West Texas Bike Tour in 2017

Mary and I did a seven-day bike tour with Lizard Head in West Texas during April 2017, covering 382 miles on our bikes. We rode three days in the Davis Mountains and four days in the Big Bend parks on good roads with very little traffic. We did more shuttles than on previous trips but shared them with very interesting guests and our guides, John and Leslie. Here is a brief summary.

On Day 1 (Sunday, April 9): We shuttle from El Paso to just south of Kent. We then bike 38 miles into a strong headwind on the west side of the Davis Mountains and do another shuttle to our overnight stay in Marfa. This town was made famous by the movie Giant, which was filmed west of town.

On Day 2 (Monday, April 10): We shuttle to Fort Leaton just east of Presidio and then bike 59 miles to the ghost town of Terlingua. It has a population of 58, not including ghosts. This ride is up and down along the Rio Grande, mostly in Big Bend State Park. The air temperature is in the 90s, but our bike thermometers read in the 100s. We spend the first of three nights in Terlingua, which is just outside Big Bend National Park.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, April 11): We bike 48 miles from Terlingua to the Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande, where we hike and wade in the river before shuttling back to our ghost town. We bike a U-shaped route, mostly in the national park, with an uphill headwind on the first leg and a downhill tailwind on the last leg.

On Day 4 (Wednesday, April 12): We bike up to the Chisos Basin, go on a hike, and bike back to Terlingua. We do 58 miles on our bikes, covering some of the same route as the day before. Mary’s GPS says that she sets a new 40-km speed record on the way back, as we go downhill with a tailwind most of the way. We see some scraggly lupine flowers, which are evidently called bluebonnets in Texas.

On Day 5 (Thursday, April 13): We shuttle to Panther Junction and then bike 68 miles out of the national park to Marathon. The scenery is pretty bleak, but are lots of small wildflowers and interesting roadkill: a deer, badger, peccary, and vulture.

On Day 6 (Friday, April 14): We shuttle to Fort Davis and the then bike the Davis Mountains loop, part of which reverses our first day’s ride. This is reportedly the best ride in Texas, and the last part of our 75-mile clockwise loop is very nice. Mary and I also add three bonus miles climbing to the top of Mt Locke where the 2.7- and 2.1-m telescopes of the McDonald Observatory are located.

On Day 7 (Saturday, April 15): We do a blazing downhill ride for 33 miles from Fort Davis to San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park. There we swim with fish in the huge, freshwater pool. Afterward we shuttle back to El Paso.

Photos and commentary follow.