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Day 3 Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks Motorcycle Ride

Saturday Sept. 19 Marathon to Chisos Basin Lodge (66 miles)

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Map Day 3 Marathon to Chisos Basin Lodge

Today is day 3 of our Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks motorcycle ride. Come follow along and enjoy the scenery and ride.

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Gage Hotel

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Courtyard of the newer part of the Gage Hotel

Jo had us all up by 5:30 am (6:30 Georgia time) this morning. She mistakenly thought we were leaving for breakfast at 6:00am. As it turned out, nothing was open until 7:00am.

We ate breakfast at Johnny B’s. The food was good. It was just a small hole in the wall where the waitress knew everyone by name and the cook knew what they wanted before they even sat down to order.

While we were eating we noticed a commotion out front. We came to find out, George and Laura Bush were staying at the Gage Hotel, just up the street. Evidently the Bush’s were leaving the hotel to visit a nearby ranch. The waitress said they would be staying at the Gage Hotel for several days. It was kind of exciting to know a former president was just a few feet away.

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Greenhouse of a Bed & Breakfast in Marathon

After breakfast, we walked to the Gage Hotel to take pictures and walk around. The shops were still closed by this time so we went back to the Carriage House. On the way back Shirley noticed a strange-looking building and decided to investigate. On the way there, we met two local women who were out walking. They explained to us that the building was part of a Bed & Breakfast. Someone had come in and bought an old house and renovated it to turn it into a Bead & Breakfast. They had made it into a kind of Spanish style structure and painted it red, blue and yellow. They just started adding on to it using the same color scheme. The structure now under construction was two stories high and made of papercrete.

One of the women was upset because it blocked her view of the mountains. She has lived in her home for 75 years and liked to look at the mountains to determine the weather. Her home was over 100 years old. We had a nice visit with the two women. From there we walked to the Bed & Breakfast and looked around. It was a strange-looking place but they did have a “green thumb” because the green house was beautiful.

After that we walked over to a bookstore where Janet bought Hallie Stillwell’s second book “My Goose Is Cooked” and a book about Texas Ranger John Rogers.

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Hwy 385 to Stillwell Store & camp; Big Bend

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Hallie Stillwell Museum

Then we loaded up and headed for the Stillwell Store & RV Park. There is a museum in honor of Hallie Stillwell. She was a local character who died in 1997 at the age of 99. The RV Park and store are on the ranch Hallie and her husband owned. Her granddaughter, who shared a few stories about Hallie before we toured the museum, runs the store and RV Park. Hallie led a very hard but interesting Life.

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Restaurant at Chisos Basin Lodge

Our next stop was Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. At an altitude of 5,400′ and surrounded by high, rocky cliffs. Chisos Basin is near some of the park’s most spectacular and popular trails – the Lost Mine Trail, the Window Trail, the South Rim Trail, and the Pinnacles Trail, with its access to the park’s highest point, Emory Peak (elev. 7,825′). Also in the Basin area is the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, the Camper Store, and the Chisos Basin Lodge, which houses the only restaurant in Big Bend National Park.

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Where we stayed at in Chisos Basin Lodge with Mt. Casa Grande in background

We stayed in a cottage with three beds and one bath. It was quite cozy. Outside the cottage was a beautiful view of the “Window”. The “Window” is a view between two mountains. Shirley aptly named it “The Lords Window”.

We had lunch at The Lodge and as usual the food was great. The Lodge has glass walls on three sides so you get a great view of the surrounding area.

Tomorrow we head to Van Horn, Texas. Come ride along and share the fun with us.

Below are links to the other days of this ride.

If you are thinking about riding to the Big Bend area, checkout the links below. The links have valuable information on the Big Bend Area of Texas and tips we have learned about long motorcycle rides over the years.

  1. Motorcycle Travel Information For The Big Bend Area ofTexas
  2. Long Distance Motorcycle Touring Tips

If you enjoyed reading about this motorcycle ride to Big Bend National Park you may like our other motorcycle rides there too.

  1. Our first motorcycle ride to Big Bend National Park
  2. Spring motorcycle ride to Big Bend National Park April 2007

For even more content please checkout and LIKE our Facebook page.

Have Goldwing Will Travel…  I hope we see you down the road somewhere.

Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 2

2002 Big Bend Motorcycle Ride Map Day 2

2002 Big Bend Motorcycle Ride Map Day 2

Below is my navigation system before GPS. I kept it on the gas tank for quick reference. It served us well…

Day 2 Big Bend Route                                                                   Miles
Alpine to Study Butte                                                                            80  GAS
Study Butte to Santa Elena Junction                                               13
Santa Elena Junction to Castolon                                                     22
Castolon to Santa Elena Canyon Over Look                                 8
Santa Elena Canyon Over Look to Castolon                                 8
Castolon To Santa Elena Junction                                                     22
Santa Elena Junction to Chisos Mountains Basin Junction    10
Chisos Mountains Basin Junction to Chisos Basin                      10  Lunch Chisos                                                                                                                                           Mtn. Lodge
Chisos Basin to Chisos Mountains Basin Junction                     10
Chisos Mountains Basin Junction to Panther Junction            3  GAS (103 miles)
Panther Junction to Rio Grande Over Look                                 20
Rio Grande Over Look to Boquillas Canyon Overlook            4
Boquillas Canyon Overlook to Rio Grande Over Look            4
Rio Grande Over Look to Rio Grande Village                            ~2 (~ is approximate                                                                                                                                    miles)
Note: There is a store and gas (no  premium) here.                                                        Rio Grande Village to Rio Grande Over Look                           ~2
Rio Grande Over Look to Panther Junction                              20 GAS (~52 miles)
Panther Junction to Marathon                                                        95
Marathon to Alpine                                                                              38 GAS (133 miles)

Total                                                                                       ~368

Highway 118 stop

Highway 118 stop

We were up early and rode out to Big Bend. The ride out was scenic and the temperature was cool. By the time we got to Santa Elena Canyon, it was so hot! Mid to upper 90’s. June is not the best time to ride Big Bend because June is the hottest month. Because of the drought the Rio Grande was almost dry but the canyon was still impressive. We spent some time hiking, taking pictures and taking in the majesty of the canyon.

 Deer at Chisos Basin Lodge

Deer at Chisos Basin Lodge

Janet and Me at Chisos Basin Lodge

Janet and Me at Chisos Basin Lodge

From Santa Elena Canyon we were off to the Chisos Basin for lunch at the lodge. The ride was beautiful up the winding mountain road. There is not much traffic but the road is narrow with no shoulders, steep climbs, descents and tight corners with limited visibility.

Century Plant in Bloom at Chisos Basin Lodge

Century Plant in Bloom at Chisos Basin Lodge

Because the elevation is several thousand feet higher than Santa Elena Canyon it is much cooler. The temperature at the top was in the low 70’s vs. 90’s down at the river. What a nice difference. Janet and I think that Chisos Basin is the prettiest part of the park. It has great views and there is wildlife to be seen. Today we had deer grazing near our bikes at the Lodge.

There is only one place to eat in Big Bend and that is the lodge at Chisos Basin. It has good food and the prices aren’t bad for a national park. So if you plan on eating while in the park you will need to plan your trip accordingly. Everything is few and far between so plan wisely.

From Chisos Basin we rode to Panther Junction. In the park, gas is only available at Rio Grande Village and Panther Junction. The station at Panther Junction is centrally located in the park. I would suggest gassing up every time you ride by (remember few and far between). It is the only station that has premium gas for those of you like myself who requires premium for their bike. We gassed up at Panther Junction and spent some time at the Ranger station before heading back to Alpine. We did not get to see as much of the park as we would have liked. We didn’t make it to the eastern side of the park. Note to self… Next trip we will try to stay closer to the park so that we are not spending most of our time traveling to and from the park.

Because of the distance and the time we spent in the park, it caused us to ride in the dark before arriving at the motel. No big deal, but there are some big deals (animals) that are out and about after dark. Not a good thing for motorcyclist…

Tomorrow we ride to Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory, Marfa, Marathon and Sanderson for the night…

Here are the links to the other days of this ride.

Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 1
Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 3
Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 4

If you enjoyed this post you may like these too…

  1. Big Bend Ride 2007
  2. Big Bend/Carlsbad Cavern Ride 2009
  3. Riding Information on Big Bend Area of Texas
  4. Tips on Long Distance Touring
  5. Riding Fit… Riding Smart
  6. Getting the Wife to Ride

Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 1

2001 Big Bend National Park Ride Map Day 1

2001 Big Bend National Park Ride Map Day 1

On May 31, 2002, Janet (my wife) and I, my brother Gary and his wife Ginny, my Air Force buddy Larry C. and a friend of his (also named Larry) rode to Big Bend. We had originally planned the trip for the end of March but rescheduled because of the birth of Larry’s first grand baby in May. My friends Larry C. and Larry T. rode from Alabama and Georgia to Georgetown. It took two days riding in rain to get to Georgetown… Sometimes they were riding in heavy rain. Not a fun two days riding… Janet was new to riding and this was her first long ride. So… I was hoping the weather and West Texas would treat us well. I had planned the trip for over a year down to the last detail. This was to be a four-day ride but as you will see later we deviated from the plan on the 2nd and last day. My biggest concern was gas stations in and around Big Bend. Everything is few and far between in West Texas so it is good to plan ahead and know where there is gas and other facilities. There were four motorcycles on the trip. Janet and I rode a 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, Larry also rode 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, Gary and Ginny were riding a 2002 Kawasaki Voyager and Larry’s friend Larry was riding a 1986 Yamaha Venture pulling a trailer. The trailer was nice to have along, especially for carrying a cooler. We made many stops to rest from riding in the heat and it was good to have a cold drink… Thanks Larry T. for bring the trailer.

