Summer motorcycle ride to West Texas, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.Read More
Here's a quick summary via flipagram on our summer ride!
The Boquillas Canyon is over a 20 mile ride from the Park Headquarters, but definitely worth a visit. There's a large parking area just short of reaching the canyon and a short hike with a small rise gets you to an overlook of the canyon. On our visit we could plainly hear a Mexican National in the middle of the river with his horse singing a ballad. The canyon's walls carried his voice with plenty of amplification. He sang for tips which you could leave on the river bank. We suspect he was in the middle of the shallow running Rio Grande so as to make a quick exit back to Mexico should immigration officials came by. On the bank of the river were handmade curios selling on an honor system; if you liked something just leave some cash in a nearby can.
The park's official publication mentions that it is illegal trade and it is classified as contraband, subject to confiscation by federal officials. It may be correct, but it's not as if it's about to upend the balance of international trade. We noticed at the Chisos Basin shop some of the same curios for sale, but at a much higher cost.
The Boquillas Canyon, noteworthy for its International Port of Entry, is a must stop if you're in the park. The only thing akin to it may be the Prada Store Front Facade outside of Marfa. Both have no place in the Southwest. The Prada facade can be admired as a roadside point of interest, justifying its presence, but the Boquillas Port of Entry makes little sense. To begin with, there are no INS officers on duty, conveniently replaced by two kiosks (sorry no pictures of kiosks are allowed) where you are dutifully obligated to scan your passport; wait for it to be screened by a live agent in El Paso; then proceed to enter the United States legally.
I asked a park ranger if we just couldn't walk around the outside of the building without reporting to the kiosks and he said, "we have lots of cameras; you'd be stopped and deported". Never seen anything like it, a wonderful modern building located in a remote area of a National Park built for two kiosks! Not sure how that plays into our heighten National Security, but it makes a good POI (Point of Interest) in our southwest travel experiences.
The Boquillas Canyon itself is not a massive carving and it's small compared to most canyons. In my opinion it's easily dwarfed by the Santa Elena Canyon on the western end of BBNP, but unlike Santa Elena Canyon, this one is interesting because of its inhabitants, both past and present.
As you walk up the rise before the canyon you can see in the limestone rock holes used by ancient indian tribes to grind their food grains. When we first spotted them we thought they were fence post holes and wondered why would anyone want a fence on top of this rock. We then noticed that they were in groups and obviously not the beginnings of any fence post holes.
As we walked over this limestone rise we could see the Rio Grande River meandering towards us then making a sharp turn away from us and into the beginnings of the canyon.
Unlike Santa Elena Canyon, Boquillas offers a glimpse of life for the people of this area. There is a small Mexican community just across the river, Boquillas del Carmen. These people are the merchants who leave their art work on the US side of banks of the Rio Grande River and rely on an honor barter system. Buyers leave a donation in a nearby can or weighted under a rock. Of course, these are the individuals that the park states are contributing to the erosion of natural resources along the river. These merchants are subject to arrest, deported to Presidio, Texas, one hundred miles from their homes, and released in Ojinaga, Mexico. Small price to pay for selling a painted rock or lizard made of wire. In spite of the threat of arrest and deportation to Presidio it doesn't seem to affect this illegal commerce and it's hard to believe that either INS officials or Park Rangers take much interest in this illegal commerce. Of course, purchasing any of these items makes you an accessory to the crime.
There isn't much else to help the residents of Boquillas del Carmen make a living. In the old days you would just wade across in a small boat to enjoy an afternoon of eating and drinking without any type of checkpoint. It can still be crossed and enjoyed, but gone are the days of an imaginary border that meant little to either side. Now you've got to report to the man, Kiosks.
Visiting Big Bend after the spring rains in this arid region changes the entire park into a giant canopy of green grasses and flowering plants. It's my favorite time of year to visit the park.
We made our way back to the Chisos Basin for lunch and then headed out the west end of Big Bend into Study Butte and Terlingua then trekked north into Alpine before heading back to Marathon, Texas for the night. It was a nice three day ride, 1,500 miles.
A September ride through the Natchez Trace and visit to Vicksburg started out by us running ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Dolly in the Rio Grande Valley. Dolly had just come ashore into Northern Mexico the day before so the valley was still getting dumped with much needed rain as we headed north toward Houston. There were three of us leaving the valley with plans to meet a fellow rider riding from south Florida somewhere in Mississippi that evening.
