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Day 6
March 27, 2007
Chisos Basin Campground                                                                              
Big Bend National Park, Texas    


                     
I didn't sleep much last night.  I ate supper late and it bothered me, and I hadn't run in a few days, and that was really bothering me.  I guess all that came to a peak last night.  I tossed and turned and never really felt comfortable.  Unusual because I usually sleep well  in my tent.
I was already awake when my watch went off at 6am, it was pointless to get up and do anything, daylight was still well over a hour away.  "Im gonna just lay here till I can see."

Pre dawn arrived about a hour later, then I started moving.  I struck camp in the morning dusk, and was finished in 30 minutes.  I've done this enough,  I have a routine, and I execute it well.

Because of the wallet scare yesterday, I removed my Regions Debit card from my wallet and secured it deep in the Moto Fizz bag.  Bank of America is the account I use on road trips.  I should have done it earlier, but my memory is bad.  Now if I do lose my wallet, I can at least get home.
After loading the bike, I took a short walk to the trash bins.  All are bear proof.  They had about 6 bins for recycling.  Paper here, plastic there, food here etc.  On the way back I stopped to chat with the guy in the KIA.  I was just plain curious about that chap.  I finally saw his tent, a small one man deal, that had been covered by his car.  Reminded me of Jim Menard's tent.

I called out to him-"So where ya headin today?"

"Think I'm goin over to Lajitas to do some hiking"

"Is that something you do often?"

'Yeah I'm a big time hiker"

"I see you travel by bike"

"Yeah, I'm a big time biker"

That fellow was just strange.  I don't know what it was about him, but he was just plain weird.  It might have been his funny hat with the flap on the back.

The sun was coming up, time to ride.  The sky was cool and clear.  The weather today would be perfect, and after the last 2 days most welcomed.









































                                                   The ride through Big Bend was brilliant.  It was a perfect
                                                   morning to be on a ride.


I brought the RT to life, reset all the trip meters, and recalled the route for today's ride and off I went.

What a beautiful morning.  The park road went up then down to the main highway.  The morning sun seemed to bring the mountains to life.  I made a left turn north at the junction and sped off in nothing short of pristine sunlight and air.

A deer was nibbling on a bush, I saw it and stopped, and he nonchalantly moved off into the desert.

The morning had a magical quality about it.  Over the years, I've experienced fine rides-this ride out of Big Bend would be one.  The sun cleared the mountains, and my shadow moved across the road, as I tilted the RT in the slight curves.  The rain of 2 days ago, and the fact no large industrial city was within 700 miles, gave the air the cleanest scent I'd ever sampled in my lifetime.  It smelled fresh and wholesome.

I stopped often for pics and video, I wanted to capture the ride best I could.  A morning like this is why I do it.  Everything about it was perfect.  The weather, the road, the bike, and the timing.  I basked in the glory of riding free on a day like this.  No place I had to be, no phones to answer, no long commute, no deadline to meet.  This was going to be MY day.  "Thank you God, for allowing me this," as I brought the screen all the way down to feel the cool, unmasked air flow around me and in my face.

The roadway dipped and flowed over the desert, and bent around the mountains.  It was a great ride, and over too quickly.  I left the park and veered the RT left onto SR 170 to Presido, a road I've heard much about.

I hit the ESA button and brought the suspension to full sport mode.  The surface was quite irregular in some sections and the extra firmness jolted me, the price you pay to be able to lean.

































 
                                                                       Abandoned hacienda 


The GPS guided me through the dusty, empty towns of Study Butte and Terlinqua, they are noting more then outposts in this harsh land of desert and dryness.  The summers are terminally hot and the winters are often cold.  The handful of people that call these places home live miles away from anything significant.  I don't know how they do it.

































