September 07, 2010 GMT
Texas

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A Backroad Into Texas

Texas is my thirtieth and final state of the USA on this trip. I entered Texas from New Mexico on a series of back roads to arrive at Dell City, a small quiet place built around a road junction which qualified it as a two street town. I bought some fruit and a cold drink at one of the two stores for lunch then headed on to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.


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Nodding Donkey Oil Pump Sucking The Black Gold From The Ground

I have seen more “Nodding Donkey” oil pumps in Texas than any of the other states. They churn away twenty four hours a day sucking from the depths of the earth the raw ingredient to lubricate and fuel my bike which I‘m very grateful for despite the odd pang of guilt about my carbon footprint as I leisurely cruise (hopefully) around the world.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains N. P. has Guadalupe Peak, the highest mountain in Texas in it at 8749 feet (2667 metres). I normally would have been tempted to hike to the top, an 8.5 mile walk with 3000 feet of elevation gain but it was far too hot for anything so strenuous so I settled down in the shade with a book instead.

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Guadalupe Mountains NP Campsite

Having successfully arrived in Texas on back roads I decided to stick to them for the next leg of my journey south. The roads, a mix of paved and dirt were clearly shown on my map and GPS but after forty miles just as the dirt road was due to start there was a barrier across the road. It looked as if someone had built some kind of oil pumping plant right across the road. There was a narrow dirt track running around the plant but it was signposted as a private ranch road with threats of $2000 fines and a year in jail for trespassing. Risking my liberty and bank balance I ventured onto the track and rode round to the rear of the plant to see if the road continued. The ranch track did head in the right direction and the GPS was indicating to follow it but there were more threats of fines and jail so I decided to make a tactical retreat. The only option left was a large sweep to the east making the days ride a lot longer than originally planned and gave me a taste of the long, hot straight roads I had heard about in Texas.

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Heading South On A Backroad Of Texas

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Garmin And I Think We Should Be Able To Ride Straight Through Here

I arrived at Davis Mountain State Park at the start of the Labour Day Weekend when all the campsites can be expected to be very busy. The sensible thing to do would have been to stay at Davis Mtn. S.P. for the weekend but with the days of my USA visa trickling rapidly away I gambled on leaving on the Saturday for Big Bend National Park on the Mexican border. Two young couples turned up at my campsite after dark claiming to have reserved it for the weekend. Assuming that the park rangers had accidentally double booked the site and taking the stance that possession is 9/10ths of the law I wasn’t moving but invited them to share the campsite as I was leaving in the morning. As there were no empty sites they accepted my offer, lit a campfire and sat around it talking and keeping me awake into the early hours!

An overhauling of my security procedures was required before entering Mexico. I had been carrying my passport, driving licence and bike documents inside my ‘Filofax’ diary which was usually left on the bike. I wanted somewhere to carry the documents on me at all times without having to transfer them to different pockets depending on what I was wearing. I hit on the idea of a document pouch worn round my neck and fashioned one from a pair of trousers bought at a charity (Thrift) shop for $1. By cutting everything away except the waistband and a large rear pocket I had what I was looking for although I found it more comfortable to wear it bandolier style with my head and one arm through the waistband rather than round my neck.

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Big Bend National Park Campsite

I headed for Big Bend National Park in the middle of the Labour Day Weekend and although I was tempted to stop for something to eat on the way thought I had better press on and try and secure a campsite. The park is huge, encompassing 196 miles of the Rio Grande on its southern boundary and has three campsites as well as a number of back country areas where wild camping is permitted. I got the last campsite that had a sun shelter built over the picnic table and the few available sites exposed to the sun were taken within two hours of my arrival.

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Rio Grande With Mexico On The Far Side

I was somewhat surprised and disappointed at the size of the Rio Grande, it hardly lives up to its name. I could easily have thrown a stone across the river into Mexico but didn’t want to risk initiating a tri-state diplomatic incident. I met my first proper Mexican as apposed to the numerous ones I have met previously who live in the USA. Victor had paddled illegally across the river in his canoe to sell souvenirs and if you didn’t want a souvenir he would sing you a Mexican song for a small donation. The border seems as porous as a sieve although I will stick to my original plan of crossing at Presidio, the nearest authorised crossing point to Big Bend National Park.

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Canyon In Big Bend N.P.

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Big Bend N.P.

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Big Bend N.P. Sunset

Highway 170 follows the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park west to Presidio running through Big Bend Ranch State Park. The road and scenery were great, I stopped at Contradando, an old adobe film set on the banks of the Rio Grande used for western films. All the buildings looked genuine from the outside but were just timber studding and plywood on the inside apart from the cantina which had adobe interior walls and a bar so it must have been used for interior shots as well. I had been comfortable in my bike suit until 11am but changed into thin trousers and left the jacket off as the temperature rose up to 91F (33C).

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Old Western Movie Filmset On Banks Of Rio Grande

There is a bunkhouse in Sauceda which was recommended to me but to get there I had to go virtually into Presidio then take a dirt road for 30 miles into the heart of Big Bend Ranch State Park. As I only had one night left on my USA visa and wanted to cross the border into Mexico reasonably early in the day I decided to find somewhere nearer Presidio. The best I could come up with was an RV (mobile home) park about four miles from town and six miles from the Mexican border.

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Film Set For 'Streets Of Laredo', 'Uphill All The Way', 'My Maria', 'Rio Diablo', & Others

I have done almost 33,000 miles in the USA and Canada in two summers and had the bike in storage for seven months through a chilly Montanan winter. I have only had one puncture but had to replace the chain and sprockets twice, replace a fork seal and the steering head bearings.

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Big Bend Ranch State Park, Rio Grande

I was hoping for more up to date information on the border crossing and the situation on the Mexican side as I got further south. I met a number of people in May who have second homes or live in their RV (mobile home) in Mexico through the winter and they all thought it was a wonderful place and had never had any trouble. The opposite extreme was the couple who thought there were only two possible outcomes of going to Mexico, death or kidnapping. I’m going to feel very foolish now if I am killed or kidnapped! More up to date information hasn’t been forthcoming as everyone I have spoken to said they stopped going to Mexico several years ago because of the border problems!

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at September 07, 2010 09:51 PM GMT
 


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