We went through some heavy rain just north of Edinburg, Texas so we pulled into an abandoned convenience store's gas pump station to get our rain gear on and kept moving north. The rain dissipated before we hit the border patrol check point just south of Falfurrias, Texas so we pulled into a McDonald's to get our rain gear off. Luckily we dodged more rain the rest of the day or we just rode through some quick rain without having to get into the rain gear. If we kept moving we managed to stay dry enough.
We had left Mission about 6am and met Marco at his home in Edinburg, after a quick cup of coffee we were off. Marco wanted us to stop for lunch at a BBQ place just south of Houston, but it had burned down. It must have been really disappointing to Marco because he just stood on his bike in the middle of the access road forever. I finally had to ask him if he was waiting for it to re-open. So we moved on and stopped at a trusty What-a-Burger place in Rosenberg. Houston was its typical crazy traffic self. It took us about an hour just to navigate through town on a hot muggy afternoon. On the other side of Houston traffic between it and Beaumont finally picked up and we flowed along at a nice 80mph clip. Another 26 miles or so and we were in Louisiana. It was still cloudy and rain was hit or miss as we made our way across the high Lake Charles bridge.
If you're afraid of heights like I am, then it's best to take the inside lane and not look down. The guys razzed me on how I sped up to cross over instead of slowing down to enjoy the great view. Never saw it as I fixed my gaze on the pavement a few yards in front of me. It was over quickly, after all, it's not Mount Evans in Colorado.
We decided to end the day in Lafayette, Louisiana by checking into a Hampton Inn. We waited all of about five minutes when David rolled in from Plantation, Florida. We rode about 700 miles and he about 900 miles and reached our meeting point almost exactly at the same time. How's that for coordination.
In the morning Marco and David exchanged bikes, David getting his BMW R1200RT back and Marco getting his newly purchased used scooter, a Piaggio 500. It's that three wheeled scooter that has its two front tires relatively close together for added stability. It's only a 500cc machine, but it's no slouch on the highway. On our way back to Texas, late at night, we were doing 80mph and happen to pass some 1%ers (one percenters) who were doing about 75mph, and I'm sure their significant others riding with them are still beating on them on "how could you let someone on a 'scooter' pass you up!". I was just hoping that we wouldn't breakdown in front of them.
We had left Texas without any definitive plans so Friday morning we all decided that rather than ride to New Orleans we would do the Natchez Trace. "The Natchez Trace, also known as the "Old Natchez Trace", is a historical path that extends roughly 440 miles (710 km) from Natchez, Mississippi toNashville, Tennessee, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and was later used by early European and American explorers, traders and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the trail is commemorated by the 444-mile (715 km) Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the approximate path of the Trace, as well as the related Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Parts of the original trail are still accessible and some segments have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places." (from Wikipeada) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_Trace
To get there we had to ride from Lafayette to Natchez so we decided not to ride on the main highways, but the take the more scenic back roads to Natchez. I changed my Garmin to the new "Curvy Roads" configuration to see what it would draw out for us. Well, it wasn't long before we ended up on a narrow, half paved, road to 'who knows where?'.
The back roads took us through some nice little towns and rural roads that led us up to Hwy 15 that runs along the banks of the Mississippi River then eventually crosses the river into Natchez, Mississippi. It was about 3pm when we reached Natchez and we rode to a seafood restaurant. After a late lunch we started out on the trail. It's a well paved two lane highway with a maximum speed limit of 50 mph. The leg we rode between Natchez and Jacksonville is void of any sharp curves as the gentle curving road is a continuous ribbon of asphalt on an emerald bed of green grasses, shrubs, and trees. It's beauty is intoxicating. Our ride lasted a while as we generally were going much slower than the posted speed limit and frequently stopping to admire the views.
Eventually, we turned off onto a small road that had memorial signage recognizing it as "Grant's March to Vicksburg". It got dark soon after we made that turnoff so we didn't get to see much except for an occasional sign recognizing it as Grant's March. By about 9pm we made it to a local Hampton Inn in Vicksburg.
Early the next morning we discovered that the hotel was directly across the street from the Vicksburg National Military Park. The Park is part of the National Park Service so if you have your NPS Pass you can get in without any additional cost.
