Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Big Bend NP Trip - Tuesday

I awoke just before 8am and rolled over to see that it was in the low 20s. Brrr.

With a long day ahead, I was determined to get an early start, so I immediately extricated myself from the sleeping bag and started to pack up. I guess the cold caused me to move more slowly, because it was a full two hours before I waved goodbye and rolled the ST down the dirt access road and onto TX-118.

The first 80 miles were to be the most fun I’d have all day. The R1200ST twisted and turned like a pro on the winding asphalt. On one of the long straights, the whispering voice of temptation was strong, but I only twisted my right hand a little before deciding not to risk it. Coming down out of the Davis Mountains into Alpine, I was strongly reminded of CA-58 and the descent to McKittrick.

I made my first fuel stop of the day in Alpine with 570 miles to go. It is always a bit depressing to see that high of a goal on the GPS at close to midday (it was just after 11am). I opted to have a Clif bar for breakfast and get back to eating miles.

An hour and a half later, I was rolling down I-10 at 84 mph (speedlimit is 80!) having a hard time keeping my focus. I was tired and getting the afternoon doldrums early. After I found myself shaking my head to keep awake, I pulled into a rest area for a break. An almond Snickers bar that had been floating around my topbox provided a nice sugar rush while I sat and read my book for a few minutes.

Surprisingly refreshed from that short break, I easily made it to Ozona, TX for a lunch and fuel stop around 2pm.

After getting such a slow start with many stops in the morning, I was slightly concerned about my ability to keep good saddle discipline on this 650 mile day. Happily, that “so tired and can’t seem to keep my eyes open” feeling never returned. I was easily able to stay focused on the road through the entire 200 miles from Ozona to San Antonio without needing to make a single stop.

Many sport-touring riders seem to despise interstate travel. While it’s not my favorite way to burn a tire, I truly don’t mind. Ensconced on the R1200ST as it comfortably floats down the road with the xm radio piping tunes into my helmet, I can ride all day without being bored. With my body happy and relaxed into the ST’s bent over riding position, I can go for hours without a stretch. I tend to keep my feet on the pegs and body tucked in slightly. My eyes constantly scan the road and my mirrors, analyzing the probable actions of the vehicles around me while my lips move to the music.

The sun had just set when I made my final fuel stop. According to the GPS, I had another 180 miles to go and would arrive home around 9pm. I called my parents to give an update on my ETA before gearing back up with my electric vest.

As full dark approached, the temperature dropped. My new HID bulb replacement was putting plenty of light down the road, so I had none of my usual night-vision problems.

A warm shower and some homemade Zuppa Toscana was waiting for me when I rolled into the garage around 8:45pm after one of my longest ever days on the road.

I had never before thought of winter as an ideal time to take a long road trip. This might need to become a new holiday tradition.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Big Bend NP Trip - Monday

I awoke on Christmas Day feeling lazy. Breakfast was a Clif bar washed down with water from my camelbak. Anna and I spent the majority of the morning sitting in the newly discovered Rec Room surfing the web and posting pictures. A little after noon, we geared up to go our separate ways into the park.

I started by heading down the main park road all the way east to Panther Junction. I wanted to get a baseline for my Big Bend Experience.

Next I rode up the enjoyably switch-backed Basin Road to the Chisos Lodge area.

The visitor’s center was closed, but the store was open. I purchased a pre-made sandwich and bottle of juice. After locking up my valuables, I walked down the short Window View trail. I sat on a handy bench and contemplated the view while eating my lunch.

Next up was the road to Santa Elena Canyon. It was roughly 30 miles to the canyon view, and it seemed to take forever. There was a new incredible view around every corner.

I arrived back at the campground around 5:45. Mike was relaxing in a chair with a book and John was unpacking his bike from the day’s ride. Ara joined us briefly to discuss the day and ask me to explain a digital photo editing question that was on his mind.

Anna, Mike, John, and I went out to dinner at the Starlight Theater. Built as a silent movie hall for turn of the century miners, the building looked like it could crumble into the desert at any moment. The food was excellent. The menu included several imaginative entrees that seemed almost out of place in the dilapidated ghost town of Terlingua.

Big Bend NP Trip - Sunday

The morning dawned clear and cold. Anna woke me with the exclamation “There’s ice on your bike!”

Anna was headed directly to the campground, but I had a day of twisties planned. After getting breakfast and fuel, I headed north on SR-118.

It got colder as I rose in altitude. I started seeing snow on the side of the road approaching McDonald Observatory.

I stopped at the observatory complex for about an hour, walking through the museum attached to the visitor’s center. A shaded area in the plaza in front of the visitor’s center surprised me with it’s coat of ice. Slipping, I flailed my arms to regain balance. The ice episode was on my mind for the rest of my loop around the Davis Mountains. I remembered how slippery ice was whenever the road was in shade (and obviously wet).

I paused briefly at the town hall in Marfa on my way to Presidio. I had lunch at the highly recommended El Patio restaurant in Presidio. The food was basic Mexican cuisine; nothing particularly spectacular.

The real treat of the day was the road after lunch. FM-170 twists along the Rio Grande for most of the 70 miles to Terlingua. It was *interesting* to be riding the border of another country.

I arrived in Study Butte around 5pm and quickly found the RV park where we were camping. Parking at the office, I scouted the campsite location to figure out the best route over the dirt access road. Anna and Co were out riding, so I parked the R1200ST beside her truck and dug my sunglasses out of the tank bag.

Just when I had decided to sit at a picnic table and read, a sidecar rig came buzzing down the road. Ara “Beemerchef” and Spirit “the sidecar dog” had arrived. Anna (from Chicago), Mike (from Louisiana), and John (from San Antonio, TX) appeared on their dual-sports moments later.

Dinner was Mike’s homemade chili, warmed in a cast iron pot over a camp stove. After eating, we sat around the camp stove (no fires allowed) and swapped stories.