with a beige fuzz of prairie grass. David turned around to head back and we rode the flats for a mile or so. When we turned around and headed back south on the road, I felt as though I had emerged from the Underworld and was now returning. Back into the bowels of the earth like Moby Dick diving down under the surface of the ocean. I took a deep breath, steeled nerves and tethered myself to the whale.


Gazing beyond and below, I wondered how much, perhaps if. The far-reaching network of slithering canyons, snake-like ridges, gaping calderas and crowning summits.........have they changed much? Or am I looking at the same view others before me, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, peered at, too? Or is this immortalized?


Greek mythology and modern neuroscientists assert that memories are the mother of imagination. Remembering the past helps us imagine and prepare for the future. But before me was looking back to the future.

Ancients seabeds, bones of giant reptiles, violent upheavals of stone and hot molten plasma from the bowels of the planet, early mammals, prehistoric humans, nomadic Indians, European-descended settlers, domestic livestock, marauding Indians and rebel Mexicans. The land is anything but desolate. Life springs forth and is extinguished daily here. Like day and night, the cycle continues here like any where else.

But here, it is raw, wild and less forgiving. Only life that adapts to the harsh terrain and climate calls this 'home'.


Archaeological findings in the canyon supply us with pieces of history before written language. We can only infer from those findings what and who lived and roamed here. Recently, cultural artifacts -burnt corncobs, projectile points, burned rock hearth, etc- have been discovered in rock shelters and dated 700-1535 A.D. Shelter ruins and abandoned ranches add to the puzzle. As we piece together remnants from the past, they aid the imagination of how those people lived and thus form memories for the future.

The road that dissects the two mountain ranges and follows the canyon has its own character: hundreds of years as Indian trails, road and hideaways for gunrunners, bootleggers and drug smuggling. It was a major but treacherous route from the towns on the railroads to the Rio Grande basin and Mexico.


Like the road connecting people and places, so does its history; providing a connection with the people, our planet, and ourselves. Pinto Canyon Road is more than a fun ride, its a road through time.

And I want to ride it again.

(photo courtesy of David)

Continued: Ruidosa


Keeper of the Asylum
Feb 28, 2003
Elzi, you HAVE GOT TO GET OUT THERE IN APRIL!! It is a totally different experience, especially when the bee farmers start putting out hives... :wary: :lol2: Hitting a swarm of bees at 40mph is quite the experience! :eek2: It is also astounding how many flowering plants there are in that area. I'd love to see your write up of a Spring trip.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Elzi, you HAVE GOT TO GET OUT THERE IN APRIL!! It is a totally different experience, especially when the bee farmers start putting out hives... :wary: :lol2: Hitting a swarm of bees at 40mph is quite the experience! :eek2:
Um, I can do without that :eek:
We wondered about the spots of hive boxes on the side of 170 (mostly the south side of the road). From what flowers do the bees gather pollen; cacti? I was thinking then that if that is the case, I'd like to taste the honey.

It is also astounding how many flowering plants there are in that area. I'd love to see your write up of a Spring trip.
:) A few days after I hitchhiked into Tuscan, AZ (all those decades ago), a very heavy prolonged rain magically catalyzed the desert into flowering. It was a spectacular wonderland. One I can't completely forget, but the memory has faded and I would love to see the BB region deserts in bloom.

One morning when we were all at Kathy's for coffee, socializing and campfire, who should tap me on my shoulder? My boss. He and his girlfriend were down there for a few days. When he returned to Dallas, he said he stayed in the house and didn't go outside for two days. He didn't want to come back, either.

That was his eighth visit there since he moved to the US and Houston several years ago from Germany. He is in love with Big Bend. He's also an imaging specialist, so his photography is professional quality. He's good and has chronicled most of the flora and fauna there (even a cougar). He told me the best time to be there is in April when the cacti are in bloom and offered to show me his photos.

I graciously declined, telling him that I have to see it first in person. I have to be 'there'. He understood.

I'll be close to 'there' in April ;) (TAR)
You are right. I need to see the area in bloom. It would be icing on the cake for an article I'm writing and the book.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Nowhere in Ruidosa


Afternoon light was fading when we reached Hwy 170 from Pinto Canyon Road. As is the nature of the desert, shadows contrasted with the late afternoon bright light. The store fronts at the junction were shrouded in the shadows but sun glared on an old water tank.


Not much here; no people around, no ambling dogs, no sounds of life. Only shadows and sun.

This is Ruidosa, Texas. The middle of nowhere.

The general store and cantina further down Hwy 170 betrayed that people lived here. Somewhere. But no one was here or there.


Character infused the store and surrounding buildings; tidy, colorful, plants in place, stone pathway, maintained adobe walls, and touches of creative structural adornment. Unfortunately it was closed with no sign of anyone nearby.