The Park is essentially a 16 mile loop of the the battle grounds that made up the siege of Vicksburg. There are over 1,300 places on the grounds commemorating the history of this critical Civil War battle. It can easily take all day to tour. Each battle site is identified with either a blue sign identifying it as a Union site or red for the Confederates. If you like Civil War history this is a "must see" stop.
There's also a iron clad ship that has been restored. The ship, named USS Cairo, was sunk by a Confederate mine during the siege of Vicksburg. It was raised up out of the waters of the Yazoo River in the 1960s and is now on display in the park.
"The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon). On them rested in large part, Northern hopes to regain control of the lower Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
The "city class" gunboats were designed by Samuel M. Pook and built by river engineer James B. Eads. Cairo was constructed at Mound City, Illinois, and commissioned in January 1862. The Cairo was destined to see only limited action in the engagement at Plum Point in May and in the battle of Memphis in June. Her most significant action came six months later when she kept a rendezvous with destiny." http://www.nps.gov/vick/u-s-s-cairo-gunboat.htm
Seven gun boats all like the Cairo were built within a 100 days at a cost of approximately $107,000 each. The USS Cairo had a crew of approximately 184 sailors and all survived the sinking of the boat. A museum adjacent to the USS Cairo displays many of the items which were recovered from the ship. It's an interesting visit and well worth your time.
If you're into Civil War history a ride into Mississippi and the Vicksburg area will be well worth your time. The roads are scenic and not too crowded. There's lots to do and see. We eventually headed east towards Jackson then south just north of New Orleans before getting back on I10 West to Beaumont. After a night's stay in Beaumont we were back home by mid-afternoon, a 430 mile ride. We had left on Thursday, back by Sunday and logged over 1,700 miles. It was a little wet at times, but nevertheless a great ride.
I purchased the K1200S only a year ago with just 3,000 miles on it. I meant to buy it, fix whatever needed fixing, and clean it up for possible sale. Most of you know that my main touring bike is a BMW R1200RT but every time I ride the KS I find it very difficult to part with it. So... with this in mind and the bike at 7980 miles I decided to finally replace the tires that were on the bike since 2008 with a new pair Michelin Pilot Road 4 tires.
I used a local independent motorcycle shop to do the tire mounting and balancing. In order to become one with the KS I decided (although I got to a point that I regretted this decision) to take the wheels off myself. Somehow, with my brother's help, I used his motorcycle jack to raise both wheels off the ground so that I wouldn't have to make two trips to the shop. By the way, my bike doesn't have a center stand, I've thought of getting one but the only thing holding me back is the fact that I will have to cut the belly pan. I like the way it covers most of the bottom as it is now. Second choice is a Pitbull stand and I think I would need two for front and rear. Comments welcomed with this regard.
One of the things I like about my KS is that it has the color matched wheels. It adds so much to the bike. Since it's not often that we remove the wheels I wanted to take the opportunity to clean them well and apply some protection to the finish. I first washed the wheels while the old tires were still on the wheels. Clean wheels are simply a lot cleaner on hands and clothes while moving them around and it's also easy to show the tire shop that the wheels are in perfect condition. Simply put... I don't want them scratched up. After I got the wheels back with the new tires I used a cleaner/wax to clean them even better. The cleaner/wax helps to soften baked on stuff like brake dust and bugs. Apply some on whatever gunk, let it sit a while and then wipe with a micro fiber cloth. I used the Meguiar's Cleaner Wax. After doing 2 or 3 passes of the cleaner wax and buffing to a basic shine I applied a coat of Collinite No. 476S wax. I recently got this wax and I use it on both bikes and cars. I'm very impressed with it.
By the time I finished cleaning the wheels it was getting dark. I mounted the wheels myself as the sun was setting but the fender and belly pan were done as it got dark. The reason for this delay, although it is a very easy job, is that I washed both parts. I then applied interior detailer on the belly pan and #476S to the front fender. Up close it looks a bit odd because I have not washed the bike and my last ride included riding through a light rain. That's the bike below right after I installed the wheels and rode the bike over to a gas station.
I rode the bike to the gas station and back and called it a night. It would be two days before I got a chance to ride it and scrub the new tires up a bit.
I decided to ride out to San Isidro - a distance of 48 miles from my house. Round trip would nearly put on the "standard" 100 miles on a set of new tires that people say to do before really pushing them to the limit. But I'm not one to push tires to the limit - especially on a bike like the KS. Nevertheless...
