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Old 02-26-2008, 05:30 PM   #1
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Big Bend: Ride The Rio 2008

Two days of riding in & around Big Bend is just not enough, but it's all I could swing for this trip. Trucked there and back with my plated XR400R and had a blast!

A few pics to get your attention while I work on the full ride report...

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Old 02-26-2008, 05:32 PM   #2
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wow nice pics. Looks like alot of fun
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Old 02-26-2008, 05:38 PM   #3
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I bet that was awesome. Nice pics
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:10 PM   #4
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wow you go on some hella riding trips. cant wait until i get in that kind of position. nice pics!
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:18 PM   #5
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wow you go on some hella riding trips. cant wait until i get in that kind of position. nice pics!
Two vacation days, $100 in diesel towards the group truck/trailer haul, $50 or so in food, and $25 in gas for the bike. Friends that like to do what you do and split the cost: priceless!
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:19 PM   #6
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only two days? where exactly is big bend?
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:22 PM   #7
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Two days off work, plus Sat/Sun weekend.

It's the big "bump" on the other side of Texas. I think it was 650 miles each way by truck. Drove out Thurs, ride Fri & Sat, then drive back Sunday.
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:30 PM   #8
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When it comes to road trips...squeaky is my hero...

I hope one day, I can cover half the miles she's done, I always look forward to seeing her ride reports.
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:44 PM   #9
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Two days off work, plus Sat/Sun weekend.

It's the big "bump" on the other side of Texas. I think it was 650 miles each way by truck. Drove out Thurs, ride Fri & Sat, then drive back Sunday.
mind of a crotch rocket tags along with you on one of your rides one day?
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:58 PM   #10
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mind of a crotch rocket tags along with you on one of your rides one day?
We had street riders too - a Ninja 500 rider was having a blast on the pavement, and a few of the bigger DS bikes chose to ride mostly pavement also. Check out FlashStromer's report: To with winter... Big Bend Bound

Y'all are always welcome to tag along - this one started out as two of us trailering together and turned into four, and there were probably upwards of 40 bikes out there for the event.

If you think that's a lot of miles, just wait till you see what I have up my sleeve...
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:17 PM   #11
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Preface...

Past trips to Big Bend had shown me the beauty of the landscape and the awesome paved ribbons of roadway, but the only offroad venture I'd had was taking my Strom off the pavement for a short stretch last November. I picked up an XR400R last July and have since gotten it plated for street use with trips like Uncle's Ride The Rio in mind. The time had come.

.....

It was Wednesday already. We were scheduled to head out at 5am Thursday morning, but the morning would arrive too soon. Too many things were still not done – my last minute oil change was only partially completed (but my front tire sufficiently oiled), my new brake light was not wired in yet, and I didn't get to the store for road trip snacks and drinks. I'd have to manage with what I could get on a quick lunch-break WalMart run. Propel water for me and Coke for Scott (Tourmeister), who'd be staying at my house overnight to be closer to the early meet-up.

I was lacking the rest I'd need to tackle a rough unpaved weekend on the XR, but I would make up for some of that in the comfy back seat of Carl's (cdc1) truck on the way out. BIG thank you to Carl's wife Colette for convincing him to buy the Mega cab instead of the standard 4-door!

Day 1: Thursday, Feb 21

I skipped the morning caffeine ritual at home, loaded the truck with gear, equipment, and what-not, then got Scott out the door and on the road close to on time.

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It was still misting lightly as we headed for Katy to meet our caravan crew. We had to add an unwanted stop at my office to pick up my drivers license that I'd so carelessly left behind, so we were late getting to Gary's (DrBlackbird) where the trailer awaited.

We were on the road before the sun peeked up over the horizon. Carl is quiet, Gary goes along with the flow of conversation, and Scott is all talk. Lots of stories of rides gone by, some of which I was present for. I can't believe it was so long ago when I had the SV and started riding with groups and going on trips. Scott and I share some of the same travel memories, but from different perspectives, which are always fun to relive.

I was tired, but not quite ready for a nap. I tucked my pillow between my head and the door and dozed off before long...

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Luckily, my truckmates woke me in time for lunch in Fort Stockton at the local DQ. It was nothing fancy, but filled our bellies for the continuation of our journey.

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If you've ever had a face-to-face conversation with Scott, you know talks with his hands. He seems to have found his match in Carl.

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The wind was noticeably stronger out here in the west, and the truck was being pushed around despite its loaded weight. We stopped in Alpine to top off the gas tanks on the bikes and to pick up some snacks and beverages for the campsite. The guys made a choice from the adult beverage section while I went for Pop Tarts and avocados.

Look - we must be there - it’s Uncle’s!

