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King Kong Hill

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Richard
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Gibbens
When someone says "Big Bend" most folks likely think of Big Bend National Park. It's certainly understandable why Big Bend National Park gets so much attention - with over 800,000 acres of scenic desert and mountains, it certainly deserves all the attention it gets.

However, there is another park in the region, one that until now has been completely ignored by the dual sport adventure community - Big Bend Ranch State Park, aka The Ranch. The reason the dual sport community has ignored The Ranch is that up until just a few weeks ago the primitive roads (4-wheel drive roads) in The Ranch have been off-limits to motorcycles and ATVs. But the rules have changed and now street-legal motorcycles can ride those roads.

I had a few days off so I called Uncle and asked him if he wanted to do some exploring (Uncle lives in Terlingua, out in the Big Bend region). Then I invited my buddy DirtMaestro (Shawn) along for the ride. DirtMaestro is a motocross rider, not a dual sport rider, but was eager for some adventure. On Monday we loaded up and headed west to Uncle's place with the goal of exploring The Ranch. Come along with me and I'll show you what we found.

DirtMaestro
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Uncle
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Uncle's Place
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Odie, Uncle's pet coyote - Odie guards the place and howls at everything
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The view of the Chisos Mountains from Uncle's place
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The Mule Ears
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Oh come on.... you can't tease of a Ranch ride report and then not post any pics of it!!! That's just plain criminal!:giveup::mrgreen:
 
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Before you can go exploring you've gotta eat. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Chile Pepper Cafe took care of our needs.

The Chile Pepper Cafe
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The appealing ambiance of the Chile Pepper
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After breakfast we loaded up the bikes and headed west towards the entrance to The Ranch.

There is a $3 per person per day fee to enter The Ranch so we stopped at the Barton Warnock center in Lajitas to get our permits and to discuss the primitive roads in the park with the Rangers on duty. The new rule change allowing motorcycles on the primitive roads the park is not yet fully understood by all the park personnel so we were advised to go to the park HQ and speak with the main guy in charge, Ranger Rick. Off we went to verify that we could really ride the roads we had in mind.

The main road into the park is a class 1 unpaved road that any passenger car can handle. If it's dry any motorcycle can probably ride it too. Along the way you will pass Ojito Adentro. Where ever there is water, there is life. Ojito Adentro ("little spring within") contains a variety of life not found in the open desert, including cottonwood, willow, hackberry, and mesquite trees.
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We arrived at Sauceda Ranger Station (park HQ) and had a interesting conversation. There were 2 Rangers on duty in park HQ and one of them told us that we were not allowed to ride our motorcycles on any of the primitive roads. Not good. Right after he told us that, Ranger Rick walked in and told us we could ride all of the primitive roads in the park. Very good. Glad we got that settled.

There is no gas, diesel or groceries available in the park. You can, however, buy a soda from the vending machine in Sauceda or get a drink of water from their fountain.

Sauceda Ranger Station
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With all the necessary preliminary stuff out of the way, it was time to get serious about the dual sport riding.
 

Rick M

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I am with Primate ,Dang,you went back again already ?
YOU ARE ADDICTED TO DUAL SPORT RIDING AND NEED HELP :eek2::eek2:
Dang, you went back already? I may have to go back soon also, to check on the lot I'm buying.:rider:
 
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Buda, TX
As the wife, I second Rick's statement. He is addicted and he does need help. He may also be in need of a place to live soon too, any takers? I would be willing to make a trade for him and or the bikes.
 

WoodButcher

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Hmm, does he do dishes and vacuum? If not, he's not going to be welcome here either.
 
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Uh Ohh!
You know an addiction is a disease and poor old Richard can't help it:zen:
He needs lots of Love and Support and maybe he will some day get over this addiction.
We here at TWT are trying to do our part, to see him through!:rider::rider::rider::mrgreen:
 
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Uh Ohh!
You know an addiction is a disease and poor old Richard can't help it:zen:
He needs lots of Love and Support and maybe he will some day get over this addiction.
We here at TWT are trying to do our part, to see him through!:rider::rider::rider::mrgreen:
Well said, bigdon.

As for you, Gigi, get back to work and quit stirring up trouble here on the forums. :lol2:

Now, back to our story...
 
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Well said, bigdon.

