Time 5:57am. Problem, I was awake. Solution, get packing. For what? Big Bend National Park, the place that I’ve been more nervous about visiting than any other place on the journey. Why? Mostly the media and secondly, it is one of the most remote places in the United States. From everything I’ve read about the park, I worked myself up into a minor state of worry.
With my early start at the Texas Inn in Fort Stockton, I was sure to make the 126 mile ride to Big Bend before dark, barring disaster. It was very cold that morning and the thought crossed my mind several times to just wait another day before heading due south. I scarfed down the best continental breakfast of the trip and spent a bit of time writing what I thought would be the last post in a few days. Fog and a thick mist blanketed western Texas and the temperature stayed low enough to warrant wearing all of my gear, minus the rain gear. I fueled up the Goose at the local Fina gas station and made my out of town and into the ghostly air. Visibility ranged from 500 feet to a quarter of a mile. About 20 miles into the journey, I stopped to wipe my visor, both inside and out. There was no escaping this mist. It somehow would seep its way in between the little gap at the top of my face shield. The complete lack of visibility, the 34 degree temp, and the fog, made me seriously question why the heck I was doing this. A pattern emerged for the first hour of the journey. I’d ride about ten miles until I couldn’t see anymore and then I’d stop and completely dry the face shield, snap a couple blurry pics (my camera was shivering again) and take off. Not to long after the first hour the fog began lifting and I was rewarded with my first glimpse of southwestern Texas’s mountains. They were impressive, although similar in height to the Appalachians that I’m used to, they had a totally different veneer and shape. Other than the next to freezing trip, the ride became quiet relaxing. I even spotted a heard of Bison a few miles north of the halfway point. Marathon Tx, is roughly the mid point between Fort Stockton and Big Bend. It’s a tiny town thats motto goes “Marathon, where nothing ever happens”. I stopped there to fuel up even though I had only used a quarter of a tank that morning. While at the gas station, I met a nice fellow named Chris from Sacramento California. He had been on the road for seven weeks, visiting family in Illinois and Florida. He and I talked for about a good 15 minutes about our trips and exchanged some contact info before I took off. He even offered to go grab a hot meal in Marathon, but I had a goal of reaching camp before dark. South of Marathon the mountains get larger and the views get more magnificent. The journey I was so afraid of was turning out to be pretty sweet. One last stop to top off the tank was in order before crossing into the park. It was at the Stillwell store, about 10 miles from the parks entrance. I felt like I was in another country pulling up to what was the most primitive gas pump I’ve experienced. Two large tanks accompanied the pump. Above ground tanks were new to this city slicker. After topping off and conversing with the extremely nice lady at the counter, it was time to cross into the great Big Bend park. 810,000 acres of wilderness. That’ll make a man outta ya. I pulled up to the park gate to show my pass. Thinking that I was headed into bum f*%$ked Egypt, I asked the ranger what campground would be best for a guy looking for some electric and a shower. She directed me to Rio Grande Village, another 48 miles south of the entry and right against the border of Mexico. Ahhhggg, I thought, so I began to question her up and down about the safety of the area. She very confidently assured me that it was safe and I’d have no trouble in that part of the park. With some directions and her solid advice, I took off south again to the part of the park that I previously wrote off due to its proximity to Mexico. The ride, although cold as shite, was phenomenal. The mountains got even bigger and craggy looking. The peak with the highest elevation in the park reaches 7,800 feet and I as I passed by the clouds smothered the top. The Sierra Del Carmen mountains of Mexico came into my view way before I was even close to them. At first they appeared blue and the peaks blended in with the clouds. I said aloud, “Those can’t be mountains.” Yet the closer I got the clearer they became and the brownish colors began to show. The sun even peaked through, illuminating the massive cliffs, just before I crossed into one of the parks tunnels. I was in landscape heaven.
Around 4pm I finally made it to camp. The village has campsite hosts, that help you pick out a suitable spot. She informed me that the store just up the road has hot showers, food, gas, and WI-FI! What!, I thought. Wi-fi all the way down here. Unreal! No cell phone service to speak of though. And to think that I was nervous about coming here. I set up camp just before dark and called it an early night. The cold ride wiped me out.