Hard to believe that the small town on the Rio Grande riverbanks was first populated by Mexican convicts in 1824. They were sent by the Mexican government to guard cattle and horses from Apache and Comanche Indians in the general area. But after they were massacred by the Comanches, the colony was abandoned.

Settlers moved there and established farms in 1872 with water from the creeks diverted in ditches. Farming proved productive enough to build a flour mill and, later, a cotton gin. Despite intermittent raids by the Apaches, the town flourished for the next thirty years. The population of the Ruidosa area in 1911 was listed at over one thousand people.

Probably due to the continual unrest and instability of the Rio Grande region -Indian wars and the Mexican Revolution- the population of the community was reduced to 300 in 1929; the cotton gin and most of the local businesses closed in 1936. By 1954 the post office closed and no businesses were reported in 1964. By 1968, and in 2000, the population consensus of Ruidosa was forty-three.

Ruidosa's gem is the historical adobe structure: The Sacred Heart Mission Church. Built in 1914 with community volunteer labor, the abandoned and deteriorated church outlasted the people in the community. One of the two adobe towers next to the entrance toppled in a storm and only the rafters remained on the roof. Alerted by concerned locals and history buffs, the Texas Historical Commission awarded a $30,000 grant to help restore and stabilize the structure with the contingency that matching funds be raised.


The church's three arches are are the largest existing rounded adobe structures in the state, the largest standing 18 feet above the dirt floor. Masons used round flat rocks as spacers to create the arches built of sand and straw bricks. Some plaster remains on the inside walls but most has flaked off.


Like most places in the desert, natural and man-made, the view from any angle can be intriguing and different with the changing sunlight. Life is all how you look at it, and this provided several ways of looking at life now and back then.

From the inside.......

and out.

A wide view of life...

or a narrow one.

The vast, tough and harsh landscape has its own gems and beauty. So do the man-made imprints upon the landscape. The entwined co-existance causes one to reflect once in awhile.


Now tired and hungry, the bikes were loaded in the dwindling daylight and.....
where were the keys?

Wiley rode with me this time and he was quite displeased that he fell down with the bike and covered with dust and sand. To state his displeasure he had absconded the keys and found a seat to rest and enjoy the last of the sunshine.


Driving back to Presidio on the desert floor, ridges towering in the distance on both sides, a bystander stood and stared at us from the side of the road. I don't think he moved an inch since we passed him from the opposite direction hours ago.


An attraction of living in the desert is the imagination, creativity, tenacity and originality you find in the people there. Sometimes you come upon something that just grabs you and strikes your fancy.

I especially liked this.


Next: Double Secret Dualsport Ride
Apr 1, 2007
Terlingua Tx


Tuff Canyon

Can you tell it was Christmas in the desert? We came across this row of Santa hatted agave on an un-named, un-mapped, semi-private road.

One of the places Roger showed us on the first day is Tuff Canyon. It is named for the rock that a quick internet search tells me is made up of volcanic ash. Tuff is a soft rock and the small canyon cut 40 to 50 feet deep in it is a nice short walk. As a group we just looked from above, the next day I set off on my own to hike in and shoot some pictures. The view from the rim looking in:


The canyon is not very long, from the overlook it is a short walk south and down to the floor. The walls are steep here, and pocked with lots of holes. I hear that people make a game of tossing rocks and pebbles and trying to get them to stay in the pockets. There were a lot of rocks in the pockets that day.



The view from the floor along the west wall where the cayon opens out to the flats. Ths is the south end and the entrance to Tuff.


Along the way the canyon widens and narrows, cracks, caves, and ledges decorate the walls.





Sometimes the shadows can play tricks..... Is that Waldo hiding in the shadows?


I found this basketball sized multi-colored rock on the canyon floor. Of course I left it there, only taking its image with me.


Tuff Canyon was a nice little walk, too short to call it a hike. As usual the pictures cannot convey the colors, textures, and scale of the place. I recommend taking an hour or so one day while you are in the park and exploring it. Here is a parting shot from Tuff, with her big sister Santa Elena far off in the distance.

Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
When I first saw that I thought, "Wow... a fossilized skull!!" :ponder:
It looks like the brain of a an ancient ancestor! See the line that divides the hemispheres? and the frontal lobe on the left? No convolutions* though, so it must be an early precursor :mrgreen:

Considering my penchant for rocks it would have mysteriously found its way into my tailbag. :doh:

Nice photos, Ed. Amazing to believe that it is a an ancient deep bed of volcanic ash. Imagine the amount of volcanic activity that spewed all that ash out. One heck of a fireworks show!
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Desert Rats' DS (squared) Ride


{background music of movie theme in The Good, Bad and the Ugly}

Not a long time ago in a desert far, far away
a dust storm raged.
A fierce wind ravaged the Terlingua desert.
But without a ride, no one
could stand to end the day.
The Desert Rats were creatures
of virtue and peace.
However, there were those
who held not the high regard
for riding dirt and honor.
This is not their story,
nor is it a story about anyone
from that desert.
This is a about another place,
a place not of this time,
a place not of this universe.

