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October in Big Bend

Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
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Half of our group arrived late Saturday, October 19. We arrived at the gate Sunday afternoon in plenty of time to enjoy the evening. Two trucks with 2 bikes on two trailers. We would be camping in the desert but didn't want to be too uncomfortable so we brought all that we though we might need. It was a beautiful but very warm day.

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We arrived at the camp and the first job at hand was fixing a KLR. Phil had just bought a new to him used bike and hadn't swapped all the parts over from his old ride yet. A warning to all guys running the stock rock guard, it is woefully insufficient. Phil had kicked a rock up and knocked a small hole in the left cover. Thanks to a stop in Ft. Stockton to grab some JB weld repairs commenced.

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Had to use some electrical tape to keep it from flowing. The quick set JB works great.

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By the time we got set up in camp and got our bikes unloaded we were ready to test the patch on Phil's KLR. We mounted up and rode down to the hot springs for a dip in the healing waters. The JB Weld had been on for a little over an hour and was hard to the touch. It held just fine.

Not the latest in cycling fashion but it's what I was left with after stowing pants and jacket.

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The old store.

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And the hot springs. The water inside the dividing wall is quite warm; it'll make you sweat. Outside the wall the water temp was in the low 70s, I'm guessing. It was quite cool. The opposite bank is Mexico and you can see a representative of the Mexican mercantile markets near the river. There were a couple of guys there selling walking sticks, beads, and some illegal forms of tobacco. We weren't dealing so they left us alone.

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Just before sunset we headed back to camp for dinner and camp stories. It was about 1045 when we hit the sack for the night and it was still around 80 degrees with no breeze. That would soon change.

Day two on the way.
 
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Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Day 2

The fun really started about 10 minutes after we hit the sack the night before. All but one of us was "sleeping out under the stars". Two in the bed of pickups and I was using the bed of the trailer. High clouds wisping over was the first indication of change. I wasn't worried as there was no rain in the forecast, period. But, in the still of the desert night I could hear the wind working it's way toward us as the cold front approached. Much like wind in the pine trees in the mountains the wind announced it's approach. Very suddenly the wind from the north picked up to around 25 miles per hour and the temps started dropping. The good thing was that the noise of the wind drowned out the snoring and other noised that men make when camping. :lol2: By morning it was officially cold and windy. The digital temp in one of the trucks read in the mid forties. Hot coffee is really good under these conditions.

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It was cold in the morning but warmed nicely into the upper 60's. The wind stayed all day.

Breakfast tacos were assembled and devoured and preparations were made for the days agenda.

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We were off to River Road; the 57 mile dirt road that crosses the southern end of the park. We were taking it east to west. The rides consisted of a KTM 525 EXC, 2 KLR 650s, and my '96 Tiger. This was going to be the first real test of the Tiger in the wild and I was a little nervous. I had driven this road in 4WD trucks before so I had an idea what was coming but didn't know how the heavy beast (500+ loaded and wet) would handle it. I'll take this opportunity to thank Perry for hanging with me throughout this ride. His patience was unending. Or maybe he was just hanging back to get the good pictures. :shrug:

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A word of advice.... if you ask this guy regarding road conditions and ease of travel on a back country road, do not believe a word he says.

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These guys, Phil and Chris, weren't going to have any trouble here. Both have ridden in Baja, the race, and after riding with them on this trip I'll say they are good.

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I would see this view of them many times this day.

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This shot kinda explains my experience on this road.

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I'm not the best off road rider, by any measure. I usually get along just fine on smaller bikes.The Tiger just was not engineered for this stuff. Too much weight on the front wheel. On the tight roads, some dual track ruts, with the soft sand and loose, deep gravel, she was a handful to say the least. But I kept going......

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I knew this was going to happen some so I chose ahead of time to mount the side cases. It kept the beast from going flat and saved some energy standing her back up. Those Givi cases took one heck of a beating, including a hard impact on a stump along side the road, and suffered just a few small scratches.

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And a little closer.
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This was just from coasting to a stop to regroup; no brakes were applied in the making of this photo. The stuff was loose and deep. And in some spots long.

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It was good to know that someone else was having trouble too. Notice the nice s shaped line to the left in this picture. I was unable to get enough speed to get the front wheel up on top of the sand/gravel so I just plowed on. The front wanted to follow every little rut and groove left by everyone that had passed before. It was work.

