Terlingua. Now that’s a town I could bug out in for a while. Brad told us before we left to make sure we had a full tank of gas, because there isn’t any gas station between Alpine and Terlingua, and Terlingua runs out regularly. It’s a small town between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park, and has two towns coexisting: the old ghost town remnants and the hippies who moved there to grow old in the early 90s and never left. We stopped in the bike shop, Desert Sports, and got the lay of the land and sense of the trail system. While we chatted, one of the women working made a few calls to the gas stations for us. Sure enough, one of the gas stations was out of gas and the other’s pumps were broken. Desert Sports gave us the brochure for a friend of theirs who just opened up a camp ground, and we headed there to drop the camper and try to catch a short ride before the storm came rolling in. One of my favorite things about the vast southwest is that weather can be seen hours away, slowly charting its course across mountains and valleys, the wind’s velocity an indicator of how soon to expect the heavy rains. As we pulled into the parking lot, we knew time was working against us, and we hurried to get our bikes in order and hit the dirt.
I’m typically a fairly slow rider, but with the clock pushing at my back, I was able to ride faster, with an urgency I typically dismiss. The trail swept under my tires not like a rug but a magic carpet, and I coasted across the dessert, getting snagged on a few cacti along the way. We could see the storm encroaching from all sides, directing us like a conductor when and where to turn, dip, push harder.
We returned to the van as the gap in the clouds closed above us, turning that red sky grey and shedding rain. By the time we got back to our camper, we had to sit in the van for a relative break in the winds and rain, and rain into the camper. We were the only ones staying at Rancho Topanga, and enjoyed the solitude as the wind rocked the camper back and forth and we listened to the rain. Eventually, the storm cleared and while the winds were still strong, the clouds passed and we watched the stars turn to sunrise in the early morning.
That next day, we expected a windstorm, but it died down to something much more manageable. The gas station fixed its pumps, so we filled up immediately, knowing everyone in town would be lined up to get gas while the town was still supplied. We wanted to go on another mountain bike ride, but first took a moment to walk the dog and enjoy the town a little. Terlingua is partially a ghost town, with ruins rejuvenated into coffeeshops and bars, campsites and homes, and of course a graveyard that continues to replenish.
We eventually made it back to the trails and rode the whole 14 mile outer loop. Despite the wind, it was a great ride and the first time in a long time I continuously thought, “I am a mountain biker, I am mountain biking, I am riding trails that other mountain bikers ride.” It sounds silly, but as someone who has had to get off her bike on most every trail ride recently, I made the choice each time to turn back at moments of doubt and ride what I had thought was beyond my skill level. It’s funny how much more fun trails are to ride when they are actually ridden.
On the way out of Terlingua, the winds eventually died down and we made it back to Marfa, to again camp under the stars and mysterious lights. Unsure of the light that hides in my own darkness, for at least a brief moment, I was impressed by it.