It is.........

The Double Secret Dual Sport Ride
also known as 'DS squared Ride'.
Starring The Desert Rats.

After much nose blowing, grunting and clattering of teeth in the cold, the Desert Rats piled into the Desert Mobile. Arriving at Kathy's Kosmic Kafe, the Rats and other lowly creatures, intruders, interlopers, and transgressors ate Rat food, drank good blackened bean water and squeaked with others around a pit of fire.


One of the Desert Rats base group departed that morning and with a heavy sigh of regret, they watched him ride his big Red Desert Wing towing a desert beetle carrying contraband sand and dust, down the highway on a secret mission.


As they watched him ride away, they honored Hardy the Rat with wishes of a safe journey.


Meanwhile, back at the fire pit, after stomachs were full, gullets washed and teeth picked clean and shining, the remainder of the Rats piled into the Rat Mobile and visited Jim the Pirate down the road.

"Yarrrr, matey!" exchanges of cheer were had by Pirate Jim and the Desert Rats.


Back at the official Desert Rat base camp, Rat bikes were readied and the Rats donned their desert gear. Today was the day.
The day of......
the DS squared Ride.
{harmonica fading in and fading out}

Roger Rat led the squadron, the Rats were armed and armored for exploration, discovery and battle. The wind was horrendous, whipping sand and dust up their noses and in their mouths and eyes. With face masks, goggles, sunglasses and helmets these Rats may have been Dirty Rats but they were shining in their desert glory.

"Hey, Dude. You look like a Stormtrooper."
"Rat, I'm not your father..... whoooosh, hisss"
"Okay, Darth Rat."

They crossed the highway and entered.........
the Terlingua Desert.
For Parts Unknown.

{tail end chorus of Eastwood music "Wha, wha, whaaaaaaa"}


The road climbed,
in sand, dust, stones, rocks and wind.
Wind and dust beat against their helmets.
Rocks grabbed at their tires,
their knobbies beat them down.
Their skin beet red from the blasting
sun, wind and sand.

But still they rode on.


Photo credit: David Rat

Stopping to regroup, Roger Rat and Ed Rat discuss battle plans while David Rat surveys the battle scene.


They rode on with mountain monsters hot on their trail....


and little green creatures with thorny ammunition.


Photo credit: David Rat

The Desert Bikes were trusty steeds of the Desert Rats.


With their cloaking devices sometimes in operation, they were able to elude fierce desert winds and mountain monsters.


At strategic lookout points, the Desert Rats surveyed their world below them. And stood in awe at the terrain they were conquering.
One of them wondering "Where the **** are we?"


Roger Rat led the way to a common trading and rest post in a secluded and sheltered canyon. It was called "The Hilton". Here, they rested.


Abandoned at the time, it was an interesting shelter. Built of loose rock...


outfitted for comfort.....


peepholes and remembrances tucked everywhere.


Roger Rat explains the long history of this place to David Rat while they relax and renew their energy.


Starting up again, the Desert Rats climb out of the gully on their trusted Desert bikes and gain altitude to reconnaissance the land and trail below and beyond.


The Rat with the camera hones in on a mountain monster, a sentinel to the desert for centuries.


A plan is hashed and drawn,


Roger Rat beckons the others to follow him to the Sacred Place.


Then deeper and deeper they go, they ride into an artery that carries the Life Force.


David Rat scouts for danger.......


and the group stops to rest after climbs and downhills, curves and rocks.


David Rat continues to wonder.....
"Hmmmm...... I wonder what lies ahead down there...... "


The Desert Rats sit, refresh slurping water, and chatter in the shade.


The Final Challenge: leaving the Life Force. It tries to keep them there, but one by one, they charge up and out of the Force, up the sandy rutted bank, out of the mud.


To continue on, where no Rat has gone before.

Eventually, tired and hungry, the Desert Rats reach a main highway and head into the wind and dust, pummeled with sand, they duck their heads and ride to Chili Peppers for grog and Rat Food.

They walk inside, faces covered with sand and dust, coughing and blowing their noses, laughing and chittering. The two couples at the table stop their conversation and stare. The girly waitress rolls her eyes and hesitates to wait on them.

The Girl Desert Rat bangs her fist on the table and hoarsely croaks;
"Bring me an iced tea. Unsweetened.
Bring us a pitcher."

