Adventures of a Motocamping Newbie: A Weekend in Big Bend NP

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sckego
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Adventures of a Motocamping Newbie: A Weekend in Big Bend NP

Post by sckego » Mon Mar 08, 2010 5:22 pm

I originally wasn't even thinking about going to Big Bend, much less actually camping out while there. When the wifey got confirmation that work was sending her back to California for a bit, and that her time away coincided with a three-day weekend for me, my first thought was "Arkansas!" However, as the first weekend of March approached, a bit of research showed that the weather and road conditions in the hills of northwest AR wouldn't make for very good riding. I decided it would be best to stay south of I-40 to avoid the worst of the winter weather, turned my sights west, and sketched out a long loop through NM, with a run up US-191 in AZ. A further bit of research showed that many of these roads were also sandy with snowy patches, and 191 was actually closed and impassible due to snow. WTF, winter. Maybe I need to stay south of I-20...

I've been wanting to get back to Big Bend National Park ever since me and Vic's first trip out there during Thanksgiving '08. However, it's so far away that doing the trip at a more relaxed, two-up touring pace, you can't do it in a weekend. Last time we took 4.5 days there and back, and we didn't even get a full day in the park. This time, though, going solo at my own pace, without the need to stop as much, I think I can do it in less time. The weather in the park looks to be pretty mild this weekend, so I also decide to try and have a go at it on the cheap, and borrow a friend's tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, which are secured to the pillion by a pair of bungee cords. I decide to purchase a small stove burner that screws onto an 8-oz fuel bottle, a small pan for cooking, and a moka pot for morning coffee. These, plus clothes, hiking shoes, a pair of 2L water bottles, and other assorted supplies are stuffed into the Givi topbox.

I guess this would be a good place to mention that I've never camped on my own before. I've only done it a few times, and almost always with friends who took the lead in supplying the gear and know-how. I've also never gone on an overnight motorcycle trip alone, with one exception--the weekend I bought the VFR, I rode it 1100 miles from NC back to TX in 28 hours, including a 7-hour stop at an interstate motel. Outside of that ride, I don't think I've ever done more then maybe 200 miles by myself; my longer rides are always either with friends, or with Vic on the passenger seat. So, this trip is full of new experiences for me. Wish me luck...

Thursday, 3/4/10 - DFW to San Angelo
250 miles - Map

Even with a Friday off to make it a long weekend, I knew I would be pushing it to make it Big Bend and back in just three days. I decided to take a bit of vacation as well, and skip out of work after lunch on Thursday. This would allow me to knock a few hundred miles off of my Friday ride.

Thursday morning, all packed up before heading off to work. The tent and sleeping rolls are secured using only two bungees, in an X-pattern... I was surprised at how easy it was to attach them securely.
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I got a flat a few days before leaving, so the wheels are shod in Pilot Powers with less then 60 miles on them.
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After leaving work, I headed out on I-20, putting some miles between me and the metroplex, before cutting south onto some backroads. I found some decently fun stuff around Lake Leon, just south of Ranger, but it wasn't long before it was back to the flat and straight.

Still preferable to freeway, though...
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In the city of Coleman, I pick up US Highway 67 southbound. US-67 and I will get to know each other very well over the next four hundred miles.

Coleman High School, boarded up and abandoned. I bet the neighborhood kids have lots of fun daring each other to go inside at night.
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The Runnels County Courthouse in Ballinger.
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I'm not sure that I've ever actually seen a Fallout Shelter sign like this before.
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A 21-year old rancher's son gets a statue on the town square when he is killed after getting bucked off his horse. Seems... odd.
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At about 4:30, I pull off of 67 in the city of San Angelo, and proceed to get myself slightly lost while trying to find San Angelo State Park. I pause to refuel and reorient myself, and decide to grab a bottle of wine while I'm stopped. A short time later, I find the park and get a campsite for the night. It's pretty breezy, and setting up camp is a bit of a challenge. The wine helped.

I pitched a tent. *rimshot*
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A can of beef stew, reheated over the camp stove, serves as dinner. Yes, I'm drinking wine out of a glass mug.
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The wind picks up and the temperature falls into the 40s as the sun dissapears. I quickly clean up, lock everything away in the topbox and crawl into the tent. The sleeping bag is very warm (rated to 15? deg F), and I actually end up sleeping on the pad, using the bag as a blanket. In the middle of the night I woke up, cold, and crawled into the bag itself. I slept pretty well and woke up at around 6:30 with the first light of the dawn.

