Monday July 19, 2010
Objective for the day:
Judge Roy Bean’s Place
Big Bend Park
I am still on Georgia time (EST). I will remind my readers that whenever I refer to time, it will be Georgia time. Neither my phone, my bike, nor my gps have changed time as I pass from one time zone to another. Besides that, my body clock has not changed time zones.
When my alarm goes off at 4am, I am already out of bed and packing. It takes a while to pack up all my stuff and even longer when you consider I have to get it all in an overstuffed trailer. I have very little extra space in trailer. I have Elaine’s stuff in the trailer as well as all of mine.
Everything has its place and has to be put in that space. I even have Elaine’s helmet in the trailer so we can go riding while in California. More on that later.
By 5am I am ready to hit the road. They have not even begun to put out breakfast yet as it is only 4am here. This will be a trend over the entire trip. I am always leaving early so I always miss breakfast. I will find someplace to stop on the road. McDonalds always works good for me, because I can get the same quality food at almost any of them.
The last thing I do is top off the ice chest with ice. It takes a lot of ice to keep the cooler cold all day. This is because it is so hot out here.
I already have both gps programmed for the day. Yes, I do have two gps. One is built into the bike and the other is my Zumo mounted to the handlebar. Once moving, you can not make changes to the unit built into the bike without stopping. I can make changes to the Zumo on the fly.
My gps are great until you miss a turn or make a wrong turn. Then I have ‘bitching Betty’ and ‘bitching Bonnie’ hollering at me at the same time. I can’t think it could get anything worse than having two of them of them griping at me at the same time. It is like sitting between two Mynah birds that won’t shut up.
I solve this by turning off the sound so I do not have to listen to them. Of course they quiet right down after I get back on track.
I stop for gas just before San Antonio so I won’t be looking for gas in the middle of a big city.
My gps is great until you think you know more than they do. In the middle of San Antonio they told me to go straight, but I-10 turned to the right. I took I-10 and both of them started telling me to turn to around. I realized real quick that I was supposed to turn onto Highway 90. I got back on track, they quieted down, and we motored out of town.
I finally stop in Uvalde Texas for an oil change for me. That’s how I refer to breakfast at McDonalds, because of the amount of grease involved. I do like the food and it is easy to get in and out. Also the food is generally the same everywhere I go.
When I walked into McDonalds it was like going into a foreign country. Other than the girl behind the counter taking orders, everybody else was speaking Spanish. I guess I am getting closer to the border so I shouldn’t be surprised.
I am full now and headed to Langtry. As I am traveling along highway 90 coming up on Amistad Lake, I pass a sign that says Border Crossing and Dam pointing to a road to the left. After about 3 miles I decide that this might be something I want to see, so I turn around and go back. I drive out on the dam and park about 100 yards from the border crossing. The US crossing is on one side of the dam and the Mexican is on the other side. I take pictures of the lake, the crossing, and the lower side of the dam.
As I am leaving, I notice a paved road going down to the lower side of the dam. I decide to take it and see what is there. I get to the bottom, park, and walk out to an overlook. I get some good pictures of some cactus and also the dam from the discharge side. I look across the river, and realize that what I am looking at is Mexico. This is as close as I have ever been to the border. I am really glad I went back and only sorry I did not walk up and talk with border crossing guards to get a little insight into what is required to cross over.
As I am riding along, I notice that on both sides of the road the fences are set back about 50 yards and there are small rock and sand roads that run right up against the fences. Several times now I have seen Border Patrol trucks easing along these rock roads and every once in a while I pass one with his head hanging out the window looking for tracks. The Border Patrol is everywhere. I pass them on the roads, sitting looking at the lake, and watching the trains. I can’t go hardly two miles without seeing them. There must be a way to stop illegal immigration.
Pardon me while I step up on this soap box.
I cannot for the life of me understand why the government and states continue to give benefits and schooling to illegal immigrants. There is no missing the meaning of the word illegal. It means you are not supposed to be here. It also means that there is no reason why you shouldn’t have to prove you are here legally. All you have to do is make everyone show a birth certificate or legal naturalization papers in order to get a license. I agree with Arizona and do not feel the United States government is doing enough to stop this problem. Okay, let me step down.