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I did eventually develop a technique to get through but it was slow going. The last insult was on a long stretch toward the west end where we were riding through a river bed. Add lots of bowling ball size rocks to the sand and gravel. I heard one of the KLRs on the throttle coming up behind me. Phil passes on the left riding with one hand and shooting video and he rode by at a spirited clip. :eek2: I told you, these guys can ride.

A long five hours after the start we arrived at the Castolon Store. A much needed rest and feed.

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L to R Chris, Phil and Perry took the time to have a good chuckle looking at the videos from the trip.

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Refreshed and re-energized we developed a plan for the rest of the day. We would ride highway, thank you, to Panther Junction and fuel up the machines. Then ride north on 285 to Dagger Flats. East a couple of miles then south on Old Ore Rd. Our camp was on the southern end of Old Ore so we had about 26 miles of dirt road to cover. Phil and Chris took off in a cloud of dust and Perry stuck back with me on the Tiger. This road was better than River Road but the going was still slow. I could not afford to go faster than I could see because the Tiger is not a machine to stop on a dime or change direction in mid-air.

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It took a little over an hour and 15 minutes to cover this section of road. Dinner was char broiled rib eyes and was consumed with the sun setting. I stayed in camp to give the Tiger a good going over for loose bolts and any repairs I might find. I was glad to not find anything missing or loose other than one front turn signal. The rest rode to the hot spring by the full moonlight for a soak. The temps dropped and the wind continued to blow. The night sky was clear and cold but it was very easy for me to sleep that night.

To be continued.......
 
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Joined
Nov 7, 2006
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931
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On the road
And you stopped!!!... I wanted to ride Ore road tomorrow... was wating to see more pictures... :eek2: and no more!!! I'll wait actually and probably do Pinto Canyon instead... great report, I might have seen you... actually I did as I remember the red Tiger!

Hi Janet!!!... coming back?...

Be well... Ara & Spirit
 
Joined
Dec 9, 2006
Messages
328
Location
DFW :(
Awesome Bruce! Enjoying the ride report. Was gonna ask how the Tiger was treating you, but it's apparent it's doing it's best :mrgreen:

Seeing those long sandy stretches makes me shiver thinking of riding my GS...

Great report!
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
<marking down more roads on my NG BB map>
Awesome!!!
Same reasons why I relented the fact that the V-strom is not a good bike for surfaces like that.... and got a KLR250. The V is similar: too much weight on front end and too top heavy.

Thanks for the photos and story! Looking forward to more.
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
902
Location
Sumter, SC
Yeah, it got a bit hairy out there for my Vstrom 1k. However, the strom was a blast to take to Presidio!


Great write-up!
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Thanks everyone for the comments.

Ara, I would have loved to meet you. I've been following your blog over the last year. Sorry we missed that opportunity. Take caution on Old Ore with your side car rig. There are a couple of deep rocky wash outs that I believe will give you a good bit of trouble. It was hard enough on two wheels for the Tiger.

River Road is definitely territory for lighter bikes. KLRs did fine and we passed a couple going the opposite direction. We would meet later; but that's further into the story. ;-)

I'll post more today when I can. Tourmeister and I are having some issues with my photo uploading settings and we are trying to figure it out.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
River Road is definitely territory for lighter bikes. KLRs did fine and we passed a couple going the opposite direction. We would meet later; but that's further into the story. ;-)
I look forward to trying it out on the KLR250 in December. I need some sand practice anyway :)

Looking forward to more story and photos!
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
I look forward to trying it out on the KLR250 in December. I need some sand practice anyway :)

Looking forward to more story and photos!
I'm working on the next day as we speak. I had to come up for some air and found this post. The sand on Old Ore isn't too bad. It's in sections where you can get some speed and not worry about hitting immovable objects. Old Ore is more rocky with rough washed out road. Your 250 should do fine.
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Day 3

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, sleeping in the cold windy desert in the bed of my trailer under a full moon so bright you could ride without any lights. It was really beautiful. I wish my cheap camera could have captured the bluish moonlit desert but alas you will have to plan a trip and see it for your self. Between the full moon and the cold wind, I had to slide deep into my bag to shield my eyes from the light and create some warm darkness. By doing that, I slept very well. In the morning the temp on the digital dash readout was 38. It was cold but the wind had died away. As soon as the first sunlight hit camp we started to warm. This would end up being the most beautiful day of the trip.