Sunset.
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Friday, 3/5/10 - San Angelo to Big Bend NP
430 Miles - Map

I brew some strong coffee in the Moka Pot (delicious!) and cook up some instant cream of wheat (ugh!) for breakfast. I eat a couple bites and toss the rest... screw it, I'll stop somewhere on the road for breakfast. Lesson learned: try stuff out at home before bringing it along on the road... just cause it looks good on the box, doesn't mean it actually is.

Moka Pot!
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Packing up is a quick process. The sleeping gear is easy to stuff back into their bags, and the tent is very simple to break down. I'm back on the road by 8 AM, speeding southwest along 67. When I say 'speeding,' well... the speed limit here is 70 or 75, I can't remember which. I was making an effort to keep it at 80 or 85, really I was. But the road here is so flat, open, and unpopulated that 85 seems impossible to maintain. Time and time again I hear the exhaust tone increase and feel the slight lurch as the VTEC comes online unexpectedly at around 105 mph. I mentally reprimand myself and slow back down, only to have it happen again a few minutes later. Eventually I just give up and start cruising at 110. If a cop pulls me over... well, he'll understand. Hell, he lives here... he has to understand... right?

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I force myself to slow down as I pass through the dying towns of west Texas. Mertzon, Barnhart, Rankin... they come along in a slow procession, one seemingly the same as the next, identical points on the long, straight line of US-67. The gray, cloudy weather only adds to the feeling that this is one depressing ride.

Stopped for breakfast in Big Lake. MUCH better then instant cream of wheat.
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View from the highway in Rankin, TX.
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I continue at my elevated pace all the way to Interstate 10, where US-67 merges into it for about 25 miles, before breaking south again for Alpine. My fear of police is much greater along the interstate then on the deserted length of 67, so I slow to 90 as I get onto the 80-mph-limit freeway. I promptly get passed by an older Corolla loaded down with man and what looks to be all his worldly possessions. OK, maybe I don't need to slow that much.

Crossing I-10. The clouds began to break around this point, and the day started to warm up.
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The Marfa Lights viewing area... supposedly you can see strange lights over the desert here at night. *Queue X-Files theme*
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Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, TX.
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South of Marfa, US-67 begins to get more scenic, and even throws a few curves and elevation changes into the mix. It's by no means a great sport-riding road, but compared to the past few hundred miles, it's heaven.

Yay for something besides flat desert!
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This counts as "twisty" on 67.
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Overlooking the ghost town of Shafter.
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It was about 1:30 by the time I reached the Rio Grande at Presidio, and temperatures had climbed all the way into the low 70s. I stopped to remove the insulated liner from my suit, and open the vents.

An unfortunately named run-down building, or an artful statement on our country's current situation?
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Having finally reached the end of US-67 (thank god), I now turned east for what should be the best riding road of the trip: FM 170, "The River Road." I'm glad to say that it lived up to my expectations in every way: decent pavement, fun riding, and oh-so-very beautiful. For much of it I was actually sticking to the speed limit or so just to take in the views.

Twists and turns along FM 170.
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The Rio Grande, with the mountains of Mexico in the background.
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They call it a Farm-to-Market road, but I don't think there are much of either around here.
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I think the most stunning part of the road is where it climbs probably 500 feet in less then a mile, up and over a huge outcrop high above the river. My lone picture of it from below doesn't do it justice.
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The picture I took from the overlook at the top is better, though.
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Looks fast, even when standing still.
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It was very warm along the river, and I was sweating even with all my suit vents open. I was hot and thirsty by the time I reached the town of Lajitas, and decided to stop there to see if I could find an icy beverage, preferably one that includes tequila and a salty rim on the glass. Sadly, there was none to be had.

Seriously, your saloon doesn't open till 5 on a Friday? What a bunch of teetotalers...
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Memories of the margarita I had with dinner last time I was in Terlingua make my mouth water as I continue along. But, no love from the Starlight Theatre, either.

What's with all the 5 PM opening times?!!?
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I'm forced to give up on my margarita and continue the ride. 118 south at Study Butte, pay $10 as I pass into the park itself, and cruise on towards Rio Grande Village, at the very far corner of the park. I'm halfway tempted to take a quick side trip down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon, but opt to just get to the campground and set up. I reach the Rio Grande Village at about 4:30 PM, and pull into my reserved and pre-paid campsite.