About 8 miles from San Isidro 681 (N-S route) butts up to 1017 (E-W route). I stop at the stop sign and waited since a tractor trailer is approaching from the east. About that time he switches on his blinker to his left. Well... since he is slowing I figure I can pull out since I'm heading west and I can accelerate fast enough to avoid slowing the cars that are behind the 18 wheeler. Besides... it's a good excuse to open up the throttle of the KS just a bit. The KS lives in it's lower 25% of it's capacity. At least it is with me.
Time in each gear under these conditions is like 2 seconds on the KS and I shift at about 50% of redline. Get to 6th, look down and see the needle passing 90MPH. Cut the throttle about half way and look back to make sure I cleared the cars. Oh shit! Red and blue lights on a black and white! DPS on my tail! I pull over thinking I made a stupid move since I couldn't see the cars behind the truck. I don't think he clocked me because he asked me if I knew how fast I was going. I said "no sir but I was accelerating a bit hard to avoid the traffic". He says "well it was over 80 mph and the limit here is 70 mph. I'm giving you a warning." After writing me the warning he told me to be safe and enjoy the rest of my ride. He also added that he liked my motorcycle jacket - a BMW Airflow that's so well worn that it's almost grey instead of black. (Forgot to take a picture of his car with lights flashing behind the KS).
On my way back I pulled over to take pictures of an old airfield north of Mission. During some of my college days I worked at this location. I worked with the Screwworm Eradication Program. It involved the raising millions of flies. Weekly production ran as high as 200,000,000 flies. My job was to remove the maggot shit from the feeding trays. The job basically involved scooping the poop up with our gloved hands and putting it in pails. I'll save the gory details for a separate post. I hated the job but paid better than average government wages. Mike Rowe's Dirt Jobs would have loved to show that place although I don't think I am suppose to talk about it. Security was very high.
I had a very fun ride and the tires felt very good. Not nearly enough miles to write a review of the tires at this time. I'll have to wait to do a complete review in the future. I'm using them on my RT also and they are doing very good mileage wise on that bike.
Thanks for reading.
Ricardo On Pacific Coast HighwayRead More
Behind us, it was clear and sunny, but ahead a storm, void of light, rolled up from the Northern mountains of Mexico and it was crawling across Interstate I10. Ed and I pulled over at a rest-stop that was an arm's reach from the storm, about 36 miles west of Ozona, Texas to finish putting on our rain gear. As soon as we pulled into the rest-stop two guys, each with an RV pulling trikes, came up to us and said we'd better wait it out because there's hail up ahead. One of them said that's why the temperature is dropping so fast. It was in the high 80s, but now was about 70 and dropping more. It made sense to wait it out and as we waited, a lady came up to me to show me the storm on her Galaxy phone. She said, "I just live about 20 miles east of here and I just got off the phone with my daughter and says there's heavy rain and hail."
The Weather Bug App on my phone showed just what we saw, but it was more stationary than we thought because it looked like it was just on top of I10 with no interest in moving out of the way. About 15 minutes later the rest of our riding buddies approach us, but they are not pulling over. That's a mistake. Marco, David and Tomas just keep going into the blackness like a moth to light. Ed and I figure we should try and stay together so we get on our bikes and pull out not far behind them.
Within four or five miles we begin riding into the rain, at first, only huge drops fell, but it wasn't long before it became a real frog choker. Cars and trucks starting pulling over to the side of the highway, but we kept moving. We caught up with the guys after a short while and it was then that I said to myself, "Wow, that was a big rain drop that hit my left hand". Of course, it was hail. Soon I could hear the hail hitting my helmet as it made a distinct 'clack' as the hail hit. Unlike Marco who was on a Ducati, the BMW RT has a great aero-dynamic design and only my hands and helmet were getting hit by hail. I figured it was between dime and nickel sized hail as we could clearly see it hitting the pavement and accumulating on the sides of the highway.
By now all traffic, or so it seemed, had pulled over to the side of the highway or crowded under the few overpasses that cross I10. The overpasses looked like a crowded DQ on a hot summer night. I can imagine what they were saying as five motorcycles passed by. We pulled over once, but it was worse without the aero-dynamic protection so we pressed on.
About seven or ten miles from Ozona we finally saw a sliver of light on the eastern horizon. We were almost through. We kept our gaze fixed on the light as it kept getting wider and wider. Within a few miles of Ozona the rain stopped and we had made it through. Another rain cell was moving in from Mexico so we quickly filled up and kept pushing east towards Kerrville. We rode over 650 miles that day from Silver City, New Mexico to Ingram, Texas, but only about 20 miles of it was one for the story books.
