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Expedition Big Bend 2.0

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During our first attempt at riding across the Coahuila desert of northeast Mexico during Thanksgiving week 2017, JT and I were stymied by one particularly bad road. (You can read our report from that trip here.) Dissatisfied with having to miss the section between Boquillas and Manuel Benavides I decided that the next time I had chance to attempt the back way to Big Bend I would give it a go.

That opportunity arrived Christmas evening 2017. JT, Mark Winer, and I met up in Del Rio, Texas and then spent Dec 26th and 27th making the trek across the desert and around the mountains from Acuna, Mexico to Ojinaga, Mexico.
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On Christmas afternoon, my wife and I loaded my Husqvarna 701 into my truck and headed west to Del Rio. Our plan was to meet JT and Mark in Del Rio that evening. I have one of those newer mid-sized Chevy Colorado trucks and my adventure loaded and ready 701 fit nicely in the back.
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I originally parked the 701 outside our hotel room…
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…but my wife was nervous that it would be stolen during the night so I moved it inside the room to alleviate her concerns.
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JT and Mark both arrived safely in Del Rio, ready for an adventure.
 

Vinny

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You still have the 500 also Richard?

Looking forward to the rest .
 
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For a long time (years) I have wanted to do this route. The challenge, at least for me, has always been fuel. It is 500 miles from Acuna to Manuel Benavides, with no known, guaranteed fuel supply between here and there. However, now that the international crossing at Boquillas in Big Bend National Park has re-opened, the town of Boquillas, Mexico is revitalized and gas is available, a fact JT and I confirmed when we were here in November 2017.

So, JT, Mark, and I gassed up at the last Pemex on the outskirts of Acuna, pointed our bikes west, and headed for Boquillas about 8 am on Dec. 26th. Yes, it was cold – the morning temperature was about 40 but the forecast said it was going to warm up to somewhere in the 50s.

Our first stop was the small village of Santa Eulalia, about 40 km west of Acuna. The little store was closed but we didn’t really need anything anyway. We stretched our legs, made a few adjustments of our gear, and then headed west.
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The first 100 miles or so of the route is desert. The rocky road is well maintained (for Mexico) and a lot of fun. Very few people live out here, so we didn’t pass many houses. However, there is one settlement that is interesting – it appears to be a resort/lodge of some type. My guess is that it is a hunting camp.
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We passed very few vehicles but there were a few. These two were the most interesting. The old yellow truck was towing the newer black truck but as they attempted to climb this hill the chain broke/came loose and they were stuck. I waved as I went by – after all, I was on a motorcycle and wouldn’t be able to help with towing activities.
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It had been a wet and cold winter, as evidenced by the many ruts in the road. They were everywhere.
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The ride was quite interesting but it was dangerous to spend too much time sightseeing. You never know when you will encounter something like this mangled cattle guard. If you came flying through here at 50 mph and didn’t stop in time, it would end badly.
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Aside from that, the riding was great! I highly recommend this ride.
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Mark on his new-to-him KTM 690, showing how it’s done.
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Dahveed

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We passed very few vehicles but there were a few. These two were the most interesting. The old yellow truck was towing the newer black truck but as they attempted to climb this hill the chain broke/came loose and they were stuck. I waved as I went by – after all, I was on a motorcycle and wouldn’t be able to help with towing activities.
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He didn't need help. He was probably going to go behind this guy and push. He already had his protection on the front bumper. :mrgreen:
 
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One of the interesting things about this route is this abandoned village. I don’t know when or why everyone moved away but this village was deserted the first time I came through here more than 10 years ago. There are a few folks here – we saw one of the buildings being used by the security patrols (see our Expedition Big Bend report from Nov 2017 for more info on our encounter with a security team).

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After a few hours of riding, the temps started to rise and it was time to remove a layer. Though it had obviously rained a lot in the last few weeks, today was a very nice day.

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Around 2 pm we reached the small village where we were able to find a small store and some chicken tacos on our last trip through here. Unfortunately, the woman who runs the store and makes the tacos was off visiting with her relatives, so no hot lunch for us.

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I settled on some salsa verde flavored Tostitos to hold me over until our arrival in Boquillas several hours from now.

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We were able to get the fellow that owns this house to sell us some gas. While we were sure we had enough to get to Boquillas, we knew that it would be close and if anything happened along the way it would be very possible to run out of fuel. We didn’t need much – just a few liters each to make sure we weren’t pushing the bikes the last mile or two into Boquillas.

