I intended to visit Big Bend Park and found it on my Texas road atlas southeast of Marfa—except that it was labelled “Big Bend Ranch State Park”. It had what appeared to be a major route through it, Casa Piedra Road, that I could take and see the terrain and park facilities, then continue through to the town of Presidio, where I could find lunch, and then take another major road back home.
So that was the plan. But it turns out that Big Bend Ranch State Park is entirely different from Big Bend National Park. I was confused but it didn’t matter. I missed the turnoff for the road through the park and stayed on US 67 to Presidio.
And I continued to follow US 67, thinking it would show me how to get to Big Bend Park. Eventually I found myself approaching a major checkpoint—the customs and border inspections.
I looked for a way to turn around before actually getting there, but I saw no convenient way to do this and suddenly found myself going through a covered channel with many many speed bumps—aggressive and alternating sides of the lane, then full width and strategically placed. There was no place to exit; the lane continued on and I thought maybe there would still be a turnaround opportunity. But there wasn’t, and I was now passing a long line of cars headed in the other direction, nearly all with Texas plates, stopped, waiting their turn to be inspected and pass into the U.S.
I realized now that I had made a mistake, but how to correct it? I was now on a two lane bridge, which I concluded was over the (dry) Rio Grande, and the two lanes reduced to one, with a (Mexican) border guard waving traffic toward me. I was at a stop sign (on the bridge) and wondered how the traffic worked here.
Car after car came toward me, toward the U.S. When was my turn?
Eventually, one of the oncoming cars appeared to have been instructed (or decided) to turn around on the bridge and head back to Mexico. It was a multiple maneuver reversal on the narrow bridge. I decided this was what I should do, as long as the bridge was now blocked by one car turning around, I would do the same thing, but head back to the U.S.
I did this, and joined the legion of cars and trucks waiting for inspection and entry. It took most of an hour, and when it was finally my turn, I had to explain my mistake. I was scrutinized longer than the previous cars—explaining my cameras and telescope and camping gear, answering questions of where I came from and where I was going, what is my profession etc. Much more than the previous border patrol check I had encountered.
I was directed to another inspection bay to the side of these primary gates, where another officer made an even deeper inspection, even confirming that the food labels in my cooler were US brands. The same set of questions were asked again.
Eventually, I was allowed reentry to the U.S.
I got gas and had a “Bean burger” at Bean’s Café (a burger with an egg patty on it). I then headed to Big Bend Ranch State Park, but took several wrong turns and wrong roads, eventually realizing that this is NOT Big Bend National Park, which is considerably further east. I turned back again to find the elusive Casa Piedra Road—it was a dirt road with signs of construction. I thought it would revert eventually to pavement so I kept going. On the Texas atlas page it showed as a “major” route.
It went on for miles and miles and hours. Another wrong turn took me to an entrance to BBRSP. The information posted indicated how truly remote and primitive this park is. And also that I was off course, again.
More miles, another hour. I pulled out my Garmin GPS to see if it had any better info than my car’s GPS (my phone was useless this far out of cell range). It showed a network of gravel roads without identifiers.
Eventually I encountered pavement. I don’t know exactly where, with no obvious reason for it to suddenly appear, there was no town or intersection, perhaps a county line?
It took me to the main road (the other main road) that I had taken to Presidio. I was soon back at Marfa and on the way to Fort Davis.
The remote rough road reminded me of the road to Racetrack Playa, not quite as rough maybe, but the weather almost as hot, the sun merciless. A flat tire was entirely possible and I did not have my spare! No cell phone coverage. I encountered only one other vehicle all afternoon.
Still it was an interesting drive through Texas terrain—desert bluffs, arroyo, and mesquite savannahs…
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