Girly Waitress rolls her eyes in disdain. Beady eyes of the Rats dart back and forth, all around the inside of the restaurant, and a chill goes down the spines of the city slickers sitting at the other table.

"Dang, I'm hungry!!!" says Roger Rat aloud.

Fed, refreshed, bladders soon to be floating with tea, picking sand and grit out of ears and the corners of their lips, the Desert Rats don their gear and head back to base camp.

The Rats are honored again with David Rats mad camp chef skilz and they huddle around the fire camp fire pit, guffawing with stories and memories, lubricated by Desert Antifreeze.

Another night after a ride. But this ride was special. Into the unknown, the untamed and untold. It was a Double Secret Ride because no rat knew where the heck they were.

It was a ride to glory.

{Coyotes yip in the canyon below}

"Goodnight, Roger Rat"
"'Night, David Rat"
""Night, Ed Rat"
" Goodnight, Elzi Rat. And stop yipping at the coyotes!"
Jun 30, 2006
Extreme extreme West Texas (Provo)
: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.
That's one advantage of riding alone and with no severe time constraints. You can take as long as you want to take your pics. You can set up a tripod and take panorama shots, try different angles and camera locations, and do the thinking you describe. Because it doesn't matter what kind of camera you have... the more you put into the photograph, the better it will look.

Having said that, there are times when I don't have the time to get out my Olympus C-5050Z, which is almost a point-and-shoot, and sometimes I don't have it along because of its modest size and weight. So, I am thinking of buying a small camera like yours, just so I'll almost always have a camera if I stumble across Bigfoot, Nessie, a mermaid, a UFO landing, or a nice sunset.
Feb 16, 2007
Central Texas
That's one advantage of riding alone and with no severe time constraints. You can take as long as you want to take your pics. You can set up a tripod and take panorama shots, try different angles and camera locations, and do the thinking you describe.
Not to get off topic so PM me if you like. When photographing a panorama set, what is the trick for getting the photos in alignment? Is this done automatically or does the photographer have to more or less line the different shots up?



Inactive Member
Forum Supporter
Feb 18, 2007
Lost in space
Not to get off topic so PM me if you like. When photographing a panorama set, what is the trick for getting the photos in alignment? Is this done automatically or does the photographer have to more or less line the different shots up?

It helps to have the camera's base rotate on a plane parallel to the horizon. Then, use software to overlap the images. There is software available that will also allow the camera to be tilted, so the image can be panned vertically as well as horizontally, with the result being the ability to pan 360* on any plane.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Many cameras have a pan program. Exposure for the sequential shots is set with the first shot. Each shot of the series can be matched for overlap because all or a portion of the previous shot will appear on the monitor or in the viewfinder. Such cameras also have stitch software that comes with it.

Most of the Canon Powershot series (at least the upper-level models) have pan programs and stitch software.
Feb 16, 2007
Central Texas
Well:doh: I have a Canon SD550. I found the Advanced User Guide and in it there is a section on Shooting Panoramic Images (Stitch Assist). A sequence may contain up to 26 images. There must be a disk around here with some Canon SW on it.

Didn't even know this little camera would do this. Guess I'll have to try this out. Those are some pretty pictures out in Big Bend.

Thanks guys.

Elzi, how many images did you put in your BB panoramas?
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Elzi, how many images did you put in your BB panoramas?
Varies considerably. Anywhere from three and up. One had seven. The more shots the more compromising you will do (zoom, field of focus, overall size, etc) and the difficulty in selecting a complete image that is usable. When you start shooting with pan mode, you will discover why.

As someone (Lyle?) commented earlier, very important to have a steady hand and level reference point from which to rotate. And is more important the more shots in the pan series. A tripod in an enormous help, but a telescoping monopod, which is what I need to get, is a compromise.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Dirt Road to Heaven

The Day After the Infamous DS (squared) Ride and I think I had a lungful of dust and sand. I didn't feel like doing anything. I hurt and I felt like crap, tired of blowing my bloody nose. So I waved at everyone else as they rode out and played Dead Possum that day.

Except for when Rog and I went into town to visit the locals, sit and have a malt with cuppa Joe, I photographed around Roger's place. I mean, you wake up to that and what else do you need? You've got it all out in front of you.


Then, of course, there was *The* Road. That one. The one that led up, winding, and then disappeared. There. Staring at me all day, all night. The one that climbed the ridge, the scalloped ridge. Over there.


It called me {faint subtle harmonica music} like a siren. I was captivated.
I. Must. Ride. That. Road.



Meanwhile, everyone did what they wanted. Including me. Nothing.
And it was great!!!!