Below is my navigation system before GPS. I kept it on the gas tank for quick reference. It served us well…

Day 1 Georgetown to Alpine Route      Hwy           Miles
Georgetown to Burnet                                             (29)                35
Burnet to Llano                                                           (29)                30
Llano to Mason                                                           (29)                34 GAS (103 miles) Mason to Menard                                                      (190)              38 Menard to Ft. McKavett                                                                      (190-864)    22 Play tourist
Ft. McKavett to Sonora                                         (864)              41 GAS (101 miles) Sonora to Ozona                                                       (I-10)              36 Lunch?
Ozona to Bakersfield                                              (I-10)              72 GAS (108 miles) Bakersfield to Ft. Stockton                                  (I-10)             36 Ft. Stockton to Marathon                                                                     (385)              58
Marathon to Alpine                                                  (90)                31 GAS (125 miles)                                                                                                                                     & motel

Total                                                                                                       437

Ft. McKavett  getting ready to tour fort.

Ft. McKavett getting ready to tour fort.

Officer's quarters ruins at Ft. McKavett.

Officer’s quarters ruins at Ft. McKavett.

Ft. McKavett

Ft. McKavett

We left our house in Georgetown at the crack of dawn with much anticipation of a great ride. The temperature was cool until noon making for some nice riding. On the way we stopped a Fort McKavett and spent some time touring the fort. Fort McKavett is the first of two old forts we visited on this ride. Fort McKavett consists of 19 restored buildings located near Menard, Texas. Several of the buildings had been restored and refurbished with period furniture. Restored structures include the officers’ quarters, barracks, hospital, school-house, dead house and post headquarters. There are also ruins of several buildings, most notably the commanding officer’s quarters, which burned in 1941, and barracks. Fort McKavett was, as is the case of most forts in Texas, home to famous Buffalo Soldier regiments. If you like old forts, this is a good one. So if you are in the area, take some time and have a look. From Fort McKavett we took I-10 west to US 67. On US 67 we headed south to Alpine. In the afternoon temperatures began to rise. The temperature climbed steadily into the high 90’s. In Alpine, we checked into the Best Western Hotel. After 436 miles everyone was still smiling but tired because of the heat and distance.

Janet and Ginny are smiling after a long day of riding in the heat.

Janet and Ginny are smiling after a long day of riding in the heat.

That night we rode out to view the Marfa Lights. We were tired after a long day of riding but we were not going to miss seeing the Marfa Lights… These are mysterious lights that appear outside of the town Marfa. They had been reported since way back in the 1800’s and no one seems to know what they are. Native Americans knew about the lights long before the first recorded sighting in 1883.The Marfa Lights are viewable year round. You may view them any time after sunset at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, nine miles east of Marfa on Highway 90. We were not disappointed. We saw them and I am not sure what to think of them. It was long day of riding in some Texas heat. We slept good that night after a full day of riding.

Tomorrow we ride to Big bend National Park.

Here are the links to the other days of this ride.

Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 2
Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 3
Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride – Day 4

If you enjoyed this post you may like these too…

  1. Big Bend Ride 2007
  2. Big Bend/Carlsbad Cavern Ride 2009
  3. Riding Information on Big Bend Area of Texas
  4. Tips on Long Distance Touring
  5. Riding Fit… Riding Smart
  6. Getting the Wife to Ride

Day 4 Big Bend National Park Motorcycle Ride April 2007

182 miles – Terlingua, Presidio, Marfa, Alpine

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Lajitas Resort

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Day 4 Route

Big Bend National Park Motorcycle Ride

We woke up to a beautiful day. Got off to a good early start and saw a lot of beautiful scenery between Terlingua and Presidio following Hwy. 170 (the river road). Hwy 170 meanders along near the Rio Grande most of the time. Larry Talley liked this part more than Big Bend. Along the way we stopped at Lajitas Resort. The resort was really nice but a bit expensive. From there we rode on and stopped at a picnic area to take pictures and stretch our legs. From there it was on to Presidio to eat lunch at El Patio Restaurant. We read about El Patio in Ride Texas magazine. It said it was perhaps some of the best Mexican food in West Texas. I must say it was the best food of the trip for me. I look forward to eating there again! We gassed up and header north to Marfa. Unfortunately the winds had picked up which made it a bit rough riding. It had got quite warm by the time we got to Presidio but as we climbed in elevation, as we got closer to Marfa it cooled off a lot. We stopped in Marfa and toured the Paisano Hotel and the courthouse. The courthouse had been redone a few years ago. From there it was on to Alpine to spend the night. That night we ate at the Raita restaurantt. The restaurant  is owned by Grady Spears the cowboy chef.

