The weather promises to be fantastic - perfect - for the Big Bend area over the next few days and with the long-range weather forecasts in mind, I've been mentally packing, getting ready for my departure early Sunday morning for Marathon TX.
I spent today going over the bike, checking tire pressures, examining the chain - the FZ6 gets to go play with me this time - and moving the Garmin cradle from the BMW to the FZ. I inventoried the contents of the tank bag, got the Gerbing heat-troller set up on the FZ and installed the topcase. The riding gear is laid out, ready to go, in its usual place: a chair in the corner of the living room.
Normally I get to the Big Bend area for some riding about once a year or so. Last time I was in this area was end of December 2008, passing through Fort Davis enroute to a RTE in Tucson AZ. While I didn't get as far south as Big Bend, I did ride a bit through the Davis Mountains after spending the night in Fort Davis. So I'm looking forward to spending a full day in Big Bend National Park on Monday, and then riding the Davis Mountains, poking around Fort Davis and Marfa on Tuesday. I will bring my new DSLR in hopes of capturing some quality photos in both Big Bend and the Davis Mountains. I'm debating whether to bring the full tripod as well, or just the little gorilla pod.
While I was last in Big Bend 2 years ago, it's been much longer than that since I've been down to Santa Elena Canyon or into Chisos Basin. Santa Elena canyon was inaccessible for quite awhile after Rio Grande flooding destroyed the roads down into the canyon. It is so photogenic, actually so is the entire length of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive with its turnouts and overlooks. Monday should be perfect weatherwise to photograph the park.
Late February, early March is the best time to go to Big Bend country. It's a little cool first thing in the mornings, but warms up to a very pleasant and comfortable 65-70 degrees during the day. Much later than March and it starts getting too hot by early afternoon.
A highlight of this upcoming trip will be the 3 nights I'll be spending at the Gage Hotel in Marathon. Originally I thought I'd stay down in Study Butte with the MTF group, but thought about it a little bit, remembering how underwhelmed I was with that motel the last time I stayed there a few years ago, so considered my options. I contacted the reservations agency for the Chisos Basin Lodge but learned that I would be unable to get a room for all three nights. I also considered staying in Alpine, but then remembered my excellent experience staying at the Gage several years ago. The rooms are quite luxurious while retaining the atmosphere of this historic hotel, and the on-site restaurant is excellent! And rooms in the historic section of the hotel are not much more expensive than the rooms at a non-descript chain hotel in Alpine or, for that matter, the no-frills motel in Study Butte.
Besides the excellent restaurant at the hotel there are also a couple of fun and quirky restaurants and cafes in town for variety. Definitely looking forward to it.
Tomorrow morning I'll get a long 8 or 9 mile run in, get back to the house, do a little laundry, then pack for the trip. Sunday morning, I hope to be out the driveway and on the road by 7:00 AM or so...