                                   This old ghost town can be found near Terlinqua


S.R. 170 will go on the favorite road list.  What a great ride.  The road took me up long climbs, and steep drops.  It bent and rolled along the Rio Grande River.  Pavement varied from bad to ok.  Many times the road bent hard at the top or bottom of a long hill.  It was very technical and one of the most challenging roads of my career.  If you're a serious long rider you need to ride this 60 miles of road someday.
On my right I often I had a sheer wall of rock, there was no room for error, if I messed up I was going to bounce a few times off the wall before going down.  But I was not riding aggressively, so I didn't worry about that.

Near Big Bend State Park, I stopped at the movie set for pics and video, and to enjoy more of the day.  I wanted to get up close to the Rio and look out into Mexico.  I took a walk along the bank of the river and studied the muddy, but fast flowing water.  It didn't look all that deep, in fact you could probably wade across to Mexico without much problem.





































                                     I posed for this pic at the old movie set on SR 170, on the banks
                                   of the Rio Grande.

The old movie set has a church, a few other buildings, it was kind of fun.  I was there 30 minutes.  I wanted to get to Dallas today, and I could if was willing to skip moments like this, and just take off quickest route.  "Shoot I'll be good if I make it to San Angelo today."  Why I prefer riding alone, I can set my own timetable.

SR 170 can be a dangerous road for the careless or overly aggressive.  And no injury out here can be considered minor, given the fact you are far away from any real medical attention.  Be extra careful if you decide to come here to ride.

By late morning I was in the border town of Presidio.  All my gas warnings were screaming at me.  The RTs yellow light, and the flashing gas pump on the Garmin.  If I ever run out of gas, I can't say I wasn't warned.  I really like the colorful gas gauge thing on the Zumo.  When it fires off it will ask you if you want to go to the nearest gas station, but I never took that option.  When I ride the Honda I'll have to reset the miles, but the reserve light on both bikes, comes on pretty close to the same miles.

Presidio is a town of old store fronts, and dirty glass shops, patrolled by beat up cars and trucks.

I rode through the town, stopping in the first 3 gas/con stores I came across looking for gas.  I skipped them because NONE had a card reader, had to pay first, then pump.  "I ain't doin that, unless I have to."  At the end of the circle I found a Exxon station with a modern gas dispenser and pumped almost 6 gallons in the 7+ tank.  When I finished I went across the street to a bank atm and pulled out 50 cash.

All that made me hungry so I went to the El Patio for lunch, located in the downtown business district.  I backed the RT at an angle to the curb and went in.  I sat across from 3 Border Patrol agents and thanked them for the job they do.

I ordered up 3 of the best tacos ever, then made a few phone calls.  Debbie was at work, and only had a minute.  I spent some time with my son, then called Ken Hendrix.  "Look here bro, not going to make Dallas today, already lunch time and I'm only as far as Presidio."  All the picture taking and the nature of 170 had really slowed me.

After lunch I put in some notes, and starred out the window at downtown Presidio, trying to put my finger on what was so peculiar about this place.  "Slow motion, this town moves like cold tree sap,"  cars, pedestrians, bicycles all seemed to be pulling something heavy behind them.
Lunch set me back a reasonable 5.40 and after paying the tab I was on the sidewalk gearing up, when 2 Anglos with 2 Hispanics stopped to speak.  "That's a beautiful bike" one of them remarked  "thanks, you should see it when its all cleaned up and shiny."

Presidio was the terminus point of my trip, from here it was time to start working my way back to Alabama, and home.  I took U.S. 67 North out of city to facilitate that objective.

Buzzards in Texas are fattest I've ever seen.  They get plenty to eat from road kill.  The menu included deer, rabbits, and a few Road Runners that didn't live up to the name.

Somewhere on this ride, I passed a rock formation in the distance with Lincoln's profile.  A sign was in place pointing it out.  The profile was very distinct.  Of all the pics I took today, I regret not stopping for this one.  I tried numerous Google searches  on Lincoln>profile>mountain>Texas, but all the results were cities named for Lincoln, or universities etc.  If someone can help me, that would be good.  I was sure I could find a canned pic somewhere, but no luck.  I believe the mountain is somewhere on U.S. 67.

