- The Wheelie
- The (Motorcycle) Drop
- The Ride to Terlingua
- Casa de Creosote
- Porch Perfection
- West Texas Sunset
- First Night Under the Stars
- Bathroom Business
- Birthday Morning
- Big Bend Beauty
- Big Bend National Park
- Big Bend Ranch State Park
- End of Our Brutally Beautiful Day
It’s no secret that I love to travel and I love to ride motorcycles, so combining both sounded like a good way to celebrate my 51st birthday. Besides that, I have wanted to visit Big Bend for at least the past 16 years. As I’m not getting any younger, I decided why not make this year “the year” to go? As a Superhost on Airbnb, each year (in the past) I have been offered a choice of $100 in travel credit or professional photography of my listing. I’ve always chosen the travel credit. (Hopefully Airbnb will continue to offer this to their Superhosts!) At any rate, I settled on “Casa de Creosote,” south of Alpine as a good location for visiting Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Study Butte, Alpine, and/or Marfa. I very incorrectly assumed that as this area was “way out in West Texas,” everything would be open and not closed due to COVID. Wrong! At the very least, I WAS confident (and correct) that “Casa de Creosote” was not close to anyone.
I didn’t plan to start my birthday weekend out with a wheelie or rough landing, however, I managed to accomplish both within the first 3 hours of takeoff.
I’ve done several motorcycle road trips in the US, the longest one lasting 2 weeks through South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Each time, I flew to the “originating destination” where I rented a motorcycle and carried everything I needed on the motorcycle with me. Not one time have I ever dropped a bike during one of my rides and I have no idea how many miles I’ve ridden. To be clear, I’ve always rented a Harley Davidson. It didn’t matter if I weighed 123 lbs. soaking wet with 3 suitcases strapped to a 900 lb. bike, but it sure as hell made a difference on this “mid-weight bike” (weighing in at about 470 lbs.) with all cases mounted in the rear.
I’ve been known to overlook the obvious a time or two. This was one of those times. I never thought about the fact that I was NOT riding a Harley and that my 138 lbs. would most definitely NOT be any kind of counter-balance for food, my suitcase and, in my kids’ words, “the whole house.” I popped a wheelie half-way down my street before I figured out that I had waaaay overloaded my friend’s bike I had borrowed for this trip. I still marvel at the fact that I didn’t wreck the bike and put myself in the hospital right out of the gate, but somehow I managed to stop the bike, shut it off and carry the food (top case in the pic) back to my house. I then proceeded to get back on the bike (albeit with wobbly knees) and head towards Junction, which was the rendezvous point for meeting up with my kids, as they were riding from Austin. As a side note: never let anyone tell you that not being able to flat foot your motorcycle doesn’t matter. It does. It might not matter when you’re just zipping around town, but when you’re riding in hilly, uneven and rough terrain; it surely does. (For all those who say it doesn’t matter, I want to watch you back a motorcycle up when you’re on a steep, gravely hill with the nose of your bike pointed downward and you can barely reach the ground with the tips of your toes. No turning; just straight backup the bike. Oh yeah, and having “reverse” doesn’t count!)
By the time I had put away the food I thought was necessary for our 2 day excursion, I was worried I would be late to Junction. So I sped, (I mean hustled), on up to Junction and pulled into the Chevron where we had agreed to meet. I saw a nice shade tree and decided that would be an excellent place to park and wait. Except when I attempted to park, the bike was still so overloaded that I just laid it over.
My kid’s’ conversation, (according to them), who had just pulled into the Chevron minutes (seconds?) before I did:
“Hey, look at that guy who just dumped their bike, should we go hel…..?!?”
“Hey! That’s mom!!”— The Kids
Aaaand, my kids came running to help me right the bike. Nothing like starting off on a long motorcycle ride all “up in my head” in all the wrong ways! In truth, the Kawasaki Versys has a very high center of balance,–not at all what I what I would choose or am comfortable with. I made a very bad error in judgement thinking that the cases (added to the bike since I had last ridden it) would lower it. This was true in part, however, ALL weight (as my son pointed out) was behind the rear axle. All was not lost, (other than my dignity and confidence) and my son took the majority of the weight from the motorcycle I was riding and put it on his Honda Africa Twin motorcycle he had rented. (Thank you son!!)
But, what’s life without a little humor, eh? My kids had a delightful day, never missing one opportunity to remind me of my mishap.
My daughter convinced me to borrow one of her full-face helmets as it had bluetooth capabilities prior to this trip. I’ve never been a big fan of the full-face helmets, however, I will admit having the bluetooth for communication purposes was very nice.
Long, Hot Ride
Our ride ended up taking us over 8 hours. To say that we were all tired, hot, thirsty with sore rear ends might be the understatement of the year,–but the main thing was we made it safely to our destination before darkness fell. This was a pretty important goal as our “road sign” was a rock.
Of course, I had had to endure endless teasing all day about dropping my motorcycle,–so there was that.
Seeing our cabin come into view was a welcome relief. Even though our host Jim was in Knoxville on vacation, he left behind a feline welcoming committee. It was only a matter of a few minutes before they made us feel right at home…..
Casa De Creosote
The porch was wonderful! A cool breeze was blowing when we arrived and kept up throughout the evening and night. It was the “gathering place.” A place to sit and talk, reminisce, watch the sun go down and come up. Oh, and it was center stage for the cats: Franky, Chaco and Capitan.
A West Texas Sunset & a Cat on a Hot Roof?
