My initial planning for a second Big Bend tour included research on how to make a credit card tour. And with the exception of the Cottonwood campground in and back it is feasible using a Stillwell RV rental. Yet the Cottonwood segment to me is something not to be missed.
1) There were sections where it would have been nice to have water stations. In warmer weather it would be dangerous to have just three water bottles because there is little traffic and no cell service. It is too easy to get dehydrated and perhaps that is a reason to have a “buddy riding” system.
2) For me I needed the rest day I took. Almost everyone was dead by the last day and many sagged that last segment. Had they had a zero day that may have been different.
3) I have not ridden to Rio Grande Village but I thought the Cottonwood segment with the Sotol, Mule Ears, and Santa Elena Canyon overlooks is a must.
4) If I were to do the tour again I would sag from Panther Junction to Chisos Basin Lodge to have time to explore the Window and the basin. Given the group campground was horrible I would talk to the Lodge manager Danny Ferguson about group rates.
5) Limiting my luggage to two rear panniers was the right thing to do. I had more then enough clothes and it made handling luggage a non issue.
6) I would say that using 28 mm tires would be the smallest tire I would use. The Stanyan will take 32 mm and that is what I would use next time if I took it again. In the spring I had 40 mm tires on the fully loaded touring bike and I believe the ride was nicer then. Some of the chip-seal bordered on being cobblestones.
7) Using a tube and CO2 dramatically cuts the flat fixing time in the hot sun. The frame pump and patches are carried only as backups to the tubes and CO2. (I had one thorn flat)
8) I used Salt Stick capsules and felt they helped me keep hydrated.