The plan for the day was to ride north on Old Ore and make our way to Terlingua Ranch. However, I had an errand to run and I didn't really want to beat myself up today, so I went another direction. Our plans, being Simper Gumby, always flexible, meant we needed to reserve our camp for another night. So, I headed for Panther Junction to take care of paperwork while the others took off north on Old Ore Rd. One thing that really makes the area beautiful after a cold front is that it blows all the smog back south of the border and the vistas of the mountains are really beautiful. I was treated to the early morning views of the sunlight Chisos Mountains while on my way.

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With the paperwork done at the ranger station I made my way north to the intersection of Old Ore and Dagger Flats to meet up with the other three riders.

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It was about 5 minutes before the first rider came flying up the road. Phil. I saw his dust cloud several minutes before I could see him on the long straight section of road.

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Chris was only about a minute behind. They had covered the 26 miles of ROUGH road in about 40 minutes. Did I mention these guys can ride! Chris has the better machine but Phil manages to keep up with him riding that stock KLR. His old KLR died about 200 miles into this years BAJA 500 when the motor seized due to a radiator fan failure. I believe he would have finished had the machine held up. Chris is scary fast on that KTM. At least for me and my old guy cautious ways. Perry came up the road about 5 minutes later.

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With the group reassemble we headed to the Terlingua Ranch Rd. I had been assured that this road would be much easier on the Tiger than the previous days ride.

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And, they were telling it like it was. The road is at lest three lanes wide and well groomed. The sand was there in long sections but due to the width of the road I could get up a good head of steam in the old Steamer and keep the front wheel on top of the sand. It was actually pretty fun. Phil and Chris would fly ahead of Perry and I and set up in sections where they thought I was going to have trouble with cameras at the ready. I would disappoint them on this day. ;-) Phil and Chris would hit speeds of up to 70 while I was happy cruising along between 30 and 45.

I'll take this opportunity to thank Perry again for his patience and willingness to slow up and hang with me. His help picking up the beast on the River Road was priceless. Thanks P.

Before we knew it, we were there. Terlingua Ranch.
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This place really is an oasis in the desert. It was closed when we were there since it was Tuesday. They are open Thursday through Saturday with live music and a restaurant. I'm sure others have been there for the festivities. It was nice to just sit and relax for a while.

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Time to go. We head back the way we came for about a mile and took the Ament Lake Rd. This was one of the most scenic routes we took. Good road. A bit rocky in spots but not problem with keeping the appropriate speed. We stopped at a good spot high on the hill to enjoy this view.

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We got a good cell signal, which is rare out here, so we took advantage of it to phone home and give wellness updates. Gotta keep the home base advised.

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Another view.

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The road took us back to the paved highway for a short run south to Study Butte. And, lunch! We stopped at this little Mexican food place and were not disappointed. Tamales were very tasty.

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While eating we got to meet the county Sheriff. Nice short conversation, I'm sure he was just being friendly. One of us was worried since the plate on his bike was expired by about 8 months. But the sheriff moved on and all was well. From here we made a plan to split up. Chris and Phil were wanting to do a speed run on River Road so they were going to head south on Old Maverick and catch River Road. I had no interest in reliving that, and besides there wasn't enough daylight left for me to do it, so Perry and I decided to do some sightseeing. P and I would take the highway back toward Chisos Basin. Along the way I spotted a blue '07 Tiger. Tiger sightings in the wild are rare. Neither of us had been to Croton Springs before so we took a short detour to explore. That took about 5 minutes since it's a short road to a parking lot. Now we know. The basin is always an awesome sight.

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It can be described as visual sensory overload. Every direction you turn is an awsome vista. Lots of picture taking opportunity.

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We took a spin around the campground, I looked for the spots I'd stayed on previous visits, stopped by the lodge for a short visit, and headed back over the pass towards camp. It's amazing how much quicker that trip over the pass is on the Tiger compared to the last time in a 3/4 ton Dodge. :trust: The Tiger likes those twisty roads.