As for you, Gigi, get back to work and quit stirring up trouble here on the forums. :lol2:

Now, back to our story...
You are not the boss of me, I'll get back to work when I feel like it,

Don as for an intervention, I could invite the other wives and see how many of them want to include their husbands.
 
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Well said, bigdon.

As for you, Gigi, get back to work and quit stirring up trouble here on the forums. :lol2:

Now, back to our story...
uh that was said 14 minutes ago...... some one is slacking a little:giveup::lol2:
 

Rick M

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Sorry Richard,
Hope we are still friends,:lol2: by the way want to go riding this weekend or the next or the next or the next ????????????
I AM ADDICTED TOO AND NEED A FIX :trust::trust::rofl:
Rick M
As the wife, I second Rick's statement. He is addicted and he does need help. He may also be in need of a place to live soon too, any takers? I would be willing to make a trade for him and or the bikes.
 
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You are not the boss of me, I'll get back to work when I feel like it,

Don as for an intervention, I could invite the other wives and see how many of them want to include their husbands.
Now Gigi I'm trying to help you (hehehe) and you are starting to step on toes!:lol2:

Richard after that statement about her going back to work, you may need a few " Yes Dear" lessons!:rofl:
 
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Now Gigi I'm trying to help you (hehehe) and you are starting to step on toes!:lol2:

Richard after that statement about her going back to work, you may need a few " Yes Dear" lessons!:rofl:
If you don't want them stepped on get them the heck out of the way, I do not play nice. :box:

I do like the suggestion of the "Yes Dear" lesson
 
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And I clicked on this thread expecting to see some new pictures or a good story . The preceding post do not apply to me or Roger . SEYA
 
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Let's Get Serious

With all the prelims out of the way, we were finally able to do what we came here to do - find out what kind of dual sport roads The Ranch has to offer the dual sport community.

My map recon of The Ranch revealed 2 things. First, there aren't a lot of different dual sport roads to choose from and second they tend to be dead-end roads. They take you to some scenic overlook or camping spot, with one way in and one way out. That's okay and all, but I prefer not to have to backtrack if I can help it.

There are just 3 dual sport loops that can be ridden, either each loop by itself or all 3 loops joined together as 1 big loop. We elected to skip the dead-end roads and run the 3 loops as 1 big loop. It was a good choice.

We started off on the Llano Loop, west of the Sauceda Ranger Station. Of all the dual sport riding we did in The Ranch this loop was my least favorite. I don't think I would bother riding it again. It was easy, short, mostly flat and not all that scenic. Next time I will skip it and head straight for the good stuff.

At the end of Llano Loop we turned left and headed south on Madrid Falls Rd. This was much more to my liking. The road was noticeably tougher and had some elevation changes and better scenery. The park lists it as a "2 wheel drive, high clearance" road. In the dual sport rating scheme it was class 2, bordering on class 3.

DirtMaestro navigating Madrid Falls Rd
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Uncle on Madrid Rd, crossing one of many dry creek beds on the dual sport roads in The Ranch
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I dorked up this pic and the next one (wrong settings on my camera) and was able to salvage it with a little photoshop elements work.
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The intersection of Madrid Rd and Javalin Rd
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Things continued to get better as we turned west on Javalin Rd, which is the eastern part of the Rancherias Loop. A few miles west Javalin Rd turned into Rancheria Rd / Rancheria Loop trail. Rancheria Rd and trail are the same thing - the trail is the road and vice versa. The road appears to be completely unmaintained and was, by far, the toughest public road I've ever ridden. It was mostly class 3 with a short class 4 section. Very tough.

Rancherias Rd/Trail has lots of steep hills with loose rocks and deep ruts. Bring your A-game and a dirt bike as this road is no picnic, especially THE HILL OF DEATH
 
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The HILL OF DEATH

THE HILL OF DEATH

As we made our way west on Rancherias Rd, the road got progressively worse. The elevation changes became steeper, the rocks bigger, and the ruts deeper, wider, and more likely to ensnare your front tire causing you to crash. And, since the road was bounded on both sides by thorn covered bushes and cacti, even if you didn't break anything in a fall, you were sure to be pierced multiple times.