Home for the next two nights.
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All set up.
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I feel ever so slightly out of place... I'd say 90% of the people there are in either tow-along campers or RVs, with the rest camping out of their SUVs. I don't see anyone else on a motorcycle (well, there are a few who trailered their bikes down behind their RV. Does that count?).

Living the life of luxury.
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Food lockers are provided at each campsite, with dire warnings to use them. I decided I didn't want any javelinas to mistake my riding gear as food, so I crammed all my stuff in there.

Little pigs are scary.
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There's still a bit of time before sunset, so at the advice of one of the volunteer "camp hosts," I take a short hike up a hill overlooking river.

Walking through the tall grass in the river marsh... for some reason I kept imagining velociraptors jumping out of it.
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The grasses aren't as scary when viewed from above.
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If you squint, you can almost make out a red motorcycle in the campground below.
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The cliffs of the Sierra del Carmen to the southwest.
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Playing with sunset photos. The Chisos Mountains in the distance remind me of a giant bird (a phoenix, maybe?) rising from the desert with wings outstretched.
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I was pretty hungry after the short hike back to camp, so I set about fixing some food. While browsing the Panther Junction store for dinner earlier in the day, I realized the perfect camping food, that can be had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that's delicious, easy to make, and lightweight and compact for easy packing. Yes, I'm talking about a packet of saimin and some fried spam. All that's missing is some fried egg and green onion. So ono.

Dis how we do um local kine, brah.
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By the time I was done with dinner and cleaning up, it was fully dark, and I lay out on the VFR with a cup of wine to stargaze for a bit. The wispy clouds that were during sunset had dispersed, and it was perfectly clear. The night sky was amazing, complete with the occasional shooting star, and a few satellites that would track across the western half of the sky, only to blink out directly overhead as they fell into the Earth's shadow. It was a wonderful end to the day.
Kegan "Glowstick"
'12 MTS1200ST - '15 CB500F - AFM #895 - AMA #3283468 - IBA #41999

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Post by 2track » Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:21 am

Awesome write up man. Looks fun ya making me wanta do that just because. :cool:

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Post by mattjmartin » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:00 am

If you ever need a second solo camping buddy, let me know! A few weeks worth of advance and I would be there!
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Post by Firewa11 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:42 am

Great ride report man!
"Life may begin at 30, but it doesn't get real interesting until about 150."
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Post by PinkFiddy » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:16 am

damn kegan! that's awesome! the pics are beatiful! reminds me of the drive grinner and i took over new years weekend to see his mom in lubbock and took the back roads. makes me wanna go with him on that ride and do a write up. you're so inspirational.

thanks for sharing.

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Post by Blizzard_1708 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:47 am

As always, nice write-up! I love reading your adventures!

Have you submitted any of your stories to Ride Texas Magazine? I think you might be able to get one published every once in awhile. Or possibly tour for them on their dime on your next adventure. Just a thought.

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Post by CrazyKuban » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:59 am

Nice nice. Glad you had fun. :cool: :eek:
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sckego
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Post by sckego » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:12 pm

mattjmartin wrote:If you ever need a second solo camping buddy, let me know! A few weeks worth of advance and I would be there!
I had a post up about this weekend in the member's section, but I didn't even decide on Big Bend until about five days before I left. Not much advance warning...
Blizzard_1708 wrote:As always, nice write-up! I love reading your adventures!

Have you submitted any of your stories to Ride Texas Magazine? I think you might be able to get one published every once in awhile. Or possibly tour for them on their dime on your next adventure. Just a thought.
The thought has crossed my mind, but then I wouldn't be able to put it up on any of the messageboards! Maybe I'll just point them towards some of the stuff I've already done and ask if they'd be interested in what I write in the future...
Kegan "Glowstick"
'12 MTS1200ST - '15 CB500F - AFM #895 - AMA #3283468 - IBA #41999

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Post by sckego » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:13 pm

Saturday, 3/6/10

I was again up before sunrise to start the day, which is to be expected when going to sleep before 9:00. The constant gusting wind of the night before had ceased, and it was a perfectly calm, comfortable morning. The morning dew had dampened the tent fly, and a bit had managed to seep through one wall of the tent itself, but nothing too bothersome. I could get used to this.