Tom and Don pulled in to join us. Desert Rats Anonymouse.
I caught Don as he pulled in. Tom rode in faster than a speeding GS, the photo was too blurred!


The sun shone on the Chisos and Christmas mountains before setting.


This pan a composite of nine photos... :eek2:

It was another fine day in the desert.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.

I intended to hike up Chisos Mnts and camp overnight on the rim. But with this head cold that plagued me, I postponed that adventure until another time. In lieu of that, we hiked the Lost Mine Trail. It was awesome.

I won't bore everyone with an account of the hike, except for a few passing photos.

This was not a hike you do in MX boots. We packed hiking boots on the bike and, well, this is what we did with our riding boots.

At one point on the trail, the road up through Green Gulch and into the Chisos could be seen. Just before the winding corkscrew part :trust:

Riding the 250 on that section of road, especially the last curve and just before descending down into the basin, is....... A BLAST!!!!!!

The panoramic vistas from the top is nothing short of breathtaking and awesome.

One more day of riding in the desert. Then the last day was my own private ride, solo on two wheels. I have only one or two photos to share from that ride.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Desert Rats' Playground


Every morning carried a sense of peace and urgency, anticipation and placidity, cold and warmth. That is the conundrum when one visits places in which your heart, even your physical being, is captured. Once taken hostage, there's no letting go. You are a prisoner of its past, present and future. It overlays your own presence and future so deeply that when you leave, you are never gone. When you return to the life you left, you can't just slip back into the mainstream. You've stepped through a door into another world like Narnia, the hidden closet door, and you can never really leave it. At least, not whole. Because a part of you is now a part of there. And it remains there until you return to reclaim it, to submit yourself to the essence of that place that holds your heart.

Two or three days in such places dosn't peel back the layers to let you sink into and immerse yourself. But seven, eight, nine days allows one to meld into the life and physical reality there. Like osmosis, you become a part of it, it becomes a part of you. If you let it.

Leaving is sometimes painful. Until you return. And never have to leave again.

The reality of leaving wouldn't hit us until the next day. I knew it would come; I've felt it many times. I didn't know about the others, but the next day would reveal a sense of unease and loss; that anticipation of leaving. Today was a day of homage, tomorrow would be a day of solitary commemoration. And sadness. Like leaving the bed of your lover; that warm bed and presence of love, fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction. It's visceral and spiritual. You don't want to leave.

As nearly every morning we woke to the sun chasing shadows across the ridges, mountains, canyons, arroyos, and cacti. The desert's color palette never ceases to amaze me. What some perceive as only a boring pallid and desolate landscape, some of us watch the day unfold and night ascend in every color imaginable, blazing or subtle. It's never the same. It's more alive than the bustling city I am tethered to every weekday.

Roger and David partaking in the ritual of nearly every morning: coffee, comfy chairs overlooking the floor of the barranca, sitting behind David's trailer sheltered from the wind.



In the rose-tinted golden sunlight of the morning, Tom and Don packed their bikes for the return home.




The rest of us piled into the Big Desert Ratmobile for breakfast at the Kosmic Kafe. Richard trying to impress a pretty visitor to the BB area:


Don and David discussing the merits of pink short buses:


We were sorry to see Don and Tom ride out. We enjoyed their company during their short stay.



Back at base camp Ed and I decided to do explore the local area. Like many small towns, Terlingua is full of character, both on the surface and underneath.


Riding north of the tourist-geared ghost town, we explored an area of small adobes and rock structures. Some of these were ruins from early habitation, others were homes for locals and very lived in. The juxtaposition of old and current was typical of an element that this area nurtures. Locals live with the geological and cultural history of the desert, integrating themselves just enough that old and current meshes and blends well. Large deviations are obvious and unsightly like a thistle in a rose garden.



Our little 250's were so agile and ready to ride and maneuver places in the desert. Paved street speed became a non-issue. These little bikes could go anywhere.


As always, no matter which way one turns their sight, the views are magnificent. By that day, I found myself easily recognizing the landmarks. While they had 'official' names, I had my own names for many of them.


We soon found our way in the Terlingua desert on the county and TRA roads. Leading, I turned and rode where my curiosity guided me. We came upon an adobe-style home in construction. Parking the bikes, we explored the details of construction and water catchment system.



Being an outdoor person, I admired the extended living space: the covered porches. The views were just fantastic. I kept thinking, "Oh yeah. I could live here...."


We rode on following various turnoffs and desert roads:


And then found *the* spot. The triple secret spot that would grow inside our heads like a snowball rolling downhill: a possible site for Desert Rats' Camp Base. The views were magnificent in every direction.



Close by were fun roads and canyons:



Wiley approved!!


And so did our bikes.