(update Nov. 2009- I received a link to a URL with the following photo from a reader.  Many thanks to Matt.)





























                                The Lincoln profile in the Texas desert.

North of Presidio I came into a Border Patrol check station.  I was 20 miles or so from the border, but 67 is one of the main routes north.  In fact the BP had several check points on the major routes inland from the border.  I was number 3 in a line of 5.  After several minutes of dialog, car number 1 was sent to a shakedown lane, and the 4 occupants, were asked to get out.  





































Border Patrol check point, U.S. 67.  I don't know why the flag 
was half mast.

The occupants in vehicle 2 had their paperwork verified and allowed to continue.  I was waved up, I was about to set the stand and get my passport out when the officer asked, "American citizen?"  "Yes,"  "Identification please."  "Just a sec, I have it in here," as I flipped open the fairing pocket.  "Never mind sir, go ahead."

I stayed on 67 to Marfa.  I have a thing about courthouses, and the city had really nice one so I stopped for a pic.  I exited the city on SR 17 and continued north to SR 118 and went into the Davis Mountains.



























The Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, Texas.  No computer
tricks, the bent cloud is real.


The riding had been somewhat lackluster since I left Presidio but now things started looking better, as the highway went up in elevation.  I checked the Zumo (the elevation info is nice thing to have) for the height- over 5,000 and climbing fast.

The ESA button took me back to the sport position and the RT responded.  What a great handling touring bike the RT is.  SR 118 proved to be another great ride.  The Macdonald Observatory was at 7,000 feet.  I had a great vista, but no safe place to pull off to get the camera out.  That was unfortunate because the view was really nice.  The landscape was high grasses and trees like the Hill Country.  It was pretty country.

The riding was good as I heeled the RT in the many curves.  A sign read "flagman ahead," so I slowed down, but I wasn't riding fast anyway.  About a mile later the road went single lane, I was waved through without stopping.  "Man I hope he knows to stop traffic up there."  I proceeded with caution, because I wasn't for sure the guy at the other end was awake.  So little traffic out here, I had a fear he was slumped over, and I'd meet the grill of some SUV.































Coming down out of the Davis Mountains.  A nice view
of the vastness of West Texas.

At the end of the run I stopped in a quiet picnic area under some trees.  I just wanted to walk around and move some blood through my legs, one of the best things you can do to prevent circulation problems later in life.  I took my phone out to text Chris, "I bet they have a cell tower at the Observatory."  I was right, a good 2 bars was showing on the Razor.
































                                   Just stretching my legs. SR 118 in the Davis Mountains


From here, I knew the fun was over.  I'd bee on I-10 soon and heading east.  I was kind of sad about that.  The GPS put the distance to the interstate at 10 miles and some change.




























                              Now you see why I was sad to leave 118 for I-10.


I diligently boarded I-10 and took off, speed limit out here is 80! OBOY!  I confidently put the RT on 85, and said, "this won't take long."
A stiff crosswind came out of the north, and pushed the RT around.  It is still more stable then ST in crosswinds, but like any motorcycle, wind will affect you.

I ate up rows of 80 mph cars and SUVs.  The big sport utes at this speed were surely devouring 80 dollars worth of gas in 250 miles or less.  Ouch.  A 500 mile round trip in one of those was going to go for over 200 dollars.  I'm guessing but most SUVs have a 30 gallon tank?  30 x 2.50=75 to fill up.  Run the numbers and you see the result of a 500 mile trip.  The RT does that same trip for about 25 dollars, at 80 mph.

There was nothing to see from I-10.  I was bored the entire time.

The temp was a perfect no humid 72 degrees.  I really picked a good time to come to South Texas.

