Saturday, October 31, 2015

What’s not to like about west Texas? You gotta love those long lonesome highways:

Rays of sunshine streaming through the growing thunderstorm coming up from the south:

Lighting up the mountains on the far horizon:

It was time to hightail it up to New Mexico. As twilight turned to darkness I came around a corner and my headlights lit up a gray carcass in the middle of my lane. Yikes! I didn’t have time to swerve so just straddled the large freshly dead mule deer in the road. Thump!!! It was laying perpendicular with it’s back towards me and the color blended with the gray pavement making it difficult to see as I came around the corner. In the end my tire tracks went on either side and I whacked my differential and rear bike hauling rack on the torso. Knocked one of the straps holding the bike loose. So I had to pull over and secure the bike. It was a big doe. Scared the begeezus out of me.

But it got better as the night wore on. Around midnight a large buck dashed out from the left hand darkness heading straight across the road towards my left headlight. It happened so fast I barely had time to react, letting off the gas and swerving right. I thought my truck was a goner. It all happened at speed and I barely had time to brace for impact. But at the last moment, the large deer made a course correction and turned 90┬║ just before the white line and threw it’s body into the truck sideways with a loud THUMP!!! that shook the cab. His big body hit the drivers side door and flattened the mirror into the door post. I don’t know how many times you have had a high speed deer slam into your door while you’re driving 60 miles an hour down the highway, but let me tell you, it gets your attention! So I pull over again fully expecting the side of my truck to be caved in. But no. There was hardly any damage. Some slight antler scratches on the roof of the cab and a slight dent on the door post. My mirror had just been folded in but not broken so I re-adjusted it. The main impact had been at the strong point where my lumber rack comes down and bolts to the bed of the truck where it meets the rear door post of the cab. What a lucky break! For me that is. Not so much for the deer. Although he wasn’t laying in the road, so it didn’t kill him. But it was time to pull over and call it a night. No need to tempt more kamikaze deer.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Big Bend National Park is beautiful this time of year:

Because I am 62 and have the Golden Eagle pass they waived the 25 dollar entrance fee and allow camping for half price. Only 7 dollars at Cottonwood campground down on the Rio Grande river:

Plenty of fun riding out here. This is River Road:

Plenty of fun paved riding as well:

Gorgeous desert mountains:

and mesas:

Or how about this mountain called Mule Ears Peak:

Lots of ruins:

October is a beautiful month down here. Temps in the low 80s, not too hot. Recent rains have brought out the desert flowers:

Here is my office for this evening outside the Terlingua cafe catching some wifi:

Live from Big Bend this is Big John, ace cub reporter honing my skills getting ready for my next epic South American ride report. Next stop, Carlsbad Caverns up in New Mexico. Will report back what I find.

Stay tuned…….

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I stayed in Wichita Falls Texas last night at Scott and Lois’s place. His latest Tilting at Windmills ride report is over at:

Had fun catching up and left this morning headed down towards Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Rural Texas is HUGE! The state of Texas is 850 miles east to west and 800 miles north to south, so even though I’m driving all afternoon today, I’ll only be going halfway across Texas.

I turned the corner yesterday in the small town of Mineral Wells Texas and saw this towering old abandoned hotel. check out my truck in the lower right hand corner for scale.

This place is enormous. There are no signs around, not even anything saying no trespassing, so I had to explore. Imagine what a great haunted house this would make this weekend on Halloween! Here is the back with an arched bridge leading over to an abandoned olympic size swimming pool: It has a mad max post apocalyptic feel to it with boarded up entrance and some of the windows on the upper floors broken out. I had to know more about it so did a google search for Mineral Wells abandoned hotel and found this on wikipedia:

The story of the Baker Hotel begins in 1922, when citizens of Mineral Wells, concerned that non-citizens were profiting off of the growing fame of the community's mineral water, raised $150,000 in an effort to build a large hotel facility owned by local shareholders. They solicited the services of prominent Texas hotel magnate Theodore Brasher Baker, who gained fame by designing and building such grand hotels as the Baker Hotel in Dallas, the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, and managed the Connor Hotel in Joplin, Missouri.

Architect Wyatt C. Hedrick based the hotel design on the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was known for its water and baths. Construction began on the hotel in 1926 but was stopped after Mr. Baker made a trip to California, where he visited a hotel with a swimming pool and decided the new Baker Hotel must have one in the front of the hotel. The swimming pool was placed on top of an already-completed basement, which was used as a work area for the hotel and a changing area for guests. An Olympic sized pool to be filled with the curing mineral waters, it was the first swimming pool built at a hotel in Texas.

