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Desert Rats' Xmas in Big Bend

Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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...........
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2006
Messages
890
Location
Westfield, Texas
First Name
Chris
Last Name
Hardy
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.
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2007
Messages
891
Location
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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Katy
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Rebecca
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Nelson
: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:
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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:
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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.
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
317
Location
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.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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

Keeper of the Asylum
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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.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
870
Location
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.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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.....
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
317
Location
Terlingua
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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Joined
Feb 5, 2005
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2,092
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here and there, mostly there
First Name
Tony
Last Name
Eeds
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!
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
Messages
317
Location
Terlingua
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
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
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.
 
Joined
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Exit. Stage West.
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........
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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Cypress Tx
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David
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
Messages
39
Location
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
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
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Terlingua Tx
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Ed
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Hegarty
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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