I explored the vegetation in the area and found one of my favorite cacti!! Um, a few of the Desert Rat gang already know what I've named these little thorny things ;-)


We continued on with our exploratory ride and found ourselves up a ridge that caught our attention earlier. The views were absolutely magnificent no matter which way you turned.



Again, there was *that* road again. The road that would claim me. And soon I would know.


The trail on the ridge emptied down into the Ghost Town where we sat on the porch for a break and cold drink. Then we made the obligatory stop at the famous Terlingua cemetery.




Daylight was fading fast. It was time.
Time to finally submit myself to *the* road: my Ridge Road. The anticipation was almost killing me.

Here she was:


And like Captain Ahab strapped to the big white whale, I gave myself to her.
I didn't stop to take any photos on the way up; I was too engrossed, immersed in the ride. Up on the ridge, the exhilaration was indescribable. The only reason we stopped was the large sign on a gate: Private Property. As much as I wanted to continue on, I honored their privacy. Then I got off the bike to see what I could see.



I smiled at the juxtaposition that we had just earlier ridden the ridge opposite to us.


Now losing sunlight quickly, we began the descent to the desert floor. I stopped on the side of the road to take photos where a level area allowed me to stop without careening over the handlebars.





Reaching the bottom of the canyon floor, the adrenaline controlled my right hand and opened the throttle open while grinning like a mad woman inside my helmet and "Whoohoooo!!!!!"s escaping uncontrollably from my mouth. I buzzed past Ed on the gravel road and barely stopped at the highway, just long enough for Ed to catch up and turn with me.

The adrenaline and Ms. Hyde still at the throttle, I whizzed past Ed in our lane, riding like a mad bee on the loose, gunned up Roger's road, speeding into camp and whooping like an Indian with a sardonic grin plastered on my face. AGAIN!!!!!

The road was mine. And we will be reunited next month.

I slept like a desert rock that night.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
The Roads Less Traveled

One of the greatest inventions since ice cream is Google Earth. And it's dangerous.

While browsing some of the topography of the roads we were on down in BB, of course I *had!* to check on the Ridge Road. Well, it is indeed a road that runs a 'ridge', but more appropriately it is more interesting than that.

It runs along the top of a fault and hugs the bottom of another fault. Huh?

Originating from the paved highway, the road is on an ancient limestone bed in a long draw: flat and fun. Then it begins to climb the very end of a two-mile long plateau: Reed Plateau. Steep and hairy.


It was created by uplifts from below the earth surface during the Cretaceous period and was a shallow coastal plain next to a shallow ocean basin (so may have dinosaur fossils). The hard limestone cliffs that rise above the draw floor are the first uplift, the second uplift rises above the first (3K feet above sea level).

After the road climbs the SW tail end of the plateau it bends back in the direction it ran before the climb, northeast, and along a shelf on top the first uplift. The south, or left, edge of the road hugs the base of the upper uplift and the very top of the plateau.


Exploring the edges of the plateau on Google Earth I realized I had parked the bike on top of a hill at the northern edge of that plateau the next day. A phenomenal view that overlooks the draw and Terlingua, the floor of an ancient ocean, with the far eastern view of the Chisos, Sawmill and Christmas Mountains. (photos of that will be posted later)

Looking at the three-dimensional maps on Google Earth made me feel as though I had just been on an airplane ride over that area, and gone back in time. Speeding forward, I pieced several stops and spots together where I had ridden and it all fell together.

All I could say was "Wow!"

I also found some gravel/dirt roads that climb the plateau on the other (eastern) side. :trust: Now I'm curious to see if they are navigable by bike. Maybe I should see if any other Desert Rats want to go exploring........ ;-)

Oh, and two other puzzling phenomenas I found on Google Earth associated with the side of the plateau near the road: several straight gouges in the land. The look too straight to be natural, but too big and inaccessible to be man-made. I wonder what they are....
And, the wash that runs near the base of the cliffs and down in the draw runs lightly UP the base of the cliffs! Now that makes NO sense...... I'll have to check that out, too.

Google Earth is dangerous for off-road riders.......... :rider:
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Re: The Roads Less Traveled

And, the wash that runs near the base of the cliffs and down in the draw runs lightly UP the base of the cliffs! Now that makes NO sense...... I'll have to check that out, too.
One last look and I figured that out: the cliff above drains the shelf onto the draw floor. That's why it looks like the wash 'climbs' the cliff. It doesn't; the water flows off the shelf there and washes the cliff face so that wash looks like it's running uphill.

So, spot marked to stop and check out next month on the bike!! :mrgreen:

Oh, and the canyon that wash runs through is awesome. It's like a beautiful tunnel. (another spot to stop on the bike)

Who needs Lewis and Clark when ya have a dirt bike??
Apr 7, 2007
53 sMiles south of Alpine
I can't thank you enough! Your pictures and commentary are superlative! We've lived here north of Study Butte for the last year and a half and are continually blown away by the beauty of this place.

