by Robert "Trip" Hilliard

Hill Country & Big Bend Tour Video

On April 28, 2006, Curt Jordan and I set out on a motorcycle trip to the Big Bend region of Texas. Riding the River Road (Highway 170) between Study Butte/Terlingua and Presidio, was our quest. Although I had ridden this road before, Curt never had. So, it was time for Curt to experience the Big Bend area and for me to revisit the beauty and wonder of the west Texas roads. This trip report features many pictures as well as videos from the trip. I hope you enjoy this report as much as we did creating it.

Friday, April 28, 2006 - Curt and I met in Chandler, Texas at about 9am. Chandler happens to be a halfway point from our homes and it was a good place to meet since we were heading out Highway 31 going west. We left Chandler and traveled Highway 31 through Athens, Corsicana, Hubbard and then into Waco. We stopped, fueled and ate lunch at George's Restaurant. When we left the restaurant, it started to rain, so we put on our rain gear and headed South on I-35.

In Temple, we headed west on 190 through Killeen and into Lampasas. At Lampasas we proceeded South on 281. We stopped in Marble Falls to eat some pie and coffee at the Bluebonnet Cafe. The Bluebonnet Cafe is a favorite of mine and is rated one of the top cafes in Texas by Ride Texas magazine.

At about 2:30pm, we left Marble Falls traveling South until we reached Johnson City where we turned West on 290. At 3:30pm, we arrived in Fredericksburg. We checked into the Super 8 hotel, then we decided to travel some 20 miles out of Fredericksburg to Luchenbach. After seeing the town and buying a few souvenirs, we rode back to Fredericksburg and ate at a Mexican food restaurant. A storm was supposed to come through overnight, so Curt and I parked our bikes and covered them for the night.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 - We got up and surveyed our bikes after a hail storm moved through overnight. Everything was OK. Curt and I got ready, ate breakfast and gassed up. Today we were to meet Monkerz and other VROC'ers at 9am for the day's ride of the 3's. Curt and I stayed overnight in Fredricksburg so we could attend the Hill Country Ride IX, an annual ride of the Hill Country put on by the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club of Dallas/Ft. Worth. I'm a member of the Texas VROC group based out of Austin. Mark "Monkerz" Ginsel was to lead a group of us through the Hill Country today, specifically through what is called the "3's", which is Ranch Road 337, 336 and 335. These three roads are considered the best roads to ride in the State of Texas. Once we left Fredericksburg, our route took us down highway 16 through Kerrville, and then we proceeded to Medina where we rode 337 to Leakey. Once in Leakey, we stopped at the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop for a quick drink and relaxing time. There must have been a million bikes there that day. After that, we kept going on 337 until we reached Camp Wood where we stopped for lunch and gas. We took so long eating lunch, that Monkerz decided to take everyone back to Fredericksburg by way of 337 instead of riding 335. Since Curt and I were staying in Leakey at the Frio Lodge that night, we split from the group and rode 335, then 41 and 83 back to Leakey.

Curt and I checked in at the Rio Lodge, had pizza at an Italian restaurant, then Curt walked over to the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop while I rode 337 between Leakey and Vanderpool and shot some videos of the ride. After that, we settled down for the night in room 2.
Click here to see video of Ranch Road 337 ride.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 - The next morning we left Leakey around 8am. It was sad to say goodbye to RR337, but hopefully I can come back and ride the 3's later in the year. Curt and I started our trek to Alpine, TX which would be our base for the Big Bend ride. We took 337 West out of Leakey, then Hwy 55 south, then we turned onto 334 until we reached Brackettville, then we turned West on Highway 90. We traveled through several towns such as Del Rio, Langtry (which is the site of Judge Roy Bean and the Law West of the Pecos), Sanderson, Marathon and then Alpine. Highway 90 is a fun road to ride in that you are the only person on the road. The speed limit is 75mph, so one can cruise very fast and enjoy the wide open spaces. Once we arrived in Alpine, we checked into the Antelope Lodge (Room 29) then we ate dinner at Penny's Diner. Tomorrow, we will ride the River Road (Highway 170).

Monday, May 1, 2006 - Curt and I left the lodge at 7:45 this morning. We stopped and ate breakfast at Penny's Diner, then we left town headed south on highway 118. Today we plan to ride 118 south to Study Butte, then turn West on Highway 170 to Presidio, Texas. Highway 170 has always been regarded as one of the top ten best roads to ride in Texas, and today we were not disappointed.

