Thursday, May 23, 2013
A Month of Sundays: Day riding to the relics of West Texas
With summer just around the corner, there's arguably no better way to enjoy the warm weather than by hopping on a motorcycle some Sunday and experiencing the wide open spaces of West Texas under epic blue skies. Though our area of the Lone Star State does take a bad rap at times for its arid features, virtually any motorcyclist in this neck of the woods can attest to the beauties of springtime here in the badlands; the scent of wildflower and Ocotillo in the air, the sun on your face, the road in front of you. It’s an experience no rider tires of. But where to go in one day of riding? Well, if you’re tired of just banging around town on your day off, here are four great day riding destinations to some interesting West Texas ghost towns and ruins that’ll satisfy your spring fever for riding and still have you home by suppertime.
The Trail of Tears
From Big Spring, head south on Highway 87 and make the turn onto FM821, which is the first leg of the so-called “Trail of Tears”; so named because its sweeping, multi-camber curves have landed more than a few embarrassed bikers in the ditch over the years. Don’t sweat it, though. Take your time, ride responsibly, and you’ll have lots of fun. The second leg starts with a turn onto FM 2183, ending at Highway 163 just northeast of Sterling City. Along the way, be sure to stop and see the remains of the old church at the ghost town of Hyman (32.138472,-101.134956).
The ruins of Fort Lancaster are located east of Sheffield along Highway 290, just east of the Pecos River. The fort’s interesting story and unusual remnants make for an enthralling look into the first attempts at settling and bringing establishment to the area. After spending some time at the fort’s State historical site, ride a few minutes east along 290 to the observation point at the top of Old Government Road (30.678816,-101.672806). It offers a spectacular view of the rugged valley below, and is a great spot for sighting large birds of prey and other wildlife.
Just north of Horsehead Crossing along the Pecos River near Imperial sits an abandoned trestle bridge referred to by many as “Fifi’s Bridge” (31.265912,-102.599098). The structure got its name from Odessa teenager Fifi Murphy who, in the early 1970s, met with a tragic and untimely demise, murdered by her boyfriend. He buried her body near the bridge, later confessing to the crime, and leading authorities to the site. Despite its spooky past, this is a great spot to hang out when the river is running, and offers good opportunities for photography. One word of warning, though: Be prepared to ride on dirt roads for the last two-thirds mile leading to the bridge. Also note that the bridge is impassible and should not be climbed on.
Rattlesnake Bomber Base
During World War II, Rattlesnake Bomber Base near Pyote (31.511606,-103.142495) was one of the most important military facilities in the southern US. For a time, it was even the home to Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber used to drop the first atomic bomb on Japan in 1945. The site is now closed to the public, but a historical marker and monuments are accessible at the base’s original entrance, and a nearby museum is open for touring by calling ahead. The remains of the main hangar, where the “Pecos Parachute School” scenes in the classic 1985 Kevin Costner film Fandango were filmed, can be seen from the I-20 service road.
So there you have it. These destinations alone should have you putting on miles of smiles all across West Texas for a literal month of Sundays. Ride safe and be blessed as you discover the forgotten treasures of West Texas.