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We rolled into Terlingua and stopped first at Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe, where Robert (GSer) was enjoying the setting sun on his BMW X Challenge. He graciously geared up and led us to Uncle's hacienda four miles down the road.

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We were offered different options for camping on Uncle's land, but ultimately set up “tent city” on the adjacent property. It had an outhouse available, flat areas large enough to hold all of our tents and gear, and parking space for the trucks and bikes up at the roadway.

Setting up camp was easy, and the rubber mallet I'd packed made quick work of pounding the tent stakes into the hard desert ground. I met Gordon (Flashstromer) from Missouri, and was relayed a "Hi from Trip" message (a friend up in OK).

We unloaded the bikes just as Rusty (Woodbutcher) and Bob (chopperbob) came by to see what we wanted to do for dinner. They helped me relocate my license plate so it would stay with me all weekend, then we headed off on our bikes to the El Dorado Hotel across the street. It has a small restaurant in the lobby with only four tables, but it held our group while we ate, talked out plans for the morning ride, and were serenaded by a local musician.

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As we were settling our tabs, Bill (DFW_Warrior) came in and proclaimed he'd “found me”. Uh, I didn't realize I was lost. He'd gone to Uncle's, checked tent city, and went by the front porch of the Starlight looking for me before seeing my bike parked out front of the El Dorado. He needed to let me know that in order to make up time for a slow(er) rider like me and still complete the proposed route we'd be leaving Kathy's in the morning before the “official” ride meeting at 9. Sounds like a plan.

We mounted our steeds in the dark and headed back to Uncle's to sit around and chat for a while, then made our way back to tent city to stare at the moon and stars. The moon was bright, and as it rose up beyond the horizon it drowned out most of the smaller stars in the sky. It was bright enough to eliminate the need for a headlamp while walking around the campsite, but once tucked inside my tent it wasn't bothersome. I could hear the noise of passing cars on the nearby roadway, but as the night grew long they became fewer and farther between. The snoring from most (if not all) of the area campers was almost as loud as the last thumper to ride away from Uncle's place.

(to be continued)
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:58 PM   #12
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Hey. Another Squeaky adventure. Looks like it was fun. More pics.
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Old 02-27-2008, 01:19 PM   #13
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man, terlingua, starlight, phat cafe, el dorado....man i miss big bend....awesome pics! hopefully i'll be down there for a week and a half working at Lajitas resort, down the road from Terlingua. Maybe i'll take the 10r. lots of good roads out there.....
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Old 02-27-2008, 04:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecretAgent View Post
man, terlingua, starlight, phat cafe, el dorado....man i miss big bend....awesome pics! hopefully i'll be down there for a week and a half working at Lajitas resort, down the road from Terlingua. Maybe i'll take the 10r. lots of good roads out there.....
If you want route ideas, just let me know. This was my third (fourth?) trip out there.
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Old 02-27-2008, 04:42 PM   #15
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(continuation)

Day 2: Friday, Feb 22

The sunlight was gaining strength and I awoke thinking I’d have to get moving quickly to make the 8am meet-up, only to discover it was still only 5:15. This fresh air must have played tricks on me. I quickly put myself back to sleep and woke up to greet the world at 7.

David (Cagiva549) boiled up some water for coffee and offered me a cup. It was yuuuum, and exactly what I needed to open my eyes and get geared up. My stomach was tied in knots - nervous about what lay ahead of me that day. River Road is not a difficult road by dual sport standards, but it was a big deal for me. I’d have to deal with sand, rocks, sand, cactus, pea gravel, and SAND! With the threat of a get-off high, I went with full MX boots, knee guards, elbow/forearm guards, MX helmet and goggles. Topping it all of with a rain jacket to protect me from the morning chill, I was set.

I carried a backpack outfitted with a water bladder, extra bottled water, and Power Bars that would have to feed and nourish me, while an extra MSR fuel bottle would offer a backup to the 2.6 gallon fuel tank on the XR. The tank panniers and tailbag would hold the fuel, tools, extra tire tube, first aid kit, and personal effects.

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I left camp and rushed down to Kathy’s to meet my riding companions for the day, but had left less than ten minutes of leeway before we’d be rolling - not nearly enough time to get around and meet all the folks that were gathering.

L to R: Rachel (Echo Boom), Mollie (BMW Babe), Bill (DFW_Warrior), someone with their head in the **** end of a bike, and Graeme (CalgaryYogi)
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Rachel would be riding her Ninja on the street with Soozy while the rest of us took off for the unpaved fun of Old Maverick Road, River Road, and beyond.

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I was glad I brought my National Parks Pass along - it saved me the $10 BBNP admission and will likely work out to be a real money saver on more trips this year around the country.