You capture it in a whole new way and I really appreciate your hard work to share it with us all.

I'd feel so sad for you coming to an end of reporting your most recent journey, but I'm glad to know you'll be back in February.

Looking forward to meeting you then.

Feb 16, 2007
Central Texas
Elzi, You've done a fine job reporting your BB trip to all the readers of this forum. If you don't sell this adventure story to some publication soon you are pulling up way short of your capabilities. Your work is definitely professional quality.

IMHO you should be our resident expert on Big Bend.

Thanks for a job well done.


Inactive Member
Forum Supporter
Feb 18, 2007
Lost in space
Elzi, T-dub and I will be in Big Bend for a few days at Roger's Ride the Rio event. Chain and sprockets in mountain goat ratio are on. New back tire is on. Cables and swingarm lubricated. Barnett clutch is in. I'm taking a break from scraping engine cover gasket right now--my fingers are cramping. What does Yamaha make those things out of, anyway. Fresh oil and filter going in as soon as the case is bolted up. Tune up is next, then LED bulbs replacing everything except the headlight. I have a gnarly knobby for the front, new fork oil, and fork gaiters to go on Tuesday, after the TC M&G&E.

The only ride I have planned so far is the River Road that Ed posted about. T-dub and I will be thrilled to assist with the explorations. I'm hoping Adventure Bear will be able to join us. He will be good company for Wiley.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Thanks for the kind words, Gerry and Voni. After the ride down in BB next month, I intend to combine material -photos and narrative- from all three trips into an article to submit to a motorcycle periodical. Not Ride Texas (it seems that they always publish an article about destinations I just visited, right after I did. As if someone were following me. It's a bit bizarre.).

Thank you for the encouragement. :sun:

Now on with Day 10.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Commemorative Day


My sinuses and nose wouldn't let me sleep anymore. Having this head cold from Day Two (I lost track of days very quickly, and didn't care), I spent most of the nights blowing my nose or stuffing Kleenex up my nostrils to dam the flow. This morning I woke with undirected wayward energy. To avoid becoming a miscreant I decided early that I was going solo; I needed my own ride somewhere.

Apparently my mood was infectious or it had stricken all of us. The other sorry-looking remnants of the Desert Rats were sullen and moody. Camp was like a small bunch of wet rats bumping into each other while swimming in cold water.

David and I were the first ones up, barely up with the rising sun. After making coffee, we both watched its glow slither over the Chisos Mountains in the distant; a golden orange creeping over black silhouetted curves, peaks, sharp pointy mule ears and rolling lines.


Soon golden rays would bask the Mesa de Anguila, the magnificent and towering cliffs that ended at the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon, and turn them into a radiating wall of rose, gold and amber. Then the strong rays of the hot ball of plasma that turns our nights into day made their entrance like a queen.


Everything in camp was basked in amber and rose light as the sun began to climb the sky. The cliffs of the Reed Plateau across the draw floor to the west were aglow with colors. It was a light show that nothing man-made can best.


David, Ed and Roger went to Kathy's for breakfast; I stayed behind to get my dose of solitude and have conversations with the desert. With full coffee mug and camera, I explored around Roger's again.

I found some new buddies:




and a wash that drains Roger's little plateau down the draw and wash below. It was a chute of limestone shale, the bottom smoothed like a flagstone bathtub. The walls stacked with shale, all the loose sand long since washed out and down to leave a wonderful showcase of textures and colors.


I even found my shadow amongst them. It wanted more coffee. And grub!


Wiley joined me for breakfast; I think he was tired from frolicking with his fellow canines. I heard them yipping several times... of course, it didn't help that I edged them on and called them in on all three sides of us. *shrug* ;-)


I sat for awhile in Roger's Posthenge and communed with the desert.


When the others returned, some of us were snarling at each other. It was time for everyone to go off on their own for the day. A solitary communing with the desert on our last day there. And we all knew Roger needed a break from us .... :mrgreen:

Sherpie ready for the charge, water stashed with protein bar, tons of kleenex, fresh camera batteries and I was off. I headed east on Farm Road 170 (I proclaim we change it to River Road 170!)

Eventually I stopped at the Big Bend Ranch State Park center.


Had an enjoyable and lively chat with Ranger David. Roger was correct in that he's a good guy and a wealth of information about the area. He freely shared with me his map of north Terlingua desert and some local history. In response to an inquiry about future employment opportunities there with the park, he was encouraging. They just might have a position opening for a biologist........ :trust:

The courtyard is a desert garden that is like a magical land in itself. It's awesome.




