Dual-Sporting Terlingua’s Desolate Desert Playground

I first visited Terlingua, Texas, 20 years ago to cover the Chihuahuan Desert Challenge mountain bike race for Mountain Bike Action magazine. Terlingua is not the kind of place that you pass through on your travels (it is over 100 miles from the nearest Interstate off ramp), yet I always knew I’d get back to the isolated West Texas desert that’s located on our border with Mexico.

Lance Sallis (who you may remember from our Utah adventure) returned his buddy’s Yamaha 450WR and picked up a used KTM for himself. It didn’t stay “used” for very long because Lance performed a frame-up restoration that resulted in a better-then-new motorcycle. He wanted a baptism-by-fire first ride so we agreed to meet up in Terlingua, conveniently located between The Big Bend National Park and the Big Bend State Park. The place offers dual-sport rides to the North, West and East (heading South takes you into Mexico).

We ran out of time before we could ride the Old Ore Road so that’s our excuse for going back to Big Bend next year. But we don’t really need an excuse. Terlingua and the surround vicinity offers enough riding opportunity for this to be a yearly pilgrimage.

The Old Maverick Road just inside the Western entrance of Big Bend National Park is a good introduction to the area. Don’t worry, the roads get a lot more challenging.
Social distancing wasn’t difficult even at the popular Santa Elena Canyon Trail.
Lance is a master mechanic, fabricator and industrial designer. How did his rebuilt bike perform? Didn’t miss a beat the whole week.
Our favorite ride this visit was The River Road (pictured) to Black Gap Road. Order the Big Bend Road Guide to help plan your rides.
Basecamp in Terlingua is highly recommended as the basecamp for your desert stay. They offer a number of options and all of them are awesome.
They were all taken during our stay so we’ll have to try to get a Bubble room on our next stay at Basecamp. It’s like camping on Mars. I’m sharing my Bubble with Gail, not Lance.
Terlingua Ranch is a developer’s bright idea to turn rolling desert into hundreds of vacation ranches. Hasn’t happened and that’s a big plus for dual-sporters. It is easy to get lost in this seemingly endless desert laced with graded roads.
Stayed at El Cosmico campground in Marfa, Texas. It is a funky, fun place to stay in either your own tent or a yurt, tipis, vintage trailer or safari tent. The place is close to downtown Marfa and not too far from the Marfa Mystery Lights.
Lance bought a beer for Clay Henry, but the mayor wasn’t thirsty. Locals brag that more people have spent the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon than in Lajitas.
Marfa gets all the hipster and celebrity buzz but I’ll take Alpine, a town East of Marfa. It seems way more livable. Plus the guy in the coffee shop was stoked on my See See Motor Coffee T-shirt.
Lance and Jimmy Mac waiting for the Prada Marfa store to open. Guess we got there too early or too late? There were sure a lot of customers milling around.
Roadside art outside of Marfa.
The Starlight Theatre is Terlingua’s most-popular hangout if you don’t believe in COVID-19. I do. Too many people (there was a 3-hour wait for a table).
BJ’s RV Park was our last base before heading home. Unusually cold temps forced Lance to ditch the tent and convert the back of Big Red to his sleeping quarters. BJ’s wasn’t the fanciest place in Terlingua but we met the coolest people there.
Lance’s bike performed flawlessly (that’s saying a lot for a first-ride on a ground-up restoration). Our trip was over way too quickly. We’ll be back.
Good night, Terlingua.

Jimmy trying to catch up to Lance on his fire-breathing KTM. Go ahead, click on my name because I don’t want you to have to link to YouTube.

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