Quick post. Rode 1,029 miles yesterday from Mission, TX to Willcox, AZ. Long day!
Irma and I rode out to San Isidro, Texas with Albert and Lisa to check out the "Bash In the Brush" church fund raiser. It's evolved into more of a spring motorcycle rally than anything else. There's live music, cook-offs, vendors, food, and beer. San Isidro is one of the last communities northwest of the valley, about 50/60 miles from Mission/McAllen area, before heading North toward San Antonio via the rural highway 16. It was at one time a great ride north, but now, north of San Isidro, it's cluttered with hundreds of fracking trucks working on the oil rigs.
It's a nice ride and great little rally that just keeps getting bigger every year. It's one not to miss in South Texas.
Not far from the busy roads of the Rio Grande Valley lies Delmita, Texas. It actually has a Post Office though I am not sure what kind of hours it keeps. The Post Office is a small one room building right on the main road named Delmita Road. It's right off of Hwy 2294 which intersects with Hwy 1017 in San Isidro, the closest town to Delmita. Delmita seems like a place frozen in time, the highway has actually been blocked off on one of the entry points on Hwy 1017 and the road no longer seems to be maintained by TxDot.
The gas station is now fenced up with its weathered lumber in need of some TLC. The gas pumps mark gas prices at $0.63 per gallon. It's a nice breakfast ride as its peaceful and quite, away from city traffic and all those fracking trucks that are all over rural South Texas.
I got up super early to pack the bike although our meeting time was 9 am. We left Mission at 9:15 am with temps already at 87 F. We are now at San Isidro for breakfast. Stats - 48 miles (ha), 52.2 avg mpg, temp 89 @ 10:30 am.
|Coffee in early morning Durango|
|Silverton down below|
|Something on fire up ahead.|
|The author and his RT|
|Zion National Park|
Court of the Patriarchs
Views of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Peaks
We were in a hurry so we selected to get off at the Lodge and tap into the draught beer available at the cafe and open air bar. We sat out on the great green grass with a great view of the cliffs in front. We figured that would be as strenuous as we would get on this trip with plans to return. We'd like to do the hike at the last stop, "Temple of Sinawava" which has the famous hike where the canyon walls get narrower and narrower as you go.
The City of Hurricane is about 20 miles off of I15 and about 23 miles from the entrance to the park has a Harley dealership that's handy for a quick rental if you happen to fly into Vegas. Springdale is the small community at the entrance of the park. It has restaurants and a few chain hotels like La Quinta Hotel (fairly new) and several non-chain hotels which look good. Of course, there's roads that are open and available for use, but they're not the best part of the park.
|In Zion National Park|
Zion keeps reminding us that people have lost their lives climbing so I guess there are all levels of climbing/hiking in the park and it doesn't seem like they prohibit much of anything. That's a good thing if you know what you're doing.
Zion is definitely a must ride if you can make the ride out West.
|A Great View|
|Clouds Building Up|
|Outdoor Cafe at the Lodge|
|Green Space at Lodge|
|Approaching Rain Storm|
|Beautiful Scenery at Every Bend in the Road|
|Across the Creek & You're In Springdale, UT|
|Holland Hotel in Alpine, Texas|
The rooms are classy and more period type than you might be used to, but it makes for a good stay. For your added comfort each room is provided with ear plugs since the railroad is just across the street and those trains seem to run about every hour.
Of course, you're right in the middle of town so you can take a stroll around and check out beautiful downtown Alpine without having to ride anywhere. Unlike Marathon, there's a few things to see and do in Alpine so it's worth considering next time you're making it down to Big Bend National Park.
|Train Across Hotel Runs Through Alpine|
|At the Holland Hotel Bar During Spring Thunder Storm|
|Fort Davis Headed North|
|Hotel Lobby Area|
|Just before early morning departure|
|John R. Holland Bio|
|"Common battery telephone service..."|
|Presidio County Seat - Marfa Texas|
In more recent years Marfa's back on the map as artists from New York City and places elsewhere and those that follow art have ended up in Marfa. A New York artist, Donald Judd started buying buildings in Marfa for his bigger art works. Marfa has also been home for some popular movies such as "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country For Old Men". So compared to the surrounding cities, Marfa is a regular Hollywood and New York City combined. It's worth the time to spend a half day there checking out the art community and some of the historical sites like the Paisano Hotel and the Presidio County Seat Courthouse. Visitors are free to climb the courthouse's steps all the way to the dome which offers a panoramic view of this west Texas area. The view gives you an understanding of the emptiness that fills West Texas.