There is a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. Here, at the end of the road, hundreds of bird species take refuge in a solitary mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Tenacious cactus bloom in sublime southwestern sun, and diversity of species is the best in the country. This magical place is Big Bend…Big Bend National Park (Texas’ Gift to the Nation)
The first night passed uneventfully for the most part, although one of the cats (black and white) had taken quite a shine to my son. Understandably, he expressed his devotion throughout the night by bringing him a “living (mouse) present.” My kids slept outside on the patio, so this made them fair game.
Should you ever decide to go and visit, you will most definitely be escorted to the bathroom (outhouse) or bushes by both young cats. In fact, they appeared to think it was their duty to do their business at the same time as we humans were going about our business.
The second night this caused my son some minor concern as he was sure he heard some “unusual noises.” Upon further investigation, a glance skyward revealed eight paws and the anatomy of two tom-cats resting on the plexiglass roof of the outhouse. They were definitely keeping an eye out for anything or anyone. I dubbed them the “PC’s”–short for “Patrol Cats.” Momma Cat, on the other hand, very wisely chose to go to sleep up off the ground and just under the roof of the main cabin where nothing (not even her offspring), could disturb her.
As our host had asked that we not urinate in the outhouse, my daughter and I invested in “Sunanies” prior to leaving home. I just remember hoping that the cats didn’t get too close as I wasn’t extremely adept at using my Sunany. They (smart cats!) wisely kept a safe distance.
Birthday Morning Sunrise
After waking up early enough to enjoy the sunrise, we definitely had to make use of the eggs that had survived the infamous bike drop and the refried beans that daughter had brought. Knowing me well, she only brought 3 cans although I had suggested 6-8. (Insert laugh-cry emoji.)
Fortified with food and fluids, we had a hard time making up our mind where we were going to ride. We knew Big Bend National Park was closed, however had purchased day passes for Big Bend Ranch State Park. Even so, we were slow getting back on the road. I wasn’t all that keen on riding my own bike, truth be told. Originally I was going to ride on the back of my son’s bike. As mentioned, I don’t care for riding a motorcycle when I can’t “flat-foot” the bike. In all of my previous motorcycle road trips, I have never dumped a bike, nor felt as “unsure” as I did on this trip. Definitely MY error in judgement in “assuming” I would be comfortable with the bike I was riding. At the last minute though, I decided to go for it. I noticed I wasn’t part of the bluetooth conversations most of the day, and was subject to numerous eye rolls on the part of my (non) patient children. Then again, everyone’s patience runs a little thin when the temperature is pushing 106* or so…🙄
Big Bend National Park – Closed
We still went ahead and rode to the entrance of Big Bend National Park. We had decided to go wherever the day took us, which basically consisted of heading down FM 170 towards Lajitas.
It was brutally hot and getting hotter by the time we pulled off at Lajitas Golf Resort. We were sweaty, thirsty and hungry. I went into their lobby to find out exactly where we were in relation to a particular swimming hole we were looking for. (The swimming hole was a lot farther down the road in Big Bend Ranch State Park.) The lady at the front desk was super helpful and knowledgable about the area. She gave me a map and marked the swimming hole we were dreaming of. After consulting with my kids, the popular vote was to stay there and eat lunch and then go swimming in the Rio Grande, which runs right behind the resort.
We found a shady spot to park our motorcycles and headed to the Candelilla Cafe. My kids bought me birthday lunch which included a “Prickly Pear Margarita” which was particularly delicious!
Lajitas Golf Resort is a really cool little place. From the reviews I saw on Tripadvisor, many people think it’s overpriced, however, just like everything else in this area, it is more difficult to bring in supplies, retain good help, etc. For us it was, quite literally, an oasis in the middle of the desert with an interesting history. I’ve never had the bottom of my feet feel like they were on fire through my shoes due to the heat! While the lack of people/crowds was nice, the next time I visit this area, it will be in the fall. Visiting between October through May gives you your best shot at cooler weather.
First time ever in the Rio Grande! I learned that it’s really dirty water (or at least it was where we were at), but we were so hot no one really cared and the current is amazingly strong. We didn’t stay too long before we got back on the bikes and the road again!
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Did you know Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest State park in Texas? Although we had day passes, we didn’t have near enough time to see everything we wanted to. Hopefully the next time I return, COVID won’t be a factor and I’ll have a few extra days to spend.
End of the brutally beautiful day…
We made it back to “Casa de Creosote” before dark and opened the windows to let the breeze in although there wasn’t nearly as much of a breeze the second night as there was the previous one. I felt so sweaty and gross I tried out the “solar shower”. It did the job and I felt a lot better after getting rid of the days grime.
Truly my only regret, (besides my motorcycle mishap), was that we didn’t have more time to stay. I wish we would have planned on one full day to do nothing but sit on the front patio at “Casa de Creosote” and relax. As it stands, this was one of my happiest birthdays as it was spent with my kids making memories.
I love traveling full stop – so while I’ve had some harrowing instances, I never look at them negatively. Memories are made when you’re traveling – not when you’re chained to your desk.Richard Branson
Here are some links you might find helpful if you’re traveling to the Big Bend area:
- Big Bend App w/Guide Narration: https://visitbigbend.com/mobileapp/
- Big Bend Chat: https://bigbendchat.com/ Also has an app. Found this to be a super helpful place to ask questions of the locals.
- Big Bend Suggested Itineraries: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/suggested-itineraries.htm
- Motorcycling in Big Bend: https://visitbigbend.com/motorcycles/
- Online Registration: https://texasstateparks.reserveamerica.com/unifSearch.do
- Park Permits & Registration: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm
- Stargazing in Texas State Parks: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/parks/things-to-do/stargazing-in-state-parks