Dawn.
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The right way to start the day...
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I skipped breakfast, figuring that I'd do a short hike on an empty stomach, then find some lunch afterwards. So, coffee finished and everything packed away, I jumped on the bike and headed back up the 20-mile drive to Panther Junction, and from there up to the Chisos Basin.

I really don't need to mention how wonderful the VFR sounded while accelerating away from this stop, do I?
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Saw a few javelina here and there along the road.
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Everything about this--the desert brush landscape, the low clouds hanging over the mountains, the wild pigs crossing the road--reminds me of going over Saddle Road, back on the Big Island.
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The fog gets really thick as I begin up the road to the Basin; at times I'm puttering along at 30mph trying to pick out the road ahead. The road is steep enough that it soon passes out of the layer of clouds, though.

Looking back at the pea soup.
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Sunrise over the mountains.
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My hike for the morning, at the recommendation of one of the camp hosts, was the Lost Mine trail. At 4.8 miles roundtrip and with a 1250' elevation gain, it's not exactly going to be just a morning stroll, but I hope the views (supposedly some of the best in the park) are worth it. I reach the trailhead at about 9:00, and it's still a bit chilly. I stuff my riding suit into the topbox, but decide to keep on the liner for the hike.

The trailhead is near the crest of the road into the Chisos Basin, in the shadow of Casa Grande.
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Ooh, look, stairs going up. This will become a familiar sight for me throughout the day.
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Fog creeping up from the lower elevations.
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I will admit that the views from the trail are pretty good.
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The trail starts on the flanks of Casa Grande, but quickly winds it's way up a neighboring ridge, offering good views of the peak.
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I only made it about half a mile before the liner came off and went into the backpack. Steep elevation gains have a way of warming you up.

Agave. Yes, it's 9:30 AM, and yes, I would do all sorts of illegal things for a margarita right now.
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As I gain altitude, the Window appears behind Casa Grande.
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More up?
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More up.
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Finally, I make it to the top. The trail ends along a high ridge that eventually dead-ends with steep dropoffs on all sides. I sit for a while, enjoying the views and snacking on some powdered donuts that I have stashed away.

End of the trail.
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It's a pretty sharp dropoff down to the valley below.
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Heading back down is so much easier then up. Duh.
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I was up there... somewhere.
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The hike took about two hours, and once back at the bike I was pretty hungry. I headed down into the Basin (wearing only my helmet by way of gear... squid!) and parked there. Rather then have lunch at the restaurant, I decided to just get some snacks from the general store and eat them along my next hike. I picked up a box of graham crackers, and an apple. The apple looked so good I had a nibble of it as I was refilling my water bottles. It was sweet, juicy, crisp, delicious, and completely gone by the time I was done refilling. Back into the store to buy another apple...

I was debating what hike to do. I wanted something that would take up most of the afternoon, but not run past 5:00 or so, since I wanted to ride back down to the Boquillas Canyon overlook for sunset. One of the rangers advised me that the Emory Peak hike, to the highest point in the park, generally took about 6 hours, but had some good views along the way. I decided to head up that way, and be willing to turn back early if it appeared I was taking too long. The hike up to Emory Peak is a nine-mile round trip, with 2,600 feet of elevation gain. The trail reaches a crest at the 3.5 mile mark and 1,500 feet of elevation gain, and I decided to make that my decision point on whether to do the last steep mile up to the peak itself. It's 11:30 now, and I tell myself that if I reach that point by 1:00, I'll keep going up. Ninety minutes to do 3.5 uphill miles. Hey, it's no fun without a challenge, right?

Graphical representation of up.
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My goal is the high point on the right of this picture. Emory Peak, 7,825 feet elevation, highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.
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Casa Grande, from the other side.
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Some friendly deer came right up to the trail. I think they were interested in my graham crackers.
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This trail doesn't mess around. No nice flat intro section, just... up.
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Some sights from the trail.
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The farther I go up, the more I convince myself that I don't want to do all this exhausting hiking and then turn around short. So, I push myself even harder to make it to the crest by 1:00, which tires me out even more, which makes me even more determined to get all the way to the top. I'm stopping for short rest breaks every ten or fifteen minutes, just a minute or two pause to sip some water and stretch.

