Twisted Sisters and Big Bend Texas
Dates Feb 28th - March 8th' 2017

Road Trip Background:

No better way than to kick off the New Year's riding season than a road trip into the unknown. There aren't many places left in the USA that are an unknown to me that I haven't had the pleasure to lay some tread on but the Texas Hill Country (Twisted Sisters) and Big Bend Texas are two locations that fit that bill. That was about to end. This road trip was on my mind last year at this time but the weather just wouldn't cooperate and the road trip fell through. This year the weather seems more favorable and we are determined to make it happen. My partner in crime for this road trip is Monk (Bob) none other than the Arkansas Ridge Runner himself. Bob and I share similar riding styles and will make a good team to pull this off. Arizona16 (Jim) will be riding out from Arizona to meet up with us in Alpine Texas and will join us as we explore the Big Bend, Texas area before he returns back out to Arizona and we head back east to home. Let the Sojourn begin ….

Here is my SPOTwalla link if you want to track the roads and routes we take:

Tuesday - Feb 28' 2017

Question for ya? Are you old? If you think so … then ride a motorcycle.

“It never gets old“ How many times have you heard someone say that? It’s usually said when we’re describing an experience we truly love and don’t mind repeating … over and over and over again. Why? … because it never gets old. You must have seen that coming ;-)

Today, my next motorcycle sojourn on the open road began with that same thought firmly planted in my mind as I rolled out of Dover, Tennessee for my first cross country Road Trip of 2017. I’ve taken many many Road Trips over the years logging many many miles and I always have the same sense of excitement and unbridled anticipation every single time I roll. As I nuzzled back in my seat on the Goldwing and stared off into the enticing eyes of the open road that laid ahead I have an epiphany. It’s actually me that’s not getting old. Sure I’ve added a few pounds, a few more wrinkles and the hair that was growing on top of my head has found other creative ways to exit my body but I am without a doubt feeling infinitely younger for just being on two wheels and heading into the unknown once again. Yes, there will come a day when I can’t ride any more … but this isn’t that day … and I’m thankful for everyday on the open road and more than willing to accept this present moment just as it is and the amazingly satisfying realization that youth can live in my mind and heart if not forever in my physical body. Seeing the road unfold before these aging eyes fills my mind and heart with youthful vigor at least feeling younger and more than ready to face what ever adventure lies around that next turn or up ahead on that open road. Yes … “It never gets old” but then again … neither do I … because I ride.

And ride I did … I zipped over to Arkansas to meet up with Bob (Monk) my traveling companion for this adventure in what seemed like a blink of an eye. I wish everyone was as fortunate as I am to have such an excellent riding partner. I like riding with Bob as much as I like riding my motorcycle and that says a whole lot. There really wasn't much to see or curvy roads to enjoy during the ride over but in its own way the 7 or so hours it took to get from Dover, Tn to Morrilton, Ar. where Bob lives was an exercise in just "Savoring the Moment". It was an opportunity to begin to reflect on the week ahead and at the same time putting the matters of the previous week of my normal life in perspective and leaving it far behind along with the daily worries and cares we to often burden ourselves with. The hum of the engine, the wind … the stripes on the road just rolling away in the distance in my rear view mirror was taking all those cares away. The twist of the throttle represented what laid ahead and that was what I was focused on and I excel at twisting the throttle:-)

Due to an O dark thirty roll this morning, to find my way through a severe outbreak of thunder storms, I rolled into Bob's place early around mid day. As we shook hands when we greeted I could feel the electricity of the moment pulse between us. I think we both realized we were about to plug ourselves into an epic adventure and that tomorrow had finally arrived.

Resting tonight in Morrilton, Arkansas.

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Wednesday - March 1' 2017 - The Setup

During every road trip there are always a few days that fall into what I call “setup” days. These are days that you strategically try to position yourself for the next days ride knowing that the setup day is just about a give away but the day you’re setting up for, which is usually the next day, is going to be spectacular. Yes the ride is about the journey and not the destination but without setup days you limit your ability to hit the good stuff at optimum times and don’t maximize your exposure to them. Today was our setup day. We had 676 miles to cover today to get down to Kerrville, Texas to position ourselves to enjoy as much of the Twisted Sister Hill country as possible on the way in to Big Bend.