I have my eye set on visiting Langtry Texas, home of Judge Roy Bean (Law West of the Pecos). I do not I understand the meaning of Law West of the Pecos until I crossed the Pecos River, then it made sense to me. I am not sure what I expected to see in Langtry, a small town with a broken down old saloon sitting in the town square, or what. But I was not ready for what I did see. All that was there were a couple of houses, a convenience store and a Museum dedicated to Judge Roy Bean.
I am not going to bore you with all the details, but I did enjoy my visit and would tell anyone who was going to be in this area, to make time to visit this place. His old saloon/courthouse is still standing along with a couple of other buildings. Google Judge Roy Bean and you can read about a real colorful character in the old west.
After looking at the old buildings and reading all of the captions under the pictures, I went inside to cool off. I stopped to talk to the lady at the counter in the museum. I told her where I was from and where I was going (Alpine Texas). She told me that it is a nice ride straight along Highway 90. I also told her I was going to Big Bend Park and she reached and got a map of the park. As we were talking I mentioned I really wanted to see the Rio Grande and the border. She pulled out another map and proceeded to tell me about a road that ran right along the border with places to stop and see the river.
I liked this idea so she pointed to Presidio Texas and showed me Highway 170 that ran right along the border to Lajitas. She also said a lot of bikers ride this road. Okay, I am sold on this idea. I didn’t really want to pay to go into the park, just ride around. I now have a new destination. I will head to Alpine, check into the motel, get some ice for the cooler, and make the circle from Alpine to Marla, Presidio, Lajitas, and back to Alpine. This would be a 200 to 250 mile ride. I will be kind of late, but I already have plans to eat at Longhorn Steak House this evening and late to me is still early to them.
I move along Highway 90 at a brisk pace so I will have more time to spend on my afternoon trip. Highway 90 is a combination of 4 lane and 2 lane road. It did not matter which it was the speed limit is 75mph. I made pretty good time and arrived in Alpine at the motel around 2pm. They had to check to see if they had a cleaned room available because I am early. They did, and I checked in packed the cooler with ice (it only had a couple of cubes left from this morning) and headed out on my adventure.
I took off to Marla, along Hwy 90 where I turned south headed to Presidio. Not much to talk about along this stretch of road. It was the same desert scenery all the way to Presidio. The only thing I saw that was different is they have inspection stations on the north bound side of the road where they check every vehicle for illegals. They literally have an open building where they stop each car, open the doors and look inside to be sure no one is in there that shouldn’t be. They also check the trunk, and I guess they ask everyone a few questions. I will find out on my return trip.
I am getting a little low on gas and hope that they have a station in Presidio. Otherwise, I am going to be in trouble. During the day, I have noticed that my arms are getting burned as well as my nose, and the top of my ears. I need to get some sunscreen. When I stop for gas in Presidio, I almost die. Gas is $2.999 per gallon, but what choice do I have. I fill the bike and notice that this is a grocery store.
I go inside to see if they have sun block. I look in the aisle where I think it should be, but no suntan lotion or sun block. I walked over and asked a cashier if they have sun block and she looks at me like I am crazy. She says something in Spanish to one of the bag guys and he comes over. It is then that I realize she doesn’t speak English. Well the guy she called over doesn’t speak English either. I ask for sun block and get a puzzled look. I ask for suntan lotion, this time he repeats “lotion” and heads for the hand lotion aisle (same one where I had already looked). I have walked into a store where I do not think anyone speaks English. I did not get any sun block.
It is time to hit highway 170 and see the river. I pass through what little bit of town there is. The houses and area remind me of what I have seen in Mexico before. This place could pass for Mexico except it is in the United States, but only by a few hundred yards. As I leave town, the road becomes a very drivable two lane road with lots of curves and very little scenery. I can see the river off to my right about 300 yards. Actually I can not see the river, only the indention in the ground where the river is.
I stop at the first overlook area I come to, which isn’t a real overlook, but just a gravel stopping point. There is very little traffic on the road and I feel safe just parking on the side of the pavement. I have learned over time that my bike dislikes two things, loose rock and sand. I try to avoid these whenever possible. I walk up a little hill, and there it is, the Rio Grand. My first thought was “We have creeks in my area that are bigger than this”. Lord, you could wade across in most places. Wait, that is what they are doing now.