A (somewhat) level section.
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Finally, I make it to the crest, where the trail splits to go to the south rim, or up to Emory Peak. It's 1:00. Goal accomplished, I'm going up.

Note how the arrows for the south rim and the basin point to the left or right. Which way do the arrows for Emory Peak point?
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There are some food lockers at the split where hikers can store their packs, so they don't have to carry them all the way up the peak. I stash mine, carrying with me only a bottle of water, and my apple. I was going to save the apple for the top, but again, I start nibbling on it as soon as I leave the food lockers. It's so wonderful, I decide to commemorate it in my ride report. I also take this opportunity to express my distaste for more goddamn up.

Here's to you, apple. Screw you, up.
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Volunteers are busy rerouting the trail into a series of switchbacks, instead of heading straight up the mountain. Same amount of up, even more hiking. Doesn't seem like a good idea to me...
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The Basin village far below.
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My goal lies just ahead... and up.
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As you near the top, the trail starts to degrade.
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They call this "the quick way down."
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The final hundred feet or so are a scramble up a very steep face to the summit. It's not quite to the point where I'd call it rock climbing, but it's sure not just hiking. You don't want anything in your hands for this bit; you need them to grip the rock holds for support to help pull yourself up. Definitely not recommended for anyone with a poor sense of balance or a fear of heights.

Makeshift water bottle carrier: lid through camera strap, stuff camera in pocket. Not perfect, but it works. Note how steeply the ground drops away.
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I reach the summit at 1:30, two hours after starting the hike. Success. The amazing, 360 degree views around the park are somewhat muted by the hazy air, but it's still a great sight. I can't imagine what it must be like up here on a clear day.

Views from the Emory Peak summit.
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Looking south, Mule Ears are visible just behind the radio antenna. I think Santa Elena Canyon is somewhere in those cliffs in the distance, but it was too hazy to pick it out.
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There's a red motorcycle down there somewhere.
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And then, down. I think this is scarier then going up.
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Looking back at the summit.
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I'm imagining that the hike down will be a walk in the park (get it?). I mean, isn't the up the hard part? That part is over with, it's all downhill from here (thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week). Apparently my legs disagreed... while they were definitely tired when I reached the summit, by the time I got back to the food lockers they were sore. After another mile of downhill hiking my quads and feet were really sore. My fast walk turned into a stroll, then a shuffle. Stretch breaks became more frequent then on the way up. Maybe pushing myself up that mountain wasn't such a great idea. I begin daydreaming about how I should have packed a hang-glider or parachute up to the summit, then just jumped off and sailed back to the basin. I'm putting that on my to-do list for next time.

More deer along the trail down. I wonder if they'll give me a ride.
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Finally, I reach the village. It's 3:45... it took me fifteen minutes longer to decend 2,600 feet then it did to go up. Something is wrong with that picture. Still, just over four hours to complete the nine mile hike... I must say I'm a bit proud of myself. My legs do not share that sentiment.

Looking back at Emory Peak from the parking lot.
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I gear up and head out of the mountains, back to Rio Grande Village. I hit a light rain as soon as I leave the basin, and it keeps up all the way down past Panther Junction. Thankfully, it stops before getting to far down towards the campground; I wasn't looking forward to returning to a wet tent.

There's still quite a bit of time before sunset, so I decide to shower and maybe have dinner before heading off to the Boquillas overlook. However, by the time I return to camp the clouds are so heavy that you can't even see the sun, so I'll save that for my next trip down here, and just relax around camp for the evening. People down here are very friendly, and just drop by to talk for a bit. A guy from a bicycling group that was in the park for a few days came over to talk about motocamping. He was looking into getting into it and wanted some advice, so I shared what little knowledge I'd picked up in the past few days (his name was Tim, from Lubbock, on a BMW R1100 (1150?)R, if anyone on here knows him). Another guy came by to chat for a bit and invited me over to have some spaghetti for dinner... I think he was confused when I politely turned him down in favor of more saimin and spam.

Many mainlanders don't understand just how good this is. Also, note the multi-tasking Givi box wind shield, with a boot behind it to keep it propped upright.
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Fried spam back into the tin while the saimin cooks... mix it all up when it's done and voila, dinner.
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I pack everything up as best I can before turning in; I have a long ride tomorrow and want to get as early a start as possible.