A long day ahead called for a big breakfast so we decided to eat at the Waffle House there in Morrilton before we rolled. It was kind of a way for Bob and I to pay tribute to a few of our riding buddies that like to drive from the Super 8 in the distance in the picture below to the Waffle house to eat :-) You know who you are lol.
Our day started early with strong to severe storms still filtering east out of the area. We were hopeful they would have all moved out but the tail end of the system linger around Little Rock has we hit the bypass to the west of town that joins up with I30 corridor heading down towards Dallas.
As you can see from the little blue dot on I-30 in the map above we were about to get pounded any moment. Bob and I realized it about the same time and as we pulled up next to each other we both acknowledge it was time to seek shelter. We quickly exited the free way and had a quick discussion as to where we might find cover. My experience has been in the past that Churches and Banks are pretty numerous and can be readily found in populated areas where we were at. Both usually offer some type of shelter or overhang that you can get under for cover. I quickly dialed up the nearest Church on my GPS and found one about 1 mile away from out location and we headed there. However, on the way there we spotted a funeral home with a perfect drive through covered area and we pulled in there when the Church didn't pan out. It was even positioned on the side away from the direction of the coming storm … which looked like this ...
Looking pretty scary …
First the Rain …
Then a little hail
45 minutes later we were back on the road and I was able to capture a shot of the early morning sun. Needless to say we were very thankful we didn't need the services of the "Funeral Home" if you know what I mean. Best to never take unneeded chances with the weather while on the road. If in doubt seek shelter and always keep and eye on the weather as it's developing. I use the Goldwing's XM weather radar service AND I have my Iphone mounted on the handlebars to see more detailed radar display as I'm rolling down the road.

We made out way down the remaining section of the freeway to Sulphur Springs were we exited south on to secondary roads for the remaining way down to Kerrville. Hats off to Texas …. this is the only state I know of that has speed limits on many of their secondary roads of 70 to even 75 mph. Most states these roads would be 55mph. I guess because Texas is so big you'd never get anywhere unless these roads had those higher limits. It helped us put on the miles much faster and it was much appreciated. Temps warmed up nicely but the wind did became a bother from time to time when it gusted.

Few more pics from the afternoon … what a contrast with the early morning hours.
Amazing sky and cloud pattern
Mix in a little color and animals
Little dab of water
And the most important ingredient in my book …. The Open Road … Texas Hill country on the horizon.

Ok …. the table had been set and our Setup day was nearing an end. We finished up the 676 miles in about 12 hours and 30 minutes on the road today rolling into Kerrville, Texas around 6:30 p.m. this evening. It wasn't pretty (Interstate, Straight boring roads without curves) but we now have ourselves perfectly situated to enjoy the best the Texas Hill country (Twisted Sisters) has to offer in the morning and then on to Big Bend area tomorrow night.
Our Route today …

Resting tonight In Kerrville, Texas

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Thursday - March 2' 2017 - In search of a curvy road

Me … In search of a curvy road along Highway 337 Twisted Sister

Sometimes the greater the expectation the greater the disappointment. Bob and I both have been spoiled pretty bad as far as curvy roads go being from Arkansas and Tennessee respectively. We knew not to get our hopes up to high with the roads through the Texas Hill Country (Twisted Sisters) but we were a little underwhelmed with our journey through the first run through a section early today… Highway 16 south out of Kerrville, down to Medina, west on Highway 337 over through Vanderpool, Leakey and then Camp Wood. First of all the road quality wasn't all that good. To me it actually felt like what I think it would feel like to ride on rough sandpaper. Few turns were tight and twisty at points along the route at various location but mainly it was straights with gentle sweepers rolling along over hill after hill. Between Vanderpool and Leaky the road did improve some but between Leaky and Camp Wood it was pretty messy with loose rocks all over the surface most all the way. It wasn't until we stopped in Camp Wood for gas that we found out why …
Meet Mickey

Mickey is a local Harley rider we met today when we stop for gas in Camp Wood. We discussed the roads and he says he rides the area here all the time and specifically mentioned that the Texas Highway department messed up at the end of last summer when they repaved 337 between Camp Wood and Leakey. He says the gravel just didn't stick and they haven't really found out why or fixed it. He said he was so upset about it he went into to complain about it to no avail. Mickey works at the Bent Rim Grill in Leakey on the weekends. Said if we were back this way to stop in. Nice guy.

We mounted up and continued on west toward Alpine figuring we would give the other two roads associated with the Twisted Sister (Highway 335, 336 and 39) a run on the way back through this area on the way back home. Mickey said those were in better shape and were good roads.

Continuing on south on Highway 55 we encountered another version of Texas' curvy roads.
The kinds that are curvy on the vertical axis over the hills up and down.

When we headed West off of Highway 55 and then on to Highway 334 I had a chance to open it up some. Again road surface wasn't optimum but that road is built for speed with clear vision along both sides of the road and in the middle of nowhere. There are a couple of things I like to do on road trips …. usually more than once. One is to test my low fuel light (make sure it works) and I did that already one time on the way over to Arkansas when I left home. The other is I like to make sure my Wing can still count to 3 … that is speed digits wise. Highway 334 gave me that chance to do that and it passed with flying colors.