A Motel 6 sign appeared, a unit is in Fort Stocton.  "I'm gonna check that out, I might just spend the night here."  I came off the interstate and scouted the area.  A place to run, steakhouse within walking distance, and quick return to I-10.  It was still early but the next town of any significance was San Angelo, and from there it was on to Dallas and Ken's house.  I could do it, but that would reduce my time with Ken, and put me in Dallas around 10pm, I didn't want to do that to his family.  But if I call it a day here, I'll HAVE to make Dallas tomorrow.  Not a big deal, the city was only 400 miles away, and the weather will be good.

"I have everything I need here, so I'm coming in."  I dearly wanted to run today, I've been missing it, and getting off the road early will allow me to do that.  So at 3 pm I called it a day in Fort Stockton after a 321 mile day.

The motel was empty but she gave me a upstairs room?  Not only that the stairwell and my room were on opposite ends.  Meaning a long walk to the stairs where the RT was parked, and then all the way back down again.

I threw my stuff on the empty bed and relaxed a short while.  Then it was time to run.  My running has been in a funk for several weeks.  I was in peak condition for a half marathon in February, but 3 weeks from the race I was hit with a calf injury and not able to race.  Heck, I wasn't even able to run for 3 weeks.  I'd been back running a week when it was time to leave for this trip, so all in all I've not done much in 5 weeks.  I could tell it on this 4 mile run, which consisted of 3 laps using the roads near the motel.  

It was the worst run I ever had on a tour.  I had to shuffle, and was just glad to finish.  It might've been the poor diet of late (when I'm not training hard I tend to go in the tank) or the just lack of training in general, but it was not fun.  I felt good when it was over though!

When I finished my run, I cooled down with a drink from the machine, while I cleaned the RT.  I was parked behind a 8 wheel delivery truck, I wasn't close to it, but I feared the driver wouldn't see the RT and back over it on his way out.  "I'm going to move it."  Before I could a guy from Odessa driving a big pick parked between us.  "You gonna be here tonight?"  ""Yeah, not going anywhere, done for the day."

He went on to tell me he was in town working on a oil field, and been here for 2 weeks.

"Good place to eat around here?"

"K Bobs down the street is pretty good."

I was walking back to the room when a older man unloading his car spoke to me.

"I see you're getting laps in."

"Yeah but I didn't do good, but just glad to run"

"I use to have a BMW, but I quit riding about 10 years ago, my sense of balance left me."

"that's too bad, I know you miss it"

"yes I do"

Back at the room I took a long hot shower, and put on civilian clothes for the short walk to the steakhouse.  I brought along my camera and PDA.  
K Bobs is a nice local place, nothing fancy like the franchise places.  I had the grilled chicken and a baked potato.  What I really wanted was a rib eye but didn't see the need of messing up my run by eating badly.

I did some journaling and reflected on my day, and the tour so far.  I was really having a good time.

A man at the table next to me mentioned to the waitress his steak was tough.  "The last time I was here my steak was good, but this meat is like leather."  "Do you want another?"  "Nah, I don't have time for that, I just thought I'd let y'all know."  Well ok, so what was the point of bringing it up?

I called my brother to check on my Uncle Wayne.  He is under Hospice care, and not doing well.  I feared something would happen to him before I could get back.  Gus reported his condition was still the same.  Could be tonight, or could be 6 months.  The doctors refused to say, because they really didn't think he'd last this long.

The walk back to the motel was nice.  The sun was setting and the hues, unique to the Southwest, became apparent.  






















                                           Sunset Ft. Stockton, Texas


I checked the routes on the GPS for tomorrow.  The riding will be less grand from here.  Not bad, but no more leaning or awesome scenery.  I'm been doing a lot of sight seeing this ride and the pace has been slow.  The next day will be different.  I needto be in Dallas tomorrow to fit Ken's schedule.

After watching a little tv, I hit the lights about 11pm.  I slept really well, it could have been the 4 mile run, or the fact I was in a bed, or I was so tired from the not getting much sleep the night before.  I suspect it was a combination of all 3.







Next- The ride to Dallas, and checking out Dealey Plaza.
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Footnote:  I'm sad to report my Uncle Wayne passed on April 10, 2007.  Two weeks after this trip was completed.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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