I was riding second in our group of four and following Bill’s dust cloud as best I could when we stopped for a break near the Jackyls den - a small stone structure that once housed a man out in the shadows of the nearby canyons. Bill and I shut off the bikes and waited for Graeme and Mollie to appear, but they didn’t. After a few minutes, we didn’t hear the noise of a running bike so Bill mounted up, told me to stay put, and took off from whence we came.

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I used the down time to take some pictures and remove my rain jacket, as the day was warming up nicely. I stowed it away in the backpack and heard the sound of bikes - but these were big bikes, not the thumpers I was riding with.

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It was Flash on his Strom, along with another Strom, a KTM, and a - what’s that - out here - on the rocky, washed out road - a Burgman scooter! I asked if they’d seen my group, and they had - all the bikes were still upright and everyone appeared to be Ok. Whew.

A short while later, Bill and Graeme returned to my resting point and explained that Mollie had decided this wasn’t what she wanted to do - the rocks and sand just weren’t fun for her. I commend her honesty and ability to speak up when she changed her mind. She was headed back to Kathy’s to find some street riders to pair up with for the day. With the early start we‘d gotten, it wasn’t a problem.

I was motoring along, standing on my pegs most of the way after learning that it was the fastest way over the loose stuff. I’d occasionally sit on the seat to rest my legs or in areas of uncertainty, but it didn’t feel nearly as smooth. It’s instinctive for me to sit down when the going gets tough, but that’s the exact opposite response I should have. It doesn’t allow the bike to move around as much, and it slows me down. I’d done this section before on the Strom in November, but it wasn’t the right bike for the job. The XR was clearly the right way to do this.

We got to the start of River Road, and I needed my photo op. I was reminded again to maintain a pace that I was comfortable with, and Bill led while Graeme followed from a distance.

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It wasn’t as well maintained as Old Maverick, but I was doing Ok, until I came up on this. A sandy, pebbled wash.

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I could navigate it easy enough, but with my focus on the wash, I failed to see the change in terrain directly after it. Rocks. Big rocks. There was only a slight left bend in the roadway, but my bike and I went straight. I have no idea how, but I narrowly avoided the largest of the boulders while bouncing up, over, and through it, finally coming to rest with the bike leaned over, the handlebar jammed into my left hip. I’d held on long enough to not let it (or me) go down, but as I flailed to a stop all I could think was “this is gonna hurt”. Graeme was quick to come help get the bike up and off me, otherwise I’d have had to step away and let it fall. I’d slipped far enough forward onto the tank that my hip was banged up pretty good.

My path of travel

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Where the bike ended up. Had I hit that larger rock, there’s no doubt I’d have launched myself off the bike. I must be riding slow enough for my guardian angel.

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This was as good a time as any for a break. I was a little shaken, and needed a minute to get my heart rate back down. I stretched my hip and thigh, drank some water, and thought about what I’d done to find myself in that predicament. I certainly didn’t want to repeat it.

After a while, we agreed it was time to continue on. My pace was admittedly slower because I was trying to be cautious, but there was also more sand to deal with. For some sections, I’d actually talk to myself in my helmet, “stay on it - Stay On IT!”, fighting the urge to get off the throttle when the back end started to slip out. About ten miles in (what, that was only ten miles?!?!) we found a rare shady spot to take another break.

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Before too long, a group of riders appeared - it was Gary and his gang. Running sweep was Rusty; he’d taken the Trans Alp down here to see how it would fare. It was doing fine, but he wasn’t able to keep pace with the KLRs with as little suspension travel as it offered.

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(more of day 2 still to come)
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Old 02-28-2008, 07:24 PM   #16
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(Continuation of Day 2)

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After Rusty took off to chase his group, we packed up the beef jerky and remnants of Power Bars and remounted. As I came through a sandy straight, I saw the arm of a thorny plant reaching out at me from just off the roadway and instinctively did what I've been repeatedly told not to since I first started riding off pavement – I tried to cross tracks.

I knew better, but I did it anyway. I ended up plowing the front end into the deep sand in the middle of the road and the bike went over on the right. Yet again I managed to get a foothold and keep it from toppling over completely (I'm SO thankful for long legs!), but Graeme said that when he rode up to the scene he spotted fuel leaking out and helped me upright it quickly enough to not reduce my range too badly before we could get to the next fueling station. No time for pictures this go-round, we were lagging behind Bill and it wasn't time for another break yet.

My speed was certainly slower than the others, but I felt like I was making progress. We came to an open area and found Rusty beside his bike, his topcase ajar. I used this opportunity to park the bike and run off into the brush for some quick “relief”, since there was at least partial cover from a nearby hill. Ladies – careful around all the cacti!