Of course, Marfa is also famous for the Marfa Lights. A few miles out of town sits the Marfa Lights center which is open to visitors. I've been to this area lots of times, but have never had the urge to check out the Marfa lights so I can't tell you if it's worth a sidebar trip.
|Old Courthouse Seating Still in Vogue|
While we were there we stopped at the covered area by the railroad tracks which hosts their weekend farmer's market, but on this day its sole vendor was the lunch RV called The Shark. They were running off three or four generators and pumping out fancy sandwiches and flavored ice tea. Not exactly what you'd expect in West Texas, but the crowd sure fit the food except for my brother and me. Anyhow, the food was good, but there's a nice simple Mexican food restaurant just a few blocks away that's more 'local' and reasonable on prices.
|The Food Shark|
If you have the time my suggestion would be to stay at the Gage Hotel in Marathon then the Holland Hotel in Alpine then El Paisano Hotel in Marfa and end the Big Bend Hotel tour at Hotel Limpia in Fort Davis. You could cap it off with stays at the Indian Lodge at the Davis Mountains State Park outside of Fort Davis and end up at the best site of all, a campsite at the Chisos Basin at Big Bend National Park!
|Inside Courthouse Dome|
|El Paisano Hotel Courtyard|
I had been visiting both of my local BMW dealers plus doing a little riding in the Texas Hill Country. I use the term local rather loosely. I wanted to take advantage of my ride to the dealer since it is 265 miles each way by extending my ride. Dealer #2 is 327 miles each way but even more miles if I go via dealer #1. A simple dealer visit is not a leisurely daily ride for many of us not living close to a major metropolitan area. It calls for a very long day of riding or a multi day trip. Any day trip or longer and I pack for bad weather. I always carry rain gear and in any weather other than the middle of Summer I will include some cold weather gear.
|Looking back North towards the storm|
(This Blog contains reviews on most of these items.)
During my visit to Lone Star BMW in Austin, Texas I purchased a Rev'It Wind Barrier jacket because a) it's very good and b) it was on sale. I also purchased a cooling vest called Hyperkewl because a) it was hot as nearly always is in Texas and I was headed south where it's even hotter and b) it was relatively cheap at $39.95. The sales lady kept telling me that she would soak the vest for me in the toilet for free as part of my purchase. I soaked it in the sink in the men's restroom instead and left the dealer in the early afternoon. The weather was hot but other than that it was very nice for a motorcycle ride. In addition, I had called home and got a report of "it's sunny and a beautiful day".
Traveling through central Texas I almost always take back roads or secondary roads instead of the Interstates. In this case I choose highway 123 and 72 to I 37 to I 59 for a short 8 mile run to 281. I like highway 16 down the middle of south Texas brush country but not after dark. That part of South Texas just has too many wild animals out after dark and even cows and horses seem to find their way out to the warmth of the road beds. Once on 281 South I consider it smooth sailing for the last leg of my ride home.
Normally I'm OCD when it comes to riding or coming into bad weather. Not to the point of stopping or outrunning a storm but more to preparing for the ride. I tell my friends that I do not mind riding in cold weather nor rain (but not freezing rain!) since I have the gear for both including a bike that has excellent weather protection. You learn to see the signs; dark clouds, oncoming traffic showing signs of rain or worse, any column of darkness from the clouds down to the ground are all signs that you are about to run into something big. The column is a sure sign of rain or worse and the wider the column the larger the storm with little to no chance of riding out of it.
As I turn south on 281 in George West I see the columns. Not one but two of them. They appear to the east and west of my direction of travel but still a ways south of my position. The thought comes into my head to stop at the DQ in George West to see what happens. In any account I have not eaten lunch and it is mid afternoon. I could use a meal and some caffeine. But I decide to push on.