Construction began the following year on the grand and opulent structure, which was described by Palo Pinto County historian John Winters as “Spanish Colonial Revival, Commercial Highrise." It would rise fourteen stories over Mineral Wells, house 450 guest rooms, two ballrooms, an in-house beauty shop, and other novelties such as a bowling alley, a gymnasium, and an outdoor swimming pool. Completed three years later with a cost in 1929 dollars of $1.2 million, the mammoth building instantly dominated the city skyline. It was the first skyscraper to be built outside a major metropolitan area.

It is currently early Wednesday afternoon and I stopped at the Anson Texas public library to find out what the deal was with this burned out part of town in Jacksboro Texas that I passed through: I was impressed with the fact that the fire melted the metal facade and roof and the stone perimeter wall was still standing with nothing more than some soot that needs cleaning off. A quick google search of Jacksboro fire turned up more pictures and the full story. Turns out the source of the fire is still under investigation whatever that means.

more later….

Monday, October 26, 2015

I had never seen a damaged windmill until I passed by this one in west Texas today. I just did a quick google search here at the Cleburne Texas library to find out what happened. Was it a tornado? Apparently not. According to the owners they aren’t sure what happened. Mind you, the information and picture of this same wind turbine were on a UFO website. Hmmmm.

Vast cotton fields ready to be harvested and made into jeans and tee shirts. This field was just outside Pima Arizona. I always wondered where Pima Cotton came from. It is supposed to be high quality. I just missed the Sunday hours at this mining museum near Globe Arizona. I liked the giant dumptruck parked in the even more giant dump bed out in front of the museum. Kind of like a Tonka truck kachina doll: I made it to central Texas this afternoon just in time to get the paperwork I need to give social security. Alas SS building was closed by the time I got there, so will head back in the morning. more later….

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday Oregon, today Arizona. My sister shared driving duties as we covered 1200 miles in 24 hours. She had never been through the Black Rock Desert in Northwest Nevada, so we angled down to Adel Oregon and headed south on 150 mile mostly gravel road to Gerlach Nevada. It wasn’t a stop and smell the roses kind of trip. Although we did stop 100 miles from anywhere at one building up a jeep trail to check it out: Turns out it is a part of the huge Sheldon National Antelope Refuge. It looks like you can rent this cabin as there are bunks inside along with a wood stove. If I was traveling solo I would probably have camped here for the night. It is so serene out in the middle of the desert in Nevada. Check out the interesting cloud formations looking off the front porch of the cabin. It looks like a UFO contrail: It is remote and beautiful in an austere sort of way out on gravel roads traveling for 150 miles in NW Nevada. Nobody lives out here except an occasional rancher: No gas stations for 150 miles down county road 34., You see maybe one car an hour on average, mostly hunters. I didn’t stop at the actual Black Rock Desert for pictures. It is where the Burning Man Festival is held every year. You may have to look that up on wikipedia. Pretty wild event. My sister was disappointed to see that the Black Rock Desert is not actually black. It is a vast brown mudflat that is dirt colored. It was named for the volcanic Black Rock Mountains towering in the background. I hadn’t been through Las Vegas in a while. I think I rode in from Death Valley on an old BMW motorcycle to see the “Art of the Motorcycle” traveling museum display that was at the Bellagio hotel whenever that was. Las Vegas has gotten huge since then. South of Las Vegas on the road to Arizona, the main road over the Colorado river doesn’t take you over Hoover dam anymore. They built a huge bridge. It was a fullish moon traveling through the night and soon we were in Arizona. I have a Kawasaki KLX250S here. I bought it while I was working in Texas last year and dropped it off here in Arizona months ago. When a bird has built a nest on the tachometer, I take it as a sign that I haven’t been out riding enough: In order to fix that, I have decided to load the bike up for a road trip back to Texas to go straighten out my Social Security that was suspended while I was in jail. I hope to be in Big Bend National Park by this evening on my way there. I am loaded up and ready to go: With a high mileage work truck there is no better roadside assistance that a dirt bike strapped to the back. I hope to visit people along the way and update this daily, so if you live in Arizona, New Mexico or Texas and need somebody to drop by for a chat don’t hesitate to email me at johndwns(at)yahoo dot com. and I’ll try to drop by for a visit. I have two weeks to kill before my plane leaves for Buenos Aires. More later……..