You need not fall to get cut or scratched; the vegetation was hanging over into the road and was unavoidable. I highly recommend thick boots, leather gloves, and hand guards.


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At the western end of the Rancherias Rd, just when I figured all the good stuff was over, we reached THE HILL OF DEATH.

Okay, maybe that's a little over-dramatic.

It didn't kill us, so "hill of death" might not be the best description. I will say that it was the steepest, ugliest, ruttiest, loosest rock, steep-ledged hill I've ever ridden a motorcycle on. It was just plain knarly. Yes, that means you should go ride it right away.
 
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The HILL OF DEATH

As anyone who has ridden with me before can verify, I tend to be the ride leader on stuff like this. I'm not sure why - maybe it's because the pilgrims are the ones who get the arrows shot into them so the other riders let me go first so if I crash they see what not to do.

Well, today was different. Ha! DirtMaestro was a complete dual sport newbie. He didn't know about the protocol. When we rolled to a stop at the base of the hill of death, I eyeballed it closely and reached into my tank bag for my camera. Maybe I could convince him he should go first so I could memorialize it forever.

"Hey, Shawn that's a heck of a hill. Ride up it so I can get some good photos", I said, as casually as possible.

"Okay"

Dude! He fell for it! Sweeeeet!

DirtMaestro dumped the clutch, peeled out, and headed up the hill like an angry doberman was snapping at his heels.

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489964129_U2nsR-L.jpg


Of course, my pics don't do justice. They don't adequately convey the steepness of the hill or just how rough and challenging the surface was. You can, however, see that it gets progressively steeper (and with more loose rocks) as it goes up.

While DirtMaestro was still working his way to the top, Uncle began his ascent. Near the top, DirtMaestro really began to struggle. The KLR was really having difficulty maintaining traction and the front end kept deflecting off the rocks littering the road. You can see the difficulties DirtMaestro is having in the following 2 pics.

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On top - DirtMaestro conquers the hill
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WoodButcher

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You are not the boss of me, I'll get back to work when I feel like it,

Don as for an intervention, I could invite the other wives and see how many of them want to include their husbands.
Oh God,I hope my wife doesn't read this!
I don't worry about my wife reading stuff here. I'm an admin and approve new accounts. Now if you see my username posting strange messages, just assume I'm dead and she has taken over :rofl:

Richard, that hill sounds great, but where are the pictures?
 
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Uncle's down

DirtMaestro disappeared over the top of the hill.

Just short of the top, Uncle ran into problems and dumped the bike.

489964648_PZWM7-L.jpg


Uncle picked the bike up as DirtMaestro walked back to the edge to have a look at what was going on.



Try as he might, Uncle couldn't get his DR350 moving again. There just wasn't enough traction for the bike to overcome the pull of gravity - the back tire was spinning but the bike wasn't moving upwards at all. So, DirtMaestro walked down the hill to see if he could help out.

489964951_RAt2j-L.jpg


At first they tried having DirtMaestro give a push assist to the back of the bike as Uncle tried to ride up the hill, but all that did was shower DirtMaestro with rocks. Eventually, they gave up on that idea. Uncle is not a big guy and the law of gross tonnage can't be denied so next they decided to see if DirtMaestro's additional mass would be sufficient for the back tire to get traction. Sure enough, that worked. With lots of tire spinning and cursing, DirtMaestro got the DR350 moving and, finally, over the top. Here's the view from the top. Looks easy from here, doesn't it?

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Now it was my turn.

I put the camera away and calmly rode my DR400 right to the top, without even so much as a single bobble, foot down, or miscue.

Yep, that's exactly what happened. Scouts honor. You would have thought I was a professional trials rider or something like that. (until somebody comes up with any pictures to prove otherwise...)

"Hey, Shawn, how do you feel about conquering the hill?"

489966109_CfwaQ-L.jpg


Now that we were on top, we needed to give the hill a name. To my knowledge we are the first motorcyclists to legally ride the hill so we claim naming rights. There is another hill in the Big Bend region, on Chispa Road, that was previously the steepest hill I had ever ridden. A couple of riders that Uncle knows recently rode that hill and termed it "Gorilla Hill". Well, if that hill was a Texas gorilla then this hill was the king of Texas gorillas so we dubbed it "King Kong Hill". So it is and will always be.
 
