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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

Our Favorite Motorcycle Roads In Texas

Texas is large and has many nice motorcycle roads of all kinds with varying types of scenery. We haven’t ridden all the places in Texas but have ridden many of them. The list below does not cover all the motorcycle roads but are our favorite motorcycle roads in Texas.

If you have a favorite road, please feel free to leave a comment telling us where it is and why you like it.

We will update this list as time goes by so check back from time to time to see what’s new.

RR 337 – 

 

View from RR 337

RR 337 is one of the three “Twisted Sisters” (some call them the “Three Sisters”) and is my personal favorite.  337 has many tight twisty curves with shear drop offs with nice changes in elevations. There are very scenic panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. This road is not for beginner riders. There are signs that show the number of motorcycle riders killed on the road. Take it easy and enjoy the ride and views. The road is best in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom or during the fall when the leaves are turning. For a short detour and break stop by the “Lone Star Motorcycle Museum” 3 miles north on RR 187. The museum has a collection of motorcycles from around the world dating from 1910’s to modern.  Come hungry and eat at the ACE CAFE in the Museum. Try one of their famous Aussie Meat Pies. I like them…

SH 39 –

Boots on a fence on TX Hwy 39

SH 39 is Janet’s personal favorite. The ride goes from Ingram through Hunt on to U.S. Highway 83. The ride has many curves with low water crossings and crosses the South Fork of the Guadalupe River many times. SH 39 is very scenic and tree-shaded with nice homes on much of the ride. Take is slow and easy so you can enjoy the scenery. Otherwise you will miss something the fence lined with boots.

Willow City Loop –

Bluebonnets on the Willow City Loop during the Wildflower season

 

12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg just off SH 16 is “The Willow City Loop”. It is a 20 mile stretch of beautiful Texas Hill Country back road that any motorcyclist will love. Janet and I usually take this little detour when we are heading down SH 16. If you haven’t ridden the loop, then it is time to plan a trip. and experience what the Willow City Loop has to offer.

The narrow road winds up, down and around scenic hills. In the spring the loop is highlighted with wildflowers including bluebonnet , Indian paintbrush and more. There are many cattle guards, farm gates and low water crossing so observe the speed limit. The loop is enjoyed best at a leisurely pace and do watch for cattle and people on the road. Also be aware that there will be lots of car and bicycle traffic on the loop during the wildflower season. We prefer riding the loop during the week to avoid the traffic. There are lots of photo opportunities so plan on stopping to get good shots. The property is private along the loop so please be respectful and stay on the road way.

The ride is short and takes about 30 minutes to complete but it is well worth the trip. You will not be disappointed.

SH 17 –

SH 17 from Fort Davis to Balmorhea is one of my personal favorite roads in the Big Bend Area. The scenery is a must see if you are in the area. At times you think you are not in West Texas.

Leaving Fort Davis you travel through scenic Limpia Canyon in the Davis Mountains. There is a maximum speed limit of 55 mph. In Limpia Canyon, the road is narrow and has many nice motorcycle curves, with speeds as low as 40 mph. There are also several picnic tables in the canyon where you can stop and take in the wonderful scenery. There is one large picnic area just before reaching Wild Rose Pass. About 1.8 miles past the pass, the road widens and the speed limit increases to 70 mph from there into Balmorhea.

SH 118 –

TX Hwy 118 with Alpine in background.

From Kent to Study Butte, Hwy 118 has it all. There are over 150 miles of riding fun with great motorcycle curves and amazing desert scenery. To the north Hwy 118 runs through scenic, alpine of the Davis Mountains with tight twisting and smooth curves. The McDonald Observatory, sits at 6800 ft and is a must see in the area. Ft. Davis was originally a military outpost to protect settlers from area Indians. The fort is being restored and is a state historic site. Of all the forts we have visited in Texas and elsewhere it is hands down our favorite and another must see. Just outside Alpine are the semi-desert Del Norte Mountains. Further south you drop into the desert plains of the Chihuahua Desert, where you can see the distant mountain scenery of the Christmas and Chisos Mountains. Chisos Mountains are much more rustic and colorful as you approach Study Butte and Big Bend National Park. The desert mountain area is filled with unusual lava landscapes, rustic mountain scenery, smooth, fast sweeping curves. There are many wonderful vistas and spectacular panorama views around each curve.

