On our 4th day of riding, we finally entered Big Bend National Park.
Reversing our ride into the Stillwell RV park the previous day, we got back up to the “main road” and approached the park entrance. Mike has a senior pass, so we were able to go in free. (We like free)
As we got ready to descend into the park, for some reason Mike was in front of me (that almost never happens unless we’re on a hill). I yelled, “Mike! Stop! Your wheel!” His back wheel was wobbling all over the place. It turned out he’d broken a spoke. We turned back up to the visitor’s center figuring we’d wait for the van and hope someone had a spoke, or Mike would use his emergency spoke. We were lucky it wasn’t too far back.
We were even luckier that the van had just pulled in and even WAY luckier that Joe (one of our guides) is an awesome mechanic. He put Mike’s bike up on a stand and did a replacement in the field — in about an hour. It was amazing! If he hadn’t been able to do that, Mike was convinced his trip was finished.
Problem solved we started out again. We rode as far as the dinosaur discovery area (a new area opened this spring). Because we’d be delayed, it had gotten hot, so after seeing the bones, I decided to get a lift. Mike continued to ride and we met up again at Rio Grande Village, our stop for the night.
We set up tents and then went for showers and laundry. It was still beastly hot, so when our laundry was finished I asked a very nice lady if she’d give us a ride back to our camp rather than us having to walk on the road and get all sweaty again. She was lovely and it turns out – from Richmond, VA!
Mike put up a clothesline and we clipped our bike shorts and jerseys up to dry. About midnight I heard what sounded like a roar start up and my tent started to be buffetted by wind. It was amazing. I felt like the scene in 2 Samuel:
And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the LORD has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”
I don’t know what kind of trees they were around us, but it was scary and wonderful at the same time. When I got up to make my nightly visit to … um … see the stars, I grabbed everything off the line. The winds were so ferocious I was actually surprised to see anything still on there!
The next morning was still very windy. It was the day part of the group was going to Boquillas, Mexico. Mike and I stayed on the TX side and went for a hike, down by the Rio Grande and then up to an overlook.
When we were down by the river, we saw a guy on a horse with his dog trotting alongside him. They entered the Rio where he let his horse take a drink. Then they continued south over to the Mexico side. The river was so shallow there even the dog wasn’t swimming.
Up on the overlook, as we approached the top, I saw what I thought at first was a small altar of some sort. When we got closer I could see that there was a lay out of small handcrafted goods, each marked with a price, along with a small container in which to leave the money. The animal choices were scorpions or road runners, and I love birds, so I got this guy:
Later my co-riders told me that there were specific rules against purchasing these items this way – they are contraband – and NPS is trying to discourage the Mexicans from coming over and doing this. I just laughed. You can’t kill capitalism.
Why didn’t I go to Boquillas to purchase the same thing? Well…I forgot my passport when I left VA. Before my plane even took off I texted Westy asking him to stick it in the mail to my mom’s house, which he did immediately. It had five days to get there and it still didn’t arrive in time!
So I brought the roadrunner back for Westy and it’s name is Contraband. 🙂
When everyone was back from Mexico or hiking, we were ready to set off again but the wind gusts were still 25 mph so Mike and I decided to be passengers that day. We stopped at the Panther Junction ranger station and got to see a nice movie about the Big Bend and learn a bit about the area. That was important because we were headed into the heart of the park – the Chisos Basin.