Within 10 or 15 miles I start to see little water droplets on my windshield. They are so light that I don't even feel them on my helmet. I ride through stuff like this often without doing any riding gear change. This presents zero cause for alarm but there is a warning sign... I don't see the columns anymore. I continue and it's only a few miles and I get a light shower but my only concern is my XM radio being exposed to water. I think about my friend that says he does not put on rain gear in the summer and simply uses the opportunity to wash his riding jacket and sometimes riding pants. I tell myself that I will wash the AirFlow jacket - it could use a cleaning anyway. By this time I am in a heavy but otherwise normal rain. I start my preparation.
Ok... I can do this. Tuck in behind the fairing, raise windshield to just below eye sight, close helmet visor (make sure it's snug), and close both helmet vents (it matters). It's important to close your visor before you get water on the inside and if you wear glasses you have another two surfaces that can get wet. That's a total of four surfaces that can have water and limits your vision severely. Add a windshield to that and you can consider yourself nearly blind if you continue riding. But I'm good! As a matter of fact only my arms are getting wet. Even my radio, GPS and dash were only a little wet with slight spray. I'm thinking: awesome bike, awesome fairing. I'm actually enjoying the ride and keep in mind that I did not put on any of my rain gear.
And then it happened... I hit what appears to be a wall of rain... and high winds! A little panic sets in plus sensory overload from the walls of water hitting me. First thing that comes to mind is to pull over. This is brush country and only a shoulder exists along the route. In addition, stopping will result in a total soak within seconds but my main concern was for the bike. The winds were too high and I thought that I would not be able to hold the bike upright during any sudden gusts. I also was concerned about getting run over by some driver that could not see well which I knew was the case as that was happening to me. Phase 2 kicked in right away. First I lowered the windshield so as not to be kicked around so much by the winds and I turn on my 4 way flashers. I have one car behind me and way ahead was an 18 wheeler that I no longer can see. Not bad... the trailer has plenty of lights that are much more visible than car lights but at this point I don't see him ahead. The car passes me up but within a mile he is slowing down to the point that I pass him. While this is happening I feel my chest and legs get totally wet and then my crotch went from dry to wet within seconds. I don't know why wet crotch feels like an insult when you are riding a motorcycle. Your torso can dry and your legs can dry once you get out of a rain storm. This is especially true in the Texas heat where a wet jacket can dry in minutes of riding. But a wet crotch seems to stay wet forever and I always seem to get to the next gas stop and feeling like I wet my pants.
I can't see much but I see the trailer lights ahead. At first I think that's good - something like my own personal lighthouse ahead of me but I find myself downshifting to 5th and then to 4th. I'm shifting based on feel because I cannot read my gauges - not even the gear indicator. I'm thinking this is too slow and thus dangerous and I could see where he was being pushed around by the winds. I pull over to the passing lane with no indication of my intent because I have my 4 ways on. I notice one of the reasons that he may have slowed down for was that there was a row of cars pulled over on to the shoulder. I think about stopping myself but decide not to since the bike is handling the wind so well. I don't want to make this a BMW report but at this time I am gushing for the brand. Since I saw columns before I hit the rain I figured that this was a storm within limited boundaries. I continued for about 10 or 15 miles before the rain and wind let up to a normal shower. The road ahead cleared up but I could not see any cars ahead of me. Weird feeling being all alone on a highway that is normally busy.
|Soon after the rain it was these things|
I don't know how much of a lesson this was for me. At my age, I mean experience, I should have known better. Observations... I was impressed with my bike with the way it handled in such a storm. And the other thing was that the only thing dry on me was my feet - totally dry! I got home 2.5 hours later and I was still wet except for my feet. The Rev'It jacket kept me warm even when my shirt and jacket were soaked. I wore it under my AirFlow jacket. I found it strange that I felt no cold yet my shirt was still very wet when I got home. I was disappointed with my helmet. In case you don't know it is expensive but it let in too much water. In the past I've had a drop of water run down the front on the inside of the shield. Then another drop and so on every few minutes while riding in a normal heavy rain. On this ride I first felt a fine spray or mist inside the helmet (recall that I shut everything off before the heavy rain hit me but did not use the chin cover normally used in the winter). Then the water droplets continued to get bigger to the point that I had as much water on the inside of the shield as I did on the outside. Perhaps it was the wind forcing the rain in but it should not happen. It's a safety issue IMO. On a plus note I never got fogging inside the helmet.
|My helmet didn't do much better|
And what are these bugs that are out by the millions immediately following the rain? They look like termites. They are rather sticky since it was still raining when they start to come out yet don't get washed off the bike. They would hit my helmet and stick and when I moved my head into the air stream to try to blow them off it only got worse with many more hits.
