Big Bend 2012
March 21, 2012
Life has been a bit hectic… Work has been hopping with new projects and new hospitals being built. On the home front, it’s been just as busy. Wes got married in January, and the very next weekend, Deb and I started negotiating on building a new house. We committed to the purchase, and immediately started working on getting our house prepped for sale within a couple of weeks. Things went well there, and the house sold in 3 days. We moved out in under 30 days, and in with Laura. Several days after putting most all of our possessions in storage, I was trying to figure out what to throw in the bags for the trip down to Big Bend.
Motorcycle rides should be experienced before the actual ride with mental visions of the excitement of the trip. I had none of that with all of the activities that were going on. A day before departing, I was trying to collect the bare necessities of a road trip. In my case, a couple of cameras, plenty of memory cards, charged batteries and extra batteries are at the top of the list. I keep riding gear packed in the bags so as to not forget the essentials for survival on the open road. There is always gear packed for cool and damp weather, so just grabbing some clean clothes to bring along is pretty much the remainder of the packing.
Wednesday, I had to do a bit of work before hitting the road. That work lasted longer than I expected, so it was mid-afternoon before I was taking the train out to our home between homes. I called Tom and let him know the expected arrival time at Earl’s Shell on 380, the traditional meet-up place for our long rides. When I sent Tom the message that I was actually riding, Tom responded that he was at Earl’s and ready to ride. He was already in the zone, and that zone took me a bit longer than typical to achieve.
We dodged storms on the way out of town, altering our route in real-time based on the clouds ahead to avoid getting more than just a bit damp. But, that mental exercise in basic survival helped rid everything else that was pilled up in my mind. The more miles we put in, the better it got. Motorcycling is great at achieving that objective. It’s challenging, stressful in a good way, exciting and stimulating.
We rode somewhere around 200 miles Wednesday afternoon, settling for the night in Cross Plains at a small motor inn. I remember driving from Abilene while working for my father to restock cigarette machines and juke boxes in the Dairy Queen that still stands at the intersection of Hwy 36 and 206. Maybe that work traveling early in my life helped set the stage for what I love now, long trips on the road in the American West. We talked with a transport escort team at the motel that was carrying parts for construction of the tall wind turbines that have been cropping up all around the horizons.
March 22, 2012
Waking up in a small town on the edge of West Texas is a nice change from the busy city life. The storms that we punched through yesterday were continuing east, and the clear blue sky was laying out in front of us for our ride west. It was a relaxing morning ride through the small towns that I frequented at all hours of the day in my teens. Coleman, Ballinger and San Angelo approached in our visors, and disappeared in our mirrors. The landscape became sparse as we rode further west, through Big Lake and McCamey. Every mile that clicked off help rid my mind of unneeded stress.
McCamey was the stop for lunch. We checked the SPOT locations of the rest of the Lone Star BMW Riders main group. They were in Ozona, and it looked like we might intersect the pack somewhere as we joined I-10. But, as we rode further, it looked like Ozona was a lunch spot for the club.
The landscape continued to unfold in a dramatic fashion as we got closer to the Big Bend. It’s typical to be able to see 30 miles or more from rises. So the distant hills and mountains take time to near, and give ample time for study of the subtle desert colors that many don’t know exist.
We rolled into Alpine well ahead of any of the usual suspects. The hotel was nice to all us to check into Charlie’s room and get the road grime off. The weather was great, with sunny skies and low 80-degree temperatures. Slowly, bikes started appearing with riders we recognized. Bob rode in, and immediately headed down to the Lizard Lounge for some cool brews. That sounded like a good idea. The lounge filled quickly, and the West Texas happy hour ensued.
Dinner was at the Cowboy Grill next door with a short walk. The sun set, and the evening sky glowed with the deep blue typical out in the open spaces of the desert.
Tom remembered a bar from his satellite communications work days. Railroad Blues still existing, and Keith joined us to ride down after dinner for some pool and chilling. The crowd was mostly Sul Ross students, and varied from the hippy-looking dreadlocks to cowboy. Everyone was having a good time, and hanging at the fire pit that earlier was a point of excitement when a couple of the guys were not communicating as well as possible when one lit the fire while the other was still putting fuel on the wood.
March 23, 2012
Most all of the club rose early to ride out to McDonald Observatory. Tom and I were playing the part of Armando and Paula, getting up late and hanging at breakfast for a while. That worked, though, and helped with that stress-reduction objective that I was seeking. We ran into the group in Marfa, and rode together down to Presidio for lunch.
The River Road was next on the agenda, with its hidden turns after crests that make riders stay on top of their game. We all stopped at the Big Hill for group photos and rest. What a road. One of my favorites.
Lajitas was the evening destination. This town has changed very much over the last 10 years, with the resort now the main focus of the sleepy town on the Rio Grande.
Our rooms were in the section of the resort that resembled barracks of an old fort. The afternoon was nice for rest and talk. Dinner was at the resort restaurant, specially prepared for the LSBMWR club, which made up for the majority of the business.
I walked back to the room after dinner, and was obsessed by the deep-blue evening sky, accented by Jupiter, Venus and the Moon. The profile of the desert landscape and cactus rounded it all out. It was quiet, real quiet. Nice…
March 24, 2012
Tom and I packed up early for a ride through Austin for a stop Saturday night. We rode slowly through the park at the posted 45 mph in the still morning air, and stopped at the north entry for a visit with the park ranger from Wisconsin. She and her husband come down every spring for 3 to 4 months to work in the park.
The Border Patrol asked us the usual question… “Are you a US citizen?” They don’t spend much time with moto riders. We stopped in Marathon for a morning break, and spoke with a couple of riders from New Mexico.
As we were riding east on I-10, I was thinking of the ride through Austin, and more of the necessary ride up the horrible I-35 the next morning so I could get back home relatively early. About that time, Tom said over the radio that he was thinking of returning straight home instead of the stop in Austin. That’s all it took for me to decide the same. We plotted a return route through Brady, and had a nice ride back home through the rolling hills, taking in the bright yellow landscape painted by all of the spring flowers. The Bluebonnets were just starting to show.
We parted ways southwest of Granbury, and I made my way into the metromess as the sun set. What a contrast from earlier that morning… The memories of the wide open spaces will help me make it through the stresses of the city live and technical work for a while. I’ll have to re-charge soon, though.