After months of planning and preparation, the 2014 Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest is finally here. The first pre-registrants checked in at Desert Sports in Terlingua at 1:30 today and 47 had checked in by 3:30 p.m. As of that time there were also 10 individuals who had not pre-registered but are here to ride. At that rate, the estimate of 500 cyclists in the Big Bend area may be low.
While Desert Sports has been the key coordinator and impetus behind the event the past four years, Mike Long, one of the owners of Desert Sports, is quick to point out that it’s a partnership between many individuals and organizations; “it just wouldn’t happen without everyone coming together,” said Mike.
Today in the Big Bend area there was no missing the influx of cyclists arriving for the event. From ensuring gas tanks were full in Study Butte to stopping in Terlingua to check in or register at Desert Sports, grabbing something to eat or a cold beer at one of the local establishments in Ghost Town, going for a pre-ride along 170 or parked at one of the trailheads linking to routes along the Lajitas or Big Bend Ranch State Park trails, the presence of the riders was palpable. Nearing sunset, the trailhead near the Lajitas trailhead had 8 cars parked there and the East Contrabando trailhead at the entrance to Big Bend Ranch State Park had 7. Even that small number is more than doubled the usual presence. Two riders who traveled here from Arkansas had just completed three pre-rides, with the last two being off East Contrabando. It’s the first time either of them have participated in the ride and they said they can’t wait. One of the gentlemen, Paul, said “if today’s trails are any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait. I’ve heard about this for some time and I’m glad I finally made the trip.”
At Desert Sports, Greg Morning of Austin, Texas said he made the trek having heard about the Festival via word of mouth. He also added that it’s his first trip to Big Bend but that, from what he’s seen so far, it won’t be his last. The staff and volunteers at Desert Sports were in full gear just as the State Park folks were at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center. The Center is where much of the staging for the rides will take place. Before leaving Desert Sports, Jeff Jordan and Brenda Gonzalez of San Antonio arrived. It’s Jeff’s second time to participate in the event and Brenda’s first. Despite the long drive they are really looking forward to getting on the trails tomorrow. The rides in which they’re registered to participate are the Old Ore Road in Big Bend National Park and the Interpretive Geology Tour (Rincon Loop/ Big Bend Ranch State Park) led by local trail guru and geology expert, Dr. Kevin Urbanczyk.
Passing by the Warnock Center, well after usual business hours, it was obvious the staff and volunteers were still well immersed in their tasks for helping to pull this off without a hitch.
At the Maverick RV Park where many of the participants are camping or sharing RVs, the excitement was electric. From the volunteers and staff of Desert Sports and the other sponsors such as Richardson Bike Mart, Specialized’s “Demo Crew,” the owners of Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin and the Bike Barn in Houston to the caravans and individuals arriving to set up camp it was clear this is THE event they have all been waiting, and working so hard, for.
Earlier in the day, a young man and his girlfriend from New Mexico said they’d heard about this ride for the last three years but never made it happen. “You hear about places . . . rides . . . and they sound fantastic but you get there and it’s okay but you’re like, it’s not all that it was made out to be. But this place is amazing.” When asked what made it different he said, “I guess you just can’t capture the magnificence of something like this in photos or words. You have to be there. The area is beautiful – just driving in we were blown away. Then we get to this little “Ghost Town” and the people are so friendly and helpful and down to earth and then, to top it all off, we get on one of the trails for a pre-ride and we’re blown out of the water. It’s almost like it’s one of the best kept secrets in the mountain biking world.” I mentioned that there were 360 riders pre-registered and that 500+ are expected by Friday and he said, “I guess it’s not so much a secret anymore but we sure are glad we finally got here.”
For a full list of the ride options, today through Saturday, go to Ride Menu – Chihuahuan Desert.
Sharron Reed is a resident of Terlingua and a correspondent for KRTS/ Marfa Public Radio