Next stop was the over look on Highway 90 at the Pecos River and the view was grand …
Temps in the low 60's with some clouds … just a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

As we pressed on towards Alpine I almost had a major disaster with my Iphone. The Ram mount that holds my iphone on the handlebars has these rubber pieces that hold the iPhone in place and I lost one. I taped it up at the overlook and continue to use it and as I was riding another one popped off and this time the Iphone came loose from the mount and fell free bouncing off my rubber lid on top of my tank and then bounced over to my left knee on it's way toward the road. Fortunately, I saw it come loose out of the corner of my eye while it was falling and was able to grab it at the last second and pin it against my left leg. Yikes that was close. Yeah … I know I need a tether but … I'll jerry rig something together tomorrow to make it more secure in the holder.

Continuing on to Alpine … we arrived safely about 5:00 p.m. Jim (Arizona16) arrived about 6:00 p.m. He had left the Phoenix Arizona area early this morning to ride out to join us in exploring Big Bend. He also had a long day of about 680 miles to get here. After a little meet and greet and catching up we all had dinner at a nearby diner.
From left to right Jim, me and Bob

Oh …. and I was able to catch Bob today in this rare picture of him riding without a helmet …
I told him he should wear a helmet …. he said this is Texas what the hell.
Actually I resemble that remark more than he does lol.

Today's route

Resting tonight in Alpine, Texas …next 4 nights we will be here.

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Friday - March 3' 2017 - Big Bad Bend

Having arrived last night, riding all the way out from Arizona Jim (Arizona16), joined Bob and I today for our first foray into Big Bend National Park. I had ridden with Jim one other time out in Arizona years back when we first met and we had rendezvous a few other times while both being on separate road trips over the years. However, Big Bend was a first for all of us and we were all really looking forward to it. What we were not looking forward to was the 45 mph speed limit all throughout the park :-(

Weather was brisk this morning when the sun rose over Alpine, Texas
but was to warm up into the low 60's as the day wore on.

We were all Kick Stands Up and rolled out of the motel around 8:30 a.m ready to head down the highway. Exactly 2 minutes later at 8:32 a.m. we were here …
Notice who is filling up with gas. Let's just say Jim didn't get the memo that when you ride with us you best have a full tank from the night before. You can see how happy Bob was. Jim is an excellent rider but a rookie when it comes to riding with us. We only forgive this once Jim lol.

So after gas we're off to Big Bend AGAIN….. What to expect?
I led the group to the park but after the stop for the obligatory picture in front of the park sign Bob took over the responsibility for leading while in the Park. Seems he's of the opinion that I can't be trusted to maintain the 45 mph speed limit in the park all day. My feelings were deeply hurt … you cut me deep Bob. I took my position in the rear and prepared myself for "scenic riding mode" repeating to myself over and over again … I can do this … I can do this.

We all had the National Park's Pass which is a great deal if you're old farts like us. Look into getting one if you're 62 or older. I think, You buy it once and you can use it for the rest of your life at all National Parks and Monuments. I'm not sure …. I'm old remember? One of the few great deals left out there if you qualify.

Since I had nothing better to do than to saunter at 45 mph as we progressed into the park I figured I'd spend my time getting some actions shots. Hard to do when you're barely moving at snails pace.
Bob's probably thinking …. I can walk faster than this. Tell me this picture wouldn't be a perfect picture for a Goldwing Commercial.

Let's pause here for a word from our sponsor … The National Parks Service …. Did you know that Big Bend is the only National Park to include an entire Mountain Range … The Chisos … within it's borders. Big Bend is also one of the most ecologically diverse park in the entire National Park System. It is know to have more species of birds, plants, butterflies, bats, reptiles, and even ants, than any other U.S. National Park. And finally the elevations in the park ranges from it's lowest point at Rio Grande Village (1,850') to it's highest point at Emory Peak (7,825').

Ok … back to our journey … We took on the lowest point in the Park first ….
This is the Boquillas Canyon overlook and The Rio Grande with view into Mexico

Next we headed up to the highest point you can drive to and that was The Chisos Mountain Lodge. Very beautiful scenery on the way up to the lodge.
We ate lunch at the Lodge and for being such a remote location the food was pretty good and reasonably priced.
Here are a couple of shots from just outside the lodge one looking West and the other looking East.
Think this is Emory Peak

After lunch there was one more scenic drive to hit and Bob reluctantly let me lead again after I promised I could stay within the speed limit. This time it was the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that leads down to Santa Elena Canyon overlook. I did drop back to get a shot of the guys as we rode into the abyss.
Jim … looking good at 45 mph.
Every where you look ….. God made that just for us to enjoy.
The canyon itself was pretty cool … here's a panoramic and pic at the end of our journey down.
As we climbed back out got a few pictures during the day of some plant life.