The road parallels the river for the most part. Every so often there is a place where you can see the water. I stop and take picture at these spots. So far I have passed or met two border patrol trucks. I could count on one hand the number of other vehicles I have passed.
I stop in a spot where I can back my bike into one of the rock overlook areas. There is no problem with pulling out into the road and then backing in. The border patrol trucks are the only traffic I have seen since leaving Presidio. After backing in, I get out my good camera and walk down to the river. There is a small rapid here and to be honest, I could have walked across the rocks and probably not gotten wet above the ankle. I put my foot in the water just to be able to say I had done it. I didn’t stay very long at any one location because it is really hot and it only takes a couple of minutes to break out in a sweat. The bike thermometer is reading 105.
I walk back up to the bike, and find a rock in the shade of a small tree and sit down. The country is really beautiful with high hills all around. I sit there for about 30 minutes, and in that time no-one has come by. This would be a very bad place to break down. It is hot, no cell phone service, and a long way from everything. It would probably take a couple of hours to get a tow truck down here.
For most of the ride along this road I have hills on my left and the river basin on my right. I can usually see where the river is even if I can’t actually see the river itself.
I get back on the bike and head out again. Soon I am on the northern side of the hills and you can no longer see the river. I like to take pictures while I am riding. If I see anything that looks like it might make a good picture, I grab my camera and snap a shot. I usually keep it in the left pocket of the bike, but sometimes if I am in an area where I might want to take a lot of pictures, I just set it down on the seat between my legs. I set the camera down on the seat, and just as I came around a corner, there is a paved overlook. I stop and get my big camera out, walk to the edge of the overlook where there is a view of the river below. I am about 200 to 300 feet above the river now. I take lots of pictures because this is one of the best views I have had.
I am on an uphill incline so when I start off, I have to give it a little extra gas, but I am surprised to hear my rear tire break loose and squeal a little. I figure maybe it was where the kick stand had loosened the asphalt.
It is only about a quarter of a mile to the next overlook. I stop at this one too. I get off the bike and get my big camera take some more pictures. This is even nicer than the one before, so I spend a little extra time to take lots of pictures. As I am getting on the bike, I notice my camera is missing from the pocket on the bike. I just figure I must have dropped it in the trunk when I got out my big camera. A quick search of the trunk reveals no camera. Now I am worried. I turn around and head back the way I had just come from. As I pull into the last overlook, I see the camera lying on the ground. I am really relieved. I park, walk over to the camera, and as I look down, I notice there are extra parts lying around it. That little tire screech I heard was me running over my camera.
Now I am depressed. It must have been sitting between my legs when I stopped and put my feet down. Then it had to drop just so and land so that the rear tire would run over it. What are the chances? I still have a lot of day left and the only way to take a picture is to stop and get out my big camera.
I finally arrive at Lajitas and turn north for Alpine. It is about an 80 mile ride and it is hot. The only thing I have left is the thought of a nice cold beer and a steak at Longhorn Steakhouse. It is going to taste good after this hot day.
As I am heading north, I come to an inspection station. For lack of a better description, it is a steel building roof without the sides, the border patrol guys are underneath and all of the cars and trucks have to stop. They open the doors of the car in front of me and look inside to see if they can find illegal. As I pull up he waves me on. I feel down right cheated, I might have two or three in my trailer. As I get along side of the guy, he waves me on again and I say to him, “You don’t want the two I have in the trailer?” He chuckled and waved me on again.
I arrive back in Alpine and head to Longhorn. I already have it programmed into my gps so it takes me right there. I walk in the front door and look for the bar. I normally sit at the bar, but there is no bar. I ask the first person I see that works there where the bar is. They tell me they have no bar because they are right next door to a school and cannot serve alcohol. So much for the cold beer and steak. I decided to find someplace else to eat and off I went. I rode around town twice. I followed up every gps find. I finally came to the conclusion that there was no other place in town.
There was one more place in town that was still open. They have golden arches and a clown. I stopped at McDonalds, got chicken nuggets and fries, and took them back to the motel with me. This was the beginning of a trend for this trip.
Back at the room, I ate my nuggets, set my alarm, and went to bed. 4am is going to come very early. Damn, that steak would have tasted good.