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Day 5
March 26th, 2007                                                 
Motel 6
Del Rio, Texas   


                                      
I went to sleep with it raining, and at 6:30am it was still raining, and I mean coming down hard.  "Man, I ain't going anywhere today", as I pulled the curtain to peer outside in the darkness at the dripping wet RT.  I went back to bed.

At 8:30am it was the same story, so I hit the TV to find out what was going on.  "Coming down hard in Del Rio with flash flood warnings in effect," "well tell me something I don't know."  I was resigning myself to the fact I might not get out of Del Rio today, a prospect I wasn't too excited about.  Radar put the center of the front right on top of us, with the feared yellow and red splotches covering many places.

Pulled the sheets up, fluffed the pillows, and went back to sleep.

Dozed off and on till 10am, and decided to check again.  "At least I'm catching up on some good sleep."  This time when I eased the curtain there was no rain!  In fact broken skies could be seen off in the west.  The tv went back on, and the report was much better.  The front had finally moved east, and only a few areas of broken rain between here and Big Bend.  There was some rain just south of Alpine, but the park was rain free, but that didn't mean it might not be cloudy, but what the heck as long as it's NOT raining.  Time to bolt!

I saw the 3 riders from Austin downstairs chatting with a HD rider from Alberta, that must have came in late last night.  I went down to see what was going on.  After introductions, I found out the Austin boys were also riding west, but Jeff was riding east.  

Jeff had just come in from the Vegas area.  He had  few weeks off from his oil refinery job so left the cold behind and came south.

"Been a good trip so far, but I crashed into the curb last night coming in for gas."  He showed us the damage on the Glide.  Beat up mirror cover, dinged case guard, scratched fairing.  He said he was tired at 11pm and just wasn't paying attention.  We figured the damage close to 1500-2000 dollars.

After talking it over with the Austin boys (all middle aged guys like me) we decided to load out and hit the road.  The isolated pockets of rain were not going to be a big deal.  I'm glad I didn't try to ride through all that rain that came over last night.  It was smart to lay up.  It is my suggestion NOT to plan a tour down to the last day.  On a 2 week tour a 3 day buffer is good.  In my case it doesn't matter, but folks that have to get back to jobs, should still plan a few days for adjustments.  If I had been a guy, on strict schedule to get to Big Bend yesterday, the results would have been putting my life on the line needlessly.  Actual riding in the wet is not that big a deal for a experienced Long Rider, you make the necessary adjustments and go.  I'm referring to the stuff you have NO control over.  High winds, blinding rain, and the most feared of all in my book-lightening.  Out here, in the wide open spaces, a rider is a definite target, just like a farmer on a tractor.  In my 26 years of fire service I made 2 calls in which a farmer was struck off a tractor plowing a field, so I have a healthy respect for it.

And lets say I did survive the ride, the pay off would have been what?  A cloudy, soggy, rainy, and night time park to tour?  Nooooo not this Long Rider, I was willing to lay up another day, if needed, to make sure I have good weather at Big Bend.  

The forecast put excellent weather in the cards for the balance of the trip.

After loading the RT and checking out, I returned to my custom route and started making my way west to Big Bend.  The Austin boys were still loading when I left.

I rode down the street and topped off the tank at a Vieo con store.  Standing water was in many places but drying up quick.  The temp was 70 degrees, and skies were rapidly turning from cloudy to partly.  Time on the road was not until after 11am, but at least I was riding.
My route took me over the Amistad water basin, the primary water source in this part of the country.  The zumo said my next turn was in 188 miles.

U.S. 90 West out of Del Rio is the kind of road you love to hate.  Not much to see, but a good place to get in in some quality mental time.  Texas is one of the few states that does the right thing when it comes to speed limits.  Out here, on this straight and empty road, the speed limit is 75! On a 2 lane!  Which means I'm going to do 80!  And NO ONE CARES!   I can cover ground like a guy's suppose to without looking over my shoulder.























  
You have to love Texas and her liberal speed limits.  Yeeeha!


With the shield up to kill the wind blast, I hit the cruise and leaned back on the Moto Fizz bag.  "Now this is ridin."  The miles went down quickly and when I came past Judge Roy Bean's historical marker I took the left turn to check it out.

Slowly I came in and parked in front of the post office /store, across the street from a very well done visitor center.   I went inside and a tall, Marlboro looking man was working the register.  "Howdy," he called out.  "Hey now, what's goin on?"  As I went to the back of the store for some chips and Mountain Dew to go with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"so where ya from?"

"Alabama"

"sorry not much to see out this way"

"yeah, but I'll say this, best speed limits in the country"

I went outside and sat on the bench to eat my lunch, and starred at the visitor center.  "Well heck, reckon I'll go check it out since I'm here."  I checked for a cell signal and as expected, had none.




























                        Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center-Langtry, Texas.


A few minutes later another Marlboro arrived in a BIG pick up truck.  I pegged him to be a rancher, and was right.  He acknowledged me on his way inside.  A few minutes later he came out.

"Y'all get some good rain last night?"

"yeah we did, but we could use some more"

"so you live here?"

