Day 1 – Miami to Tallahassee. 495 miles. Tired. Ton of love bugs died happily on my windshield. Thank God I brought the windshield. At a rest stop I ran into this guy with long hair and his son, about 10. The guy eyed my bike with wonder.. desire… this look of “someday.” I know that look. Bike was fully stocked with an obvious “long trip” vibe. He asked me if his kid could take a picture of him with me and bike. Snap! As we parted I heard him muttering to his son… “El Sueno.” It was at this very moment that I realized I was venturing on a very special trip.
Day 2 – Tallahassee to Winnie, TX. 648 miles. Past exhaustion. Too many miles for one day. Had to tie straps around my legs bc the wind on my jeans was chafing my thighs. 11pm… Truck rest stop. Called the wife in tears…. “What the fuck am I doing?!! I wanna go home!” I was literally in tears. After she slapped me over my cel, I tightened my straps, got on my bike, and rode ’til I found a cozy motel in Winnie. Charming name for a city.
Day 3 – Winnie, TX to Del Rio. 408 miles.
Passing through Houston was hot. Arrived Del Rio late night. Rode through worse storm in 30 years… per locals. Very frightening. FL storms are a joke compared to desert storms in Texas. Damn! Had to remove my glasses and lean into windshield just to barely see. No lights. No road reflection thingys. Nothing. Ominous. Trucks whizzing by. One lane “road” with no shoulder, lightning literally striking all around. It’s like having a gun put to your head and wondering if/when the trigger will go off. One of the few times in my life that I actually believed the end was here. Soaked through to my underwear, just as if I had dove into a pool. I saw a buffalo. That was cool.
Day 4 – on way to Terlinqua (real live Ghost Town), found the old gas station that was used in the film Fandango. Took some shots. Arrived at Far Flung Casitas #2. Very nice. Filmed a tarantula crossing street close to my cabin at dusk. Ate at Starlight Theater. Filet mignon and award winning Texas chili. Best chili I had. Ever. Very nice place. After meal, went outside and was literally starstruck. Never seen so many stars. On way to Far Flung, stopped at Big Bend and bought a backcountry permit for the next day/night. Reserved site NE 1 on the NE rim.
Day 5 – most grueling and exhausting experience in my life. Hiked up laguna meadows trail with full backpack and camera and three lenses, slider and my quite heavy Smith and Wesson 357 magnum. Felt more secure though. Was so tired, resting every few steps. Then after every step. Started to get late. Took 2 ten minute naps on route. Determined I was not going to make it. Had to hope another site was unoccupied. Stumbled onto site co2 on the Colima tail. Rested there, waiting to see if anyone would show. Made Cuban coffee. Slept. Was there 1 to 1.5 hours. My legs were cramping. Before co2 I had dropped a few times. After my hour + rest, I looked at map and decided I had 2 hours (before sunset) to maybe try to make it to ne1, which was about 3 miles away. Stupidly and stubbornly, I went for it since I felt a bit recharged. I really wanted to stay on the rim with awesome view. My present site co2 was surrounded by trees, no views and lots of flies. I hate flies. I started, pleasantly surprised to find the trail had finally leveled. Up until then it was all uphill, lots of switchbacks (more on that later). After a mile I came to a fork. I went towards what the sign said was the ne rim. After a mile or so I saw Boot Rock on the right when it should have been on my left. I became worried. It was getting dark and I realized I made a wrong turn. I prayed a lot that day. I never pray. Every 50 yards or so I scouted locations to possibly camp. Not ideal since these trails were heavily dense. I literally would have to camp on the trail or beside it, with no bear box to store my stuff. I was petrified. Really. After a while relief set when I came across a campsite called tm1. I followed the sign hoping no one had taken it. I was beside myself with joy to find it empty! On top of that it had awesome views. It was perched high on the mountain side with a view that lasted miles of what seemed like distant mountains. It was about 7:30pm, only an hour to settle in and pitch my tent, which was an experience because I had never pitched a tent before. After a few mishaps it was up! I put my stuff in the bear box and went in tent with camera gear. I braved it and went outside to try to get time lapse footage of the stars. It didn’t work. It was too cold and scary to troubleshoot so I went back into my tent. There were no flies! I figured out why soon. It got quite windy and very cold. I put on my capilene shirt, but was still cold. I read it was 45 the night before. I tore open my emergency bivy. Its a large piece of reflective thin material, not unlike aluminum foil. It surprisingly kept me warm. I heard noises. Was terrified. Couldn’t take it any more so I went out with headlamp, light in one hand, gun in other. I saw it was the wind messing with my tent. After a few hours I slept.
Day 6 – Woke at twilight. Made it through the night! My initial determination to start my way out came to a halt when I stepped outside to an eerie foggy environment. I slept another hour. Packed up, and set out to climb Emory peak which was nearby. I filmed this trek. Even the last part which required some rock climbing. I wanted to chill at the top for awhile but it didn’t happen because the peak was swarming with flying insects! I took one long panorama camera pan and headed back down. Rock climbing down is a lot harder than going up. It was only 3.5 miles back to the basin! Mostly downhill and lighter; I drank most of my water. I brought up 1.3 gallons of very heavy water and was down to one liter. I drink a lot! On way back I took lots of slider shots of views, cactus’, flowers, etc. I filmed a blue bird munching on something juicy. It let me get quite close. Did laundry that night and barely made it in time to the Starlight Theatre to order a huge bowl of Texas chili.
Day 7 – After a lazy morning set off to the basin and took site 52. Very nice, with covered bench and large oak tree where I hung my hammock and chilled for awhile. I then headed to Santa Elena Canyon, which borders the Rio Grande separating Texas from Mexico. Breathtaking! Looked fake.