Sunday, 3/7/10 - Big Bend NP to DFW
590 miles - Map

I'm up at 6 AM and start breaking camp. It's another calm, mild morning, with temperatures around 50 degrees. Interestingly, the temperatures stay there all day... I never see anything outside of the 48-53 range the whole ride home. I brew one more cup of coffee from the Moka Pot as I stuff away the tent and sleeping gear. Everything is packed and strapped by shortly after sunrise, and I'm rolling out of the campground by 7:30. My goal is to be back home in Euless, almost 600 miles away, by dark.

Packed and ready for the long day ahead.
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One last drive up Park Road 12. This is really a pretty good road, with lots of nice smooth sweepers and great pavement. It's one downside is the 45mph speed limit.
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Climbing towards the Chisos.
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I turn north at Panther Junction. Next stop:
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The man in dayglo fled across the desert...
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Since I didn't get a picture on the way in...
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Speeds pick up once I leave behind the park boundary and it's 45mph speed limits. US-395 disappears rapidly beneath my tires as I fly north towards Marathon. The high cloud cover back at the river has turned into low-hanging clouds that threaten rain. Still dry so far, though.

A promise of things to come.
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At Marathon, I stop for breakfast at the same cafe that Vic and I ate at last time.
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Just down the street from the Gage Hotel.
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Shortly after leaving Marathon, it starts to... well, not quite rain. It's not really just fog, either. I'll call it a heavy mist. It's not so bad that I'd worry about pulling out my camera at stops, but at speed, droplets still develop rapidly on my windscreen and faceshield.

Heading east on US-90.
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Gas stop in Sanderson. Still not quite raining, but close.
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I head up US-285 from Sanderson, wondering if I should play it safe and change my route. I had planned to split off of 285 on FM-2400, which would take me northeast to TX-349 and Iraan. However, the Farm-to-Market roads in this part of the state are often dotted with water crossings, and with the weather as it is... it would really suck to make it twenty miles in and then have to turn back because the road is impassible. I could stay on 285 all the way up to Fort Stockton, which, while safer, would add quite some distance to my route home.

I roll the dice, and turn off on FM-2400. The weather's not that bad, right?
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I get the feeling that FM-2400 would be a great road on a clear, sunny day. This is not a clear, sunny day. The road is wet and slick, and each time a yellow "winding road" sign appears, it's met with a curse. The water crossings aren't really flowing, but several of them do have puddles maybe an inch deep across the road. As I continue on, the clouds descend until I'm riding through a thick curtain of fog. Visibility drops to practically nil. I'm rolling along at 30-40 mph, praying I don't come upon a farm truck stopped in the road. I have both brakes covered, ready to stop at a moment's notice if necessary.

Pea soup.
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The really heavy fog only lasts for a few miles (long enough, trust me), but the mist persists to TX-349 and up to Iraan. I stop there for gas, and then turn onto US-190 east. Just outside of town, I find an unwelcome sight: a big hill, going back up, into the fog.

I thought I was done with up.
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It's not quite as bad as back on FM 2400, but it's still thick. I'm less worried about vehicles stopped in the road on a US highway then on a rural FM road, so I'm more comfortable keeping a slightly higher speed through the fog. Object appear out of the murk and whoosh past just as I'm registering them: carcasses, oncoming vehicles, a helicopter parked on the side of the road (yes, I'm serious). Finally the road descends again and visibility improves.

Not that better visibility is necessarily a good thing. The road stretches on seemingly forever, constant and unchanging. What I'm riding through now is the same as what I was riding through five minutes ago, and ten minutes before that. It teases me with the tantalizing promise that just ahead, beyond the veil of fog, over the crest of that hill, is something different, something to indicate that I'm getting somewhere. But it's all the same. The throttle rotates seemingly of it's own accord; the speedometer registers 120, 130, more. The road is deserted, with another car appearing once every couple of minutes. I slow when I see headlights, but it's more out of courtesy to the other drivers then it is any fear of police. Once past, the throttle rotates again, accelerating smoothly back up to cruising speed; I hadn't even fallen out of VTEC range. 110mph is mundane, barely crawling along. The road flies by, only to be replaced by more of the same: flat asphalt extending forever, lined with dead trees and covered with a featureless slate sky.