We weren't in camp long before Phil and Chris rolled up. They had done the river road west to east in 1 hour and 50 minutes. Not their quickest but not bad. Did I tell you before these guys can ride! Dinner and a trip to the hot springs under the full moon finished off the day. It was a good one.

Day 4; coming soon to a forum near you.......
 
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Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Day 4

Day 4 would end up being a day of transit. Phil and Chris had to get back home so the fun was over for them. Perry and I were able to stay for a couple more days so a plan came together. We loaded up the camp and would head to Davis MTS State Park for a couple more nights. So adiós to Big Bend.

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The route for the day would take us west through Terlingua to Lajitas and up the paved River Rd, RR 170, to Presidio and north on US 67 to Marfa and TX 17 to Fort Davis. In a way it was nice to be in the cage, especially for me since I wasn't driving I could really soak up the scenery. First stop was the Lajitas general store.

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And you can't visit Lajitas without stopping by to chat with the mayor.

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We had no beer and he wasn't interested in the Orange Crush that was offered so we moved on. Since we were playing tourists today we made all the requisite stops.

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A bit of trivia: This section of highway, visible above in the center of the picture, is the steepest section of highway in Texas. At least that's what I was told. :shrug:

Lots of scenery on this stretch of road. Not much need for a wall out here.

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Here Perry enjoys to view from the top.

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North from Presidio is a small community called Shafter. This is an interesting side trip for those looking for ghosts. The cemetery is worth seeing. Shallow graves with the rocks pilled on top. Lots of gravse from the 1800's.

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And the Presidio County courthouse in Marfa.

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Excuse the glare from the windshield. :doh:

Once in Ft. Davis we could not wait to get the bikes of the trailer and go for a ride. While unloading, a black KLR rode by camp and gave a freindly wave. Cool. :sun: The time was jsut before sunset so we mounted our trusty steeds and took off for the scenic vista overlooking Ft. Davis. About 200 yards down the road we were flagged down by the KLR. We stopped and met Woody from Houston. He said he recognized us from the River Road day. He and his friend Klaus were the two KLRs heading east when we were heading west. Small world. In a short converstion a plan was made for the next day's ride. Just like that we were a group of four again. We would meet at first light and hit the road.

Up the hill to the overlook and scenic Ft. Davis.

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We splurged for dinner at the Black Bear Restaurant at the Indian Lodge in the park. Good vittles for sure. We'd be back for breakfast. :trust:
 
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Joined
Oct 19, 2006
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Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Day 5; more riding!

To save time we decided to hit the Black Bear for breakfast. We walk in and who do we see. Woody and Klaus. We firmed up our plans for the day while sipping coffee and shoveling calories. Soon we were heading east from Ft. Davis into the early morning sun. The temperature wasn't much above freezing. There was frost on the seats. We took TX 118 east toward Alpine with the plan being to ride RR 1837 which turns to dirt and would dump us into Marfa close to the golf course. It was a good plan, but like most good plans it had a problem. The road was awesome as it wound through several ranches. The last being the Ponder Ranch. Shortly after entering we Perry, riding sweep, noticed a pickup coming up the road behind us. We pushed on at a spirited pace for a while but this truck soon caught up to us. :eek2: Perry and I headed the honking and flashing headlights and pulled off the road. Woody and Klaus soon noticed we had stopped and turned around also. We were greeted by a very nice looking and friendly lady in full ranch dress. With a very sweet voice she explained to us that the road had been turned private this last year. After the latest version of Roads of Texas which we were using to plan the trip. She explained she wanted to catch us to let us know that the gate at the end of the road, near the golf course, was locked and there was no access to Marfa down this road. She was very nice and I agreed to pass the word on to anyone reading this that the road is now private. So, we backtracked to TX 118 and did a loop through Alpine and then west on US 90/67 to Marfa. It was a long ride on the slab but enjoyable in the early morning.

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Once through Alpine Perry and I switched mounts so I got some highway time on his KLR. Not bad but not a Tiger. ;-) We stopped in Marfa for gas since this would be the last opportunity for some time.

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Next on the agenda; Pinto Canyon and Chinati Hot Springs. To get there we rode down RR 2810 for 32 miles. This is a good section of paved road with open plains and good sweeping turns. We had to stop once for a herd of deer crossing the road but otherwise and uneventful section of nice road. Then we arrived at Pinto Canyon.