Rusty decided his bike simply couldn't maintain the pace that his group was running, so he joined up with us as we continued on. I let Graeme run up ahead with Bill to let him get a little more “fun” time in without having to babysit me, and Rusty agreed to drop back an ride sweep. Somehow we got moving with me at the back, an in an attempt to pass Rusty I went a little too wide and managed to land myself on a pile of boulders adjacent to the roadway. I hadn't gone more than 100 yards from where I has kick started the bike to life, and now I couldn't help but drop it and walk around to heave it back up onto the tires.

I was no worse for wear, but I couldn't get the bike in neutral to roll it out of the rocks, couldn't mount it where it stood balanced atop the rocks, and couldn't get it kickstarted standing on the left where I was. As I tried pushing it, Gary came around the corner and dismounted to help. He'd come back to check on Rusty since he hadn't shown up at the back of the pack for a while. Back on the roadway, I thanked Gary and watched as he and his gang took off, kicking up a cloud of dust.

Bill and Graeme led the way, and Rusty and I sauntered along in the rear. I was getting tired, and couldn't stand on the pegs as much as I had earlier that morning. It was a reminder that I was obviously out of shape, but the more I get out and ride offroad, the better my conditioning. I was getting into the groove of the washes and dips, but then realized Rusty was no longer behind me. As I slowed and waited, he came riding up in a cloud of dust – he had gotten into the groove with me and had forgotten that the Trans Alp couldn't take the same jolts as the XR. He bottomed out nd his top box snapped open, so he had to retrieve all the flying contents and catch back up. I took the opportunity to take more pictures...

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W regrouped at the split-off for Black Gap Road. I'm just a follower – but my novice skills are limited even moreso by my fear of heights. Rusty knew there were 'steps' in altitude up ahead, and as a group we decided it wasn't worth the risk of getting over that way and me panicking, so we headed for the remainder of River Road, with Rio Grande Village as our destination. We came up on some trucks and were advised by park staff to be careful up ahead – the military was out here grading the road and there was heavy machinery involved. As I thanked him for the heads-up, I could tell he was doing a quick once-over of my bike, and I was glad I'd taken the time to get a replacement inspection sticker the day before we left.

The sand got thicker, and a border patrol guard was positioned up ahead to warn us of even more sand that had been dumped on the roadway but had not been spread yet. As we got back in gear, he made the sign of the cross pointed at each of us. It had me slightly worried about the terrain that lay ahead, but all I could muster for a response was to lift my hand to the chin of my helmet an blow him a kiss. He bowed his head and blushed as I rode on behind the guys.

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Most of the sand wasn't too bad, but it took a lot of concentration to get through the mess. It was soft and hadn't seen any traffic to get packed down yet, so I kept myself seated and my legs on-the-ready to be deployed as outriggers to catch the bad wobbles.

Once past the sand, Rusty and I finally caught up with Bill & Graeme, and we lined 'em up across the road for a group picture near the end of River Road. I'd done it. Another milestone accomplished.

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We headed for the general store at Rio Grande Village to refuel the bikes and bodies, and I picked up a new sticker for my XR so I could be reminded of this trip often. Gas down here is listed as “2x the price on the pump” because of the stores remote location, but we'd need it to climb back out of the park. We sat and ate some sammiches and rehydrated while discussing the plan for the remainder of the afternoon.

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We'd take the pavement route back to avoid getting stuck offroad after dark, with a detour to Boquillas Canyon to see the view. Old Ore Road would be too much to tackle with the sun already descending as it was.

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I split from the guys at the gas station in Study Butte and made a beeline for my tent and comfortable clothes. My feet were hurting, and the sooner I got out of the gear the better I'd feel. I changed, washed my face, and reappeared to hear how everyone else's day had gone while snacking on my avocados. We wandered over to Uncle's and then up to the pizza shop, which reportedly offers “the coldest beer in Terlingua”. Not sure about the validity of that statement, but the pizza was downright YUMMM!

It was a quick but chilly ride back to Uncle's under the stars, David staying close beside me to help light the way with his KTM's headlights. There was a fire going, with a druid ring of tales being told. I overheard talk of a missing rider, but since nobody had told me directly I assumed it was either rumor or already under control. Beers were bottomed, cobbler was consumed, and the celestial sightings were amazing out here in the desert.

Back at tent city, a bright shooting star got my attention – and I made a wish. The conversations continued until we cumulatively decided it was time for bed, which meant time for more snoring. We were all getting used to each other already...

Track Map:
146 miles, elapsed time 8:28, Avg Speed 17mph
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Elevation Profile:
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Next Up - Day 3
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Rebecca
'03 VStrom 1k "Wilbur"
'98 XR400R "Templeton"
"Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -Kahlil Gibran
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:12 PM   #17
bdmpastx
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Experience: 10+ years
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