"not really, but close enough"

"you headin back to the ranch?"

"yeah, need a ride?"

"No sir, just curious, but thanks"

One thing about being southern, and in your native land, people take care of you.  He was perfectly ok putting me in the truck with him.  If I had been from New Jersey?  Who knows.

Failing to find a waste can I went inside to dispose of my bottle and paper.

The clerk saw me and said, "Thanks"

"I didn't want to trash up your parking lot"

Like I say, I make it my purpose to leave people a good impression of Long Riders, and folks from Alabama.

Judge Roy's site was interesting.  I went through the visitor center then out back to his saloon and community center.  Back in the day, HE was the law west of Pecos River.  Some cowboy would get in trouble and the marshals would track him down and bring him before the judge.  Justice was swift and sure.  It had to be as the government tried to bring the rule of law to a land that had none.

























                      Judge Roy Bean's Courthouse and Saloon

After an hour I was back on the road to Big Bend.

U.S. 90 was more of the same as I rode west across the featureless landscape.  I set the cruise and just sat back.  Nothing else to do.  I played with the Zumo and sang songs, and the time rolled by quickly.

At Longfellow you can divert from 90 and take a 50-60 mile unimproved road to U.S. 385, effectively cutting off 100 miles of riding the long way.  That's a ride for a dual purpose of some kind, not a RT, but I like riding 80 mph as opposed to 45 or 50 on that road.


















        
I'm not sure, but I think this is Longfellow, Texas using the time stamp as 
a guide.  Doesn't really matter, because most towns out here look the same.


There are 2 ways into the park, U.S. 385 at Marathon, or the more scenic but longer SR 318, of course I choose the later, I didn't care it added 100 miles to the ride.

I ran in and out of a light rain a few times, but nothing threatening and it was over quickly as I shot across at 80 mph.   Sometimes I was under mostly sunny skies, and just as quickly return to clouds.

A few 18 wheelers tested the RTs passing prowess (which is good) but for the most part, a very uneventful ride into Alpine.  

Just outside the city it grew dark and cool, a lot of rain was in the area, and glad NOT to be going north, it looked really bad in that direction.  My butt was stiff so I pulled into a McDonalds for a apple pie.  I was also sure I could get a signal here, and I needed to check messages, call home, and check in with Ken Hendrix.

"Hey Ken do you see any rain down in the park?"

"No uh huh.  Some rain is in your area, but isolated, the park is rain free."  The Park was still 80 miles away.  Texas is a BIG place.
I was walking back out to the bike when it suddenly started to rain.  I quickly got my gear on.  I could see blue sky south, and that's where I was heading.

Before leaving the city I topped off the RT.  I'm in a part of the country where you have to respect the gas gauge, in the east I'm subject to ride far into reserve, but out here it is not uncommon to be 100 miles from anything.

After 200 miles of U.S. 90 I finally made the left turn south on SR 118 and headed for better skies.  I was out of the rain but it was cool, very cool.  The sky was still dark over me, and cool wind was blowing down from the mountains.  I checked the elevation; over 5,000 feet.  "No wonder its cold."  Temp gauge read low 50s.

I came pass Elephant Mountain at 6000+ feet, it juts up in the middle of the desert.  Strikingly  beautiful country.  "Ah man, what a great ride this is gonna be to the river."


























                                    I left the wet, dark, and cool skies behind .......


You only think you know wide open spaces till you come to South Texas.  The land is open and vast, and as I rode along on 118 I felt minuscule.   The road surface was good, with some nice leans.  For 50+ miles I didn't meet or see a single car.  The day grew warmer and brighter as I made my way south, but I could still see dark clouds far off to the east. 






















 
   
...... For the warm blue skies in the south.  I love the riding, the people,
the miles,  and the chance to experience such WIDE OPEN SPACES!


The cactus on both sides of me seemed to guard the approach to the Del Norte Mountains off to my left, and in front of me stood the towering rock formations of Big Bend.  I basked in the warm 70 degree temps, and enjoyed the ride to the park as much as any I had ever done.  The magnificence of the land and so much open space was intoxicating.  I wanted to ride forever, the beauty of being on a motorcycle in this land was a feeling I'll never forget.  God, I love it.

Near the park entrance I met a yellow GL going north.  He was heading into nasty weather unless he turned east or west at Alpine.  


















Now I can say I've visited every major National Park in 
the USA, and most of Canada's.


The entrance to Big Bend is still 30-40 miles from the river, and the road surface in the park is not as good as that on the outside.  The sun was full out now, and for the first time in days I had clear skies ahead.  A nice feeling.

From the highway to the mountains, not a thing was taller then the BMW.

I went past the entrance to Chisos Basin on my way to the river.  My plan is to camp out there.































                             Approaching Chisos Basin from the north.


In the park I saw a few more cars and people, but I wouldn't call it crowded.  Colorful cliffs and escalates grew bigger the closer I came to the river.  It was beautiful. 



























