Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Bend—Old Ore Road and the finale…

Day 2 – During breakfast (again, at the great café in Study Butte, we looked at the map, saw what was left of the 4x4 roads, and planned our route for the day.

Here are the routes we took each day, Day 1 in blue, Day 2 in Green.

Dagger Flats was a plain old dirt road, well maintained for cars. The only notable part about it was that it had rained the night before, leaving the road with perfect traction. We rode to the end, then backtracked to Old Ore Road.

It started off a bit rocky, then turned into a great stretch of mild to moderately challenging terrain.

Here’s a short video clip:


At one point, we went off on a side road for a short distance, then turned around. The part where we got back on the road was nasty deep sand. Lee was already gone as I wallowed and wiggled through on the GS, then waited for Tom a hundred yards down the trail where it turned back to a “normal” surface. And waited. And waited.

I kept looking back, and couldn’t see him, until I realized that the KLR was on its side, and Tom was bent over trying to pick it up.

I parked the GS and walked back to help, but not before taking this picture:

The last time we were in Big Bend and Tom crashed (many years ago), I ran back to help without taking a picture. I swore it wouldn’t happen again.

Most of Old Ore Road did not lend itself to great pictures, until we came to the mighty sand washes that the old couple had told us about yesterday. Lee was leading me by several hundred yards. I didn’t see him enter the first sand wash, but I did see a HUGE cloud of sand in the air before I got to it. I slowed waaaaayyyy down on the GS, and surfed on through, while Lee watched, hoping to see a crash. No such luck.

A mile or two later came the second sand wash, deeper than the first. Lee had ridden through, parked on the other side, and walked back to watch. Tom and I looked at it, I said, “Looks dangerous; you go first.” I pulled my camera out as he motored into it and snapped these shots:

After we got Tom out, I cruised slowly into it, too slowly. The rear wheel started to spin, and almost immediately was buried to the hub in the flour-like sand.

Lee tried to lift the rear alone, while I eased the clutch out—no go. I hoped we could get it out with Tom’s help, but I wasn’t sure. At that very moment, a Jeep Cherokee with a half-dozen guys in it pulled up. They saw the problem and piled out to help. We had the big GS free in moments.

Events like that re-affirm my faith in the Universe as a mostly benevolent place. We had seen a total of three cars in a day and a half of riding-what are the odds that a car full of husky young men would appear at exactly the right place and exactly the right time?

We finished Old Ore Road and headed to the Hot Springs for some lunch and relaxation. There were several people already there. Unfortunately, they were all old and showing WAY too much skin.

There were a couple of guys from Boquillas across the river, selling trinkets. It’s sad to know that the town is dying due to the cutoff of tourism after 9/11. The border patrol has disallowed the old “rowboat across the Rio Grande” trip that kept Boquillas afloat.

Lee threw the two guys some candy bars from his pack.

After that, we took River Road West up to Glenn Spring road, and the last turnoff, up to Pine Canyon. At the end of the road we found the best wildlife sign I think I’ve ever seen. The stick figures with the hair sticking out is the best.

Finally, back to Terlingua to pack up, hit the Starlight theater for dinner one more time, then a 0630 departure for San Antonio.

It was about 45 degrees leaving Terlingua. I took this picture of Elephant mountain about 45 minutes out of Study Butte.

My heated grips, Gerbing liner and Aerostich kept me nice and warm … until … we hit the mountains near Alpine. We climbed up into the clouds and the temperature dropped to the mid-30’s, and the dampness penetrated my gloves. It was a miserable 30 minutes until emerging into Alpine, where the clouds were once again above us—where they belong.

We stopped at the Gage Hotel in Marathon for breakfast.

The fine linen tablecloth seemed like a dream after the previous couple of days. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a better breakfast.

After that, we split up, Lee and Tom taking I-10 home, and I came back on Highway 90. I stopped for a picture over the Pecos:

And that was just about that. I came home, unpacked, did laundry, and waited for the sweetest woman alive to get home from the Oscar party….

All the photos from the trip can be found here:


The route:

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