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While we were re-fueling, these two young fellows were practicing their vaquero (cowboy) skills next door. I couldn’t resist getting a photo.

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It was time for an afternoon drink. The goats came back in a herd and headed straight for the water trough.

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After our break, we waved good-bye and headed west. About two hours later we reached pavement at Hwy 53, the main highway between Boquillas to the north and everything else to the south. Hwy 53 is the main road used to get supplies to Boquillas from the town of Muzquiz, about 180 kilometers south of Boquillas.

This is looking east from the intersection of the dirt road (which we had just ridden) and Hwy 53. The sign says born, live, die, always chivalry (roughly).

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It was time for another break. As luck would have it, JT found this abandoned car seat to rest on.

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This is Hwy 53 looking north toward Boquillas. The road crosses the mountains – and is quite entertaining. Once on the other side, it’s back to desert riding.

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The final stretch into Boquillas has just a little bit of sand to keep you honest.

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Once in Boquillas we set about finding food, lodging, gas and adult refreshment. Luckily we knew where to find a room. The restaurants were all closed so that option was off the table. We were able to find the guy who runs the one bar in town and he agreed to open up for us.

Aside from that, we saw no evil, heard no evil, and spoke no evil.
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Nice update . How do the big bikes do with regular gas ?
I'm not sure if JT's XRR requires higher octane gas. For Mark and I, neither of our bikes had any issues with regular gas. Maybe because Mexico gas is 100% gasoline and not an ethanol blend? In any case, it would probably be a good idea to bring a little bottle of octane booster next time, just to ensure there aren't any problems.
 
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StromXTc

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Richard, great report , thanks!

Saw, hear, and spoke no evil. What did the little dog say, or was he there to keep you honest as you say:mrgreen:

Fantastic pics
 
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Richard, great report , thanks!

Saw, hear, and spoke no evil. What did the little dog say, or was he there to keep you honest as you say:mrgreen:

Fantastic pics
After the photo the little dog hung around and said things like:

"I see you are eating chicken. I likes chicken too."

and

"Mmmm...jerky. I bet it tastes really good..."
 
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We woke at sunrise, refreshed from 10 hours of sleep. We packed the bikes and then headed over to one of the two local restaurants for a bit of breakfast before the day’s ride. The day was brisk and cloudy but no rain was in the forecast. It was time to ride.

This is the dirt road joining Boquillas to the rest of Mexico. The road is mostly two-track, as you can see, and is poorly maintained at best. We are headed south in this photo, over one of the more interesting sections of road.

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About 25 miles south of Boquillas, the road turns into pavement. A few miles later, you reach this intersection. If you continue south you will end up in the town of Muzquiz – a town where a group of riders and I enjoyed a most interesting adventure many years ago. Today we were heading west toward San Miguel.

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As a reminder, here is our two day route. Riding from east to west, the T intersection on the track is where the turn to San Miguel is located.

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The road to San Miguel is pavement. Beyond that it turns back into dirt and stays dirt until the town Manuel Benavides, a bit more than 100 miles west of here.

San Miguel turned out to be a fairly decent sized town – at least as big as Boquillas – that appears to have everything the motorcycling adventure rider needs.

A church for your adventurous soul
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Gasoline for your Mad Max machine. If you want, you can enjoy a Coca-Cola and some Fritos while you wait for your gas to be topped off.
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A well established restaurant (hey, it’s even got a sign on the highway pointing the way)
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The ladies at the restaurant told us they had rooms to rent. We didn’t look at the rooms but we did make a note for future reference.

With all the services available in San Miguel, I’m thinking it’s not necessary to ride all the way to Boquillas, unless you just really want to ride to Boquillas. If you ever decide to ride this route, you could likely get all your essentials (food, gas, room) in San Miguel, at typical Mexico prices, versus riding the extra distance to Boquillas and paying the much higher tourist prices. There isn’t anything in Boquillas that I can think of to recommend it over San Miguel. The road to Boquillas isn’t a spectacular “don’t miss” road and Boquillas itself isn’t particularly compelling. Heck, even the two restaurants in Boquillas are closed on Monday and Tuesday since the border crossing is closed on those two days and there aren’t any tourists to serve. So, give that some thought when you come this way.