We started back up to Alpine late afternoon after a great day of riding in the park. Here is our route that we covered today about 334 miles. We arrived back at the motel around 5:00 p.m.

Everyones over all impression of the park was very positive. I will admit the slow speed limits in the park were a challenge but clearly justified as many of the roads were rough in some areas or uneven but over all very good but not meant for higher speeds. The slow pace added to the enjoyment of the beauty as much as I hate to admit it. There were even some spots where you could push it up to 50 or 55 mph and enjoy some of the turns and actually lean a little. We didn't see much law enforcement but I'm sure they were around. There were so many pictures and it was tough to find the best ones to post and I just can't post them all but hope what I did post gives you a feel for the Park. It's a beautiful reflective remote place.

There is some rain in the forecast for tomorrow but primarily in the morning so we may delay before getting out tomorrow to cover the other side of the park. Definitely a place to come to see for the desolate beauty and rugged rock formations. If you like to hike, see plant life and bird watching (yuck) you will also find lots to do here. If you're looking to tear up some curvy roads at speed look elsewhere.

Resting still in Alpine, Texas

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Saturday - March 4' 2017 - Run for the Border

Rain around the area this morning but for the most part it wasn't hitting the ground in Alpine when the day started. In fact, it looked like it was only going to be cloudy all day up here with some clearing down south where we intended to ride today. Most of the precipitation looked to be east of us and moving northeast. We waited until about 9:00 a.m. and then headed out south on Highway 118. First part of this road south had some nice sweepers with the second half straightening back out. As we neared Terlingua the rain found us
It really wasn't a full blown rain … more of a light annoying rain. Even more annoying is that it didn't show up on the Goldwing's Weather radar. Probably to light to have been picked up for display. Fortunately as we moved through Terlingua and on to Texas 170 it had all but finished.
We were looking for a place to stop for a break before we took out across Texas Mountain Trail Highway 170 that runs right along the Rio Grande and the border with Mexico. As you can imagine there isn't much down here but we did find the Barton Warnock Visitors Center just prior to entering the speck of a town called, Lagitas, Texas that fit the bill. We didn't need gas for the wings since one tank will take you from Alpine to Presidio, Texas along this route. By the way there is a gas station in Terlingua as well.

After a break we took out on Highway 170 west that goes through the "Big Bend Ranch State Park". This was supposed to be a very scenic route with winding roads and some good grades. All these were true … here are some pictures along this route over to Presidio, Texas.
Road surface was very smooth and in good shape.
Only problem was there were some slow moving vehicles and RV's and the speed limit was only 50 and occasionally 60 when it opened up some. Since it was so remote I fudged a little and was able to enjoy a pace I was more comfortable with. There were also some section that rode like a roller coaster and those were fun but visibility is limited. You never know what is going to be on the road as you come over one of those hills. Also be aware of signs that say "Loose Livestock" … translation … Open Range and I assume it's possible to find even those critters on the road in addition to the normal stuff you'd expect like deer. We didn't see any but you might so keep it in mind.
The road eventually dumps out into Presidio, Texas and we got there around lunch time. There is a gas station there but we were having a hard time finding a place to eat. Eventually, we found a local that recommended a little Mexican Restaurant that we enjoy lunch at called …
Hottest dip I have had in a long time. Couldn't even get Bob and Jim to even try it.

After lunch it was up Highway 67 to Marfa, Texas …
By this time it had warmed up and the sun was out everywhere.

Just east of Marfa about 10 miles on Highway 90 is where the phenomenon of the Marfa Mystery Lights occur. So we took a stop. If you've never heard of this take a read below or check out this web site
Since it was daytime there were no lights for us to see so Jim had the idea to create our own. Unfortunately it didn't fool any of the locals

Back on the road to Alpine …
Not an active volcano ….

Once in Alpine and it was still early FINALLY a Dairy Queen Stop …
Goldwings parked in front of a Dairy Queen … Who would of thought that lol

Tomorrow Jim will be heading back home to Arizona … apparently he's got this thing called "work" that he has to attend to. Bob and I really enjoy his visit and riding with us and we wish him safe travel home until our paths cross again. Bob and I have one more day tomorrow in the area and plan to explore the Fort Davis area Northwest of Alpine.

Still resting in Alpine, Texas

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