Ride the USA-Day 6: Big Bend National Park

Saturday, May 30—Van Horn, TX to Sanderson, TX

New flash! It’s raining in Texas!

I rose early this morning in hopes of making a correspondingly early departure. Unfortunately, there was a thunder and lighting strike alert notification on my weather app, so it made sense to wait out this relatively small storm for an hour. When I left clouds filled the sky and the road exhumed the smell of dampness that one can only associate with a downpour. I was undecided about taking the short or long route to Big Bend National Park. The decision didn’t come until I literally hit the fork in the road. Based on the direction of the storm, I decided on the long route to get as far away as possible from any chance of a lighting strike. It rained for about ten minutes, then the clouds moved on.

The Rio Grande/Mexico

The Rio Grande/Mexico

Highway 118 just north of the US/Mexico border is a great ride, if a little warm. I was surprised by how open the border is with the Rio Grande the only physical boundary. I suppose that explains why I had to go through two Border Patrol screenings.

One of my goals on this trip is to find people who might need a helping hand. It just makes the travel more rewarding. Beware the fool who looks to help others. He’ll soon find himself to be the one in need!

The Rio Grande/Just before the bike tipped over

The Rio Grande/Just before the bike tipped over

I pulled into a vista to take a picture of the Rio Grande. It was on a steep grade, but I parked the bike carefully. I ran to the overlook, snapped a photo, and got back on my Harley. At just that moment the pavement where my kickstand was resting gave way and the bike started to lean to the left and roll backwards. I pulled on the front brake, but with all the weight on the rear of the bike, it just slid backwards at an ever-increasing pace. I did my best to get control it, but couldn’t prevent the slow-motion fall-over.

The bike has fallen over before—it weighs 927 pounds unloaded, and is hard to balance while riding at a very slow speed and when having to stop and/or turn quickly—and I’ve been able to stand the bike back up on my own. But the steepness of the parking area along with the heavy load made it impossible. I just stood back and stared at my bike…taking a nap on it’s side.

There was very little traffic this morning. I wondered how long it would take to get someone to stop to help me right the bike as I proceeded to unload all of my gear in hopes that would make the difference in lifting it. Well, it took no more than five minutes for an Aussie couple to happen by. I waved down their truck, and they asked if I needed help. With only two attempts the bike was upright, balancing somewhat precariously. I quickly and profusely thanked the young man, re-loaded my gear, and, before it could start sliding backwards again, drove away.

Big Bend National Park is incredible. A must see if you’re ever in the area. It features unique geology to the area driven by the Rio Grande.

There seemed to be an inordinate amount of both dead and live snakes on the road today. I wonder if there’s something about the weather pattern that is being them out?

I chose the circuitous route of the past two days in part from the Outside Online article 10 All-American Summer Road Trips by Stephanie Pearson. In the article Stephanie covers some great road trips around the country. Check it out!

Thursday Night/Desert Inn

Thursday Night/Desert Inn

Friday Night/Budget Inn

Friday Night/Budget Inn

The last two nights I’ve stayed at inexpensive, roadside motels. I find them simply by checking on TripAdvisor, viewing ratings, and reading reviews. Tonight I’m at Budget Inn in Sanderson. Dave provided me with a synopsis of Sanderson: “Sanderson, TX used to be much more prosperous as a “switching” location for men and trains on the Southern Pacific line. But when the need for extra crews was eliminated, so was the need for crew overnights in Sanderson…”

When I rode up to the motel I thought I’d made a big mistake! The town itself appeared abandoned. Bother restaurants are already closed. (It’s only 6:30 pm.) Across from the hotel I view a run-down bar flashing a sign indicating bikers are welcome. (How far is this ton from Waco?) The hotel grounds showed an effort by the owner to grow plants and keep patches of grass green. There were a few pieces of discarded equipment scattered about. Dany, the owner, greeted my as I drove up. He tried to check me in, but his old school, dial-up credit card machine wasn’t working. He encouraged me to rest, get something to eat, took my cell number, and said he’d call me when the machine was working.

Dany, the proprietor of Budget Inn, Sanderson, TX

Dany, the proprietor of Budget Inn, Sanderson, TX

I approached the room and it looked bleak from the outside. When I opened the door I was truly amazed. Not that the interior was plush or anything like that. All of the ceiling light fixtures were simply bare bulbs. But the room was clean and cared-for. Dany puts his heart into providing a comfortable stay for his guests, complete with a plastic tray of fresh fruit and snacks delivered to your room.

I use inexpensive motels some of the time to add to the adventure and keep the travel costs down. I also seem to meet more interesting people at these motels. Some long-distance riders camp out. For me, there’s nothing like a hot shower at the end of a long day on a Harley. Dany proved my theory correct by treating me like I was somebody special.

Ride safe!

Route:                   I10E, 17S, 67S, 170E, 118E, 385N, 90E
Miles Today:         453
Time Today:         10:20
Total Trip Miles:   2,385
Weather:               Overcast and cold in high 50s and 15mph wind, some rain, warming to
low 90s with sunny skies
Lunch:                  Big Bend Motor Inn, Terlingua
Lodging:               Budget Inn ($60!)
Dinner:                  Snacks/Both restaurants in town closed.

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