Big Bend NP Trip – Saturday

My onboard temperature gauge was at 45° and light rain mixed with small hailstones was pelting my helmet and bouncing off my instrument cluster. I told myself that the *safe* route was to take I-10 all the way. At the last minute, my body rebelled and I veered right for the exit to SR-41 and a day of relatively straight but scenic back roads.

I had started the morning with a three route plans. The first and most fun (twisties through the hill country) was completely nixed by the uncooperative weather. The second was a long drone down I-10. The third, and my ultimate choice, was of Texas and US highways through the hill country and then skating along the Mexican border on US90.

For the first 30 miles, I was certain that I’d made a bad choice and would need to turn around. The rain was light but steady. The hail had died down, but could reappear at any moment. Warm and dry with my winter riding suit, Widder electric vest, and heated grips, I was prepared to go all day in this light rain, IF it stayed light.

Happily, the rain eventually stopped and I was left to my own thoughts as I rolled down gently curving US377. When the highway intersection warning sign for FM-674 appeared, I was mildly regretting giving up so soon on my fun route for the day, but telling myself that it would pay off in the end if I made it to Alpine, TX before dark for my planned rendezvous with Anna (Vivid1).

In another brilliant strike of inspiration, I turned left onto FM-674, recognizing it from my pre-trip planning.

The road was dry, scenic, and quite a roller-coaster. The rain had not filled the creeks at all, so the low water crossings provided my stomach with a dip of gravity rather than the clench of worry. I greatly enjoyed each of the 60 miles to Bracketville, TX. As I slowed to obey the reduced speed limit signs that always seem to infest populated areas, the sky let loose again with a moment of the hardest rain I’d seen all day. I was just thankful that it had seen fit to wait until I was back on straight roads.

The rain was far behind me as I got fuel and lunch in Del Rio, TX before continuing down US-90. Though mildly curvy in places, the road was marked with a 75mph speed limit, so I didn’t really regret missing out on the 80mph sections of I-10. Although the sky was gray and overcast, temperatures were hovering in the mid 50s.

I stopped for a brief photo shoot at Amistad Reservoir.

And stopped again at the Pecos River crossing.

The horizon was socked in with fog and the temperatures were dropping into the 30s around 4:30pm as I approached the mountain range surrounding Alpine.

I entered the fog about 20 miles from my destination. It wasn’t a complete white-out, but I slowed and turned off the headlight modulator. After a while, I noticed that a truck was keeping it’s distance behind me. I signaled him to pass, hoping to follow his tail-lights for a while. He had seemed happy with my 65mph pace, but immediately sped up to 75mph once past me. I wasn’t really thrilled to be keeping that pace in the fog, but I followed him until a LEO coming the other direction twinkled his lights at us in warning. The truck soon disappeared and I was left to make my own way. The hotel soon appeared and I parked the bike.

Anna was still several hours away, so I walked across the street to warm up with some coffee and my book for a few hours. When she called to tell me she had arrived, it was dark and still foggy. I could barely make out the huge lighted sign for the hotel just across the street.

After unpacking the bike and her truck, we drove into Alpine for dinner at the Edelweiss Brewery in the historic Holland Hotel. We each had schnitzel (tenderized breaded pork) while chatting and swapping sport-touring stories. The live band (two guys with a ukulele) entertained us with such popular favorites as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “Meet the Flintstones”. We fled back to the hotel when they broke out the bagpipes.

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