SH 16 –

The best section of this very long highway is south of Kerrville to Bandera. It has some very tight curves with scenic views of the surrounding Texas Hill Country.

SH 170 –

TX Hwy 170 the “River Road” going west toward Presidio

Highway 170 is known to bikers as the “River Road.” Highway 170 extends from Study Butte to Presidio. From Study Butte heading west you will travel through the mining town of Terlingua, now a ghost town with a population 25. Terlingua is the home of the “International Championship Chili Cook-off”. From Lajitas is your ride down “one of the prettiest roads in America.” About 9.5 miles from Lajitas, on your left, is the old movie set Contrabando. Several movies were made there and is worth a look.

The River Road is a spectacular ride through lush, twisting river valleys through red and purple rock rising to 1000 feet above the Rio Grande River. The road is an excellent motorcycle road; twisting and dropping to the canyon floors along the Rio Grande river. You ride through the Bofecillos Mountains formed by two ancient lava flows to the “Big Hill.” At a 15% grade it is the steepest of any regularly traveled Texas highway. Just outside Presidio, take time to visit Fort Leaton State Historic Site, one of Texas’ most unusual historic sites. Fort Leaton is a massive adobe fortress built in 1848 immediately after the Mexican War.

RR 335 –

RR 335 (A Twisted Sister) to Camp Wood from TX Hwy 41

RR 335 is one of the roads that make up what bikers call the “Three Sisters”, some refer to them as the “Twisted Sisters”. RR-335 is one of our favorite roads. It follows along the west bank of the Nueces River and has some really great views. In the spring, when wild flowers are blooming, Verbena is the most prevalent wildflower on this road. Some of the fields and pastures looked like a sea of purple and the smell hangs in the air for miles and miles. Along the way is a ranch that raise all sorts of wild animals. Near the road were kangaroos with little Joeys, giraffes and further down we saw camels. RR-335 is a twisty roller coaster of a ride but doesn’t have sharp turns so it wasn’t so bad. We rode nice and easy to enjoy the scenery.

RR 336 –

RR 336 is one of the “Twisted Sisters” or “Three Sisters”. There was a sign warning that 10 motorcyclist were killed on 336 since 2006. It was twisty but not that bad. I’m sure most, if not all,  killed were on sports bikes and riding way too fast for an unfamiliar road. I like the other two sisters better but RR 336 is a fun scenic ride.

RR 1050 –

RR 1050 runs from Utopia to U.S. 83. It has nice curves riding through scenic hills of the Texas Hill Country with several changes in elevations. You will need to stop at Garner State Park. It has scenic camping and hiking trails.

RR 965 –

 

RR 965 from TX Hwy 16 to Fredericksburg past Enchanted Rock

This ride runs from SH 16 to Fredericksburg past Enchanted Rock. It has panoramic scenic views with nice curves and elevation changes. Take the time to stop and hike up Enchanted Rock for even more panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country.

Loop 166 –

Loop 166 is in far West Texas near Fort Davis. From Fort Davis take Texas 118 and turn left onto Texas 166. 166 passes Mt. Livermore and Sawtooth Mountain, then gradually descends, with panoramic views  to the south of the Sierra Viejo Mountains along the Rio Grande River. As you return again to  Fort Davis, you have views of the Puertacita Mountains and Miter Peak. Loop 166 reaches about 6700 feet on the loop which makes it the highest public highway in Texas. It take about 1.5 hours to ride. We try to plane the ride so we are back to Fort Davis before lunch before heading out to our next destination.

SH 54 –

TX Hwy 54 from Van Horn to Guadalupe Mountains Nation Park.

SH 54 runs from Van Horn to Gaudalupe Mountains National Park. It’s just a nice scenic road with panoramic views of the mountains in the distance. Not a lot of curves and the curves are very gentle.

Day 4 Big Bend National Park Motorcycle Ride April 2007

182 miles – Terlingua, Presidio, Marfa, Alpine

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Lajitas Resort

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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.

 

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Rio Grande along Hwy 170 going to Presidio

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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)

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Santa Elena Canyon in background from Burro Mesa Pour-off

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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.

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Rio Grande at Boquillas Canyon

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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.

 

 

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Panther Junction

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

Yucca at Chisos Basin with Mt. Casa Grande in background

Big Bend, motorcycle, ride

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