Ride Report: Big Bend National Park - Texas

Tony Eeds

Godspeed Tony.
N. Texas SP
Jun 9, 2002
This last weekend I revisited a piece of Texas that is near and dear to my heart ... the Big Bend area of Texas. Cradled in a bend of the Rio Grande River the Big Bend area is ecologically part of the Chihuahuan desert area extending up from central Mexico to southeastern New Mexico. As deserts go, it is as open an desolate as any on earth that I have experienced.

About 45 people showed up for the ride and XR650Rocketman promised a great time. Friday dawned very cold (25 degrees F) and was spent covering new ground, riding the roads in NW Brewster County. Goat Trails are an apt description for roads that are best experienced on BRPs or behind the confines of windshields of small 4x4 vehicles. I am not real sure I would be able to clear some of the obstacles in my 4x4 4door Chevy Silverado.

Friday night was the La Kiva Bar in Terlingua for dinner and Shiner Bock beer before a bull session around the fire that solved many of the world’s problems (no we did not take notes).

Saturday dawned (sort of anyway) very foggy and following breakfast groups of 4~8 headed out, following the roll chart east towards the sun from Terlingua Ranch. I managed to let my pig overheat while waiting for someone that was airing up tires, so it was back to the cabin for water to top off the overflow before heading out. We hung back as well because this route would retrace roads very familiar to me, as I had last ridden them in August as part of the Lost Trail Ride.

The first twenty three miles were desert roads sprinkled liberally with washboard, then 9 miles of asphalt lead us to Dagger Flats Road and the heart of the BBNP. Cruising down Dagger Flats Road we encountered 3 of our group, only to learn that one of our group (son of XR650Rocketman) had gone down very hard and was being attended to by paramedics. Taking Old Ore Road south, we soon came upon the site of the accident. We were waved to the side to allow the ambulance to pass once they had Stevie loaded up. Paramedics and Park Rangers were working quietly and diligently to get him stabilized and ready for transport. There was a true sense of foreboding over the assembled riders and prayers were offered by many. Once Stevie was safely off, groups slowly reformed and we moved off down the trail. Gene, Gary and I were among the last to leave and I found myself inspecting every buried rock I approached to see if it had my name on it. Admittedly, the rhythm of the ride was off from that point on at some really root level.

Sixty eight miles brought us to the southeast corner of the park and Rio Grande Village for gas and lunch. The assembled crowd was again talking of Stevie. A few opted to abandon the ride and slab it back to the ranch, while most went on (in kind of a daze) believing that Stevie would want us to. The next ninety miles started with 4 miles of asphalt, had eight more miles about the 2/3rds point and finished with three miles into Study Butte for fuel. The balance was some beautiful roads/trails in some truly beautiful country.

After a quick stop to show Gary and Gene the outlet of Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande we were off north towards Study Butte. Following the fill up, we voted (I lost) and we were off, retracing the route (reverse) of the day before. The sun was going down and the roll chart and my odometer were the only guide we had to confirm the roads that appeared on my GPS screen. Darkness engulfed us about half way (thirty of the sixty miles of dirt) and the balance of the dirt plus the asphalt into the lodge was becoming increasingly difficult. Did I mention the cold? Well, let me tell you that although the day began foggy and cool, it was downright cold and clear as a bell. Desert skies are beautiful at night, but sans the moon or ambient light of civilization, suffice it to say that it was dark. Did I mention the cold?

Trying to spot bike swallowing washouts, we motored towards the intersection of North County Road and Texas 118. At times I was not sure that we would ever find it. Mis-adding the mileage at one point, I saw what I thought was a remaining five mile ride turn into a twelve mile ride ... did I mention the cold?

FINALLY we hit the blacktop and headed north towards the entrance road for Terlingua Ranch. Eight miles of asphalt brought us to the longest sixteen mile stretch of asphalt I have ever ridden. I sincerely thought it would never end. By now Gene was leading as the candles that Honda jokingly calls headlights did nothing but light my fender nicely.

I thought we would never run out of pavement (we finally did) and the last three miles of gravel unwound slowly as it was beyond pitch dark. If we had turned off our headlights we would not have been able to see our fingers with the palms of our hands on our noses.

Arrival at the cabins was a blessing, exclusive of the fact that I got confused on a turn and almost KO’D a friend walking to dinner. Arriving at the cabin, my GPS showed 208 miles for the day. I also found myself unable to lift my leg over the rear fender rack/bag on my bike and having to get someone to hold my bike for me while I struggled to get off.

Upon getting both feet on the ground I came to better understand the cold of the night when I found out that Stevie aka MiniRocketman aka Steven Andrew Smith aka my friend had passed on “without regaining consciousness and passed peacefully” to quote his father. The news that I had been dreading all day hit me like a ton of bricks and emotionally took me too my knees.

Every memory of the day turned bitter sweet because Stevie and I had planned on when and how to get his 650 up to live in my garage, so he could get a break now and again from his studies in college at SMU. Mature beyond his years (I’m almost as old as his father) Stevie was a credit to his generation and his parents.

Godspeed Steven Andrew Smith,
May God bless and keep you.

You ride with me in my heart and soul.

Mar 2, 2005
MiniRocketman's Last Ride

Thank you Tony....Riding was Steve Jr's passion....Some day we'll take comfort in knowing he died doing what he loved in a place he said was the most peaceful place on earth.

Steve Smith


Jul 11, 2001
I lost a daughter just a day after she was born, 20 years ago, and it still hurts sometimes, though mostly it's just a tender spot in my heart now. I now have three grown sons and a daughter, and losing one of them now would be immeasurably worse, because they have become such a part of my life. My sincere condolences, Steve. Godspeed, Stevie.


Aug 31, 2005
God bless you Stevie.

Tony It breaks my heart to hear this,may God bless you and the rest of your family.

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