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On to Oso Loop

About a mile after King Kong Hill, we reached the western end of Rancherias Rd. It was time to ride the final leg of our dual sport journey - Oso Loop. This loop turned out to be a fine class 3 route, which seemed relatively easy in comparison to the class 4 hill we had so recently climbed.

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The rule change allowing motorcycles ride the primitive roads in the park is so recent that the signs haven't been changed yet.

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Oso Loop ended at the main park road signaling the end of the good dual sport riding. A 15 or so mile ride west on class 1 dirt was all the dual sport that was left this day.

Headed west to the park exit
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We did suffer one casualty during this trip - Uncle's license plate broke off earlier in the day on the road into the park.
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On the way out of the park, Uncle spotted the license plate lying in the road. What are the chances?
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Summary: I can faithfully report that there is 1 fine dual sport route in The Ranch, one worthy of a visit. My advice is to NOT ride Rancherias Rd on anything larger than a 650 thumper and to ride east to west so you ride UP King Kong Hill, not DOWN. I'm not sure I would want to ride down King Kong Hill - going up was plenty tough for me.


That ends the riding part of our story, but I've got a few more pics to post for your viewing pleasure.
 
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A few more pics

On the ride back to Terlingua we ran across a herd of pronghorn sheep (I think that's what they are) crossing the road. By the time I got my camera out they were climbing the hill next to the road.
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One of my favorite views of the Terlingua Area/Chisos Mtns
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Here come the clouds. The rain began a few hours later.
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A celebratory adult beverage at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant. I really like being able to shoot in low light situations without a flash with my new 50mm f/1.8 lens.
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The Chisos Mtns wearing a cloud blanket during a short rain break on Wednesday morning.
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And that ends my story. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.
 
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Round Rock / Austin TX
Richard thanks for the ride report. How about posting up some tracks so we can see where you went.

We have a ride planned for the end of the month (March).

Where did you stay on your visit?
 

WoodButcher

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Richard has a trailer down there at Uncle's place. Never needs to make a reservation or set up a tent.
 
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Richard thanks for the ride report. How about posting up some tracks so we can see where you went.

We have a ride planned for the end of the month (March).

Where did you stay on your visit?
Hi, Steve.

I didn't save the tracks as a route in my Zumo but they should still be on my unit. Let me check it out.

In the meantime, when you are getting your back country permit pick up a copy of El Solitario, the newspaper published by TPWD about BB Ranch State Park (I saw copies at the Barton Warnock Center and at Sauceda). It has a great map of all the roads in the park and clearly indicates the 4 wheel drive roads. I asked Ranger Rick the names of all the roads and simply marked the names on my map. All the roads in the park are marked, so all this together makes navigation pretty simple.

Like Rusty said, I have a trailer on Uncle's property in Terlingua and that's where we stayed. It was no problem riding over to Sauceda from Terlingua, getting our permits, riding the big loop, and then getting back to Terlingua in 1 day.
 
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Okay, I saved the tracks as a route. I think. If you want a copy of the route in .gpx format, tag me with an email: rgibbens AT austin.rr.com (change the word "AT" to the @ symbol and remove the spaces between the @ symbol and the words before and after).

If I dorked it up (which I'm known to do) then we will have to ask Rusty to square me away.
 
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Sorry Richard,
Hope we are still friends,:lol2: by the way want to go riding this weekend or the next or the next or the next ????????????
I AM ADDICTED TOO AND NEED A FIX :trust::trust::rofl:
Rick M
Yes, I want to go riding this weekend, or next, or the one after that. But I fear we won't get to ride together until Junction as I have another adventure up my sleeves before then... If you've got the week of the 23rd off and need a little adventure, give me a shout.
 
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Awesome pictures and report Richard!!! :clap: can't wait to try those roads, may have to get me a more dirt worthy bike, that hill looked KILLER!!!:eek2:
 
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Big A,

Thank you for the compliment.

I advise not riding Rancherias Rd on anything larger than the 650 thumpers. All of Rancherias Rd is pretty tough and a big adv bike is likely to struggle and be more work than fun. I think your GS would be fine on the other roads, though.
 
T

TJ1776

Re: A few more pics

Rich,

Excellent ride report and excellent pics! I wanna ride King Kong hill!

Jeff
 
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