Sauntering outside, the day was well highnoon, from the glare of the sun, and I wandered through the desert plant collection and up the hill behind the center. At the top I sat under a roof in the shade sipping water and enjoying the view overlooking Lajitus to the west, Rio Grande to the south and the center, mountains and ridges inside the park to the north.



Refreshed, I wandered back into the courtyard again with a different perspective:


and then spent the next hour inside the fantastic exhibit depicting and explaining the geological, natural, and cultural histories of the surrounding areas (the entire Trans-Pecos region). It was fascinating and answered so many questions I have had since my first visit. I highly recommend the trip inside.

Eating my food bar in the shade of the adobe, rock and timber porch, I washed it down with more water, geared up and rode on.

I just rode. It was just me, the road, the bike and the desert. Hardly any traffic and I felt as though it all was just mine. All mine. MINE! :mrgreen:

Heading back west on 170 I rounded a curve at the crest of a hill and...
Whoah!!!! I was so drawn into and absorbed in the views below and panned out in front of me as I rode down the road, I was lost. A mile or so later, when I finally came to my senses, I decided I needed to go back and do that again. So I did.

Turning around, riding up the hill and doing a U-turn, I approached the curve and the crest of the hill, pulled off the road to the side, parked the bike, took off the helmet and just stood there like a drunk. Awesome.....

I was able to captures something that may represent the view,


and got one from right in the middle of the road. Glad traffic was almost non-existent.


Now, this is Thirtyeight Hill. Why is it called that? I'd sure like to know. Perhaps it is associated with the Little Thirty-eight Mine nearby. I have the GPS coordinates of the mine; maybe I'll check that out, too. (Man, do I need a GPS! All these GPS coordinates and no GPS.... :doh: ) This hill is also the northern shoulder tip of Reed Plateau! Where My Ridge Road is.......

Riding back into camp, everyone seemed in better spirits. Camp Chef David outdid himself again with dinner. That guy is just amazing. :clap: :bow: :eat2:

We caught Wiley and Yotey howling at the moon, Wiley under the tutelage of the very best.


And we were honored with a nice sunset over the Chisos.


it was the last day, last night. We had a good day, good night in commemoration of our fantastic adventure there.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Start your own magazine... :-P
Lots of potential there, but I'm the worst person to start/run a magazine!

I'm the writer/photographer with a cloaking device that hides in a room with the laptop and coffee maker or escapes on a bike, incommunicado for days at a time ......... But a sponsor would be great! Then I can quit this day job :mrgreen:
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
I have the same problem. My life could use a good sponsor :-P
heheh. I need to buy a winning lottery ticket. :trust: I'll share. :mrgreen: (TWT Desert Base Camp.....)

I may have a break through soon. Not saying anything yet until the lead pans out, but at least a book is in the first planning stages. I might pm you for feedback.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Sometimes there is no road.


Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.

Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.

Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.
- Walt Whitman​

Big Bend and the surrounding area can mean, or be, different things to different people. For some it is nothing more than dry empty desolate vast landscapes, so empty that it sucks the very life stuff out of them. For many it was a life of servitude to backbreaking grind and painful work as they eked out a life for themselves and their families. For some it was fool's gold; take and rob from others and the land while the taking was good. Others seek the solitude and simplicity, willing to sacrifice luxuries for solace these big empty spaces offer, trading for risk and challenges urban people only read about in old books or watch in old movies.

Then there are those of us that seek places like this for something we can't see or obtain within the microcosom of our every day world. Is it just the roads? All we want is to ride screaming down the tarmac or gravel? If that is so, many other places closer and with less discomfort can appease that desire.

Than what is it? Why do we travel, by four or two wheels, hundreds of miles to ride here where there is, by many other perspectives..... nothing? Stop for a moment next time you are down there and ask yourself that question.
"Why am I here?"

It's not just the roads. Sometimes those roads are winding.....












and muddy.


Sometimes, there is no road.


It doesn't matter. It's more than just the roads, paths, and trails that draw us. It's an intrinsic, sometimes visceral, longing to be out there. In amongst the landscape and moving. Like a petulant and persistent pendulum inside of us, we have to keep moving. Moving into new tastes, smells, sounds and whispers. Even returning again and again to get more. Each builds a layer on the one before, and a foundation for the next. And our horizons broaden each time we do.

Maybe we can't go to Africa, Belize, the Amazon or Australia. But there are so many places around us, near and far, where we can go. Each can be our own adventure. Don't scale what is available to you to places that you may never visit. Most of us don't have the resources and freedom to gallivant around the world. But we do have the freedom to go places we've never been before. Even if it is only thirty miles away. All it requires is will and determination. If you have those, you can and will find a way.

Even if there is no road, follow your heart. You will create your own road.