This is what Purgatory is, isn't it?
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I often sing to myself in my helmet, or get a particular rythym or phrase stuck in my head that just repeats itself. This time, it's Ewan MacGregor, doing the voiceover from the MotoGP documentary trailer several years ago: How do they do it? Why do they do it?... always faster, and faster, and faster." I try to get something else into my head, a song, anything but it won't stop. It just keeps pulsing in my mind: Faster.

I reach Menard at 1:00 and need to stop for fuel. I've come 131 miles from Iraan in just over an hour and half. I fill up 4.7 gallons: 28 mpg, where I usually get 37. The price you pay to escape Purgatory.

Gas stop in Menard. Can't tell my rear wheel is painted black... I think my baby needs a bath.
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At Brady, I turn north on US-377, and stop for a quick stretch.

I didn't know they had a Hard Eight down here.
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McCulloch County Courthouse, Brady, TX.
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I remember stopping here before.
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On 377, I force myself to slow to a more reasonable pace. The road is still deserted; even the towns seem empty. All the sensible people are warm and dry at home on this dreary Sunday.

Deserted...
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Passing through Dublin, TX.
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The afternoon is getting later, and I haven't eaten anything since breakfast. There's been an itch in the back of my mind ever since Brady, and as I reach Stephenville, I decide to stop and scratch it.

500 miles ridden in just over eight hours as I pull into the parking lot.
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Hard Eight. A fitting reward for a long eight hours.
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I was going to get some BBQ, but they had just pulled out this fat hunk of prime rib, and I couldn't resist. It was delicious.
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Final gas stop of the trip at Cresson, TX. I like to stop here after rides and see if there is any fancy machinery playing at Motorsport Ranch... none out in the wet today.
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Soon after leaving Cresson, the clouds that have been promising rain all day finally give in. It somehow feels right to end this long, damp ride with some real rain, instead of the mist that's been hanging around all day. I carefully thread my way through the DFW freeway system and reach home at 5:30, with 590 miles reading on the odometer. A long day's ride, indeed.

One of the first things I did after reaching home was clean and lube the chain. I can't figure out if that's a positive or negative trait.
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No longer a motocamping newbie...
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Kegan "Glowstick"
'12 MTS1200ST - '15 CB500F - AFM #895 - AMA #3283468 - IBA #41999

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Post by WillK675 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:10 pm

Great write up skego, as always.
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Post by Blizzard_1708 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:21 pm

awesome, makes me want to take trips like that!

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Post by dufremle » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:39 pm

Nice, Kegan.
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Post by WillK675 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:45 pm

Blizzard_1708 wrote:awesome, makes me want to take trips like that!
:icon_wss0be: One of these days, I'll be able to accept your offer to join you on one of those trips.
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Post by Bird » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:02 pm

Kegan, that was a HELL of a trip and a great write up. You really SHOULD see about publishing your write ups. I've read a LOT worse and you seem to have a knack for drawing the reader into your thoughts and feelings as you experience them yourself. I enjoyed it all and I have to give you a salute for taking it on and coming out on top. :-D
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Post by Blizzard_1708 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:41 am

Its possible that since it was published on the boards when you still owned the right to it that there wont be a problem if you sell the story now. Might be different if they are paying for the trip in the first place though.

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Post by Bailout » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:34 am

Next time you plan on hiking that far up I will be happy to loan you my B.A.S.E. rig, only one chute, no slider, loose pack so easy to pacj on a bike....yeah kinda sucks if your wearing it as a backpack and it opens at high speed...youtube anyone?
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Re: Adventures of a Motocamping Newbie: A Weekend in Big Bend NP

Post by PinkFiddy » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:13 am

your write ups and photos are amazing!

grinner and i visited the dublin plant not too long ago, and seeing your bike in the pic made me want to go back and get me a drink :)
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lalaloo!
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Re: Adventures of a Motocamping Newbie: A Weekend in Big Bend NP

Post by 2track » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:16 am

Awesome :shock:

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Post by U-Turn » Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:47 pm

sckego wrote: Image
-
Man that looks like it was a great time away from the daily grind.
Sitting on the couch, watching TV, isn't living.
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Re: Adventures of a Motocamping Newbie: A Weekend in Big Bend NP

Post by CJW » Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:01 pm

Great writeup. I started it today at lunch and finished it tonight way too late..... I used to hunt just south of Marathon. I loved that country and your story brought back a lot of great memories. Thanks for the trip! I need to get a comfortable bike to do some trips on. You Da Man
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