Monday, March 11, 2013

Six Mile Trails

     Sometime around 1980 I got my first motorcycle, a 1976 Kawasaki KX 125.  It isn’t possible to explain the elation that went through my 10 year old brain as this was still the On Any Sunday era.  We lived out in the county and I learned to ride on some private property with a few trails and lease roads near our house.  Once I learned the ropes and kept the bike vertical most of the time, I was graduated to the Six Mile Trails in Midland.

     The trails are bordered by Interstate 20 and Business Loop 20 (old Highway 80) between Loop 250 and South County Road 1250 in Midland County.  At the time I started riding there, 1250 was still dirt.  I remember the impressive sight of a mile of pickups parked on the service road lined up bumper-to-bumper with motorcycles buzzing everywhere.  It was an intimidating place for young riders, but the old salts were quick to show me the ropes.  The riders established the direction  and other courtesy rules of travel on the course, and I soon learned to get out of the faster riders’ way.  The trail system had four major lobes that adjoined a central circular track around an old windmill tank near a “buffalo wallow.” 

     Sunday was the big day for the trails, with dozens if not a hundred spending the day at the track.  My family would pack lunch and drinks along with enough pit gear to keep me going through the day.  My mom usually watched in horror as I tore up the dirt with the much older and more experienced riders.  Trail riding is different than motocross, and this is where I discovered the zen-like state that a long motorcycle ride delivers.  Even a kid experiences stress, and I was happy to leave my worries on the track. 

     As I entered high school we moved closer to the Six Mile Trails.  I was now able to hit the trails in the evening and summer days when almost no one else was there.  My cousin and I discovered that we could reach the trails with a short trip down a county road to the dirt.  The trails would take us all the way to the National Truck Stop where we could refuel and score snacks and drinks. 

     During my first semester at Midland College, my Kawasaki KLR 250 was my only mode of transport, rain or shine.  While the KLR is a perfect dual-sport machine, I learned quickly that the wear-and-tear of trail riding makes it tough to get to school in the morning.  More than once the odd mesquite-flattened tire caused me to be late for class.  I once lost a license plate after crushing it between the tire and fender on a jump.  Still, the trails were a great escape.

     I didn’t own a motorcycle again until 2003.  I still made trips to Six Mile Trails, but this time it was on a mountain bike.  I worked evenings and would make morning trips to get a workout.  This is when I noticed the end of the trails coming.  Four-wheel ATV’s were becoming the norm, and they changed the shape of the trails.  There were now two “ruts” instead of a concave cross section, and it altered the feel and speed on two wheels.  The biggest change was that the trails were very popular and people began centering around the lake bed instead of alongside the road.  For some reason, riders started cutting numerous new trails near the lake bed to the point that it was tough to discern the original trails.  Accidents were becoming more prevalent, and it was common to see four helmetless kids piled onto a four wheeler while drunk parents looked on.  Much of the land was owned by the City of Midland, and one day the “no trespassing” signs popped up and the sheriff’s office began enforcing the closing.

     The Regional Planning Commission built a police driving track on the north side of the trails sometime around 2000 and the trails evolved around the driving track.  Agri-Empressa purchased a large chunk on the east side that fenced off the southeast loop.  I drove by the site in January of 2013 and saw that most of the property is being developed and the remaining trails are disappearing into vegetation.

          It is also the site of the best snipe hunt ever conducted.  Sometime around 2004 when I was a patrolman for the Midland County Sheriff's Office, I rolled up on a suspicious vehicle inside the circular lake bed track one winter night.  It was a group of teens, and one of them came running up to me.  She explained that it was a snipe hunt for an out-of-state relative who desperately deserved practical joke revenge.  It was a slow night, so I told the girl to act scared as the other kids walked up to see what was going on.  I put the word out over the radio and was soon joined by a couple more deputies and the high sheriff himself.  I began reading the Endangered Species Act (well, I made it up) and explained that the snipe was endangered and snipe hunters could be subjected to a hefty fine.  All was going according to plan until one of the co-conspirators broke out laughing.  The victim conceded that revenge was duly served, and we all posed for a photograph with the kids.  The mark was featured with his snipe stick and bag in hand.

     I’m saddened to see Six Mile Trails fade away, but it’s the price of a strong economy. Not only is it where I found a love for motorcycling, it is where I flew model rockets with my son, hunted rabbits with my cousins, and had tailgate parties with high school friends.  I miss the dirt bike days, but my  Councours 14 and miles of open road does the trick these days.

    The photo is dated 1996.  The major trails are visible, but the newer trails can be seen.

     I’m sure there are others with memories or historical info about the trails.  Please comment and share your story!


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