 

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Rio Grande along Hwy 170 going to Presidio

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Larry & Shirley at the Hotel Paisano

 

Links to the other days of our ride…

Day 1 – 259 miles – Georgetown, Fredericksburg, Ozona

Day 2 – 257 miles – Ozona, Ft. Stockton, Alpine, Terlingua

Day 3 – 187 Miles – Terlingua, Santa Elena Canyon, Chisos Basin, Boquillas Canyon, Terlingua (all in Big Bend)

Day 5 – 188 miles – Alpine, Ft Davis, loop 166, Ft Stockton

Day 6 – 165 miles – Ft Stockton, Big Lake, San Angelo

Day 7 – 195 Miles – San Angelo, Llano, Georgetown

If you liked this post you may also like “Big Bend/Carlsbad Motorcycle Trip September ’09”  or “Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride“.

Day 3 Big Bend National Park Motorcycle Ride April 2007

187 Miles – Terlingua, Santa Elena Canyon, Chisos Basin, Boquillas Canyon, Terlingua (all in Big Bend)

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Santa Elena Canyon in background from Burro Mesa Pour-off

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Day 3 Route

Big Bend National Park Motorcycle Ride

Today was a full day in Big Bend. The day started off cool and over cast but the sun soon was out and it was rather warm (hot) when we were near the river (lower elevation). Big Bend is just starting to bloom so we took lots of pictures of flowers. The blooms probably would have been better next week but they were still nice. Our first stop was at the Nail Ranch. Not a ranch any more just the remains of what was the home. It was a chance to stretch our legs a bit and take pictures. From there we rode to the Burro Mesa Pour-off. Took many pictures of the blooming cactus. Janet got this neat picture (see above) of bikes with Santa Elena Canyon in the background. The air was cool and crisp and it felt great. From there it was on to the Castolon Visitor Center where we took a rest stop and got a snack since it was a while before we would be eating lunch. From there it was on to Santa Elena Canyon and it was already hot there. Janet and I have never been there when it wasn’t hot. It was hot but the views were worth it. We took our time there and took lots more pictures. There was a couple canoeing up the Canyon. It looked like fun and I’m sure they got to see even more of the canyon. From there it was on to Chisos Basin and cooler temperatures (higher elevation… 5401 feet) to eat lunch. On the way we stopped at Mule Ears Viewpoint. The ride up to Chisos Basin is really pretty but steep with tight curves. It is a stark contrast to the scenery below. At 4500 feet the first tall trees begin to appear. Higher up you see junipers, small oaks and pinyon pines. Arizona pine, Douglas fir, Arizona cypress, quaking aspen and bigtooth maple are the last remnants of the ice age… Chiso basin is my favorite part of Big Bend. I had originally tried to get reservations at the Chisos Basin Lodge for this trip but you need to make reservations about a year in advance… so we ended up staying in Terlingua instead.

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The motley crew at Santa Elena Canyon. Shirley, Larry T, Gary, Larry C, Jo, Janet & Ivan

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Rio Grande at Boquillas Canyon

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Boquillas Canyon

After lunch we rode to Panther Junction for gas. Because of the 45 MPH speed limit inside the park and little to no wind we all got around 50 miles per gallon. It was getting quite hot by the time we rode to Boquillas Canyon. You have to hike about 0.7 miles to get to the canyon so the girls opted out because of the heat. The worst part of the hike was the first part up a steep path but was easier and cooler as we got down to the river and canyon. From there it was back to Panther Junction. When we got to Panther Junction the headquarters was closed but the restrooms were still open and there was cold water to drink from the fountain. From there we rode back to the Mission Lodge for a well deserved rest.

 

 

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Panther Junction

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Yucca at Chisos Basin with Mt. Casa Grande in background

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Curious Road Runner at Chisos Basin

Links to the other days of our ride…

Day 1 – 259 miles – Georgetown, Fredericksburg, Ozona
Day 2 – 257 miles – Ozona, Ft. Stockton, Alpine, Terlingua
Day 4 – 182 miles – Terlingua, Presidio, Marfa, Alpine
Day 5 – 188 miles – Alpine, Ft Davis, loop 166, Ft Stockton
Day 6 – 165 miles – Ft Stockton, Big Lake, San Angelo
Day 7 – 195 Miles – San Angelo, Llano, Georgetown

If you liked this post you may also like “Big Bend/Carlsbad Motorcycle Trip September ’09”  or “Our First Big Bend Motorcycle Ride