After leaving San Miguel, things got really fun - the dirt road from San Miguel to Manuel Benavides is quite entertaining. This was my first time to ride this road (I missed it during the first Expedition in Nov 2017) so I was really glad to be riding it today. While I truly enjoy the dirt road from Acuna, I liked this road more. The terrain, scenery, and road surface are more varied. There is more dirt and sand on this road than on the road from Acuna. In any case, I think this road is definitely worth riding.

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This sign is about the terrain, animals, and plants in area. As far as I know, this area is not a protected or ecological area.

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Mark crossing a dry creek bed outside a small village
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This lake in the desert was the most surprising thing I saw on this trip. I was riding along, in the desert, minding my own business, rounded a corner, a Bam!, there she was, a big ‘ol lake in the desert.

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After taking a picture of the lake, I turned around and took a picture of my bike so you could see the terrain I was riding through when I spotted the lake. It is representative of the type of terrain we had been riding through most of the day.

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A short time later we arrived in Manuel Benavides. There is not a Pemex gas station in Manuel Benavides but you can buy gas from a local selling it from a 55 gallon drum. However, the guy who has sold us gasoline in the past said he didn’t have any gas because the Mexican authorities are cracking down on non-Pemex gas sales. This, if I understood him correctly, meant that he had to pay the local authorities a fee to continue selling gas out of a 55 gallon drum and he didn’t want to pay the fee. He did send us to another place in town that was selling gas out of drums (presumably they are willing to pay the fee for gas sales) and we were able to top off your tanks.


From Manuel Benavides it is an easy pavement ride to Ojinaga. The border crossing took too long (a personal complaint I have with the USA’s border crossing process) but after successfully re-entering Texas we enjoyed a pleasant ride to Terlingua and the end of this adventure.
 
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Tejas 1300

The backcountry discover routes (aka BDRs) are very popular right now and getting more popular with each passing year as new BDRs are added to the list. Well, as you may know, Texas does not have a BDR route.

This was on my mind during both of our recent expeditions across northeast Mexico. To my thinking, a Texas BDR route worthy of the BDR name would have to include both the Texas hill country and the Big Bend region. Those are the two best adventure riding areas in Texas so it makes sense they would both need to be in a BDR route.

The challenge, as I see it, is the transition between the hill country and Big Bend. In a word, it is boring. There is not much dirt riding between those two areas and the pavement transitioning between the two consists of mostly long, straight highways. Nobody really wants to ride several hundreds of miles of boring highway in order to enjoy both the hill country and Big Bend. To make matters worse, you have to ride those hundreds of boring highway miles twice - once to get from the hill country to Big Bend and then again to get back to the hill country. It's not terrible doing it once, but it dampens the fun a lot knowing you have to do it twice.

With this in mind, I propose the following solution: the Tejas 1300, the first international BDR-style route.

The Tejas 1300 is a six-section, 1300 mile international BDR-style route that includes both the hill country and Big Bend plus the northeast section of Mexico that JT, Mark, and I rode in our Expedition Big Bend 2.0. By including the two day route across Mexico you will you will enjoy a lot more dirt riding, avoid having to ride the pavement between the hill country and Big Bend twice, and experience riding in some of the most remote areas of Mexico and Texas.

The Tejas 1300 begins and ends in Kerrville, TX and includes some of the finest paved and dirt roads in the hill country, Big Bend, and northeast Mexico.

I will be writing more about the Tejas 1300 in the future as I continue to work out the logistics. In the meantime, I'm wondering who will establish lifelong bragging rights for being the first person ever to complete the entire Tejas 1300?
 
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Tourmeister

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:tab Texas is freaking big. I don't think ONE BDR route would really be any good. Don't discount East Texas either. While it lacks some of the more impressive scenery, it does have some challenging riding, especially dependent on the weather! The problem, as you identified, is the "gaps" between the interesting areas to ride. Maybe there should be a BDR-1, BDR-2, etc,...

:tab Musquiz... "interesting adventure"... :lol2: Have you been in contact with Paul's family in recent years?
 

StromXTc

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Perhaps a bdr that would be interesting that would go clear across could include a gulf coast section all the way up to Port Arthur Texas. From San Antonio, trace the Guadalupe River via the lower mission valley road to port lavaca then up the coast road to Galveston and Ferry Crossing over to Port Arthur. Any way you cut across it, you are going to have to pound the pavement sometime and put up with the 99% private property. Would be an epic journey for sure. End with a crossing of this monster
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Start at el Paso, end in port Arthur. WOW!
Yes, the further east, we run into greater civilization and multi millions of humans.
 
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