 

                                                  Colorful cliffs on the way to the Rio Grande


After a great ride I arrived at the far south visitor center.  A campground is there but not much else.  I cruised the RT through and circled back out.  A line of RVs bogged up a whole area of the campground.  The temp was now 80 degrees, hard to believe the temp changed almost 20 degrees in less then 100 miles.

On the way back to Chisos Basin I took a side road that led down to Boquillas Canyon.  The overlook there looks down on the Rio Grande as it slices the cavern walls on its to the way to Gulf.  I quietly contemplated that as I stood alone on the rocks, with the afternoon sun coming around in preparation for sunset.   I enjoyed the peacefulness here, how the wind moved my hair, and the crunch of the rocks under my boots.






























                                                           Boquillas Canyons


"I better get back to the Basin and find a camping site."  A couple of birds of some kind made a quick exit from the canyon when I punched the starter and the rumble of the boxer filled the chasms.  It was a special moment.

I went back to the main road and motored back north.  Rock formations cast long shadows on the desert floor as the RT and I went looking for a place to spend the night.  Sunlight streamed through the clouds when the Basin came in sight, adding even more beauty to the vista.

The road to the Basin comes in 2 parts.  A long vertical climb, followed by a winding descent.   I went to the Zumo to check the elevation, well over 5,000 feet.  The road is steep and tricky and entirely in the shadows, as I guided the RT in for the night.  At the peak I had grandiose view of the rock formation known as "The Window."  I saw a friendly campground down below and dropped down to it.

The registration fee was 14 dollars, I only had a few dollars cash and my debit cards.  There was no one to take up money, so I said, "well I hate to cheat them outta the 14 dollars, but they shoulda left someone here."  I slept for free on this night.

The campground was pretty full but I still managed to find a nice spot with a covered table.  I shut the RT down after a 369 mile day.  

A strange looking guy in a KIA sedan was in the site across from me.  He picked the worst spot in the campground.  He was heating up something on a butane stove, and wore one of those hats with a flap on the rear to keep the sun off a guys' neck.  I couldn't see his tent.  "Is that joker sleepin in the car or what?"

"I hope I have all the parts for my tent, not even looked at it since the Blue Ridge last fall."  I keep my tent stored in a bucket with a cover to ensure no parts come out in between tours.  I was confident everything was there, but Uncle Phil wasn't here in case it wasn't, so I'm screwed if something was missing.
Everything was there, just as I packed it last fall after the Blue Ridge Ride.

I rolled out my ground cover, and  it still had leaves implanted on it from the Blue Ridge.  I wonder what some biologist is going to say when he discovers a bunch of North Carolina Oak leaves in Big Bend?  "Hey Frank better get down here quick, Oak trees are growing in the desert."
I lugged all my camping gear to use 1 night.  Normally I wouldn't do that, but camping out in Chisos Basin is not something that comes around often.  Noway was I going to miss it.  

I broke out the Plexus and cleaned the screen and fairing of the RT, and took this awesome pic below.




























                     Late afternoon Chisos Basin.   Now this is Long Riding

The sun went quietly behind the rocks, and all of sudden it was pitch black.  

After setting up camp I rode in the darkness to the lodge for something to eat.  The restaurant was busy, but that was ok.  I had my journal, along with my photo and video editing to keep me busy till my chicken and baked potato arrived.  It has been my experience that most National Park food is above average, albeit a little pricey.

A tour bus crowd numbering about 50 occupied half the tables in the restaurant.  I'd say most were in their 60s, but a few younger folks were sprinkled in the mix.

I finished supper and was working on my journal when a young lady about 35 came over to speak to me.  
"Do you have a wi fi signal?"

"Noooooooooo baby, I'm working offline."

I was in the "stich" pants and my helmet was on the table.  I always bring it in because it brings attention.
She sat down at the empty chair across from me.  "Do you have a Harley?"  For any non rider, a bike is a Harley.  What a great marketing job they have done.

"No, its a sport touring bike, you're with the tourist bus?"

"Yeah, and DON'T laugh"

"so who ya have with ya?"  

"My two boys over there," as she pointed them out.  They looked like model Boy Scouts.  "We are on spring break, so I booked this tour through a agency, and here we are.  We're going to San Antonio tomorrow."

"I just left there, lotta fun.  My wife flew in for a conjugal visit, and we had a blast."

"well have a safe ride, I bet ridin is fun, gotta get back to the lodge."

"Ok baby be good"

The night was dark when I left the restaurant for the nearby store.  I paid 3 something for a jar of jelly I can get at Super Wal Mart for a 1.25?  But when you need it you need it.

I didn't have my regular glasses and had to make the short ride back to the tent in sunglasses.  Talk about not being able to see.  I had a choice-look at everything in the dark, or look at the world fuzzy.

Back at the tent I squared everything away and got ready for bed.  The night would be just right.  Temp in the 50s.  "Man, I wish I'd bought my DVD player,"  because I wasn't really sleepy, and was bored.

A half moon appeared above and given the dark nature of the Basin, it was bright.  The campground was quiet and dark, but I still had trouble getting to sleep.  I set my watch for 6am and tossed and turned for the longest.

I'm going to put this day in the Hall of Fame.





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