We traveled South on 118 and witnessed some of the most beautiful mountains in the Davis Mountain range. Such mountains as Elephant Mountain, Packsaddle and Cathedral Mountains stood majestically against the morning sun. When we arrived in Study Butte, we stopped at a local convenience store for gas and a cold drink. We knew the temps were going to climb today, possibly hitting 100 degrees, so we knew we must stay hydrated. Once ready, we headed West on 170. When you ride 170, there are several communities that you ride through such as Terlingua, Lajitas and Redford. These communities stand alone surviving in the desert and they are a beautiful site to see.

Curt and I made several stops along the way. One stop was the abandoned movie set for the "Contrabando" movie that is now part of Big Bend National Park. We stopped and took pictures and we were able to go down to the water on the Rio Grande for several pictures.

We also made a stop at the rest stop about midway between Lajitas and Presidio. We arrived in Presidio at about 12:30pm and stopped for lunch at the El Patio Restaurant in downtown Presidio. After eating, we headed North on Highway 67 which took us to Marfa. We stopped to see the Marfa Lights Viewing Center, then headed for Alpine arriving back at the lodge at about 3:30pm. Later that evening, we decided to eat Mexican food at La Casita, located on Avenue H in Alpine.

Tomorrow, we plan on riding to Ft. Davis and taking a tour through the McDonald Observatory.
Click here to see video of Curt riding River Road.
Click here to see video of Robert riding River Road.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 - We got up and went to Downtown Alpine for a great breakfast at the Bread and Breakfast bakery shop. The Cinnamon Rolls were fresh and warm and the coffee was great. After that, we took off for Ft. Davis and Balmorhea by way of Highway 118 North and Highway 17. The scenery was great as we rode through Ft. Davis and traveled to Balmorhea. Balmorhea has a state park that features a huge swimming pool fed exclusively by a spring. The runoff from the spring also feeds a local lake. This spring feeds over a millions gallons of water a day. After viewing the pool and riding around the park, we decided to head back to Ft. Davis. Once we arrived, we turned into the Ft. Davis for a tour.

It was amazing to see the old barracks where soldiers lived some 140 years ago. Ft. Davis was created and built to help insure safety for those traveling the San Antonio - El Paso trail. The fort was abandoned in the late 1800's. It was finally donated to the Parks System in the 1970's and restored. Many of the barracks have been renovated to their original glory. After viewing the fort, Curt and I ate lunch at the BBQ shop downtown across the street from the Hotel Limpia.

After lunch we rode 118 to the McDonald Observatory where we experienced an excellent tour of two of the telescopes. At the end of that, we decided to finish our ride on the Ft. Davis Loop and then we headed for Alpine. Once in Alpine, we ate dinner at the Edelweiss, which is an excellent German Restaurant and Brewery. Then it was back to the Antelope Lodge where we did our laundry and settled into bed. Tomorrow, we ride to Marathon then on to Big Bend National Park.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 - We got up, ate breakfast and got on the road to Big Bend National Park about 9:30am. Our travels today took us from Alpine to Marathon by way of Highway 90, then South on Highway 385. Some 80 miles later, 385 will take you into the park at Panther Junction. From there we gassed up and went up the highway to the Chisos Basin. There we ate lunch at the Big Bend Restaurant.

The road up to the basin is a motorcyclist's dream... nice switchbacks and plenty of them. Plus the scenery is great sporting high cliffs and peaks. On our way down, I decided to video the trip. Once back on the main road, we proceeded to go to the Santa Elena Canyon. Once we arrived, we were in awe of the canyon and its great wall.

After spending some time taking pictures, we headed back up to highway 118 and into Study Butte. We gassed up again, slammed down some Gatorade and traveled North on 118 to Alpine. We arrived about 5:30 at Alpine and stopped to eat dinner at the Longhorn Steak House.

Tomorrow, we leave this great area and travel to Abilene to visit Curt's daughter who is a student at Abilene Christian University.
Click here to see video of ride down Chisos Basin.

Thursday & Friday, May 4 & 5, 2006 - These two days would be our travel days back home. We traveled to Abilene Thursday and stayed Thursday night and visited with Curt's daughter. Then Friday morning, we got up, ate breakfast and left Abilene down I-20 for Tyler at about 9am. After gassing up a few times, we made it back home about 1:30pm.

All-in-all, the trip was excellent. We got to ride some excellent roads and see some awesome scenery. We put over 2,270 miles on our bikes with a total trip cost of about $650.00 each. As I drove into my garage on the final day, the thought of another trip to Big Bend began forming in my head. Hopefully, I can make a revisit to the Big Bend region in the next year or so.

Leftover Pictures
(Click on any picture to enlarge - then click on the picture to return)

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