Friday, October 23, 2015

I have been reading up on South America since I have nothing else better to do until my plane leaves in a couple weeks. One thing that I have found useful is a website called that I read about in Junyah’s ride report on ADVrider called “A Yankee goes South”. (David stayed with me last year in Texas where I was working at the time.)

iOverlander is a website that was put together by overland travelers. It lists campgrounds as well as stealth campsites, mechanics, border crossings, etc. for countries around the world. All of the locations are viewable on a world map. Clicking on a country zooms you in to the area you are traveling. Clicking on the icons brings up a box with a brief written description of the camp, amenities etc. As well as campsites, there are icons for gas stations out in the sticks, border crossing buildings, campgrounds, stealth campsites. All of this comes with GPS waypoints. I think this is going to come in really handy. The nice thing about Argentina, for instance is that a lot of the municipal campgrounds in addition to being cheap often have wifi. Many of the gas stations have wifi these days as well. I can see this website as being very useful. They also have a free app for my iPod touch that links in to the offline mapping program that I use while riding around the backroads of South America with no access to wifi.

Another useful website I have been checking out is to see where GPS waypoints are in satellite view. For instance, I was wondering where the Bolivian border crossing customs hut was on the back road to Uyuni coming in near San Pedro de Atacama Chile. So I got the GPS waypoint from iOverlander:

and copied -22.880969, -67.798465 into the search box on

You can zoom in and see where the Bolivian shack is for aduana and immigration and if you click on the photos at the bottom of the map

it will zoom in to a recent photo of the site.

When I get too old to ride I can see myself traveling this virtual world in my rocking chair. In the meantime, this combination of websites is a great way to find a campsite by stopping at a cybercafe or other wifi hotspot and seeing what’s in the area in the country you are riding through.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October is a great month to take a Sunday drive in Oregon. I was visiting my sister in Portland reading the Sunday paper and saw in the garden section that a neglected Japanese garden had been renovated east of town in the city park at Gresham, so had to go investigate:

I like the Brazilian purpleheart railing on the entry bridge to the island garden:

Some nice garden features:

I grew up in Oregon and had never been to Timberline lodge on Mount Hood, so kept heading east up into the misty mountains:

You really do have to head all the way up Mount Hood to where the trees stop at the timberline around 6000 feet in elevation to get to the Timberline Lodge:

It was built in the 1930s during the depression by the WPA as a make work project as is shown on bronze plaques and inscriptions chiseled in stone:

They hired out of work artists and craftemen. I like what they came up with. How about the fellow who carved the log rafter tail into a rat head. Nice!

Reminds me of the stone masons in the middle ages who would carve the stone cathedral gargoyles with the faces of the project overlords and church officials. Apparently I am not the only stone mason who has a problem with authority.

Speaking of stonemasons I had read about the Italian immigrant stone masons that were working in the WPA and found a historic photo of them hard at work on Timberline Lodge back in 1936. I am guessing the guy in the hat and uniform to the left is the government overlord from the rafter tail who is overseeing Luigi and the Mario brothers. Mind you, I have an active imagination :

Now I see how they got the keystone that weighs more than my truck over the main entrance:

Once through the main entrance it looks almost medieval inside:

I especially like the bear mosaic above the copper and stainless drinking fountain. Check out his tongue. He can't wait to eat that salmon he just caught:

The solid 2 foot square hand tooled posts and beams on the first floor:

The hexagonal stone fireplace is a work of art:

I wandered around for a long time and only took a few photos. This place is like a fantasy museum for people who appreciate hand made objects and old world craftsmanship. I certainly am glad I went.

But after Sunday brunch it was time to head home south 100 miles through the national forest on forest service roads that basically parallel the Pacific Crest Trail. Past waterfalls and babbling brooks:

I can now say I have driven my truck to the bottom of a lake. Clear Lake in the Mount Hood National Forest is empty this year due to a lack of snowfall last winter. Normally this would be 20 feet under water:

I stopped at the Clackamas Historic Ranger station. It’s closed for the winter. I like the fir tree cutouts on the shutters. Looking closely I saw a lonely stone chimney standing in the background of this picture:

I guess the original Ranger Station burned down long ago. All that is left is the stone foundation and chimney. Really nicely done:

Different people did the stone retaining wall out front. With moss and 100 years later it looks better than it did when it was first made. That’s the beauty of stone walls:

I was soon on single lane paved FS42 that led deeper into the national forest:

It led up onto the ridgelines and eventually turned to gravel. No traffic out here in the middle of nowhere:

Forest service road 4690 eventually dumped me out onto a fantastic road FS 46 which is a two lane paved road dropping steeply down to the Santiam River:

I had a lot of fun stopping by to visit friends on the way. Rick E. and his lovely wife had hosted me in Concepci├│n Chile in 2014 and are now back in Oregon for a year before heading back to South America. I stopped by for a visit and look forward to helping Rick do some home improvements when I get back from South America next year.

Also stopped by to visit Jim and Ann who sent me so many nice letters while I was in jail this summer. I’m heading over there tonight for dinner. Should be fun.

more later….