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Some of the best scenery in the area and a very well maintained road that is ridable on just about any DS machine you could bring. No problems. There is a short detour that takes you west toward Chinati and a few miles up the road we had arrived. This place is pretty nice. If you want an out of the way place to stay this is a good one.

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Cabins for rent ranging from $85 to $115 a night. Cabins are plumbed with the hot spring water running into the tiled tubs.

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This is a cool water spring fed pool.

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Klaus enjoying the hot water pool. $12 for a day visit.

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Lots of shady spots to just sit and relax, no charge for shade. We spent about an hour relaxing.

Back on the road we went south to 170 and pointed the machines west to Candelaria. End of the road.

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We will save this road for another day. We traveled back to the east toward Ruidosa. Everyone to the chance to open up on the pavement. I won't say how fast to protect the "innocent". Let's just say the cobwebs were definitely blown out on this section. I was having fun until coming around a sweeping turn into a dip I slid through a patch of sand sideways at a fast clip. :eek2: OK I got the hint and slowed down. The dangers on this road are the dips into the washes (sand on the road) and the open range (cattle and things that go along with cattle) on the road. We stopped at the Ruidosa store and regrouped.

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This place is a good stop. We spent almost an hour talking to the owner and her son about life in the area. He son gave us a tour and explained how he was using empty aluminum cans as building materials for the walls around the store. He uses them just like bricks and then plasters them to match the stucco exterior of the adobe main building. The old woman who owns the store is a life long resident and she had a good perspective of the area. She told us how nobody showed up for the bankruptcy auction at Lajitas and she wished it would all just go back the way it was before. If you are there be sure and stop for a cool drink so your can can be added to the wall.

We continued east through Presidio and into Big Bend Ranch State Park. We would take Casa Pietra Road north through the western edge of the park. Beautiful scenery and a well maintained dirt road for about 35 miles. Woody and Klaus were faster than I could manage on the Tiger so they went on. I was able to do most sections around 35-40 mph.

I have a video I can stick in here if someone can educate me on how to do a video imbed. :giveup:

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Back on pavement we pointed our machines north to return to camp. About the time we rolled into Marfa we actually caught up with Woody and Klaus. Obviously they took a longer rest break than we had. We rode together back to Ft. Davis and went our separate ways.

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They were staying with their spouses at the Indian Lodge. It was great to meet them and ride along with them this day. Back at out camp we washed off the dust from the day.

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Dinner in Ft. Davis was a small place called Papa's Grille. An interesting place with a Scottish themed decor and all the good food we enjoy. We chose pizza. Pretty good and lots of it. The two of us could not finish the large pie.
All the plates we saw being served to the large crowd looked equally appetizing.

Day 6 was the trip home. Like most trips home after a good ride we wished we could still be riding. An awesome trip, there will be another. ;-)
 
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Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
931
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On the road
That is too funny!!! I saw the same Church and stopped at the same store TODAY!!! We did Pinto Canyon from Marfa down... awesome road... a piece of Cake really except in the start, big rocks...
I guess I will stay off Ore and River Rd!!!...

Be well... thanks for the report...

Ara & Spirit

* Nothing like being in the same area... same roads... and seeing those roads pictures coming from someone else I have never met!!!:eek2:
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
That is too funny!!! I saw the same Church and stopped at the same store TODAY!!! We did Pinto Canyon from Marfa down... awesome road... a piece of Cake really except in the start, big rocks...
I guess I will stay off Ore and River Rd!!!...

Be well... thanks for the report...

Ara & Spirit

* Nothing like being in the same area... same roads... and seeing those roads pictures coming from someone else I have never met!!!:eek2:
Yeah, I really wouldn't recommend those two roads with your rig. If you could borrow a small bike for a day ride then........:rider:
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
8,233
Location
Between a Rock and a weird place, Pflugerville, TX
Great stories and photos! You have me chomping at the bit now to get down there and ride some of the same roads. :trust:
Only 5.5 weeks away........
Thanks. Keep your eye on the weather. I've heard the mud can get to be really bad if it rains. It's getting to be that time of year out there. I wish I could join you; with a small trailie instead of the beast. I'll be looking for your ride report. :mrgreen:
 
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