THE
BIG BEND

The Big Bend is quite simply the best part of Texas. It's the home of legends that are built on real life, on grit and snakebite. This is where the deer and the antelope actually play -- even today.

A Biker in the saddle can't help but feel a kinship with the lone cowboy ambling across the landscape, but the Biker will be back in town for supper and a drink. The cowboy would've chewed some jerky and managed to sleep with the rattlesnakes.

The Big Bend isn't just a state of mind, it's a damn attitude. It's a certain look in a cowboy's eyes.

Zane Grey wrote about it. And Louis L'Amour. Elmore Leonard, too. Larry McMurtry. And plenty more.

Remington painted it. And Charles Russell. John Wayne portrayed it on film. So did locals such as Dan Blocker and Tommy Lee Jones.

The music came, too, ranging from Bob Wills to Kinky Friedman.

But those are merely the artists that echo the heroes of the Big Bend. There were actual giants that settled this land.

Long before there were borders, the Jumanos lived off the land, especially along the rivers. The Apaches and Commanches were here, too.

Then the Spanish Conquistadors arrived. Next came the missionaries. They did it all the hard way. Somewhere in here it was called Tejas, meaning "friends."

Tejas was part of Mexico, and then the Republic of Texas. Settlers came, and ranchers, too. The Overland Trail wore its way through.

And the cowboys rode in. Cattle drives, rustlers, and the occasional gunfighter.

There was a time for the Texas Rangers and for Judge Roy Bean. Sometimes the U.S. Cavalry rode to the rescue -- the Buffalo Soldiers. There were camels, too, tended by men from Syria and Lebanon.

Mighty men lived in rowdy, dusty construction camps as the railroad conquered the heat and rocks. Unstoppable workers, engineers, firemen, and others tamed their unwillling path.

There were traders like Rex Ivey and mining entrepreneurs like Will Study and Howard Everett Perry. Local farm hands became miners of cinnabar, gold, silver and lead. Future ghosts towns prospered.

Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries roamed the Rio Grande's majesty. "Black Jack" John Pershing wasn't far behind. John Reed told the tale in Insurgent Mexico, describing stark topography identical to that of today.

Through it all, the pioneer women made it happen. Think Hallie Stillwell, not Calamity Jane.

Not all the heroes have names that come to mind, but every town -- no matter how small -- has a cemetery or two, each a place of honor.

Maps of the Big Bend are usually a lie, or are only an approximation, because no one agrees. The boundaries aren't hard and fast (unless you live here). The Rio Grande to the south, maybe the Pecos River to the north. Langtry on the eastern side. It could be Valentine or Candelaria to the west. Or not.

The Big Bend provides magnificent weather for our visitors. We have searing heat that sends dust devils prancing like desert spirts. We have winds that will change your mind about everything. Sometimes it even snows. But the thunderstorms will take your breath away. Lightning, thunder of course, rain that's a cloudburst, and occasionally hail.

The good news for bikers is that our broad vistas will let you see the weather coming. You can always go the other way.

The Big Bend was settled, but never tamed. There are still cowboys and railroad men, but today it's where art is found in hubcaps and bona fide sculptures are made from pure scrap. It's the home of artists and authors. Sculptors of note and undiscovered visionaries share the tables of imaginative chefs.

There's music of all types in clubs and bars, and playing on front porches.

The car of choice is a pickup truck and Amtrak is today's stagecoach. A bowl of chili is a work of art.

Through it all, the Pecos River and the Rio Grande -- liquid history -- are still rolling along.

This remains a place of majesty and magic. Some say that if Davy Crockett had come to the Big Bend instead of San Antonio, he'd still be alive.

Enjoy your ride.