Thanks for reading,
|The Indian Lodge|
The park has a nice road called the Skyline Drive Trail that rises far above the rest of the park and offers a great view of the Davis Mountains as well as the city of Fort Davis just a few miles away.
|Community Room Column & Beams|
The park is not huge, but it's one of those that's not on everybody's list so it makes for a nice stay. Nearby is McDonald's Observatory, Fort Davis, Alpine and Marfa.
|Black Bear Restaurant|
|Heading from Big Bend National Park Towards Alpine|
Picture by Voni
|Ricardo & New RT|
We started our ride at 5:30am and it immediately struck me what's great about riding as the smell of grass fields heavy with the mornings dew fill the senses, then the sweet, powerful smell of blossoming orange trees dominated as we rode between orchard fields. It's just the sense of being close to nature that reminds me how we just miss those senses when we're caged up in our vehicles. What a time to ride as spring comes early to South Texas.
The new BMW R1200RT is a week old and I've got 2,323 total miles. After the break-in procedure and the 600 mile service a group of six took a three day ride to Big Bend National Park. During the three days we logged approximately 1,481 miles. Tomas, Marco, Ed, Albert,Pancho, and myself met up about 5:30am in Edinburg and headed out at 6am or so. It was still dark and we wouldn't risk the back rural highways at night with too much wildlife venturing out on the highway. We stuck to Highway 281 North and made our way to Falfurrias, about 90 miles from home to gas up and eat breakfast. We left Falfurrias about 8:30am and headed West on Highway 285 and then North on Hwy 339 to Benavides and Freer. Highway 339 is one of the few backroads that's not congested with all the trucking from the "Fracking Gone Wild" in Texas, so that's a pleasant ride through Benevides. We rode through Benavides and made a quick stop in Freer and a gas stop in Encinal then pushed on to Carrizo Springs where we stopped for lunch.
|Cruising Down the Highway|
Before we started the fire we went out to the Gage Hotel White Buffalo Bar for a couple of beers and some dinner. Food at the Gage is very good and the prices are not too bad. After our fireside chats we ended our day; 525 miles on Friday.
|Marathon Coffee Shop|
Presidio is not a very attractive town, but it's the gateway to Hwy 170 to Lajaitas, about a 60 mile road that hugs the narrow Rio Grande River. It's only a stone's throw from the US to Mexico and the river is a very shallow crossing in many places. There's no wall here as it's sparsely populated on both sides of the river. The highway is a great ride with lots of dips, some small and others big. It's a hilly ride, but most are small hills so it's a real up and down ride.
As we rode east we hugged the river to the right and crossed the Big Bend State Park to the left. We stopped at the State Park parking area to check out some trails and then rode to the next rest stop which is lined with Tee-Pees, not real ones, but ones made from cement.
We ended the route at Study Butte, fueled up and entered the western entrance to Big Bend National Park. Once in the park we rode to the Chisos Basin for a nice break. It's about 28 miles back to the western exit at Study Butte and another 82 miles to Alpine.
Reata Resturant was our dinner stop in Alpine. It's probably the nicest place in Alpine and they serve some great dishes.
|Marathon Coffee Shop|
From Junction on Hwy 83 south we stopped for a break at Concan just off Hwy 83 on Hwy 127. From Concan we made stops in Hondo and Alice before making it home. About 625 miles that Sunday.
It was a quick three day ride, but we had a great time. Weather was cool and skies were clear all three days and except for the cold start on Sunday morning, it was just about perfect riding weather. Big Bend is always a great ride and next time we'll do Santa Elena Canyon before heading out of the park.
|Pancho's BMW RS|
|Marco Having a Bad Hair Day!|
|Tomas & Albert by Rio Grande River along Hwy 170|
|Pancho, Marco, Ed & Albert in Concan|
|Pancho in Study Butte, Texas|
|Checking out the glove in Freer, TX|
|Going down the Hwy|
|Made it to Marathon Motel just before dark!|
|Albert at motel patio area|
|Yes, they have TVs (small), but no WiFi!|
|Rear view of Marathon Motel area.|
|Persidio stop at fruit drink cafe|
|Big Bend State Park|
|Rio Grande River|
|Arriving at BBNP Chisos Basin|
|Chisos Basin at BBNP|
|Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin|
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|View from Clayton's|